Andrew and Clare Payne are sailing the Mediterranean in their yacht Eye Candy, and are about to leave Sicily for the Italian coastline: In Siracusa we were moored with several boats that we knew from Malta or Tunisia - sundowners and good company is never far away when you are cruising.
We left Siracusa early Wednesday morning to travel up through the Messina Strait. This is the narrow bit of water between Sicily and Italy. It can be pretty nasty with currents and unpredictable wind.
We spent the night at Reggio Calabria (Italy) on the town wharf and then motored through the narrowest part of the strait early the following morning. The sea was flat and with the current behind us, we just focused on dodging the many ships - all was well. We had a very pleasant spinnaker run for most of Thursday.
We spent our time working on assembling our newly purchased sea drogue. We have to weave 116 cones on to two ropes. It is a slow process but we now have 26 cones done and 90 to go. The idea of the sea drogue is to slow the boat down when in following seas. The cones fill with water and these act as a brake. We are preparing this for the Atlantic crossing at the end of this season and we sincerely hope we will never have to use it.
Thursday night we passed Stromboli Island and the volcano was quite active, we saw a number of explosions and small red lava flows. Last year when we came this way Stromboli produced only one puff – this year was quite spectacular!
Eye Candy in her solitary bay - Clare and Andrew Payne
So now we are on a mooring buoy in a small bay 60 miles south of Sorrento on the Italian west coast. We arrived here yesterday morning and having had three hours sleep overnight we spent a lazy day enjoying the sunshine and relaxing. I could imagine this bay would be packed in summer; yesterday we had a dozen or so local boats in here. People were relaxing, reading and enjoying the sun. Today is much cooler weather and we are here alone. With a bit of luck we will attach some more cones to the sea drogue.
This year we are having a lovely time with a new Ipad and Kindle added to our comprehensive wardrobe of electronics on the boat. The only problem is that we are constantly getting confused as to which application we are using. We have been guilty of unsuccessfully trying to use the 'Ipad touch screen facility' to operate the computer and Kindle - the computer mouse to operate the chart plotter at the navigation desk and the 'Ipad touch screen facility' to operate the chart plotter in the cockpit. It always surprises us when stabbing at these screens just doesn’t work!
We stayed in our small lovely bay for a couple of days moving from one side of the bay to the other sheltering from the roll of the sea. The weather was cold and raining and so we sat below and weaved some more cones on to our sea drogue. The tally is now 82 cones attached and 34 to go. We are feeling a lot happier now.
Agropoli castle - what a climb! - Clare and Andrew Payne
Then we sailed 30 miles north into the wind to Agropioli and we got a fair beating in the process. The sea was rough and the wind gusty and changeable. We were thrown around like a cork on the ocean. The cupboard doors flew open (even though they were locked) and things fell out.
One of the toilet sea cocks was accidentally left open and sea water came back up the toilet outlet and flooded the aft bathroom and ran into the bilge. We cleaned up the water we could reach but when we tacked (tipping the boat over in the opposite direction) the water that we hadn't been able to reach ran out from under the cupboards and across the saloon floor.
Just to add to the mayhem, not expecting the trip to be so rough, I started to do the washing in the forward bathroom. I had filled the shower area with water and washing powder and intended to soak the sheets and towels during the trip. Once at sea I had washing water running out the door and so I canned that idea and drained the water out.
By the time we got to Agropoli we were worn out from sailing but it took a further two hours to complete the washing and sort the boat out. We think 'Poseidon' has given us yet another clip under the ear to remind us - not to sail to windward.
Entrance to Agropoli - how could you resist it? - Clare and Andrew Payne
We love the Italian town of Agropoli. It has a marvellous town mall where the locals and tourists enjoy coffee shops, outdoor restaurants and boutique shopping. It has a very relaxed and family orientated feel to it and the locals are friendly and helpful.
I was really looking forward to having a quiet meal there and once again enjoying the atmosphere. Unfortunately the mall was in a state of disarray as the paving was being replaced. There was fencing erected along the length of the mall catering for men with picks and shovels and an excavator to work around the clock. – Oh well it just wasn’t meant to be!
Agropoli town mall - Clare and Andrew Payne
We stayed in the harbour with and an English couple Colin and Jane on their Oyster 39, 'Hydaway' on one side and an Italian ex policeman on the other side of us.
We all got on very well together stopping for lots of chats and drinks in the evening. We sat on the wharf behind our boats in the shade of the sea wall. Yes, you read correctly 'shade' we actually had a first hot summer’s day in Agropoli. It was magnificent and since then we have had a few more sunny days too.
Our view of Agropoli from the castle - Clare and Andrew Payne
Friday we sailed another 50 miles to the Island of Ischia on the north side of the bay of Naples. Once again the wind wasn’t playing ball and we spent most of the day adjusting sails, putting the spinnaker up and down, turning the engine on and off and adjusting sails etc. However it was a lovely sunny day.
We had arranged on HF radio to meet up with some friends in the evening. Alan and Sally on 'Artemis' were travelling south arriving at Ischia at 5.30pm we were travelling north arriving at Ischia at 7.30pm. We haven’t seen Alan and Sally since 2008 when we did the EMYR rally together. We dropped anchor off the Ischia Castle (in photo) and they very kindly hosted drinks and nibbles on their boat. We spent a few very enjoyable hours with them that evening before going our separate ways in the morning.
It was third time lucky, as yesterday we had a fabulous 45 mile spinnaker sail to the Italian island of Ponza. It was a beautiful sunny day and once we had the spinnaker up we didn’t have to do much until we arrived at Ponza in the early evening. We lay in the sun and read for most of the trip.
Ponza main street - Clare and Andrew Payne
Today it is cooler with a little rain. We are expecting strong winds tonight which will last for the next day or so. I will be glad when the wind starts blowing for at present we are rolling rather badly. At least we have plenty of room in the anchorage as there is only a handful of visiting boats here. I think most Italian boats have gone back to their marinas due to the strong wind warning.
Next we shall head for the Italian Island of Elba and then onto the mainland and the Cinque Terre.