22 August, 2010

High Rollers, Rolls and Roar of the engine

Monaco or Monte Carlo is the place for high rollers, Rolls, the roar of Ferrari engines and other forms of visible wealth. We on the other had sat outside the Casino and had a drink to watch the world go by expecting to see a high roller or someone famous. Not a chance just the wanna bees and the people who stood and watched. We did sit beside a fellow who was greeted by two rather wealthy old gentlemen one of which stated that he was closing the branch down because it was loosing money. Where I know not but it didn't sound as if he was a high roller or getting into one of the many super sports cars parked in front of the Casino.
We did not roll the car out the back of Malua when we moored stern too at Fontvielle but purchased a day pass on the bus and rode the three line from end to end. Monaco is much smaller then I expected. The marina does have a number of large super motorboats but does not have the number of sailing boats one expects. The number of shots far exceeds anyones expectations and the goods in show are just over the top. The window of Cartier was filled with diamonds and more diamonds in lovely settings. Unfortunately the bracelet Denny liked would have had to be enlarged and would not be ready for this evenings dinner date so we let it pass. Another time perhaps.
The Aquarium is out of this world with two floors of fish tanks ranging from schools of fish right down to the smallest sand worm. They draw the water from far out to sea into the tanks so each creature get fresh water however some tanks have to be heated to suit their natural environment.
The Princesses Grace rose garden was good and very well designed and set out and compares well with the Australian old Parlement house garden. The Hughes house garden comes in third.
After two days, two cocktails sessions at the Hotel de Paris, a great meal overlooking the Marina and a number of bus rides we decided to move along. To a bay north of Monaco within sight of Italy so our phone connection can pick up the Internet and we can follow the Australian general election. No clear result.

17 August, 2010

Dark clouds, strong wind and rock n roll

Every sailor enjoys down wind sailing, with the wind slightly behind the beam, true wind of about 10 to 15 knots and a smooth sea. Malua set off from Santa Margherita in overcast weather and little wind. We followed the coast past Portofino and the cove of San Fruttosa and set our course for across the Bay of Genoa. The wind started to come through from 120 from the bow and settled down at about 10 to 14 knots true. We soon had the blue and white reacher up and were sailing along at just over 7 knots. The only sound was the ripple of the wake as we picked up speed to over 7 knots every so often. Ahead was the 52ft catamaran Gone with the Wind who also had their reacher up. For three hour this continued. A sailors dream but ahead the dark storm clouds were building. I expected the wind to increase or drop away altogether and change direction. The boat ahead was a indicator of what we can expect so I was able to keep the reacher flying longer than expected. Eventually the wind died and we had to put the engine on and motor the last few miles to Loano.

With a stern anchor we had a reasonable night but the swell started to build. The forecast indicated a north wind that evening reaching well over 20 knots then swinging to the south with an increase in speed. We only had 15 miles to run so entering the Marina Imperia was an easy decision. The management said take any berth on pier T would be suitable as it was a new marina only opening a few months previously. With only two boats on the dock the choice of 19 others was easy. We had just secured Malua and closed the hatches when the wind started. It continued through the night but in the morning the rain came. A heavy down pour accompanied the wind. It continued all day, rain, rain and more rain. By this time the wind had moved from the north to the west and then to the south, finally to die in the east as the front moved further up the coast. Malua had received the best wash of the season, the dingy was full of water and the water tanks were full of the gift of the gods.
The next day dawned with the wind reaching 20 knots even before the sun was up. It continued all day reaching its peak in the afternoon with a few gusts well over 30 knots. It is at times like these that you are pleased you made the decision to enter the marina no matter the cost. Snug and cosy, secure to a dock and warm in bed at night.
Having spent two days in the marina we decided we should move along further west along the Italian Riviera towards San Remo. The marina was calm and flat but as we put our nose outside the break wall we could feel the effects of the two days of wind. The sea was up and confused. We put Malua's bow into the apparent sea and put the throttle down but we could only make 4.2 knots as the bow would be buried in the back of every second wave. Turning off the wave only increased the rock n roll. After the 12 miles of this sea we were pleased to go stern too at a public quay in San Remo harbour and get out of that unpleasant experience. Enough of this dark clouds and rock n roll.

09 August, 2010


Portofino is almost too beautiful for its own good. When one walks the harbourside quay you will be rubbing elbows with day-trippers, the Italian industrialists, celebrities, the motor yacht fraternity and a lot of rich but not so famous folk who consider this little town the epicentre of the good life. The late afternoon is the time to arrive which we did after a gentle stroll from where we had anchored Malua in the bay of Santa Margherita. The daytime crowd has left either in the bus or on the many day ferries plying their trade up and down this beautiful coast. At this time there are a few people in the harbourside bars preparing for the night's dining at the local restaurants.

We chose the La Gritta American Bar. A famous writer called this bar "the nicest waterfront bar this side of Hong Kong" The prices where nice all right the drink selection apart from cocktails poor. A range of champagnes, cocktails starting at 18 euro, bottles of wine starting at 34 euro and two types of beer at 8 euro for a 250ml served I might say in a warm glass which you could not get a head from the beer! The balance to that were the snacks - at least 8 different types ranging from chips right to carrots and halved small tomatoes. Along with the good services comes the view, and what a view. While were sipped our drinks three super mega yachts went astern into the quay. The smallest called "My Toy" while the largest, "One More Toy", came complete with a jacuzzi on the top deck along side a treadmill and exercise bike and bar! The rich or is it their parents or friends stepped ashore to walk along the dock to a preselected restaurant for a night of the good life.

After our two drinks we walked up the side streets to catch the last bus back to Santa Margherita to dingy back to Malua for some real beer and a wonderful meal looking at the guests at the water front hotels of the Continetal and Imperiale. Not a hard choice as to which side of the view I would like to be. Tomorrow we walk the trails to the San Fruttuoso cove.

04 August, 2010

Cinque Terre

These are the five lands, actually hamlets clinging to the rock face perched above a splendid sea. So quote the guide books. The villages are just badly located as fishing villages. Riomaggiore has a small harbour, Manarolo the harbour so small they take the boats out of the water and store them on the precious land. If the west wind comes up they cant land and have to haul the boats into the air by crane. Corniglia is high above its small inlet called a harbour and Vernazza has some protection. The final town we visited is Monterosso has no protection at all with a gravel beach accessible only by paying some money.

Well what is the attraction to make millions of tourist visit these small town each year. it is the scenic walk along the cliff tops between the towns. That most good trampers do is take the train from La Spezia and stop at Riomaggiore having purchased a train and park access ticket for 8 euros. From the start the first leg to Manarola is only 1km which will take only 20 minutes. This is just a warm up run to get you into the swing of things. Any one can do this section.

The next from Manorola to Corniglia is the same distance of 1km but will take the average person 1h 10m. It is interesting and worth the walk especially the lovers section where poeple leave a lock attached to something.

Now starts the real "walk". The distance is 4km but will take you 1h 30m if you are super fit. Let me tell you not many people do it in that time especially if undertaken on a hot summers day at noon. It starts up the road out of town then goes through the olive grove round a valley, then up to the crest and then down along the face of the mountain side. Just when you think you can go no further some fellow will arrive from the opposite direction and ask "how far have you come?" Your return question get a response "Oh about 40 minutes - all up hill" Well that's great it is now down hill all the way. Wrong. Yes generally down and you know how hard it is to step down on uneven steps which may slide away from you at any time. Frequent stops, lots of water and two strong knee joints are essential for this section.

The next is only 3 miles but the guide book suggest it will take 2 hours - a half hour longer than the last 3km section. just imaging how tough that would be. We took the sensible option and jumped on the train to the fifth town of Monterosso. Here we walked along the promenade and took the train back to La Spezia. Having cooled off by now we took the number 3 bus to our stop on Garibaldi for the bus back to La Grazie. No touring for us tomorrow, a layday to get over the stiff muscles.


There are some passages you wished you had never started. Things don't go according to plan. Some the wind turn and comes on the nose so you spend most of the time beating into the wind or at least motoring into some choppy sea while others the wind and sea come up and you feel you should just turn back - you never do.

Our 89nm passage from Elba to La Spezia started just after first light. It is a long distance to travel in a single day. Most people do an overnighter of it or in fact break it into two however with a strong west wind the East coast of Italy in this area is very exposed with few if any places of refuge, so we decided that the wind was from behind and we would sail the full distance on pleasant seas to make a safe landfall in a sheltered bay of La Grazie.

The wind started from the south at about 10 knots which is just beautiful sailing breeze right from behind. The sea was flat and we were rolling along at just over seven knots. Ideal. Then the wind started to increase and the cloud bank ahead of us indicated a cold front approaching. I took the first reef in the main when the apparent wind over the deck was touching 20 knots. Not a minute too soon as I again turned to head north with the wind behind us it reached well over 30 knots true wind but the sea had started to build. We were surfing down the short swell making great time for our destination. Then the front passed over us with the few drops of rain, The wind dropped and then rose again from the west. Still sailing wind from a reasonable direction. One reef and staysail was by now the order for the day however the waves were coming from all directions and Malua was just keeping dry above the confused sea. The waves could not make up its mind which way the swell should roll in from. Not good sailing! A second front approached and passed over us at about 1500 and the wind moderated but we could see the wind in the west.
We finally made it into La Spezia bay as it was getting dark and dropped the anchor in 10m of water in a calm bay of la Grazie. Then the storm really started. From out of the surrounding mountain the lightening and thunder came, followed by a down pore typical of the tropics. Thankfully the wind was only mild and the rain gave Malua a good wash.
That days passage is one I don't wish to repeat soon not for the wind but as always for the swell and rock and roll waves.


Both Nelson and Napoleon visited Elba. Napoleon stayed only a few months but has left his mark although not much remains of his except the two villas. The best at Palazzina dei Mulini which is on the hillside overlooking the entrance to the harbour of Portoferraio. I found his military camp bed the most interesting item. Made from steel with ornate silver add-ons plus a canopy. The whole thing dismantled into two round leather containers which some unfortunate solder would have had to carry. The rest of the object OK but the location wonderful. The balance of the island hasn't much history as far as I could see.
We arrived at Elba from the Island Capraia and anchored in the Gulf de Campo right next to Threshold. The next day we took the local bus clockwise round the island visiting Marciana which has the best icecream on the island made by the owner of the shop right in front of your eyes. From there to Marciana Marina then back to Marina di Campo. A good days land travel.
We sailed anticlockwise to Azzurro past the old iron ore mines right on the coast and anchored in the bay. Not good holding for the wind came up and the yachts where dragging their anchors, one crossed our chain and we were dragging next to him. After some good anchor practice (four attempts) one to get out of the way of a large stink boat who picked up some chain and spent half a hour disentangling their anchor. We finally put ours down which was to hold for four days while we toured the island by bus. Right to the north of the island and to Portoferraio.
We spent a few days at Golfo del Viticcio while the calm weather lasted and swam in the warm water. Elba ha some charm being covered in trees and mountainous but not the great attraction the guide books claim and Nelson was right he would not like to see the island again (or was that Corsica?)