Log #34f Preparations for Departure and Impressions of the Marina

April 27, 2005 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 34 Rome - Corsica - Sardinia, The Logs

Calvi, Corsica
April 27, 2005

Hi Folks,

We are still weathered in here at Calvi with strong SW winds, and of course our next destination takes us SW. We enjoyed visiting the Foreign Legion base here on Sunday as it had an Open House for the public. The anchorage outside the breakwater is secure and the view of snow clad mountains is spectacular. More about Calvi in a later log.

I got involved in my summary of the marina in this log, and am sending this to my regular mailing lists and to others who were in the marina as well, to get their feedback. To our friends from Porto Turistico di Roma, I would invite your reaction to my impressions, and any additional observations you may have. If you would like to receive my logs as I write them, let me know and I will add you to my E-mailing list.

Incidentally for cruisers coming to Corsica or France, it is impossible to get a French data compatible chip for direct or mobile phone internet access without a contract. So our Vodophone card is not operational in France.

All the best,

Aubrey Millard


Log #34f Preparations for Departure and Impressions of the Marina

Calvi, Corsica
April 26, 2005


A New Prop for the Outboard

The propeller on the outboard was replaced a few days after the Tiber trip up to Rome. It is a slipping-type prop that has a special internal seal to allow the prop to slip if it hits an object. It has no cotter pin to fracture and be easily replaced as in older or smaller models. When I removed the prop, there was some dirt and fishing line filament accumulated in the mechanism from five hard years of service, and the seal worn down. The frustrating thing was that just the seal could not be replaced, but a whole new prop had to be purchased for about $130.00 US or $160.00 Canadian. Oh well, I found a large dealership in Fiumicino to buy the new prop as well as a new zinc to replace the badly eroded zinc on the engine (first time for both the prop and zinc since buying the engine in Scotland five years ago).

Sea Trial

By the first week of April we had completed most of the repairs, maintenance, and upgrades we needed to before setting sail this season. I wanted to get going early, April 10 or earlier, as that was when our six month contract expired. After that we would be paying a daily rate of 18 Euros ($22.00 US, or $29.00 Canadian). Judy wanted to wait a bit. I still wanted to get in a sea trial to check out all the systems.

It was a good day with a light northwesterly wind. The engine behaved itself well, and the alternator put out a good charge rate. I had started the engine up every two weeks or so throughout the winter. The sails were in good shape although the main is a bit soiled, and a small tear was noted in the UV protection of the genoa. However neither the Simrad wheel pilot, nor the old below deck Benmar Cetek worked properly! The Simrad was not activating, a problem with the electrical connections which we could fix alongside. However, we were very frustrated with the Benmar; as we had taken it back to Canada, shipped it to California in mid December, only to have it returned five weeks later and having to pay return postage as the company had changed locations. We then had it taken to Florida with a friend to be sent to the new Benmar address via Federal Express so we would have it back before we left for Italy the end of January. It was returned, supposedly fixed and we brought it back. But it did not work! We have lost faith in it as we have not had it working reliably for a couple of years, and so are looking for a new below deck auto pilot before we cross the Atlantic this winter. It is after all a 26 year old system, and only the company in California can fix them. Oh well, time to bite the bullet! But, we felt Veleda was ready for sea.

Marina Life before Departure

Marina life was still in a pleasant rhythm up to mid April, as few boats had left by then. Judy and I were involved in making presentation to Food’s Planet, the marina restaurant which supported the cruisers so well during the winter. With the money donated by the cruisers we got them (Rozella and Enzo) three Ikea bookcases for a cruisers’ exchange library and a hand made thank you card made up by Signe and the other two children from Alexina of Shorham and Greip, and signed by all the cruisers. We also presented to them a large framed photograph of the cruisers which they hung in the restaurant. Judy and I had to do quite a bit of running around to organize these thank you mementoes. We are thankful to Janet on His and Hers for collecting the donations, and to Mattais on Greip for the photo, and dedication wording which he put on a CD that we in turn took to a photo shop to have printed.

We still had weekly pot luck suppers, Wednesday night get-togethers at Food’s Planet, karaoke nights, men’s coffee hours and women’s coffee klatches, and of course our 0830 VHF Porto Turistico di Roma cruisers’ net. A few of us who were still members of the Yacht Club got together several afternoons at 1700 for our own intimate Happy Hour , and Friday film nights at the Roma Yacht Club as well as enjoying free use of the computers for the internet.

However as boats leave for this season’s voyages, these activities will diminish. Cruisers are doing the final maintenance on their vessels, entertaining the last of friends and family visiting, and taking in the last of the sites of Rome they can manage, before shoving off for new horizons in the Mediterranean.  I suspect many boats will be gone by the end of April, with a few boats staying until the mid or end of May. It was an enjoyable community of cruisers, and we take with us many fond memories of friends and activities shared over the winter.

As mentioned in an earlier log (see Log #34c), we finally departed April 14 after waiting out a couple of days bad weather and to stay around for our last Wednesday night get together at Food’s Planet and to make the final presentation to Rozella and Enzo. It was like leaving home; saying goodbye to the friends we made over the winter. We have the cruisers list and hope to keep in contact with many of them. Thank you all for your friendship, helpfulness and support.

Marina Impressions

Doug Decker on Limerance and Tom Diekman on Precept put together an extremely professional business survey of the cruisers, summarizing their impressions of Port Turistico di Roma over the winter. Doug was going to present this to the president of the marina complex, but when his request for an appointment was not acknowledged he left the copy with the office (and I believe has sent a copy to the Seven Seas Cruising Association). This was an attempt to help the marina identify how it could better serve its clientele, indicating the good and not-so-good aspects. Doug was far more “gentle” than I would have been in his summary.

Basically, the facilities are good, especially the concrete pontoons, the mooring rings, stern moorings tailed to the jetty, and the power and water stanchions. Telephone and TV hookups are limited to the few pontoons with larger (50 foot plus) boats. The washroom blocks had enough toilet stalls, including bidets, and enough shower stalls with plenty of hot water. However the poor security and resultant vandalism, and use by the general public especially on weekends, created many problems.

The washrooms would often be messed up by either the public or homeless people who snuck in to the showers and left them messy. It became a sad joke about the disappearing toilet seats, to the degree that of eight toilet stalls in each block, only one or two had toilet seats left by the first week of April. Washing machines were located in both men’s and women’s shower areas, but there were only two driers for the whole marina.

Although there were closed circuit TV cameras above each pontoon, they were either not operational or the tapes not saved; with the 15 bicycles stolen over the winter no offer for the cruisers affected to view the tapes was made by the management. The only security was an arm across the pontoon entrance that could be raised by keys held by the boaters of that pontoon. However, it was no problem to duck under or swing around this minimal barrier, which could be raised by people leaving the pontoon by pressing a button. Some thefts were of bikes left on board the boats. In fact the management did nothing when such thefts were reported, except on behalf of Doug (who was far more active in getting action) whose two bikes were stolen, and finally recovered (the only ones!). When I reported mine stolen to the office, the clerk looked blankly at me as if to say “So what” then finally said one word, “Sorry.” That was it! No follow up whatever; no further questions, no notes made of the boat, time or pontoon, no suggestion of any further action on their part or on mine. Doug was incensed at this treatment and tried to get something done. There were some promises made, but no action taken.

Their mail sorting was a dog’s breakfast. A file cabinet with alphabetical folders was in the office for mail received. However, there was no single system for their filing of it. Some times mail was filed by last name of the recipient, or by the boat’s name, or by the recipient’s first name, or under “S”, as in the beginning of “SV Veleda IV”, or “M” for “MV Castlevar”. To check, we would go through all the alphabetical folders for our own, and if we saw other cruisers’ mail we would pick it out for them or call them on VHF to let them know they had mail.

The office was unhelpful. The ladies there would answer questions directly, but did not offer other suggestions or alternatives. However, the harbourmaster did ask that the new Roma Yacht Club be opened early for cruisers, as the official opening for Italian marina boaters was not until mid April.

The club was opened from February onwards to cruisers only. It is a very nice facility with a large bar area, two large screen TVs with video and DVD capabilities, and comfortable sofa seating as well as small bar tables. There is a games room with a wide variety of card games, backgammon and other board games available, and a lush pool room with two large size pool tables with all the pool cues, racks and other associated paraphernalia. The next level up is a library and reading room, well stocked with English (and other non-Italian) books, and magazines as well as Italian publications. Also on this level is an internet room with three high speed computers connected to the internet. On both levels there are balconies overlooking the marina, a beautiful setting in good weather. Sorin (the manager) and Massimo (the bartender) were very co-operative and helpful, both speaking reasonably good English. However, there were problems from the beginning. The yacht Club permitted a couple of general meetings of the cruisers in Jan/Feb. and announced it would be open seven days a week from 1000 to 2200, and the monthly fee for cruisers would be about 32 Euros per boat. It sounded good. However, the final policy changed (Sorin was not able to make policy) and it was to be opened only Monday to Friday, 1000 to 1800, and the monthly fee was to be 45 Euros per boat. Additional opening times could be arranged for specific events as we did for the Friday Night movie nights. After the second general meeting in February, only five cruisers had taken out membership. It was hardly worth the club being open for such a small number.

I organized a film night at the club for the whole cruising community and after the film made a pitch to get more cruisers to sign up so we could have more general gatherings there. The response was poor, and a few weeks later there were still only fourteen of us (out of about 40 boats) who had taken out memberships. The club then tightened its policy and said only members were allowed to use the premises. So, those of us who joined enjoyed it, the comfortable warm dry surroundings, the very good bar with very economical prices, the free internet, our informal Happy Hours and our Friday night movie nights. We even managed to hold a couple of cruising seminars on Turkey and Greece, and invited individual nonmembers interested to attend as our guests. However, a split was developing in the cruising community over this situation, and the club was not used for any more group get-togethers of cruisers. We just kept using Food’s Planet’s outer dining area for general cruiser meetings, seminars, and book exchanges.

The Roma Yacht Club is an extremely good facility, and should be available to all cruisers. However, some cruisers chose not to pay a monthly fee of 45 Euros for two or three months let alone a six month winter period. If the Yacht Club is to be functional during the winter and if it wants cruisers to be active within it, a compromise of some type needs to be explored to make membership part of the winter fee schedule, possibly with a rebate for months boaters are back home, and a reduced six month fee (such as 6 x 30 Euros = 180 Euros added to all the winter rates?). However, I do not think the marina and Yacht Club have their act together enough and are not interested enough in the cruising community to consider such flexibility. Pity!

Many of us think the marina is not interested in winter liveaboard cruisers, and wants the slips permanently sold to locals with a minimum of bother over the winter. We are such small change to the large mega-complex planned there that they cannot be bothered.

The main advantage of Port Turistico di Roma is its proximity to Rome, and its slightly better initial rates. However Fiumicino boat yards and Porto Romano on the river, as well as places on the canal, are also accessible to Rome, most with better security. Porto Turistico may lose many of the cruising community if it does not have more security, active involvement, concern and co-operation with the winter liveaboards.