Amalfi

We are booked into the Marina Coppola to the pontoon of the siblings Coppola, who have been serving with love for many years. John looked them up on the Cruising Association network and the consensus was that they were most helpful, met yachts in a dinghy and came on board to steer them in. John was not keen on this idea. I was ecstatic about the prospect. Of more concern to me was one CA report said they had found themselves on a pontoon not attached to the shore.

Our last night in Capri proved rather rough. The wind blew up in the small hours and howled through the assembled riggings. We tossed about a fair bit with the ropes creaking and the fenders squealing. At one point John got up to check on everything, but all was well. It was still impossible to nod off to sleep. Lara also woke and battened down her hatches in case of rain, but no rain came. She did manage to fall straight back to sleep and showed no sign of coming round, when her wakeful parents decided to give up on sleep and head off into the harbour to buy some fresh bread. The choppy sea was not deterring the tripper boats in the way the dull weather had and all was mayhem in the port. We bought our supplies and settled down for our last cappuccino looking out over it all. We watched our skipper take out a man and his daughter, fearlessly zipping out behind the large ferry as it turned. There was not much wind, but more was forecast for later in the afternoon, so John thought we would be safer setting off and motoring. The boats on either side of us had also made a prompt start, so it was easy to set out from the quay, though negotiating the main harbour was interesting as ever. John decided we should just lift the fenders on board, rather than take them in, given it was a short trip under engine on a choppy sea.

We were soon beyond the hubbub around the port entrance. We were making for the first headland past Sorrento and could look back on the outline of the Faraglioni and the south west corner of Capri, beautifully etched by the morning light. Our course took us past the rocks where the Sirens reputedly sang to Odysseus. The Sirens themselves were silent, but the wind gusted up to a worrying thirty knots as we passed the headland. John and I exchanged worried looks and hoped this was just the effect of the headland. Lara lay down on deck and went back to sleep. The wind died back as we crossed the bay. I poked Lara to have a look at Positano as we motored by, but otherwise she slept through much of the spectacular coastline. The wind piped up at each headland we passed and it was a relief to arrive.

Amalfi sits amid soaring limestone cliffs, its houses decked like playing cards in a half finished game of patience. The harbour looked small and rocky. John called the mobile number we had been given and Lara and I spooled out the fenders. He was answered right away and a few moments later an orange rib came speeding out of the harbour mouth. There was only one occupant, so I feared we would be steering in after all, with him piloting us from the rib. As he came close he waved cheerfully at us and announced we would only need one line on the front left hand side, the rest they would do. Then he was round the stern, stood and tied himself on and sprang up onto our deck. He proceeded to take command, praising Lyra’s handling as he steered us onto the inside of his pontoon in a textbook landing despite the gusts of wind. On the pontoon a tall, thin man of superhuman strength was ready to spring onboard and tie up the lines. He fastened the lazy lines amidships and used our bow line to attach the nose to the next boat along. The two men did not exchange a word throughout. As we wrestled to lower the passerelle our host set off round the other side in his rib, had a few mouthfuls of sandwich and then returned with two plastic cups of chilled rose for John and myself, Lara having made herself scarce below.

I need not have worried, not only was the pontoon attached to the shore the gangway was most elegant, with planters and archways with carriage lights and green baize to walk on. Off we set for the customary beer. The first bar had a veranda projected out over the sea and we sat on the end, which was more exciting than we had expected when the wind came up so strongly it moved empty chairs. We hung onto our beers and took the glasses back when we had finished; glad Lyra was safely tied up in the dock.

In the cool of the early evening we ventured further up into the town. There are narrow winding streets lined with shops and restaurants and punctuated by a series of unusual fountains full of goldfish. A number of folk were taking the waters of these fountains and even filling plastic bottles from them. None of us fancied a try. We were lucky to find a table at a lovely restaurant tucked into the steps of the large cathedral, which dominates the square. We all had the homemade spaghetti with lemon pesto and it was excellent.

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