Date: 5/3/09 (Sunday) Location: Gulf of Gaeta, Italy
We left the dock and went sailing today — except not on Gyatso — instead we were guests aboard Aorangi, our friend Jayne’s beautiful S&S Swan 47. Base Nautica Flavio Gioia (our base for the past winter) hosted a regatta this weekend, so we went out to watch the start of the race and to give Aorangi a sea trial after being hauled out last week. Our Italian neighbors in the marina, Enzo and Franca, were also aboard along with Jayne’s neighbors, Mauro and Francesca. The race was suspended for a brief time due to a thunderstorm. We dropped sails and returned to port just in time to enjoy a fabulous lunch aboard: frittata, panini, salami, buffalo mozzarella, fava beans, pecorino cheese and a sampling of local wines. What a treat! Back onboard Gyatso, we are preparing for the diver to scrape the barnacles from our propeller tomorrow. Hopefully all will go well with the underwater inspection, and we will be underway again this week.
Back in full health, we decided to rent a car for the weekend to do some final exploring inland before our departure from Gaeta. The Campi Flegrei (Flegrean Fields) near Naples continued to exert a strong pull on us, and since it is actually easier to leave the boat here to visit there, off we went on Friday.
With views like this (see photo above), we are having a hard time tearing ourselves away from Gaeta. It doesn’t help that we are both just recovering from a cold/cough which has slowed progress on our pre-departure preparations. The list is progressively getting shorter, and we are planning to depart here by the end of the month. The first trickle of cruising sailboats have been passing through the area, reminding us of all the places we would like to visit this season: Southern Italy and Sicily (May-June), Tunisia and Malta (July-August), Greece (Sept) and Turkey (Oct).
Last Friday, we attended the annual general meeting of the Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) in Southampton, England, an event where we were also awarded the “Qualifier’s Mug” for the “most arduous qualifying sail as written up in the club’s Flying Fish journal.” After joining the OCC last year, we submitted an article about our transatlantic voyage in 2007, which was published in the Flying Fish in 2008.
While in England, we took the opportunity to visit friends from s/v Bobo in Emsworth and land-loving friends Tony and Sallie of Coombe Cottage in Shepton Mallet (Somerset). We also visited London, Glastonbury, Stonehenge and Brighton before returning to Rome and Gaeta.
Happy Vernal (Spring) Equinox! Today we’re actually hunkered down in the cabin of Gyatso riding out a gale in the safety of the marina. After more than a week of mostly wonderful, sunny weather, a low pressure system developed over Sardinia yesterday and moved easterly toward mainland Italy. Just after midnight last night, the front began moving through with hail, lightening, heavy rain and high winds. Winds of 25-30 knots, with higher gusts, continue today, making it difficult to get off the boat and onto the dock. Luckily, we had left-overs from our St. Patrick’s Day dinner the other night which became sandwiches for dinner last night and soup for lunch today. At least we are getting a much-needed break from varnishing exterior brightwork — still hoping to apply one or two more coats before removing the blue masking tape.
We just finished re-wiring the Nav station with the help of Libero, an extremely well-qualified marine electrician who also teaches at the high school here in Gaeta. After adding a new chart plotter, AIS (for tracking commercial shipping movements) and Navtex receiver (for getting weather reports and security alerts here in Europe) in the past year, the tangle of wires was so bad that we were having trouble sliding the drawers underneath the Nav table. Libero called it, “Doing battle with the war of wires.” This is what happens when you’re the fourth owners of a cruising sailboat, and it is part of our seemingly never-ending efforts to “refit” the boat to meet our standards and needs.
Date: 2/21/09 (Saturday) Location: Campania and Lazio Regions, Italy
In a rented Fiat 500 (cinquecento), we spent the past week on a culinary and wine tasting tour of the Campania and Lazio regions of Italy. We visited Benevento, Guardia Sanframondi, Castelvenere, Telese, Ceprano, Frosinone, Atina and Minturno. We also visited archeological and geological sites of interest in Naples (National Archeological Museum), Pompei (Pompeii Excavations and Mt. Vesuvius) and Pozzuoli (Phlegrean Fields).
Yesterday was market day in Gaeta. The sunshine enticed everyone outdoors for a shopping frenzy. The tomatoes looked redder, the fennel bulbs shinier, and the smiles brighter than they have in weeks around town.
Lisa does most of our shopping for fruits and veggies on via Indipendenza, but she can’t resist a lively market once in awhile. The fennel spoke to her this week, so last night we had it braised as a contorni (side dish) with a left-over red rice risotto with chicken and roasted butternut squash — yesterday’s food inspiration. The day before it was spinach soup made from the most delicious spinach bought from an older woman across from Da Natalino’s butcher shop. And then there was the ricotta cheese from our favorite deli — that became the inspiration for veggie lasagna. We are so lucky to have access to such wonderful foods here in Italy. It’s a good fit for our efforts at more mindful and healthful eating.
Part of our winter health and wellness program includes daily walks around Gaeta. Today we set out just before sunset and listened to the loudspeaker-enhanced flag lowering ceremony as we strolled past the USS Mount Whitney which arrived in port today, and we stopped in at Bar Bazzanti for a cafe macciato and to admire the signed print from the Lepanto series by American artist Cy Twombly who lives in town. He inscribed the poster with a short poem:
“By the sea, by the sea, how happy we will be, in the Bar Bazzanti.”
It’s raining again this morning in Gaeta. Since our return ten days ago, we have found this to be a common occurrence at this time of year. So are winter storms and the surge they bring into our small, protected harbor. Yesterday, we took advantage of a break in the clouds and walked around the old part of the city, winding our way through the narrow alleys and stonewall-lined switchbacks past old churches dedicated to Saints like Giovanni a Mare and Caterina to the base of the Castello Angioino-Aragonese. From there, we wound our way back down the hill, pausing at an overlook and admiring the large swells crashing into the cliffs at the base of the castle.