My return to the office saw the electrical specialist leafing through brochures of batteries, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he had promised to return to Hejira 3 hours before. The news was depressing, the nearest battery to my specification was listed at costing over 1000 Euros each and dimensionally longer necessitating modifications to the battery bay to accommodate them. When I grimaced at the price he confidently suggested that the elusive Alessandro could ring and get a better price. Well, he did eventually, he gave me a 10% discount and added 20% VAT !
So the deal was struck at 3,300 Euros (very generous I was assured) and the order was placed to arrive the following morning.
I have to say that, to mitigate a compromise to my whole summer cruise, I am happy to pay what it costs and I am relieved that I should be back on track, albeit having consumed the slack I had in my schedule to allow for slow light wind sailing.
Unable to really do anything else and to assuage my frustration, I ventured ashore that evening intent on finding a decent beer. What an amazing discovery to find a micro-brewery/pub/bar just at the end of the dock. They served a pint of very acceptable IPA and a curious pasty thing in the shape of a skull…. There was a choice of fillings and I chose the one claiming to be ‘goulash’. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either and eating a skull was not particularly inviting; I think they need to re-appraise their product and marketing.
Wednesday morning and after another good night’s sleep I was champing at the bit to get things sorted. When I had no news by lunch time, I made a visit to the office and I was assured that the batteries were on their way, would arrive in the afternoon and they then successfully plundered my card for the full amount.
Thinking that a visit to the supermarket would be prudent, I tried to find the one I remembered in the Marina. Such is the level of deterioration in the Marina that the supermarket and even the MacDonald’s have shut. Asking at the first bar outside the marina confines, the helpful proprietor was just leaving and offered to drive me to the supermarket over a mile away. He cautioned me to stay on the main road on my walk back and not cut through Ostia, a maze of seedy apartment blocks where he said it was unsafe due to gangs, the mafia and gypsies, robberies and murder were apparently regular occurrences. He blamed the Marina problems on the mafia but suggested it was improving. I was charged 65.50 Euros a night for the berth and there were no seats on the toilets – I think that is a form of robbery !
My wait was also punctuated by the arrival of two charming officials from the ‘Guardia di Finanza’ who had mistaken Hejira’s defaced RVYC (Royal Victoria Yacht Club) special ensign as that of a dodgy offshore country flag of convenience. Checking the rules for flying the special RVYC ensign when abroad, there is the following recommendation – ‘Foreign Cruises: When cruising in Foreign waters a Yacht for which a permit to wear a Special Ensign has been issued should take care to avoid any action which might result in complications with a Foreign Power’. – was this a complication? Checking my paperwork and filling out copious forms convinced them that Hejira is British registered, VAT paid and currently has EU rights of passage. I dread to think what will happen if we Brexit. The officials were actually most courteous but refused a photo for the blog citing ‘National Security’!
I am very aware that the battery saga has been going on a bit and anyone who has stuck with it is probably glazing over by now, so, suffice it to say that the batteries arrived, the wrong capacity, the wrong terminals and doubtful spec. They apologised for the mistake and offered to replace them but it would take some time. With some adjustments and compromises I have made do with what they supplied but I think I have been royally shafted! Maybe the mafia still have a hold over the marina after all – they are known for extortion.
It is 275 miles from here to the Straits of Messina between the toe of Italy and Sicily and I am anxious to tackle it in the light. Not only is there heavy shipping, ferries and fishing boats, there are currents and strong winds between the mountains so I will need my wits about me. At an average pace, it will take 55 hours to get there so I am planning to leave at 06.00 tomorrow, Thursday.