Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Friday, 4 November 2016

Corsica (Calvi) to Marseilles (Port Saint Louis)

Departing Calvi
The marina at Calvi looks well protected but has one built in problem. When a swell from the north passes across the entrance, on its way to break on the beaches of the bay, it creates a surge in the marina that runs from end to end, the length of the marina. The length of the marina and its construction give it a natural frequency that allows this surge to build up with each passing swell at the entrance. The result is a need to keep boats well hauled off the pontoons, by at least a metre, and ensure that the double holding off ropes are taught and equally tensioned. We had arrived in a near flat calm but 12 hours later all of the boats in the marina were shuffling to and fro, in a mad dance, trying to part their stern lines and holding off lines.
Calvi to Cavaliere
We had rigged additional stern lines, with springs included, to try to prevent any sudden arrest of this motion; an event that would risk tearing out the stern cleats and fairleads; in this we were successful. By 0300 I could hear, from my bunk, the sounds of a boat striking the jetty hard. A quick look out of the hatch confirmed that the motor boat next to us was trying to climb onto the concrete pontoon stern first! I made a leap across the gap between us and tightened his holding off lines, in an attempt to prevent any further damage, and then realised that by doing so I had arrested his lateral motion as well, permanently widened the gap between the boats and making getting back to Kurukulla a more difficult prospect. This would not have mattered if it were not for the fact that I was now marooned on his foredeck wearing nothing more than I sleep in, i.e. nothing! After a few minutes the next bout of violent shuffling fore and aft created a brief opportunity to jump back across the gap, solving my dual problem of getting back to my warm bunk and saving my modesty.
The other problem with the marina was with their electrical supplies. I had twice noticed that on occasions the polarity indicators on Kurukulla's switchboard were indicating that both live and neutral wires were live (they should not be); not only this but on further investigation I discovered that the live wire was carrying 370V and the neutral 135V, something was very wrong!
Algajola beach
Although the voltage seen by the Kurukulla systems was the difference between the live and neutral, (i.e 235V = normal voltage) the systems insulation was not designed for 370V on the live side. We disconnected and informed the marina staff of the problem. They seemed particularly uninterested until I informed them they had a potentially lethal fault! What action they took I have no idea as we did not receive any feedback; I just hope they traced the fault before it caused a tragedy.
With the north swell and the strong winds offshore that were creating it we were loathe to set off across the 100 mile gap and head north to the Cote d'Azur; that is until the conditions were right. For this reason we spent two nights in the marina waiting for the swell to decline before venturing out and a further two nights at anchor off the beach at Algajola; this time waiting for a suitable wind forecast. Having had a rough and challenging crossing between Greece and Italy and again from Sicily to Sardinia we were determined to get the timing this one right! The weather was now back to almost consistent sunshine with only light cloud and thus this final sojourn off the beach was a pleasurable end to our time in Corsica.
The evening descends
Monday morning at 0930 saw us motoring out of the bay at Algajola in an almost flat calm. Our problem now was to be a lack of wind! The sea was so calm you could see the reflection of the sky in it! Ten hours later and we were still motoring however as soon as we opted to cook supper the inevitable happened and the wind filled in, on the beam, giving us a brisk reach towards our destination in cold but not unpleasant conditions. The wind was set to last for most of the rest of the night which made the passage rather more pleasant. Our only problem was a Corsica/Sardinia Lines ferry which was lit up like a fair ground ride with a variety of blue, red and white lights such that its navigation lights were completely indistinguishable from the rest of the illuminations. With him approaching from our port bow, on a steady bearing at 19 knots (from AIS), and apparently making no attempt to avoid us, we stood on until it became unsafe to do so and then took the only action possible, a dramatic alteration to port, (turning to starboard would have simply placed us further in his path).
Anchored at Anse de Cavalaire
Despite our navigation lights, radar reflector and illuminating our sails I am not sure he ever knew we were there; he carried on regardless. So much for standards of watch-keeping in that company! That was the only moment of excitement in the whole crossing. By 0500 we were sailing into the bay at Anse du Cavaliere where, at the western end, there is an anchorage sheltered from the forecast west winds with a delightful small beach behind. We ghosted in by moon light, dropped the sails and motored the last few hundred metres into the bay. There followed a well deserved few hours of rest!
The bay at Anse de Cavaliere was delightful and we spent three nights there. In the small town was a Spar and Boulangerie, hence we had all that we needed available to us.
Cavalaire to Port Sait Louis
By the third morning the winds had returned we set off for the 30 mile trek to the Baie de Saint Elme, just to the west of the entrance to the harbour of Toulon. As the day went on the winds veered and increased so that by the time we crossed the entrance to Toulon harbour it was blowing 25 to 30 kts from the west. On arrival we anchored at the western end of the bay in 3m of water on pure sand, ideal to see out any blow.
Sunset at Jonquet Beach, Baie de St-Elme
Next morning we moved over to a smaller beach on the eastern side of Cap Sicie by the name of Plage du Jonquet where we spent two days waiting for the forecast change in wind direction from west to east. Late in the second day the wind finally changed as forecast and we motored the short distance west to anchor in the shelter between Les Isles Embiez and the Port du Brusc. As we arrived the weather turned wet and windy and so we spent a comfortable night there, thankful for the shelter we had found.
The next day was equally dark and stormy with wind whistling through the rigging.
Jonquet Beach, Baie de St-Elme
By mid afternoon we had had enough and decided to brave the weather and go downwind under “Solent Rig” (Genoa alone) to the bay at Cassis, where the shelter was likely to be equally good, if not better, and we would be 15 miles nearer Port Saint Louis, our final destination. We were wrong! Although the bay at Cassis faces south and we were tucked right into the north eastern corner, well out of the worst of the east wind, the swell was curling into the bay and pushing breakers onto the beach, to an extent that there were surfers riding the waves breaking onto the rocks in the centre of the bay. Given that there was at least shelter from the wind we opted to stay for the night but it was never going to be a comfortable one.
Departing Ile des Emblier
We rolled our way through the night and by 1000 the next morning we were ready to leave and press on to the west. It was again a Solent Rig sail downwind; all fairly dull until we neared Cap Croisette where we surfed downwind across the Plateau de Chevres (interesting surfing downwind in 7m of water) and soon rounded Ile Maire finally finding shelter behind the cape near Les Goudes. The anchorage was well sheltered from the swell but that did not stop the wind howling through the rigging for the next 48 hours! We opted to stay put until it abated!
On the morning of 26 October we only had 48 hour to go until Kurukulla was due to be lifted out at Navy Service, Port Saint Louis, and by this time the wind had eventually transformed itself to a light to moderate northerly.
Christoph looking windswept, on passage
Given that time was now short we decided to make direct for the anchorage at Anse de Verdon, near Carro, at the eastern edge of the Golfe du Fosse and only an hour from Navy Service. Here we could do a lot of the preparations for lifting out, thereafter motoring for the final leg to Navy Service; our plan was to arrive at Navy Service, Port Saint Louis on the evening before the lift (they have very little alongside berthing space hence our desire not to get there too early). The sail across was a pleasant beat with the wind increasing just enough to force us to reef the mainsail and genoa, just our luck! A good sail nonetheless for the last sail of the season.
Anse du Verdon
Having spent the night anchored in Anse de Verdon the morning was spent as planned, initially de-rigging sails, followed by a very cold hour in the water cleaning the waterline, nothing that a hot coffee and tot of whisky couldn't cure. This was followed by a short 4 mile hop, under engine, to the fuelling berth in Port de Bouc followed by a further 5 mile leg westwards across the Golfe de Fosse and into the Canal St Louis before berthing alongside at Navy Service just as the sun set.
Friday dawned bright and clear, just as forecast; an ideal day for the lift out. By 1300 I had completed the engine oil change and we were ready to lift.
Golfe du Fos waterfront. Not quite like Marmaris!
The Navy Service boat lift is remote controlled and slightly unnerving as you watch the boat heading off towards its winter storage space with no one onboard the boat lift and driving it! That said the team were well experienced at their task and all was completed without incident.
The next two days were spent cleaning Kurukulla and organising some minor repairs, to be undertaken during the winter. By Monday morning the cover was on, everything stowed and Christoph (who had stayed behind to assist with the packing away) and I were ready to depart for Marseilles Airport, him en route to Switzerland and me back to UK. The end of another season. Next year France to the Canary Islands........
Alongside Navy Service

Ashore at Navy Service

Ashore at Navy Service (plus mosquito!)

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Calvi to ….. well Calvi, but via the north coast of Corsica!

Calvi to ….. well Calvi, but via the north coast of Corsica!
The stay in Calvi was planned for one night, maximum two. That said I was in for a very relaxing time as, although single handed for the next twelve days, I only had to travel 11 miles along the coast, to Ile Rousse, before picking up Christoph on his return from UK. For this reason I decided to strip and inspect the windlass which had been playing up for some weeks; slipping unpredictably but not making any strange or agonising noises. I suspected the inbuilt clutch was slipping for some reason but to get access to it the whole unit had to be dismantled within the locker, underneath the foredeck, where it resides. Not an easily accessible task! That said it came apart reasonably readily, the only difficult part was not spilling the lubricating oil in the unit as it dropped away from the deck-head. Once inside the gearbox the next challenge was to dismantle the clutch unit, easier said than done. The entire thing was held together by a sizeable circlip, too large for the circlip pliers I had onboard to cope with and it absolutely refused to be extracted using long nose pliers, my fall-back method. After a very frustrating afternoon of trying every method I knew it still hadn't budged. Eventually I managed to borrow, for a few minutes only, a pair of large circlip pliers from a technician who worked for a local boat hire company; success! Once inside the problem was obvious, a bronze ring forming part of the clutch had fractured and was only allowing the clutch to engage intermittently. How to get it fixed? The chances of finding a suitable spare part in Corsica, let alone Calvi, were remote. The only option as to repair the existing. After asking all and sundry where I might find a small engineering company with the necessary capabilities I was eventually directed to Philippe Marie, who runs a small workshop near Calvi airport (behind garage Ferretti) tel no 06 07 89 01 07.
The old and the new!
By now it was Monday evening and in a phone call Philippe suggested bringing it to his workshop Tuesday morning 1000. Next problem was how to get there? An enquiry at the taxi rank produced a figure of €20 each way, i.e. €80 for delivery and collection. My next option was a hire car, €65 per day for the cheapest; better but not if I needed it for two days. Whilst there I enquired the price of their cheapest motor scooter, €35 per day. I opted for this despite the fact that I hadn't ridden a motorbike since my university days in 1968! Nothing ventured, nothing gained! The delightful young lady at the desk assured me that if I needed the scooter for a few more hours and not a full day we could come to an arrangement; excellent service. The company is 'Tra mare e monti' right by the marina. Next morning I set off and, after a slightly wobbly start, arrived at Philippe's at 1000 precisely. We agreed he would 'braze repair' the original clutch ring and he would phone me when it was ready. I telephoned him that evening to check on progress and he assured me it was 'in hand' and would be ready tomorrow at 1000. At 0945 I set off on my trusty steed and headed back to his workshop. On arrival he presented me with a clutch ring that looked brand new; not only did it look brand new, it was brand new. Philippe explained that when he had tried to braze repair the old one it had cracked again on the opposite side. As a consequence he had set to and manufactured a brand new replacement part! What a hero. Although an expensive option, €400, it was probably cheaper in the long run than trying to get the part shipped in from the manufacturers in Italy. Even better, on my return to the marina, the staff at 'Tra mare e monti' would accept no additional money despite the fact that I had had the scooter well over 40 hours; there's service! By the end of the afternoon I had managed to track down and buy a pair of robust circlip pliers, the unit was reassembled and all was back in place awaiting a load test at the next opportunity to anchor. That evening I went ashore for dinner to celebrate!
Algajola anchorage
Next morning I headed for the supermarket to purchase some victuals etc., then watered ship and did all the preparations for leaving. By 1300 I was set to go and decided to move east into Algajola where there is a beautiful beach and good holding; it was only some 7 miles away and an easy sail. By 1500 I was anchored in the bay, enjoying a late lunch and contemplating how long the light south westerly wind would last. The bay would be untenable in anything with an element of northerly wind in it. As it was I stayed here three days. The weather was good, the water crystal clear and the beach uncrowded. What better!
On the third day the wind moved round to the west and was threatening to go north west. On this coast it is difficult, but not impossible, to find anchorages offering shelter from northerly winds.
Anse de Lozari
I chose to sail along the coast to the far side of Ile Rousse and anchor in the bay at Lozari which is sheltered from the WNW if you tuck yourself in far enough. That said, although the bay provides shelter from the wind it does not stop the swell curling round the headland and causing you to rock and roll! I tolerated it for two days by which time the wind had abated again and I was able to move to the quieter bay at Peraiola where I spent the next two nights. At this stage the time had come to return to Ile Rousse to pick up Christoph who was arriving on the early morning ferry from Nice (It is frequently very much cheaper to fly to the south of France and then take a ferry to Corsica); thus it was that I weighed anchor on the Wednesday evening and set sail for Ile Rousse, three miles to the west.
Anse di Peraiola
My last single handed sail this year! On arrival at Ile Rousse it was evident that there were no easy slots in the marina to moor up in and so I decided to pick up one of the moorings for the night and sort out the problem of getting alongside the next morning.
At 0800 next morning I received an SMS from Christoph to say that he was on the jetty and ready to be picked up. Fortunately a very accommodating Italian skipper, who was already moored stern to on the outer wall of the marina, invited me to simply back in and go alongside his boat, thus sharing the one holding-off line available. A really kind gesture and one which was much appreciated.
Sunset at Anse di Peraiola
He later explained he was cruising the area with a group onboard who suffered from various form of mental disability and this for them was a real mind broadening and affirming experience. Both the skipper and his mate were patently providing an opportunity which few could match, two of the world's good guys! Two hours later, after a rapid raid on the local supermarket we were off again and headed back to the anchorage at Lozari for the next night. The forecast was for thunderstorms and they were absolutely right. We enjoyed a brilliant light show in the early hours of darkness, followed by torrential rain and a WSW wind which set us rolling around again for the rest of the night. The joys of this coast, very few places to shelter fom the swell.
Remains of "original" Martello tower, Golfe de Saint Florent
Early next morning we had had enough and motored, in no wind but a heavy sea, towards Saint-Florent where we hoped to find a bay on the west side of the Golfe de Saint-Florent which was sheltered from the swell. In fact we were lucky, in the Baie de la Mortella we were able to anchor, close-in, in the shadow of the remains of the Genoese Tower on the Punta di Mortella. This tower was the pattern on which all of the Martello Towers, built later to defend England's south coast, was based. Here we remained for two nights, latterly listening to the wind howling above us but in calm waters at least.
Having enjoyed the anchorage for two nights we decided that the next day we would go into Saint Florent, to see the town and to get some fresh victuals aboard. The town itself is nothing special, pleasant but not greatly impressive.
Saint Florent
We found the local Spar supermarket at the same time locating the boulangerie and boucherie ready for an early dash the next morning; after which we decided to eat ashore that night and enjoy a night off from cooking for ourselves. Having searched the town for a quiet, backstreet restaurant we ended up eating on the waterfront, right in front of the marina. The town had nothing better to offer. It was OK but not good enough to recommend and at €19 for menu compris it was the best value on offer. It is interesting to note that wine in French restaurants has gone up in price considerably over the past few years. My memories are of “Vin de Pays” at a very reasonable price and very drinkable with an average meal, costing the equivalent of less than €10 a carafe, now it is nearer €20 and yet Supermarket prices for wine are unchanged.
After a quick raid on the bakery and the butchers we set off, refuelling as we departed from the fuel point at the entrance to the marina Initially we were motoring in no wind towards the entrance of the Rade de Florence, complimenting ourselves on our timing as Saint Florent disappeared behind a big black rain cloud.
Departing Saint Florent
Half an hour later we were sailing out of the bay, under “Solent Rig” (Genoa alone) and enjoying a easy and speedy sail west. Thirty minutes after that we had furled away the genoa due to lack of wind and were motoring again in a westward direction. It was not to last! Within the next hour the wind came from every direction possible at wind speeds of 0 to 45 kts eventually settling to a bitterly cold NE wind of 35 to 40 kts, combined with heavy rain. We continued downwind, under bare poles, in full foul weather gear, with the engine only ticking over and doing 6 kts westward. Our plan had been to anchor in one of the bays between Isle Rousse and Calvi, this was obviously not going to happen.
Snow on the mountaintops of Corsica
We now had a 2m sea running from the NE and any bay on the north coast would be untenable, including the moorings at Isle Rousse. For this reason we headed west, past Isle Rousse and Calvi and turned south towards the bay at Crovani which faces west and was well protected from the bitterly cold NE winds. As we approached the bay we saw, on the mountain tops of Corsica, the first snowfall of the season; the peaks were all covered in white: no wonder it was so damn cold! Rather than brave the cold and high seas again we stayed at Crovani for the next two nights sheltering from the north-easterlies, ultimately heading round to Calvi again for a final visit before our crossing to the French Riviera coast.
Baie di Crovani, L'Argentella
On the Thursday morning we motored, yet again, round to Calvi, some 8 miles away, in light headwinds from the north east. By 1200 we were berthed in the marina and it was from here we plan to make the crossing to the French Riviera in a day or two, depending on the forecast. This time we will try for a crossing that isn't against the wind!
Arriving Calvi

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Bonifacio to Calvi

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 marina
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.
Gargalu passage
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.
Entering Calvi
More when I depart. It will be the first time single-handed this year. I'm really rather looking forward to the challenge........

Friday, 9 September 2016

Alghero to Bonifacio

Alghero to La Maddelena
Having successfully met up with Dimitri at Alghero we spent the evening wandering the town, later dining in a local taverna. Next morning we watered ship, refuelled on departure and set off for a day anchored off the beach at Porto Ferro, about 14 miles from Alghero, on the coast going northwards. The passage round Capo Caccia was lumpy and uncomfortable, not auguring well for the anchorage off the beach; however, on arrival we managed to tuck ourselves into the north eastern corner of the anchorage, in the shelter of a promontory with watch-tower atop, which was tenable for the day albeit not suitable for the following night.
Alghero town quay waterfront
By 1600 we decided to call it a day and head back the 9 miles into the calm of Porto Conte, again having to round Capo Caccia! Porto Conte was calm and peaceful and we finally sailed onto a spare mooring at 1900, in time for an aperitif at sunset.
Capo Caccia
Next morning was calm and bright sunshine. By 0930 we had all had breakfast and a morning swim, after which we sailed off the mooring and back again towards Porto Ferro. During the night the seas had calmed and the wind had abated to the extent we were forced to motor sail some of the way. By 1130 we were again at anchor in the NE corner of the bay but in very much calmer conditions and here we stayed until 1500 the following day when we had to depart in order to reach the Fornelli Passage before sunset.
Watch tower at Porto Ferro
In the event we were again forced to motor-sail a significant part of the passage northwards passing the old silver mines at Capo Argento and other minor settlements; however, late in the evening, the wind did allow us to ghost through the shallows of the Fornelli Passage and then southwards again to our chosen anchorage for the night, just south-east of Isola Piana, in the Rade de Fornelli. A beautiful anchorage with crystal clear water and golden sand bottom. The only minor annoyance was the booming disco music coming from an all night beach disco/bar some mile and a half away! On Italian beaches peace is not to be enjoyed but destroyed!
Anchored at Porto Ferro
The next morning we sailed off the anchor heading for Isola Rossa and the anchorage in the bay just to the east of the island. For the first time this season we were able to hoist the spinnaker immediately we were under way and then hand it on arrival at Isola Rossa some six hours and 31 miles later. A great day of sailing downwind in relatively light conditions. In fact the bay at Isola Rossa was not as sheltered as we had hoped and we changed our choice of anchorage to the channel between the island and the mainland of Sardinia, anchoring close to the Isola Rossa. It was not ideal as the bottom is almost entirely rock but a swim over the anchor confirmed that we were unlikely to snag the anchor cable under anything that would be awkward to release and the anchor was firmly hooked onto one of the rocks.
Entering Fornelli passage
The forecast was for the wind to remain in the NW all night and there was a slight current passing through the gap as well, all contributing to a stable and secure night's sleep! Although we chose not to venture ashore the architecture of the town and marina at Isola Rossa did little to attract us; very harsh and seeming almost industrial in origin.
The next day the wind was more northerly and we were heading north east, thus we had to settle for a beam reach under genoa and mainsail, even here we were averaging 6-7kts in good conditions. Our destination was Isola Sta Maria in the northern group of the La Maddelena archipelago. The beach “Spiaggia Rosa” had been recommended whilst we were at Porto Ferro; however, on arrival it proved to be very small and within an exclusion zone of the National Park!
Cala Nord, Isola Budelli
We settled for sailing onto a mooring nearby and swimming ashore; or Dimitri did; to view the rest of the island. Whilst Dimitri was ashore we were entertained by a German registered yacht who came in with the intention of picking up a mooring a few along from us. On the first pass they missed the mooring but managed to wind their dinghy tow rope around the mooring behind them. Unaware of this they went round again towing the dinghy and the mooring to which it had attached itself with them. The second attempt to pick up their chosen mooring stopped short, a boat hooks length away, when the dinghy and it's mooring submerged as they were towed under. After motoring at full power to try to reach their mooring of choice they realised something must be wrong and saw their dinghy virtually submerged with the tension of it's tow rope pulling it under. Having given up trying to pick up the bow mooring they were now moored by the stern via the dinghy rope; after 15 minutes of trying to free it they finally decided to cut it free! Picked up their chosen mooring, at the fourth attempt, and then set off to retrieve the dinghy. All very amusing for the crowd of spectators watching from their own boats thinking “there but for the grace of God go I”. The Sta Maria anchorage was ideal with the exception that in the La Maddelena National Park it is €46 per night for the mooring or to anchor! More than some marinas in the area.
Sunset at Porto Palma
With a forecast of strong winds from the west, the north and the east in the next 48 hours we opted to run for shelter into Porto Palma, a bay in the southern end of the Island of Caprera. It was a great reach through the sound between the islands and the mainland and, on arrival, we anchored as far north in the inlet as possible, not far from one of the two sailing schools operating in the bay. They were to provide us with several hours of amusement over the next 24 hours, watching the capsizes and collisions! Sailing is never dull!
The next day we had to be in the marina at La Maddelena in order that Dimitri could catch the ferry to Palau and his flight home from Olbia. Several calls to the marina produced no promise of a berth and so we decided to arrive between 1030 and 1100 and to take pot luck. We motored the short distance from Porto Palma, passing north of Isola San Stefano (the old NATO (US) Naval Base now disused) and through the 12 foot passage into the town marina at La Maddelena.
La Maddelena waterfront
As luck would have it there was one vacant space and we were allocated it. Which, after a bit of tight but successful manoeuvring in high winds we entered, without incident, and stayed there for the next two nights. After a pleasant lunch in the back streets of La Maddelena town we said goodbye to Dimitri and sent him on his way. Thereafter we took advantage of the time alongside, in the town, to fix some of the minor defects (new loo seat!), catch up on laundry and re-victual. We also took the opportunity to visit the local church which has in it's museum two candlesticks and a crucifix donated to the local populace by Admiral Lord Nelson, in recognition of the assistance the locals had rendered to him and his ships during a lengthy stay in La Maddelena, in 1804, whilst he was waiting for the French fleet to put to sea in the year before Trafalgar.
Admiral Lord Nelson's gift
By Thursday morning we were ready to depart, the winds had moderated somewhat and we set off back for a final night in Porto Palma. The weather was still gusty and a sharp shower of rain woke both Christoph and I in the middle of the night.We collided in the darkness of the midst of the main saloon both trying to shut the deck-head hatch!
Next morning it was goodbye to the La Maddelena archipelago as we sailed off the anchor at 0900, heading round the eastern side of the islands for the last time and heading north west for the French Lavezzi islands. By 1330 we were anchored in amongst the tourist boats in Cala di Giunco, enjoying our lunch and awaiting their departure! In this bay there is a cemetery, dating back to the Crimean War when a ship loaded with French troops bound for the Crimea foundered here in a gale; all of the 773 people onboard perished, dashed on the rocks of the island. Later in the afternoon the tripper boats departed, as we anticipated, but the fun was not over. Several boats moved from their anchorage to secure themselves to the now vacant white buoys, normally reserved for the tourist boats during the day. When it was down to the last vacant buoy (we chose not to move) a 40 ft Austrian registered yacht, manned by husband and wife, came gently into the anchorage, lining themselves up carefully, ready to pick up the last remaining buoy. At this point a German registered catamaran by the name of Antigua/Orion, came weaving in through all the moored boats and placed himself in between them and their intended buoy, whence he started securing himself to the buoy despite the protests from the Austrians and all others who had witnessed his ill-mannered and crass manoeuvre.
Sunset at Lavezzi, Cala di Guinco
Christoph even gave him a blast in German (well Swiss German anyway) but to no avail, he could not be shamed into accepting that the Austrians were the rightful occupants of the buoy; they thanked us for our support but eventually decided to go elsewhere after exchanging a few words of choice German with the catamaran owner. What fun.... Later that night, just before retiring, we heard shouting nearby. The wind had gone round 180 degrees and strengthened. This time it was another boat at anchor who had either started dragging his anchor or had decided to relocate but in the midst of doing so had drifted down on to the bow of our Australian neighbours. Eventually, after a degree of shouting and sounds of grinding metal the two boats separated and, after another couple of failed attempts to re-anchor, the offender left the anchorage, in the pitch black, to go I know not where!
Approaching Bonifacio
We were also rather too close for comfort to the lee shore behind us and I decided to take the opportunity to move forward and re-anchor Kurukulla whilst all were awake. We motored forward, lifted the anchor and re-anchored 50m ahead of our previous position. This also made our Australian neighbour nervous as we were now ahead of him, albeit off to one side; if the wind changed we would swing clear by two boat lengths, ample, and eventually he relaxed.
Berthed in Bonifacio
Next morning they gave us a cheery wave as they departed so all was well.
Later that morning we sailed off the anchor and set course for Bonifacio, where we were due to pick up Melvyn, another friend, later in the day. The passage west was only 6 miles, upwind in 15kts, and extremely pleasant in warm sunshine, just what sailing is all about! Our arrival was uneventful and we were soon berthed in the marina, settling down to a light lunch in the harbourside restaurant........
More when we leave....