One of Offshore Sailing School’s Colgate Sailing Adventures flotilla cruises took place in September 2017 on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Led by our veteran cruise leaders, Nate and Heather Atwater, this cruise was a highlight of the 2017 flotilla cruise season for Offshore. Here is Heather Atwater’s diary on the adventures of six Sunsail yachts –Bonnie, Courge, Clitzia, Irene, Martha, and Serenesse – and their crew.
Day One — Saturday September 16, 2017 at the Sunsail base in Procida
Nate and I had flown into Naples and taken the ferry to Procida early to do the prep work for the flotilla and recoup from jet lag. We stayed at a B&B in the center of the island and walked everywhere over cobbled roads through the bustling narrow Italian streets of Procida. We were already falling in love with this place!
Our cruise participants started arriving at the Sailitalia/Sunsail base mid-morning in groups coming off the ferry from Naples, which runs regularly. Procida is the most densely populated Island in the Mediterranean and some of the Italians actually leave this paradise to work in Naples. Lauren and Dean from Sailitalia worked hard to get us on board our yachts as soon as possible.
We all gathered our gear aboard boat-by-boat and started to unpack and put away provisions and other supplies. There were two skipper/navigator meetings, then Dean the manager checked us out aboard, giving us the ins and outs of the boats we were to call home for the next week. Afterward, we all gathered at 8pm for our meet and greet at Ristorante Aun Passo Dal Mare. Nate and I went over the safety checklist and we were off to a good start. Let me say that no one went hungry that evening! The choices were Seafood Menu or Rabbit Menu and each menu had 4-5 courses ending with a delicious delicate lemon cake with a tasty sauce on top. We retired after watching a bit of a concert in the piazza then a quick drenching rain drove most of us back to the boats, but not all.
Day Two — Sunday September 17, 2017 in Capri
What fear do most of us have on one of these flotillas? That’s right . . . losing your luggage. Well, one of our group had the unfortunate luck to have this experience. She tried everything to get the luggage delivered on the first morning ferry but it did not show up while we all waited for news of its arrival. Unfortunately it never did arrive, so several of us donated pieces of clothing to her and we shoved off a bit late that day.
Due to the weather, 16-20 knot NW winds, we ran downwind to Capri for the first night. The sail was a bit bumpy as we gybed downwind to get there. As we had been told in advance, the Marina Grande does not answer phone calls or radio hail until you are in the port, and a busy port it was. Upon arriving we hailed and told we had six boats and they literally squeezed us in. This was a baptism by fire for skippers to med moor. It was windy, bumpy, along with lots of ferry and pleasure traffic but we all succeeded! Kudos to all the skippers. After that I figured we could handle anything, so we were off to enjoy Capri. There is a lot to enjoy: Shopping extraordinaire, delicious food, people watching, and funiculars, just gorgeous. Everyone went in groups to explore Capri and some even made it to Ana Capri. Very ambitious.
Day Three — Monday September 18, 2017 in Ventotene
As difficult as it was to do, if we were going anywhere else on this flotilla, we had to start to make headway to the North. So off to Ventotene at 9am and upon arrival were greeted by Enrique who expertly led us one by one into the ancient Roman Old Port. Spectacular! Again a good med moor experience, this time bow to the quay, which made sense when you looked at the depth from the stone quay, but a bit of a challenge to get on and off the boats by narrow board. Little did we know, we had arrived at the beginning of their annual Patron Saint Festival that people come from all over to take part in. We had time to walk the town, shop, swim, explore and most ate together just next to our boats after taking the traditional flotilla group photo. We witnessed the lighting of the colorful balloon which they set free over our boats and out to sea. Ventotene is a special place and the festival continued through the night with singing and dancing, as well as hourly fireworks!
Day Four — Tuesday September 19, 2017 Was a Rough Sail to Ponza
We rose late and had our navigation briefing at 9am on the quay, then shoved off around 10am. The crossing to Ponza was rough, with 15-25 knots of breeze more or less on the nose. Our boat sailed under genoa alone. The other boats sailed with reefed mainsails and genoas. After tacking back and forth the last hour or two, we powered to make Ponza. Ponza is a larger port and again we med moored on a pontoon. The shore folks were very helpful, helping us stay all together. Our six boats filled up the whole float. That night on our boat we cooked dinner aboard with all the fresh tomatoes we had and fresh pasta with basil. Others explored Ponza and found excellent restaurants to enjoy!
Day Five — Wednesday September 20, 2017 Layday in Ponza
We awoke to gale force winds from the NW and decided to have a layday in Ponza since there was much to do there. Some hiked the hills, rented scooters, shopped of course, dinghied to the caves, explored the island by hired car, went to the beach and swam, eat, drink and be merry. We choose to hop on the local bus and for 6 euro got a tour of the whole island of Ponza to and from the other end. The wind was wicked and from the peaks of Ponza it was apparent not many boats were on the water. In fact, even the fishing boats all stayed in the harbor that day. That evening we invited all to a cocktail party on Bonnie. A good time was had by all and one crew even cooked up some fresh tomato pasta for us all to enjoy, thank you!
Day Six — Thursday September 21, 2017 to Ischia and Its Fabled Mineral Pools
Since we had a layday we needed an early start to make our way to Ischia. So we held the skippers meeting at 7am and were all off the dock by 7:30am. Then it was onward to Ischia, although we had to power the whole way, as the winds were too light. We arrived at Port Sant Angelo on the south side of Ischia at 1pm, which gave the crews enough time to get to the famous healing spas. Nine of us took a cab to Poseidon Spa and Baths where we tried out many of the 22 different mineral pools. It was quite the experience! People of all different nationalities, shapes and sizes had gathered here to take in the therapeutic waters that Ischia is famous for. When they closed at 7pm, we went back to the boats by cab where our boat made pasta with the leftover provisions. Not bad, not bad at all. Others enjoyed a beautiful view of the sunset while dining along the water’s edge in Port Sant Angelo, another very special place!
Day Seven — Friday September 22, 2017 Back to Procida
We awoke to a beautiful sunrise in Ischia and had until 1pm to explore before heading back to Procida by 5pm. Everyone did their thing. Some sampled the amazing pastries from the local bakery, others went to snorkel, some sat on the beach, shopped, explored. At 1pm we left Ischia and had a beautiful downwind sail. It was breathtaking sailing along the coast of Ischia and Procida, with amazing sights of tall cliffs and ancient buildings built right into them, colorful towns built like steps up the mountains crevices. We all made our way back to our spots in the marina at Procida, sadly knowing that our time together was coming to a close. On our last night together, we gathered as a group across the island of Procida in Marina Corricella at the Restaurant de Positana, for a delicious meal right along the port edge overlooking the fishing fleet and the water beyond. The views walking down the marina are breathtaking. There are many stairs but well worth it. We all had a great meal and a good time. Goodbyes followed and continued the next morning when we disembarked around 9am to catch the ferry back to Naples.
All in All It Was a Trip of a Lifetime!
Our next Offshore Sailing School flotilla cruise adventure is Belize in May, then Greece (sold out), and Tahiti. These Colgate Sailing Adventures really fill up fast, so pick up the phone and tell the team at Offshore headquarters you want to go! Call 888-454-7015 today.