Tag Archives: Gaeta

Getting to know Gaeta

Once the thunder and rain storms had passed we ventured out. When we discovered that we were the only liveaboard boat we did begin to wonder if we had been right to leave the comfort blanket of Marina di Ragusa and its vibrant community.

Jayne Koehler, who is the port officer here came round to say hello and before long I was being whisked into town to be shown around.

To start with Jayne showed me Via Independenza which is an narrow alleyway full of small shops, stalls, wine merchants, tiellerie, (local pie shops), bakers, butchers, clothes shops, estate agents, bars, coffee shops, stationers, pizzerie, trattorie, casalinghue, ferramente – you name it, you can find it here.

She introduced me to most of the shop keepers and I felt warmly welcomed.

Later that day I showed Ian what I had discovered. We loved the quirky street. It is like a throw back. The signs above the doors have not changed in decades. It is scruffy but beguiling and everyone is so friendly.

The town is literally right on the door step of the boat and I think we are going to be happy here.

The next day, we walked down to the old part of town. The historic centre. The walk is a stunning stroll down a leafy boulevarde, along a huge promenade called the Lungomare. It must be four kilometres in length. Palm trees rustle over head and the tall flat topped pines cast a useful shade under their umbrella fronds.

We happened upon a tennis club which I would love to join….I made tentative enquiries, we’ll see if I’m brave enough to actually join.

We loved the winding streets, the steps and hairpin bends, the churches and old castle walls. We were fascinated to note that their was an international symposium of scholars of ancient manuscripts gathering for a two day conference on the future of studying manuscripts! Perhaps something was lost in translation but it was amazing to us that there even was such a thing!

We came across a talented artist in her ceramics workshop. Soon we were on first name terms. I hope to see her again. Maybe I can try my hand at decorating a ceramic tile?

On the way home we visited the wine shop. Wine is decanted into your own bottles. Luckily, in our bag, there were three we had the foresight to bring with us! We tasted the wine. I don’t know why exactly, as we were sure to buy! They were a bargain at E1.60 a litre!

Things were looking up!

The nearest beach

The next day we walked across the isthmus to investigate the beach. On the northwest facing side of the Gaeta promontory is a massive beach. The beach concessions were in the process of dismantling fencing, umbrella holders and equipment, so, once that is done the beach will be the territory of the winter residents once more.

Looking up to Monte di Spaccata

Our walk the next day was a more strenuous stroll up hill towards the Monastry of the Spaccata. This monastery/church was built into a split in the rock literally hovering a hundred metres from the sea below. The views were incredible from the top and we had the added bonus of people watching the congregation as the disgorged from church.

Big man, small car.

There are lots more walks around the Parco d’Orlando which we will do when it is less hot.

We have now discovered that there will be five other boats arriving for the winter. Of these the crew of three of them will spend most of the winter here. Another boat is being lifted onto the hard but they may visit for a holiday. So there will be a small community here, plus Jayne, the port officer.

Winds batter us and send waves over the pontoon

Today we walked North along the prom into the strong winds buffeting the outer pontoons of the marina. It has been quite wild out and we, for one, are very glad of the breakwater effect that USS Mount Whitney has on our berth.

Dominic the bike guy.

We have bought ourselves some bikes today which Dominic at the bike shop will buy back from us when we leave for half of what we paid for them. Seems like a bargain.

We have also hired a car for a few days so that we can do errands, shopping, gas refills, sewing machine repairs, laundry and most importantly go over the Appennines to Penne, Abruzzo to meet up with my great friends Paula, Lyndsay and Peter.

Last Legs

Our route from Taormina to Gaeta

Since the failure of the engine, it was with some trepidation that we set off to head north through the Messina straits. This was to be our first leg of seven as we headed to our winter berth 250nm north.

We timed our departure so that we would have the least tide/current against us. We were also lucky with the wind, although some of the time the wind was on the nose.

Last view of Etna.

In order to ensure that the gunky bits from the bottom of the tank had less chance of being sucked into the fuel pipe and delivered to the engine we wanted to keep the fuel tank full. The nearest fuel dock being just north of Messina, at a place called Paradiso.

As we approached the traffic separation scheme in the straits, I had to radio the marine traffic controllers in Messina to explain our intentions. The officer instructed us, in no uncertain terms, that we MUST make an appointment to go to the fuel bunker and MUST NOT hang about in the area, and MUST NOT cause any obstruction to passing shipping.

Next challenge: Phone the fuel dock to make an appointment. In my faltering Italian, I spoke to the very understanding Mario Rainieri at the fuel dock and managed to book in for 1500h.

However, we arrived earlier than expected. We hovered off the long, sharp, pointy, metallic, ugly, fuel pontoon, unsure about where exactly to moor up, or indeed if we even could. We knew that we couldn’t hang about as the Coast Guard would be after us!

I phoned Mario again, slightly panicky and I explained that we were early. He said he was at his house having lunch and would be there at 1500h as agreed and that we should tie up to the pontoon.

We approached the south side of the south pontoon and realised as we neared the structure that, a) it was high; and, b) it had railings all round.

The long and short of it is that we managed to tie up, bruised thighs resulting, and awaited Mario’s return from lunch.

Soon, Mario arrived and was very friendly. He chatted away and forced me to speak Italian. He gently corrected my grammar and pronunciation and was at pains to explain his opening hours, summer and winter.

(June 30 – August 30th open all day. Outside of those dates it is imperative to make an appointment and remember that he will be at home for his long lunch!)

We wanted to go to Scilla on the mainland. This involved crossing the traffic separation scheme. Again, we had to radio the traffic controllers. They told us when it was safe to cross and off we went. We marveled at the weird eddies and whirlpools shimmying and dancing around us. The water was practically boiling. We saw a dolphin swimming in the turmoil and wondered how they manage. We laughed giddily as we surfed one of the currents at an incredible 8kn!

Suddenly we heard ‘Linea’ being called on the radio.

‘There is a ship approaching from the south! Would we like to pass to its bow or stern?’

‘Ummm,’ I pondered, thinking quickly, ‘To its stern I think would be better!’ We altered our course and all was good.

We spent the night on a mooring buoy in Scilla, rocking and rolling behind the breakwater of the small harbour. The town is supposed to be worth seeing but, sadly, since it was raining heavily we decided to stay on board.

Next morning, we set off for Tropea. The swell from last night continued all day today and so when we arrived at the anchorage we knew that it would be a very bumpy night on a lee shore. We elected to continue on to the marina Stella del Sud in Vibo a further 10nm east.

We had a pleasant night here with free showers, welcoming people (the marineros even come on board and tie off your lazy lines for you – LUXURY!) and a bar.

The next day was a biggish hop north to Cetrara. We anchored off and Ian and David went ashore to the fuel dock to replenish the jerry cans. We had a super calm night as the swell had mostly dissipated by then.

The following day saw us head further north to Palinuro. A beautiful anchorage off a National Park. We went ashore and found a beach bar and discovered that it was only a short walk from here to the village from where David could find his way to Naples airport and his flight home.

From Palinuro we planned to do the remaining miles in one hit to get to Gaeta before a few days of thundery and rainy weather were due. However, the swell that had eluded us yesterday evening tucked in as we were in the Bay of Good Sleeps, reared its ugly head and the wind decided to do the opposite of what was forecast. We tacked endlessly across our desired course and made virtually no progress.

Plan B…We headed to an anchorage off Ogliastra and picked up a mooring buoy.

Next day, we headed for Capri where we could anchor off the Grande Marina. We intended to anchor, rest, eat and then set off to Gaeta at 0000h.

However, best laid plans and all that. We anchored in 15m of water. Soon, an Australian yacht arrived and anchored nearby. We decided to go ashore and have a quick look at Capri, since we were here. We set off in the dinghy and were invited onto Ari and before you could say, ‘G’day, mate.’ we were drinking a glass or two of vino with them.

We dodged the numerous ferries charging into Capri and found somewhere to dock the dinghy. The outside pontoon No 1 was bouncing and wobbling like crazy with all the wash from the ferries. One yacht that was moored there decided to leave since it was so uncomfortable.

We walked into town and were shocked at how many tourists there were even in late September. We quickly bought a few supplies and left. I think it is a place to visit in the very low season only.

Back on board we had a quick supper and then grabbed forty winks before upping the anchor at 0930h and setting off into the night.

We were in a race with the inbound bad weather.

We negotiated ferries and fishing vessels, small Spanish sailing boats and the narrow straits of Ischia with its buoys of special purpose and finally we were heading across the Bay of Gaeta. Nearly there now, but would we beat the rain and storms?

We both had a couple of hours sleep in the cockpit and I woke Ian when we were 10nm off. At the speed we were making we would arrive in the dark. We cut our speed to 3kn and doodled along killing time.

Eventually the dawn broke and sunlight peeked over the mountains to our east. We had plenty of time to ready ourselves with fenders, lines and lowering the dinghy.

The marineros came out to greet us as we rounded the bow of the USS Mount Whitney that is stationed in Gaeta Military base.

USS Mount Whitney – Communications flagship vessel for the sixth fleet.

We were guided calmly to our berth with no further incidents!

PHEW! and BREATHE! After a shower, snack, and sleep we needed to stretch our legs. Then, feeling peckish, stopped for some comfort food. No sooner had we sat down than the predicted wind, rain, thunder and lightning came in just as predicted.

And then the sun came out!

Next time, read about our discoveries in our new place of abode.