Olbia Ponza Prochida

Sun 7 Sep 2014 17:21
Just after midday on Wednesday 3rd September we said arrivederci to Marina
di Olbia and motored out into the long, well marked channel that on passing
an attractive lighthouse brought us out into the Golfo di Olbia and the
start of our two hundred and odd nautical mile passage to Isola Prochida via
the Pontine islands. Some wonderful sailing ensued with northerly winds
blowing at between fifteen and thirty knots for much of the passage to Isola
Ponza. Beam reaching we were making great time although the seas were rather
rolly for Lynn's taste. Rob and I stood three hour watches through the night
as Pamarzi with full main and genoa sliced through the seas at up to ten
knots. A moon lit night and for nearly all the hours of darkness the sea and
the heavens were ours devoid of any other craft.

There is something quite magical about night sailing and being alone on
watch as the miles are eaten away with only the sound of the sea and the
wind; one's senses heightened, darkness accustomed eyes scanning the waters;
attuned ears listening for any change in the note of the wind through the
rigging; one's body alert to the movement of the boat through the waves. And
although constantly checking the trim of the sails and the information
displayed by instruments there is plenty of time to think, to review
opinions, consider life situations and view the heavens. A single satellite
passed overhead and a solitary shooting star made its brief showy
appearance, the only other intrusion into our horizon walled world was a
flicker of light some twenty miles distant that when picked up on AIS was
identified as a vast cruise ship on a collision course with us. Tracking her
it was comforting to see that at eight miles distant she altered course by
two degrees and at four miles by a further two and thus passed a mile and a
half astern of us in a blaze of light that remained visible for another

Just after 04.00 somebody turned the fan off. Genoa furled, engine on I
resorted to motor sailing and as light appeared in the eastern sky so did
the jagged outline of two of the Potine islands. They are the rocky remains
of the calderas of ancient volcanoes. Massive cliffs of limestone and
sandstone soaring from the sea. Rocks torn and fissured by wind and water,
riven with caves both natural and on our island of choice Ponza, manmade.
Isola Ponza, its huge cliff faced western side rising sheer two hundred and
eighty metres from the sea, every one of its green slopes above the sheer
cliff terraced by its inhabitants eons ago. We sail past a gigantic landslip
where three or more acres of terracing has tumbled more than a hundred
metres from near the summit and lies still terraced in an untenable position
half way down the cliff. More dark pinnacled rock towers as we round the
southern tip of the island and navigate through these rock strewn waters
towards the town also (somewhat unimaginatively) called Ponza. A natural bay
surrounded by yet more rock formations, and at its head a jumble of flat
roofed, cubic houses washed in pastel shades of pink and blue, ochre and
soft terracotta above a long multi arched stone water front, lined with
colourful local fishing boats in a multiplicity of sizes, the larger ones
carrying squid boats on their foredecks whose powerful lamps lure the
unsuspecting creatures from their comfortable depths to their battered
futures. The mooring here too small and shallow for Pamarzi, we anchor in an
adjacent bay in ten metres of gin clear water. Donning mask and snorkel I
dive our anchor to find that it has not bitten as well as I would like in
the hard sand and limestone bottom. We reanchor in a softer patch where the
hook bites well and with forty five metres of chain veered out I feel
comfortable. Sac de Sel launched Rob ferries the ladies to the town quay
through a gap between rocky spires, returning for me a little later (three
up in Sac de Sel is as much as she will take in choppy water). We explore
this the town which feels as if it is going about its business in much the
same way as it has done for the last three thousand years. Beyond the
impressive water front midst the jumble of dwellings separated by narrow
roughhewn granite paved streets, small shops and bars; washing hangs between
adjacent buildings, old ladies sit in doorways rocking sleeping infants in
prams their mother's used, wizened old men hold court in small groups in
quiet corners, whilst the young eye each other as they do and always have
done the world over. Similar sights seen no doubt by Emperor Caligula's
brothers and his sister Agrippina (Nero's mother) who were exiled here. We
eat pizza in a softly shabby restaurant with the locals near the water front
before returning to Pamarzi as darkness fell enjoying a quite peaceful
night's sleep in our island anchorage.

Following breakfast we weighed anchor to sail the fifty miles or so to
Procida at the northern end of the bay of Naples passing on the way Isola
Ventotene where amongst other Roman notables, Octavia, the wife of Nero was
exiled and later killed. Her head allegedly presented to Nero's mistress
Poppea Sabina who had ordered her exile and subsequent murder. What a
charmer she must have been! Shortly after passing Ventotene the hazy outline
of Isola Ischia came into view and by 18.15 we were motoring into the newly
built(2008) marina in Prochida. A marinero taking our lines as we berthed
stern to against the outer pontoon and viewed the pleasant looking town
which as we explored that evening turned out to be as good as it looked. No
tourist haven this, Sancio Cattolico, for that is one of its three names, a
'real' Mediterranean water front town used as the set for the a number of
films including The Talented Mr Ripley and Il Postino. We dined at a little
family run fish restaurant not expecting the mountains of delicious sea food
that we were presented with, succeeding in getting through only about half
of the creatures laid before us before succumbing to our gluttony. We did
manage to get through the litre or so of local white wine delivered in an
old green bottle that looked as though it may have served as the carrier of
a sea born message before taking up its current occupation . We are
intending to stay here for three or four nights and to take the ferry across
to the mainland to explore Pompeii, Herculaneum and Naples. So 'nunce
quonium satis,