Welcome to Ken’s Blog!
I mentioned in my last blog entry that I was going to try to do more frequent and shorter blog entries.
As I am typing this, Sans Souci has just departed the island of Ponza, about 100 miles off the mainland of Italy. We are now on a LONG 160nm run to the island of Sardinia. To check our current position, use this link:
Vietri Sul Mare
These are some pictures I meant to put into my last blog of a small town (Vietri-Sul-Mare) that seems to have dedicated itself to selling ceramics. Most of the buildings in the town had painted tile decorating the outside. Overall, it felt a little too touristy to us and we didn’t buy anything. But, it was fun to see some of the creativity.
Running past Positano and Capri
We had planned to stop at Positano, a waterfront town where Roberta and I stayed in a hotel over twenty years ago. However, the anchorage in front of town is completely exposed, and there was a strong swell running. We had to settle for nothing more than a picture, taken from over a mile offshore. In the picture you can see lots of megayachts anchored in front of Positano. If a boat is large enough you can anchor in places that smaller boats can’t get away with.
I notice that the large boats are able to keep their nose pointed into the swell, which mitigates the side-to-side rolling. I’m not sure how they do that. Do they leave their engines running? Do they use a stern anchor? I have no idea….
We also bypassed the island of Capri. Once again, we wanted to stop, but Capri really has no good place to anchor the boat, and the high-season moorage costs in the marina are outrageous. Can you believe 1,810 euros (around $2,500 USD) per night for a boat our size (7 meter beam.)
Our goal was to arrive at Sardinia and we had mapped out a series of islands that would permit us to “island hop” our way to Sardinia. We had hoped to stop at Capri but the weather had other ideas, so we continued on, another 45nm (about a seven-hour run) to the island of Ischia.
We anchored on the south end of Ischia. Because the swell was coming from the west, we anchored on the east side of a small pennisula (Sant’Angelo). The town looked cute, but neither us nor Steven and Carol put the tenders down. We were as protected from the swell as we could be, but we were still rolling. The problem with these small islands is that there aren’t many bays and you are completely open to hundreds of miles of surrounding water. We have near-perfect conditions, no wind, settled conditions, and we’re still rocking.
Sans Souci is equipped with something called “flopper stoppers.” They are large butterfly-shaped plates that hang from giant “fishing” poles that extend from the sides of the boat. The idea is that by dangling these giant plates (called “fish”) in the water, the side to side rolling motion of the boat can be reduced. Putting them out isn’t difficult, but does take enough effort that during the last couple of years, in Turkey, Greece, Croatia and Montenegro, we never used them.
Roberta pointed out that we are accustomed to thinking about wind, and have never really had to focus on swell. This is a bit of a wake-up call for us. Out in open ocean you have giant swell, and even twenty or thirty foot waves are a non-issue, as long as they are far enough apart and not breaking. You just gently ride up one side and down the other. But here, we are seeing short-period (close together) three to six foot chop. It makes it uncomfortable to run, and impossible to sleep.
The reasons neither boat put the tenders down was that we weren’t sure we would be staying. On Sans Souci we hoped that the flopper stoppers would reduce the swell enough that we could sleep. And, as bad as it was, thanks to Sans Souci’s size and weight, and the flopper stoppers, we had it better than anyone else in the anchorage.
The doggies keep looking at us like, “Can’t you make the constant motion go away?”
Swell on Ischia
Roberta made the comment that we enjoyed life much more last summer when we were in Croatia, in a large bay pinned down by three days of sustained 25-45 knot winds. It’s a reminder that boating isn’t just about the wind: it’s about the fetch. High winds in an anchorage don’t hurt (generally) if there is no fetch (the distance wind travels over water.)
I shot this video which shows conditions the morning after we anchored at Ischia. They were by far the calmest we saw, and well within the acceptable range.
That said, we had anchored off a popular beach. By noon we would have speed boats zigzagging around us in every direction throwing out wakes. The prior evening we had been circled constantly by people kite surfing.
You should see a video above. That said, if you received this blog entry via email you may need to click this link to see the video:
We anchored for the night. Sleeping conditions on Sans Souci were uncomfortable, but not that bad. However, when I spoke with Seabird the next morning, they had a much worse evening, and had been unable to sleep. We didn’t know if it would be any more comfortable on our next island, Ponza, but we knew we couldn’t stay where we were.
Ponza – The party island
After our “failed” night on Ischia, we decided to run another 50 miles to the island of Ponza.
Ponza is a bizarre little island. It is perhaps 500 feet wide by four miles long, and runs roughly north to south. There are lots of bays where you can anchor, but none offer much protection from any weather coming from the south or north.
Based on its location (100 miles offshore) and shape I’d expect it to be an empty rock no one goes to — but, that would be the completely wrong idea.
Another Nordhavn owner who visited Ponza a year ago, Jennifer Ullman (Starlet, N46) warned me that this was a party island. She said that when she and Mark anchored they felt they might need fenders to hold off other boats. Jennifer was right! When we were a couple miles offshore I radioed to Seabird, “Steven. Get your binoculars! Look at the island. You won’t believe it!” I had never seen anything like it! A solid wall of anchored boats, several rows thick stretching for miles, the entire length of the island.
To drop our anchors we had to cut through a highway of tenders going back and forth from the anchored boats to town. And…it was a young crowd. Lots of bikinis, swimming and festive atmosphere!
We dropped anchor in 30 feet of crystal clear water, dropped the flopper stoppers, dropped the tender — and jumped in the water!
This radar image shows about two miles of the coast line and tells the story.
On our first night Roberta and I decided to tender into town with the puppies. Unfortunately, our timing was bad. We wanted to get into town early, around 6pm, try to grab an early dinner, and be back onto the boat before dark.
We were riding on extremely lumpy water, surrounded by dozens of boats all going the same place at the same time. This was the “end of day” rush back to port. I had assumed all the boats would be staying the night, but instead 99% of them pulled anchor and headed to port. We got caught in the parade, which was stirring up the water badly. At the port they were doing something I’ve seen only once before. Instead of people returning to assigned slips, the marina was assigning slips in real-time, from the end of the dock. It was exactly like the big parking lot at Disneyland, with a long line of boats, and with attendants directing boats to the next available parking place.
After a bumpy tender ride, followed by the difficulty finding a place to tie up the tender, and then having to rush through dinner, we decided that visiting the town just wasn’t worth it. On our second night on Ponza we dined on Sans Souci.
Here’s a short video showing the fun we had yesterday just cruising around exploring. Nothing can be less interesting than watching someone else’s home movies, but because I tend to always focus on the annoying bits of cruising I thought people might like to see that we also have fun from time to time.
The video starts with Toundra and Keeley getting swim lessons from the back of the boat, and then is followed by a fast tender ride at dusk. The best bit of the tender ride is Roberta shouting, “No! No! No!” when the camera starts to come her direction. When she is feeling grubby she doesn’t like getting her picture took. I’m always grubby, so it never matters. And, lastly there is a brief bit of fun going through a rock arch, and you can hear me calling out the depths. The water is so clear that 30 feet of depth, and 3 feet all look the same.
Fun on Ponza
Video showing us teaching the puppies to swim, and more!
And in closing…
And, that’s it for this issue of KensBlog… My next report will be from the island of SARDINIA!
Thank you for following along on our big voyage!
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Ken and Roberta Williams
MV Sans Souci
PS – In case you haven’t figured it out, clicking on any of the pictures above will give you a higher-resolution (bigger) version of the picture.