Italy, Brindisi - checking in
After a great summer season sailing in the Adriatic, we decided that to prepare for the upcoming winter in Tunisia we needed to do some serious supermarket provisioning and there’s no place we fancy more to go food shopping than Italy. We also needed to kill some time before heading out to Greece where we should arrive at the beginning of the month to avoid wasting money on a full month of cruising tax TEPAI and only using a few days. So a quick sail across the Adriatic to Brindisi seemed to be the obvious destination as the port of entry, just a small detour from the trip to Corfu, Greece.
Plus we had read online that it was possible to dock for free alongside the town quay right in the middle of the city centre.
We decided to take our chances.
After an overnight sail from Tivat in Montenegro, we approached Brindisi just as some strong winds started wreaking havoc on what had been a very nice sail. We quickly identified the harbour entrance and slipped in close to the breakwater wall to avoid being in the way of the several cargo vessels and big ferries manoeuvring in the outer harbour. We approached the passage towards the middle harbour entrance and contacted the Harbourmaster via channel 16 on VHF.
(Our experiences in Italy tell us they like this courtesy call and after having been given a gentle slap on the wrist in Pantelleria for not having done so and having heard people complaining about being fined in Siracusa, we religiously try to call them on VHF at least once)
The call was quickly picked up by an official that asked where we wanted to proceed to, which marina and when we said we intended to go to the free town wall the guy quickly dismissed us and showed no more interest in us, and advised us it was ok for us to proceed to the narrow passage that leads to the inner harbour.
We quickly identified the town quay where 3 catamarans all in the range of 50ft were docked alongside the wall. We manoeuvred and docked easily in between two of them.
A perfect manoeuvre except for the fact there wasn’t any bollards or cleats to throw our mooring lines into, only rings laying flat on the floor and some huge decorative marble blocks. Since no one standing on the wall showed signs of willing to help creativity was called to action and in cowboy style, I had to loop one of the big blocks (luckily I had a very long line at the middle cleat and not one of the usual ones) and jump off the boat to finish tying it up. Of course once the bulk of the task was done (mid-cleat and bow in this case) some port police that were just there standing decided to give a hand with the stern line...
There we were right in front of the beautiful singe Roman column that everyone takes photos off when visiting Brindisi!
Shortly after arriving and after talking to the crews of the neighbouring catamarans we proceeded to our check-in formalities. Just a few doors down from where we had docked there was a big building for the Coast Guard so first we headed there but of course, that would have been too easy, and this was not the right place but after a couple of attempts talking with a few officers one that spoke good enough English managed to explain to us where to go, even coming to the front door so he could point exactly where we need to go.
It was quite easy, this building was in the corner of the street and on the opposite side of that intersection was the cruising terminal and that’s where formalities were to be processed.
We quickly went to the gated pointed to the officer and there we had to show our ID explain again what were we up to and the security lady pointed us to another building inside a gated area, that could be seen in the distance, through what looked like a tunnel/Galeria, quite a dirty and dark place. We walked towards that building that had a big sign saying entry facing us. One would think that would be the entry as we did but after entering and knocking at the door we were told by the officer that opened the door that what we were looking for was actually on the side of the building on what it looked like a staff entrance.
These are the shenanigans we are used to so we figured we were getting close to our goal.
We went to this door on the side of the building, entered the room and found a small lobby with one armoured door on each side and an empty reception counter in front of us. We rang the bell on each door and waited. No answer.
Then after another attempt, an officer that had clearly been having the snooze of his life came to the door. After explaining what we were there for he asked us to wait he needed to call his colleague to come (apparently they were in the commercial port doing formalities for one of the cargo vessels), we waited and waited and eventually a car from the police arrived with a few officers that immediately rushed us in and took care of our papers super fast and showing great enthusiasm with Johns Australian passport.
After all this we went quickly to the Coast Guard office just on the floor above the security gate to inform them of our whereabouts and confirm they didn’t want us to make the Costituto*, we had planned to stay just a few days before leaving to Greece. After reassuring them that we were indeed going to Greece directly without visiting any other Italian ports they were ok with us not doing the Costituto*.
With all this sorted the priority was to fill the colder section of the main fridge with Italian cheese and some prosciutto for John.
The following morning we woke up to workers offloading fences and installing them all along the town quay blocking our path. Shortly after the Coast Guard came to let us all know that we needed to move because the following morning the Red Bull speed boat races were to take place right there and for safety reasons, we couldn’t be there. The problem was that all marinas were already full and there was no other place to go.
Big pain in the backside because it was still too soon for us to depart for Greece.
A bit of discussion with the Coast Guard a few phone calls from their side to ensure there wasn’t place for us and eventually they found a solution. We could tie up for free during the race days in one of the shipyards haul out berths..., a very inconvenient location and condition but then again if we anchored in the outer harbour close to the ruins although forbidden to do so no one would annoy us and we would still be protected from the weather, so we decided to go anchor out.
Maybe it was karma but during the two days of the race, the weather was crappy and with strongish winds that didn’t allow the race to proceed as planned.
By Monday we were back to our spot on the town quay and a few days after that we depart to Greece, with a boat full of cheese.
The following week after we left that entire section of Brindisi had to be evacuated because an unexploded World War II bomb was found in a building under renovations!
*Costituto - Arrival document issue to non-Schenghen flagged vessels in Italian waters
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community. In this post you can find information regarding check in and out procedures with location for the Coast Guard, Immigration