To satisfy a few requests here is a quick, top to bottom, tour of the boat..
To satisfy a few requests here is a quick, top to bottom, tour of the boat..
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!
On the Sunday we walked around the town and returned to the dinghy at about 1pm. We stopped for a chat with Andy and Denise Hurley on Comet, our acquaintances from Soller, who have lived in Pateley Bridge…so, practically from The Shire. They invited us for a drink.
‘How kind,’ we said. ‘Just the one,’ we said.
But at 2300hrs we poured ourselves into our dinghy and zigzagged our wobbly way back to Linea out in the bay. Well and truely ‘Hurley-ed’!
We spent almost an entire week anchored in the bay, thoroughly enjoying the cool winds that blew into the boat as the thermometer rose to a high of 35 degrees. One morning was spent trying to mend a leaking toilet. One day was devoted to fixing the sewing machine. One morning to fixing a leak on the impeller faceplate. You know what they say about living on a boat? It is all about sailing the seven seas, meeting interesting people and doing maintenance in exotic places!
In the harbour, we met Christopher, a local Sardinian, who is the self-appointed custodian of the Town Quay. He speaks excellent English and is clearly an Anglophile. His favourite drink is tea. (Milk, two sugars) We were assured by Christopher, and by Andy and Denise, that it was perfectly legitimate to park on the town quay and that as long as you used your own lines there would be no charge. However, there would be no services (water or electricity) either.
So, we planned to come in on the Friday so that we would be alongside when the Clements-Hunts arrived. We edged into the tight spot in the far right corner of the quay. I jumped ashore immediately to go to the coast guard office but it was closed. We thought that they might have been on a siesta so I planned to pop back later.
In the mean time a huge pantechnicon truck drove up the wide quay and gradually a whole stage set up was constructed in front of our bow. In town, posters declared that there was to be a gala with various famous Sardinians, so we were hoping for great things.
Still no sign of the coast guard.
A wicked trumpeter raised our hopes and we smiled smugly at each other. Then the compère came on stage….he was still there, waffling on half an hour later! The saving grace was a couple of numbers by an incredible tenor, who finished his (short) set with Nessum dorma, followed, after a further interminable chat, with a couple of other singer’s numbers. The sound check had proved to be more interesting than the main event. Judging by the audience’s response to the chatter, they weren’t all that impressed either! Ah well…at least it wasn’t raining, or muddy, Gillly and Stephen.
Ali, Paul and Jojo arrived on Sunday morning. It was so lovely to see them. We stocked up on provisions, went off to find a bar showing the Wimbledon Final (Yeah! What a joy to watch Andy Murrey’s high quality tennis! )
Next morning, first thing, the coast guard came to us and began asking questions. I am sorry to say that my paltry Italian wasn’t up to the job but fortunately Alison speaks it fluently.
There were lengthy and rapid discussions and finally it transpired that the coast guards office was not in the building clearly labelled ‘Coast guard’ on the quay front. We promised we would go immediately to see the officials. Our combined charms and Ali’s incredible Italian soon had Fabrizio the head coast guard smiling and joking. We were forgiven for parking in the wrong spot and had to promise to leave by 1100hrs We followed our instructions to the letter in radioing the coast guard to let them know that we had left our mooring.
We anchored back out in the bay so that we could have a bite to eat and put the dinghy back on the boat. Then by early afternoon we set sail for Bosa about thirty miles down the west coast of Sardinia.
We had a good quiet sail down there and anchored in 8 metres over sand and weed tucked in behind a huge newly built breakwater.
It was incredibly hot as the sun angled its rays right at us under the sun awning. We spent a lovely evening swimming and snorkelling around the boat. Jojo and Paul even swam over to the rocks and back. We had some nibbles with pre dinner drinks and then between us, rustled up an enormous chicken and chorizo stew.
Despite the anchor alarm going off in the night as our anchor dragged slightly through the weed, we had a comfortable night’s sleep. In the morning we took the dinghy into the town and walked for quite some time before finally finding a bin in which to chuck our rubbish. As we crossed a huge river bridge we glimpsed the surreal sight of two elephants chomping on hay, in a field beside the river. The animal circus was in town and they clearly had a wide selection of animals, including lions, tigers, giraffes and zebras.
After a cooling drink we decided to head back to the boat. A vicious maestrale wind was forecast for the back end of the week. We wanted to be tucked back in against the town quay, safe and sound against the predicted 30 knots of wind.
As we sailed north, hurrying back to Alghero, the wind increased and we we tonking along at a rakish angle with all the Clemmies taking turns at the helm. It was exhilarating. We did have time for a little keel hauling of the naughty crew members!
However, I discovered on trying to use the loo (heads) on the leeward side of the boat that the sink had been slowly siphoning water and the whole vanity area of the forward heads was awash with water. I shut the door! We’ll deal with that later, I thought.
Later on, I checked on our heads at the back of the boat to discover that they were awash with water that had been siphoning up out of the loo! The shower room was full of water. Nice! We are learning that it is important to close sea cocks when the water is washing the windows (port lights).
As previously instructed we called the Harbour Master. He allocated us a spot on the right hand side of the harbour against the Town Quay on Bha Sanita. We went to see the coast guard to double check that this was correct. He assured us that as long as we were 10 m from the corner we were absolutely fine. We settled in for the night and at 0830 hrs in the morning the coast guard was round at the boat demanding to know why on earth we were parked back here when he had expressly told us that it was an emergency area and was not to be encroached!
We explained about the 10m rule. He seemed mollified, but minutes later returned with a tape measure. Alison and Ian decided to go back to the Coast guard office and just see why there was this confusion and seeming lack of communication between members of the same team.
In typical Italian style, Ali upped the ante and became more heated in her vocabulary and her delivery. More hand waving went on and she raised her voice. Almost immediately the Fabrizzio, the head coast guard with whom we had talked on our first visit, appeared and calmed the situation. He assured us that if we moved to the spot on the east edge of Bha Doganale we could stay for an additional 5 nights with no further interference.
We prepared to move. Ian was worried about reversing out of a very tight gap between buoys and boats so I was detailed to be in the dinghy to work as a tug and pull a rope to help steer the stern round. Paul was on slip lines. Jojo on video! I tried to pull the designated rope but succeeded in giving myself a rope burn as it slipped right through my palm. Then, I tried to get round the starboard side of the boat to push it away but in a rush and a panic crashed into a yacht and the quay! I managed to turn the throttle fully and nearly tumbled out of the dinghy backwards, as my feet came off the rib bottom. After I heard myself shrieking and a gathering crowd of onlookers openly laughing at my Laurel and Hardy antics, I scooted away to pull trailing lines out of the water. A lunge to grab the rope nearly had me over the side but I recovered before that embarrassment took place.
Finally, I pushed Linea’s port side so that she neatly slotted alongside the quay in her new position. I jumped ashore, heart racing, pulse thumping and blushing from head to toe. Luckily, Jojo’s video camera had been pointing the other way.
So, the maestrale duly arrived and even in the harbour we noted wind speeds in excess of 30knots. We had a noisy night with water slapping the hull and fenders squeaking against the wall, but we were so happy to be here in the thick of the ‘passegiato’ where families stroll up and down the quay in the evening breezes. Our main activity over the next few days was people watching. Fantastic!
All too soon it was time to say farewell to the Clemmies. They are off for a week in a villa on terra firma. We slipped quietly away from the town quay, waving goodbye to Christopher, and anchored back out in the bay. (More on that another time.)
We landed back in Mallorca and jumped in a cab to take us back to Soller where we met up with a wobbly pair of sailors (David Heane and Chris Plumb) who were to be joining us for the leg of our journey across to Sardinia.
We had ear-marked Monday as the day to prep and wanted to set off on the first sector to Pollensa where we were intending to do the provisioning. However, the mechanics had not completed the work we had hoped would be done whilst we were away and, in fact, we had to wait for a spare part to be delivered. When it arrived at 1500 the mechanics discovered that it was the wrong one! Ah well, they made a temporary fix which will do fine for now.
The next day, we prepared to set off to Pollensa and had a good days sailing although a good deal of tacking was involved. We motored into the bay, anchored and were doing a smash and grab raid on the Euroski supermarket by 2030hrs, prior to heading to Ambrosia for a slap up paella.
We slept well, stowed all the provisions and set sail for Sardinia around 0900hrs. Unfortunately, our delay leaving Mallorca meant that we had to miss out a stop in Ciutdadella, Minorca, which we had been looking forward to.
We decided to all be up for the day time watch and after supper at 1900hrs, the first pair would take the first watch from 2000hrs til 0000hrs. Chris and I were awoken with a cuppa and as I popped up through the hatch at 0000hrs. I was amazed to see such an incredible tent of stars above us. The sky was clear and the Milky Way above was like a dark carpet dusted with an arc of icing sugar.
We motored for a while and as the wind picked up decided to put out the head sail. The wind was fairly light and coming from the East, but close hauled we made decent progress and it was mesmerising to sail along in the absolute darkness gazing at the stars and watching the lights of Minorca recede behind us. We silently parted the waves as we sailed under a huge and intricate pergola of stars, the phosphorescence gleaming in our wake. Not another soul was out on the water near us. Suddenly, from nowhere – a sailing boat appeared right on our nose! She had her full sails lit up from the deck, presumably so we would see her. She was approaching so fast that I altered course to be sure to pass her by. I decided to call Ian. He came up on deck still bleary-eyed with sleep and looked hard at the oncoming vessel. Peering through the binoculars minutes earlier I had been convinced that I could see rigging. Ian took a careful look. ‘Ah!’ He announced, visibly relaxing. ‘It’s the quarter moon coming up over the horizon!’ and off he went back to bed!
We handed over to Ian and David at 0400hrs after what seemed like a very brief time.
We managed to sleep in between watches but at 0700 I woke to hear Ian fiddling in the engine housing. On further investigation, it turned out that the engine was not drawing in any water to cool it down. This meant that there was an issue with the impeller. Ian removed the impeller face plate, and wriggled the impeller out. Immediately he noticed that some of the blades of the impeller had disintegrated.
We had a spare one in stock and so Ian changed it and refitted the gasket and face plate ( under my supervision). Thank goodness for our diesel engine course.
Luckily, the water started circulating again and we breathed a collective sigh of relief being 100 nautical miles from any land! Throughout this time, we had managed to continue on our course, sailing along nicely.
We had a slap up breakfast of ‘kitchen sink omelette’ and strong coffee and enjoyed the rest of the day sailing out further and further from land.
The following night we made good progress and awoke to an incredible sunrise. There was another sail boat off to our port side (Red Rooster) and we had a radio chat with them to check what they knew about the weather forecast. They too were heading for Alghero, albeit, much faster than us. We anticipated arriving at 1200hrs.
We had a calm and safe crossing in decent winds and slight seas and were very pleased that it had not proved to be any more challenging than that. Lovely!
The crossing took 50 hours, 22 of which we motored. The top speed was 8 knots and top wind speed was 12 knots. Total distance 250 nautical miles
On arriving in Alghero, We anchored in the bay in 3m of water over sand and weed, luckily finding a sandy spot to lay the anchor and narrowly missing a bunch of giant clams tucked in amongst the weed on the sea bed. The wind was mild and the bay flat calm. We put the boat to bed and set off into the town to find somewhere to watch Wales in the Euros. As we approached the Town Quay we spotted Comet neatly parked alongside. After brief chats about Andy and Denise’s crossing from Minorca. We wandered off into the beautiful old part of town and found a pizzeria in which to watch the football. David, with his Welch connections, was suitably delighted with their win.
After a leisurely start the next day, we bid farewell to David and Chris and started to prepare the boat for our next set of visitors.