Italy to St Tropez, France
August 12-24, 2004
Travelogue #3 Summer 2004
We are now in the most eastern
part of the Italian Riviera at Sestri Levante. This is in the
Gulf of Genoa in the northern part of the Ligurian Sea. It is
strange how I form an image of the place we will visit prior
to getting there. The Italian Pilot, which we use extensively,
has information about each seaside village or town. The information
will include all about services, charges, police, customs, marina
availability, and much more. It will describe what stores are
available and in general attempt to paint a picture of the place.
This is done in green and gray on a white page. I look at the
size of the area outlined as the village and some of the other
details and get a feeling as to whether it is large or small.
I am almost never right anymore. These towns in the northern
part of Italy have grown to meet the space available and it appears
to be a continuous town along the coast. This town is described
in a manner which made me think we would be almost alone. Wow,
with Genoa only 20 miles away and Portofino and Rapallo only
7 miles away, we are in the most crowded vacation area yet.
We are anchored in a medium sized
bay with perhaps 100 other boats, mostly power boats. As sundown
approaches, all but about 10 leave to return to their home ports,
wherever that is. Now we are almost alone and improve our anchoring
position to be better protected from weather from the south.
It is a beautiful night on the hook and even an occasional train
whistle in the background is audible. There is an absolute absence
of charter boats here. We have left the charter boat concessionaires
in the south. That has a positive effect in that these people
own their boats and are more experienced and more careful. There
is a lot less hassle and shouting when anchoring.
We are at latitude 44 degrees
and 16.34 minutes north. That is about the same as Sioux Falls
SD, but the difference is that the sea water is 85 + degrees
and the swimming is wonderful. The daily onslaught is at it again,
and we are moving to a different bay, perhaps where these people
are coming from. We are moving only 7 miles to Portofino which
is one of the glamour spots in Italy. Clearly there is no room
in the small interior basin, but we dutifully motor through.
There are at least 5 boats each being longer than 70 feet tied
to the quay. The inside docking area is smaller than the interior
area at San Carlos Marina in Mexico. It is full and there are
boats tied to permanent moorings all the way down the entrance.
As we are leaving the small area, a large boat has been notified
that there is room for them to move to the interior. It is the
motor yacht Amnesia and it is big. Think of it, this yacht
has a crew of perhaps 10, a full-time 5-star chef, a 30-foot
runabout and the yacht needs no power, no fuel and no water.
Why would they want to be tied in such a small space and stay
aboard their yacht?
After our run around in Portofino
we are on the way, 2 miles, to Sta. Margharita, referred to as
Margaritaville. This is a much larger bay with a
nice small town and lots of things to see. We are backed in next
to a motor yacht with both the German and French flags flying.
After a stroll through town we returned to the boat and find
that our German/French
neighbors are waiting to speak with us. It seems that they
go to Tucson and the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch every year for
two weeks. They also go many other places including Cuba. They
are quite anxious to know if we are really from Tucson, and after
we assure them that Tucson is our home, we are in conversation
for the rest of the evening through supper and until 1 AM. They
will be in Tucson in October and be our guests. They each speak
excellent English and if one is speaking to the mother, from
France, they speak in French, if speaking with the father, from
Germany, the conversation is in German. It is interesting listening
as the conversation switches from one to another with us included
and it is all seamless in three languages.
We are now in Genoa,
birthplace of Christopher Columbus for whom the town of Columbus,
New Mexico, just south of Deming, was named. The town is 20 miles
long and 1 mile deep away from the sea. It is one of Italys
busiest ports. When one enters in a boat you have a rather narrow,
200 yard, entry, to what is then a channel. There are off-shoots
of the channel to various unloading facilities but continue back
into the port and there is suddenly a carousel of ports to choose
from. We went to Porto Antica, the most distant port from the
entrance. It is the closest to the heart of Old Town and they
have room for us. It is a 5 minute walk to the edge of old town
and only 10 minutes to the center of the old town. It is a warren
of short narrow streets that are so narrow that a motor scooter
can't pass in them. Do not go there after dark, so the brochures
say. We walked the town and paid special attention to the fancy
homes (read palaces) which date from the 1400s. It seems that
the extremely wealthy of that period decided to congregate in
Genoa and set aside part of the town for themselves. They built
huge homes, perhaps 100 feet by 100 feet and 3 or 4 stories tall.
The ceiling height in the first floor is between 18 and 22 feet.
They are now owned and operated by the state as museums and art
We walked further to the Piazza
Ferrari, no cars there, and then to the childhood home
of Christopher Columbus. It is a small home just outside
the eastern gates to the city. We enjoyed being in the city,
but after two days it is time to change scenery, so we are bound
SW to Savona. We had a beautiful Sunday morning sail for the
15 miles and found our way to the end of the marina
beyond a drawbridge. It is safe and calm in the heart of Savona,
the fifth largest port in Italy.
Remember when I stated that the
first and second language of the Italians is Italian. Well now
we are within 40 miles of France and one begins to see French,
not English or German, on the menu. The people are bilingual
here, it is just not a second language that helps us. There is
the obligatory castle and fort in the town and at the present
time there is a ceramic exposition in the castle. It is a collection
of Majolica ceramics from the 15th and 16th centuries, clearly
the work of proud artisans.
Pope Julius II, the Pope who
supported Michelangelo, was born in Savona. Also born here was
Pope Sixtus who had a small church built in Savona to be the
burial place for his parents. It is sometimes referred to as
the small or other Sistine
Chapel, as Pope Sixtus also commissioned the Sistine Chapel
in Rome. This one is closed, but the caretaker of the adjacent
large Cathedral will let visitors in and escort them for their
visit. We asked permission to visit and were the only ones inside.
It is a beautiful chapel with great paintings on the walls and
the ceiling. It was
built in 1532 and is in perfect shape. Another dignitary born
in Savona is a Senor Pangaldo who was the navigator for Magellan
and there is a tower
in town recognizing his feat. Recall that Magellan did not complete
the journey around the world, he died in the western Pacific.
There were heated rivalries amongst the survivors about who should
become captain of the continuing voyage, but Pangaldo was to
be the pilot. So, Pangaldo is truly the one who navigated the
complete trip. This circumnavigation story is all told very well
in the book Over the Edge of the World, by Lawrence
We are on the downhill slide
toward France and sail 20 miles to Alassio,
about 20 miles short of San Remo, our last stop in Italy. It
is a great day for sailing with 10 to 13 kts of wind absolutely
abeam. After one overnight at anchor, we arrive in San Remo,
home of the pretty people, so to speak. The marina has room for
about 1000 boats and we are on quay A which is for
the big ones, but we are not big. Our electrical plug won't fit,
our water hose won't fit, and socioeconomically we won't fit.
The boats are 70 foot minimum and there are several over 100
The town is rather crowded due
to the tourist season, and in the evening we are fortunate to
find a place where essentially only Italians eat, so says the
man of the family next to us. He asks, How did you find
this place?. We have heard that question before in Croatia.
We enjoy the facilities of the marina for two days. There is
a Russian Orthodox church
which dates from 1906. The church was built so the vacationing
Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna could worship while here. The architect
for the church is the same as for the tomb of Lenin. Whatever,
it is a pretty church.
Leaving there, we crossed into
French waters and then shortly divert to make a tour of the inner
harbor of Monaco.
There is no use in stopping, it is a very small place and the
only thing to do is gawk and gamble. There are some serious boats
here; if you are interested look them up on the web. There was
Wedge Two and
We ended up the day in France
in a bay adjacent to Villefranche, again with much traffic and
big boats. We are anchored within 150 feet of another American
boat, in fact they are from the San Diego Yacht Club! That is
a first and a surprise for both of us. They purchased their boat
over here and have been here one year, but they are sailing the
Atlantic this November. He wants to get to the Caribbean and
more reliable steady winds and weather.
Well, things have been very busy
for the past two hours. Kathy and I walked the village this morning
and found a great small coffee shop for drink and French pastries.
We shopped for groceries and wine and then returned to the boat,
about a half mile across the bay from downtown. The wind is forecast
to be from 12-15 kts from the WSW today for about 4 hours and
then settle in at 5 to 6 kts for the remainder of the day. That
is not the way it happened. We had lunch on board in a lurching
sea with the bow rising 5 feet then burying itself 5 feet. Inside
the boat it appeared somewhat benign but outside you could get
seasick just watching the water go by you, and we are at anchor.
The wind is 20-22 kts from the south, right into the bay, not
the way it is supposed to be. After lunch we decide to get off
of the lee shore, about 100 yards astern, and either go to Antibes
or to the marina here in Villefranche. We decided upon the marina,
about the same time several other boats made the decision to
abandon the anchorage. When we entered the anchorage we were
asked to circle while the staff placed other boaters. The area
to circle is small and the wind is now a cross wind at 25 kts.
After awhile we are told to raft to a Solaris 70. We had help
and accomplished the feat without mishap. Soon there are two
boats outside us in the same raft. It is now 4
deep and there is a big strain on the lines. The wind has
maxed out at 36 kts from the SE.
After being tied up there is
some excitement on the breakwater and we find out there is someone
being pushed on the rocks. I go to see the situation and sure
enough there is a 30 foot sailboat falling down on a fishing
net, which saved him, now within 3 feet of being ashore on the
rocks. About this time I have a dilemma: there is a boat in distress
and I can watch the rescue or immediately on the beach, about
40 feet below me, there are 4 sunbathing French ladies without
their tops on. What do I watch? The coast guard comes to the
rescue and pulls the boat off, the girls put their tops on, and
I return to our boat to tell my story to Kathy. What a morning.
The wind died but the swell didn't
so we rocked and rolled all night. This am was a beauty, but
the weather forecast said today would be a repeat of yesterday.
The weathercast is from Monaco on channel 23, first in French,
then in English (so they say). I can't count in French and know
few words, but his French is easier to understand than his pronunciation
of English. He speaks so fast that I really do not understand
one word in 30, and I know what he is talking about! He could
as well be speaking Romanian referencing a coming attraction
at the movies. We understand that today will be very windy and
choppy seas, so we are going inland. Our first stop is in Nice
where we board a bus for St. Paul de Vence. Nice is a larger
city and very attractive with the hustle and bustle of a port
vacation city. It is thriving with tourists who come to enjoy
the 3 or 4 mile white sand beach. The primary road in town is
along the beach. The water is turquoise in color, clean and with
small wave action, truly a place to be on this sunny day. This
is an old walled city that is still in use today, to get the
tourist dollar. It is truly a beautiful village but completely
taken over by artists and souvenir shops. It some what reminds
me of the Arizona version of an older place, Sedona. This was
a pretty place but now has lost its charm and is a tourist haven.
The atmosphere here on the Riviera is absolutely clear and the
townspeople are different than those in Italy. There are almost
no scooters, whereas in Italy they outnumbered cars. The streets
are flowered boulevards; notice the French vocabulary sneaking
in. We are appreciating the differences in people, congestion
We made our reservations to fly
from Barcelona to Milan yesterday, the first leg of our trip
to Tucson. We were going to do it last week, on the internet,
but could not decide how many days we needed to spend in Milan.
The week of indecision cost us an additional 80% on each air
fare. There was a special when we first inquired and it was not
so special when we booked. We could have had the tickets for
50 cents, but ended up paying 90 cents. That is some penalty.
The total price for the two one way tickets from Barcelona to
Milan, which is 450 miles, is $26. That includes airport taxes
and fees. One could fly around Europe all week for less than
$100. Sounds like fun to me!
We sailed to Juan-Les-Pins and
anchored off with about 15 other sailors. It is a busy and big
town but a great place to set a hook for the night. Today we
are in St. Tropez,
which is just beyond the western border of what is known as the
Riviera. There are some serious boats here. Now in the anchorage
there are perhaps 10 motor yachts of 80 feet and greater. There
is one sailboat which is longer than 130 feet. Tonight, while
in town we walked
the main quay and counted the number and size of the yachts.
There were 32 yachts on the main stretch and the least was 80
feet, there were two which were greater than 120 feet, and the
big yachts are side tied in a private area. We were told that
there would be boatside delivery of fresh croissants in the mornings,
but that did not happen so we are moving on to the west.
This completes Travelogue # 3
for the summer of 2004