8 to 22 July 2017
Misena to Salerno, N40° 40.39′ E14° 45.51′, 35nm, 7 hours 30
to Agropoli, N40° 21.28′ E14° 58.98′, 20nm, 5 hours
to Palinuro, N40° 01.29′ E15° 17.98′, 35nm, 5 hours 30
to Cetraro, N39° 31.33′ E15° 55.36′, 40nm, 7 hours
to Vibo Valentia, N38° 43.22′ E16° 07.79′, 48nm, 9 hours
to Scilla, N38° 15.43′ E15° 43.01′, 40nm, 7 hours 30
One thing dominated our time in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea: fire!
Living surrounded by water, fire is not something you would think we worry about too much. (It is in reality one of our biggest dangers to us on the boat.) Travelling through Spain, Portugal and now Italy we have realised what an ever present danger it is in the tinder dry conditions of summer. Stories of the devastating fires in Portugal recalled the fires we had seen in Setubal and Portimao last summer. Fire at home too has been on our minds a lot recently having seen the horrific images of the Grenfell Tower.
As we crossed the Bay of Naples from Misena, in the shadow of Vesuvius, we were conscious of the small fires were already burning on its slopes. These small fires would grow into a rage of destruction throughout our time around the Amalfi Coast and be visible from space. Local rumour had it that the fires were deliberately started by the mafia in order to clear land where development was prohibited. We could not possibly comment on these rumours but these fires would not be the last we saw on this stretch of coast.
The greatest risk to us though in the Bay of Naples and along the Amalfi Coast were the pesky day trip boats we had first encountered in their numbers in Ponza. They came at us from all sides at great speeds such that it was impossible sometimes to keep an eye on them all. As we came passed the island of Capri one motor boat, (too) heavily laden with people, was headed right at us. It was obvious to me at the helm that the skipper of the boat was oblivious to our collision course. Bringing Pintail to an emergency stop the boat whisked seemingly just under our bow and we watched it speed on towards Capri. Trouble was the skipper was also oblivious to the fishing pot next in his way. We could not help but feel he got his comeuppance when the boat also came to its own emergency stop having caught the line of pot on his propeller!
Having avoided collision with any of the thousands of boats haring up and down the beautiful Amalfi Coast we anchored for a night off the beach at Salerno, under the Castello di Arechi. All afternoon and long into the evening we watched the seaplanes swoop into the Gulf of Salerno to pick up water to take to fight the fires. We were treated to a firework display over the town that night but pondered the wisdom of throwing more fire into the sky.
Salerno was a brilliant base for our adventures around the Amalfi Coast, Naples and Salerno but sightseeing done we motored across a glassy Gulf of Salerno to Agropoli. The air was thick with smoke from the fires and visibility quite poor. One danger we seemed to have left behind were all the crazy motor boats. We were not troubled by them in such numbers the further south we went. In Agropoli we visited Paestum for an early introduction to Greek architecture and archeology.
En route to Cetrara and striking off ahead of us again with their enormous propellor, Suzie and Mike found the most wonderful anchorage in a setting to rival Ponza. Anchored tucked in behind the high cliffs of Capo Palinuro and behind a rock island we loved it so much we spent two nights there.
Our first night was memorable for a storm which brought its own risk of fire to us on the boat. I used to enjoy watching thunderstorms but having a big high ready made lightening conductor stuck on our home makes us feel a bit like a sitting duck (she is a Pintail after all!). As thunder cracked right over head and the skies lit up with electricity we did wonder whether we were close enough to Toy Buoy and their slightly higher mast to avoid a strike. Happily the storm passed and both crews breathed a sigh of relief.
The cliffs at Palinuro were full of caves and quirky nooks. Rickety little staircases made their way to ladders to let swimmers enjoy the crystal clear waters. We swam too, enjoying our unexpected couple of free nights on this otherwise budget busting coast.
Fire was not, however, far away. Our second night saw the bay lit up not by lightening this time but a fire really close by, worryingly close to the campsite near the beach. Ash and smoke surrounded us as it took hold but it appeared to have been put out by morning when we left for Cetrara.
Although we did not realise it until we did the calculations later, our passage from Palinuro to Cetrara saw us pass another milestone in this adventure – 3000nm since leaving Essex! We had spent 543 hours at sea since leaving home. Our log also records that 488 of those have been under motor. The Mediterranean has certainly lived up to its reputation for no wind or too much wind!
In Cetrara we stocked up with several kilos of beautifully sweet and locally grown tomatoes and Stefan was delighted to find a string of fresh chillies. This part of Italy seems fond of a spicier flavour to its food. We also got a taste of the wonderful hospitality of the Italian people. After a longer than expected walk to find dinner and having filled ourselves with too much pizza (again!) we asked the woman at the restaurant if we could get a taxi. She disappeared, we thought, to call us a cab but instead returned with her car keys and drove us all back to the marina, refusing to take anything for the journey.
More fires raged on our passage from Cetraro to Vibo Valentia. These were clearly engulfing housing and we watched again as the seaplanes dived for water to fight them, hoping that everyone inside had made it out safely.
With emergency procedures very much in mind, when a bright pink lilo floated passed us we decided to use it as wo/man overboard drill!
From Vibo we took to public transport to explore a bit more of this lovely area of Calabria – along Italy’s toe.
Getting closer to the tip of Italy’s toe meant getting closer to the end of our time in Italy and to going our separate way to SV Toy Buoy. Both of these things made us sad. We have enjoyed their respective company so much on this unexpected detour in our adventure. As we headed further south to Scilla, our minds were also somewhat preoccupied by the spectre of the Messina Strait, a passage of many legends to sailors ancient and modern.
Tales of sea monsters and whirlpools at the mouth of the Strait were not however worrying these kids leaping from the rocks off the fishermans’ houses at Scilla.
We spent our last night on the Italian mainland on a mooring buoy. 30 Euros for a night in a marina in Portugal in July last year was seriously expensive. 30 Euros for a night on a mooring buoy in Italy in July was less than half, if not a third, the price of a marina berth. They even threw in free dinghy rides ashore although we did not take them up on their offer.
And then in the morning SV Toy Buoy sailed away from us, headed round the foot and the heel of Italy on their way to Corfu.
Thank you Suzie and Mike for your excellent company in the Tyrrhenian Sea, for the sundowners beside the patio doors, for the shepherds’ pies, for the hair cut, for the board meetings and for the mysteriously Cuban sounding soundtrack to our time together. We hear the Greek jungle is massive but hope to see you pop up on the AIS in an anchorage there sometime soon.
Shortly after they left we followed SV Toy Buoy into the dreaded Messina Strait…