Italian Job Part 2
Italian Job Part 2
That was how the job continued. Right through March and April we chugged down the coast of Italy, gathering data. It's a beautiful coastline and we spent days here and there just visiting little islands and chilling out. Tremeti island is truly beautiful and we spent half a day on the top after climbing the very steep steps up to it. We tied up in little ports every evening and went off to a hotel. People would pay good money to have the life we were leading. We visited Pescara, Termoli, Vieste, Barletta, Bari, Brindisi and lots of other little ports. We spent the month of May surveying in the region of Otranto, situated at the back of the heel of Italy.
Then in late May the Italian rep received a phone call and when he came back to our work area he was grinning all over his face. 'Recover the equipment,' he said. Henk was astounded. 'It's only one o'clock,' he said. 'Why?'
'Recover and I will tell you.' We lost no time in getting our gear inboard and went into the messroom.
'There has been a change in our parliament,' he stated. 'Our Minister of Environment has been replaced. The new Minister does not know what we are doing, so he has told us to go to Brindisi to await instructions.' On our way to Brindisi there were many phone calls back and forth. The Italians were in a fever of excitement as they 'd been told they could go home as it would be at least a week before decisions were made about our future. The Dutch boys were also in touch with their office and they were going as well. I was happy to stay in Brindisi on full pay doing the tourist bit. I stayed in hotels some nights and others I stayed on board as there was now plenty of room. One week dragged into two, then two into three. I had a call from home to tell me there had been a bereavement in the family, so I left to attend the funeral. After a week at home my agent rang me with instructions to go back to Brindisi. He was sending a Dutch guy out with me as the ship we'd been using had a new charter and we'd have to fit our equipment on a different vessel. I met Jan when I got to Brindisi and we spent a few days transferring the gear. It was all very relaxed as there was still no word from the Government. Jan and I spent our days walking around Brindisi or going to the beach. Three weeks later our old Italian rep turned up. The news was that this part of the survey was deemed to be finished. We would have to take the equipment off the new ship and load up a truck to take it to a new ship in Messina, Sicily. While the truck was making the trip we would all pile in the car that he'd hired and we'd drive across Italy to the ferry to Messina. No problem.
The drive across Italy was great. The roads were mostly secondary ones, we didn't see a motorway at all, and once we'd escaped the frantic motorists in the city, it was very relaxed.
The ferry across the Straits of Messina was uneventful, although we did see fishing boats trying to catch swordfish. These boats, called Passarelle, have very tall towers built on them where a man stands to spot the swordfish, then directs the skipper to the location. On a large platform jutting out over the bows stand the men with harpoons, ready to spear the fish. Our ship was waiting for us in Messina and we relaxed while waiting for the truckful of equipment. A day later we started fitting the ship and more survey crew arrived from Holland. Once we'd got our professors aboard we were ready to sail and I felt a change in atmosphere as there now seemed to be a sense of urgency to get the job finished. We went back across the Straits and worked up into the bay between the heel and toe of Italy. Right up the coast to Taranto. From Taranto we covered the coast around the instep and down to the toe of the country. We didn't call into any ports and the work progressed around the clock, confirming my suspicions that the job had become urgent and the end was in sight. The Posidonia was not so plentiful on this side of the country. Once we had crossed back over to Sicily and done a little work in the Straits we were told to proceed to Messina and de-commission. It's amazing how cheerful everyone becomes when a ship is being de-commissioned. Tasks which before seemed boring and difficult now seem to be easy and they're done with great enthusiasm. It didn't take us long to strip the ship and before we knew it, we were sitting in a hotel in Reggio Calabria, with a flight home booked for the following day. This truly had been the best job I'd ever had, both in monetary terms, and in the knowledge I'd gained of Italy, its countryside and its people.
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