Monday, 30 September 2013
Birthday time in Napoli
July 27-28, 2013
It was now time for our final jump down into the Bay of Naples where we would celebrate Karen’s birthday, visit the ruins of Pompeii and finally meet up with Karen’s parents, Trevor and Joy, who would be joining us for a couple of weeks on Alcheringa as part of an extended, overseas holiday.
We were up and underway by 7.30 with a course set to take us across the bay a fair way offshore to the channel between the mainland and Isola di Procida, the northern gateway to the Golfo di Napoli. We motored across the flat sea for the first hour or so and then turned into the emerging gentle south easterly breeze to raise the mainsail. Turning back on course and motor sailing, this provided us with a small lift in speed.
The wind had been predicted to swing progressively through 180 degrees before freshening later and, for a change, that’s pretty much what happened. We were constantly trimming the sails as we motor-sailed until we could finally rely fully on wind power. There’s no better moment than when you can shut the engine off and enjoy the relative quiet. By early afternoon we were romping along on a good downwind sail and making good time towards Naples. Sheer heaven.
Approaching the entrance to the Bay of Naples we became aware of just how much ferry and pleasure craft traffic were threading their way through the narrow channels around the reefs and mussel farms and decided it would be prudent to drop our sails and motor through with maximum manoeuvrability. The theory may be that power gives way to sail but no one ever told the ferry drivers that. They never deviate off course for anyone. It proved to be wise decision as even not constricted by wind direction we still had to work hard not to be run down at 20+ knots by a hundred of the kamikaze power boat drivers and a couple of the many ferries running out of Naples.
After narrowly avoiding disaster, we headed for our planned anchorage, Baia, but discovered what was supposed to be an ideal spot to hang out for a few days was in fact surrounded by ugly, derelict buildings and appeared to have tons of potentially anchor snagging junk littered across the sea floor. It didn’t take long to decide to switch to Plan B and make our way closer into Naples itself.
On the way we motored past a small island steeped in history. Isola di Nisida was called Nesis in Roman times and it was here that Portia committed suicide, supposedly by swallowing burning coals, UGH!, after her husband Brutus along with Casius were defeated by Marc Antony and Octavian in the battle of Phillipi. Brutus and Casius are said to have hatched their plot to assassinate Julius Caesar in the villa on the island.
Our Plan B was to anchor on the western side of the bay near an area called Possilipo which would provide good protection from the prevailing North Westerly winds. When we rounded the point we discovered about a thousand small boats spread around the whole place. That’s what we get for arriving in Naples on a sunny, Saturday afternoon in summer. Regardless, we were able to claim a good spot in six metres of water, reasonably close to a small beach and, as usual, 99% of the boats disappeared back to their berths before nightfall. Their exit did make for plenty of rock and roll from their wakes though. Italians only know two throttle positions, flat out and stopped.
We jumped in the dingy next morning and headed ashore to find a suitable place to celebrate Karen’s birthday. Our first job though was to find somewhere we could land and leave the dingy. The beach we were anchored off was clearly a private area and we soon discovered the entire waterfront appeared to be a private affair. Heading east along the bay we eventually came across a small boat marina and decided to tie up to the end of one of the fingers. We waltzed down the dock like we owned the place and then discovered it was some sort of private boat club with, bar, restaurant and swimming pool. We smiled and waved at the security guy on the reception desk as we walked out the door wondering how difficult it may prove to get back in later. Oh well, that would be this afternoon’s problem.
We wandered down the road, further east towards central Naples to check out a larger marina nearby. If they had affordable berths available it would be a suitable spot to bring the boat in for a night or two to top up water, do some provisioning and have Karen’s parents join us. Mounds of rubbish piled in the streets did nothing to attract our business and neither did the lack of facilities in the so called, Superyacht ready marina. It was going to be back to the pilot guide to find somewhere else.
The further east we went, the grimier the streets became with litter everywhere, more dog crap than a greyhound track and no sign of anything resembling even a half decent restaurant. We walked for miles hoping things would improve but by the time we passed the American Consulate surrounded by armoured vehicles and Italian army personnel well equipped with automatic weapons we decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat back to Possilipo. We’d already built up a couple of serious appetites from our marathon walk so finding a place to eat was now a very high priority. Fortunately we were able to catch a bus back and save our weary legs. The previous afternoon Karen had actually spotted a restaurant high on the cliff above the boat so we crossed our fingers that it would be OK and made a beeline for it.
The bus stopped right outside and we were instantly encouraged by the place being well patronised by nicely dressed locals. Ristorante Reginella proved to be an outstanding choice. Alcheringa bobbed lazily at anchor below us. The views over the Bay of Naples to Vesuvius were fantastic. The staff could not have been friendlier or more helpful and the food was to die for. We never actually made any selections from the menu. Instead we simply went with our waiter’s recommendations and spent most of the afternoon working our way through course after course of amazing seafood and a couple of bottles of Italian bubbles.
The staff made a big thing about us being from the yacht anchored below the balcony and before long other guests came and chatted to us about the boat, where we’d come from and where we were heading to. It was all very sociable and there were no end of birthday wishes for Karen. We ran up the white flag before desert but did manage to cap off a wonderful birthday lunch with a couple of glasses of the local specialty, Lemoncello.
By the time we waltzed through the doors of the boat club off handedly waving away the doorman’s queries with a smile and ‘No problem, we’re just going to our boat’ repeated three times in response to whatever it was he was saying in Italian. Once more a confident look and incomprehensible language got us past a potential roadblock as he decided pursuit would be futile and simply watched slack jawed as we trundled down the dock then weaved our way out to sea in our small inflatable.
Back on board, the birthday celebrations weren’t over yet though as we popped the cork on a fine bottle of Moet, enjoyed yet another great sunset and planned our next day’s trip to the ruins of Pompeii. That will be the next blog chapter.
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