After our visit to Paestum, we left Agropoli in the afternoon and had a good sail to arrive in Salerno on the 20th August at 18:30. We anchored in the bay between the harbour and the marina with eight other yachts. A good night’s sleep was followed by the shock discovery the next morning that our 2.9m Highfield Hypalon dinghy with the Mercury 5hp outboard had been stolen during the night.
Unable to get to land, we managed to raise Nicola at he Azimuth marina on VHF and secure a berth. We tied up at the marina at 8am for the start of a totally insane and wasted day. First a visit to the Guardia Costiera, who pointed us to the Carabinieri (police). Here we stood in queue with two other skippers, soon to be joined by another two, who had suffered the same fate overnight.
The police assured us that it couldn’t possibly be people from Salerno who stole the dinghies, but rather the criminals from Naples, or the Sudanese refugees, or even the Germans! Either way, the police were on top of these cases and took only three hours to process our theft report which we needed for an insurance claim.
Annie took care of the police statement and obtaining a theft case number, while Michelle and I took off with the help of Google maps to look for a chandlery that might stock dinghies and outboard motors. The local agent for Highfield didn’t have any stock and the Zodiac agent only had a 3.5m long dinghy and 6hp Suzuki, which was too wide for our transom davits.
I managed to get hold of Antonio at the Highfield Italia office in Tuscany who was most helpful, but couldn’t get a replacement dinghy and motor to us for another 5 days. The local Highfield agent then contacted me to say that he knew of a one year old dinghy with a motor, that was for sale. Realising that there was a high demand for these items at that moment, Annie and I hot footed it down to the Arechi marina, 10km along the bay, to have a look at the dinghy. With two new guests on board and needing to go ashore at our various stops, we decided to buy this dinghy at our own expense, to deal with mobility until our claim was approved.
Michelle’s friend Remi arrived during this frisson and made himself handy by washing the decks, filling the water tanks and going to buy groceries, wine and beer. After a pleasant dinner at a family restaurant with lots of calming wine and good night’s sleep we motored to the Arechi marina the next morning to collect the dinghy and motor – a smaller 2.6m Highfield PVC dinghy with motor.
After filling the diesel tank at this marina, we took off straight away to leave Salerno behind as a bad memory and anchored off Amalfi at 5pm. Amalfi and Positano are two beautiful towns along this coast, with dozens of gin palaces of the rich and famous anchored just off shore. Annie, Remi and Michelle decided to go and explore Positano and I went back to Esprit to do anchor watch – the traffic on the water was hectic. Just as well, as we were about to receive a EU1,500 fine for anchoring too close to a beach. I very quickly pulled up the anchor and tootled off to anchor out in the bay.
According to our not so rich and famous crew, Positano was an absolute bunfight where you could hardly move along the narrow streets due to the crowds of people – not my kind of place at the height of the tourist season. We decided not to visit the island of Capri as reports indicated that there were three times the number of people thronging the island. Instead, we rounded the cape and anchored off Sorrento, which turned out to be a good choice, as it was not as crowded, quite beautiful and relaxed.
Advice from the locals was that Naples would be the place to not only have your dinghy stolen, but also your boat from under you. As a result we sailed across the bay of Naples to anchor at Procida island and the beautiful town of Corricella. We explored the town the following morning and set off at lunch time to motor sail to Gaeta up the coast, where we arrived at 5:30pm.
The girls decided that as there wasn’t much to see except power stations along the coast, until the island of Elba, we should do an overnighter. We arrived at the small island of Giannutri the following day at 5pm, having done 180nm of sailing and intermittent motor sailing.
After a hearty breakfast, some paddle boarding and swimming, we did the last 50nm to arrive at Campo on the south coast of Elba late afternoon. On the way Remi, who is an excellent videographer, sent his drone up to take some photos and footage of Esprit. Check out: https://youtu.be/P4xUwiSxsOo
It was time to replenish our water supply, so I ran the water maker to fill the 330l front tank while the young folks took our bicycles to cycle to Golfo Procchio on the north coast and then west to Fetovala on the south coast. Annie and I spent the evening walking through Campo town which is quite attractive.
Elba is the island to which Napoleon was exiled in 1814. Our route took us around the scenic west coast of Elba to Viticcio in the north, where we met other Aussie sailors. We called in to Portoferraio, before sailing across to the mainland to anchor in Livorno. The next morning, Michelle and Remi got onto the train to go walking in the Cinque Terre, before carrying on to northern Italy, where they have left Remi’s van.
Livorno has a big harbour with ferries and cruise liners coming and going continuously, but it is a surprisingly clean and well organised city, so we stayed for three nights, getting our laundry done, buying boat spares, groceries and eating out. Approval for the purchase of a replacement dinghy and motor came through from our insurers in London, so Antonio from Highfield Italia, set the wheels in motion for his dinghy delivery in Viareggio, 20 nm to the north.
Viareggio is a major manufacturing hub for some of the largest and most luxurious yachts in the world, like Perini Navi, Benetti and Lusben Craft. Walking past these yards, you realise that the amount of money involved is staggering to ordinary mortals like me and that the tenders to these super yachts probably costs more than Esprit. Viareggio also has a vast collection of public sculptures – too many to show here.
This mortal took the opportunity to drain and replace Esprit’s engine and sail drive oil and replace the oil, fuel and water separating filters, as there is a filter and oil disposal facility available at the marina. I felt that at AUD190/day in the marina, I should fully utilise their facilities, electricity and water, which were included in their charges. We stayed for two days, as Antonio only arrived late on the second day with our new Highfield CL290 dinghy. Our next stop was in the gulf La Spezia, where we anchored in the lovely bay of Le Grazie.
Between the Gulf of La Spezia and Sestri Levante, lies the mountainous area known as the Cinque Terre – the five lands, which historically were five remote villages. We were indeed fortunate to visit these towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso by sea, as the road above the towns is substantially higher. A good option is to visit the towns by train, as the railway is tunnelled just above sea level, popping out at stations next to the towns.
About 25 nm further to the north, Portofino is an aristocrat of a resort for the rich and favourite of the jet set with a small harbour. It is beautiful, elegant and sophisticated. We nosed Esprit into the harbour to take photos, as we definitely couldn’t afford or even secure a berth amongst the super yachts there. You get the feeling in the marina that you should have got all matching fenders and perhaps a new sail-cover for your visit.
Santa Margherita lies 1.5nm north of Portofino and around the harbour there is a more workaday atmosphere. This is were we anchored and it is a thoroughly likeable spot. Just after midnight, a 25 knot Mistral wind from the north west came through and saw us dragging our anchor, which we managed to re-lay in the melee. A sleepless night followed, so at first light around 6am, we lifted anchor in a good 15 – 20 knot N-W wind to set sail and head south to Corsica.
A very interesting day was to follow on Friday 6th September: We were flying along at 8-10 knots SOG (Speed over Ground) when the wind abruptly changed and a 20 knot Tramontana wind, off the land kicked in, accompanied by heavy downpours, thunder and lightning. The boat and I needed a wash anyway, but the intermittent squalls and downpours were unpleasant. We altered course to sail to the island of Gorgona, the most northerly of the offshore Tuscan islands.
At 5pm and after sailing for 10 hours and 64 nm, the police stopped us as we were about to enter the small harbour of Gorgona, to tell us that this is a prison island and that boats cannot anchor closer than 3 miles offshore. This was not mentioned in the Italian Waters Pilot, so we set sail again to sail the 23 nm to the island of Capraia where we anchored at 9pm outside the harbour in the dark, in the howling 20 knot N-E Tramontana wind and a big swell. After 87 nm over 14 hours of constantly fighting the big seas and wind, we had a stiff calming whisky, before hitting the bed.
Saturday arrived bright and sunny, so we left Capraia after a hearty breakfast at 10:30 am to sail in a light breeze and flat seas, across to Corsica.
Our next post will be from Corsica – the French island.