Wednesday, August 31, 2011

At anchorages, and boat work Aug 19 – 30

After an enjoyable breakfast by the marina, we said goodbye to Paul and Rose at Santa Teresa bus stop, where they boarded the bus to go back to Olbia for 2 days before taking the flight back home-Kitchener, Ontario.   We will miss their company dearly as Rose is a wonderful cook and she had been cooking up some gastronomical meals.  Paul likes to enjoy life in an easy going manner; Eliza had a grand time poking fun at him. 

We spent one extra day at the St. Teresa marina to get supplies, provisions and some boat work done. We left just after the check-out time, not to be charged for another day.  Since it’s still at the peak of summer holiday for the Italians, we decided to go back to Liscia, a large, well-protected bay east of St Teresa.  To our surprise, there were fewer boats than expected and this time, we were able to locate the 25 ft depth.  More pleasant surprise in late afternoon, we saw our EMYR friend ‘GODSPEED’ anchored next to us.  We had a great time catching up with each other, on each other’s boat. 
            Seeing friends on Godspeed 

It had been a successful stay at Liscia.  Ben managed to get the watermaker and the stove working, and the moko (espresso maker) pot that was purchased at the hardware store at St. Teresa, would do for now until we can find a better design bodum. 

After several months of cruising almost non-stop, we are taking a week ‘off’ to relax and catch up on maintenance. Liscia is a large bay, nothing extraordinary, but it’s scenic enough, facing a nice beach in the distance, low-lying greens hills on three sides, and sheltered by an island in the north. Unlike some other anchorages, this bay has no marinas or private docks, so there’s very little boat traffic (the wakes mainly caused by power boats charging around are often the worst nuisance compared to gale winds). By mid-morning the sea breeze picks up, a gentle wind that comes in from the sea, rippling the blue-green clear water, and keeping the temperature down at a comfortable 27C. On land it’s probably well over 30C. With the sun awnings we keep ourselves cool in the shade, read a book, do some voyage planning, or just watch the wind surfers zipping by.

                    Ben diving down to check out the boat bottom

The days are definitely getting shorter now, the sun slanting more to the south. The solar panel is charging substantially less than back in June/July, to the extent that we almost need to run our generator every other day.  But… the best way to make the most out of the solar panels is to clean them, with fresh clean water …. sea water just won’t do.

After Liscia, we went into the South Channel, passed Capo d’Orso again, and headed south into Golfo di Arzachena.  First night, we stopped at Cala Bitta, with small, but scenic beaches and the day ended with a fantastic sunset.  We moved further into the bay the next day, to be closer to the town, Cannigione, where we could stretch our sea legs and to get provisions for the next four days.  Cannigione is another typical resort town, not as sophisticated as Porto Cervo, but it’s quieter and much less industrial than Olbia, so we didn’t mind staying here for a few days.

                 Another beautiful sunset at anchor

Life is not perfect, of course. There’s always boat work. To ensure a well-working water-maker, parts have been ordered and to be shipped to Olbia where our friends, the Tremante lived.  Until the shipment arrives and to wait out for another Mistral coming in the end of the week, we would just anchor away until the system passed. A Mistral is a strong wind coming from north of France, and it’s usually preceded by the Scirocco, a hot wind from the south. So it has been unusually hot for a few days. We enjoy staying on the boat a lot more walking around Cannigione.  With the help of the windscoop at the forward cabin, we have very nice breeze funneling down into 3Rivers and that’s where Eliza enjoys using her new gadget, Kindle with 3G; thank you Paul & Rose!

The Mistral arrived, exactly on time as forecasted. Wind shifted to the west, and started blowing through the night. By the next day it strengthened to 25 knots, with gusts at 35. The anchorage was sheltered in terms of waves, but not from the wind. The wind howled through the riggings, the masts shook, the halyards banged like crazy. Fortunately the anchor held.   This went on until the 27th, with wind now blowing at 20 knots instead, we lifted anchor and had a nice downwind run to Isola di Porri, a small bay with a small beach area.

                 Exciting sail on a windy day

At first, we picked Isola di Porri as it’s only 5 miles away from the Olbia channel entranc and we wanted to be able to get into Olbia the next day in fairly calm sea.  But to our surprise, Isola di Porri might be small, but with amazing turquoise water and the serene surrounding, we enjoyed this anchorage a lot!

The sea was not calm the next day, at least not until noon, 2 hours after we motored into the channel and docked at the commercial dock.  A local was fishing nearby and to his delight, he caught a sizable fish-a foot long!  But he couldn’t get his fishing net to work, even with Ben trying.  But no worry, any Sardinians would travel with a fishing rod and a collapsible fishing net, all you need to do is just to wave down your friend.  With that, he got his fish and celebrated his victory with an always-ready chilled bottle of white wine and we, got to ‘salute’ with them, with a picture to prove!

                 This angler caught a good size fish - cause for celebration!

It’s nice to be back in Olbia, for all the right reasons … see friends, pick up parts, get laundry done and what else, more provisions.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Round the northern Sardinia August 4 – 6

Round the northern Sardinia     August 4 – 6

Anchor was up at 4:15am in order to get to Porto Torres Marina in time for Vanessa and Tereza to catch their train to Sassari and then continue on to Olbia for Vanessa and back to Alghero for Tereza.  It was fun having the girls on board - always great to have some younger and willing crews to pull the genoa in and tighten the sheets at any given time, certainly help with tacking.  It was the first time Tereza ever sailed on a yacht and she made one fine crew.  She’s a fast learner and very accommodating in helping with chores and her risotto dish was delicious!  We wish her all the best with her new job working for Google at Dublin starting in September. 

Porto Torres is known as a working port, surrounded by a fuming petrochemical plant.  We had no desire to stay longer than we should.  Once the girls made their way out the marina we went on our way to Castelsardo, a town highly recommended by various cruisers.

                     The beautiful town of Castelsardo 

                           Castelsardo beach 

                    The castle at Castelsardo, a long winding path for a nice walk 

Wind was light, for a change, and we motored all the way through the maze of fishing buoys to get into the harbour.  The Castelsardo Marina staff was friendly and efficient.  Unless you’re in Turkey, not too many places will assist with docking with 3 staff on the pontoon, and the marina fee, unlike some others charging somewhere between 80 to 100 euro a day, this one was almost affordable at 44 euro.  

Castelsardo is a real gem!  This fishing village is built on a rocky promontory with a castle on the summit.  The castle ground has been beautifully restored and maintained. A winding path leads down to a rocky shore, and on this calm day the waves are gently lapping at the dark rocks, the turquoise water translucent. One can almost mistake this to be Scotland.

We did the usual chores of cleaning and provisioning and at 10am, with wind picking up inside the harbour, we’re eager to leave and potter around the north coast and eventually, back to Olbia to pick up our friends, Paul and Rose, from Ontario. 

Upon passing Isola Rossa, we saw some highly unusual rock formation on hillside along the coast.  Wind was variable and we did the usual sail-assisted motoring until 3pm when we rounded the NW tip at Capo Testa with its easily recognizable wind-sculptured rock jutted out and looking across from the port side, with its unmistakable white cliffs along the coast and tall and solitary mountains in the interiors. To the north, Corsica was in view, even though the sky was hazy.  Wind was picking up, coming from the north and it’s undeniable that we’re now sailing on the Strait of Bonifacio.

One should not tempt fate when sailing the Strait of Bonifacio, if not for the dangers in navigating around the archipelagos, then it’s the mad wind, either a strong libeccio (more frequently in the winter) or a mistral, blowing down NW from the Golfe du Lion.  In the summer, winds from the NW predominate and blow through the Strait with considerable strength, and often could get up to Force 5-6.  We took this fact to heart and were making sure that we went under the right conditions. 

We’re now on a run, with the genoa occasionally flapping here and there.  To avoid an accidental jibe, Ben put up the preventor sheet; Eliza could handle the helm with better ease now.  In order to get into Liscia, our next anchorage, we needed to maneuver a planned jibe and it was done effortlessly. With wind on the beam, we’d had one of the exhilarating sailing ever, gliding along the blue Mediterranean at over 7 knots.

Liscia was a large, protected bay with a wind-surfing school.  The pilot book showed there’re anchoring areas less than 5M, but we couldn’t locate them.  So, we settled for 15M, right in front the beach.  Being bolder, we raised the sail to get out of the bay the next morning.  Since our next intended anchorage was only 15NM away, at Porto Cervo, we thought we could “take it easy” and sailed down the channel.  Well, were we ever wrong!  Going through the La Maddalena archipelago, a group of islands S side of the Bonifacio Strait and N side of Corsica, are islands all composed of red granite and nearly all are surrounded by above and below-water rocks and caution must be exercised when navigating in the vicinity.  Once we turned into the South Channel, it was like Hwy 400 on a Saturday ….. sailing vessels of all sorts were everywhere!  When approaching Porto Cervo, there’s no doubt knowing that you’re in COSTA SMERALDA, the millionaires’ playground with their MEGA-YACHTS!  This is where the rich and super-rich show off their new floating toys ….. how about colour-matching helicopter?!  We saw black as well as white. Also, most of these yachts carried a Bermuda flag; we know where they keep their money, don’t we?  According to the pilot book, we thought we could at least anchor out at the designated area and see how Porto Cervo served up to the well-to-dos. Not anymore – one must now tie to expensive mooring buoys - so we moved on to the next possibility, at Cala di Volpe.  In order to get into this long and shallow bay, we needed to pass lines of moored mega-yachts first and thru the gaps, we saw the regular boat people at the distance, we happily motored in to join them.  Then, strangely, coast guard in their zodiac, going around talking to other boats and one by one, boats started leaving ….. why?!  When they finally came to us, it was 6pm, and all they could say in English was “Out, now”.  We tried to ask for other possible areas, but since our Italian was as bad as their English, there’s no further way to communicate.  We left, like all others, and continued on our quest for an anchoring spot, sooner whether than later since evening was about to set in.   We went into Porto di Cugnana, just passed the Marina di Portisco.  It’s a very well-sheltered bay and we’re pleased with the surrounding scenery and the serenity.

             Mega yachts at Porto Cervo 

                   This one comes with a heli 

                  Or would you prefer one more stream-lined?

Porto di Cugnana was not a deep cove, perhaps 4M deep at most, yet, on this hazy Sunday morning, there were two dolphins gently leaping in and out of water.  Hope they made it out to the sea safely before heavy traffic started.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Enroute to Alghero July 30 – August 1

Finally, no more Mistral, instead, weather forecasted light wind for the next two days.  On this early crispy morning, we raised anchor at 6am and started our ‘run’ to Alghero, 100NM away. We cautiously motored through the Canale di San Pietro as there’re no shortages of shoals, reefs, shallow areas, and a precipitous rock-Isola Pan di Zucchero (Sugar-Loaf) jutted out of the sea.  We were now rounding Sandaria’s windy south-west corner. To the left of the channel, we saw the town of Carloforte with its white belfry of the cathedral from afar.  There’s an island, Villamarina, a private resort next to Carloforte.  To the right, with it’s wind turbines and chimney stacks, Porto Vesme looked very industrial.

Soon, we were on the Golfo di Oristano, passing this town named Buggerru (what a name!), with an impressive steep slope along the coast.  Further up the coast, there’s a prohibited zone used for firing range by the air force near an area around Capo Frasca.  Fortunate for us, there were no fight jets screaming down at us on this day.  At the Sinis Peninsula, one could see the eye-blinding white quartz sand beaches near the town of Oristano. 

After 10 hours of motoring, we entered the Isola Rossa, easily identified by the Rossa Torre and a rather dilapidated white three-storeyed lighthouse, and to our next anchorage, just outside the Bosa Marina and the beach areas.  To get into the town of Bosa, it’s a 30-min walk along the Fiume Temo.

The town of Bosa, at the foot of a mountain, by a meandering river.

Colorful fishing boats at Bosa

Alghero's Old Town, overlooking the town dock

Alghero was founded in the early 12th century, and taken from the Genoese Dorias by the Aragonese in 1353.  Alghero was peopled by settlers from Barcelona and Valencia.  Today, it still preserves the Spanish flavour with some still speak Catalan.  The town is filled with labyrinthine alleys and cobbled streets, the lively port of Old Town is flanked by battlemented walls and defensive towers on all but the landward section.  There are many sightseeing and activities one can do --- see the Cattedrale di Santa Maria, climb the campanile (bell tower) and various torres, visit the Museo del Corallo, and from April to September, there’s the travelling exhibition on Gaudi architecture, but the best way to tour Alghero is to simply walk. The historic town walls are now dotted with restaurants, bars, and shops, making for an unparalleled experience in modern shopping with a historic ambience. There are Romanesque and Gothic architecture along the historic town's main streets, and you can gaze up at the remaining defensive towers to get a good idea of what life might have been like in the days of seagoing raiders.