Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Gaeta, a nice surprise on the Italian coast

July 25 - 26 2013

 The next stage of our meanderings down the Italian coast was a reasonably long, 50 nautical mile (92 kilometre) run south to the town of Gaeta. We chosen it as our destination by virtue of the fact that it was located on a narrow peninsula with anchorages on either side so regardless of where the weather was coming from we expected to be able to find shelter rather than having to go into a marina.

Considering the distance we had to go, we were awake early with the anchor coming up before the sun. The pre-dawn provided plenty of light for us to get on our way under motor in very calm glassy conditions. We were expecting some wind later but initially it was all up to our 75 horsepower Yanmar diesel to push us southwards but discovering we were being slowed by an adverse current wasn't what we wanted for breakfast.

This castle south of Anzio looked fantastic from the sea in the early light
Not far along our way, we passed a really cool looking castle built on a low rocky point. In the early light it appeared very atmospheric with its arched bridge to the shore and remnants of an ancient harbour. Sailing along the coast we never really know what we will see along the way and on a nine or ten hour passage like this one it was great to spy different things which broke up our day.

A couple of hours further along we rounded a high headland with its peak  cloaked in wispy cloud which took on a whole different look as the rising sun backlit it. Next came an interesting tourist development that had been built around an old fortified tower. One thing we didn’t appreciate coming across was a complete refrigerator floating along in the water. Unbelievably this was the fourth we’d seen this summer. By now the breeze was just starting to freshen so we were motor sailing along at near seven knots and very thankful we’d spotted it early. The idea of being unsighted at night and punching our fibreglass bow into one of these at speed doesn’t bear thinking about.

Not where you expect to find a refrigerator - except in the Med.
That's actually an ancient temple on the shore. Guess we need a bigger lens.
The north westerly continued to pick up and, as we passed by an ancient temple in the distance on shore, we were enjoying a nice downwind sail maintaining six plus knots quite effortlessly. We were approaching the high, castle topped cliffs of Gaeta before we knew it.

An interesting spot to put a light house.

Approaching Gaeta we had a steady 16 to 18 knots but rounding the point got
a little more interesting.
As we rounded the point and turned more beam on, local affect channelled and  accelerated the wind accelerated giving us some exciting moments of 25 to 30 knots with full mainsail and genoa out. We chose to sail well out into the protection of the wide bay before turning into the wind and getting the sails down.

Our anchorage in Gaeta was very calm with great views

The area we’d originally planned to anchor looked very industrial and quite grungy so we motored in and had a look in a small bay just south of the hilltop Castillo and were very pleasantly surprised to find a perfect anchorage. It was well sheltered with good holding in only five metres of water just off the esplanade of the very attractive medieval town.  It wasn’t marked on our charts as an anchorage but a small handful of local pleasure boats were propped in there so, when in Rome do as the Romans do. We were a little concerned when about half an hour later a police boat approached us. Once they confirmed we were a British registered boat they wished us a pleasant stay and moved across to an Italian yacht where they proceeded to do a very thorough check of all his papers and safety equipment on board. Funnily enough, by the time they'd finished with that poor bloke, all the other boats had scarpered and we were left on our own.

Anzio to Gaeta - 49.6 Nautical Miles - 9 Hours 53 Minutes
Average Speed 5.0 Knots - Max 6.7 knots

Behind the peninsula at Gaeta provided great protection from the strongish westerly blowing.
Our spot in the bay was perfect for a very relaxing BBQ dinner and glass of wine or two watching the foreshore come alive with locals in the early evening. The town looked so nice we decided to stay the next day and have a look around. That night we could see what looked like a small bush fire high up on the mountain slopes to the north.  By the time we awoke next day the smell of smoke was in the air and a light haze covered the whole bay. The fire had obviously spread quickly because before too long two aerial water bombers were in operation, swooping down in the centre of the bay scooping load after load and flying into the hills to dump it on the flames.

Two water bombers kept flying through the smoke haze were picking up
water throughout the morning out in the bay

The old seaman's chapel by the harbour was run down but very atmospheric.

We guess these guys need a fast, stealth boat to sneak up on the fish.
After catching up with a few boat jobs in the morning we headed ashore just after lunch. The old quarter around the harbour is really very quaint. The narrow streets, twisting stairs and vaulted passage ways climb steeply up the medieval village built on and around the promontory under the walls of the Castillo. The cathedral, originally built in 1106, and the 10th century church of San Giovanni a Mare are close neighbours while down in the harbour a character filled old seaman’s chapel was well worth a look. After a good wander around the place we settled into a nice cafĂ© with a bottle of local wine and made the most of their free WiFi to catch up with emails, facebook our blog etc.

Alcheringa resting at anchor off Gaeta
For what was intended to be just shelter for the night, Gaeta proved to be a very pleasant way for us to spend another day in the Mediterranean.

Sometimes we’re so busy out doing things we don’t have enough time to write about doing things and our blog slips a little behind time. To stay right up to date with what we’re up to these days and see lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail Facebook page at Dreamtime Sail on Facebook
If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway.  We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.

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