Big Boy’s Cruise

Marina d'Arechi

As many of you will know by now, I am Captain of an Elegance 76 which is currently resident in Italy.  The first cruise of the year is always a male only affair, close chums of the owner get to do the ‘warm-up’ cruise or in this case, move the boat from her current base to the new one for the forthcoming season.

So it was, at the end of May we set off on the first leg of our journey to relocate from Cala de Medici in Tuscany to Marina d’Arechi, near Salerno, just south of the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi coast.

The weather was perfect, a light breeze and sunny skies with a smattering of fluffy white clouds.  After a winter of fixing bits and bobs, cleaning, servicing and general touching up, which a boat of this vintage requires in spades, this cruise was as much about proving that we’d found all the issues as it was about having a ball sailing down the western side of the boot.

It wasn’t long before we passed our first group of islands and our first notable landmark.  Elba was the place where Napoleon spent 300 days, it’s the 3rd largest island in Italy and today is a tourist hotspot famous for it’s wine production.

Elba

As we motored south and Elba came onto our starboard beam, I noticed the sun made the water sparkle and I simply couldn’t resist this picture, shame about the ferry!

36 nautical miles to go to our first stop for the night, which meant 3.6 hours of trundling along at our leisurely pace.  She’s a big old bird and thirsty too if you push her.  We tend to run at about 10 knots which returns a fuel consumption of 65 litres/hour total – comfy and frugal all at the same time.  The other idiosyncrasy of our cruising style is to avoid marinas like the plague.  Every night, if possible, we’ll anchor off in the best bay we can find.  In fact, if there are other boats around, we’ll pass by and find an empty bay all of our own – this is the one we found for our night off Giglio… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isola_del_Giglio

Cala delle Caldane

Cala delle Caldane, off the east coast.  Fancy waking up to this view?  Not bad is it?

Day 2 was only a short hop due east to Porto Ercole. Again, the protocol was to anchor off, so with the wind in the south but due to change overnight to a north-easterly we headed into a beach immediately west of Porto Ercole.

Port Ercole

I was up with the birds on the 3rd day.  With a few minutes to myself I had a quiet time watching the world come to life and snapped a couple of shots of the distant mainland hills folded upon each other – this is my favourite and works really well for me in black & white.

Eventually, we were all up and ready to roll, so off we set on our last leg of the first BB cruise to Rome.  This was going to be a long old day but thankfully the sun, as always it seems, was out and the wind was on the port quarter.  This approach to cruising is very relaxing.  I’m so used to whizzing along at 900 mph, that it took me a little while to get my head around going so slowly but once you slow down yourself you soon get into the rhythm of the waves and the slight rolling of the boat.  What was so nice, was the ability to fix a drink or some food and not having to run the risk of throwing it all over yourself every time you hit a wave.  Mind you, by the time Rome came into view the wind had picked up and we entered Porto di Roma with a 6 on our beam.  Thankfully, the berth they’d given us was shielded from the wind by the shipyard and at least 8 very large boats lined up on the hard. making mooring up simplicity itself.

Well, that was it, part 1 of the Big Boy’s Cruise complete.  Let’s move on to Part 2 immediately…

On the 9th of June we set sail for Marina d’Arechi but not before we’d had an evening in Rome – how can you be 45 minutes from the centre of such a famous city without spending some time wandering the streets?  This city is truly amazing, it reeks history.  Everywhere you turn there are historic buildings or what’s left of them and right in the middle is, of course, the Colosseum.  Built nearly 2000 years ago, between 70-80 AD, you just have to admire how smart these guys were.  Apparently, the dust, found under the city and mined to provide the building materials for ancient Rome is a waterproof version of concrete that allowed the Romans to build underwater structures long before anyone else in the world – little wonder the Roman Empire became so vast, so fast.

Historic ruins - Rome

But smart Romans still exist… we found a particularly intelligent girl when we were having dinner.  We’d found a suitable spot to eat in one of the ‘al fresco’ back street eateries and were immediately enthralled with our waitress who spoke excellent English (always a plus in my book) and spouted energy too.  She proffered a few words of wisdom, music to the ears of any mature male, such as myself, with a penchant for good food – apparently, “A man without a stomach is like a sky without stars; so keep your stomach!”

Enough frivolity – back to the cruise!

Anzio was chosen as our first stop on this 2nd leg.  It was a handy couple of hours away – the previous night ensured a late start was inevitable but also because of it’s historical significance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Anzio).  As it happens, there was nothing to write home about when we arrived at Anzio.  We anchored just off the main beach and spent a calm night on the hook.  On the plus side, the food that evening was glorious and we did have a couple of shots of Limoncello to finish the evening off!

Anzio

Ponza was much prettier!  The next morning we set off for our half way point.  Ponza is part of a group of islands that are the last remains of a caldera rim of an extinct volcano.  Whatever it is, the bay we ended up in was lovely and the water so inviting that we simply had to get the diving gear out!

Going down!

So inviting...

And finally to our last day and it turned out to be another long one.  We left Ponza at 8am, took a last look behind us…

Ponza

… pointed the boat at Capri and settled in for a 10 hour trip to Marina d’Arechi.  This wasn’t exactly what we’d intended to do.  The intention was to spend a night in Capri but on arriving at the chaos and madness that was taking place just outside the harbour we decided discretion was the way forward, turned east and sailed on.

Capri ahead

Ischia, Capri and the Amalfi coast should definitely be on your ‘bucket list’ but be warned, they are overcrowded and over-priced.  I have since been told that a boat was recently charged €1500 for a one night stay in Capri harbour.  This news made me wonder two things – how long was this ‘boat’ and how did they manage to find a place?

Despite what I’ve just written, the Amalfi coast, like all coastlines worldwide, looks amazing from the sea.  The sheer cliffs, speckled with houses and villages was a sight to behold.  As we cruised past, silence fell amongst us and all that could be heard was the clicking of shutters as we took picture after picture.  I’ve put a few of my favourites below:

Positano Perched Church on the edge Precarious Bridge Lookout towers Hidden houses Amalfi

An hour later and we entered the marina and were shown to our new berth.  What a trip!  Cruising around here is going to be brilliant.  Even better than you might imagine though, as we have subsequently found out that south of Salerno is an area unspoilt by tourism, supremely pretty and dubbed by the locals as the Italian Caribbean – can’t wait to see if it lives up to the claims…

One last shot I reckon – the following morning and the view as I had my early breakfast before everyone else got up!

Breakfast in Marina d'Arechi

This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.

Seeking Sun in the Med

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Genoa, taken from Marina Molo Vecchio

It was a miserable winter’s day on Jersey when we set off for our Med delivery trip. Nevertheless, we were all charged up and ready for an exciting few days delivering a Sunseeker 82 from Mallorca to Genoa.  The weather forecast for our trip was quite unbelievable;  all the weather sites I was watching indicated little or no wind and possible temperatures in the high teens.  Given that it was December and winter had arrived with a vengeance in the UK, this was going to be a very enjoyable few days.

After a short hop from Jersey to Gatwick we met up with Tony, our fourth crew member and stayed overnight at the airport hotel for a ‘crack of dawn’ flight to Mallorca.  When we arrived at Palma the sun was out and it was definitely milder than the UK – it seems weather forecasting is improving these days.  The taxi dropped us in Puerto Portals and it wasn’t long before we’d found our vessel and were crawling all over her.  We’d arrived early on the Sunday morning and were planning to depart at 8 o’clock the following morning, so we spent the time we had checking that everything was working, planning the route, fuelling the boat up and making sure the heating was working – as the sun went down it became a tad chilly!

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Puerto Portals, Mallorca

So, the next morning we set off.  Our route took us around the SW corner of Mallorca and up the channel between Mallorca itself and Sa Dragonera, a beautiful, uninhabited island, which is almost in the shape of a dragon, if you squint a little and have a good imagination for mythical creatures.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Sa Dragonera

As you can see, the water was like glass and coupled with the gorgeous hull on the Sunseeker 82, it was like gliding through butter – this was definitely going to be a glorious and most enjoyable trip.

It was approximately 170 NM to our first stop on the Spanish mainland, Palamos.  The crossing took us almost exactly 8 hours, running at around 20 knots.  You know, it’s surprising how quickly 8 hours passes by when you’re in good company. We all got along famously and everyone did their bit.  I especially like the fact that Davide is a dab hand at cooking – you all know my penchant for food!  That first day, Davide prepared us pasta and salad ‘on the hoof’.  Not only had he cooked lunch at 20 knots but we all took it it in turns to sit at the dining table to eat – this was pure cruising luxury.

© Richard Corbett 2013                                 Flat seas as we head away from Mallorca

By the time we’d arrived in Palamos, organised re-fuelling and berthing for the night, it was getting dark.  I have to apologise for the lack of pictures of Palamos but there’s not an awful lot to see in Palamos when it’s dark and besides that, we just wanted to get our heads down for an early start the next day.  Just before dawn, the local fishing fleet appeared from South of the marina and glided out to their fishing stations in the darkness.  I had every intention of beating them out and as such, had arranged to depart at 7 o’clock.  Incredibly though, the fleet still managed to beat us out.  At the precise moment we started the engines, I noticed the first fishing boat pass the harbour entrance.  Then one by one the others followed, until there was huge mass of red and white navigation lights passing the marina entrance and heading North.  It seems the next time I go into Palamos I’m going to have to get up even earlier.

We slipped the lines, left the dock and headed out into the mass of boats.  Our next stop was going to be Beaulieu sur Mer in the South of France but first we had to cross the Gulf de Lyon.  A word of advice for anyone attempting to cross this body of water; wait until it is calm.  Anything more than a F3 and it is like being in a washing machine.  The winds can be very confused and as such, the waves will be too.  I remember one trip on a Sealine T60, when we had to pass right around the inside of the bay, hugging the shore as we went. However, this time, the wind was so light that we wafted along at 20 knots, with barely any indication that waves even existed.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Some down time

Normally, in the Med, there’s a good chance you’ll get to see Dolphins and I once saw a whale, which, as regular readers of my Blog you will undoubtedly know but this time we actually saw a shark!  I glimpsed it from the helm but soon lost sight of it as it passed down the side of the boat.  The others reckoned it was about 9 or 10 feet long and was simply snaking it’s way across the surface of the water at a leisurely pace.  I was really pleased to see a shark in the wild.  I know, simple things please simple minds and all that but I’m not a huge fan of zoos, despite what they do to preserve endangered species.  I prefer to see my wildlife in the wild and this was my first ‘real’ shark!

This leg of the journey was a long one.  Eventually, we got across the Gulf de Lyon and started to head up the French coast. As we approached the Pettite Passe we were interrogated by French border control but they seemed happy enough with who we were and where we were going.  I would like to say at this point, well over 300 NM into the journey, that the boat hadn’t missed a beat. The engines were purring along at 1900 rpm and by now, we were doing a steady 21.5 knots. The autopilot had us on the perfect course and it was simply a matter of keeping watch.  With a schedule in place, we all got an opportunity for some time at the helm.  The lower helm can be a little claustrophobic on some flybridge boats but on the Sunseeker 82 it was comfortable and roomy, the visibility was great and all the controls were within reach – well done Sunseeker.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Lynn at the helm and Tony keeping watch

As the sun was dipping into the sea we made a sweeping turn to port around Cap Ferrat and slowed down to enter the harbour at Beaulieu sur Mer.  George was waiting for us on the fuel berth and we ‘quickly’ splashed 2000 litres in to get us to Genoa the next day.  I have to say, Beaulieu sur Mer is gorgeous.  The locals call it ‘Little Africa’ because of the fabulously mild micro-climate they have here.  Do yourselves a favour, if you are ever in the locality, whether on a boat or on the land, drop into the port and enjoy the surroundings.  It is so pretty and there are a host of wonderful restaurants to while away some hours in.  You might drop into Sunseeker Beaulieu and say hello to Mary too – tell her Richard sent you!

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Still waters in the marina

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Sunseeker 82, with Lynn doing some seamanship stuff!

© Richard Corbett 2013                              Wednesday morning, looking towards Italy

When we arose the next morning it was another stunning day in paradise.  After a quick tidy up, dealing with the berthing dues (France requires original paperwork remember, copies won’t do!) and sorting out the route planning for the passage to Italy, we were off on the last leg of our journey.  This was the shortest run of the trip, only 80 NM to Genoa from here.  Yet again the sea was super flat and it wasn’t long before we started to see some large commercial vessels heading in and out of Genoa.  The port is huge and there is a lot of commercial shipping moving between this part of the Med and the rest of the world.  Do make sure you know where you are going when you arrive in Genoa, as ‘Genoa Traffic’ and the port authorities take a dim view of leisure vessels passing through the commercial areas of the port.  We had arranged to stay in Marina Molo Vecchio and a quick call on VHF channel 71 caused a rush of helpers to see us safely onto our berth.

© Richard Corbett 2013                  As soon as the lines were on and we were plugged into the shore power, Davide set about cleaning the boat

If ever you are in Genoa on a boat, try and get a mooring at this marina. Fabrizia, the lady on the other end of the VHF was so helpful and she speaks excellent English too!  One tip though, make sure you give her all the crew details to pass on to Italian Immigration or you will be getting a visit from some very disgruntled officals, so I hear!

It was here that we encountered our only hiccup of the journey; a delay with the loading of the boat onto the cradle on which it was to sit during the voyage to her final destination. So the decision was taken to send half the crew back, which left Davide and myself to complete the last job of getting her around to the docks and into the slings.  It was sad to see Tony and Lynn leave us, as they had been excellent members of the team but it didn’t really make sense for all four of us to hang around in Italy.  We dropped them at their hotel and joined them for a last crew meal before saying our goodbyes and waving them farewell.

The following day, Davide and I set about making the boat look gorgeous and I have to tell you, there is a lot of boat to work on.  It took us the best part of the day to get her spruced up and ready for shipping.  All the potentially ‘flappy’ things had to be removed and stowed as did all the fabric seating and chairs from the outside areas of the boat.  When we’d finished she did look a picture and in fact, here is one to show how magnificent she looked as we set off for dinner that night…

© Richard Corbett 2013

Friday morning, armed with a piece of paper authorising us to travel into parts of the docks that are normally forbidden to leisure craft and the VHF channel numbers for ‘Genoa Traffic’ and ‘Genoa Pilots’ (why we had to call both, heaven alone knows – you’d think they would talk to each other!) we headed for the dock.  A bitter wind was blowing from the North and despite the cloudless sky it was absolutely freezing on the flybridge as we arrived at Ponte Libia for the lift onto the cradle.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we were tied alongside and then began the wait to be lifted.  I must say, they have a strange work ethic in Italy.  Clearly, it works for them but I fail to understand why less than half an hour after having a tea break, the port crew changed shift, ho-hum…

© Richard Corbett 2013                                The strops passing under the boat

Finally, things started to happen. Lifting strops, held by the truly giant crane, were passed under the hull, positioned and then checked by the diver.  Then all of a sudden she was airborne!

© Richard Corbett 2013

This was essentially our part done.  We had safely moved her from Mallorca to Italy and it was now, simply a matter of helping out with straps and making sure the boat was shut down for transport.  After a couple of hours of aligning, switching off, strapping and checking, the job was finished and she was ready for her next big adventure.

© Richard Corbett 2013                                 Big, isn’t she?

I am very impressed with this boat.  She is extremely comfortable and feels very strong and safe at sea.  Admittedly, the water was supremely flat but you can tell when a boat is going to perform well whatever the weather chucks at you.  This is a perfect cruising boat and will comfortably accommodate 8 people plus crew.  The cabins are spacious and well laid out. The socialising spaces are equally well thought out and one of my biggest gripes with modern motor cruisers, the number of spaces at the dining table compared to the number of berths is well attended to.  I believe the new owner of this magnificent vessel is going to have many, many happy hours cruising on her.

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This has been another Captain Corbett’s Adventure.  If I’m not on Jersey teaching a private tuition Day Skipper theory or Yachtmaster theory course, then I’m either spending time with someone on their boat, giving them the confidence to take their boat out with their family and friends on board or I’m off somewhere exotic delivering a boat. Either way, I’ll write it up and put it on the Blog for you all to see, so keep popping back to see my most recent adventures.