We left Menorca with a small weather window to get to Sardinia. We had a 190 mile trip that we figured would take us about 30 hours. It was a miserable trip as there was little wind but a significant swell on the beam. This makes the boat rock back and forth and very uncomfortable. We motor sailed the majority of the way. Our first stop was Alghero, on the North West Coast. The city not long ago was run by the Spanish and apparently some people here still speak the language from Catalan Spain. The port is at the base of the walled city which has the medieval narrow streets of cobblestone and an assortment of little restaurants and cafes.
After an attempt at trying to have free dock space at the visitors quay, we decided that either they were pretending to not understand our intentions, or they just thought we were out of our minds. I think it was the latter. We ended up getting a spot for 40 euros a night at the far end of the marina. We stayed for three days and then made our way further north going around to the top of the island. We went through a passage called the Fornelli passage to save ourselves 20 miles or so of going around a little island at the top of Sardinia. This passage was real cheek squeezer. You had to line up a couple of masonry objects on shore, that were the range and make your way in, and there was enough swell to create breaking waves over a reef to both port and starboard, and the sun close to setting. Yikes. We made it through and anchored up under a little island in water that was the clearest I have ever seen. Protected from wind and swell made for a nice nights sleep.
The next day we left for the north east coast of Sardinia. Not long after we left we were pulled over by the Italian police and had to answer a bunch of questions and provide all of our paperwork. We floated around tied up to the police boat for better than an hour while they checked over are stuff. Now we have paperwork that says we have been fully vetted by the Italian authorities and basically carte blanche to further cruise. We shall see. I think really they want to make sure we have not overstayed our 180 day boat limit before being obligated to pay the 21% VAT tax. We are still newbies in the Med so we have until November 2016 to make sure we are in a non EU country with Cadence. We anchored just outside a little town called Isla Rosalita and planned to leave the next morning for Corsica.
The wind in the Bonifacio straits is reputed to be significantly stronger than forecast and can get downright nasty. The wind funnels off the Alps and through the Gulf de Lyon and creates a north wind called the Mistral. We left early hoping to avoid the stronger afternoon wind but of course by 9am it was already pretty windy, about 25 knots and right on the nose, of course. I feel like the kid that walks up hill both ways to school, except for me, I sail into the wind no matter where I am going.
We sailed across the straits tacking our way back and forth until we were close enough to fire up the engine and motor our way into the port of Bonafacio. The entrance is difficult to see until you are right on top of it. There is a walled large medieval castle overlooking the entrance from high on the bluff. This is probably one of the prettiest harbors to enter in the world. I guess I will let the pictures below do the talking.
We wanted to stay in Bonafacio for 3-4 days as we are trying to slow ourselves down from the constant on the go lifestyle. A weather system however was moving in so we decided to stay until the winds settled down which is keeping us here for about 6 days. No reason to sail in 30-40 knots with rain so we stayed tied up to the dock and enjoyed the village. It has been nice to be able to speak the language here as my Spanish and Italian are non existent, my French has surprisingly come back better than anticipated. We have met some fun folks at the dock from all over Europe but the real entertainment is watching boats come and go. There has been a ton of wind funneling through the harbor making docking extremely difficult. We have seen several boats get tangled up with other docked boats completely losing control and with every hand available trying to help, and all the folks speaking different languages. We saw a catamaran under full power run straight into the concrete dock as well, not sure what he was thinking.
The castle at the top of the harbor entrance is the real attraction of this town. Built by an Italian in 828 AD it appears to be impenetrable. It is perched out on the end of a cliff, and otherwise surrounded by high walls. There are three huge doors that needed to be opened to let anyone in, and the mechanism to lift and close the doors is still in place. Unless you starved the people out of the castle, you were never getting in as raiders. Now its filled with tourists who arrive by bus daily to fill the little restaurants and cafes and small shops of useless tourist crap. Nevertheless, a great visit despite the weather. As it is raining and super windy, we are on the boat doing boat projects and taking time for day hikes and treks around the walled city. We hope to leave here in a day or so and head to the Maddalena islands and to Costa Smeralda Sardinia.
The sail across the Bonifacio Straits was straight forward. A simple 15 knot breeze with no drama. We arrived into Cala Giorgio Marino which was a large protected bay with strange rock islands and the clearest water I have ever seen. In 20 feet of water it is so clear that you think you are in 3 feet of depth. There are two groups of islands in the Maddalena Archipelago, the north and the south, all within national park boundaries. You have to obtain a permit to stay in the park so we went ahead and purchased a week pass. As I write this, we have yet to be checked for a permit and have seen no officials in the area. So much for being on the up and up.
There are many choices of calas to anchor in so one could gunk hole here for a while. However, we have come to a point now that we like to stay put where we go for a minimum of two nights. It is a lot of work getting Cadence put back together down below to sail and these places are so beautiful that just lunch or one overnight never seems to be enough, and is not as relaxing as taking your time. So we see boats come and go during the day, and then the 24 hour overnight boats are generally charter boats or locals taking a little respite. So we took our 48 hours in Giorgio Marina on the island of Razolli.
The next morning we left the island and sailed 2 hours to Isola Caprera with good wind on the quarter. This little spot is knows as Tahiti bay, or Cala Coticcio. No overnight anchoring is allowed until October 1 so our timing was perfect. There are two park moorings that have been placed in the middle of the small cala making it difficult for other boats to come in and anchor. Being on a mooring prohibits your boat from doing a natural swing which is the circumference around your anchor by the length of chain you have out. Moorings are a chain straight down to the sea bed so you stay pretty much in one spot. Its a mismatch for boats who anchor unfortunately. There are two small beaches in the cala with beautiful white fine sand, backed by huge very strange shaped boulders.
We are currently tucked right behind a large rock formation, and behind it a pretty large mountain. You would think we would be protected from the wind as it coming from right behind the mountain, but there are frequent katabatic gusts that come down the hills and hit us from multiple directions. One moment there is 5 knots of wind and seconds later from a different direction there is 30 knots. The boat is dancing all over the place, however there is zero swell and its very flat in here. The wind took our 10 ft RIB and flipped it upside down 3 times. Fortunately the engine was off the dinghy. The first time it flipped I jumped in to save the oars and several floatable things that were getting away quickly. After the third time it flipped we just left it upside down. We are waiting out some gale force weather again so we stayed 3 nights and plan to depart for La Caletta, a bit south of here, in the morning. We are both tired of hunting for safety several days of each week. The weather has been very variable. We need to start making our way to our winter port, Cagliari. We have been non stop going now since August 2014 so we look forward to being in one place for a while.