Old Sea Dog
40 Euro taxi ride to the airport, two and a half hours flight time, collect car from the office and drive two and a half hours home to Belgium. Adventure over? Not quite…
One week later I was back in Sardinia, for a short stay of 5 days. This time with my car, my mum and my dog!
I did do a little sailing but nothing worth writing about. My Old English Sheepdog Chester seemed to enjoy himself on the boat.
A smooth sea greeted me this morning and while I motored through Golfo Aranci dolphins came to play beneath Eileen of Avoca’s bowsprit.
I managed to make a short video and published it on youtube at:
Impressed as I was with Porto Rotondo, I had planned to finish my trip in Olbia, a mere 4 hours away by boat (25 minutes by car). After checking the forecast for the next few days with the marina office, I set sail.
Three hours later, just outside the buoyed channel to Olbia harbour, I experienced my first taste of the unpredictable Sirocco winds. It had been an easy run past Punta Filasca headland into Gulfo Aranci and I was already bringing down the mainsail when Eileen shuddered as we were hit by an incredibly strong and sustained wind from the SSE. Although somewhat sheltered by the bays southern peninsula, the mainsail was not fully lowered making the next few minutes interesting to say the least.
By the time I had motored the last five miles into the port the wind had dropped to a gentle breeze and tying up against the old commercial quay proved a cinch.
I spent one night on the exposed wall (no charge) and made enquiries about extending my stay in the nearby marinas. Contrary to the information published in my pilot book, visitors are not so welcome here. I quickly concluded that Porto Rotondo was a far superior place to leave my boat and resolved to return there in the morning.
Cala di Volpe
I rounded Punta Galera, the northern tip of Isola Caprera at 10:20. Turning southeast, I kept Isolotti Monaci and the Secca delle Bisce shoals to port adjusting my heading to almost due south after passing the east cardinal marker at Secche del Cervo.
A regatta was underway several miles east of Porto Cervo but I kept close to the coastline to admire the extraordinary villas dotting the rocky shoreline. The remainder of the trip to Porto Rotondo was uneventful, I spotted a couple of dolphins in the distance, anchored briefly by a small beach just east of Cala di Volpe for a quick swim, and leisurely made my way to the marina, arriving just after 5pm.
The Costa Smeralda, developed by a consortium led by the Aga Khan in the 60s is evidently still a playground for the rich and famous, but by October only a few travel hardy German tourists remain. The good life in these parts is scheduled for July and August where prices soar. In high season expect to pay 60 to 70 Euro a night for your 6m boat. In October however, the marina fees are a bargain at 2 Euro and 28 cents a night.
Sunshine and gentle winds from the NE provided me with a beautiful day to sail through the Maddalena group of islands, where I planned to find a sheltered anchorage for the night.
I amused myself by occasionally letting go of the tiller (simulating falling overboard) and studying how the boat behaved when left to its own devices under different sail plans and trim. My conclusion is that no matter what you do with the trim, a Yarmouth 23 will keep on sailing with or without someone at the tiller. I’d been hoping that she would luff up and stay put like Robert Manry’s Tinkerbelle as recounted in his Atlantic crossing. A link to this book is provided in the Links section of the main ifno.info site.
Unfortunately, even when hove to, Eileen of Avoca sets a brisk pace. All the more reason to always use my safety harness when single-handed.
A tranquil evening was spent in Cala Garibaldi between La Maddalena and Isola Caprera in an anchorage by a disused resort. Numerous submerged rocks would make passage here risky in anything but ideal conditions.
For much of the cold night I made good time (close to 6kts) motor sailing due South, only turning South East after passing Ajaccio at 01:00 (GMT).
As daylight broke, the wind strengthened and shifted eastward, making progress uncomfortable. Rounding Le Moines, a 26m high light marking shoals extending 3 miles from the southwestern coast I made for the lee provided by Cap de Feno seeking smoother seas.
One other sailboat was visible this morning. It surfed along at frightening speed under genoa with apparent unconcern for the unsavory conditions. (I recognised this boat tied to the quay in Bonifacio and identified it as an 8m Thomson tboat (www.tboat.com)).
By midday, 25hrs after departing Calvi, I entered the fascinating port of Bonifacio, refueled**, found a free space to tie up on the southern quay and promptly went to sleep.
**Just as a matter of interest, Eileen of Avoca has a range of approximately 100M with a full tank (45 L) but I carry an extra 20 L in plastic jerry cans to top up mid route.
Of the many yachts poised to leave Calvi’s picturesque fisherman’s harbour I was the last to leave. After two days of sitting out the bad weather I was determined to make up for lost time and resolved to make Bonifacio my next port of call.
The SW wind was not favourable but with a little help from the engine (i.e. standard Mediterranean sailing), I set a course close to the coast, making considerably better time than the yachts that had left an hour or two earlier (they had headed due West under sail alone). With just enough wind to warrant putting in a reef, I set the Autohelm and settled in to relax and watch the scenery (and oddly enough, my bow fender), go by. I’d obviously forgotten to stow all my fenders.
Rather than continue lamenting the loss I decided to attempt its retrieval in a man overboard drill. I wonder what the other yachts made of my subsequent erratic maneuvers but before long I had my prize and put it to immediate good use as a backrest.
Except that the log mysteriously indicated that I was powering along at a consistent 0.0 kts. Before long this small annoyance had grown to exasperating proportions necessitating a quick stop at Girolata to investigate (see photo for the approach).
After my swim to clean the log impeller of its calcareous sea life, I had just enough time to admire the fine bay with its ancient Genovese fort overlooking a pristine beach where locals gathered to play petanque by the waterfront restaurant. In peak season the bay hosts numerous yachts but as I motored out at sunset only a handful had settled in for the night (see: http://www.go-to-corsica.com/girolata.html).
Route from UK to Italy
**Snapshot of Eileen of Avoca’s route in 2007. Note that the GPS was switched off most of the time while traveling through the Belgian and French canals.
I’d ranted in my log for many paragraphs on topics ranging from impossible work deadlines, horrendous Amsterdam traffic, long airport queues, unhelpful service desk personnel, zealous airport security staff, unannounced flight destination changes due to storm-force winds and forest fires leading to hours on a bus from hell. To save the reader from too many diatribes I’ll summarize my journey to Calvi as follows: “emotionally challenging”.
For the next two days the wind blew at Force 8 and it rained proverbial cats and dogs.