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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Things that go bump in the night

During our five seasons sailing the Med we’ve heard plenty of stories of runaway yachts and yes, to our embarrassment Bandit did drag in windy conditions in the Greek Peloponnese. 
Chastened by the experience, we always set the anchor well, put out plenty of chain but still always sleep with one ear open.
So when we heard and felt a thud during a night blow in Le Grazie (mainland Italy) we were up on deck in seconds to find a blue boat snuggling up rather too cosily to Bandit’s stern. 
The wind was screeching down the valley, it was pitch black and with boats swinging it was impossible to decide just who was dragging.  Shining a torch and yelling didn’t raise anyone on the blue boat so we decided to get the hell out of there.
Conditions meant it was impossible for us to board it so we just hoped it was okay.
Next day we were relieved to see it had only dragged into shallower water – definitely a case of it being on the move, not us.

David and Ping barbecuing in Le Grazie

Le Grazie is a gorgeous Italian seaside town on the western shores of the Bay of La Spezia.
We first came to La Spezia in 2004 to join the classic schooner Aschanti for a trip that would take us to the south coast of France, the Balearics, Gibraltar, the Canaries and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
A year later we rejoined Aschanti as permanent crew and after a season in the Caribbean returned to the Med and La Spezia, which was Aschanti’s home port.
There was a real sense of déjà vu as we re-explored the town, finding old haunts and meeting up with friends.
Le Grazie is about the only good anchorage in the bay of La Spezia – home to a huge naval port and endless shipyards and marinas.  We did ask the price at one marina when we refuelled and left laughing when they quoted 132 euros – for one night (excluding fuel).

A spot of varnishing

These night time blows were a feature of Le Grazie - tiring and, on one occasion, downright embarrassing.
This time it was us dragging – mainly because there was a marine festival on and so many boats in the bay that we simply could not put out enough chain.
As the gusts intensified to 50knots our GPS alarm went off and we leapt out of bed and up on deck – me thoughtfully grabbing a jacket as I ran past the hanging locker.
Conditions were awful – driving rain, sheet lightning, howling winds and boats dragging all over the bay.
As David powered the engine into life I pulled up the anchor trying to keep a lookout for other boats. I saw one coming sideways towards us and turned to shout a warning to David just as the lightning lit up the nighttime sky.  He was standing in the cockpit stark naked – illuminated for all the world (well the entire bay of Le Grazie) to see.
I couldn’t laugh – this was a serious situation – but afterwards, when we were safely anchored further out, we both had tears rolling down our faces especially as I recalled the looks of those on the other boats – all fully dressed in wet weather gear.  Just how they had the time to be so well prepared I don’t know.

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