Towards the middle of August we headed south down the East coast of Sardinia. We were fueled up, watered up, provisioned up and left for Sicily on Tuesday or Wednesday 23rd or 24th August.
The weather had been remarkably settled but just prior to our departure for this long leg of 150 miles it decided to have an eppy. We scuttled into a marina on the east coast and sat out 38 knot gusts of wind.
We departed early on Thursday morning at 0540, effortlessly gliding out of the berth in zero knots of wind. Within a couple of hours a perfect 10 knots of wind arrived from the north east. Out came the genaker and she was pretty much set then until 2000 when we took her down in preparation for night sailing. The engine did have to go on briefly but from 0200 the Genoa was out and we were doing a steady 6 knots towards our destination and bang on track too!
Twenty six hours later land is in sight. The Egadi islands
to the north west of Sicily. We are welcomed by a flotilla of dip-diving dolphins. Lovely.
Later we headed for an anchorage off the south west coast to recover.
We managed 155 miles in 29 hours. Average speed 5.5
Top speed 7.1 kn Top wind speed 15 knots
Amount of sleep – not enough!
Anchored in 7-9 m over sand and some weed in Cala Rotunda, Favagnana Island.
Heading to Favignana town next and then off to the south coast of Sicily.
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!