|Bonifacio to Calvi|
Bonifacio is a very secure marina and we were well tucked in at the inner end. The only disturbance was the coming and going of the tourist boats from the very end of the harbour. None of them seemed to understand the meaning of the sign at the entrance which read “Maximum speed 4 knots”, notwithstanding that it was in both French and English! The essential item on our procurement list for Bonifacio was a French data SIM card, for the dongle, to allow us to connect to the internet from onboard whilst in France. Unbelievably there is not a single mobile phone shop in Bonifacio! The nearest was a long bus ride away either up the east or west coasts; we opted to defer buying one until we reached Propriano where we were due to be in three days time. Later in the afternoon the next friend to join, Melvin, arrived and in no time at all we had decided it was dinner ashore tonight, up in the old fortified town which dominates the harbour, followed by a leisurely start the next day.
|View from Bonifacio citadel|
Next morning we despatched Christoph on a photo taking tour of the old town (his passion) but in daylight this time, whilst Melvin and I set off to re-victual the boat. Nearby, on the dockside, was a Spar supermarket and we headed there for convenience as much as anything else. Having done dry goods, wet goods (mostly wine) vegetables and fruit it was time for the butchers counter. We started with three slices of “Faux fillet” beef, and then seized upon a delicious looking piece of boned pork loin, I asked for a similar “Trois tranches” as per the beef and after watching him start to cut the required slices I turned my attention to the chicken breasts which were to be the third part of the order. It was only when we came to cook the pork, two days later, that we discovered he had cut off the required three slices and then sold us the entire remaining loin, less the three slices! We had 2+ kilos of pork onboard! It lasted several days! No wonder the supermarket bill was so high!
By 1130 we were ready to slip and set sail. We motored steadily down the length of the harbour towards the open sea followed soon after by a tourist boat who, completely disregarding all the regulations; he stormed up behind us and overtook us, narrowly missing an oncoming boat and a departing ferry; after which he did a “handbrake turn” in front of us, causing us to have to swerve to avoid him, and then headed back into the harbour to pick up another crew member before returning for a second close pass, overtaking us at speed and leaving us bobbing around in his wake.
|Anse de Roccapina|
My French did not stretch to telling him what I thought of his antics but I am in no doubt he understood my English expletives! Our passage west was again on the wind and we passed a pleasant afternoon beating to windward with a plan to anchor in Anse di Roccapina some 18 miles sailing away (12 miles as the crow flies). The anchorage was a delightful beach where we entered under sail and anchored in the north western corner, on pure sand, in 5 metres of crystal clear water. We were all set for the night.
The following day was again a beat to windward but this time only 15 miles sailing, round Pointe de Senetosa, and by 1730 we were again sailing onto the anchor in Anse di Ferro. This time we were not so lucky in selecting our anchorage; there were already three other boats anchored in there which rather reduced our options; we anchored on what we thought was a decent patch of sand in 8m of water but swimming over the anchor 30 minutes later it became obvious the anchor was on the centre of a large flat, light coloured, rock with other rocks all around. Ideal anchor trapping country! Having invested in a Manson anchor a couple of years ago, one of the most effective and expensive known to mankind),I was not keen to run the risk of getting it trapped and leaving it on the bottom! The swim had also revealed a decent sized sandy patch, one of very few, only 50m away. As a result we decided to start the engine, move anchor to the new position, and settle there for the night.
Next morning dawned bright and clear, yet again, and we opted for another leisurely start. Lunch was served at 1300 and by 1400 we had sailed off the anchor and out of the bay, en route Propriano and the acquisition of a SIM card. The sail was a mixture of upwind and downwind as we rounded Punta d'Eccica and Pointe de Campomoro, heading towards Propriano. By 1700 we had lost all wind and finally capitulated, started the engine, and motored the last mile into Propriano marina. Here we were very quickly berthed and ashore searching for the elusive Mobile Phone shop. It was a mile and a half inland in a nearby commercial centre! We deferred acquisition of the SIM card until the following day and settled for a glass or two of wine instead before retiring back onboard for a dinner; pork casserole!
Next morning I set off early'ish for the mobile phone shop whilst Melvin and Christoph did any other victualling we needed from shops near the marina. Having shared a taxi to the commercial centre, with other yachtsmen from the marina, the first part was easy; I was there by 0945. Orange however were very keen to sell me a new dongle (which I didn't need) but incredibly had no data SIM cards to go in them. Fortunately, only 100m away, there was also an SFR outlet. Here a charming lady asked what I wanted as I entered, assured me she could supply, and then proceeded to spend 30 minutes serving the one customer in front of me who couldn't decide which mobile phone he and his friend wanted to buy! Eventually it became my turn, it took 3 minutes to complete the purchase, and I never did receive an apology for the wait I had endured! That's France for you. I walked back down to the harbour and after a frustrating 15 minutes I had the SIM installed, configured and connected; ready for use.
|Sunset at Port de Chiavari|
Following our success we decided to celebrate with lunch ashore before our departure. We chose a waterfront bistro, enjoyed a very pleasant lunch and by 1430 we were on our way to Campomoro, our anchorage for that night. With no wind to speak of it was motor all the way. The bay at Campomoro is wide and open with a considerable number of moorings for local boats and a protected swimming area filling a large part of the bay. We chose the quieter, eastern, end of the bay and were already anchored less than an hour after our departure from Propriano. The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming and sunning ourselves before settling to a light pasta supper and an early night.
The following day we again opted for lunch before departure and with a moderate westerly wind we set off for the anchorage at Anse di Ottioni. Once round Cap Muro it was downwind all the way. By the time of our arrival 1730 the wind was light and south-westerly with a north easterly wind forecast overnight, hence we opted for the northern end of the beach and anchored outside the buoyed swimming area (the French have really gone mad on these, in Corsica at least) as close in as we could get, anchoring in 6m of water on pure sand. The plan was to stay here the night and then motor the four miles to Ajaccio, next morning, to drop off Melvin for him to catch his flight home.
The best laid plans!
Next morning dawned with us surrounded by dark and threatening rain clouds, the worst of which seemed to be concentrated over Ajaccio. As a result we opted for rowing Melvin ashore where we were and procuring him a taxi to the airport from the shops or the restaurant bordering the bay. The distance to the airport was virtually the same. Having landed with baggage and climbed the steps to the road behind the beach we discovered the restaurant, that had been functioning the night before, was locked and deserted. Not to be beaten we opted for the boulangerie where a particularly unhelpful pair of assistants assured us that getting a taxi from here was impossible! Fortunately one of the other customers overheard this conversation and, once outside, informed us that the local petrol station, 50m down the road, had links to the local taxi company. Sure enough the lady assistant in the garage could not have been more helpful and 10 minutes later Melvin was climbing into a very smart black Jaguar ready to speed off to the airport. A success!
With Melvin dispatched Christoph and I decided to move anchorage a mile or so west, to another bay which we hoped would be slightly more protected from the slight swell which was entering Ottioni and causing Kurukulla to roll at her anchor more than was comfortable. By mid day we were re-anchored in Port di Chiavari but yet again we were prevented from getting closer than 80 – 100m off the beach by swimming area buoys and thus we were forced to anchor in 8m+. It seems that France gives more priority to the one or two swimmers who swim more than 30m from the beach rather than the boating fraternity. Having said that when you see the idiots who frequently steam through the waters near the beach, at high speed, with water-skiers or the like in tow, perhaps their policy makes sense.
|Pointe de la Parata and Les Isles Sanguinaires|
We were to remain here for two nights before picking up Nick and Malvena, who were due to join us at Ajaccio on Sunday. In fact our departure was advanced following a night of increasing wind and sea on Friday night / Saturday morning. By 0700 we were both awake and by 0830 we had weighed anchor and were heading for Ajaccio under engine in what was now 25kts of wind and increasing. By 1100 we were safely berthed in the Vieux Port (Port Tino Rossi) of Ajaccio and had arranged to meet up for lunch with another friend who, after a week away, had just returned a charter catamaran to the charter company operating from the same marina. The weather was by now torrential downpours combined with thunder and lightning and this was to endure for the next 36 hours. Time to seek shelter onboard and stay there!
Nick and Malvena duly arrived the next morning after only a slight flight delay, by which time Christoph and I had raided the local Spar supermarket; they delivered our purchases to us, at the marina, within 45 minutes of us leaving the shop; how's that for service on a Sunday! Dodging the rain (almost successfully) we walked into town to find a restaurant for lunch. No go! The few that were open were full to overflowing and the vast majority were closed. Not to be defeated we retired back to the marina again where the nearest restaurant to the boat was open, had space, and we were by now only slightly damp! Lunch here was followed by a leisurely coffee and a well timed departure to the boat as the rain eased. I went ahead and as I stepped onto the pontoon, heading for Kurukulla, there was a flash of lightning and a simultaneous crash of thunder; I still do not know whose boat or what was struck but the smell of ozone was indicative that it was more than close! Phew...
|Baie de Sagone|
Monday morning dawned with sunshine, some cloud cover and no wind. After sorting out a bit of administration and paying the bill for the marina we set off, under engine, to make passage north up the coast to Sagone. The plan was to stop for lunch in the shelter of Pointe de La Parata but on arrival we found two other boats, both anchored inside the buoyed swimming area and both rolling their hearts out in the heavy swell left by the winds of the days before. Not for us! We carried on through the channel between Pointe de La Parata and the Isles Sanguinaires before turning beam on to the swell as we motored north. For a two hours we rolled heavily despite having the mainsail up as a steadying sail. Not a great passage.
|Securite Civile on practice runs! Baie de Sagone|
Fortunately Sagone was only three hours away. By 1530 we were anchored (inside the swimming area, but only just) in the calmest part of the bay we could safely anchor in and enjoying a late lunch. The afternoon was spent sunning, swimming and with Christoph packing and preparing for his departure to UK the next day.
By the next morning the swell had abated considerably and putting Christoph ashore at Sagone, using the dinghy, was a much easier task than we had anticipated. He got ashore dry and in plenty of time to catch a bus back to Ajaccio in order to connect with the train from there to Bastia. Nick, Malvena and I spent the morning reading and relaxing waiting for the sun to come out properly, it had clouded over early in the morning and seemed reluctant to clear; someone had obviously not read the weather forecast that promised uninterrupted sun! Entertainment was provided by a flying display by the Securite Civile fire-fighting aircraft coming in to practice water pick up in the bay; on one occasion flying past us at a distance of less than a wing span. Very exciting....
|Nick & Malvena trying to decide who should helm...|
By midday the sun had still not appeared and the wind had filled in from the south adding a few waves to the remaining swell. Losing hope of any improvement we set a deadline for departure for after lunch when our plan was to head to Cargese, less than five miles away. The southern end of the bay at Cargese was much calmer and out of most of the swell. The only problem was it was laid with numerous moorings and we were intercepted by a RIB as we approached, the occupant of which informed us that a mooring for the night was going to be €36 and anchoring was not permitted. For want of an alternative we paid up!
Next morning we made use of a second buoy to hold us head to sea as the wind dropped and, having enjoyed a settled lunch, we sailed off the buoy and set off for the marina at Cargese, our next port of call, only 6 miles away.
Cargese is a sleepy, Franco – Greek, town with a small but popular marina (The Greeks were settled here by the Genoese to keep them safe from the Turkish raiders). We arrived to find a helpful 'marinaio' and space for us but it soon filled up after our arrival. That evening we dined ashore, planning to head up the hill to the main town but a sudden and torrential downpour changed that plan and we ate on the waterfront in one of the several restaurants available.
|Cargese Catholic church|
A good but not notable meal! The next morning we set off up the hill to visit the Spar supermarket and to see the sights or at least the two churches, one Catholic, one Greek Orthodox.
|Cargese Greek Orthodox church|
By 1200 we were ready to leave and motored out of the marina in a brisk 12 – 15 knots of breeze from the west. It was going to be a good reach north once we were clear of the headland which sheltered the marina. Needless to say in the next 15 minutes the wind died away and we eventually motored the remaining 7 miles to Cala di Palu, just south of Capo Rosso, where we spotted a suitable anchorage for lunch and in fact decided, in the absence of wind, to stay there for the night. It was a popular choice, over the next four hours six other boats arrived to do the same!
The essential part of our plan was to be at Calvi for Nick and Malvena to catch the train back to Ajaccio on the Saturday afternoon and their flight home from there the next day. For this reason we departed Cala di Palu late morning heading north again for Marine d'Elbo for lunch.
En route we decided to pass through the narrow and shallow (3m) channel between Isle di Gargalo and Pointe Palazzo. Always up for a challenge! After safely negotiating the channel (min depth 3m) we were only a mile from our lunch venue. As we motored into Marine d'Elbo we were greeted by one small RIB anchored in the centre of the available anchoring area. As the cove is only 100m or less wide we, perforce, anchored in the centre; as far in as possible in order to restrict our swinging circle to the minimum. This meant that we were about 20m ahead of the RIB. The husband gave me a thumbs up to indicate he was happy with the arrangement; his wife however had other ideas and within five minutes they were weighing anchor and leaving the bay; him looking apologetic and her complaining about how close we had anchored (she obviously did not understand the principles of anchoring!).
|Kurukulla at Marine d'Elbo|
Sometimes having almost forgotten your school-boy French can be really useful! Sadly anchoring overnight here is not permitted as the whole area forms part of the Scandola Nature Reserve; had it not have been so I am sure we would have settled for the night. As it was at 1630 we set forth; again under motor; heading for the anchorage at Baie di Crovani, where we planned to spend the night. By 1830 we were at anchor, sipping a G&T and enjoying the sun set.
|Panorama of Baie di Crovani|
Saturday morning dawned bright and calm, thus with a deadline to meet to be in Calvi we settled for a morning swim and then motoring to Calvi. After the first half hour the wind filled in slightly, from the north of course, but not sufficiently to make it worth while setting sail and beating northwards. It was motor all the way! By 1230 we were berthed in Calvi marina and choosing our venue for lunch.
More when I depart. It will be the first time single-handed this year. I'm really rather looking forward to the challenge........