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.

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