As the island of Procida is very close and not much wind was forecast today we opted to have a leisurely start before heading round by way of the channel to take in the views of Cala di Corricella from the sea. This allowed for brunch at Hotel Calise. The waiter kindly put two tables together for us in the conservatory and then had a bit of a nightmare as he delivered Emma’s food to the table next to us. It was a family of four, who had only ordered three meals, as they wanted to share a pasta dish between the two small children. After a bit of confusion the parents divvied up Emma’s bruschetta, probably thinking they had ordered it by mistake. We watched them do it, but didn’t realise until our food arrived some time later minus Emma’s order. He was most apologetic and probably had to stand to the cost. I then had time to look in a newly discovered fabric and wools shop, which turned out to be glorious. The staff left us to browse at will whilst they got on with their own sewing. There were American prints for patchwork, knitting wools in sumptuous colours, arrays of notions and gadgets as well as some lovely pieces of work for sale. Encouraged by the girls I bought some fabrics and headed happily back to the boat, where John was ready for the off with all the lines set to slip.
The engine would not start. John tested the starter battery and it was quite flat, despite our having fully charged it as part of our preparations and then had used the engine for nearly four hours coming here. He and I headed off to the marina office with our trolley. They were very helpful. Once the marinera was sure we knew what we were talking about, when we claimed our battery was beyond hope, he made a couple of phone calls and found a shop in Casamicciola that could sell us a new one. He drew us a simple map and wrote the name Amak and a telephone number on it. He called them to let them know we were on our way and told us they closed in an hour at one thirty. We should have plenty of time to get there, it was not too far to walk if we had a trolley, or we could take a taxi. We phoned the kids and asked them to measure the battery we had as John could remember the spec but not the dimensions. John explained what we were doing and said they were welcome to lock up and go ashore for a while if they wanted to. We set off up the hill. Typically it was beginning to become quite warm. Fifteen minutes later the road was wiggling about in ways not shown on our map and there was still no sign of Amak. While John tried to connect to Google Maps I carried on to look round the next bend. There were only houses on the right where the shop should have been. To my left through a large iron gateway was a very stylish dress shop, so I went in and threw myself and my scrappy map on the mercy of the lean, elegant woman behind the counter. She was wonderful. She had never heard of Amak, but called the number and spoke at length on the phone. On ringing off she told me we were on the right road and took me outside to point the way, meeting up with John dragging the trolley and still fighting with his phone. She then took me back inside and wrote down the directions in Italian, for if we needed to ask someone else. I could follow the place names, a Piazza, a bar and Hotel Elizabet, then Amak. We thanked her profusely and carried on with a bit more confidence, ticking the places off as we passed them. It was quite a way and when we arrived the shop did not appear to be called Amak, but did have a pile of car batteries stacked on the floor in front of the counter. John recognised one of them as being like ours. In we went and I presented the men behind the counter with my piece of paper. They were Amak. One man came round and hauled the longest battery from the base of the pile, set it on the counter and started to dust it, while the other picked up the phone and ordered a replacement, checking the price so they could charge us the going rate. They helped us jemmy the battery into the trolley, John paid and we were off back down the hill. The dress shop was closed on the way down and by the time we reached the marina most places had lowered their shutters for midday and our boat was the sole visitor on the pontoon.
It did not seem to take long to change the batteries over, though the new one had to be lifted up on four coasters as the terminals were not as proud as the old ones. We started up the engine and set off into a fine afternoon with scudding fluffy clouds.
By the time we cleared harbour it was blowing force three and we could have sailed, but I felt a bit ragged after the setback we’d already had and was nervous of a wind that had not been forecast. So we motored as planned, the pastel houses of Corricella looked very pretty in the sunshine.
We arrived just before three thirty, fenders and ropes at the ready. On the radio we could hear another yacht calling Procida Marina and getting no response, not a great sign. We puttered slowly into the harbour. Nobody was in. John called up on the radio to no avail. I tried the phone number with no answer. Another yacht followed us into the harbour, probably the one we had heard calling on channel 16. John began a slow turn on the spot in the confined space. We were now facing the other boat, which was beginning to falter. A man finally answered my third phone call and I gave our name and explained we had a reservation and were in the harbour waiting for assistance, as calmly as I could. He said he was sending a man in a boat to be with us shortly. Lara then spotted a golf cart thundering along the jetty with three large men inside, one of whom was ejected at the end of a pontoon and reappeared in an inflatable. He came out to us first, but the other yacht set out to follow him. A largely silent pantomime ensued. The marinera held up his palm to signal the other yacht should wait, came over to us and pointed to where he wanted us to go, before turning and heading there himself. The other yacht kept coming. The marinera stood in his dinghy and held up his hand to them again in the halt gesture. John also waved them away, as he began to reverse towards the pontoon. The other yacht started to cut in on our inside. Having had enough of steering with one hand and waving with the other John shouted “Go Away!” They backed off. The girls were horrified, but I thought it could have been worse. We came in to the pontoon and tied up. The marinera turned to the other boat and had them reverse in on the other side of the pontoon directly behind us stern to stern looking in on each other. The Fin couple on board glared venomously at us from their stern. We busied ourselves with our tasks. When the passerelle was down Scamp skipped ashore and the rest of us trouped after him with our eyes on the dog.
We wandered along the tall houses of the quay, Emma admiring the brightly coloured, peeling paintwork colours and strings of washing. Scamp was very well behaved ignoring the skinny feral cats that hang out on the harbour wall. Opposite the ferry terminal we stopped for a beer or two and then went back on board for a snack and a siesta.
When evening arrived John was still feeling wiped out by the day, but encouraged the rest of us to go over to explore Corricella. We climbed over the headland and then up towards the fort. At the viewpoint with the cannon Lara decided to stay and watch the sun setting behind the pretty harbour. The rest of us went on up to the fort.
We reached the patch of open ground behind the walls where the bus turns round, unable to go further up the narrow streets. Indeed it is a miracle it reaches this point. Johnsey decided Scamp could come off the lead for a run on the grass. Run he did at top speed after a cat the rest of us had failed to spot. Off flew the cat into a large bush, Scamp bounded in after him, ignoring Johnsey’s whistle. An explosion of cats erupted from the bush in all directions, closely followed by a bounding small white dog, tail up, looking very pleased with himself. All this happened in silence, but suddenly a cacophony of dogs were barking all around. Scamp innocently trotted back to Johnsey without so much as a murmur, mischief managed. We were all laughing too much to scold him. Back on the lead he went and we carried on through the archway into the hamlet above. The museum was closed for the evening, but from the church came the unaccompanied song of a soprano, Hallelujah in English and Italian, as a lorry full of white lilies was being unpacked. Preparations for an event the following day, the rehearsal haunted our steps as we explored the narrow streets. At the top were panoramic seascapes, back to Ischia in one direction and across to where the sunset was bathing the mainland pink in the other. Ahead, Vesuvius remained swathed in cloud. We headed back to Lara and arrived in time to see the sun slip through a gilded cloud down behind the headland.
Below us was the restaurant with the roof terrace overlooking the bay; we had failed to reach on our other two visits. Lara confidently navigated her way down the winding steps to it and we inquired about dogs and the prospects for vegetarians. Dogs were welcome, vegetarians less so, carnivores not at all. The menu was quite short, but interesting and there was a vegetarian main and a starter. The standard of cuisine was excellent, the wine good and reasonably priced; in fact it all was no more expensive than places of less obvious quality we have visited. We all decided I would have to come back with John, as he would relish Johnsey’s choice of pistachio crusted seared tuna.
The restaurant had a resident cat. It sat in the doorway surveying the scene with a proprietary air. Scamp lay beside Johnsey’s seat not taking his eyes off it, but being very quiet and well behaved, having done his share of cat worrying for the day. Probably a wise move as this cat looked a sit and swiper. Scamp flopped sideways and would have slept had the waiter not insisted of shuffling into him with a wine cooler stand, causing him to grumble quietly and move under the table. It was an idyllic end to the day. After coffees we made our way back through the darkened streets and found a short cut back, though whether I can find it again is another matter. As we passed the community hall there was a salsa dancing class underway and the music accompanied us back to the boat, where John was feeling much better for the rest.