ITALIAN COASTAL ISLANDS - ISCHIA,  PROCIDA & PONZA

June 18

We motor sailed past Capri where mega yachts filled the harbor but did not stop. Surrounding the island were ships that gave new meaning to the term "superyachts"

Some of the yachts had helicopters on top of them. We saw a yacht with not only a dinghy almost the size of our boat tethered on top, but beside it was a smart car with a crane to lower it to the dock! Many of the Italian boat designs were very unique, the power boats in particular, many dark and sinister looking with their smoked glass windows. Mafia?

Ischia Island

Castello, 40.43.7N 13.57.8E

We anchored south of a Castle on the east point then we moved north of the castle when things went southerly, both seemed good anchorages and we could take our dinghy to the wall near the arch bridge on the causeway to walk into to town

The island is hilly and fertile. On a high rock connected to the main island via a pedestrian causeway, is an Aragonese castle with cathedral and convent. Ashore, a quiet village provided us with some fresh produce and fulfilled our quest for cheap wine, our limit for red we set at 3 euros, white at 1.50 euros!

 Procida Island   

June 20 Corricella (40.45.4N 14.01.5E)

We are anchored off an island near Naples called Procida, a  traditional Italian fishing village, with ramshackle pastel buildings cascading down the hillside topped, as usual, with a church.

The anchorage was horrid...rolly and bouncy the entire time we were there. Ferry, ship and boat traffic added to the discomfort, especially on weekends, when daytrippers filled the bay to over capacity.

But the town around the anchorage was so charming and picturesque with its unexploited run-down crumbling ochre and sienna colored houses, piled atop each other and connected with a labyrinth of stairs.

We spent days exploring and visiting with Beyond, who were anchored with us in the bay.

By climbing up to the church that oversaw the village, a blackstone cobbled road led to the main town of Procida, where there were some restaurants and fresh veggie markets and the expensive Marina Grande.

June 22  At midnight we awoke to things not sounding quite right and the moon was coming in the wrong window. Although uncomfortable, the anchorage was fairly well protected and probably the best in the area for shelter from the northerlies. But an unforecasted wind switch was bringing us gusts from the south putting us on a lee shore. In addition to that unsettling night, it blew hard several days but one night in particular put the anchor to the test as we held fast through high winds with gusts recorded on the knotmeter at 53 knots!

We were wanting to move on but the wind persisted for days. With wind changing direction faster than we could pick an anchorage, we anchored in several spots on Procida. We checked out the small marina at Chiaiolella but they would not budge on their 60 Euro/night quote.

The thing about the constant wind, it can drive you mental. Invisibly it pushes, pulls, snatches your clothes, and twists your mind.
The salt spray makes you sticky, your hair crusty. You go to sleep hearing the steady howl through the rigging, slapping the halyards, and you awake to the same.

June 25

We left Procida at 6 am, with steep short waves stopping us short and a NW wind on our nose. We were tempted to turn back but could not face the prospect of another night at the rolly anchorage so we persevered. Eventually the wind died and we were forced to motor for several hours. The seas did flatten somewhat to about 1 meter and eventually the wind filled in and we turned off the motor.

A few minutes later, I went below and found myself ankle deep in water!!! We're sinking! Gord rushed below and ripped up the sodden floorboards before discovering that water was pouring in through the shaft packing. This had happened once before, the cause completely unknown, but he quickly got the leak stopped. The electric and the manual bilge pump were put into action and I spent the following couple of hours bailing out the bilge. When we got anchored I would need to get all the salt water out of everything stored under the floorboards, but for now, we were happy that the crisis was abated.

We continued to sail, close hauled and sometimes on our ear, tacking toward our destination of Ventotene, some 27 miles away. We are fortunate that Ascension is able to sail upwind, otherwise we would not have been able to make our course, although we did have to tack, sailing about twice the distance to our waypoint. The rocky small island of Ventotene was within our sights around 2:30 pm and we made the decision to continue sailing (such a rarity it seems in the Med) rather than risk running out of wind and having to motor by waiting until the following day to continue on.

Ponza Island

June 26 Cala Inferno 40.55N 12.58E

We arrived at Ponza Island at 8:20 pm, just as the setting sun cast an eerie orange hue on the huge golden cliffs, emerging from the sea like a surreal movie set. There were a massive number of boats anchored beside the harbor so we anchored in a more secluded spot at Cala Inferno in 3-4 meters, sand and crystal clear water.

We were surrounded by magnificently colored sheer cliffs of golden tufa rock soaring straight down to a narrow pebbly beach dotted with caves. That evening we had wind bullets from the cliffs that held the boat to the swell and were very comfortable, but the next night, it was rolly.

After an easy dingy ride to Ponza Harbor, a pretty fishing port of pink and white houses,  we motored around the bay and checked out the Roman arches, caves cut into the rocks just south of the harbor taking our dingy right into the labyrinth of strange holes and watery tunnels. The caves may have been for defence or for religious purposes, I am not sure. The unusual limestone rock formations of the surrounding area was also interesting to explore.

After several days in Ponza, we headed back toward mainland Italy. Our plan was to visit Rome, leaving the somewhere fairly secure.