We left and immediately found the winds along the coast were all over the place, both in direction and speed. The local midday sea breeze and the topography were interfering with the larger regional wind pattern. Eventually, the wind set in as a direct headwind, which we were really hoping was short lived. I went off watch and Maryanne spent the rest of the day tacking against it and the prevailing current, which runs westward along this coast.
By the time I came back on at Midnight, Monaco, while farther, was still visible. We were struggling right at about the French/Italian border. About an hour later, the winds finally stabilized and started blowing hard from the north. It stayed that way for most of the trip across the Liguran Sea.
The wind began to die down a few hours before we reached the other side at the entrance of the Arno River, just downstream of Pisa. Our speed decreased until we were going slowly enough that it became clear that we were not going to make it until just after it got properly dark. We considered heaving to until daylight, but the prospect of sitting watches to spot traffic on a boat that was not even moving had little appeal. We were both pretty beat and were in need of a long night of sleep together instead of short, alternating watches. Conditions were calm and we had the radar up and running. We decided to go for a riskier night entry, hoping to find a fuel dock or something to tie to while we slept until morning.
Some of the smaller fishing nets on the River Arno
And in the distance, the net that stopped us... We discovered later we could have got around on the other side!
We came in at reduced speed. Everything went pretty smoothly for the most part. Except for the occasional surprise unlit mooring ball, there weren’t any real hazards until further up the river. All along the banks of the Arno, there are giant gantries supporting big, square nets. They were like the ones we encountered going up the Garonne in France only this time on a much bigger, commercial scale. Once the river became narrow enough, the supporting gantries gave way to lines strung across the width. The lowest height of these lines was reported to be 18M at the bottom of the sag, so they should not have been an impediment to 14.6M high Footprint. At the first line, we had to squeeze between a lowered net and the mooring line of a trawler backed to a quay. It was a pretty tight squeeze, so I slowed to dead slow and we inched our way through. At some point, we stopped moving. I was reluctant to put the boat in gear as I was worried we had caught a rudder or even the drive leg on one of the trawler’s bow lines or possibly some hidden part of the submerged net. Then I looked up and saw the net support line gently resting against our furled Genoa at about 13M. Yikes! Glad those weren’t electrical cables.
We inched our way back the way we came and tied up to the next available dock with free space at the NovaMarina, where we slept and slept and slept.
The next morning at about the time we would expect a marina to open, we roused ourselves and went looking for the person in charge to no avail. After several conversations in broken English and Italian that always seemed to lapse into French, we were able to determine that the guy, Paolo, generally only shows up a few times a day, less on Sundays. It was Sunday. Almost everyone told us he would come right down if we called his number. We tried explaining over and over that it was our first few hours in Italy and that we didn’t have phones yet, but everybody just kept telling us to call.
New Country Flag raising ceremony! And Kyle tries to make contact with the locals in Italy with a UK SIM card with barely enough credit!
After swapping around our various sim cards, we were able to call on roaming and international bouncing. We had enough credit for about five minutes. I was relieved after starting in my halting Italian that Paolo responded with good, quick English. He said “Va bene”. We could stay all week. He would be there in three hours to give us the key and the gate code.
Three hours was not going to work for me. I needed a train ticket to work and I was worried I would not be able to buy one in the wee hour of Monday morning (I turned out to be right). We decided that instead of going into Pisa together later, the best thing to do was split up. She would wait for Paolo while I rode the bicycle into town to get my ticket. Afterward, on the way back, I made a detour and went to the leaning tower. I was worried we’d never get around to it otherwise. How would I explain to people that I sailed to Pisa but never got around to seeing the tower?
Leaning Tower of Pisa - Kyle's initial back street views and a more traditional one!
It was pretty cool. I approached from the opposite side of the angle seen in the most famous photos. I was just riding through the street, past cafés and shops and there it was: the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I allowed myself a few minutes to marvel at the fact that I was actually there, but time was running short and I had to get back to Maryanne and Footprint.