About two thirds of the way through the crossing to Sardinia the wind had picked up and we were on a great course. The conversation went something along the lines of ‘so we are on course for the Fornelli Passage which is about 30nm from Alghero (our original destination) and at this rate we’ll arrive in time for breakfast. Let’s go and anchor there and then we’ll be closer to the area we want to sail with Willi and Shirley, and it must be easy enough to get from the airport to there……’
With that decision made, the balance of the crossing was relaxed and after two nights of full moon and clear skies we were excited to be close to the next stage of the adventure. The only part of the crossing that had caused any concern was about an hour after sunset on the first night a space ship landed on the horizon or at least that’s what the moon looked like from my perspective. I ended up on watch at sunset the next night and waited, waited and waited for the same vision. Having your eyes glued to the horizon for an hour and a half is a bit silly but eventually the same spaceship landed. What a relief!
The Fornelli Passage should only be taken in calm weather as it is 3m at shallowest. The leading lines make it easy to navigate as long as you follow them! L’Aconda was like arriving in a mini paradise, perhaps it was the euphoria of having done another 48 hour crossing and arriving to crystal clear waters. We had the same sensation in Formetura. How will we feel if we cross the Atlantic and reach the Caribbean? I can barely imagine.
We had a day and a half before Willi and Shirley arrived, they had landed in Rome the same time we hit Sardinia and we needed to work out how they would make the journey to Onegin from the Alghero airport. The challenge was met by the excellent Sardinian bus service at €6 a head! The Captain took the dinghy and a good book : The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden) ashore around the time we thought they would arrive, whilst I stayed on board, fidgeting and watching endlessly through the binos. The eventual excitement of seeing our dinghy laden with guests and luggage was enough to make me jump up and down waving my arms so frantically that anyone watching could easily have mistaken my actions for distress or that of a crazed woman. All to say, we were thrilled to welcome our dear friends back aboard Onegin for a third adventure (the Baltic and then Norway being the previous two).
Weather being what it is, we quickly concluded that a calm night on the hook would be followed by a couple of days of serious mistral and so to beat it we set forth for Castelsardo first thing the next morning. There we enjoyed a couple of days of provisioning (parmesan by the brick for next to nothing), sight seeing, meeting old acquaintances and sitting out the Mistral (still wonder what happened to the Austialian couple who left the safe harbor into a lee shore at the worst of the blow?!).
In Castelsardo we bizarrely met some old acquaintances, Hylasia a Hylas 42 with pale blue covers, teak decks, a young couple with a small boy was tied up a few boats away from us. Trying to place the boat, after a process of elimination and a short conversation we realized we had seen them in Traena, Norway two years ago. This is a tiny island which hosts an annual music festival. So again we saw Lena from Traena, Hans and three year old Linus. Lena said that if we met again a third time it would be custom to invite us aboard Hylasia and so we did three days later – except they came about Onegin instead. We also received some great cruising tips from a Swedish couple, Peter and Elizabeth on a HR 54’ Ananda. Schal (with an umlaut over the a) to all!!
With the Mistral mostly blown through we were able to head for Bonifacio on Corsica, the seas through the Straights would still be troubled so we wanted to wait a day before heading east. What an amazing place. The harbor is settled in a natural inlet which cuts deep into the rock and the old town sits proudly looking down on the super yachts, fishing boats small sailboats like ours and other sea life. Not wanting to be stung by the 6+ charge (V high) of the super-yacht marina we opted to go and anchor in the one suggested anchorage, which turned out to be a mooring with slime lines and rings to tie to ashore. Some time later we were finally settled, having disentangled the slime lines and removed half the blue anti-foul from the stern onto our new, white mooring lines and t-shirts. Throughout the process we watched on, open mouthed as yet another super yacht cruised into town. Boat secure and dinghy ready we set off to tour. The old town is beautiful with well maintained fortifications enabling the fit and healthy visitor to climb up and down the ramparts stairs. The biggest yacht, Lady B, a Georgetown registered vessel was 150’ long with a 150’ mast. YIKES!! Wouldn’t want to have to climb that one…
The charm of Bonifacio was that you could walk along the board walk right next to the massive yachts and take it all in without snooty security shooing you away from the fancy hard wear, which happens in many places. It was a worthwhile stop despite the 8.30 bang on the hull next day and demand for €25! Some smarter, less sleepy boats were up and away at the crack of dawn to avoid this rude awakening….Ah well. Lines free and on our way through the Straights of Bonifacio in flat seas. Real anchoring begins again.
The island group of Maddalena is a nature reserve and the pilot book warns of having to take mooring buoys and anchoring with care. Wary of this we found ourselves in some stunning bays alongside a few other yachts and no mooring buoys and no problems. We had been recommended to go to Port Gavetta on La Maddalena the main island of the group as it is a charming town. We tied up stern to the town quay, hopped on our bikes/rented bikes and cycled 12km out to Isola Caprera through the park area. It was a glorious ride only marred by the Captain getting a flat tire just as he started the return journey. No spares in hand it was a long, slow ride back with Willi kindly keeping him company, he ‘limped’ home to a superb evening meal at a local restaurant, Portugal winning the football and gelato to top it off.
We had tons of mini trips. We did a trip into Porto Cervo where the 1983 America’s Cup Italian challenger now lies ashore. This was a fun trip for Willi as his team sailed against this boat in the Canadian campaign. With a little foresight we could have arranged as Royal Beaver YC and RORC members to go alongside and visit the Yacht Club Costa Smerelada, established in 1967 by the Aga Khan, but since we hadn't managed to think that far ahead we were shooed away by a polite but firm hand wave from a sharply uniformed marineria in a RIB! We watched the TP52s racing just outside of Porto Cervo as we jostled for the best vantage point along with a number of very large motor yachts. We anchored in Cala Bitta where we encountered Hylasia for a third time and had the three of them on board for beer and giggles (Linus was a big giggler). The sail from Cala Bitta to Liscia was great fun as we short tacked between the islands in a breeze building up to 25kn. It was reminiscent of the family and friends crewed Round the Island Race we did a while back, short tacking past Bembridge with Charli on the helm.
Liscia is a great anchorage and was our base for two days. Kite surfers and wind surfers dominated two thirds of the bay as the wind picked up and we picked our way into to a spot close to the north west shore. The next big wind was blowing so we settled in to marvel at the kite and wind surfers skill, take a hike from one end to the other of the 5km beach (tiny pebbles which left our feet quite sore!) and when the wind really howls and you plan to stay aboard: boat work. NAVTEX rewired with a new aerial and fly screens darned. Thank you Willi and Shirley for the help!
We returned to L’Aconda for a calm night and back through the Fornelli Passage, this time we were taking our guests to the airport (or at least as close as possible unlike the pick up). Just before Alghero is Neptune’s Grotto, which is a cave accessible either from the sea by tour boat or down 750 steps and of course back up 750 steps! Having neglected to take any money we were only able to see the outer caves, but it was worth the climb nonetheless. Algehero was our final stopping place with Willi and Shirley; it’s a stunning old town with a great feel. We enjoyed market day and a last meal ashore: the local recommend dish is paella and it was delicious!!
Fond farewells and happy memories we waved Willi and Shirley goodbye until the next time and Onegin with her permanent crew left Alghero to head south down the west coast of Sardinia. The island continued to offer surprises and wonderful, stunning scenery. There are endless beaches and anchorages in crystal clear waters that stretch for miles. Picking our way down we discovered that while fantastically beautiful, some of the coastline is quite exposed so we were lucky to make it to Cagliari before the next big wind hit (the mistral seems to blow for 2 to 3 days once every 7 to 10 days). Stops included a mooring buoy off of Tharros, which was a Punic-Roma town, and you eat dinner in the cockpit watching the sun set over the ruins! The seas on the way into Cagliari were challenging with a fairly light wind and in a horrible beam sea we rocked and rolled all the way in, blowing out the cringle on the clew of the main with a very loud bang as we entered the bay with the wind building and knocking us sideways.
We stayed in the Marina del Sole, which was something of a time warp, family run and being held together by a a jubilee clip and cable tie wish and a prayer or two; we had a really great five days there. Having the sail maker repair the sail, having the wind blow 30kn for three days and meeting with Johnny and Tina from New Zealand (we had met him with Charli in Mallorca!!) making friends with Joe and Dawn an American couple on sv Pixie Dust. He is an ex marine and has sailed for ever and Dawn has sailed for about four years and is an amazing gutsy lady. Loads of fun to meet them. The local boat dwellers were interesting too: Lyn from north Wales who had been resident for five years and Les from Edinburgh who had been resident for six years. The greatest achievement of the week was repairing the outboard: yes it had failed us again and we were ready to happily lose it overboard! The Captain however, persevered. Within the last 12 months with very little use, this outboard had previously been ‘repaired’ by two ‘professionals’ one in Cork and one in Lisbon. It had worked OK for a while and then started to behave erratically (arguably so do I, but that’s another story). This time we felt it was bad fuel, so took it apart emptied the fuel put it back together. Another false start or three. The final solution came after having taken the carburetor completely apart to inspect and clean everything , the Captain found a bent pin on the fuel supply that kept getting stuck closed. It must have been put back incorrectly during one of it’s previous ‘services’ and got bent. Now straightened up and reinstalled properly, the motor is as good as new! Fantastic.
With the forecast clear, we made for the southeastern corner of the island in order to get back up towards La Maddelena before planning to cross to the mainland. There are few ports of refuge along this coastline and after a number of days of big wind the sea continues to roll in as we discovered on a particularly uncomfortable rocking and rolling night. When the boat rocks and rolls there is really no position to sleep in where your insides don’t lurch from one part of your body to another. You don’t feel sick just completely discombobulated and very tired!!! Our last anchorage ended up coming sooner than anticipated, Arbatax was a very sheltered anchorage, shared with quite a few other boats and the local festivities with fireworks and boats parading in the distance.
It was a lovely spot marred by the fact that the main engine (not the outboard – that’s fixed!!) wouldn’t start after multiple tries. This had been an intermittent problem that suddenly got really bad. Not wanting to be stuck without power in Sardinia we eventually fired her up and decided to make the crossing to Rome. The forecast was good with little to light winds (we were not going to risk turning the engine off) and motor sailed the 150nm. It was a noisy, chugging journey, but we made water for half a day, it's best to do this with the engine running so as not to run the batteries down. This was good since the tanks were almost empty as we hadn’t wanted to make water in Cagliari and had sailed the remaining days. With the engine running we felt reassured that we’d be able to make it up the river to Tecnomar, which is close to Rome. The sunset over Sardinia was quite spectacular, we were sorry to see the end of our time there but ensuring we had power became the next priority.
Twenty seven hours later we were tied up alongside on the River Tiber, the diesel mechanic was on his way. We now have a few days to catch up on jobs, correspondence, sight seeing and life before leaving Onegin for her summer holiday in August. See you again on September 1st!