In the interests of brevity, I won’t bore you with the details of the weeks around Northern Sardinia, suffice to say that a certain amount of sailing, swimming, lazing about and reading were involved!
We gradually made our way round the staggeringly beautiful coast of Northern Sardinia, hugging the Costa S’Emrelda like a long lost friend!
We saw some big motor yachts ( and, by contrast, an old schooner) and plenty of celebrity look-a-likes, but not Orlando Bloom and Katie Perry who were reported to be there! (‘Who?’, asks Ian.) Budgie smugglers bountiful, though, for added entertainment.
We arrived in Liscia delle Saline near Olbia, in the late afternoon. The Tavolara island’s imposing granite table top providing a stunning backdrop.
No one else was in the entire bay! Why???? It was shallow, sandy bottomed and gradually rising to the beach in a most accommodating fashion. Why was nobody else here? We ignored the nagging doubts and anchored anyway. We jumped in the crystal blue waters and swam to the anchor. Beautifully embedded. We sat down in the cockpit to dry off and have a glass of vino when we noticed the planes landing and taking off from Olbia airport, literally a couple of miles away! Oh well!
From here, we tried to suss out a bus to the airport for me. We ended up dinghy-ing to the beach, walking miles and met with a modicum of success. In the end, we decided to go into Olbia Harbour. Although it is a good three miles down the bay to the Town Quay we were hopeful that we could park there for free. In this way, Ian could drop me off and pick up David and Angela in one swift movement.
This we duly did. However, the usual shenanigans occurred.
First, we arrived at the quay and pulled up alongside in a very deft manoeuvre to see signs on the bollards announcing that the quay was to be kept free. On further inquiry it appeared that a very smart, luxury yacht was taking preference for the space.
We anchored out in the harbour. Once the yacht had arrived we went alongside.
I radioed the coast guard to ask permission. I was told to take my documents to the office.
I went – it was shut.
I set off early the next day – already it was exceptionally warm. The men on the door of the coast guards office by the quay told me to go to the head office of the coast guard right at the bottom of the mole. I walked the mile involved, crossed a huge car park went to one office, was redirected, went out through passport control, in through another door, up a flight of stairs and into a tiny office on the second floor of a circular tower at the end of the mole in the heart of the commercial traffic area.
I exclaimed in my appalling Italian that the office was very difficult to find, which, on reflection perhaps wasn’t the best start to the ensuing conversation (nevertheless, true!) and was met with blank stares.
I battled on; ‘I am on the sailing yacht Linea, I arrived on the town quay yesterday evening and have come to show you my documents as requested.’
The rejoinder was an immediate ‘Perche?’ And a wholly Italian shrug of the shoulders.
It would seem that these coast guards have far more important things to be doing than taking details of small, private sail boats on the town quay. I was sent away!
At 1800 hrs the same evening, two coast guards, smartly dressed as always, appeared by the boat demanding to see my documents and to be given a form and tax docket! Available from a nearby tabacchi!
I filled in the form, bought the docket (16€) and returned it to the gentlemen. They said it is possible to stay for three days and after that to move on. Perfect for us – minus a day. Ian would have to hide in the evening when the coast guards make their customary daily checks! We had time to wander around lovely Olbia and do various jobs before I shot back to UK leaving Ian all alone.
David and Angela duly arrived and, by all accounts, a good time was had by all!
When we first set out on our adventure we had completed in-depth research and budgeting – in Ian’s style; with spreadsheets and accounts. In order to be sure we could live on our fairly shoestring budget we had carefully calculated how much we would spend on food, laundry, gas, fuel, etc. You name it, we had it covered in our budgeting. Inexplicably, and I know you’ll be amazed by this knowing of our thoroughness, we had missed out marina fees.
We set off on the first tentative leg of our journey to Gibraltar. First stop Mazagon Marina – 20 odd Euros and so on, every night until we reached Mainland Spain when in one marina we were charged 50 Euros and are still smarting at the eye-watering cost of that night in early April.
It soon became obvious to even to the non-accountants in our partnership that we would have to start anchoring more. We had anchored once, in a huge bay off Estepona, and were only emboldened to do so because our new friends (Peter and Annelise on Skadi) were also anchoring there and they gave us the confidence to have a go. We had a rolly night but it was very peaceful and a good start.
Once we arrived in Port de Soller, Mallorca and the spell of unsettled weather had cleared, Ian said that we simply had to man up! We were breaking the budget and seriously curtailing our cruising careers.
Heart in my mouth, I released the stern lines attaching us to dry land and we pootled out into the crowed bay in Port de Soller. We motored round a bit trying to pick our spot. We dropped the hook and kept a sharp look out to judge if it was holding. Once we were both happy that it seemed to have set Ian swam out to inspect the anchor. Due to the swell creeping in we thought we ought to try to set a kedge (stern) anchor so that the nose of the boat was pointing into the waves the whole night. It is all good practice I kept telling myself. High hearts rates and stress levels persisted throughout this process and through most of the night. Every time Ian or I woke up we would pop our heads up into the cockpit, meer cat style, to check that we hadn’t moved at all. Without a kedge anchor, it can be disconcerting to see that whilst you were asleep the wind has changed direction and you are now pointing at another part of the coast.
Despite the horror stories from other yachties about 40kn katabatic winds sweeping down in the night and making their boats drag their anchors, we have not been put off. We persevered and have had no problems even in quite strong winds which all goes towards developing our confidence.
One of the most reassuring technical apparatus we have is the anchor watch which sets off an alarm should we move away from the spot where we dropped the anchor. We use the one on the computer and sometimes double up with an App that Ian has on his phone, called Drag Queen.
On a few occasions the alarms have gone off and we both leap out of bed to go and see what’s happening. It takes a while for the heart rate to settle down and to go back to the land of nod after that, I can tell you.
We have watched the parking techniques of many a yacht by now and have developed our own ways of doing things so that, touch wood, we have not yet dragged the anchor in any major way.
We drive into a bay GPS showing a clear map of the depths and our position. We pick our general spot and Ian drives in and makes a slow and deliberate circle around the edges of where we think will be the best spot to drop the anchor. In this way, we can be sure we have enough depth around the circumference of our swinging circle once the chain is out. As soon as we have done the circling round, we head into the wind and the epicenter of the circle we have just drawn.
I have already untied the anchor and it is poised on the brink ready for speedy deployment. Ian indicates with our agreed hand signal and I let the anchor drop as we coast to a stop. Whilst the first 10m falls to the sea bed Ian goes down below to set the anchor watch. As he appears back up in the cockpit I am ready to let more chain out, as we gently drift backwards on the wind. Depending on the depth and the strength of the wind and other boats/obstacles around us, we let out what we think is the right amount of chain. Usually this works out at four times the depth but, the more the merrier. Ten times the depth is usual in strong winds.
Since we departed we have now spent 117 nights at anchor, alongside a town quay or sailing overnight, out of 200 nights away. The strongest winds we have experienced at anchor have been about 30 knots. The deepest water 11m.
AND, oddly, we have begun to really enjoy the anchoring experience. No fenders to put out, no lines to prepare, no stress of parking in a tight spot in howling winds with lazy lines to snag on and sharp parts of other boats to prang! The slight downside is that it’s a bit more effort and coordination to get to the shore.
On balance, the cooler air out in the bay and the extra privacy, not to mention the grandstand view of all that is going on around you, more than makes up for the inconvenience.
Plus, I ought to make a special mention about the male Italian (European?) fashion habit of wearing skimpy swimming trunks when out and about on the water. In common parlance amongst us Northern folk, these small items of apparel are known as ‘budgie smugglers’; an inference to the total lack of imagination needed as to the lumpy contents of said trunks. There is also penchant for fluorescent versions which are even more eye-catching than normal. What is even more amazing for us prudish Yorkshire folk…these chaps think nothing of walking about on land dressed like this. When I say dressed, that is hardly the right word for such scant clothing. It does make for the most entertaining people watching and when we are with David Heane, he can be heard saying ‘BUDGIE AND SMUGGLER’ repeatedly in a loud stage whisper. The delivery being a definitive and emphatic exclamation of his amazement at their bare-faced cheek!
Technical detail for my brother; just so he knows.
We have a 25kg Delta anchor on the bow attached to 50m of 10mm galvanised and calibrated chain (soon to be 100m) due to deeper anchorages in Greece.
The kedge anchor is a Danforth anchor at the stern with 10m of 10mm galvanised chain and 50m thick nylon warp.
The front anchor is deployed using a LOFRANS TIGRESS 1000 Watt anchor windlass with a remote control with wires or wireless remote control.
What’s that noise?
It’s tins sliding in the lockers;
The mast creaking at its base;
The headsail sheet a-clanging;
Wind whistling, as we gain pace.
It’s the bilge pump pumping water
From the gap beneath the floor.
The sound of wood a-knocking;
Someone’s not pinned back a door.
It’s the loose lines that are clanking,
They just need pulling tight.
The turbine making ‘lectric
That we need to power our lights.
It’s the engines and the thrusters
And the noisy anchor chains
Of other boats around us
That are causing you dismay.
It’s the whistle of the kettle
Saying it’s time to make a brew.
It’s the chugging auto pilot
As it does the work for you.
It’s the fish nibbling at the hull,
The coral crackling below.
The large blue straps vibrating,
On the dinghy; don’t you know?
It’s the radio that has static
when there’s much chatter between
Boat owners and marinas,
And more sailors, yet unseen.
It’s water coming from t’engine
That’s cooling it as we drive.
It’s good to hear that splashing
‘coz the impeller’s alive.
It’s children shrieking on the beach
People having such a lark,
I wonder why they choose to be
Where we decide to park?
It’s the Man Over Board alarm,
It alerts me if you fall,
And the smoke alarm detects
Vapours that are abnormaal.
It’s the breathing of the dolphins
As they come along to play.
Your screams, clicks and shouts of glee
mean you scare them far away
It’s ‘Drag Queen’, the anchor alarm
making noise that’ll wake the dead.
It’s just as well; we’ll hear it!
When we are asleep in bed!
So safe to say, no worries,
noises are quite the norm
As we get used to Linea;
She’ll care for us in a storm!
We have moved our 12 ton home 155 miles south-east to Sicily. Our first night passage with just the two of us on-board, it was a perfect trip, a little motoring but lots of sailing and dolphins to greet us on arrival. Of course we had a great team supporting us, Madonna, Bruce and a little Elvis to keep our toes tapping, Pedro the autopilot did a big turn on the helm, and Geneveave the Genaker kept us moving along in the lightest of winds. The next big question to resolve; is 11am too early for wine?
On Sunday 17th July we sailed to Porto Conte to the north west and tacked pleasantly along in 12 knots of wind. We arrived at the anchorage, after some initial confusion with interpreting the wording in the pilot guide, and decided to do what others were doing and anchor in 6-8m over sand and weed with our conventional anchor. Apparently, ‘autonomous anchoring’ is only permitted if you have a Sardinian stone anchor’.
We took the dinghy to the shore and had a good walk up the track, cutting into the headland like a gash, to the head of the steps that lead down to Neptune’s cave. However, the entry fee – €13 (and the thought of 762 steps, down and then back up again) convinced us to simply take in the views and then walk back down to the dinghy.
Having built up a suitable appetite to do justice to chicken, seriously garlicky creamy potatoes, courgette and carrot ribbons, we wolfed down our tea and the had our first game of chess. Stalemate!
Leaving Cala del Bolo be-times on Monday morning, we motored out of the dead calm bay to staggering views of the Capo do Caccia (Hunters’ Cape – where oddly, hunting is not allowed) looming overhead as we passed. The opening angle revealing a perfect hole in the rock half way up the cliff.
Just as we were marvelling at the formation of rock and wondering how the radio beacon managed to be balanced so precisely on the edge of the precipice, rather like a golf ball on a tee, when Ian suddenly slowed the engine and swerved to avoid an uncharted rock. On closer inspection, as we drifted by, with it inches from our starboard beam, it appeared to be a huge log!
Ian circled round and I grabbed the boat hook. We glided by and I prodded the ‘log’. Ah ha! Lava! It seems that there are large chunks of volcanic rock floating about in this part of the Med. Like icebergs in the North Atlantic. Hopefully, they would only afford us only a glancing blow as they are clearly very light and buoyant, despite their size.
On this course around North Sardinia, there is a huge promontory that adds 25 miles to your journey unless you take the Fornelli Passage. A very narrow and shallow channel between Asinara Island to the north and rocky island outcrops to the south. Here, you need to position yourself at the correct entry point out in the bay and steer towards two towers that must be in line one behind the other. You continue to head straight for these towers (and the shore!) until you spot two behind you that are aligned, and then you can turn right, keeping the two stern towers in line behind you. We negotiated the passage in fine weather and clear water so there was no problem at all. In unsettled weather vessels have to go round the long way.
We continued without incident and anchored in Stintino Bay in the late afternoon sun.
We kayaked into Stintino town and had a wander round. The walls of house s in the old town are adorned with enlarged photographs of the tuna fishermen of the town from days gone by. The industry is now defunct for various reasons but, as these amazing images show, the genti di tonnari were hardy folk from a bygone era. All cloth caps, long sleeved shirts, high-waisted trousers and rugged, weather beaten faces. If it weren’t for the fact that they invariably had bare feet, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were Yorkshire Farmers.
The pics showed tough fishermen lugging huge tuna from the boats, heaving boats up on to the shore, pushing barrows of filleted tuna to the market. In one group photo which the photographer was trying to stage, things had clearly gone very Sardinian. There were men dangling on each other and laughing, men gesticulating at each other to make a point mid conversation, men grinning, oafish at the camera, men looking the other way, men having conversations with characters beyond the limits of the scene. The whole picture looked like a community of people used to working with and trusting each other on a daily basis.
Interestingly, none of the men seemed to be sickening for a good feed. Some of them were almost portly. How wonderful it would be to meet them now. I wonder what these hardy folk would have made of bikinis, sun bathing, quay side restaurants, up to date weather forecasts and mobile phone obsessions!
Setting off from Stintino we motor-sailed most of the way to Isola Rossa, our next port of call. A pretty village and holiday development with a new marina and breakwater offering good shelter to anchor. We anchored among five other yachts and three cats plus a few day motor boats.
The holding was good and we had a great night’s sleep. next morning we srt off for a long kayak ride across to this incredible beach.
We decided to stay an extra day to explore and in order to find wifi, which we did at the Coccodrillus Restaurante. We spent most of the afternoon and early evening there, had supper on board and started our first chess lesson from a book of How to Play Chess! Fiendish game!
Latish next morning, we left for Capo Testa furthur to the East. As so often seems to be the case recently, we were heading directly into the wind. Progressing by motor sailing. We arrived and anchored. I felt sure, as noted in the pilot guide, that I was dropping the anchor on to a perfect sandy spot about two metres square. Since high winds were expected we put out nearly all our chain. We swam out to inspect it and, yes it certainly looked like sand but the anchor lay on its side and on further investigation it appeared that we had landed on a smooth rock with a covering of sand. Not much to dig into. Luckily, the weight of the chain alone seemed to do the job and the strong winds forecast weren’t due til much later.
The following morning, after great deliberation and reference to the wind reports from various locations, we decided that we would be better returning to Isola Rossa, where we knew that the holding was good and where we could head into the marina if necessary.
We had the wind behind us the whole way back. With the headsail alone we sped back in double quick time on a nice even keel. My favourite point of sail.
We anchored head to wind, pointing at the beach. Putting lots of chain out. As predicted the wind picked up at 0500hrs and we had spun right round. In the meantime, a French boat had anchored in front of us on much less chain. As we span in the night, both scribing circles round our anchors, we ended up about five metres from their bow! We rapidly pulled up some chain.
After breakfast, we thought it would be a good chance to go snorkelling on the rocks about a hundred metres from the boat. Ian had been swimming earlier and found a really good quality mask and snorkel on the sea bed so I tried it for size. Perfect fit! Off we paddled towards the jagged rocks in the distance. As soon as we had swum a mere thirty metres from the boat we realised that there were many large, unyielding and uncharted rocks lurking right below the surface! How fortunate that we hadn’t dragged our anchor or anchored any further over to the south side of the bay as we would almost certainly have hit them!
The visibility was good for snorkelling and we saw about six different varieties of fish, sea cucumbers, and many sea urchins. I dived down to pick up a green speckled shell. It was a perfect dome with a hole underneath and dot patterns vertically around from its head to its belly. There were still a few spines attached to some of the dots. These shells are the skeleton of one of the many sea urchins around here. Apparently, they are a delicacy that are an acquired taste. The effort of harvesting and preparing them must be a kind of guide as to just how much one should appreciate them.
As soon as we returned to the boat we moved across the bay (now deserted) to anchor further away from these errant rocks. We took the dinghy ashore and managed to persuade the bar man in a very nice hotel, Albergo Corrallo, to allow us to watch the Tour de France final day in Morzine. Didn’t spot you, Claire and Nick! Ooo, it did look wet!
Anyway, we returned to the boat to find that a swell of one metre was being driven into the bay. No other boats were anchored by this time. Clue! So we decided that, on balance, rather than pitching and rolling all night, we would head into the Marina Isola Rossa. What a lovely place and delightful staff. I forced myself to speak Italian and was rewarded with a mini, good-natured lesson and lots of grins.
It was incredibly hot in the marina because the high wall presented an excellent wind shield (as it should). It is probably an age thing, but I have recently discovered that the heat makes me sweat copiously. Whereas with most people this perspiration is evenly distributed throughout their entire body, with me, I seem only to perspire from my head and face! I am literally like a watering can. People could shower from me, if they turned me upside down and I’d almost certainly produce hot water! I could supply a small village with its daily water requirement; or I’d be the perfect sprinkler system for a lawn.
So, I have tried various items of apparel to combat this problem. One is to wear a cap. Another is to constantly wipe my face and head with a towel and the third, slightly less flattering option, is to wear a bandana. It was this last method that I had momentarily forgotten I’d employed when a slim, fresh faced, cool looking (as in temperature) young Canadian asked us for some help. She glanced at me as I responded to her question, clearly surprised that a yacht would have a permanent water feature on its deck and wondering what on earth a red-faced, dripping, middle-aged woman was doing on board. Realising my shocking appearance, I disappeared below to try and freshen up and cool down.
We had a good night’s sleep, although Ian managed to beat me at chess! Stupid game!
We left the safety and comfort of Isola Rossa by midday and and headed out into the bay. Before we had even put the dinghy on the back of the yacht the rain, thunder and lightening had begun!
Fantastic! Ian instructed me to put the phones, lap top and iPads into the oven! I kid you not! Apparently, this will stop them being zapped by lightning. The rain came lashing down, rivalling even my water producing qualities.
Luckily, up ahead brighter weather beckoned. We continued on, hopeful that it couldn’t last.
After all, this is the Med and it is the middle of July!