Log #33o The Pontine Islands and to Rome

November 11, 2004 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 33 Turkey - Greece to Rome, The Logs

Porto Turistico di Roma, Rome, Italy

Nov. 11, 2004

Hi Folks,

This log gets us to our winter marina just outside Rome. Judy is back and we are getting Veleda ready for the winter by putting weather proofing plastic sheeting outside the cabin windows and bubble wrap under the opening hatches in the main cabin and vee berth. In the next few days we will put up the side curtains to isolate the cockpit from the elements. Marina life here is starting to get organized with a variety of activities, and we listen to the VHF net each morning at 0830 to find out what is going on. We have agreed to be net controller on Wed. mornings until we leave for Canada in December, and I am on a committee to set up a Thanksgiving/Harvest Festival meal at a local restaurant. However we cannot assume they know how to roast a turkey, or make stuffing or gravy, let alone pumpkin pie. It will be interesting! If you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t be cruising!

The weather has gotten colder over the past two days, from 25 C. to 10 C. with heavy winds (40 to 50 knots) and rain. The Caribbean is starting to look more inviting, but we won’t be over there until Jan. or Feb. of 2006.

While we are here if any of you want to send us actual letters cards or hard copy by snail mail, our mailing address here is









In Toronto our address will be the same as last year at 734 O’Connor Drive, Toronto, Ontario Canada M4C 3A9, and we will be back in Canada from Dec. 15 to Jan. 31. We will be making presentations to Shellbacks, a Toronto sailing fraternity, and the Toronto Boat Show on our cruising the Black Sea and the Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet review in January.

I will be writing up a summary log shortly of the distances we have traveled, and may periodically send others about some of the local places in Rome, Italy and Europe that we have or will be visiting; but Veleda will be stationary for the next five months. Does anyone know of boaters who are staying in Venice for the winter? We would like to exchange a visit to Venice during Carnival, with a visit with us here in Rome, as we understand accommodations in Venice are hard to get during that festival.

I hope you enjoy this, the last of the sailing logs until next year.

All the best,


Log #33o The Pontine Islands and to Rome

Porto Turistico di Roma, Rome, Italy

Nov. 8, 2004

The motor from Ischia to Ventotene was without problems, into a light force 3 breeze, using the genoa to give us a bit of assist. The entrance was a bit difficult to find, as although it was right beside the lighthouse, the narrow 30 metre opening in the low-lying rocks was not apparent until about 50 metres from shore. We wanted to go into Porto Vecchio, the ancient Roman galley port excavated from the tufa 2000 years ago. It was a sharp 90 degree turn to starboard into the narrow opening, but we were happy to see the inner wall had laid lines, and we would not have to use our stern anchor. The outer wall had several large niches cut into it, presumably for storage of the Roman galley gear. Some of these niches were used by local fishermen for their gear, and several fishing boats and a couple of dive boats were moored at the inner but wider end of the small harbor. Several of the dive shops, the tourist office, and a few restaurants facing the dock were carved into the cliff side. On the left was a street ascending into the upper town, and to the right a street going over to the larger harbor with its more modern marina and ferry dock. It was impressive to think that this same rough stone dock and harbor, the excavated openings in the tufa walls, and the excavated caves which the local dive shops and restaurants are using today were made and used by the Romans 2000 years ago.

We had some good natured haggling with the young dockmaster/diveboat/tourboat operator about the price for the mooring. He started at 30 Euro, and we settled on 20. Of course he spoke no English, but was friendly, and we arranged for him to take us the 1½ miles over to Stefano Island next day. I possibly could have taken Sprite across, but as the area is a park I did not know whether there were regulations preventing such and whether there was any good landing place. Stefano was a penal colony, abandoned since the 1950’s, and I like going through abandoned buildings. Judy elected not to come, but I was accompanied by Bob and Sue from Meg who were in the new marina off to the right. It was described as a “Devil’s Island”, but was attractive to wander around with great views over the water and lush green vegetation. There was a cemetery, several outbuildings for power, water and sanitation, as well as accommodations and recreation halls for staff. The semicircular prison itself is under some kind of reconstruction, possibly for tourism. It was interesting to wander through the open abandoned buildings, trying to figure out what the various rooms were used for. There were some large dormitory type rooms, some with the steel frames of beds rusting away, others with water connections for washrooms or kitchens; some for recreation with the remains of a stand up bar; also a barren chapel, an etched cross barely visible through the grime and corrosion on the walls. The land seemed fertile with tall grasses, some fruit and olive trees, prickly pear cacti, and a couple of overgrown garden plots. There were only a few construction workers around using concrete and plaster to modernize or strengthen the entrance rooms of the prison. The three of us were the only visitors exploring the island and buildings on our own.

Ventotene is in a Marine Reserve Zone with fishing limitations all around and an exclusion from any navigation on the south side of Stefano. Judy and I took Sprite to circumnavigate this volcanic island of Ventotene, impressed by the high cliffs, the tortured black lava configurations, and the striations of lava and tufa that angled down into the clear blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Some of the contorted lava cliffs looked like grotesque gargoyles, their silhouettes angrily threatening boaters below to beware of their rocky shoals which would have torn Sprite to shreds. Yet on top of some of the flat cliff tops were farms, crops and olive trees providing a living for the local inhabitants. Upon completing our circumnavigation we saw a lovely beach south of the harbor, with a large cave excavated through the rock face in Roman times so the fishermen and town folk could get access to the water without cluttering up the galley harbour. Fishermen now use the harbor, but the large cave still serves as an access for the townspeople to get to the sandy beach on the other side of the lighthouse. The upper town is another simple local community without tourist attractions, but having interesting cobblestone streets, a couple of plazas fringed by churches, restaurants, and stores, and several neat residential streets, the small row houses fronting onto the sidewalks. However things are not inexpensive here.

After the second night we left for the island of Ponza, as we were uncertain of the weather, and we wanted to get into our winter marina at Porto Turistico di Roma in Ostia just outside Rome by the 15th, and it was already the 9th. If the weather closed in on us we wanted to be in a sheltered anchorage, and so we elected to head for the far side of Ponza on the northwest side, as we were experiencing strong southeasterly winds on our way over. We actually sailed for a couple of hours then motorsailed to the southern tip of Ponza and motored the rest of the way up the west side of the island to Cala di Feola, as we thought it would be more sheltered from anything from the south or east which were the predominant winds at the time, and it would be a bit closer to our final destination.

We dropped anchor (40˚ 55.21’ N, 012˚ 57.66’ E) at 1415 with a couple of other day trip charter vessels in the large volcanic bay of Cala di Feola. Launching Sprite we had a fantastic dinghy ride through tunnels, sea caves, grottos, and small lagoons formed by the volcanic cataclysms that created these islands. The caves, grottos and lagoons linked by passages and tunnels were even more spectacular than those we experienced at the dramatic mountain-encircled bay of Senno di Ieranto, and put the hokey Blue Grotto of Capri to shame.  It was late afternoon and the sun was still shining, creating a luminous sheen to the shallow depths inside the caves, forming undulating diamond white reflections on the jagged black lava arches overhead. The ripples of the sand on the bottom produced a tranquil setting not unlike the groomed, combed and raked sands of a Japanese garden, complete with the occasional rock or shell carefully placed by Nature. One cave was linked to the next by a boulder strewn passage between the smooth outer rocks and the jagged obsidian black lava shoreline. As we progressed along this inner passageway, each sea cave was bigger, deeper and more awe inspiring than the previous. One of the caves was as big as the Blue Grotto, with more light, a colourful coral waterline, diamond and silver rippled sandy bottom, and the serenity of existing in it with no one else around. This is one of the joys of sailing off season; we can have these treasures to ourselves to enjoy at our leisure!

After leaving that 200 meter stretch of caves and grottos, including a natural stone bridge leading from one small lagoon to the next, we dinghied around the bay over to the next one, content that we had selected the better sheltered location. Back on Veleda we spent a quiet night as the few other day trippers had left and we had the entire bay to ourselves.

Next day we were off early at 0515, as we wanted to make a 60 mile run for Ostia and our marina. We decided not to spend another day to go to Anzio as we didn’t trust the weather, and we could easily get there by land once we were in our winter marina, on the coast outside of Rome a half mile from the Tiber River. After a few hours of motor sailing we were able to sail for over eight hours in a strong SE force 4 to 6 wind, not dropping the sails until we were approaching Ostia to moor inside at 1555, in our winter home (41˚ 44.19’ N, 012˚ 15.03’ E). The entrance was wide, but we had a strong following sea as we entered with heavy surges causing us to surf down the waves as we rushed through the opening into the sheltered waters of the marina, our home for the winter.