Having it Rough

Our meal out was lovely. There was a small family run restaurant just along from our pontoon. A small bald man showed us to a table, but implied we could sit where we chose, even though the other tables for two had reserved signs. He offered us English and German versions of the menu and then left us to it. Out came a slight dark haired girl, who stood with a notebook as if gracefully poised for flight. I pointed to my choice of starter, a prawn cocktail with citrus fruits. ‘No…o’, regretfully shaking her head, not sure if this was a lack of prawns or a lack of citrus fruits I chose hot mussels and clams. All smiles, the order noted down. Then I offered up my main, linguini with sea bass. ‘No..o’, thankfully she then started to list alternatives to the sea bass, so I chose dorada. John had no problems with his choices and prawns were on the menu. He asked for a wine list and our waitress gave a slight nod and whisked away. The next time we saw her she was bringing food to a family seated in the doorway. They had a Scottie dog and a pair of very fluffy toy poodles, which were up walking on their hind legs at the scent of the food. John was not at all sure our waitress had understood him and looked up ‘wine list’ on his phone, for when she next appeared. He need not have worried she came back out with a small cork bound booklet. She handed it to John and said carefully ‘there is not all the wine on this list’. I think someone else had been busy on Google translate. It was John’s turn to play guess what they have in the back. He chose a local wine and was rewarded with beaming relief on the face of our earnest little waitress. An older lady resembling her brought out the starters. I was heartily glad the citrus had been ‘off’, my mussels and clams were steamed with fresh tomato and good olive oil. I picked through the clattering shells and mopped up the delicious liquor with bread. As we ate the older lady and the man were busy joining tables into a long row behind us and bustling to set them. Our girl came out with place mats and it was all hands on deck, working feverishly in near silence. Then they issued in a large family group, who had been sitting nearby. It became suddenly clear that they had been waiting in the wings for a French couple just across from us to finish their meal and cigarettes and be graciously ushered out, freeing up the space.

With a large table and several smaller groups the staff were now all whizzing round, but the service was always prompt and pleasant, as though they had all the time in the world when they were dealing with you. Our mains arrived and the pasta was a wonderful home made treat. It seemed churlish not to order a desert. Our waitress recited them in slow Italian and we each chose a word we knew. Mine was mascarpone, and turned out to be a delicious creamy confection with hazelnuts and a tuille biscuit served under a tiny glass dome. John’s word was chocolade and his was a similarly creamy desert of ricotta cheese, riven with chocolate sauce, served in a stemmed glass. Then we had coffee and came away to smiles and ‘Grazie’s. That night we slept well like logs, but woke up before the six o’clock alarm.p1170489

On rising John noticed that the line of boats that had spent the night at anchor were on the move. It was windier than forecast and the sea looked bumpy. John checked the forecast and the wind was not due to be strong till mid afternoon. We decided to forgo a stop at the fuel pontoon, which did not open till eight thirty and set off into a new chapter of our pilot book, the Tyrrhenian Sea. This is area of water above where the boot is kicking Sicily, with Sardinia marking the western shores. If we thought yesterdays man made efforts created turbulence we were soon reminded of the superior power of the sea. There was an unpleasant, pock marked chop running onto the bow, overlaid with a rolling sea of one to two meter waves hitting the starboard side, and the wind blew from the shore onto the port flank. Most of the time it was just wearingly like being on the wash cycle, but every so often the bigger rollers sent us wallowing tow rail up, tow rail down in the briny. Even John took a seasickness tablet. At one point it all seemed to be calming down, but then the wind came up a notch much earlier than forecast and the roller coaster set off again. Lyra is a big girl, but today she rocked and rolled with the best of them.

The best of them were also out, several sailing yachts ranging from fifty six to over a hundred feet, some of them sailing downwind and one crazy catamaran, lurching towards us on an uncertain reach. Most of these were coming out of port, but the fishing boats were heading smartly back to base, which I always take as a good signal to do likewise. By this time we were crossing the traffic separation zone into the port of Civitavecchia; though it seemed only a port bound fishing boat and ourselves were adhering to the regulations for navigating such an area. After crossing the zone we turned towards the shore, heading for shallower water and the Riva de Traiano marina. We passed an area of anchored cargo vessels and even these giants were being tossed by the swell. Our own steering was being pushed from side to side of our course and John was concerned that the entrance to the marina would be untenable.

We talked. The pilot book stated that entry could be difficult with strong onshore wind, but only dangerous in an onshore gale. Our wind was offshore and not gale force, yet. We would head towards the marina and take a look. If it looked dodgy we would head back into Civitavecchia and throw ourselves on the mercy of the port authorities. In the pilot book Rod had describes the marina there as ‘cut off from any cooling breeze… a hell hole in the summer’, but in view of the high seas and the forecast of high wind to come, it was beginning to sound reassuringly protective. I went below and fetched the life jackets. Mine was worryingly tight, too much pasta. As we headed in the sea state grew steadier, rather than yielding to the breakers we had feared. The strewn boulders of the harbour wall with the usual backdrop of crowded masts stood out plainly. The entrance to it did not, but with the steadier seas we were able to steer a straight course to our waypoint. As we approached the white sail of a dinghy sped along the outside of the harbour wall. That someone was out enjoying a sail in such a craft cheered John. I thought ‘What kind of an idiot comes out in this’ and took no comfort from the sight. As we came closer in he passed alongside us and did look quite a competent sort of idiot. Finally we could make out the string of port marker buoys and turned into the channel as another similar sized yacht was coming out. All we needed. Then we were in the steady waters of the harbour and I was out doing lines and fenders as John called up on the radio. The marinera was out promptly in a tender, whether this was the wind, now blowing sixteen knot, or the proximity to lunch was hard to call, probably something of both. We were all done and dusted well before twelve.p1170495

On shore the restaurants and bars closed on Monday. We walked the length of the long marina; there were closed shops and numerous chandleries, providing every thing a Skipper could wish for. Fortunately they too were closed. Finally we found a sort of mini market, paper shop and bar combination that was open. We stopped for a beer and a pizzette, a small oblong pizza the girl reheated for us. It had only been a short haul, but had felt like a very long day already. After lunch we headed back to Lyra for a siesta and collapsed.


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