Sunday, September 4, 2011

Guest Blog by Teresa Hofmanova

I was invited to spend a couple of days with Vanessa, Elisa and Ben on their sail-boat on Sardinia.
I was very happy about that not only because I was very eager to see them again but also because
I have never been sailing before. I wasn´t sure what should I bring with me but I didn´t need any
special equippment in the end, only bringing a pill against sea-sickeness (usual pill against car-
sickness works as well) was a very helpful advice.

I found a reasonably priced flight from Bratislava with Ryanair. I arrived in Alghero – Fertilia airport
on Sunday afternoon and was welcomed by very pleasant Sardinian weather – sunshine and 25
degrees (Celsius). I took a bus to Alghero city for 1 EUR and I arrived on the town´s main square
in about 30 minutes. Vanessa and her family were already waiting for me, so we didn´t have any
problem to find each other which I was very greatful for. After a warm welcome, they took me to
the marina that was 15 minutes away and introduced me their boat called Three Rivers (after their
three daughters). I was surprised how many rules one have to obey when they are on the boat, but
soon I found out it is worth it. People who are sailing like to keep their boat clean and neat, so the
shoes need to remain either outside of the boat on the dock or on the edge of the deck right after
you climb the ladder to the boat. Then you need to watch your step while walking along the boat as
there is always a little invisible trap waiting for you to send you overboard.

The boat was bigger than I expected it to be – 13 meter long beauty. It contained a little
dining room, tiny kitchen, two bathrooms and 3 cabins and it could sleep maximum 8 people, but
comfortably 4-6. The interior had a very cosy wooden design and there was an unbelievable number
of hidden store-rooms for vegetables, drinks and grocceries you need to store while you are outside

The boat has two water tanks, one for potable water and one for service water, but obviously one
has to save as much water as possible as it is a scarce commodity on the sea and a tank can only be filled
with water in a marina. Therefore, a shower needs to take as little time as possible and washing
dishes also needs to be an efficient activity.

After exploring the boat, we headed to the town. Elisa, who likes dining in nice restaurants and
always has some good ideas about where to go right at hand, found a great italian pizzeria iín one of
the narrow cobbled lanes of Alghero. We shared cheese and salami assortment, delicious pizzas and
pasta and me and Ben had a nice coffee as a sweet full stop after our dinner. Then we walked around
the town, had „the best gelato in town“ (according to New York Times) and found an irresistible
sweet-shop where we had to buy some jelly of course.

I was quite tired so I went asleep before midnight. I was surprised how well I slept on the boat and
I didn´t feel sea-sick at all. On the next morning we went to the town again, this time our main goal
was shopping. We found a vegetable and sea-food market where we spend almost an hour choosing
the best vegetables, fruits, mussels, fish and cheese for our dinner and also for the next days when
we will be outside the marina. Then we separated and me and Vanessa went for a stroll through
shaded lanes of Alghero, while Ho´s continued shopping. We were surprised how Sardinians are
obssessed with making jewellery out of buttons but we liked this idea. We had a warm yummy
croissant as a snack and then we headed back to the marina for lunch. After lunch me and Vanessa
went to the city beach to get some tan. The beach had nice white sand and the sea was crystal blue.
The drawback of this ideal setting were the crowds of Italiand who were enjoying their vacation on
this island in August and the suplhur-lik smelling sea-weed hills. Anyways we enjoyed our afternoon.

After a delicious dinner on the boat we went to the town again and me and Vanessa had a ride in a
crazy blow-off attraction in a fun park.

The next morning we were ready to sail up the western coast. Unfortunatelly, when leaving the
dock, one of the ropes, which are used to tie the boat to the dock, tangled around our propeller.
Fortunatelly, a man on the dock noticed it and stopped us before the propeller could have been
destroyed. We had to wait for a diver to unbind the rope and rescue us. Then nothing was hindering
us from leaving the marina. Unfortunatelly, the wind was quite week and we had to use our engine
half the time. I was enjoying lying on the deck, catching sun rays and listening to the breeze and
sound of the engine...

After two or three hours of sailing we came to a bay where we anchored, had lunch and then me and
Vanessa were trying to swim to the beach. Unfortunately, the beach was further than we expected
it to be at first, so we only swam halfway and then came back. Instead we were snorchelling around
the boat and watching enormous clams and sea-cucumbers.

Then we sailed further along the coast and at 5 pm we anchored on a different spot of the same big
bay. Vanessa´s dad wasn´t too sure if it was a safe anchorage, so they decided to stay on the boat,
while me and Vanessa went for a stroll around the coast. There were amazing views of the bays,
sailboats and old Roman watchtowers on our way. Finally, we came to a small parking lot from where
long stairs headed down to the Grotto di Neptuno (Neptun´s Cave). After taking 550 steps down, we
were told the cave was already closed, however, we had such nice views on the way down that our
walk was worth it anyways!! This walk was definitelly one of the top things to see on Sardinia.

We anchored further along the coast in a place Ben assessed to be safe for the night. I was woken
up by rocking of the boat at 6 am. The rocking was so intense that I couldn´t fell asleep anymore. My
muscles were trying to balance the rocking and therefore I couldn´t relax my muscles in order to fell
asleep. When I got up, I started feeling sick and had to run up to the deck where I felt slightly better.
After eating my breakfast consisting of a bread, cheese and a pill against the sea-sickness we started
sailing around the rocky cliffs of the Grotto di Neptuno. We also had to go through a narrow place
between the rocks. The sky was steely grey, the waves were crushing against the rocks and the boat
was rocking, so the cliffs and the whole scene looked so tremendously dramatic.

After a couple hours we came to another narrow, this time much more dangerous one. Ben and
Elisa had to follow the instruction of a special sailing map of the coast and we had to look for two
black spots on the land. When the two black spots were seen in one row (one behind another),
we had the right direction. If we deflected from the correct direction we woul end up in a shallow
spot which could destroy our propeller. We did just right and we anchored right after this narrow in
the crystal blue waters. It was drizzling a little bit so me and Vanessa started playing cards with an
interesting challenge for the looser: the looser had to jump into the water (which we thought was a
punishment). Of course it was me, who lost, so I got into my bathing suit. However, Vanessa started
being jealous about me going into this beautiful crystal blue water, so both of us ended up in the
water and it was a great idea.

Our neighbour’s yacht meassured about 30 meters and he had at least 4 members of the crew.
Me and Vanessa took a dinghie and tried to spot the owner (both of us thinking of marrying him),
however he wasn’t on board:) So at least, we had really nice time on the dinghie when going around.

We went asleep soon as we had to wake up early in the next morning. We woke up at 4 am and
had to sail to the town of Porto Torres on the northern shore of Sardinia. It was only 10 miles away,
but sailing in the dark is very dangerous and difficult because you are never sure what is in front of
you. Fortunately, we go to the port safe and on time. Ben and Elisa steered the boat to the dock and
me and Vanessa hopped of the boat quickly as they had to leave the marina immediately (the boat
hadn’t the permit).

This morning was full of interesting challenges. After sailing in the dark and looking for a spot to
embark in the full port, we had to find a railway station. We found it quite easily but we weren’t sure
if it was working as it looked like a crime scene from the horror people, lots of graffiti,
grass growing between the rails, no schedule... but apparently it was just too early in the morning:)
The train came on time, we bought the tickets from a nice lady-conductor and we went to Sassari,
where I got off. The train was staying in the station for another ten minutes, so we even had time to
buy and eat warm croissants which we had been dreaming of since the scary railway station in Porto
Torres!:) Then, we had to say a sad goodbye to each other as Vanessa continued to the Olbia and I
had to catch my plane from Alghero.

I had plenty of time so I decided to explore Sassari a bit. To make the story short – the best thing
about Sassari was the warm croissant and the great Cappuccino I had in a tiny local bistro. After two
hours in Sassari I decided I had seen it all and it was time to leave for Alghero. I came to Alghero still
quite soon – at 11 am so I had plenty of time to go to the sandy beach closer to the airport. I had a
really nice time, though it’s always nicer to have someone with you (or at least a book) when you are
on the beach. However, that day was so hot (32 Celsius) that any further sight-seeing was impossible
and I was grateful for the cold sea washing my toes. My flight was not taking off until 6 pm, so I had
plenty of time and made most of my last day in Sardinia.

I would like to thank Vanessa and her parents for having me and enabling me to have all these
fantastic experiences and for introducing me to the sailing. Ben and Elisa, I wish you a lot of wind in
your sails and a safe trip!!!

1 comment:

  1. We had an awesome time with you too Tereza! Never gets too crowded on the boat :)