After God and a leaking hull (part I)

Fruits of Rapallo

We enjoyed light breakfast under pleasant morning sun. It felt pretty airless in the marina. Sailing conditions were however expected to be great as we only got out from the shelter of Rapallo. Tea with my favourite Carr’s table water crackers and homemade apricot carrot jam was served. This jam was from the deep pantry of Van Emst. Pretty much similar to what I used to make but clearly lacking one excellent ingredient, brandy. Thought we had that good enough portions last night as I was already onboard “S/Y Sunride” for expected departure at noon. The stay at Rapallo had been a successful row of exquisite experiences among museum Attilio and Cleofe Gaffoglio, The Porta delle Saline, The Music Kiosk and The Sanctuary of Montallegro. Happy, wonderful days with breathtaking views. View behind small window towards the Rapallo bay from chapel dedicated to St. Cajetan especially etched in my mind.

It’s always too much to do as you’re about to sail no matter how short trip is intended. This time most of the preparations were already done as they had practically already left a few days ago just to return in agony due to that bluish and aching thumb. What a relief the doctor presented by diagnosing no broken or even fractured bones. As they say “one man’s loss is another man’s gain”. I would not have made it so fast sailing forward wasn’t it that unfortune for the captain.

Joost Van Emst is native Dutchman and at 64 years old he still stands in good posture six-foot three tall. Grey beard with short hair fashion and weathered face made him look plausible seafarer and skipper. Joost is a tireless punster with a young boy’s passion behind in adult man frame. Sail from Genoa had made us to somewhat know each other and I was hoping for knowing him even better during the coming days.

The Van Emst expedition had set a target to start discovering the magic island of Corsica, birth island of the French emperor Napoléon Bonaparte, from the west. The Scandola nature reserve and the biosphere reserve Valley Fango, especially Delta Fango, harbor a diverse fauna. Also Ile de Gargalo Island was expected to be worth exploring. The tiny village of Galéria (pop. less than 350) is the closest place to disembark for Scandola but, in hope of more sheltered marina they had decided to sail Porto, a small village to the west of Corsica famous of being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the high season this place was crowded with tourist but should yet be quite pleasant in May.

At noon the church bells of Rapallo started counting for our departure from the Porto Carlo Riva marina towards Porto, around 130 nautical miles from Rapallo. I was to remove the mooring line. Before that I had short negotiation with a boy who had already for some time travelled around the quay yelling “Fresh Fruit”. He was trying to sell his mother’s garden products. At least that was what he claimed with perfect English. Without demur, I handed him one five-euro note against tasty looking fruit selection basket. But I should have known better.

“S/Y Sunride”, 9.75 m Bènèteau Oceanis 320, is only slightly modified but otherwise well equipped for longer transitions. The boat is build in 1988 and initially purchased by Joost Van Emst for their third boat. Masthead sloop rig, single swept back spreaders and aluminium Isomat spars with stainless steel standing rigging. Nice head sail furler with 130% genoa, Elvstrom Dacron full size main with two rigged reefs, spinnaker as well as mandatory spare main and genoa. All control lines are naturally fed back to the cockpit winches for ease of handling. The vessel is powered by Volvo Penta D1-30F 3 cylinder 29 hp, fresh water-cooled, diesel engine and shaft driven three-bladed prop. Joost claimed that the fuel consumption at 2000 rpm is 2 litres per hour giving approximate range of 125 nautical miles with 50 litres fuel tank. I addition to forward-looking chart table, well equipped galley and saloon there are two main cabins, one master aft and a larger than average double v berth in the fore peak. I concluded it was a relatively small but agile boat with displacement of 4000 kg and maximum draught 1.40 m.

The roller slowly gained length and size. The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1,500 m but here at the Ligurian Sea it reaches a maximum depth of more than 2,850 m northwest of Corsica. Soon open sea and Raymarine autopilot did lull us enjoy this a part of the Mediterranean Sea positioned between the northwestern coast of Italy, the southeastern coast of France, and to the north of the islands of Corsica and Elba. Moderate rear wind of 7 m/s took us towards the south. Like before but especially now we noticed how much garbage there is in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s just astonishing that people do not care about the cleanliness of the environment. Practically none should ever thrown overboard anything but items one are expected to be edible. Everything else should be kept onboard for proper disposal. It sounds like really obvious for all of us but the reality claims opposite. Looking some plastic wrappings slipping past the boat I came to think of the huge gyre of marine debris in the central North Pacific Ocean and in the Atlantic Ocean. One time during the seventies a man from Council of British Plastics Federation seriously stated that “Plastics litter is a very small proportion of all litter and causes no harm to the environment except as an eyesore.” Thank God, our awareness of environmental conservation has stepped forward since those days. But during back then already, that is over thirty years ago, it was discovered that large amounts of such debris was floating in parts of the Ligurian Sea.

Carrie was preparing lunch and I offered help. Carrie Van Emst nee Carrie Fingerwood, a farmer’s daughter from Surrey England, was a woman of good looks even in her mid sixties. Her strong dark brown hair had nice shades of grey that made it shine lighter in the sun light. The recipe reminded me of Fasolada, Greek Bean Soup, though being something else. It was served as a light meal with some salad and bread. I especially enjoyed the fresh-baked bread, from Rapallo, as long as that was still available. Ciabatta is actually one type of Italian white bread originating from Liguria. We enjoyed the lunch along with discussing about Tom Neale who had during fifties and sixties stayed alone on the island of Anchorage in the Suwarrow atoll, five hundred and thirteen miles north of Rarotonga, enjoying his dream of isolated life. Neale wrote and become popular along his autobiography “An Island To Oneself”, describing his first stay period. He spend total of sixteen years, in three periods, on that tiny island. True islomaniac, I would say.

I thought the fruit basket would add nice dessert and decided we could enjoy all else but the peaches. Since they should be consumed during the evening while already moored. While savouring the cherry and fig, all beautiful to the eye, we found fig overripe or even ruined towards the bottom of the basket. I know, I should have picked the fruit up from Rapallo market instead of relying on the little Mafioso. The peaches were all right, though. Following the classic way I would then later slice the peach into a glass for each and pour them full with white wine. Eating peach slices with the tip of my Laguiole knife was last I had in my mind before the wind dropped altogether.

Joost soon started the engine and while it was humming away I had a bite of Joseph Heller’s book “Catch-22”. Though being partly novel the satire fascinated me. Location for the events is a small island of Pianosa, an island situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The fifth largest among the 7 islands of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park since 1996 with a surface area of 10.3 kilometers squared and a coastal perimeter of about 18 kilometres. A special permit issued at the direction of the National Park is required for anyone willing to visit Pianosa. The old maximum-security penitentiary of the island was established during mid-nineteenth century. Towards the end of century the island became a destination for convicts suffering from tuberculosis. There is just one restaurant and a museum that presents past history of the guards and convicts living on this rare wildlife sanctuary. The atmosphere is said to be extraordinary peaceful due to lacking any modern tourist attractions as well-being practically uninhabited. As Heller mentions in the epigraph that Pianosa is too small to accommodate all the action of “Catch-22” and the 256th squadron of the Army Air Forces. We know the island of Pianosa did never have an U.S. Air Force base though it would most likely have been pretty good location. It’s the artistic freedom that rules.

Among being just a crazy book full of crazy people in a full crazy world, it is most famous of presenting the “Catch-22” concept for common use. “Catch-22” is describing a no win situation with a difficult circumstances, a vicious circle, a paradoxical law, from which there is no escape because of dependent conditions. The main character is John Yossarian, a 28-year-old bombardier and a captain in the U.S. Fighting 256th Squadron. An anti-heroic person lying in a military hospital nursing a liver illness that he using to keep from flying missions bombing enemy positions in Italy and eastern France.

Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. “Is Orr crazy?”
“He sure is,” Doc Daneeka said.
“Can you ground him?”
“I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That’s part of the rule.”
“Then why doesn’t he ask you to?”
“Because he’s crazy,” Doc Daneeka said. “He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he’s had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to.”
“That’s all he has to do to be grounded?”
“That’s all. Let him ask me.”
“And then you can ground him?” Yossarian asked.
“No. Then I can’t ground him.”
“You mean there’s a catch?”
“Sure there’s a catch,” Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”

Later the day there was practically no wind. Our captain informed that with limited motoring range it would be best to seek for close harbour and wait for proper wind. We might try small Port de Centuri west of Cape Corse. The harbour is only allowed for boats under 10 m and should be deep enough for “S/Y Sunride” though services were not to be expected. The only problem was that we would not make there before it was going to be pitch black night. Sailing into foreign harbour in the middle of the darkness is seldom suggested. It was finally decided to save fuel while drifting the night with stopped engine and navigation lights on. As we were three onboard the watch was set for four hours with eight-hour free shift. For avoiding continuous graveyard watch for one person the 16:00-20:00 shift was split in two. I started with 18:00 – 20:00 half shift for keeping an eye of Navman Chart Plotter/GPS for our position and course, Raymarine ST60+ Tridata for depth, speed, log and water temperature. Plastimo Liquid compass was also present for double checking the direction. The Raymarine VHF over chart table was silent on channel 70.

I felt anxious landing Corsica, the island that James Boswell wrote a travelogue detailing his trip there in 1765. I had read it some years back and then being given an idea of once visiting this rugged yet so beautiful island. My schedule was vague but still forcing me to return home at some point. This at least was anticipated during that time. I had not heard anything about her for over a month now. Before leaving home I did send a letter mentioning about travelling plans but no real schedules were described. And how could I have done that as I had selected the current way of moving forward? I just did not feel comfortable rushing home for empty house just yet. The shimmering heat of the Mediterranean summer was in front of us. I should definitely see Corsica, then maybe Sardinia and even Amalfi before returning 1300 km east for home.

This chapter is an example from yet unpublished volume
currently identified as "The Fast and Slow Rays"
by Yumatzuga (2011 - 2013).



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