We raised at sunrise and sailed out of that nice bay near Agropoli early in the morning. We wanted to arrive at Port Miseno well before sundown. The Port entry is surrounded by fish farms and it is not recommended to enter at night.
As usual we assumed the less favourable conditions (motoring and doing 5K) for the departing hour but we had light winds, enough to go always above 6K (sometimes motorsailing) so we arrived early, at 16.00 hours. The natural port is big, it seems to offer good protection. The entry, between fish farms is not easy to spot and since we found out that the fish farms buoys (the ones that show the end and beginning of it) have no mark lights, it is really a bad idea to try to enter at night, at least without knowing very well the place.
We cast anchor on the muddy waters where the pilot book advises to and at the second try we got a firm holding. The bottom is at about 6m. At the end of the afternoon the wind started to blow from NW but the shelter was good. Some sea came from the entry but the intensity of the wind was a lot less than outside.
During the night it rounded to NE and increased intensity, strong wind. Not very comfortable: the wind, even if much weaker than outside changed direction (almost 90º regarding the direction outside) and blew directly from the entry creating some sea. Nothing serious, small waves, but enough not to be agreeable. On the other side of the port, the boats on permanent mooring are a lot worst, bouncing violently. They are not very far (200m) and the wind there comes from a different direction, almost a 45º regarding my boat. Crazy :-). Next day I want to sail away but my wife is afraid of the forecasted over 50km winds and asked me to stay, so we stayed put.
The wind increases over the morning as the size of the waves but not much, nothing that makes the anchoring untenable, just uncomfortable. Fortunately it will not last long and in the afternoon the wind is not strong anymore. During the night the winds are light but changing direction often, making the boat circle around.
In the morning I am more than happy to go away…but Isabel tells me that the anchor is stuck and again with lots of chain down. I don’t want to believe it: In many years of cruising and anchoring I never had so many problems as this year. I go forward and slowly, carefully pull the chain up. I am pulling something heavy from the bottom and on the muddy water it appears to be a wooden log. There are several not faraway stuck on the mud and used to hold some platforms used for fishing…but when the thing comes out of water I can see it is a mast, with shrouds and all and unluckily an heavy steel one. The chain is well wrapped around it and the shroud prevents me from taking it out since the mast weight tights it. I try to roll it around but the thing got a perfect knot, kind of the ones we use on fenders.
And I have to dive again before breakfast :-(
This time is more difficult. The water is so muddy that even diving I cannot see the end of the mast: near the bottom I cannot see anything, almost zero visibility. I try to untangle rotating it but soon I understand that I have to prevent the mast weight from tighten the chain around it. With the help of Isabel I hold its weight with a rope from the boat but then the weight of the chain makes it impossible for me to bring it over the top of the mast. I used another rope, this time, to hold the chain weight, leaving only enough chain free to work it over and around the mast. That weight I can manage and not much time after all set up is complete I manage to untangle the chain from around the mast. Now the mast is only attached by the cable that was used to hold it. Unfortunately the pressure is so much around the spreaders that I am not able to release it (even if the rope was only passed around with the two ends on the boat) and I have to cut it…and there it goes the mast, fast to the bottom :-)
All this took a long time and a lot of effort. I was tired and cold but satisfied when I got up to the boat with that kind of satisfaction you achieve when successfully something hard and difficult is attained but that satisfaction only lasted till I heard Isabel saying: Paulo, it is stuck again!!! I went forward, pulled the chain, that again was pulling something heavy…and I could not believe my eyes: Another mast, this one without spreaders. A steel one: I had not only the bad luck to put my chain over a no signalled wreck but also the bad luck to put it over a steel ketch!!!
An on the water I go again!!! This time it was a lot faster, not only because I was seriously pissed but also because I knew what I had to do. The fact that this one had no spreaders made it also simpler. I stayed in the water till I saw the anchor coming safely up to the boat.
I didn't feel tired in the water but when I went up to the boat, I was trembling with cold and feeling wasted. Isabel took the boat out of the port while I dried myself and put a lot of clothes over my body. After a good breakfast and a strong hot coffee I began to feel warmer and soon the sun took away from me all the cold and bad memories. We were sailing North towards Formia. The sun did not hold on and soon it was raining with thunderstorms all around, Fortunately not above us and there was some wind so, even with a late departure, sailing and motorsailing we managed to arrive to Formia with daylight, at about 6 p.m.
We had already been in Formia two years ago, a nice small city with a big and nice Port, mostly unused. The last time we have been there we found out that the Guarda Costiera was very nice and had some places available for boats in transit. We called them and yes, they had a place for the night at no cost, a nice place too, a lot nicer than on the crowded marina just in front. There is a supermarket nearby and at the end of the pontoon there is a big “lota” (fishmonger’s) that sells fish and shellfish, very fresh, great variety at good prices. We had bought some last time and this time we have done the same: several small octopuses for a stew. Just a bit ahead there is what is certainly one of the best restaurants in town (looking at the quantity of locals that eat there). Not expensive and great quality. Great house wine too at a very nice price. We loved it. It came handy because with the cold and hard work I had done in the morning I was starving…and ate for two :-) ( a big steak with chips and salad and a shellfish spaghetti , both delicious ).
From Formia we decided to sail directly to Fiumicino (Rome), our winter quarters and as the distance is considerable (about 80NM) we sailed out at 5.30 in the morning. We could not enter the river (Fiumicino means little river) that day because the bridge (max height - 20m) would not open that day. Fortunately nearby there is an unfinished big marina that provides adequate shelter with a sand bottom and we planned to pass there the night to enter the river and pass the bridge (in fact there are two) next morning at 9.30 a.m.
For many hours we had to motor (no wind at all). In the afternoon we got a nice light wind and sailed all the way till the unfinished marina. We arrived at sunset and cast anchor with the bottom at 4 m. We have been there other times and as usual the holding was very good. The anchor set at the first try (we have a Spade) and we had a quiet night even if with some wind.
About Fiumicino, that little river that has also become the name of a town best known to have one of the two international Rome airports, even if the word means small river, it is not a river at all. It is a canal created by Emperor Trajan, linking the Tiber to the sea through another fluvial waterway. The Tiber meets the sea just some km South and the canal created a new Island: Isla Sacra (Sacred Island) that was a Roman necropolis.
The Island grew in size since antiquity and it is 5 times bigger now due to sediments. The area occupied by water was therefore much bigger and the canal served its purpose that was to create another port area. The place was used mainly for the ships that came from Egypt loaded with cereal. Ostia, the main Roman port was nearby on the banks of the Tiber. The ruins of the ancient port city deserve a visit.
There are two marinas on the area, plus the one that is not finished, a big one near the Tiber entrance and a small one on the beginning of the Fumicino channel but both “rivers” are used as a natural marina and explored commercially. There are several shipyards along them and many hundreds of places to have the boats in and out of the water. More than the two marinas, the banks of the two rivers are the main yacht port of Rome, used even by yachts of considerable size. They have a depth over 3.00m even deep inland, the prices there are significantly lower than in the marinas and the shelter is very good.
On the Tiber there is no rising bridge and the fixed one gives a considerable length of banks that are used as a natural port. After the bridge the banks are used by motorboats, some of considerable size. On the Fiumicino channel there are two bridges (one of them pedestrian) near the entrance (the space till them is fully occupied by fishing boats). They open at the same hour, but unfortunately only two times a day and only every other day. As a bonus the small twisting river offers a very good shelter, better than on the Tiber.
We have passed the bridges and was with some nostalgia that we made all the canal till the shipyard of Luca Marziale, near the fixed bridge, almost in front of the fuel station. Four months had passed since we left and there. We are returning to the same place, after 5000km cruising.
Why not having left the boat on any other place in Greece since next year we intend to cruise North of Greece and North of Turkey (the only parts we don’t know yet)? Well, the place is nice, the price is about the same as in Greece the quality of work on the shipyard is very good (Luca is a “Perito Navale” and the shipyard is the after sales shipyard for Comet and Delphia) they have all the pieces and bits for the Comet, know it very well and allow sailors to do themselves the boat maintenance and provide all the materials needed. Besides Luca has become a friend and has been incredibly helpful in several occasions, sending pieces to several locations (sometimes having a hard time finding them first) and is always available, Sundays including to help by phone regarding any serious problem I have on the boat. A big thanks to him :-). There are also other advantages a nearby inexpensive supermarket a near Pizza and Chinese restaurants with great prices and of course, only 3km from the main Rome Airport that has direct flights to almost everywhere, including Lisbon. Also Rome is at only half an hour by train. Maybe I forget the most important: they are all very nice, I mean the workers and the partner of Luca, Stefano. The ambiance is really great.
After arriving I stayed there on the water for about 10 days, dismounting the boat, preparing it for winter and making some repairs: The furler is as new, the gelcoat destroyed by that stupid manoeuvre of mine is already fixed with the original material (same colour), the stainless steel is shinning and the outboard is already serviced for the next year. I should be the only guy that cleans the boat when arriving and not when sailing but as we rarely use marinas or ports, the lack of water makes a proper service difficult, besides when I am cruising I am cruising and cleaning the boat, besides a strict minimum is not what we find fun.
Time to go home and enjoy some family time ;-) I will be back in 6 months to start maintenance work to have the boat ready for another sailing season :-)