Sailing the Amalfi Coast of Italy – Week 2

Rocky at the Helm

Sunday morning, August 4th began our second week of exploring the Gulf of Napoli and Amalfi Coast, and we set out on our 46’ Dufour Grand Liberty Sailboat from Marina Sud Cantieri in Pozzuoli and headed northwest into the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Isola di Ventotene, the largest of the Pontine Islands. The island was known in Roman times as a popular place to exile ex-wives and other important “undesirables”, and still hosts an abandoned penal settlement on nearby Isola di San Stefano.  Here, we tried to get a spot at Marina di Ventotene, but after initially claiming to be full, we were belatedly offered space for an exorbitant 250 euros per night.   We politely refused, and instead, dropped anchor in the channel and moored our stern to the free city wharf on the east side of the harbor.  Then, Nikki & Jordan immediately went shopping and exploring the city and overlooking bluffs, and secured dinner reservations for all of us at an excellent restaurant that was overlooking the harbor from high up in the city.

Ventotene Harbour with San Stefano in View
The Inner Harbour at Ventotene

The next morning, on Monday, August 5th, we made the short trip motoring back southeast to the Island of Ischia, but this time, we went to the western port city of Forio.  Forio is small town on the island but with a beauty and beaches that are now famous.  Here, history enthusiasts will find plenty of interesting sights such as the remains of the Aragonese Castle, the Villa Colombia and more. Once into the marina, Nikki & Jordan went ashore looking for places to visit and for dinner, and the rest of the girls went to the beach to swim.  That night, we ate ashore at a restaurant overlooking the shore watching a beautiful sunset.

The Beach at Forio on Ischia
Sunset at Forio

On Tuesday, August 6th we continued our travels southeast across the Gulf of Napoli to the Port of Cassano, located down the face of sheer cliffs below the town of Piano di Sorrento and about 1 mile east of Sorrento.  After getting showered and collecting some ice, we all took the elevator located inside the cliffs to the top of the bluff, where we walked about ½ mile to the town’s train station, bought tickets, and took the local metro-train two stops west to the center of Sorrento.  Here, everyone dispersed to change money, shop and enjoy the lovely views until we met up again at the top of Sorrento’s scenic viewpoint at a little café.  After drinks and nibbles, most of us headed back to the Sorrento train station, while Nikki, Peter and Rick walked the mile-plus back to Cassano.  We all arrived back at the marina at the same time, where we took seats at a local restaurant for dinner and drinks.

The Harbour at Cassano
Coastal view from Sorrento

After leaving Cassano on Wednesday morning, we rounded the Sorrento Peninsula and headed east-northeast down the coast to revisit the town of Amalfi.  Again, our favorite marina chief met us and expertly navigated us into position at the dock close to that place where we had been before.  This time, we explored the city more extensively, including hiking the local tunnels and switchback walkways weaving through local enclaves around the sides of the city’s steep cliffs.  After drinks and people watching, we gathered for dinner at a favorite Amalfi restaurant, and settled in for a windless, warm night nestled into the corner of the marina.

The East coast from Amalfi

The next morning, Thursday, August 8th, we again made a stop at the fuel dock to top off our diesel tanks, and then made the short trip back up the coast to Positano where we met our favorite “ormeggi” water-taxi-man, who connected us to a mooring ball and taxied us to shore. We set a time of 7:30pm for everyone to meet to return to the boat, and after a day of shopping, eating, drinking, and taking chairs and umbrellas at the beach, everyone except Nikki, Peter and Jordan met and ferried their way back to the boat.  While ashore, Rocky and Julie celebrated (a day late) their 46th Wedding Anniversary with a spectacular meal.  The three ashore made an attempt to gain entrance to a favorite haunt of celebrities, and after modest success, returned to the boat late at ~10:30pm.

The Amalfi coast from Positano
Anniversary Dinner

Friday morning, August 9th, we began our long trek back to base, initially motoring, but then sailing for 4 hours across the Gulf of Napoli to the Gulf of Pozzuoli.  After tacking back and forth in the Gulf of Pozzuoli enjoying the quiet sailing time and eating a late lunch, we finally headed in at ~3:30pm and took up our spot at the Marina Sud Cantieri Dream Yacht Base.  We “checked out” the boat, enjoyed the excellent facilities there, and then headed back to Un Pizzico Di for a final group dinner. That night, Nikki, Peter and Jordan packed for an early morning exit the next day while the others reminisced and shared stories.

On Saturday morning, August 10th, Nikki, Peter and Jordan left at 6:30am and headed to the train station for the next leg of their adventure in France and Hungary. The rest of us left in a taxi at 9:30am and headed to the center of Naples where everyone had arranged accommodations for 1 or 2 additional nights.  We (Julie and Rocky) upgraded our room at the Star Hotel and got immediate early entrance.  After a quick change, we headed over to the train station and caught the local metro-train to Pompeii, where we explored the ruins for ~3 hours.  Upon exiting the park, we grabbed a quick lunch before catching the express train to return to Naples and a relaxing late afternoon at the hotel.  That evening, we explored the center of town by foot, before grabbing a light dinner and a bottle of wine to enjoy back in our room.

The streets of Pompeii
The ruins of Pompeii
City Centre Naples

Then, the next morning, it was a taxi to the airport and a flight home to end a busy and beautiful visit to Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Sailing the Amalfi Coast of Italy – Week 1

It was Friday, July 26th and time to leave the heat of the east coast of Florida, and fly to Newark and then to Naples, Italy, which was in the midst of its own heat wave.  We arrived in Naples on Saturday morning July 27th, and took an adventurous taxi ride, (numerous complaints and stops to ask for directions), to the northwestern coastal suburb of Pozzuoli, to Marina Sud Cantieri where we met Mario with Dream Yacht Charter Base. It was still early, so we dropped our gear in the Dream Office, and proceeded to get breakfast at the café across the street.  We then checked out the local grocery store and walked into the town of Pozzuoli to visit some local Roman Ruins.  Soon, Peter, Nikki, Mary Jane, and Rick arrived at the Dream Office, and when Elaine and Terry arrived, we gathered for lunch at Un Pizzico Di, whose proprietor we convinced to open early for us. Then the girls went shopping at the local supermercado for groceries and supplies, and we completed our boat check out for our 46’ Dufour Grand Liberty sailboat named “Boqueirao”.  Groceries were delivered at ~6pm, after which we all went out to eat near the waterfront in Pozzuoli where the Antipasto (3-course) and wine completely filled us up. Then, we headed back to the boat for chat, drinks and sleep.

Map of our boat travels in Italy
Roman ruins in Pozzuoli
City of Pozzuoli

Upon awaking on Sunday morning, July 28th, Mario informed us that the weather would quickly deteriorate, and we must leave by 10am or stay in the marina another day.  We immediately left in rain and 20 knot winds from the west and sailed our way to the Isole d’Ischia, where we went to the northern harbor of Casamicciola for the night.  Although the sails were reefed the whole way, the rough seas and strong winds had left many on our boat a bit seasick and the quiet harbor was a welcome relief.  Rocky’s first Mediterranean Mooring had a bit of an adventure as we snagged a slime-line on the aft of the keel-bulb while backing in, but it was quickly solved as Rocky free-dived to the keel and dropped the line to the seafloor. The island of Ischia is an island of active volcanism, having experienced its most recent eruption in the 1300’s, and is now the site of many natural hot springs and spas.  Some of the women took a taxi to experience one of the spas, and for dinner we all went ashore to a local pizzeria where we enjoyed mussels, fish and pasta.

Beach at Casamicciola on Ischia

The next morning, Monday July 29th, after a brief grocery run, we left Casamicciola, circumnavigated the island of Ischia, and took advantage of the good wind to head east to the small neighboring island of Procida and the little harbor of Chiaiolella where we moored at the marina dock.  From here, some of us explored the large local beach, and walked the bridge that connected Isole di Procida to the nature preserve island of Vivare.  After exploring the western end of the island, one group took a taxi to northwestern port of Marina Grande while the other group made the 45 minute walk through the city’s streets all the way across the island to meet up and have dinner at a quaint restaurant on a piazza with locals who were singing and playing music all evening long.  After a bus ride back to the marina, we enjoyed nightcaps before calling it a day.

Walking through the Town of Procida
Marina Grande Harbour, Procida

On Tuesday morning, July 30th, the winds left us, and we began a daily pattern of 3-5 knot winds in the morning, slowly rising to 7-10 knots in the late afternoon with the skies clear and the weather hot.  Thus, we motor-sailed southeast towards Isole di Capri, famous for its people watching and shopping.  Unfortunately, we could not get a reservation into any of Capri’s marinas, (only to find out later that this was because Heidi Klum was there preparing for her wedding in the Capri Marina on Saturday, August 3rd), and so we traveled through the Bocca Piccola between the island and the Sorrento Peninsula, to the southern side of Capri where we set anchor outside of Marina Piccola near the oft photographed Pillars of Isola Faraglioni.  From here, we took our folks ashore by dingy to explore the town.  The town of Capri is actually up on a ridge between the Gulf of Napoli and the Gulf of Sorrento.  From the southern side, this required a bus trip up from the water’s edge, where from the north, there is a funicular that moves people up the steep slope.  It was during this shuttling that we discovered that our dingy was not only very small and difficult to manage, but also had a “soft floor” which also made it a bit unstable, causing Peter to take a motor into the ribs which bothered him for a number of days.  To make matters worse, the dingy ran out of gas on one of the return trips making for a source of numerous good stories and a long string of expletive adjectives that characterized our dingy.  Needless to say, after this day, we never put the dingy in the water again! That night we ate spaghetti aboard the “Boqueirao” and enjoyed an evening at anchor.

Isola Faraglioni near Capri
The southern shores of Capri

On Wednesday, July 31st, we pulled up anchor and headed to the coastal town of Positano, about 15 miles to the east-northeast from Capri.  That morning, the seas were again calm, and we motored across the Bocca Piccola where we surprisingly came up on a Pilot Whale crossing our path.  We followed him for a bit before he dove deep and left us, and we celebrated our luck in seeing him.  Upon reaching Positano, there is no marina, and so we picked up a mooring ball with the help from the local ormeggi – “Grassi Junior”, which came with water taxi service to and from shore. Positano is a town built into both sides of a ravine, and we chose to visit a former stop of Peter and Nikki’s located up on the south side for lunch.  From this area, the view was spectacular, and the lunch was just as impressive.  After lunch, we broke into groups visiting local bars, shopping and generally sightseeing much of the town.  There was even a public beach where many locals and tourists were cooling themselves off from the hot afternoon sun. When the sun went down, we took the water taxi back to the boat for dinner and a night under the stars.

Pilot Whale
Positano from the Restaurant
The ravine of Positano

Thursday morning, August 1st we dropped the mooring ball and made the short trip further down the coast to the town of Amalfi.  The city of Amalfi is located 16 miles East away from Capo Punta Campanella, the headland at the SE extremity of the Bay of Naples, and eight miles W of Salerno on the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy. The city lies at the end of a ravine and is the center-point of a coast famous for its dramatic scenery and picturesque mountain villages. An earthquake and tsunami in 1343 destroyed much of the city and was an event from which the town never fully recovered especially the harbour. However, when the British classes discovered Amalfi, a modest tourist boom beginning in the 1920s, and has brought the town fame and prosperity. Unfortunately, it has also filled its harbour to bursting point and distance along its mole is at a premium during the summer months. Fortunately, we had a reservation at Marina Coppola which was acquired ~4 months in advance. The Marina Chief was a veteran of International sailboat racing and maneuvered our boat at breakneck speed through a tangled maze of lines, boats, docks and swimmers to snugly fit us into an inside dock space only 20ft from shore!  Unfortunately, the Marina’s bathrooms and showers were wiped-out in a recent landslide, and were currently under construction, forcing us to check out the nearby dockside restaurant for drinks and facilities.  Then, we all walked to the city center where we explored the spectacular local church and shops before returning to the marina for a quick beach swim and getting ready for dinner at an over-the-water restaurant.

The town of Amalfi

On Friday morning, August 2nd, we were chaperoned to the fuel dock where we topped-off our diesel tanks and began the trip back to the Gulf of Napoli.  Terry and Elaine were planning to see Pompeii on Saturday, so we decided to head for a marina just west of Pompeii in an industrial area called Castelamarre di Stabia.  Inaugurated in 2007, the marina of Castellammare di Stabia is considered one the greatest in the Mediterranean Sea with 900 berths for boats up to 80 meters long. This port is equipped shipyard 220-ton travel lift, shipyard shop, garage, among other services, which provided a convenient berth for an Italian Aircraft Carrier, and a suite of mega-yachts. After a long day of motor-sailing with only a short motor-less interval, we next experienced a long delay and communication issues with the marina.  After idling around for an hour, we were finally shown where to go, and we found ourselves in a very welcoming but non-tourist part of the coast with many little street restaurants and shops along the waterfront for nearly a mile.  After, showers at the marina, we decided to eat at a wharf-side restaurant called “Anna Maria’s” where were sat upstairs looking over the water and had an outstanding meal of fish, prawns and pasta fagioli.  After dinner, we all wandered down the wharf through the crowds of locals to see some of the mega-yachts that were docked, including the Walton family’s world-class 350’ “Aguila” and the record-setting 404’ “Al Lusail”, owned by the Sultan of Qatar’s 4th son.  After returning to the “Boqueirao”, we played music, had drinks, and chatted with a young local couple that Nikki had befriended on the wharf, before calling it a night.

The Marina at Castelammare de Stabia

Saturday morning, August 3rd, would bring the end of our first week’s sailing adventure.  Terry and Elaine left the boat in Castelammare di Stabia, and we then set off motoring across the Gulf of Napoli to our home base in Marina Sud Cantieri in Pozzuoli. We arrived about 1:30pm, and Guy and Sue were waiting for us and ready to board the boat.  After getting them aboard, we all headed back to Un Pizzico Di for lunch. The afternoon was spent restocking the boat with supplies, changing out all of the linens, and preparing to welcome Jordan, who would not arrive until late that night.  For dinner, we headed down into the heart of Pozzuoli to an outdoor restaurant where we people watched and drank a great deal of wine.  Upon returning to the boat, we awaited Jordan’s arrival via an arranged taxi from the airport. Jordan arrived around midnight, and after greetings and settling in, we finally went to bed about 1:30am, prepared to begin our second week.