To Ischia

As the wind was forecast to come up in the afternoon we made an eight thirty start, with a cup of tea and the promise of breakfast en-route. I felt the lurch of the swell on rounding the harbour wall and decided to settle for an apple. Emma made delicious looking bruschetta with tomatoes and peanut butter or Philadelphia cheese, but I was not tempted. There was no wind, so we motored straight there, but of course it takes over four hours at seven knots and the sea continued to be lumpy. After two hours both Katie and Emma were struggling and after three even Johnsey was feeling off colour. They lay on deck at my recommendation. There was little to see Vesuvius was sulking behind a curtain of cloud. Scamp proved to be a good sailor and needed to stay in his harness to keep him from exploring. As we neared the channel between Ischia and Procida we had to negotiate a regatta. Everyone sat up to watch the bright spinnakers as the small yachts raced past us towards the ruined castle. The marinera at Casamicciola appeared promptly on the pontoon, but changed his mind as to which berth and moved us along a space at the last minute. I felt glad we had a full crew to cope with this on our first outing. We lowered the passerelle and with only a little bit of persuasion Scamp ran along it to the pontoon and Emma and Johnsey took him for a run along the harbour. John went off to register and the rest of us saw to shore power and putting the instruments to bed. Everything is much quicker with so many helpers and we were all soon heading off for a drink at The Hotel Calise, which looked just as we had left it. The sun came out, Scamp sat like king of the castle on the grass behind our table and life was good.

After lunch John and I relaxed on board while the others explored. Eventually we could see them sat high above us on the terrace of a smart red hotel, currently closed due to earthquake damage. When they arrived back they were keen to go to the small beach, so we took the towels and had a paddle. Scamp had a great time running along the shoreline after various sticks and Katie was brave enough to swim.

That evening we walked along the front to the pretty seaside resort of Lacco Ameno. Once inside the pedestrian zone Johnsey considered letting Scamp off his lead. At this point a large local dog transferred his attentions from a Labrador, whose owner said the dog had been following him for two miles, to Scamp. He looked like a larger version of Scamp, but being stalked along the front by him was not at all sweet. Eventually we reached the end of the parade and sat on the street opposite Le Petite Bar at which point the appearance of the waitress sent our unwelcome companion off to pester another small dog. We conferred as to which restaurant we fancied trying and found Scamp was more than welcome at the lovely one overlooking the bay. He sat under Johnsey’s chair and was very good with our quiet waiter, but gave a low growl to the major domo who made a big show of bringing some water for him. After Johnsey rebuked Scamp and he settled back down, John announced the man made him feel the same way to much shushing all round.

Although the sea was a bit challenging today it feels as though we have done a lot already and it is only our first full day.


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Saturday was a much warmer day with fluffy clouds and blue skies, thank goodness. We set out early to the shop with just the backpack as we had just bread and wine to bring back. The three ladies were all dressed in their Saturday best, with hair done ready for early closing. We headed down to the wines and I recognised one we had liked before, so John took two bottles to the till as I stood holding a packet of dog chews pondering whether or not to buy some emergency food for Scamp. John came back to see what I was doing, followed by the dark haired assistant, who opened a cardboard box of red wine and took out a bottle assuring us this was very good. “We’ll have two of those instead then.” “Uno?” ‘Due!” At the till all four bottles awaited us. John shrugged, we loaded up the backpack with wine and dog food and I carried the bread. On unpacking our supplies I noticed the recommended wine was also fizzy. She must have remembered that we had taken the last two bottles yesterday and rushed to assure us there were more, just the same. We now had three unopened bottles and a slightly sampled chilled one in the fridge.

The girls arrived first in a taxi. John saw it draw up just before midday, said “They’re here” and promptly set off along the pontoon, leaving me trotting in his wake, but soon all four of them were pouring back towards me and it was hugs all round. News from Johnsey was that he had set off at the crack of dawn, but did not expect to arrive till around four thirty, so after celebrating the girls’ arrival with a small glass of fizzy red wine we headed off to the marina bar for lunch. We sat outside, but it was so breezy we moved to a table in the lee of the building and watched the surf still crashing onto the shore opposite. Even with the weather less than ideal it was such joy at having all three girls here.

Back on Lyra we sorted out where they were all going to sleep. Despite the chill Katie was keen to try her hammock, but it is forecast to rain again tonight, so she and Lara are set to bed down in the main cabin with Emma, Johnsey and Scamp in the front. News from Johnsey was that the toll system in Italy was an adventure in its own right and he might be slightly delayed. Finally at around five John spotted The Mustard Bus approaching along the quay and we all set out and met him at the car park. Scamp was very excited to see Emma after nearly five days and seemed to take the rest of us being in this strange place too in his stride. Work on the van had moved on a lot from the last time we saw it, with a fitted bed settee and swivelling table, very cosy. Johnsey had brought some equipment for John and the rare necessities of life – peanut butter, Marmite, Heinz beans and Henderson’s relish, to swell the ship’s supplies. We all helped ferry stuff on board. Scamp looked very unsure at the prospect of jumping up from the jetty over the water. I had felt the same way when I started. Emma lifted him aboard and after a bit of hesitation he worked out the companionway steps, taking them at a rush and seemed very happy to be onboard. We ate gluten free pasta bake with Priory eggs for tea washed down with lashings and lashings of non-fizzy wine and beer of the best.

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Locker Room

After four days of cleaning we have moved on to looking through the lockers clearing out old stuff. This is particularly moot in the case of our ships stores, as the girls hold sell by dates in high regard and had previously made clear their disapproval of the vintage nature of some of our supplies. We have relinquished anything that remained from our initial provisioning in Lymington on the grounds that as they had not tempted us for five years the instant soups and packet mixes were unlikely to become alluring. Yes they were extravagantly out of date even for items largely consisting of preservatives. We also jettisoned the emergency carton of paella, a free gift with the pan we bought in Sante Carles, reasoning that it required too much courage to tackle even in extremis. It was all a most uplifting process, we felt so virtuous we promptly set off for the supermarket on a minor spree. The walk into town also does wonders for the step count, particularly as the top gates are locked until June, so we must backtrack across half the marina to reach the street. The avenue of saplings planted last year is looking good and some are about to burst into blossom. We trundled along with our trolley for what seemed much further than either of us remembered, so we stopped for a coffee before hitting the supermarket. A wise move as the place was much more hectic than usual, it being Friday. The scrum of resolute looking Italian speakers at the deli counter deterred us from our usual point and smiles practice, so we stocked up with help yourself fare avoiding heavy items like water, beer and wine. Back we trudged with our trolley and backpack brimming with vegetables, gin and other non-perishables including both gluten free pasta and nut milks. We dropped this shopping off and headed to the little local shop for ham, cheeses and the heavy stuff. The ladies there were friendly as ever and the older one sold us on the punnets of strawberries by wafting them under our noses for the ‘perfuma’. We excused our increased alcohol consumption by blaming the imminent arrival of the family. At the deli we bought olives and artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella and a sprig of basil, which came with a twist of paper wrapped round its’ roots, spritzed with water to keep it fresh during our walk back. We had a most splendid salad lunch before turning our attentions to sorting out the non-food lockers.

The less accessible lockers were a treasure trove of surprises; best amongst these was a piece of net curtain in which batons had been sewn at intervals. John was about to feed it into the black sack of doom when I realized it had been made to exactly fit over the companionway opening, to stop insects getting in, a genius idea from Alan and Sheila. Lara will be thrilled. We moved things we hardly use into the harder to reach spaces; organised similar items together and manned up to consign various broken things we had been keeping as spares to the recycle bins. Now we are all spick and span and ready for the girls, who fly out tomorrow.

Johnsey and Scamp are already en-route, driving through France in their half converted Ford transit. We have been following these adventures via Instagram on themustardbus and it looks such an exciting road trip, I hope they have as good a time when they arrive. I also hope the weather improves, at the moment it feels more like Scotland than Italy. Since we arrived last Thursday we have been subject to a full range of weather. We were greeted by two days of fog and worried the coast might be prone to sea frets at this time of year. Then an overnight storm set all the halliards around, including our own, beating a Jumangi tattoo. John promptly sorted ours, but we still had to listen to the thrum of every other rope on mast. On Wednesday we had such a glorious scorcher of a day I followed Doreen’s example and cleaned in my swimsuit. Unfortunately having cleaned the decks I started doing washing and things took another turn for the worst and now the sea state is so pumped up there are a couple of surfers on the nearby beach.

Friday evening and steady drizzle sent us below decks and we are hoping it is clean rain, not the dust filled stuff or all our work will be undone. We fortified ourselves by opening a bottle of the red wine from the little shop. It was fizzy. We put it in the fridge to chill. John thinks we will have time to go back to the shop in the morning and buy a less effervescent red and some fresh bread.

Fingers crossed for a decent morning Sunday so we can head off to Ithaca with full crew and ship’s dog. We are booked into the marina at Casamicciola for three nights. They phoned John promptly to confirm after he asked for a reservation using their new online booking system. We are now waiting to hear from his enquiry to Capri before we can book anywhere else.


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Buff Fit

John and I are back on board Lyra and, in preparation for sailing when the family come out in a week’s time, have embarked upon an intense exercise programme, otherwise known as cleaning. We know this regime is effective at producing a honed effect for this has been demonstrated to us by the buff fit young crews of the super yachts. They spend their mornings scrubbing and polishing and then flaunt the results by the pool of an afternoon. A more relevant example for people of our age is probably Doreen. Actually, Doreen is not the name of a person, but of a boat, that lay alongside us when we first arrived in Stabia, but its’ only occupant is a dark haired lady with an old brown dog, so we have taken to referring to the person as Doreen. When dressed Doreen looks to be about our age, clad in her turquoise bikini she loses fifteen years. She has toned arms and legs, a board flat stomach and a bum Madonna would kill for. The lady spends every day from dawn till dusk swabbing and wiping, only pausing to murmur gentle endearments to the dog, which slumps in whichever corner of the cockpit is in the shade. As evening falls the pair amble down the jetty for a short constitutional and we smile and say hello. The dog is somewhat bandy legged and Doreen keeps to its’ pace huddled in a large fleece. They are not gone long enough for this to amount to meaningful exercise. Unless she and the dog practise Ashtanga Yoga below decks of an evening, her bodily perfection is entirely down to cleaning. So we too are stretching and bending in order to wash and wipe. John’s step count is through the roof, though I think a lot of this is arm movement on account of the Fitbit being worn on his right wrist. I have augmented my own step count by trotting back and forth to the washing machine between chores with towels and bedding, which we have had to hang under the Bimini to dry for fear of the wind and possible rain.


So far I have not seen any personal effect, but I certainly feel the process is underway, for muscles I have hitherto been unaware of protest vehemently as I lever myself out of bed each morning.

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Back to Capri

In contrast to every other occasion when we have set out from Stabia, the wind was not set to give us a swift passage to Capri. In fact there was no wind to be had, even though we delayed setting off in the hope that a breeze would come up in the afternoon. Consequently we motored around the bay, past the cliffs of Sorrento and then on to Capri, detouring from our passage plan to avoid the to and fro of the many fast moving passenger ferries, who give no quarter shaving past one another and leaving us to wallow in their churned wakes.

As we came into the shadow of the mountains behind the main harbour a large ferry lurked waiting its turn to enter port. John approached cautiously and we followed it inside, danced round the tripper boats raising chop in the harbour, and John reversed smoothly into a berth between two Sail Italy yachts to the feet of the main marinera. He insisted on passing me the lazy line before returning my stern line, but John took it from me and went forward while I sorted out the stern lines. John said we were beginning to get the hang of this Mediterranean docking and after paying our harbour fees we headed in to town for a beer before sorting out the complications of the shore power meter. We sat in the central bar looking out over the harbour. The crowds were ebbing and suddenly the landmarks from my first visit over forty years ago lifted from the current bustle and came into focus. There the taxi drivers had stood in a huddle; that was the corner where the shop had been and that was the same long quay that my Dad and Dave had legged it along to catch the ferry home. I resolved to walk along that quay and look back before we left Capri. We wended our way back to Lyra to find the nearby power supply points had all been taken, so we had to haul the extension cable from the locker and are plugged in to shore power some way away, down the dock. This has proved a blessing as our cabling avoids the wash from a large golden retriever, who graces the nearby power boxes by lifting his leg at one or other of them as he passes morning and evening.

We have spent our time on Capri revisiting some of the places we enjoyed with Lara. Not the full on sea excursion to the Blue Grotto, or the dizzy heights of the cable car, but the gentler pleasures of Axel Munch’s villa and the monastery garden. On this visit the Monastery was playing host to an exhibition of modern art, which proved an unexpected treat. As we climbed back up the steep cobbles winding past the designer shops, we were overtaken by a small forklift pulling a mesh sided cart in which a large man sat on a wicker chair surrounded by his luggage. As he passed in front of us he genuflected and raised his arms to heaven before disappearing over the brow towards the funicular.

We ate out in the evenings, but went up into the town avoiding the tourist traps as much as it is possible to here.

After breakfast on our last day I returned the fob for the power to the office and set off on my pilgrimage along the ferry dock. There was just one large boat moored near to shore with the long arm of the quay stretching empty to the harbour mouth. At the elbow bend of the quayside a trio of men sat on the bollards chatting and observing my progress as I passed them. I did not turn until I reached the last mooring and when I did it was to look back on a scene resonant with memory. The pier was every bit as long as my mind’s eye had conjured and at this distance Capri Town, dominated by the towering rocks behind, did not look so very changed. A brief slip through time Dad and Dave were running along there towards Mum and me. Tomorrow would have been Dad’s eighty- eighth birthday.














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A Change of Plan

The delay caused by the rough weather caused us to rethink our plans and abandon a return visit to Amalfi. The Italians are setting out in force as usual on a Sunday, but we have decided to delay setting out till tomorrow, avoiding the melee and any lumpy seas. We are booked in to Capri on Monday for two nights, followed by a night in Sorrento, before coming back to Stabia with a day to put Lyra to bed for the winter. In readiness for this we did a bit of preliminary sorting and tidying up and later indulged in the sport of watching others come in to their berths with varying degrees of expertise.

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In spite of the forecast Saturday dawned a beautifully clear day with sparkling views of the surrounding mountains, the clearest view of Vesuvius we have had. The wind has blown all the cloud and haze inland and is still gusting up to thirty knots according to the instruments on the top of the mast, and that is here in the harbour. We walked to the chandlers for some fuel additive and then called at the little shop for some bread for lunch and vegetables to cook for tea. The ladies were pleasant as ever; we always come out of there feeling happy.

After a while the noise of the wind on board ship becomes a bit much and we set out for the Captain’s Bar for a break from it and so that I could use the wifi to post the blog. For once the outside area was deserted, with all the chairs stacked in the lee of the hedge. Inside was humming with people and we were lucky to bag the last table in the corner. A large boat party had pulled tables together opposite and the diving crew were clustered round the table next to us, all with large beers rather than the usual cokes. In the far corner a man and a couple of women were making headway down a bottle of white wine. Everyone was loud and very cheerful. We figured they had all been let off work in some way by the rough weather, the Italian version of a snow-day. The bar staff were not so fortunate and it was all hands on deck as more people arrived and began to drag tables into the sun in shelter afforded by back of the marina building. We had not planned to stay to lunch, but the look and smell of the pasta of the day arriving at neighbouring tables proved too much. Aubergine and smoked mozzarella cannelloni in a fabulous tomato sauce. It will be bread and cheese for tea, listening to podcasts, when hopefully the wind will have died down.















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