Before the weather really turned ugly we ran the gauntlet and headed 50NM north to Pisa. The wind was light and variable and the sea state ok, with about 1m of swell. But as we arrived at Pisa Marina I was a little surprised by how swell really heaped up around the entrance, forming 1.5m waves with really a short wave length. This made entering the marina tricky as we had to surf down the waves into the very narrow entrance, before having to steer though a chicane arrangement of breakwaters to entering the marina proper.
If you are sailing in this area its worth noting that the Tuscan coast of Italy has very few anchorages and you need to use marinas, of which there are a decent number. But they are all very exposed to wind from the west and I could find little information on real life experience in entering them during adverse conditions.
From our experience there is no way you could enter Pisa marina in winds above 20 knots from the west. Extreme caution would be required. On the flip side if you are in the marina, you will not get out again until conditions moderate.
By our second day in Pisa the weather had turned. We needed a bit more diesel and due to the bad weather there were power issues, but luckily I bumped into Lyssandra Barbieri who took me to the nearest gas station to fill up my jerry cans. Turned out Lyssandra is the principal instructor of Second Star Sailing, the only RYA endorsed sailing school in Italy. She confirmed my suspicions relating to entering Pisa in bad weather. Her words were “done that, it was scary and I won’t do it again”. 10NM down the coast is the port of Livorno. It’s not an attractive place, but Lyssandra said you could pretty much get in there in any conditions. Skippers take note.
The marina at Pisa, known as “Marina del Pisa” is new and an easy place to hang out with all facilities you could imagine. The town around it reminded me of a 1950’s English sea-side resort, a bit run down but with an eclectic mix of people. Think fish & chips, plastic chairs and very average beaches. It is an odd place, but it had the best and cheapest ice creams in the entire Med, and lets face it, what else do you really need. It’s only a short bus ride from just outside the marina to Pisa, which, is why you’ve come here.
Pisa is a great place to explore. Lots to do, great buildings and architecture, amazing shopping and of course the leaning tower. We spent a day mooching around and took the obligatory photos in front of the tower. Helen had been warned that the site of the tower wasn’t that impressive and a bit underwhelming, but I think we all found it quite the opposite. The whole cathedral square called the plaza del Duomo is superb. Rather than going inside the cathedral, or climbing the tower we opted to sit on the grass and soak it all up.
After spending a delightful day looking around Pisa, we headed back to Vega to find that our holding tank was blocked. I managed to fix it but that’s another, very messy, story!