Log #33n Bay of Naples

November 8, 2004 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 33 Turkey - Greece to Rome, The Logs

Porto Turistico di Roma, Rome, Italy

Nov. 8, 2004

Hi Folks,

We have been quite busy since my last log of Oct. 13th. We have settled into the marina, and renewed many old acquaintances we have met while crossing the Atlantic, in Europe, and in the Med. We have done a bit of touring, going through the forum in Rome and up to the mountain town of Assisi to see the church and relics dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. We left for London on the 15th to meet Judy’s dad, who flew over to visit friends in England and then go on to Paris to visit his youngest daughter and see his two grandchildren. Judy went with him to Paris to serve as an extra set of legs, as at 84 he finds it more difficult to manage airports, buses, and stairs. I stayed on in London to visit Brian and Irene from Seraphina. However Irene was in Liverpool, visiting close relatives who were having to cope with the death of Irene’s cousin, Keith Bigley, murdered by Iraqi terrorists. Brian and I had a good time and I talked with Irene by phone a couple of times.

I then visited Jaap, a friend I met in Limehouse Basin when we wintered there in 1999/2000, before flying off to Stockholm to visit Anders and Brigitta from Cache Cache, friends we met on the EMYR in 2002, and again last year in Istanbul. I was impressed with how similar Sweden is to Northern Ontario. The Swedish Archipelago was like our cottage country in the Muskokas or Kawarthas, or Algonquin Park in Ontario. I had a chance to sail through the archipelago on an overnight ferry to Helsinki, and back next night to Stockholm. It was cold. In Stockholm we had a heavy frost one night, and on the ferry returning to Sweden there was a thin layer of ice on the observation decks in the morning. The 25˚ C weather reported in the papers for Rome made it look inviting to get back to Veleda.

From Stockholm I caught the train to Flensburg in Germany, going across the long new bridge from Malmo to Copenhagen. I had to change trains five times, and managed not to miss any of them. I was greeted in Flensburg by Dorothea Klein, as her husband Wolfgang was involved in a recording session for his choir. I met Wolfgang and his son Helmut aboard Utholm on the EMYR in 2002. As I write this I should not go into too much detail as I will probably describe more in a log format when I get up to date with my logs. Anyways I enjoyed their hospitality in Toenning in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany, and especially the experience of travelling through some of the North Friesian Islands. Wolfgang drove me to the airport in Hamburg for my flight back here to Rome on Nov. 5th, a few days before Judy returns tonight, Nov. 8th.

Thanks Brian and Irene, Jaap, Anders and Brigitta, and Dorothea and Wolfgang for your gracious hospitality. Cruising allows us to meet many wonderful people from around the world.

All the best,

Aubrey

PS – Judy got back OK from Paris tonight.


Log #33n Bay of Naples

Porto Turistico di Roma, Rome, Italy

Nov. 6, 2004

After leaving Capri, we went back (about five miles) across to the Sorrento peninsula (the south end of the Bay of Naples). While under way we overheard a VHF to the Capri marina from Meg, an American boat we met in Turkey in 2002, and wintered with in Kemer that season. We called them on VHF and recommended the mountain-encircled bay of Senno di Ieranto that we enjoyed so much a couple of days ago, and to which we were returning to spend another day or two. It is great to see or hear on the radio boats we have met at earlier locations and with whom we have shared some cruising experiences. We didn’t make straight for Senno di Ieranto, as I wanted to check out another shallow bay, Cala Barcoli (40˚ 35.16’N, 014˚ 19.52’E) on the western tip of the peninsula, as I saw several boats in the bay. It had a dozen local boats at anchor, probably from Naples or Anzio for a day trip of sun and sand in this fairly open bay. After anchoring we explored the area and a few small sea caves in Sprite and went ashore to investigate the derelict stone hut and rock formations above the small sandy beach. However it was an exposed and bouncy anchorage, so we soon left to go around the point (of the Sorrento Peninsula) to hail Meg, already at anchor, as we approached our anchoring location, only a few feet from our previous one two days ago. Once at anchor, we called Bob and Sue to invite them on board for supper. Since they had not launched their dinghy I indicated I would pick them up in Sprite. Sue would bring a salad and a wine and we had extra chicken breasts to sauté in our favorite tarragon chicken recipe. As it was close to sunset, I took Sprite over to pick them up to show them, before dark, the great sea caves in the cove that they might want to explore next day. We had an enjoyable evening with them, and were invited for a barbeque on Meg next night.

Two days later, Oct. 4, we left about 0900 to motor around the Bay of Naples, past place names famed in song and story: Sorrento, Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius, Naples itself, and Santa Lucia (the song was one of the first and few I learned in the unsuccessful piano lessons I took as a child). We didn’t stop as we could visit the area easily by land from our winter marina just outside Rome. We wanted to anchor in Porto Paone, a small circular well-protected bay on the tip of Isola di Nisida, west of Naples, but found several signs (in Italian of course) that indicated it was a protected bay and no anchoring or motorized vessels were permitted. We continued across the small gulf on the west tip of Golfo di Napoli over to Porto Miseno. Entering between extensive mussel beds marked with lines of hundreds of blue plastic barrels, we anchored just inside the sandstone barrier island, after almost going over the one submerged rocky shoal in the whole harbour. I will have to watch out for those little white circles with a + sign on the charts, as they don’t move, even if the buoys marking them are not there.

Launching Sprite, we circumnavigated the barrier island, going through one of several openings through the sandstone cliffs, then back into the bay to see if we could get into the lake at the inner end of the bay. No luck, it was fenced off with some kind of control dam. The south and west sections were lined with hundreds of small boats and yachts moored end to end. As we skirted the shoreline we saw several caves etched into the sandstone used as boat shelters or storage sheds. The harbour was once an important Roman galley port built by Agrippa in 41 BC, and was where Tiberius, much maligned for alleged debauchery, died in 27 AD. We didn’t bother to go ashore and left early next day to anchor only five miles away (40˚ 45.58’N, 014˚ 01.74’E) in the southeast bay of Isola di Procida, at Corricella, a delightful town.

The town, overlooked by a massive castello (castle/fortress) is protected by a few off-lying breakwaters, with a small but crowded inner harbour. We motored through the harbour, but elected to anchor outside the breakwaters, as we had quite settled conditions. We could have gone bows to on the town wall as one Swedish boat did, but using our stern anchor in that congested port would invite accidentally hooking onto some other submerged lines or chains, and we were content outside. Going in with Sprite, we wandered along the docks and up into the town, and of course I wanted to walk up to the castle area. The Palazzo Reale d’Avalos, built to defend the island in the 16th century, was later used as a prison, now defunct, but the rest of the walled promontory is an interesting narrow-streeted maze, housing some modern condominiums and not so modern apartments, and an intriguing  medieval church, Abbazia San Michele Archangelo at the summit.

Wandering back down we strolled to the opposite side of this small island to check out the larger town there and the marina and ferry docks. A large new marina with pontoons has just been completed, but was empty except to serve as home base for ten yachts used by a charter company. It was a large operation with fuel facilities, next to the stores and restaurants lining the old dock area. However, it was a larger, more bustling town, and we were happy to be in the smaller town the other side of the hill. It is less touristy, a simple but attractive town of fishermen and workers. We enjoyed the colourful houses and the narrow cobblestone alleys zigzagging up the spine of the island. The houses were flat-roofed cube-shaped structures stacked one to three stories in height, in a variety of solid colours, the few gray or white ones contrasting with others of dramatic magenta, lime green, canary yellow, dusty purple and Mediterranean blue. The shores were working docks with fishermen loading gear onto their boats, nets strewn in heaps, and a few dockside outdoor restaurants for the locals. We planned to come back ashore to have lunch in one of them, but were sidetracked on our way back to Veleda.

As we got outside the breakwaters, we noticed two new yachts at anchor the far side of the bay. One had what looked like a Canadian flag, and the other appeared to be Meg, whom we left a couple of days ago in that spectacular anchorage on the Sorrento peninsula. Over to the green trimmed Cabo Rico with the Canadian flag, where we met Al and Janet on Solara, from Toronto. We had seen their boat in Kusadasi in Turkey, and left them our card as they were not on board at the time. We chatted with them from Sprite and indicated the other boat at anchor was Meg, and suggested a get-together later for cocktails. They asked us to extend an invitation to Meg and for us all to join them on board Solara after supper. Off to Meg, where we delivered the invitation and had a brief chat with Bob and Sue. That evening we had a good get-together and found out that both boats are also heading up to Rome for the winter. Solara is just completing a circumnavigation, having come up through the Suez Canal into the Med this season and heading west out of the Med next year.

Next day we did another short five mile hop over to the next of what are called the Flegree Islands, a chain of volcanic islands extending out from the northern side of Golfo di Napoli. This one, Isola di Ischia, is the largest and most touristy. There are several marinas on the island, but as is our preference we dropped anchor beneath another dramatic castle, the Aragonese Castello d’ Ischia, on a promontory on the east side of the island. Judy did not have the energy to go climbing up to another castle, and so I took off in Sprite by myself. Before heading to the base of the castle I explored the tortured black volcanic rocks lying off the convoluted shoreline. Tucked into the small bays were luxury resorts using the protected waters as their private swimming areas.

I circled beneath the castle’s black brooding cliffs and under a pedestrian bridge to tie Sprite up alongside a small launch ramp a few meters from the castle entrance. There is an 8.00 Euro entrance fee which proved to be well worth while, as the castle and upper grounds are beautifully maintained, absorbing my fascination for over three hours. I wandered through the maze of rooms and battlements, and around the gardens and terraces overlooking the bay below where Veleda lay at anchor. Had Judy known that there was an elevator which took me to the top, she might have come, as the walking around the castle and grounds did not involve much climbing.

The rooms and terraces were in excellent condition, some displaying the original furnishings, tapestries, great halls, fireplaces, etc. while other displayed some interesting art works. One section was devoted to torture methods with some gruesome artifacts such as spiked collars, shackles, tongs for burning or inserting beneath finger nails or other body orifices, and a small working model of a guillotine.  Pictures and drawings made quite graphic the horrors to which some were subjected.

The site was originally a small island, with the first fortress built in 474 BC by Greeks, only to be conquered by the Romans in 326 BC, followed by centuries of plundering and domination by Visigoths, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Arabs, Normans, and Swabians. In 1441, Alphonso of Aragon joined the island to the larger island (Ischia) and constructed strong walls and fortifications giving the castle its present day configuration. During the early 1700’s the castle was home to 1900 families of Ischians seeking shelter from pirate raids. In addition it housed the Convent of the Clarisse, the Abbey of the Greek Basiliani, the area Bishop, several churches, and the local prince and his garrison. After the pirate raids were over about 1750, people left to inhabit the main island and seek more comfortable accommodations. In 1809 the English besieged the island and bombarded the castle mercilessly (a French English conflict). In 1823 the King of Naples evicted the last 30 inhabitants and made the castle a prison, first for general criminals and later for political prisoners (thus the torture chamber display).

Some of the churches in the castle are still active, others have become art museums, retaining their beautiful original architecture. The Convent of St. Maria della Consolazione, established in 1575, hosted about 40 nuns of the Clarisse Order. It does not sound like a happy nunnery. Let me quote from the castle’s pamphlet. “The nuns, the majority of whom were the eldest daughters of noble families were destined to a cloistered life from infancy, so as to leave the family inheritance intact for the eldest son.” However the Nuns’ Cemetery was a ghoulish lower chamber, the walls lined with stone high backed chairs with a large hole in the seats, almost as if they were a toilet of some kind. I couldn’t figure them out until I read the pamphlet which described, “… large stone chairs on which the lifeless bodies were placed. The bodies decomposed slowly and the body fluids were collected in special vases, finally the dried skeletons were collected in an ossarium. Every day the nuns went there to pray and to meditate on death, and spending several hours of the day in such an unhealthy environment often contracted serious illnesses.”

The walks and terraces are magnificent, some with pine trees or olive groves, overlooking a fantastic panorama of the bays and shoreline below. Others with flowering gardens were patrolled by wandering pheasants, their colourful plumage trailing in the dry sandy earth or arrogantly displayed in their full fan-shaped finery. The walk down to the entrance took me through a large winding stone passageway through the original entrance of the castle, complete with portcullis that could be dropped down slots in the walls to bar entrance. There were two sets of “murder holes” above, just outside the portcullis, to enable defenders to pour boiling oil on any attackers. It was a most interesting castle, well worth the price and time.

Meanwhile, back on Veleda, Judy had swum over to an American boat, Le Niche, to say “Hi”, and while treading water and talking to the crew she bumped into a small jellyfish and had a sting lash across her left shoulder. It stung overnight, but had eased up by the time we left at 0830 next day for a 25 mile motor across to Porto Vecchio, an original Roman galley port excavated out of the soft volcanic tufa over 2000 years ago, on Isola Ventotene. More about the Pontine Islands, of which Ventotene is one, in my next log.