Thursday 31 October 2013

Sailing the awesome Amalfi Coast – Part 2

August 4, 2013

 As much as we loved Amalfi, the expense of the marina was enough to have us moving on the next morning for some more coast hugging around to nearby Salerno. Once more the scenery was incredible, as was the number of boats of all shapes and sizes buzzing back and forth. The beaches were more crowded than a Tokyo subway at peak hour. Out on the water the four of us on board were feeling very relaxed and thankful we weren’t in there competing for a couple of square metres of space.
There was not one single dull spot during the two hour run to Salerno. Instead every minute provided postcard scene after postcard scene. We've included a selection of photos Rob took as we made our way along the coast which provide a few glimpses of what we enjoyed. 


Yet another crowded beach on the Amalfi coast.

How's the monastery clinging to the cliff top at Salerno?
Check the pic above to see how high up it is.

Amalfi to Salerno– 9.3 Nautical Miles – 1 Hours 58 Minutes
Average Speed 4.7 Knots – Max 5.8 Knots
With just a very gentle north westerly blowing Salerno was a perfect stop. We were able to anchor all on our own quite close to a beach in the centre of the city but behind the protection of the huge harbour walls.

The view of Salerno we had from our anchorage

No need to spend the money in one of Salerno's marinas when we could
anchor well sheltered, just off the beach in the centre of town
We had planned to take the dingy ashore for a look around but it soon became obvious that we had unwittingly grabbed ourselves a front row spot for some serious celebrations building up. On one end of the sand a very serious beach soccer venue was being finalised complete with grandstands, flood lights, big public address system and cheer squads. At the other end near a small fishing marina what was clearly going to be religious celebration was about to get underway. Within half an hour we were surrounded by small boats anchoring to watch whatever it was that was that was going to happen.

They really got into the beach football at Salerno
A while later the football crowd got going to our left. To our right what sounded like an alternating mix of prayers and hymns began blasting out from a good sized PA system as a decorated fishing boat appeared from the marina complete with a large icon of the Virgin Mary on deck. It set off to the south across the bay and disappeared from our sight. The prayers/hymns ashore continued but were periodically drowned out by the cheers when one football side or the other found the back of the goal net and about an hour after watching the boat head off we saw and heard a large amount of fireworks being set off on the south side of the bay. Ten minutes later another lot went up a little closer and then another closer still. The pattern continued over and over again along the shore. The boat carrying the Madonna was heading back our way and as it passed each bay or marina another set off fireworks would explode in the sky. Being broad daylight it seemed a bit pointless to us but what would we know.

What overcrowding? The Madonna was on board so they had to be safe right.
We weren't really sure about the point of banging off so many fireworks in daylight.
Eventually it reached the main harbour at dusk and a massive amount of gunpowder was expended in the skies from the big breakwater we were anchored beside. Now it was getting impressive. It was getting darker as the boat returned to the marina and the Madonna was transferred to a stage ashore. Of course this was marked by another huge display of fireworks to drown out the constant Gregorian Chant like drone coming over the PA.

The religious celebrations on shore went on for hours
After more speeches and prayers, the Madonna was hoisted aloft for a tour of the city at the head of a procession of the following faithful – and some of the footy crowd now the games were over. Enough fireworks exploded over the roofs in various areas as the parade passed to ensure climate change will reach Italy sooner rather than later.

The fireworks went up over Salerno well into the night..
By now we were starting to hope it would all come to an end. We’d had a very hard day lazing about doing very little and, as the clock ticked towards the witching hour, we were all more than ready for some shut eye . They’d saved the biggest till last however and the sky over the Cathedral lit up and boomed away for the big and long finale but thankfully, just before Sunday became Monday, things went quiet in the town and we hit the bunks.

It’s safe to say we’d now seen enough fireworks to last us until New Year’s Eve at least.


Sometimes we’re so busy out doing things we don’t have enough time to write about doing things and our blog slips a little behind time. We’re working at getting it all back to current at the moment but to stay right up to date with what we’re up to these days and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail on Facebook
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.


Tuesday 29 October 2013

Sailing the awesome Amalfi Coast – Part 1

August 3, 2013

 From the time we first started dreaming about sailing the Mediterranean, cruising along the world famous Amalfi Coast has been right up the top of our Must do list and now we were finally going to tick that box. After a fantastic stay at the Isle of Capri we were up with the sun and on our way.

Karen standing lookout on the bow as we head for the narrow gap between
two of the Isle of Capri's Faraglioni.
We made the most of the early start and lack of other boats on the move took the opportunity to set our course straight between Capri’s Faraglioni. That is the Italian term used to refer to stacks or what we would often refer to as pinnacles of rock. The most famous faraglioni are the three stacks located off the island of Capri in the Bay of Naples. The stacks have been given their own names: Stella (still attached to the main island), Mezzo and Scopolo. Their heights are 109 m, 82 m and 106 m, respectively with quite deep water right up to their vertical faces.

Made it!
Mezzo is inhabited by the Podarcis sicula coerulea and the only place in the world in which this particular species of lizard has been found. It is believed that the amphibians' blue colored skin is the result of evolutionary adaption, which occurred following the separation of the rock from the mainland. Mezzo also features a large central cavity, through which small boats can easily navigate but we had to settle for slipping through the gap between it and Stella which was a cool enough photo opp for us.

Karen's Father, Trevor, on the bow and watching the coast slide by.
The conditions were dead still. No good for sailing but a glorious day to motor along one of the world’s most picturesque coastlines. We crossed the strait and made our way towards Positano under the towering cliffs of the peninsula. There are a number of marine reserves in this area where no navigation at all is permitted other than if you’re making your way to pre-booked, authorised mooring buoys. Even that must be done at slow speed. The pilot guides provide very specific warnings about these. They are clearly marked on all charts and plotters and their boundaries are even marked by large, bright yellow buoys. While we zigged and zagged staying clear, it appeared nobody has actually mentioned them to the Italians. We were quite entertained watching everything from small fishing boats, some trolling lines, to huge pleasure craft and commercial ferries blasted straight through the no fishing, no anchoring, no navigation marine protection areas at high speed. No doubt if we’d cut a corner anywhere we would have ended up with one of the big fines they talk about.

There's no shortage of expensive super-yachts along the Amalfi coast.
There were a number of very impressive villas, houses and even a couple of small towns dotted along the shore and on the cliff sides but reaching the town of Positano really signaled to us that this is indeed a very special piece of coast line. It is simply stunning. As beautiful as the drive along the hills is, we were in no doubt the most spectacular views of this remarkable slice of heaven on earth are from the water. We were extremely thankful it was such a calm, sunny day and we could motor slowly, close to the shore and enjoy the full beauty of all that we were passing.

We'd looked forward to sailing this area for a long, long time.
We’ve included many photos in this blog chapter to provide a bit of a glimpse but if you’d like to see more of the Amalfi coast from the sea, click over to our Dreamtime Sail Facebook Amalfi Coast album for the complete set.

Many resorts perched on the cliffs provide very exclusive sun bathing spots

Every point we rounded revealed more stunning Amalfi scenes

Spectacular stone buildings are plentiful along the Amalfi coast.

We spied these buildings on cliff edges atop massive caves near Amalfi.
Trevor and Joy soaked up the sun and atmosphere.
We were certainly in no rush and wound in and out of the bays adding a few miles to our track but still reached the harbour at Amalfi in time for lunch. We’d kept our options open as there are spots you can anchor off this postcard perfect town in settled weather but, with a bit of on shore breeze predicted for the evening , we elected to see if we could find a berth. This proved a little easier said than done and we circled around in the outer harbour as Karen made a series of phone calls to the various listings in the pilot guide before hitting pay dirt. We were very lucky to find a spot without pre-booking. Minutes later a dingy came out to meet us but, rather than guide us in, the mariner came aboard and secured his dingy alongside before taking over the helm from Rob saying ‘Welcome to Amalfi. I am Captain now.

Rob appreciated the valet parking service provided at Amalfi harbour
When we saw the tight, tight, tight spot he manoeuvred our 43 foot yacht into without the benefit of a bow thrusters, Rob was more than happy to be a passenger but was quick to ask ‘Getting us back out of here is also part of the service, isn’t it?

At 160 Euro a night, plus 23% if you don’t pay cash because heaven forbid they would have to pay tax if you use credit card, it was certainly not a cheap berth but it was right in the centre of Amalfi and the water was even very clean. So clean we all dived in straight off the boat which was an absolute first for us inside a harbour.

Isle of Capri to Amalfi – 19.9 Nautical Miles – 4 Hours 25 Minutes
Average Speed 4.5 Knots – Max 6.0 Knots
As you’d expect in the height of the summer season, the town was very busy with tourists but we still enjoyed window shopping through the narrow streets and laneways and having a good look around. We had an excellent dinner that evening at an outdoor restaurant right beside the Cathedral stairs and then settled back in Alcheringa’s cockpit with some local wines to enjoy the twilight. We’d no sooner pulled the cork on the first bottle than the entertainment started.

They pack them in here. Note the dingy used to push the white boat over

Karen and Joy were first into Amalfi's clear water

We had a great dinner in the Amalfi town square.
Two, rather large and already well spiritually fortified Russian gentlemen arrived back at their huge, chartered motor boat gin palace accompanied by a couple of local young ladies of the night complete in short, short dresses and ridiculously high stilettos. Perfect boating attire of course. They then sent their skipper and crew off on a long walk, jacked up the stereo, popped the expensive champagne and began dancing with their equally expensive looking companions on the back deck. Well they thought they were dancing but it looked more like some deranged Cossack version of mad cow disease. Their loud efforts to impress all and sundry by singing along with the English language pop songs were so ludicrous all sense of polite decorum disappeared in the marina with boaties everywhere appearing on deck to see the show and making no effort to conceal laughter and ridicule. As a child of six or seven on the boat next to us started to imitate the inebriated dance moves even their hired female companions struggled to keep a straight face.

 The drunken disco on deck lasted for almost two hours before the foursome suddenly disappeared below decks. The two girls reappeared just minutes later and headed off down the dock, prompting one wag on nearby boat to suggest ‘Considering what it probably just cost them, those guys should have spent a lot less time dancing.’

MARINA REVIEW: Amalfi Harbour **

Nightly rate for our 43 foot (13.2m) yacht – 160 Euro (Cash price excluding VAT. Includes water & power)

Boats located on permanent moorings make this is very tight harbour in places with a number of concessionaires controlling different sections of the available berths. We can only comment on where we berthed. The positives were that it was ideally located for easy access to the centre of the old town. It was also well inside the harbour offering good protection from the weather. On the negative side, the only bathroom facilities were public toilets ashore which were locked at night. There are no showers at all.

The staff are very friendly and helpful and the location is good but lack of facilities and exorbitant price means only two stars on the value meter from us.

Sometimes we’re so busy out doing things we don’t have enough time to write about doing things and our blog slips a little behind time. We’re working at getting it all back to current at the moment but to stay right up to date with what we’re up to these days and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail on Facebook
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Living the Millionaire Life - the Isle of Capri

August 1-2, 2013

 Leaving Marina di Stabia with full fuel and water tanks we soon had sails set and the engine off as we cruised along the attractive southern shores of the Bay of Naples with a good following breeze past the popular tourist town of Sorrento and headed for the world famous Isola di Capri (Isle of Capri). We’d really been looking forward to this section of our Italian wanderings and having Karen’s parents, Trevor and Joy on board to share it with us was a real treat.

It was great to have Karen's parents Trevor and Joy aboard Alcheringa
They fitted straight in on the boat being no strangers to life on the water. Trevor’s father, Eddie Jones, had been a very accomplished sailor in 18 foot skiffs back in the days of timber boats and canvas sails but despite his best efforts his son had gravitated to the dark side and motor boats. Karen has vivid memories of scooting around Brisbane’s Moreton Bay in the family’s half cabin cruiser before her parents packed she and her brother up as primary school kids and headed for North Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands on ‘Wahoo’, the brand new 36 foot game fishing boat they built for the emerging charter industry.
Karen's Grandfather, Eddie Jones, at the helm in the Brisbane River many years ago.

We weren’t sure how Trevor would take to our meandering along sedately under sail but he did seem to relax into our world fairly quickly, even if he did have a bit of a wistful look in his eye as big motor cruisers blasted by us. We actually couldn’t have asked for much better conditions for their first taste of sailing on Alcheringa as we were making as much as 8 knots running along the very picturesque coast in the sunshine. We cruised by a number of small towns, hamlets and spectacular villas interspersed amongst the olive groves and vineyards that cover the slopes behind the more dramatic sea cliffs.

We had a great downwind run past Sorrento and along the coast
We eventually rounded the point of the peninsula and headed across towards Capri expecting the wind to be squeezed and pick up strength in the narrow strait but, instead, it spun through near 180 degrees then dropped out almost entirely as we reached the half way mark. After such a great start to the passage it was a little disappointing to have to furl away sail and start the engine but, what the hell, motoring to the Isle of Capri under clear skies across calm seas, we were having a lot better day than most people on earth.

The wind deserted us half way across to the Isle of Capri.

Rob waited for a quiet moment to get this shot with only a few boats around
the pinnacles off Capri.
Consulting our pilot guide book, we’d decided to anchor in a small bay on the southern side of the island away from the prevailing north westerly winds. Approaching the island’s famous pinnacles on the south eastern end we were amazed at just how many boats were buzzing around the place and started to become a bit concerned as to whether we’d find a place to anchor when we rounded the tall rocks. We did round them rather than go between as the narrow gap flanked by the high pillars of rock was busier than a Los Angeles freeway at peak hour with all sorts of vessels large and small making their way through. It’s said that every Destroyer in the Italian Navy has a photo displayed in the wardroom of the boat charging through the narrow gap at 30+ knots. If they tried it in the height of summer it would certainly result in some serious carnage.

There was no shortage of Super Yachts complete with big boys toys anchored
off the Isle of Capri.
Like many of the islands off the Italian coast, the waters around Capri are very deep until you get very close to the shore. Our planned anchorage was very full of boats tucked in close while a few dozen huge super yachts made the most of their hundreds of metres of anchor chain and hung in the still waters further out. There was simply no room for us so we made our way a bit further west and anchored amongst a hundred or so small pleasure boats in the next bay.

Marina di Stabia to Isola di Capri – 16.7 Nautical Miles – 4 Hours 05 Minutes
Average Speed 4.1 Knots – Max 8.0 knots
Here we spent a very relaxing afternoon, swimming in the warm, crystal clear water and generally being entertained by the antics of the people around us on the various boats. It’s a very social atmosphere with many vessels rafted up together and others anchoring close enough to their friends to carry on animated conversations yelling across the water. A highlight was the occupants of one boat swimming over to their friend’s craft complete with plates of snacks and bottles of wine held above their heads. Talk about BYO.

Karen enjoying the sun at our Isle of Capri anchorage

Taking BYO to extremes

Capri's high cliffs provided excellent protection from the prevailing north westerly winds
True to form, by sunset all the small boats had disappeared back to their berths leaving just a couple of yachts in our little piece of paradise under the steep cliffs of Capri. Considering there is only one small marina on the island, we were a little mystified where all the boats went to but we were very thankful for the serenity that descended upon us for the evening. It was fantastic to be surrounded by silence other than the gentle lapping of the water while we chatted in the cockpit late into the night over a glass of wine or three.

Our restful sleep came to an end around dawn as a small southerly swell began to sweep in from who knows where beam on to Alcheringa. The waves were just big enough to set the boat rolling but then they ran into the sheer vertical rock of the cliffs lining the shore a few metres away and bounced back at us. Being attacked from all sides, the motion of the boat was quite unsettled so, after checking the forecasts, we decided to up anchor straight away and move around to claim a spot in a larger bay on the western end of the island before all the day tripper boats arrived on the scene.
We moved to the western end of Capri early to escape rock and rolling in the swell
While the bay was larger and well protected from the current, annoying southerly swell, it was also very deep with only limited spots  around its edge shallow enough to be able to anchor. Fortunately only one small speed boat was onsite when we arrived and we were able to drop anchor in about ten metres of water near the entrance of a narrow inlet. When Rob snorkelled down to check its set he found it was simply sitting on a huge sheet of solid rock. The wind was forecast to swing back to the north west mid- afternoon so our plan was to return to our original spot for the night. With no sand anywhere to be seen and in light of the very calm conditions, we simply let out a bit more chain and enjoyed the morning. Once more the water temp was perfect so it wasn’t long before we were floating about watching a parade of boats come and go. Only a small handful found anywhere to anchor making us very happy we’d decided to make our move early.

Karen and Joy were quick to get wet again.

The view back towards Alcheringa from inside an Isle of Capri  sea cave
We took the dingy for a run across the bay and explored a deep sea cave on the opposite side before taking a run into the narrow inlet near the boat. Through the morning a constant stream of small tourist boats had made their way in and out between its rocky cliffs as part of their trip around the island so we figured it must have been worth a look. As soon as we entered we could understand the attraction. The water was as clear as crystal reflecting images of an old stone boat house that had been built into the northern side of the inlet many, many years ago. At the head off the inlet was a small landing ramp framed by a stone pedestrian bridge overhead.

All the tourist boats had been content to stand off in the centre of the inlet and let their customers jump in for a quick dip or simply enjoy the views from the boat but we elected to make for the ramp and go ashore for a look.  Our reward was a fantastic angle of vision back out to the bay complete with a fantastic photo op. Rob waited until the tourist boats left and took twenty or more shots to finally obtain what he later described as his favourite photo of our whole Italian trip. It was a truly fantastic spot to just sit and enjoy.

Alcheringa takes pride of place in Rob's favourite photo

Joy snapped a shot of us enjoying a very memorable moment on this memorable island.
By the time we returned to the boat, lunch was in order and not long after the north-westerly wind arrived so up came the anchor and back around the island we went. This time we were lucky enough to score a very good spot in nice sand with good holding but close to the cliffs of the western headland of the bay and very well protected from any swell. Once we were satisfied all was nice and secure we headed ashore to explore the island’s main town. After making the trip in the dingy around into Marina Picola we were able to tie up at a rocky landing platform one of the waterfront bars has. Very cool. Marina Picola is not an actual marina but rather just a very small bay with a couple of stone beaches lined with restaurants and bars but backed by a mix of resort buildings, luxurious villas and quaint houses.

The waterfront bar we landed at in Marina Picola.

The view of the pinnacles from Marina Picola.
We made our way up the steep stairs to reach the road where we hailed one of their topless taxis for the scary ride up the very narrow road to the main town located at the top of the hill. Here we found ourselves in narrow streets lined with elegant buildings and stylish shops filled with all sorts of very expensive goodies.  380 Euros for a toddler’s dress, Ouch!!! Capri is certainly a place for the rich and famous. Regardless, we really did enjoy wondering around and having a look at how the other half live. Karen and Joy actually did find one clothing store which looked almost affordable which they quickly disappeared into so Trevor suggested the boys make use of the time to have a gelato. The fact that the guy behind the counter was dressed like a waiter in a five star Michelin rated restaurant combined with there being no prices displayed anywhere had Rob nervous but when in reply to the take away or have in question Trevor replied ‘We’ll sit and have them thanks,’ he knew fiscal pain was coming up. In Italy, take away is always cheaper than eat in and the more upmarket the cafĂ© etc the bigger the difference. Trev put the change from his Twenty Euro note in his pocket without taking much notice and was happily enjoying his treat until Rob pointed out that two scoops of ice-cream each had just cost the equivalent of $18 Australian Dollars. Yikes! Apart from that, we did have a good time poking our heads into stores and trying to look cool as if the price tags didn’t really cause us, and our credit cards, to quake in fear. ‘Oh you don’t have those 490 Euro jeans in my size? What a pity. I had hoped to team them with that 299 Euro shirt,  160 Euro belt and 290 Euro deck shoes. Never mind’, he said casually swanning out the door.

We made it back to the dingy just in time to get to the boat before the sun set on another fine day afloat.  Sitting around with our cockpit cocktails we calculated that the four of us had just spent two days in the playground of the millionaires for a grand expenditure of less than $30 each all inclusive. (It was the gelato that pushed the budget up that high) No wonder we love the cruising life.

We would be moving on from Capri in the morning with great memories but were also very much looking forward to the next stage of our Italian adventures, the Amalfi Coast.

Sometimes we’re so busy out doing things we don’t have enough time to write about doing things and our blog slips a little behind time. We’re working at getting it all back to current at the moment but to stay right up to date with what we’re up to these days and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail on Facebook
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.