I finally managed to get out of Tropea. A place where Saoirse has spent close to two years on the hard at the local shipyard. The first time 2015/2016 when we were on our way east to Croatia and now 2019/2020 going west towards Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean. This year though I had to settle for a couple of hundred nautical miles north as I was planning to leave the boat in the water in Gaeta, between Roma and Napoli.
I have also spent a considerable amount of time myself in Tropea. In fact, I am counting seven separate visits. By now I am quite a familiar face at several establishments in town. For instance, I get the same room, 301, every time I check in at Hotel Tropis at the top of the hill above the town and Domenico at Restaurant Little Italy at the main square greets me with ‘Hello Tomas. Same as usual? Zuppa di Cozze e Risotto di Mare?’. The last night in town I was even invited to a really nice dinner with a Swedish/Russian family at their house in Tropea.
But it was time to leave. I had had my eyes on Stromboli every evening from my hotel room and was determined to climb this 1000 m high volcano before I left the south of Italy. I motored the 30 odd miles there and anchored at the foot of the volcano for a couple of days, getting ready for a guided night climb. You walk at night as it is cooler and as the magma looks more impressive in the dark. I guess I don’t have to explain why you follow a guide. When it was time for me to climb though, the weather had gotten worse so I once again had to leave without seeing a volcano from above. I guess my next opportunity will be in Vanuatu!
Being a volcano, Stromboli is an almost perfectly round island that offers very little in terms of protection from the elements. I therefore decided to sail north to the island of Ischia. This was going to be a 140 Nm sail through the Tyrrhenian Sea at night. It started with winds around 20-25 knots only for the wind to die completely as it started to get dark. Which was exactly what was predicted. Then suddenly, around 9 pm, the VHF radio started to go off with weather warnings. ‘Sécurité, Sécurité, Sécurité. Gale warning between Lazio in the east, Sardinia in the west and Sicily in the south’. Pretty much the whole Tyrrhenian Sea! Not a lot you can do about that. I just shoved all portable electronics into the oven (as it is supposed to act like a Faraday’s Cage and potentially offer some protection from lightning), closed all hatches, strapped myself to the boat and watched lightning strikes in pretty much every direction. Beautiful to to look at but not a great feeling when you have just spent a fortune on a new electrical system and you have a 20 meter high mast attracting a direct hit. The lightning storms danced around me all night but never got really close.
I spent the next few days at two different anchorages on Ischia. I had been to both back in 2015. I mostly stayed on board playing with my electrical system, swimming, watching a TV series, reading and sipping Aperol Spritz at sunset. One evening though there was an Italian family that ended up in some trouble when their outboard stopped as they were in their dinghy. The father of the family jumped into the water to try to swim and tow the dingy to the main boat which was anchored in what was becoming quite a serious evening breeze. I decided to heroically try to save the family using my own dinghy but just as I got there my outboard decided to pack it in. By now a second hero arrived at the scene. Luke, the captain of a five man strong English crew in a charter boat with the smallest dinghy that I have ever seen. He finally managed to get the Italian crew back to their boat. We all laughed at the fact that they had almost made it to their boat when I interfered and all I did was to cause 30 minute delay and left an Italian family seriously confused. Batman’s gear failed him and Robin had to save an Italian family that did not need any heroes in the first place. I ended up spending the evening having carbonara and way too much wine with Luke and his mates in their cockpit.
A couple of days later I motored to Gaeta where I left Saoirse in the safe hands of Base Nautica Flavio Gioia and Jayne Koehler, an American lady that has had her classic Swan 47 at the same marina for a number of years. But more about at a later date.