#24 A change of scene – To Viareggio, and away

After the washout in Saint Tropez, we took Sincerity back to Cannes, where she was to be used in a film conference for screening and meetings. Needless to say, we were thrilled. ahem

Cannes had been hit hard by the bad weather, and the streets were full of deep mud and upturned vehicles, a testament to the strength of flooding that they had experienced. As I hiked the town on my usual hardware-store expeditions, I was shocked by the extent of the damage.

I actually found this on the street in Cannes

It was much quieter this time, without the boat crews filling up the bars, but the J-class Shamrock V was still around, and they helped me though the dark conference days with a few casual pub inspections.

On we sailed, with a new deckhand on board, inching closer to Italy. We stopped briefly again in Ville-Franche-Sur-Mer, where I spent a lovely morning contorted inside the chain locker dismantling and repairing a rather heavy windlass motor above my head. There’s nothing like showering in hydraulic fluid to get you fresh and primed for the day ahead.

mad skies near Viareggio

Imperia followed, albeit briefly, and then we were off on the final leg of our journey. We tried to impress the importance of our long Caribbean/Greenlandic voyage upon our young deckhand, but I think his geography was limited to the Med, and he seemed nonplussed. However, the winches gleamed, so we convinced him to stay a little longer – our empty promises of valuable experience and a good reference apparently made up for the lack of actual money. After a fairly uneventful passage, we chugged over a worryingly shallow sand bar into the port of Viareggio, made fast our lines, and navigated swiftly by foot to a regular bar, stopping only for a quick pizza en route, just to get acclimatised.

I adopted an abandoned bike (again) and (after a few hasty repairs) pedaled out of town, through avenues of poplar trees and along the beach, getting my bearings. It was all terribly Italian, and all the only thing missing was some dark-haired long-legged nymph to sit on the handlebars and laugh merrily into the wind. Instead, I came back to the boat to find an oily German and a sweaty Antiguan – my loyal crew, working hard to get the generator out of the boat, as one of the first stages of the planned refit.

Over the next week we dismantled the engine room and most of the systems on board, with only a minimal amount of electrocution and dangerous heavy lifting operations. We realized that nobody in Italy speaks English or particularly wants to help you (this is unfair and not true – quite a few people were really wonderfully kind to us), and that a Perini Navi yard is possibly not the best place for a Classic Yacht trying to do an independent refit. I bought some expensive shoes that fell apart and blew the tyres on my bike.

Viareggio’s best angle (looking away from it)

When the owner returned to oversee the project, I skedaddled to the UK – it had been many months since I had been back, and even the prospect of drizzle and constant conversation about drizzle could not put me off the idea of the homeland.


England happened for a few weeks. I spent some time with some of the best people. It was great.

Then I went and spent a few weeks some of the other best people in a lovely quiet river that seems to draw me back to it again and again. This was great too.

After a lot of sea miles (about 9000, since the Caribbean) and a lot of responsibility, some rest and recuperation and some cake and G&Ts were exactly what I needed. Morning walks up the valley before the sun burns off the mist of the night, and days spent canoeing and digging vegetable patches, visiting friends and daydreaming.

Options were endless and open – and in its mysterious way, the next chapter of the adventure was beginning to take shape in the steam from the teapot (This only works with well-brewed Earl Grey, mind).

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