Saturday, 28 April 2012

Through the Straits of Messina

Yes, this is why we love Italy

We have now arrived in Reggia Calabria. The Straits of Messina neither blew with fearful blast nor whirled with fearful wallows! No Scylla nor Charybdis. But lots of huge ferry and boatish monsters, so I had to keep a keen lookout at the helm (we chugged with furled sails because hardly any wind).
The weather has turned wonderful and the past three or four days have vied with each other in excellence.
As David said, "You couldn't get it much better than this" -- a kind of summing-up at the end of a near-perfect day.

Description of Near-Perfection at Sea
The boat sleeps tranquil at her mooring, it has been a quiet night; gradually dawn spreads across the sky, the small birds start to cheep. (At Tropea marina there are house martins nesting in the eaves, swooping around when I go to have my morning shower.)
We have breakfast sitting in the back (aft) cockpit. Consisting of most excellent fruity, nutty muesli (yes, in southern Italy!) with juicy fresh oranges. And sometimes freshly-made coffee (hand-ground in our small wooden coffee-grinder brought from Holland).
We get ready for the day's sail, checking that seacocks are shut, and all objects safely stowed in appropriate non-banging places. We turn on all necessary switches on the display panels and switch on the engine.
We have alrady consulted the weather forecast for this sea area -- as well as looked at the larger scene.
All predictions appear reassuring!
I, standing in the bows, let loose the mooring ropes, while David cautiously backs off from the pontoon, or jetty.
The sea is quiet, we motor gently out beyond the breakwater. Once outside, David turns the boat into the wind and hoists the mains'l. On the best nearly-perfect day we can sail a beam reach with the wind lfting us along, and scud through the water at six knots or more Then David can switch off the engine and the only sound is the slap slap of the waves against the boat's side and the comfortable creaking of the rigging. (I think this is where Dutch wins the gold medal, with the word klots, for the  sound of watery slapping...)
I sit at the tiller (helming!) and watch the water, the infinite patterns peaking on the wavy surface, or, when it quietens, the curious fine zig-zag effect like crepe soles or the bottoms of boat shoes, and then when the wind dies down completely and the sea is molto tranquillo, the smooth oily spread like molten pewter. And no more wind. So we turn on the engine again and chug quietly, and David makes a splendid salad (wonderful fresh vegetables, such as one cannot come by in the north) small almost sweet cucumbers, crisp fennel, tomatoes of all sizes, from cherry to cuor di bue (coeur de boeuf) which are delicious even when they are green. And moist toothsome bread (the best is rye bread, segale).
The day dreams on, the hot sun is shaded by the boat's canvas bimini, I have my water bottle to hand, the glittering sea spreads to the horizon, scarcely another vessel to be seen. All seems harmonious.
I sing, loud above the waves, David energes from the inside where he has been working at the nav. table, and smiles.

Yes, this is why we came to Italy, for all of this, the light, the colour, the music of the language, the many-tasting food and wine, the warmth of the people and the sun, and this life...
It is three weeks now since I landed in Naples, to be met by torrential rain, followed by days of stormy wind and cold and wet. So what joy when this changes.  No more Scylla and Charybdis for a while.
Not that the wetness really deterred us, and we did manage to see Naples, Pompeii (choosing one fine day out of many soggy!), Sorrento, Amalfi, Ravello, Salerno,  Acceriola, Agripoli and Mariate. Each one worth a chapter. But time rushes on... will attach some pix.

Above is Agropoli. Below David the culinary expert...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Agropoli illustrated

There was sunshine when we arrived, motoring gently in past the white statue of Mary, Queen or Star of the Sea.

So there we moored in the city harour, free of charge, and David proceeded to make Roberta's special artichoke dish...

Which proved a fine feast. Together with a glass of Traminer, full fruity white wine from the north of Italy.
A quiet night. And tomorrow a fine day is forecast. Though one can never be sure...

the readiness is all...

Or perhaps (sorry about this, Hamlet) the repetition (preferably of a good experience...) is all.
Here I am again, in a small sail boat, on a bumpy lumpy sea, with a softly drizzling greyness above, and a chilly wind on my face. And I wonder (how I wonder) what on earth has presuaded me to allow myself into this position. (And the boat is bouncing as I type, so please excuse some blips in the spelling...)
Well, of course, the answer is -- I love this man (oh sorry that sounds really ridiculous, like something from a 1950s musical!) But it's true. Otherwise, I would NEVER be sitting here on this wooden bench in the boat's (admittedly protected) cockpit, holding the boat's wheel (behind my back, so I can face forwards without getting twisted muscle-ache!!) and trying to steer this recalcitrant piece of metal, through waters that I do not know.
But now for the plus side: yesterday, sailing to Acciorola, the sun appeared (oh brief but welcome visitation!) and when we arrived at the harbour entrance, a sweet-faced statue of Mary, Stella Maris, hands spread open and eyes cast down at the waves, greeted our tranquil entry. No one around to ask, so we found a slot between two similar-sized boats, and moored, and then went for a walk in the town. Delightful. Small and totally un-touristy, and lots of the locals engaged in the Sunday promenade. We found a pleasant place to enjoy a gelato (chocolate and nocciola...).
Had a fine supper, as always.
At some point I will lyricise about our Italian cooking -- but now for a lyrical passage about the Campania scenery (seen from the sea).
We set off, about 11 in the morning (after stocking up at the local supermarket, actually a small grocery shop with wide selection of all basic neessities and even some non-basics like the Siennese delicacy containing figs, nuts and nougat (painforte)).
The sky pale grey overhead and white in the distance, and some stupendous cloud formations, including four vertical lines of swooping grey, resembling angels' wings, such as I have never seen (and not even in an Italian painting).
The bumping and lurching started after a while. But, surprisingly, today I wasn't angry at it. Nor had I even resorted to my two tables of Stugeron (?cinnarizine) to stave off seasickness. Which I had taken on the two previous days.
As my son once remarked, however, there is something utterly boring about just bumping along (no joke intended) and when I try to look at a sea chart or focus on anything too near, the inevitable murgle inside me begins. So back to the horizontal. And although I compose delightful scenes while lying prostrate, I can never recall them later. The expense of spirit in a waste of water...
So we move slowly southwards, locking the hours of daylight into our cameras (haven't yet mastered my camera's night-time skills) and letting the swell of the sea become our friend.
And softly remembering, I have desired to go / where winds not blow...
Oh, and the triumph, of course, at the end of the day.After the battle, after the beating, quiet and rocking peace.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Return of the sun

So today, Saturday 21 April, we set sail once more, heading for Acciaroli -- or, if we feel very lazy, for Agripoli, just 20 sea miles away.
Despite the rain, the wind, the thunderstorms and the cold, we had some wonderful days while in the port of Salerno -- and saw Amalfi and even more stupendous, Rivallo.
Herewith picture of me in the gardens at Rivallo (in between the rain downpours!)

And of course the amazing view of the costa Amalfatini; and inside the duomo in Ravallo -- Jonah being swallowed by the whale -- or just possibly, being regurgitated...? Wondrous sea-monster...
The entire scene is composed of tiny pieces of coloured glass (?)/stone/mosaic, uttely beautiful, reminiscent of Arabic work.

Yesterday was passed in Salerno -- with a small expedition in search of a "relay" for the water-cooling system (and found the right chandlery!) followed by discovery of delightful bar near Teatro Verdi, with a distinctly literary character. I had a glass of Lacrimae Cristi (rosso). It seems the Salerno Arts Festival is on right now. But on Sunday, when La Traviata is being performed, we shall have departed -- alas.

Time to close the seacocks, and dress for the sea journey.
A presto...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Un tempo bruto ma non brutissimo...

Which means, weather not too ghastly... We set off in light rain from Castellammare di Stabia, about 9 a.m., beneath a heavy grey sky. It soon turned heavier, lightning flashed down beside the boat into the sea (very beautiful, golden fingers of brightness plunging into the water), followed by rumbling or claps of thunder -- and then a veritable sluicing of water from the heavens... Thanks goodness it wasn't too cold (I had memories of the Outer Hebrides in rainstorms!). I steered (getting soaked) until David lovingly fixed the auto-pilot and with this excellent self-steering device (better than me!) I was able to go below. Stripped off top dripping layer of clothing and wrapped capacious (dry!) towel round me like sarong. Happily, I had started a dose of Stugeron yesterday against seasickness, so all was well.
In fact, the sea was not too bumpy, though in the afternoon we were 'nose to wind'. The entire crossing took about 8 hours, partly becasue we were going into the wind much of the time. We motored all the way, but David put up the mains'l to steady the boat.

Praise for Stroemhella
This boat is so different from Mitigator, the yacht (32-foot Contessa) which David and I sailed in from 1998 to 2010. Stroemhella is a Dick Koopmans aluminum yacht (according to the ship's papers is 11and a half metres in length). Herewith a pic of her in the marina at Baia, Italy (with Vesuvius in the background). As you see, we chose a lovely blue (azzurro in Italian) when we had her painted in Hinderloopen (her Friesland home). She has tan-coloured sails. Inside is polished teak. See previous pix in my blog.
When we were buying her, our good friend Anje Valk, through whose kind offices we heard about Stroemhella, described the boat as one that 'cared for her passengers'. An excellent way of putting it -- I have a sense of welcome when I come aboard, and feel as if this boat will offer me secure shelter. Though of course, I've not been out in a real storm in her. This mini-thunderstorm we experienced in the Bay of Sorrento was just a baby.
Cooking on Stroemhella is also a joy. The galley is extremely well-designed (as is the entire interior) and you can wedge yourself into a corner when cooking To my great delight, the boat does not carry buta-gaz but burns paraffin, which you light by pouring a little Meths into a saucer beneath the burner. Took me a whike to learn this method, but it is both clean and safe.
We have a well-stocked store of pasta, dried fruits and canned tomatoes and chocolate-coated figs!

Now the wind is getting up again (as forecast) so shortly we shall go ashore and explore Salerno, once the medieval centre of Hippocratic medicine. Boasts a very fine cathedral and some cloister ruins...
The sun is still with us, but the boat is becoming pretty bouncy again. Force 4 or 5 on the Beaufort Scale??
Warm thoughts from the Captian's wife!

Monday, 16 April 2012

sorry no pix...

No that attachment didn't work...
So now for a real Napolitan pizza!

ciao ciao, a domani.

Hailstorm in the harbour

Yes, real hailstones rattling down upon the ship, wind whining in the rigging. How's this for an Esater vacation?
After careful studying of the weather predictions for the coming week (terrible) we spy a 'window of opportunity' on Tuesday -- and decide to try for Salerno, on the north Amalfi coast.

Needless to say, this is not my idea of sheer delight (!!) but later on I will chat to the lovely Napolitans who work here near our pontoon and be cheered somewhat.
I guess David and I will make it over the choppy seas -- after all, we have experienced force 7 (Beaufort scale) in our forner yacht, Mitigator, which was considerably smaller and lighter.

So we play our CD of Purcell and are consoled by sweet music.
David is very busy improving the electrical system on the boat.
I plan the meals and sweep the floors...
Will try to attach some of the excellent pix taken in Pompeei and Baia.

So next stop, Salerno (here's hoping for fair winds and not too much rain).

Sunday, 15 April 2012

did we say "rain"???

Escaping the lashing waves and torrential downpour, we sought shelter beneath the shop awnings of the Castellammarre seafont...
I was already soaked through so went in search of dry clothes in a convenient "Outlet" while Gaenor consumed cappuccinos in the railway station -- avoiding further soakings while I shopped. I phoned David who decided to join us as it was too wild on the boat for anyone's comfort!
So we took the Circumvesuvio narrow-gauge railway into Piazza Garibaldi and visited Naples again.
Wonderful mosiacs, frescoes and paintings in the National Archaeological museum. 
Then back to the big square where we mustered our strengths again by mean of a succulent pizza margherita (napolitana of course!)

Back in Castellamarre it was still raining and blowing wildly -- so we all thankfully scurried to the b+b found on the internet in the morning.
Wonerful young women (sisters) and their mother showed us round (beautiful ceramic tiles graced the enitre floor). We filled in the requisite forms and told our adventures, to the accompaniment of a volley of "mamma mia's" from the sisters.
Thence to the Portodavide, and David bravely boarded the prancing boat to bring Gaenor's rucksack (judiciously packed last night) and some yummy leftovers for our supper.
We bought a bottle of Lacrymae Christi, bred on Vesuvian slopes, as it were. This to celebrate Gaenor's Last Supper before departing. And a very fine wine it is too.
Supper was heated in the b+b microwave and proved most palatable...

Today, Sunday, Gaenor departed, taking the little train to Naples, thence to Rome. David and I returned to the boat (in between downpours). I adjust to the rocking. All is much quieter now. But rain is forecast for the week to come...

addled brain, too much rain?

Seem to have lost my blog update (google is trying to be helpful, but the bouncing waves are getting to me...) Will see if can find last post... if not, play the saxophone, I guess.

Friday, 13 April 2012

the rain it raineth...

Yeah, yeah -- we thought Italy and especially Naples, was sunshine land...
Today we experienced Sorrento in the rain, soggy-issimo...
But still lovely, met delightful people, like Claudia, laureata in English and Chinese, in her family's small restuarant (they told us the tiniest in Sorrento) where I smulled and smikkled [Dutch expression] on wonderful mussels in spaghetti. And on parting I sang them 'When that I was and a little tiny boy...' (for the refrain's sake -- And the rain it raineth every day), joined by lady with splendid voice from nearby table (a German family) who then launched into O sole mio. All great fun!

Saw the exquisite cloister of San Francisco and then walked across the road to peer out throught the wet mist across the Bay of Naples, and chat to the only other people around (Italian guy with two Turkish friends, lovely young ladies!) -- I mention them becasue we bumped into them later near the station, where we paused for sustenance after having become totally drenched, growing cold and sneezy...
Warm smiles amidst the damp chill.
It did not stop raining all day.

When we got back to Castellammare di Stabia, we lovingly did a little shopping in the bucketing rain -- buying bread and mushrooms -- but ony dried ones avaialble so opted instead for fragole (strawberries) -- obviously! The friendly baker gave me a large slice of one of the Napolitan biscotti and recommended a visit to the nearby excavations which he said were as good as Pompeii and no one knew about them...

With certain difficulty, but helped by Davide of the Porto and his mates, we climbed onto the boat, rain pelting, but wind not too ferocious.
Dried out, drank Shenghui's splendid Chinese tea, discussed the day.
David read us the weather forecast, hm hm...
Gaenor leaves on Sunday, train to Rome where she catches a coach for the North...

We rock gently, at present... (Thoughts in a wet season!)

Pompeii in the sun, Sorrento in the rain

Unable to express their astonishment at the splendour and beauty of these coastal sites, the Italians admittd defeat:
See Naples and die...
I guess this goes for all these splendid places.
We are, to put it mildly, gob-smacked!
Yesterday spent the day in Pompeii -- not too crowded, and delightful weather -- sun and gentle wind.
Had the feeling we saw a good part of what the government allows us to see (anyway, it is evident that HM Ferdinando in the 18th century had most of the glories transported to the Museo Archaeologico in Naples). So all those erotic images were NOT on view, and not even Venus reclining in her seashell...
But a wonderfully intricate small city and many memories. And the moving figures now in glass boxes of a few bodies, caught and felled in the oncoming waves of ash.
So the city waited, buried under five or six metres of grey ash and stones, a twilight desert, lost until the mid-eighteenth century.
Certainly much food for thought, akin to "Look on my works ye mighty and despair". But here in Pompeii, now, somethng remains. So in the centre of the small stage in the amphitheatre, I recited the speech of the dying Celopatra (as I did several years ago on the stage in Epidauros). David and Gaenor sat in the back row -- but said they couldn't hear it all. Those Roman actors obviously wore masks to help project the voice. And Epidauros wins the acoustics test...
The stray dogs sleep in the sunshine, on the warm stones. We step along the huge blocks of grey, now clean, once presumably caked in dried faeces and waste...
From time to time we sat down -- in the welcome shade -- ate our picnic lunch, took photos (these will appear soon when I've downloaded them from me camera!), read the excellent guide book -- and regretted that so many of the houses of notables were at present closed.
As the shadows lenghtened, our legs grew too weary for more.
So back to the boat on the train called the "Circum Vesuvio" and with the help of the friendly guys in PortoDavide clambered back onto the boat.
A fine supper, as always, washed down with local red wine. And before that sat and watched the setting sun, the massing cluds, and drank Traminer (from northern Italy) as an aperitivo.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

from the Bay of Naples

Yesterday we sailed across sparkling waters, from Baia to Castellamarre di Stabia.
Four hours, wind across our starboard fairly steady, so we speeded along averaging 5 knots.
Today the weather is brutissimo -- it is pouring, blowing fiercely, the boat is rocking wildly, I don't know how long I can go on typing before I am overcome by seasickness (no kidding).

A short Ode to Naples. Loved it (very sunny that day!). The best pizza I have ever tasted, in a small pizzeria & trattoria called 110 & Lode (the proprietario told me lode meant something like 'laude' so I got the message (summa cum laude!) and Laud and Honour...

We spent many entranced hours in the National Museum of Archaeology filling our heads with brightness and graceful lines (mosaics and Graeco-Roman statues...) not to mention the collection of incised gemstones...
Then, footsore but full of cultural heritage, we took a train back, listening keenly to the Napolitan spoken by the locals -- of which I understand about one word in twenty.
We got off at Lucrino Station and walked back to Baia, about one-and-a-half miles, along a road on which the cars, crammed with holydaying families returning home, crawled nose-to-tail and waved at us from time to time.
And it had been sun all day long.

Very different from today...
All excitement now on the pontoon, two more yachts have just struggled in out of the wind and storm, sails all furled, one bears a Union Jack (red ensign, I should say!) while the other has a small French flag. Looks as if the two yachts are sailing together.
After some manoevring and shouting, the smaller one has decided to move alongside us.

The swell is still hefty, and I thik it's time to stop typing... ciao ciao, a domani.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

see Naples and ....

So yesterday was Naples! Hours and hours in the National Archaeological Museum. Stunning. All those intricate frescoes from Pompeii...

Today we sail on nearer to Pompeii.
So more delights soon.

It is sunny here tho the wind is still chill.

David, Gaenor and I are very happy on Stroemhella, and my Italian is a great boon (can almost understand Napolitan...)

A presto, alora

Saturday, 7 April 2012

my darling granddaughter

This is chiefly for the family -- me and Yara in Maastricht... oh, alas, the technology baffles me -- can't find the file on my apple MacBook...
so that's for another day

Here's one of David and me in Ostia Antica (I hope!)
Yes, it worked.

Easter blossom abounding

Just back in Amsterdam after a 24-hour visit to Maastricht. Wonderful train ride through blossom-rich countryside -- this is certainly the Netherlands at its best (not Holland op z'n smalst!). And all the trees budding bright greens but still lacy-thin so you can see the sky between the thickening twigs, burtsing buds...
Had great fun dancing and singing with granddaughter Yara, now 10 and a half months and greeting the world with heart-rejoicing smiles (usually). A household full of music, good food, great conversations and above all, warmth.

Have packed things to fly off to Italy tomorrow morning -- Easter Sunday  arrivala with church bells resounding, I imagine.
Here, it is cold again -- hailed this afternoon, and spring has danced away for a while.

All very quiet in my house -- I guess lots of people have gone off for the weekend as it's a long one for many folk.

Well, now for a real long sail in Stroemhella -- in fact, my first real sail in her; the plan is to go slowly down Italy's west coast, popping into Pompeii and other delights (Paestum maybe) and then meeting our next crew member in Reggia Calabria, in the tip of the toe, in about 3 weeks' time.

Don't know what our internet possibilities will be.

Let's pray for fair winds and a porsperous sail!

ciao ciao until whenever...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Spring the sweet spring seems to have departed, like the nymphs...
But beneath a lowering sky the daffodils still dance (yes, they really do) in the chill wind.
Spring in the north is certainly a different experience from south of Rome.
The good thing about this climate is that is really encourages energetic activity -- I stride throught the city, pursuing shops that might sell the appropriate size of cup hooks, not to mention ink-jet cartridges for the printer.
And between the rushing round I sit with friends and tak, about -- well, everyting, and of course, age and loneliness and change.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Amsterdam again...

Yes, back home for a week ... very busy packing, washing, arranging, phoning friends, even shopping...
On Easter Sunday very early I fly to Naples and join David and Gaenor on Stroemhella.
More soon...