Sailing Red Rooster
I know, I know, “Mamma Mia” but that’s what popped into Claire’s head when I asked her what we should call this section now that we were in Italy. I must admit the water looked the same, the sun was just as hot but it was another new country for Claire and I.
It was good to be on the move. We were going to San Remo. It used to be a very posh place before the Second World War apparently, renowned for its high class hotels, large houses owned by the rich and famous and a casino to rival the one just down the coast in Monaco.
It still looked good as we entered Porto Sole one of the marinas in the town, lots of trees with the town spreading up the hill with a fine church perched on top of it all. A superyacht went into the marina just before us and we had to wait for nearly half an hour before the marinaros came to show us to our berth. We were alongside a yacht called ‘Ronja’ which we had first seen in Nice. Claire went off to book us in and we had a chat about how many nights we would stay. In our pilot book this was the same charge band as Nice so I said “anything under €40 we stay two nights, anything above one night” . When Claire came back I was upset to hear that it was €66 a night. Well we were off in the morning then!! It was a shame as the town did look interesting.
We had a shower on RR as the marinas showers were a very long walk away and strolled into town. We felt we needed to make the effort even though both of us felt tired as we were going to leave in the morning. We strolled out of the marina and happened to pass a building that had Porto Capitano written on it in big letters so I went up the stairs and rang the bell. A man dressed in a white uniform came to the door, he looked quite tired, and I could see that he didn’t like being disturbed at this hour, it was nearly 19.00 I asked if he spoke English, he nodded so I asked “how much was it to moor RR here” pointing to the marina spread out below us. (There were two in San Remo the larger one where we were and this one that had smaller yachts and fishing boats) He asked how long RR was I said “under 12 meters” he said “then its free” “Free”!!! I said, eyes wide, “yes he said you can tie up to the harbour wall in front of that little white boat over there, you can stay for a maximum of 5 nights!! But there are no services, no water or electricity, showers or toilets. Bring your ships papers to me in the morning” He nodded goodbye and closed the door. Hahaha Free!! Claire wasn’t so sure he had understood us but I was sure he had, she thought that he might have meant that there was a space free in front of the small white boat not that it´s free to stay there. Oh well we will find out in the morning and I reasoned that it couldn’t be more than €66. We walked into town for a coffee and a wifi session.
When we got back I struck up conversation with Per on ‘Ronja’ telling him about our intention to move in the morning. He said that they had paid for two nights but were not happy about the price. We also talked about our plans to go into Ligure Finale when we left here then onto Genoa. He was leaving his boat in Genoa for the winter so there was a good chance that we would meet up again.
We slept quite well and had the boat ready to leave by 10.00 I enjoyed taking our access card back to reception telling them that we were leaving as we had found somewhere else to stay that was much cheaper. We motored across the harbour and Claire brought us in backwards to lie port side against the harbor wall. We tied RR up with bow and stern lines as well as putting on springs (spring lines are additional lines to shore. You put one from the bow of your boat to the shore past the midpoint of your boat towards the stern and the same again from the stern past the midpoint of your boat to shore up by the bow) the lines form an x and they help hold the boat in place. We grabbed our folder with the ships documents in and walked around to the harbour past the little market stalls selling the freshly caught fish up the stairs to the Capitano’s office and rang the bell. A younger fresher looking man opened the door to us his English wasn’t so good but we pointed to our boat tied up to the harbour wall and he asked ‘how many nights you like to stay’ and to see our papers. He noted a couple of things down in a big ledger and gave us our documents back Claire said ‘is that everything’ meaning do we need to pay? He said ‘yes all is OK enjoy your stay and showed us the door. Hhahaha it free, its free. I realised at that point that there were two marinas AND a port authority here. We were against the harbour wall so under the jurisdiction of the harbour master and not in a marina at all. Hahaha. Result.
We took our ships papers back to the boat and went back into town for a coffee, ‘its Free’ I kept saying. It was the first time we had stopped anywhere that was free of charge, except of course when we were at anchor. The feeling is quite nice, well I suppose getting something for nothing nearly always is. It was very hot and a little humid so after we had strolled through the town, looking at the Casino and walking along the cycle \ walking path that used to be the old railway lines past the old train station we made our way back to the boat. We had a bit of lunch and I decided to empty the two cockpit lockers and repack them as its not often that we are side on and I could stack all the stuff on the harbour wall while I sorted it out. Claire helped and it didn’t take long. I put in a couple of large hooks to hold back all of the long stuff like the oars for the dinghy and the spare boat hook then repacked it all. It was hot work so when we were done we found our swimming gear and walked to a little beach not too far away and enjoyed a couple of hours swimming and relaxing.
That evening we decided to spend the money we would have used if we had stayed in the marina for a nice meal out in the town. Haha this is the life.
The following morning (Saturday 24th) we were out reasonably early, 10 ish looking for the chandlers in town. My back still isn’t right so we have decided to buy an electric windlass for RR. The problem is chandlers, unless they are very large outlets tend not to stock expensive items like this. We had a pleasant walk along the cycle\walk way, it goes for miles. What a brilliant idea to remove the disused railway line and lay this path for everyone to use. As expected the chandlers didn’t have anything like what we were after and we couldn’t ask them to order us one as we were moving all of the time.
Oh well, we walked back stopping for some sustenance before walking up through the tiny streets to the church that overlooks the town. I could not believe that people lived up here. It was very steep and so narrow in places that we couldn’t walk side by side. The views from the top were impressive and we rested in the small park before making our way back down but going a different way. When we popped out of the maze of alleyways we were right by a very large market. We snaked our way through without buying too much before deciding to stop in a very pretty, busy square for lunch. The restaurant had good wifi so we checked our phones for messages. Earlier in the week I had sent Marina Cunioli the lady we had met in Mahon on-board ‘Geisi’ a message saying that we were in San Remo for a few days as I believed that she lived close by and she had replied saying that her and Valter would be in San Remo for the weekend. Other than Facebook or messenger we had no way of getting in touch with them. We made our way back to the boat via a supermarket and there they were, sitting on the harbour wall waiting for us!! They had found our boat by looking at the picture we had posted on Face book!! It really was good to see them again. They came back to RR for a drink and a few nibbles. They gave us lots of information for when we sailed to Corsica and Sardinia. They also made some calls for us about a new windlass. They advised us to get it in Genoa as after that there were very few chandlers in the places we intended to visit. We were sad to see them go and we promised to stay in touch. We were off in the morning ourselves so we had an early night too.
On the move again, this time to a marina called Finale Ligure we picked this one as we had read on Captains App that it was in a very nice spot and only €45 a night all in. The trip was pretty uneventful apart from the chart on our chart plotter ending in a straight line at an angle across our route!!
We checked that everything was OK with the plotter and it seemed to be working fine. We went below and the one at the nav station was exactly the same? Claire zoomed out and it was only then that we realised we had come to the end of our electronic chart!! We needed to buy another card for the Eastern Med!! Oh well we had our back up charts on the ipad and once we had plugged the Bad Elf GPS into the ipad we were up and running again. For some reason the navionics chart on the ipad covers a larger area than the one on the chart plotter?
The marina was quite small and shallow at the entrance, because it was a Sunday only the Marinaros were working, no office staff. They had no English whatsoever and of course my Italian was limited to a few shrugs of my shoulders and moving my hands around with my thumbs and fore fingers pinched together which wasn’t very useful over the VHF radio. So in we went, it was tight and fortunately we saw the marinaro waving his arms around in a very un-Italian way pointing to a spot on the marina wall. We backed in and turned the motor off. I immediately had a great feeling about this place, I can’t be more specific but I liked it very much.
We sorted the boat out, had a shower, the facilities were a bit basic but they were clean and OK. We had food on the boat so after a meal we went to bed so we would be ready to explore in the morning.
Monday 26th after a shower we went into the office to book in, a really friendly bloke sorted us out. I am not sure if it’s just been the marinas we have visited but the ‘booking in’ process seems to be a lot easier in Italy, with very few papers to sign and no need to show our passports at all. After we had finished with the boat we asked him where we could \ should visit while we were here. He furnished us with maps and suggested we walk along the seafront for about 20 minutes before turning inland following signs for Finalborgo. “It’s extremely pretty there” he said.
So in shorts and T shirts with hats and sunglasses on we followed his advice. This part of Italy is really beautiful, we stopped several times to look at the beaches we were passing noticing how clear the water was. “We have got to have a swim when we get back” I said. There was a very nice coffee shop with good wifi where we stopped for a catch up as there was no internet at the marina. We face timed both set of parents as well as my old mate Kevin in Cornwall. On then to Finalborgo. He was right, it was very pretty with narrow streets surrounded on three sides by steep green hills.
There were walkers, I mean the serious kind with boots, rucksacks and proper maps also cyclists, like mountain bikers everywhere. This was apparently one of the starting points for trails that led up into the hills where some of the best walking \ riding in Italy could be experienced. We explored the town then found somewhere to eat. I fancied pasta so had the carbonara while Claire went for pasta with local vegetables. The waitress said something in Italian about Claire’s meal which we didn’t understand we just nodded as usual, I shrugged my shoulders a bit which seemed to satisfy her. Anyway when the food came mine was fine but Claire had a plate of pasta with tomatoes?? We surmised that the waitress was trying to tell us that they only had tomatoes left!! Anyway it was quite cheap, the wine was good and the sun was shining.
We had a nice stroll back going a different way for the return journey. By the time we got back to RR we were hot and tired but we were both determined to have a swim in the sea so we quickly put our swimming gear on and climbed over the marina wall and onto the beach. We laid our Turkish towels out, thanks Karen and Peter and both walked into the sea. It was beautiful, not cold but not warm either. Perfect after a hot sticky day. We stayed on the beach until the sun set behind the hills.
The following morning Tuesday 27th September we left the marina for Genoa using the ipad for the charts and the chart plotter for AIS information. There was very little wind until we reached the headland of Capo Noli. It was as if someone turned a big fan on. In no time at all we had 15 – 20 knots from the N\W which was off the land giving us very gusty conditions. You could see the wind rushing across the water and when the stronger ones hit RR she heeled over quite sharply then started to round up. Rounding up is a phenomenon that yachts suffer when there is too much wind for the sails you have set or the way you have set them. The power of the wind in your sails overpowers the directional stability of your keel and rudder turning the boat into wind. I think of this as a safety device that’s built into the boat. If it keeps happening RR it’s telling us to reduce sail so we did. We put a reef in the main and pulled some of the genoa in. We were sailing well now. I have read recently that you can reduce the rounding up affect by setting your sails differently in gusty conditions. Apparently you need to bring the traveler up above the centerline and ease the main sheet to induce a twist in the main sail. I say apparently because I have yet to try this but I will let you know how I get on when I do. We had a couple of hours of this then whoever turned the fan on turned it off again. It just stopped!! We had to turn the engine back on. Oh well we were approaching Genoa by now and with its many large cargo ships and cruise liners going in and out it was probably best to have the engine on anyway.
We were going into Porto Antico. We had read that this was one of the better marinas in Genoa and it was very close to the old town. Claire bought us in stern to and after we had sorted the boat out and showered we went for a walk into this very old city. It was just getting dark as we plunged into a small street that boasted a couple of restaurants and bars. Well what a maze, the streets were very narrow, going off in different directions. My little inner city antennae were twitching a bit. I wasn’t nervous but I was wary of the people around me. I think we had strolled into one of those areas that were fine during the day but at night they felt and were different. We kept walking until we came to a larger square with a very imposing church decorated with black and white marble. It felt better here, there were more people about. We walked down another small street and discovered a nice little bar that was selling many different kinds of beer, most were on tap and I hadn’t heard of any of them. The barman was friendly and spoke good English, Claire had a prosecco and I had an IPA of some description. I asked the barman if it was safe to walk around here. He said it was but don’t be flashy with your watch or your wallet. We had a couple more drinks before getting lost again in the back streets as we walked back to the marina. Normally my internal GPS is pretty good but Genoa was proving difficult to navigate around. It was no wonder then that Christopher Columbus, a son of Genoa had little trouble navigating the world if he could find his way around his home town.
The following morning we visited the three chandlers that were close to our marina looking for a windlass. We had decided that we needed to get it sorted here in Genoa. All of the chandlers were, for some reason reluctant to order one so we went back to the boat and surfed the tinternet. It became clear that the best one for us would be the Lewmar Pro 1000. It had a lot to do with its height as I wanted to fit it underneath the hatch on the base where the old one was installed.
‘Ronja’ arrived in the marina that afternoon and it was good to see Kirsten and Per again, we left them alone while they sorted their boat out and we surfed the net but invited them onboard for a beer and some nibbles later on in the evening. We all got on very well and they are a very nice couple.
We found a company in England that had a pro 1000 for a reasonable price and could ship it in 5 days. We paid up via our credit card giving the address of the marina. We were happy that we had at least got the thing on order but not that we would have to wait around in this expensive marina for it to turn up. 20 minutes went by and my phone rang, on the other end was a manager from the company we had just dealt with in England. He was very apologetic but said that he couldn’t ship the windlass to us as it would be rejected by the customs officials at the airport because when they scanned it it came up as a solid lump of metal and they would not let it onto the plane because they couldn’t ‘see into it’!! He said that he had had two or three of these returned in less than a month. He was very sorry and refunded our money. But that left us back to square one. So we called Lewmar in England and explained the situation, they were very good and told us the name and contact details of their agent in Genoa. We contacted him and as it was getting late we agreed to see him at his shop in the morning.
As we walked to his shop we were sure it was one we had visited the other day but no. There were two chandlers side by side and we didn’t even realise. We thought it was one big shop. The one we now went into said he would be happy to order us a Lewmar windlass and that it should arrive by tomorrow afternoon!! Result. It was a little bit more expensive but at least we would get it quicker. We also ordered 50 meters of 8mm chain and 30 meters of 14mm rope that he spliced on the end of the chain for free.
We walked back to the boat feeling happy but Euro less, oh well I pulled the old windlass out and manhandled the old chain and rode (anchor rope) onto the pontoon using my patented two bucket method. I used two buckets because I couldn’t lift it all when it was in one bucket even when I had the back brace on that Alan and Wendy had bought me. So I put half the chain in one bucket and half in another and moved them one at a time until I had them both on the pontoon where a couple of happy marinaros were pleased to dispose of it for me. I now needed some good ply wood. Not your normal stuff but good, strong wood made up of as many laminates as possible. I took a stroll around the fishing boats and their sheds keeping my eye open for a piece but saw nothing. On the way back I passed a shipyard that was next to a large dry dock. There was a gate that had an intercom on it so I pushed the button before realising that I wouldn’t be able to understand what was being said to me. Anyhow the gate buzzed and I pushed it open. Walking in I saw this huge fella, he was walking towards me speaking in Italian of course, I did my shoulder shrugs and said “Parli inglese” “of course” he said “how can I help you” I explained what I was doing and what I needed as we walked along past these sheds. He stopped outside of one, pulled open the doors and said “if you can find what you want in there you can have it” Well inside was every kind of wood you could ever want. Great big baulks of wood 500mm square by about a meter long that I would struggle to lift, lots of lengths of soft wood and stacked neatly on a shelf beautiful bits of 25mm thick ply made up of about 12-15 laminates so I knew it would be strong and of good quality. Each piece was about 400mm wide and a meter long. I asked if I could have one and he nodded and helped me pull it out from the stack. I offered him some money but he refused saying “I am a Genovese and we like to help people out. I don’t want your money” I thanked him and left with a big smile on my face. This was better than I could have hoped for and because of the size of the sheet of plywood I could make a mistake and still have enough to try again.
That evening we went to visit Per and Kirsten on ‘Ronja’ they had been for a drink on RR and now it was our turn to visit them. We had a very nice evening and they are a great couple. We discovered that Kirsten was a primary school head teacher too. They were leaving soon to go home for the winter but we hope to bump into them again.
Just after lunch the following day we had a call from the chandlers to inform us that the windlass and the remote control had just been delivered!! Great we left straight away to pick it up. The owner said he would sort out the chain and rope promising to deliver it to the boat later in the day.
On the way back we visited a couple of electrical shops to buy the 10mm wire and terminal lugs I would need. Back at the boat I started work ensuring first that it fit in the space with the hatch down allowing for the thickness of wood that I would use to form the base. I then lined the winch up so the anchor chain would be dead in line with the windlass gypsy (I have tried to find out why the wheel in the windlass is called a gypsy but with no luck) I then measured the size of the bit of ply I would need twice then cut it. It looked good with the windlass on it. The next problem was that the windlass was designed to be fitted on deck with its bolts going through using nuts and washers underneath to tighten it all up. I couldn’t do this as I was fixing it onto the existing base so, using the template provided on my piece of ply I drilled the holes for the fixings and the large hole for the chain to pass through. I then chiselled carefully away around the fixing holes just enough to allow the nuts and washers to sit flush with the underside on the ply wood so when I put the wood on the base only the wood touched. I also had to chisel a pathway for the cables too. I next made a piece of ply that stood up under the lip of the hatch that I could fix the plug for the controller to and for mounting the controller itself.
When I was sure everything fitted I took it all apart again, sanded everything down before painting it all with epoxy resin to seal the wood as the chain locker was always going to be wet. It was pouring down when I was doing this, I was dodging in and out trying to miss the rain. I put it all back together when it had dried and fitted it for the last time. It looked OK. This was the easy bit.
In the morning I went to buy some more cable!! In the manual it said 10mm cable but I read on line, on a Lewmar site that 16mm was preferable? I didn’t want to have to do this job twice and as it was a 12v system the electrical resistance of the cable was quite important, the bigger the cable the less resistance. I had tried calling Lewmar but their technical department was unavailable so I reasoned the bigger the better. When I got back I started emptying all of the high level cupboards on the starboard side. Anyone who has been on RR knows how full these cupboard are. The saloon soon looked like a bomb had gone off in there. Claire wasn’t feeling to well so she stayed in bed which was probably for the best. I ran the two 16mm cables plus a smaller three core cable for the up\down switch at the helm position. We have a wooden covering strip that hides the join between the top and bottom halves of the boat. There was just enough room behind this to run the cables from front to back. It was a pig to do but a couple of hours later it was done. I had the cables in the front cabin just behind the anchor locker bulkhead with the two 16mm cables coiled up in the battery compartment and the three core cable through the heads (Bathroom) into the cockpit locker. Next I had to drill through from the chain locker into the front cabin. I used a small pilot drill first to make sure I was in the right place before putting a larger 20mm hole through. I cut a piece of hose pipe to use as a sleeve for protection and waterproofing.
I didn’t have a cable crimper big enough for the 16mm lugs so I soldered them using a kitchen blow torch!! It worked perfectly every time. The solenoid is mounted in a cupboard in the front cabin protected by a wooden panel. I have mounted the 70A circuit breaker near the main isolating switches and the up\down rocker switch near the helm. I have decided to connect the windlass to my service battery bank. There is a lot of discussion on tinternet about where to connect the windlass, it can be connected on to the starter battery as the engine will nearly always be running or on to the service batteries as they generally have a larger capacity and like mine are often being charged by solar panels or wind generators as well as the engine. I come from the ‘nothing gets connected to the starter battery except the engine’ camp so I connected the windlass to the service batteries ensuring that the connections went across all of the batteries and not just the nearest\easiest one to get to.
Time to turn it on. It worked a treat. I painted the colours on the chain marking every 5 meters and moved it onto the boat using the two bucket method. I fed the rode (Anchor rope) then the chain into the locker. I spliced the end of the rode and fixed it to the hard point in the locker then I connected the chain onto the swivel on the anchor to complete the job. I lowered and raised the anchor into the marina a few times and it seemed to work well. I will need to try it out properly before I am happy though.
Claire, feeling a little better put all of the stuff away below decks while I cleaned up above decks. I had the easier job I must admit. As a reward for all of our hard work we took a stroll along the harbour to the maritime museum. It was quite good in there with some interesting artefacts but again I was disappointed not to have any information in English. We had a sort of map of the museum and a few of the exhibits had English descriptions.
There was an interesting section on the journey of the many Italian immigrants that left Genoa by ship for the USA via Ellis Island in New York. From the mid 1800’s to 1913 Genoa, Napoli and Palermo saw approximately 300,000 people a year leave for the USA. We also enjoyed visiting Nazario Sauro S518 a real submarine that was floating in the dock outside of the museum. It was great to be able to see and feel what it must have been like to serve on one of these vessels.
We had been getting messages from Jayne and Graeme onboard ‘Scarlett’ and we were pleased to see them entering the marina later that afternoon. We joined them later for a few G&T’s and a chat. I think we will try to stay together now as we move down the coast and onto Corsica and Sardinia.
Thursday 6th October and Claire still wasn’t feeling quite right and I didn’t want to move from here until she was so we walked to the reception and asked if they had an address for a doctor, ”We can do better than that” she said “we have a doctor who comes to see you on your boat!” Blimey that would be good. She called him and he said he would be with us in under an hour so we went back to RR and waited. I shortly had a call from reception and went to fetch Dr Baracco. He seemed a nice man and enjoyed being in and around the boats. I left him with Claire while I went to get some bread. I bumped into him while I was walking back to the boat. He said that Claire had a mild infection that required a course of antibiotics. He had left the prescription with Claire and recommended that I get them straight away so that she could start the course ASAP. I thanked him and shook his hand. Back on the boat Claire was pleased, it cost €80 but he seemed confident that the pills would clear it up. We were hoping to leave on Monday but he had told her if she still felt discomfort on Sunday we should postpone leaving and pay him a visit at his surgery. I went to buy the tablets, €16 for two boxes and Claire started the course immediately.
Friday saw us walking around town with Graeme and Jayne, we stopped for refreshments a few times before finding an Italian restaurant for some Pizza. It’s funny but we have never seen an English restaurant on our travels, we’ve seen the Irish bars obviously but we have never seen an English food shop like we have Chinese, Indian, and Italian and so on in England and for that matter everywhere we have sailed to but you don’t see English fast food places do you. They could sell things like Yorkshire puddings stuffed with roast beef and gravy, mmmm. Why is that I wonder??
The tablets Claire has been taking were definitely working, I could see that she was feeling a lot better. On Saturday she received a text from the doctor asking her how she felt! How good is that! We were intending to move on in a day or two for Portofino. The weather has been very unsettled with strong winds and the odd day of rain and the temperature has dropped somewhat but we need to get going.
I realise that I haven’t said too much about Genoa, It´s as if the place has been constantly in use and no one has taken the time to think about preserving or restoring some of its finer points. For example one of the old palaces now houses a university annex which is a wonderful setting for the students but a loss for the tourist and I suspect a loss of revenue for the city. Everything looks worn out. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed being in the city, the very narrow streets leading up from the port and the friendly helpful people but there was no wow factor, no ‘we’re going to have to come back here again’ feeling.
We planned to sail RR to Portofino on Monday 10th October with Jayne and Graeme on Scarlett. It was only a three hour trip but it was a place we all wanted to visit plus it would give me a chance to use the new windlass as we intended to anchor in a bay near there. We spent the day sorting the boat out and we all went out for a meal before going to bed, we intended to leave around 11.00. The wind woke me up around 06.30, in fact it had been blowing hard all night, the forecast confirmed that this was going to happen and that it was going to drop by mid-morning. At about 08.00 a gust of 30 knots had the boat heeling over and the rigging singing. We went to the office around 09.30 and paid up, I could not believe that we had been here for 13 nights!! It had gone so fast but the bill was softened slightly by the fact that we got a bit of a discount due to us being there so long. We had a chat with Jayne and Graeme and they, like us didn’t fancy trying to get out of a busy marina, sailing to Portofino and then anchoring when the wind was rarely dropping below 20 knots. We decided that the latest we could leave would be around 14.00 that would give us enough time to get there and anchor before dark. Well that wind would not give up, we had another chat at 14.00 and decided to give it a miss. We decided to pay for another night and leave on Tuesday morning but go straight to La Spezia. It was a shame to miss Portofino but heavy rain and strong winds were forecast for Thursday and Friday so we decided it prudent to get the boats into a marina and perhaps visit Portofino on the train\bus.
So the alarm, I know I had almost forgotten what an alarm was too, woke us at 06.30 we showered and had the engine on ready to leave Porto Antico marina, Genoa at 08.00 Tuesday. As we cleared the harbour entrance we had 18- 20 knots. From where I hear you ask? Yes your correct, bang on the nose. It was grey, cold and rain wasn’t far off. Of course we wanted to sail but it would have been madness to try as we had about an 8-9 hour trip in front of us and tacking back and forth would have taken too long and besides the forecast was for it to be 10 knots from the N\E not 18 -20 knots from the S\E so we just hoped that the forecast was correct.
We were lucky in that the sea wasn’t too big. We passed San Fruttuoso where legend has it that when Richard the Lionheart shipped from Genoa to join the Crusades his ship was caught in a terrible storm. The Lionheart fearing for his life prayed to the nearest sacred object which was a carving of the Genoese patron saint fixed to the mast. As the storm intensified he promised to make the saint patron of England if he was saved. Well the Lionheart was saved with his ship finding refuge in the bay at San Fruttuoso. The Genoese patron saint the Lionheart prayed to was St George!!
We didn’t have to pray for anything really other than for the wind to change direction slightly and for the rain to stop. Oh and a bit of sun would be nice. I think this was the first time we have had our wet weather gear on while we were sailing since we rounded Northern Spain and Portugal in the fog well over a year and a half ago!! It was quite cold too. Claire kept going below to put on more layers.
Eventually it did stop raining and the wind came around a bit so we were able to pull the sails up for a few hours. We passed the beautiful villages that clung to the hillside in the Cinque Terre marine and national park before we dropped the sails to enter the large natural harbour of La Spezia through the shallow, narrow gap of Passaggio di Portovenere passing the church and castle perched precariously on the edge of the rocks. It wasn’t quite as narrow as the gap we went through when we left Sanery-sur-mer with Peter and Karen on our way to Porquerolles but it was quite gusty and I didn’t fancy going through with the sails up.
During this trip I tried to get our speed log going as this often gets clogged up with weed if you stop in one place too long. The speed log is a very small wheel, a bit like the wheel you would see at an old mill being pushed around by the water but it’s tiny, it’s about the size of a bottle top. This sits in a tube that goes through a 60mm diameter hole in the bottom of the boat and the idea is that the water pushes the wheel around as you go along. A wire from this plugs into a box of tricks that works out how fast you’re going through the water. Well I wiggled this about a bit, I couldn’t pull it out to clean it while we were moving as a lot of water would pour in. Anyway it didn’t work so I screwed it up tight again but the water kept coming in!! Not loads but enough to make me go below every 10 minutes and mop up the water into a bucket.
The harbour was huge, easily accommodating large cargo and container ships, several Navy warships alongside in the naval dock yard there was also a very big cruise liner as well as at least half a dozen superyachts and a few marinas for good measure. We went into Marina Del Fezzano because it had my name on it, no that’s not true, it had been recommended to us but we had a bit of a shock as the price we were quoted, €45 did not include their VAT. So we decided to stay for one night and try the other marinas in the morning. While we were there I managed to stop the leak but I was not happy with it.
Graeme phoned another marina in the morning, La Spezia Commercial harbour. They were a lot cheaper at €27 a night all in so we moved across to them. It was less than a mile and we were nearer to the town, the shops and the train station. We are now both tied up side on to a pontoon.
I needed to have another look at this annoying speed wheel leak. This thing comes with a bung that you put in the hole when you take the speed wheel out. Every time it gets bunged up with weed you are supposed to pull it out to clean it. So I pulled the speed thing out and shoved the bung in. Quite a bit of water comes in during this process and it’s a bit nerve racking doing it. Anyway I did this a couple of times, cleaning the little wheel, checking that the O ring was ok and applying the silicone grease but it still leaked. Graeme had a spare unit which he let me have. I read the instructions and realised that I had put the wrong O ring on my speed wheel when I had first installed it a couple of years ago! I had to use the yellow O ring. So the speed wheel had been in there since we left England and I had fitted the wrong size O ring!! What an idiot, or rather what a lucky idiot as it had never leaked before. I swapped the O rings over screwed it back in and it’s stopped leaking. Alleluia.
Graeme was having his own problems, earlier a sail batten (sail battens are ridged lengths of laminated glass fiber that slide into pockets in the sail to help create the foil shape and provide stability to the cloth) had slid out from the batten pocket and had gone over the side before he had a chance to grab it. When he had a closer look at the sail there was a hole in the end of the pocket. It was obvious that there should have been stronger material where the end of the batten was tensioned at the luff of the sail but there wasn’t? The sails were only a couple of years old so he contacted North Sails who agreed to send a sailmaker out to him while we were in La Spezia. He turned up as promised taking the sail away with him for repair to all of the pockets as well as replacing the missing batten. I was very impressed and interested in what the repairs would look like.
Thursday 13th October saw us on the train to Pisa, it's somewhere probably everyone has heard off and it was only 40 minutes away. The weather wasn’t very good but it didn’t seem to matter. I must admit to liking it now it's a little cooler. The very warm weather we have been experiencing for the last 8 months or so was good but it was nice to be able breath in cool crisp air and to wrap up warm. It reminded me of skiing which can’t be a bad thing. I also seem to have a lot more energy when I’m not so hot.
It really was a thrill to see the leaning tower. I was really surprised at how much it lent. It was crazy. We wandered along the river and through the old town stopping a couple of times for refreshments.
The wind and rain we had been expecting turned up on Friday morning. We had just got back with the shopping from the supermarket. The low cloud came in first from the sea circling us as it swept up and over the steep hills surrounding La Spezia blanketing everything in its path. Soon we couldn’t see the bridge opposite let alone the hills. We heard distant rumbles of thunder, like a large dog growling softly but we took it as a warning getting the towels in that were drying on the guard rails and closing all the windows and hatches, scampering back down below just before the large drops of rain began to fall. Soon it was a deluge you couldn’t see across the other side of the marina. Red Rooster was running with water. I checked the windows every now and then to make sure they weren’t leaking. Lightening brightened the sky for an instant as that low rumbling came again. The wind started to come from a different direction heeling RR over as it tore into us from the starboard side. This lasted for a few hours, we were snug in our boat though with nothing really to worry about, the fenders were having a hard time as the boat was being pushed onto the pontoon but I had doubled up the two large white ones we carry moving one from the starboard side to the port side to make sure we didn’t touch. We were lucky that we went out when we did as the rain didn’t stop and we ended up staying on-board until Saturday morning.
When I got up I sorted the hose out as I wanted to wash the boat down. This may seem a little stupid seeing how hard it had been raining but heavy storms like that always seem to bring orange sand along with it. Not really sand but a very fine grit and I don’t like the thought of that grit being in the blocks, on the sheets and halyards etc. I have heard people say that the sand comes from the Sahara! We had it often when we wintered in Almerimar. It's odd but it's really hard to get rid of the stuff. I know I’m going to have to wash RR two or three times before it's all gone.
Later Graeme and I went to find some engine oil. We ended up walking miles as the petrol garages only sold it in very expensive 1 litre cans and I wanted at least 5 preferably 10 litres which would be enough for two oil changes. I had been looking since we left Nice as I like to carry enough for at least one oil change. We managed to find some in a large out of town store. I bought two 4 litre cans and one 1 litre can of Total Super for €53 (remember no more expensive Volvo Penta oil for me). So that was enough for two oil changes at 4.5 litres a go. When we got back the girls were getting cabin fever so we went for a stroll to the naval museum. It was an interesting collection housing an eclectic mix of sea fearing artefacts spanning the decades and we all enjoyed it. We walked back through the town stopping at a strange little bar that had ‘PUB’ written on the canopy. Once we were inside we could see that it was stuffed full of odd objects but mostly musical instruments of every description. The owner was very nice and didn’t have a problem with you playing anything and everything. There was Guinness on tap and the girls finished off two bottles of Prosecco. We were meant to be having an early night as we were going to attempt to walk the Cinque Terre in the morning but we had a good time and it wasn’t that late by the time we got back to the boats.
Sunday 16th October we all surprised ourselves by being up and out by 10.30 we walked up to the train station where we purchased combined train and Cinque Terre tickets. Cinque Terre means Five Lands. Historically these five small isolated villages were only accessible by foot or boat.
We were told that the footpaths linking the first two villages, Riomaggiore and Manarola were closed for maintenance work. I was a bit fed up about it as I wanted to walk it all but there was nothing we could do so we caught the train to Corniglia walking to Vernazza then onto Monterosso al Mare.
Let me say straight out this was not an easy walk. The paths were nearly all very narrow and we rarely could walk side by side. There were very few places that we could stop to eat our sandwiches and certainly no park benches! It was mainly rocky uneven steps.
The reward for all of this effort was the views, they were fantastic and the three villages we did see were very pretty. We all enjoyed the stops for a beer but not the starting off again. I think we were lucky in that we were doing this in mid-October as it was still quite busy in the towns and on the paths between them and although it was sunny the temperature was fine. I can’t imagine what it must be like in the middle of summer what with the heat and the crowds.
We had been walking for over 5 hours by the time we got to the last village. I think we were all quietly happy that the first two villages had been shut!!
We had a couple of beers to celebrate getting to the end before we caught the train back to La Spezia stopping for a well-earned curry before making our way back to the boats. That bed never felt so good.
We were all quite surprised that we could actually move our legs on Monday morning. My knees were quite sore but nothing terrible. I walked to the market to get some bread and eggs I also bought Claire a bunch of flowers something I haven’t done for a long time. No real reason for them.
Graeme was hoping to get his sail back today, if he did we planned to move on in the morning. I took the marina’s wheel barrow with my two empty diesel cans to the petrol station and filled them up. The fuel in Italy is quite expensive at about €1.35 a litre. Shortly after I returned the sail maker arrived and it looked like he had done a good job, repairing all of the batten pockets as well as replacing the lost batten and adding new tell tales. Graeme was pleased with the work and more than happy for the sailmaker to send his bill to North sails!
So we were off in the morning then. The girls wanted to go to the large supermarket where I had got the oil the other day to stock up on hard to find items like Heinz baked beans and squeaky toy mice for Izzie the cat!! We left Graeme and the sailmaker to refit his main sail while we walked the mile or so to the shopping centre. My knees were complaining now but I was hoping that walking would help stretch out my muscles as I wanted to be able to move around the boat when we left in the morning.
Tuesday 18th October saw us paying 130 ish Euros for 6 nights when the reception opened at 09.00 before we slipped our lines and headed out of the bay towards Livorno. The trip was pretty uneventful as the wind was either light or non-existent. We saw a lot of debris in the water, mainly largish bits of wood. I can only surmise that this must have been washed out of the local rivers and into the sea as a consequence of the heavy rain we had during the storm last Friday.
Livorno is a large industrial port with two or three marinas tucked into the older side of the town. Scarlett and RR were side by side stern to against the old harbour wall in marina Porto Mediceo at €35 a night thank you very much. There isn’t very many historical buildings to look at in the town itself as most of them got flattened during WW2.
While travelling down this part of the Italian coast the names of the poets Shelly and Byron have kept cropping up. They apparently loved this part of Italy and they both spent time in many of the towns along the Ligurian coast that we have visited. I have heard of these two poets but must admit to knowing nothing of their work as unfortunately poetry didn’t appear too often in my school’s curriculum. Now in Livorno we find that Shelly died here in 1822 just before his 30th birthday in a boating accident and was cremated on the beach not far from where we are!
As we had spent the afternoon walking around Livorno looking at the fort which is really the only thing worth looking at we decided to venture inland by train to visit Florence the following day. The trip took about an hour and twenty minutes and cost just €9 each way!! (England really has got a lot to learn about the cost of public transport). The weather again wasn’t too good but we had a very nice time there. It was quite crowded which surprised me a bit seeing as it was a damp Thursday in October. We visited the sites as well as looking around two museums featuring Galileo and Leonardo de Vinci. We stopped for a very good meal in the centre of town everyone had a Calzone Pizza apart from me. I had tortellini with a meat and tomato sauce the girls had a bottle of Prosecco, Graeme had a beer and I had a large glass of red wine. The bill I hear you ask?? €63 brilliant. Everyone’s legs were aching by now I suspect from the Cinque Terre walk so we decided to make our way back to the station. We all feel that we should have seen some of the art that that was on display in the galleries here but there were queue’s everywhere. Now Florence is somewhere I would like to return to.
One other thing to note here was that my new Lumix camera, the one Claire bought for my birthday only a few months ago broke!! The zoom lens jammed just like my last one and no matter how I tried it wouldn’t go back into the camera body……bugger. No more Lumix Panasonic camera’s for me.
It was tempting to leave the following morning as the weather was OK but the thought of getting up early put us all off the idea so we decided to have a jobs day and leave on Saturday 22nd October for the Island of Elba. We wanted to be on our way around 0800 so we paid up on the Friday afternoon. I went with Claire and Graeme to the office and joked with the Marinello sorting out our bills about the possibility of a discount, how Claire always got a better deal than me. I stepped outside as the office was quite small. When Claire came out she had a massive smile on her face. ‘What’ I asked ‘remember we were quoted €35 a night’ she said ‘well we have just paid €13 a night!!!!!’ It seems that the marinello reduced the length of both our boats on the computer and €13 a night was the result. Brilliant so we decided to spend some of our savings in the little bar behind where our boats were moored. Later I took the marinello’s a few beers as a thank you.
Saturday saw us heading out of Livorno towards Elba. It was a pleasant day, not too much wind but enough to let us sail for the first hour before it dropped away. On with the motor. Fortunately it came back as we were passing between Marina Di Cecina and the island of Capraia. In the distance we could see a lot of small boats. As we got closer we could see that they were at anchor, it was over 100m deep where they were but we were sure that they were at anchor as they weren’t moving with the wind. They were all fishing with two or three people in each boat. It looked like they were in a grid not too far away from each other, about 50m apart I suppose. We were about 12 miles off the coast. It was a very strange sight.
We next had the dubious pleasure of sailing through a racing fleet of cruisers. There were about 30 to 40 of them, they were all shapes and sizes. It was OK as we managed to thread our way through without upsetting anyone and I think ‘Scarlett’ managed to do the same. It looked like they came from the bay of Piombino and were headed way offshore past the island of Capraia. I would love to know what the race was. Answers on a postcard please. I did feel sorry for the back markers, inevitably they were the smaller yachts as the wind began to drop before they even got to us. We could turn our engine’s on but they couldn’t.
I check the engine every hour ish when we’re motoring. Nothing more than opening the hatch and having a quick look and listen inside. During this trip I noticed that one side of the engine was damp with diesel and wispy smoke was coming off it! I remembered doing this when Peter and Karen were with us and seeing this wispy smoke but Peter and I decided that it was due to the shaft of strong sunlight that was entering the engine compartment through the window. This though was quite different. I couldn’t see where the diesel was coming from but the fuel pump was right there and was probably the culprit. I didn’t think we needed to stop the engine, I cleaned it up keeping my hands and the rags clear of the fan belt etc and stuffed a rag into the spot by the fuel pump.
Soon we could see the small island of Scoglietto with the lighthouse on it outside the fantastic natural harbour at Portoferraio, Elba. I love bringing RR into these historically famous ports. It was great to see the hexagonal Linguella tower. Every major seafaring country seemed to have called Elba there’s at some stage. England held it for two years at the end of the 18th Century with Nelson saying that Portoferraio ‘for its size, the most complete harbour in the world’.
Anyway we needed to concentrate as we were going into a marina with no help from the staff as they had already left for home. We don’t really need any help but it can be quite confusing trying to find your berth as the pontoons are often identified by a letter. A, B etc. with the individual berths identified by a number. So we were in E3, easy enough you may think but the identification numbers and letters are often hidden by the other boats so the marinello’s primary function is to stand where you can see him as you enter he then waves \ points in the direction you need to go walking at the same time to your berth. Easy. When he’s not there you have to go in and look for yourself manoeuvring your boat so as not to hit anything or heaven forbid getting into a position that’s very hard to extricate yourself from. That’s why we let ‘Scarlett’ go in first!! Hahaha. As it turned out our berths were right in front of the entrance on finger pontoons no less. We haven’t had these for ages and for a change we went in nose first. We were expecting more bad weather so we put on plenty of mooring lines.
On Sunday 23rd we walked into town to have a look around. It is a very busy place with reasonably large car and passenger ferries continuously coming in and out as well as a fishing fleet and of course pleasure craft. There wasn’t too many of the latter as it was very windy. We walked to the small inner harbour that was built in the 16th century by Cosimo de Medici. In days gone by the inner harbour was protected by a heavy chain pulled up from the sea bed across its entrance between the Linguella and Gallo towers thereby preventing any ship from entering. We walked through the old archway Porta a Mere into the pretty town and up the steep stairs to see the house that Napoleon occupied when he was sent here into Exile. Apparently Elba was the last resort after Corsica, Sardinia and Corfu refused to take him. The house was yellow and looked unremarkable unfortunately it was shut as we were now out of season. The treaty of Fontainebleau was signed in 1814. Napoleon was allowed to keep his title of Emperor and given sovereignty over Elba. He was also to receive 2 million Francs a year and allowed to take 400 soldiers as well as a sailing brig called ‘Inconstant’.
Well he wasn’t happy he had gone from being the Emperor of all of Europe to the Emperor of Elba and within a year he was off again leaving with a small force on his ship. He sailed to the Golf-Juan near Antibes and marched to Paris. The French army still loved him and rallied to his banner. He entered Paris on 20th March and quickly built up considerable support. England and Russia moved to remove him and he was defeated again at the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June. He was exiled again this time a little bit further away from his friends in Europe to the island of St Helena in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean a desolate place where he died aged 51 on the 5th May 1821. He must have been a truly remarkable man.
We carried on walking up the hill to Forte Falcone. Construction of the fort started in 1548. It has a commanding view over the harbour and out to sea. It was first used to repel the pirates Redbeard and Dragut who used to fall on the people of Elba regularly.
We made our way back down to the harbour walking through the many fortified positions of the fort before stopping for a bite to eat. We all had a good meal apart from Graeme who sent his spaghetti Bolognese back as it was bland and just not very nice!! We were in Italy in an Italian restaurant!! You would have thought it would be the best Spagbol he ever tasted but no. They didn’t charge us for it but it was still a shame.
We made our way back to the boats. It was still blowing hard and the hills were beginning to be shrouded in low cloud or mist. I never know what to call it but it looked more like Scotland than an island in the Mediterranean!
Friday 21st October. The weather was still bad, very poor visibility combined with strong gusty winds. We were going to stay put until it improved so with time on our hands Claire and I took all of our dirty clothing to the lavanderia. It was quite a walk but we got it all done in one go. Claire uses the tumble drier to dry the bedding so she can put it straight back on the bed the rest we hung up to dry on the back of the boat. It was really windy so instead of pegging it on we threaded the line through the arms and legs so unless the line snapped the washing was safe and I wouldn’t have to stand on deck hanging onto it like I did in Sant Jordi, Majorca.
I also cleaned up the side of the engine that had the fuel leak, tightening up the screws around the fuel pump then with me looking closely I asked Claire to start the engine. I could immediately see a fine spray of fuel, it wasn’t coming from the fuel pump though but from the fuel line that went to one of the injection pumps. While the engine was still running I tightened up the large bolt that went through the fuel banjo. It appeared to stop and I looked at it for a while. I asked Claire to stop the engine and I cleaned it up again. I stuffed a rag in behind the injection pump and I would check it again during our trip to Corsica.
The latest forecast showed that the wind was due to drop overnight but the visibility would still be poor so we decided that we would get the boats ready to leave in the morning making the final decision at 0830 on the pontoon. So with the decision made I called Marina Macinaggio to book a couple of spots for us. The receptionist could not have been less helpful. I asked if she could speak English. She said Non. I started to try and explain with my French shrugs when she said do we need a berth for tomorrow!! So I said you do speak some English? I said we will be there around 1530. See you tomorrow she said and put the phone down.
We needed to pay as the office would be shut in the morning and go out for something to eat. There was a very strange restaurant called ‘Molo G’ within the confines of the marina. It was in a non-descript building that looked a bit like a large toilet block. The reason we wanted to go there was mainly due to the fact that the owner\manager was really helpful to us when we first arrived as the reception was shut we didn’t know the codes to the toilets, the entrance gate etc. He told us all we needed to know even giving us a wifi code for us to try.
It turned out to be a brilliant night even though the place was empty the manager asked what we wanted and suggested we start with a few mixed dishes to share. We had Mussels stuffed with breadcrumbs in tomato sauce, clams with chick peas in a white wine sauce, cod with cheese and spring onions and fried fish and small squid with squeezed lemon. There was loads of it. For a main course the girls had tuna lasagne while Graeme and I had beautifully cooked lamb chops. The food was excellent and the manager made it a very, very good evening.
Saturday 22nd. We woke and decided to go. Graeme and Jayne set off at 0830 as they needed to get fuel from the quay in the main harbour. We left just after 0900 the wind was still gusting around 15- 20 knots and the visibility was so poor that I put our Navigation and steaming lights on.
Graeme called on the VHF informing us that he was waiting for a very large fishing boat to fill its tanks before he could get near the pumps. It took 1400 litres at about 1.5 euro’s a litre!!
We said we would carry on and we put our main up in the harbour. As we rounded the lighthouse and settled on our course for Corsica we pulled out the genoa with a couple of reefs in it. A gust hit us and soon RR was making 7.2 knots. The idea was to go slowly until Scarlett caught up with us but this was too good to miss. Our course took us down the side of Elba which kept disappearing in the mist\low lying cloud. We passed a couple of yachts going the other way but apart from that we were on our own.
After about an hour we saw Scarlett pop up on our AIS. Our speed was up and down as the wind gusted off of the land. I suppose we sailed for a couple of hours before I had to put the engine on. What little wind there was seem to come from all points of the compass. It settled down and picked up so the engine went off again. We had a couple of large ferries pass within a mile of us appearing out of the haze. We had seen them a long way off on the AIS so they were no surprise. It started to rain quite heavily, big drops full of that red dust!! Oh well. I wanted to wash the boat down again anyway!
It was such a shame that the visibility was so bad as we knew that if it had been clear we would have seen Elba behind, the mountains of Corsica ahead with the island of Capraia off to Starboard. As it was we saw nothing, it was like sailing with a bag over your head. Don’t try that at home kids.
The wind started to drop and so the engine went back on. Soon though we could just make out the rocky outline of Corsica. I called the marina on the phone to let them know we were going to be a little late. I got the same helpful receptionist who still insisted that she didn’t speak any English but when I said we would be there in about an hour she said OK see you later.
It was shortly after this that we had a small visitor. A little land bird flew alongside us for a bit before deciding to hitch a ride. It flew in under our spray hood and perched on the deck staying there for a while before moving about the boat, even going below at one stage. We fed it some bread and muesli with some water. It looked OK but as we neared the coast it hoped onto the fenders tied to the stern arch and took off heading for dry land without even a goodbye or thank you.
We dropped the sails and motored into the marina. I called up my friend on the VHF who said we could go anywhere, in English. We reversed into a spot but the man on the boat we came alongside said we can’t stop there as it was his friends berth!! Sacré Bleu!!! So we came back out and waited for Scarlett to go in and we went alongside her. And relax. It was our turn to do the gin and tonics and Prosecco for us all and soon we were sitting in the sun, yes the sun it had decided to make an appearance for the first time that day, rejoicing in the fact that we were in beautiful Corsica.