Cruising from France to Italy on a Princess 54

After 20 years of boating in the south of France, Princess owner Robert Prevezer decides to relocate to southern Italy

Sunny outlook

I had planned a lunch stop at Porto Venere, the first harbour large enough for us to take shelter in and another picturesque spot on this spectacular coastline. Sure enough, we were able to moor up, dry off, stretch our legs and enjoy an alfresco lunch on the flybridge prepared and served by my daughters.

Fortunately, the cloud lifted and the sea remained calm as we set off for our next leg, past Forte di Marme, Viareggio, Pisa and Livorno. It’s not the most exciting coastline, but the rhythm of cruising at a steady 20 knots on a completely flat sea is always a wonderfully relaxing experience.

There’s a great choice of ports on this stretch and we chose San Vincenzo for an overnight rest. This is a brand new marina with good shelter, great facilities and very friendly staff. After a long day at sea, a relaxing dinner at a simple pizzeria in town proved the perfect way to wind down.

In the morning, the sun finally came out and the wind dropped. We refuelled and set off with renewed optimism. It’s amazing what a difference the sun on your face makes. After two days of non-stop motoring, we decided to slow down and enjoy the moment.

Princess 54 from France to Italy

Leaving Beaulieu at dawn after 20 happy years

A little way down the coast, we dropped anchor at Forte Rochetta, a pretty spot under a headland, offering good shelter from the brisk northerly that had sprung up.

After an alfresco lunch and a well-earned snooze, we headed off again on a sea with a growing swell. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly conditions can change. We rescheduled our night stop to Santo Stefano on Monte Argentario, a strange but beautiful promontory, that used to be an island a mile offshore, but which is now joined to the mainland.

Again we found the staff very friendly and for the first time ever in all our Med boating, the port assistant jumped on to our boat to help my wife with the anchor line – a very kind and unexpected gesture.
We woke to glorious sunshine and enjoyed a brisk walk around the quaint harbour front of Santo Stefano. The port is divided into two distinct areas – the old port and the slightly smarter Porto Vecchio.

I admit that the night before, I accidentally brought us into the old port, failing to see Porto Vecchio. On our walk, we discovered why – it simply wasn’t there! Whatever had been there had been removed completely, presumably in preparation for the construction of a new marina, making me feel a little less stupid!

We set off and cruised around the beautiful Promontorio Argentario and then off to our next destination, past Civitavecchia to Santa Marinello. I decided to take the shorter route – as the crow flies – since the coast here is relatively flat and unexciting. Unfortunately, that meant the sea was rougher, and coupled with a brisk northerly wind, my crew again retreated inside, leaving me alone to steer us gallantly onward!

Driving a boat alone on a flybridge for hours on end is a strangely relaxing experience, even though you have to stay alert at all times. There is something almost hypnotic about being at one with the elements as the water streams past your hull accompanied by the steady thrum of the engines.

Princess 54 from France to Italy

The first sight of Gaeta, “L’Amitié’s” new home

Even so, after several hours of increasingly rough seas and strengthening winds, I’d had enough. Instead of stopping for lunch outside Santa Marinello, we pulled in to the port and tied up to shelter from the wind and enjoy the hot sunshine. Because we were a day and half behind schedule, my daughters had to head home, so we said our farewells and sent them on their way. Their contribution of tasty, healthy vegan cooking would be sorely missed!

Our stay in Santa Marinello lasted longer than expected as 36 hours of 40/50-knot winds kept us pinned in harbour. So we jumped on a high-speed train to Rome for the day to enjoy a spot of sightseeing – nobody said we had to stay on the boat every day! Here, the wind we’d been cursing a few hours earlier was suddenly a welcome ally, helping to cool the busy streets and make our day exploring this amazing city even more enjoyable.

Returning to Santa Marinello, the Meteo showed a window of relative calm, allowing us to press on towards our final destination. So with a ‘gentle’ 18 knots of northerly breeze behind us, we set off once again. The one advantage of this stiff and rather chilly north wind on our stern is that it did help us to power along faster – we easily hit 22 knots with L’Amitié riding the waves magnificently.

The extra feeling of confidence from being in a solidly built 54-footer was immensely reassuring. Although I’m sure the Princess has its limits, we never  got anywhere near them and felt very safe at all times.

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