Leaving Genoa on the Tuesday 18th October with Chanon on board we set off for Pisa, two day sails down the coast. The weather on Tuesday was pleasant but with little wind so we motored again. On the way we were to pass Portofino and decided to take a detour into the port.
Portofino was a fishing village which has become famous for its picturesque harbour and the colourful houses clustered along the shore, and its famous visitors. The anchorage was very crowded and without a lot of time to sightsee we motored in, took some photos, turned and motored out again resuming our course for Le Grazie in the bay of La Spezia.
La Spezia is a large sheltered bay midway between Genoa and Pisa accessed through the narrow passage between the mainland and the island of Palmaria, passing the town of Portovenere. We arrived as the sun was going down, and got to Le Grazie with the last of the light. Le Grazie is a quiet, picturesque place with a good sized marina which was pretty crowded, and included some quite large sailing boats; not an issue for us as we planned to anchor for the night. Le Grazie is well protected and as it turned out the night was flat calm throughout and we barely even swung to the anchor.
The following morning the weather started out fine but deteriorated as the day progressed and throughout we encountered a somewhat confused sea. The main swell was from the west and south west but the wind waves had set up an opposing pattern from the east. Poor Chanon succumbed to sea sickness, despite the tablets.
As the afternoon progressed the sky clouded over and we could see rain on the horizon and out to sea we could see water spouts forming. Waterspouts are relatively common ‘mini tornados’, although there are tornadic and non-tornadic versions. The ones over the sea are apparently non-tornadic and although they are not associated with big winds you wouldn’t really want to be sailing very close to one. Apparently the water in a water spout is not sea water but fresh water droplets from the cloud above. We missed most of the heavier showers but not all of them, and although the rain is a real downer the lighting effects produced are quite impressive, otherwise grey seas are suddenly turned emerald green when sun breaks through the clouds briefly.
With the rain came a complete 180 degree wind shift, the wind moving right round to blow from the west which accounted for the persistent westerly swell we had had all morning.
We arrived off Marina di Pisa and the River Arno in a stiff breeze with a rainbow and hung around off the northern side of the mouth of the river to drop the sails and rig all our fenders. We have had too many ‘close encounters’ with pontoons and jetties now to risk leaving the fenders until we get into the marina.
The entrance to Porto di Pisa was quite tricky to spot. A small gap in a grey rock outer wall against a grey sea and grey sky. I knew where it was from the chart but actually seeing it is a great help and we had to sail passed it before I could turn to make the approach. Outside the sea was a bit lumpy with a brisk wind but once inside the marina entrance the sea was flat calm and all I had to contend with was the wind. As Sod’s Law dictates that was from the most disadvantageous direction possible and the approach to the berth they wanted us to take was a bit tight. It took two attempts to get in. With the wind blowing from the side of the boat it is impossible to control the bows. The stern can be controlled with the engines but once on the final approach, reversing slowly the bows, in fact the whole boat will blow sideways and all you can do is try to land on the neighbouring yacht gently – hence the fenders. Once the lines at the back are out you have to pick up the bow lines. These are heavy ropes and chains resting on the marina floor with small lines attaching them to the jetty. As the marina floor is generally mud covered picking these up is a messy business, and when windy, tightening them sufficiently is a real chore.
Anyway, we made it without breaking anything and once all the lines were in place and adjusted the berth was sheltered and Chanon recovered fairly rapidly.
Pisa was to be our ‘home’ for the next week or so. Chanon was due to leave on the following afternoon, Team Brackenbury was due to come and visit for a few days and Valeria had to return home for a short while before returning on the 31st, then we would then be off again towards Sardinia.