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.

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