There is something about the last sail of the season that makes me jittery. We were both awake early and decided to set off. The ferries had already started, so John was able to track their course across the bay and he was reassured that our track lay outside the path of most. We left the marina at seven thirty, the sea was flat calm and a mist hung over the land. We could make out the dramatic shadow of Vesuvius ahead, with the industrial skyline of Naples on its’ left flank. To the right the headland wound fuzzily past Sorrento and the twin peaks of Capri were faint shadows to starboard. We are entering territory where every place name speaks of romance and song. More pragmatically I used the AIS screen to keep track of the ferries to Sorrento and Capri, which all passed well in front of us. Other than these, it was Monday morning and all quiet but for a few loitering fishing boats. It took us three hours to cross the bay under engine and by the time we arrived the volcano stood out properly with a shawl of white cloud slung across its’ shoulder.
A Superyacht was heading into Marina di Stabia at the same time, so John slowed to let this pass ahead of us. We could hear them calling the port on the radio and it took them a number of hails before they heard back. As we entered the marina and called up on our own behalf there was no answer, all hands were busy with the bigger boat. We had our berth number and John was all for just heading in there. Knowing this meant a big jump onto a low pontoon I felt less keen. The sight of us passing the pilot boat was enough to wake the radio operator enough to ask us to stand by. We stood by. It is an anxious thing floating about directionless, trying to avoid everything and being drawn closer to it all. Eventually two marineras in a rib came over with the ‘Follow us’ routine. John wanted to tell them we had a reserved berth. He called out the number H57. ‘H’ they shouted nodding and disappeared. From the numbers we realized they were on the wrong side of H. The rib came back out having dropped a man on the pontoon and waited for us. I cupped my hands round my mouth, ‘SCUSE!’. He pointed in, I shouted ‘NO!’, vigorous shake of the head. He motored over and John explained the situation. He drove off and pulled up on the harbour wall to talk on his radio. John began reversing down the correct side of pontoon H, with the other marinera walking along with us as we called out our berth number to him as he kept indicating other berths. John knew more or less where he was going from the plan they had sent when we signed up. H 57 was right on the inside of the pontoon. As we came near it was obvious another boat was moored in the spot. John was understandably cross about this, having taken the trouble to e-mail the marina a couple of days ago with the firm date of our arrival. An e-mail to which he had received a reply assuring him all was ready for us, ‘Avanti’.
Here we were with nowhere to go. John pulled forward and the marinera suggested a berth on the same side for which we set up and helped us come in. ‘Just for one night’. The electricity supply there was not working. Emboldened by his mate’s success the first chap came across in the rib and they had a talk and talked to the radio. ‘One night’ the second marinera asked. ‘Due anno’ John said. This caused surprise ‘One year?’ ‘Two’ John held two fingers up, politely. ‘You will have to go to this office’.
On our way to the office we had a look at the boat in ‘our’ spot. A French boat, it had dedicated lines fixed to the pontoon and a hosepipe joined to the water supply coiled as though it belonged. This was not just some overnighter put there on a misunderstanding. It is a long marina built in front of an old industrial site. We walked past the derelict works, which had the look of a rolling mill.
Eventually we came to the Superyacht basin, where half of Georgetown was tied up. John explained they were probably registered in tax havens, as the super rich struggle to afford tax. The reception at the base of the tower was unmanned, so we headed off up in the lift with an older gentleman who assured us he would not take long. The first floor was a corridor of doors, made to look like the inside of a ship. The chap from the lift disappeared into it like the White Rabbit. We approached a girl in a large glass office, who wanted to sell us tokens for the laundry. John explained our predicament and her English faltered. She took us along the corridor to the office of another young woman and John explained again. Throughout all of this no one asked us to sit down.
‘Would you like to stay there?’(H41), John was not sure; we mentioned the electricity and were told the electrician would come. There was no need to register our arrival. Here was a booklet, with a miniscule plan of the marina, and here a card with the phone number of the shuttle bus. In case it was late, but it should come on the hour every hour from ten till midnight. ‘And coming back?’ ‘The same. Thank you, bye bye.’ We went away to think. This was not an auspicious start. We stopped off at the marina pub and sat with cold beers watching a couple of men put up shade sails with scant understanding of health and safety. Clearly neither of them had been given ladder training and both were young and immortal. But nothing exciting happened, so we paid up and went back for another look at H41. It is a tight fit with our neighbour Pauline, but John judged that if this was a permanent neighbour that would be fine, as all the pontoons are on the narrow side. Number 41 is easier access than 57 and still well sheltered, so we decided to stay. We decided to tell them in the morning. John plugged our shore power into the box on the opposite side of the pontoon pending the electrician; it is still there.
It was not all doom and gloom. Aside from the derelict works, which are big enough and old enough to have atmosphere, the scenery is spectacular. At the other end of the marina is a yacht club with a terrace restaurant overlooking the whole panorama.
To one side stands Vesuvius, looking a bit like Ben Nevis from here, then comes the sweep of the bay with its’ islands, then more steep furrowed mountains on the right, flocked with greenery. A cable car runs to the top. At the side of the yacht club is a glorious swimming pool, set about with palm trees. The poolside loungers look across the masts to the mountains. Both of us felt much better after a swim. John booked us into the restaurant that evening. On the terrace we sat watching the sun go down over Ischia, turning the whole bay pink.
The food was good and our waiter charming. After dark there were fireworks at various places along the shore. Tomorrow is another day, and may even bring an electrician.