Monday, July 23, 2012

Return to Menorca

We had been studying the weather and saw that there was a 3 day respite forecast from the strong NW Tramontana winds that blow out of the Gulf de Leon.

These were due to be replaced by an inactive low pressure system sat right between Sardinia and Menorca. Our plan was to sail NW initially using the SW wind to our advantage then as we got closer to the centre of the low the wind would die and we could have a gentle night motoring until we reached the NW winds on the far side.

Leaving Sardinia
It was a good plan but as always the weather had other ideas. We had a glorious sail for the first 10 hours and spotted our first turtle, then as predicted the wind died and we motored. Instead of the planned 8 hrs motor this dragged on for 30 hrs as the wind just evaporated…….very frustrating.

Life was pretty difficult on board as there was still a rolly swell and Mark somehow damaged his back as we left and was barely able to move around or even sit comfortably.
There were few ships around so we watched a couple of dvd’s and stopped the engine at one point to set a new Off soundings skinny dipping record our previous best was 600m which we thought was pretty brave today however was 2650m, which might take a while to beat !

Mark 2650m!!
During the second night Amanda woke me (at midnight!) to say the wind had risen to 10knts, so we unfurled some sail and finally gave the engine a rest.
However the wind continued to build until we had a good force 6, our speed increased and it meant a night time arrival at our chosen port of Formells. (we had arranged to meet some sailing friends here)

Looking so keen to go on my night watch after 1.5 hours of sleep
As the night moved into the small hours I became more concerned as the wind and waves were hurtling us towards the unforgiving rocky northern coast of Menorca. This is a perilous 50 mile stretch of coast with only the 200m harbour entrance of Fornells for shelter. Although the harbour entrance is lit, it felt a bit like threading a needle in the dark, we only needed something to break and we would be driven straight onto the rocks.

After some debate we decided the most prudent action was to alter course for Mahon on the SE corner before we got any closer to land.
About 0800 after a pretty rough night we safely entered Mahon harbour and dropped anchor, had some breakfast and went to sleep for 6 hours…………..Zzzzzzzzzzzzz  

Our escape from Sardinia

With a day sail ahead we aimed to start early but our plans were scuppered when the engine would not start! It was locked in position and panic set in but no need to worry Mark to the rescue! Thankfully Mark is a miracle worker and after having to invest in some new tools we were back up and running.

Finally just after 1pm (so much for early start) we set off from Olbia, yep and into another head wind! This was the seventh time we had been down this stretch of water and we were pretty glad to be seeing the back of it.  Once out the channel we used the wind to our advantage and were hard on the wind leaving the bay, still no sign of the elusive dolphins which live in the bay!  Although we did see a large string ray on the surface (we had previously seen 2 smaller ones in the water whilst swimming) which was quite exciting. The day was pretty tiring with Force 4 on the nose for the entire day we had to hand steer rather than use our autopilot to make as much progress as possible.  The day will be remember for the fantastic super yachts we saw along the way, the area around Porto Cervo & Costa Smerelda is pretty amazing for volume of huge power and sail boats, Magnum must look so tiny! 

Beautiful super yachts
After our late start we managed to sail further than expected and reach the north coast of Sardinia and anchored for the night.  Up early the next day and motor on as the wind had not woken up.  As we motored between the mainland and La Magdalena it felt quite sad to know we were very unlikely to ever return to this beautiful area but felt like time to be moving on.

As we left the shelter of the islands and were into the Straits of Bonifacio a small swell started to develop within the hour as we approached the first headland we were motoring into a big swell, not what we needed.  Another Waiquiez (same make as Magnum) a few feet bigger than Magnum motored alongside asking where we were heading we indicated West and he slowly crossed us bashing into the swell to head north.  As he passed the point he turned 180 and headed back into our direction, as he passed he indicated that the swell was too big! We carried on and battled to hold onto our breakfast! We were in the process of reassessing out plans after over an hour of motor sailing into the continuing swell but knew we need to make progress or we would miss our weather window to leave Sardinia.  Thankfully as we round the next headland the wind started to build from the North West which meant we could start sailing which made the swell more manageable and within an hour it had died off and we had a lovely sail to Passage Fornelli/Stintino which is where we arrived in Sardinia almost 8 weeks before. One final pretty anchorage in Sardinia.

Mark enjoying gentle sail

Fornelli passage - look at the colour of the sea

Fornelli passage

Trapped by the wind in Sardinia

After Abbie caught her flight from Olbia airport we rushed around doing shopping and washing with the hope that we would now start our long journey out of the Med. But typically a strong north westerly was being pushed out of the Golf De Leon which was speeding it way down to Sardinia and bringing with it 30 knots of wind.  So any hope of head north and east we put on hold but we also did not want to get stuck in the heat in Olbia, so we headed south.  The journey out of Olbia is frustrating, the channel is around 6 miles and on ever occasion we seem to have a head wind so we have had to motor, passing the hundreds of buoys which line the channel with shellfish farms.

The blue dots are all buoys and they go on for miles!
We have also enjoyed passing the Sardinia to Corsica ferries, how did they ever afford this branding!

Within Golfo Di Olbia stands the IsolaTavolara , the island is not inhabited although does have a small beach bar/restaurant on one side, it is pretty spectaular in the distance.  

Isola Tavolara

Isola Tavolara - slightly different angle
We sailed south of this island for few more miles and then anchored in Porto Brandinghi which is a huge bay with plenty of swinging room but luckily very few boats.  There were a few lovely looking villas around the bay and a small holiday complex surrounded by rolling hills. 

We rested here for a couple of days whilst the wind howled around us and Mark enjoyed watching the wind surfers which had launched from an anchored power boat, wishing he could have a go!

See the windsurfer flying across the water behind the powerboat
After a couple of days and a wind change we moved a few miles to Porto della Taverna, a very pretty small bay which was quite busy with boats being the weekend and the ice cream/bar boat was busy.

Ice cream/bar boat
We had great views of the island as the weather started to change and we found ourselves as much shelter as possible for the windy night ahead.

Isola Tavolara engulfed in cloud, also we love the colour of this power boat, very unique
Thankfully only lasted overnight and the next day we headed back down the Olbia channel with the inevitable head wind! Final provisions and a favourable forecast and ready to go.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pirates in Sardinia

Yes it is true Captain Jack is here in Sardinia & we have seen him on a few occasions :). Oh how I wish it was really Johnny Depp but almost as good it is a super cute little ships dog.

He belongs to a British guy called Tim who is currently sailing around the Olbia area. Jack is now more than excited to see us but probably he is like that with anyone who will pay him a bit of attention. As we have had to visit Olbia on 3 occasions for airport pick up & drop off our paths keep crossing but I have forgotten to mention in previous blogs so he had to have his own entry.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Loving the ice cream and sorbets in Corsica & Sardinia

Friends had told us how good the ice cream was in Corsica & Sardinia so we have tried at ever opportunity :)

Amanda         Mark             
Mandarin         Lemon x 5
Kiwi                Strawberry sorbet
Mint Choc       Strawberry ice cream
Melon  x2        Melon
Caramel swirl  Coffee x2
Raspberry        Jamaican
Torte Paridso   Vanilla
Mango sorbet lolly                 

Dan (in 1 week)
Stratacelio – not sure how tospell
Fruits of Forest

Lisa (in 1 week)


Abbie (in 1 week)
Fruits of the Forest

Where has the week gone

The week with Abbie has flown by,we showed her the delights of Olbia on the night she arrived, and there isactually quite a nice little holiday market with the usual jewellery, arts andcrafts plus the mandatory visit to the ice cream parlour.  The next day we had a reasonable sail, firstthing we motored whilst the wind built and then the poor motor was back on withabout 5 miles to go when the wind dropped off. Another night at anchor in Liscia di Vacca with another impressive boatin the anchorage.

The next morning we headed to Palau to fillup with water – it is free J and then onto revisit Cala Francesa where we all headed infor a swim. 

Cala Francesa

One night anchored here and we (Mark & I whilst Abbie slept) had a lovely sail the 4 miles to Dead Mans Passage which is an idyllic anchorage in the north islands. The waters are crystal clear and once you get in close to the rocks there are a huge array of fish and lots of them on a larger scale than we have seen, one bream must have been 14 inches, he would have made a nice dinner J. We had a  great time snorkelling and were lucky to have lights winds.  This anchorage does get extremely busy which isn’t surprising as it is now July but since all those boats are supposed to have a permits they must make a significant amount of money.

After 5 days stepping only on thebeach we sailed to Maddalena town which was only 5 miles and we had a nicebreeze.  Firstly passing pink beach, whichis on Isola Budelli which cannot be accessed even if swimming, it did look quite pretty butnot sure it looked pink.

Pink beach (not so pink but still pretty)

Abbie was also very pleased as wefinally spotted some dolphins, only a brief glimpse but still exciting. We wentinto the Cala Gavetta marina and then headed in to have a look around thetown.  Pretty place with plenty of icecream parlours so we had to indulge.

mmmmmm ice cream

Maddalena town

Maddalena town

But being in the town was far toohot and after upsetting the marina staff by telling them we were not going tostay we headed out to find ourselves so sea to swim in! After weaving throughabout 50 dinghies we were able to get onto a buoy in Porto Palma, Caprera andfinally jump in and cool off.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Island hopping

With Dan gone and Abbie not arriving for a week we spent some time relaxing and making the most of our permit for the islands.  First stop was Cala Francese on the east side of La Maddalena, after being chased down by one of the ferries – looks like we are in the Solent.

Was a bit of a shame that the swimming buoys came out from the beach but we were still able to anchor outside and since we only wanted to swim and relax it was perfect for us. The beach was small and quiet with only a handful of people, we also had some great views back to the mainland.

North Sardinian coast line
Next day we sailed just another few miles for our first visit to the northern group of the Archipelago, we anchored in Cala Giorgio which was surrounded by all three islands. Although there were a lot of boats anchored and lots of daily tripper boats it was still a stunning place, we were able to swim over to the beach and the snorkelling was great. With it being the last weekend in June the crowds have started to build but at the moment it is still bearable. We were treated to a stunning sunset.

Sunset at north islands

By the time we had left the anchorage at lunch time the wind had built from the  so we had a force 4 on the nose but as we were in between the islands there was little swell so we had a lovely sail to Liscia di Vacca which is a bay on the north east coast and was home to 3 huge super yachts – made me think of my lovely friend Louise with the Lady Lou super yacht.  Also there was an island at the entrance with some great looking holiday cottages.

Lady Lou

Cool holiday cottages
The next day sail to Olbia was slow with very light winds so we had to motor sail for some of the day. Just as we rounded the headland into Golfo Olbia the wind died away to nothing but started to build from the south east just enough to sail again but within 10 minutes the wind went from 7-8 knots to 25-30 knots.  We were glad that we were actually in the Golfo Di Olbia (over 20 miles away) when the wind increased and we ran to Liscia delle Saline and weaved through the windsurfers and kite surfers to try to anchor in the shelter of a small island in the bay.  The wind continued to blow but the anchor dug in quick and we were treated to another lovely sunset over Olbia.

Sunset over Olbia

Windy week for Dan

After a few days tied to the commercial quay in Olbia in the heat we were keen to get sailing and pick up a breeze.  A force 4 south easterly was ideal for heading north up the Sardinian coast, we had made good progress when the wind started to die so thought we would head into Porto Cervo to anchor.  Porto Cervo is the marina for the super rich with many super yachts, so the marina was not an option for us.  Anchoring did not go well, we actually hit an unmarked under water rock!. After a fair amount of swearing and panic we checked all was ok but I was very reluctant to try again with anchoring so we headed back out.  Wind had picked up again, so sails were up but after 10 minutes the wind shifted 180 degrees in 30 secs and whilst we quickly furled the foresail the wind increased to over 20 knots which was pretty much on the nose! Things were not going well for us but we all cheered up as we spotted a couple of dolphins. We then battled to reach Porto Palma on Maddelena island to anchor for the night, large bay with a couple of sailing schools and already quite a few boats anchored.  We anchored in about 20 knots but this dropped off slightly as we went to bed only to increase to over 25 knots and gusting at 2am, Mark and I had a restless night from 2am to 6am when we finally managed a few hours sleep, Dan slept like a baby.

Dan sailing to Palau
Next morning we headed to Palau which is a small seaside town on the north cost of Sardinia, it is the main departure point for ferries to the Maddalenas with a reasonable size marina but also a few mooring buoys off a small beach.  We sailed up wind in over 20 knots and had a lovely sail in the sunshine, with only around 8 miles (including tacks) it was perfect. The rest of the day was a bit of a haze but we did go ashore and locate an ice cream shop!

The next morning there was great excitement as we caught the Green train from Palau to Tempio which is in the mountains.  The train took about 2 hours making its way through the beautiful countryside.  It was a bit rickety so those without so much bum padding were suffering after 2 hours. 

Tempio is a reasonable sized town but there was little to see, we wandered around the streets admiring the pretty buildings and visited the cathedral before heading out to a park for our picnic.  A little odd for a town on the tourist trail all the shops closed at 1pm (only arrived at 11.30am) and had not re-opened when we had to catch the return train at 4.30pm.

Pretty streets of Tempio

Dan & Mark in park in Tempio

Views from the Green train

Views from the Green train
After a day relaxing in Palau, well as much as you can when there is 20+ knots blowing all day, it is quite wearing, we sailed back to islands and a different anchorage on Caprera at Cala Portese which was a surprisingly large anchorage which already had around 30 boats anchored as it was a Sunday afternoon but it did also have the elusive park authority buoys so we picked one up.  As we settled in for the night most of the boats left the anchorage with a limited number remaining on buoys.  Over the next couple of days we enjoyed the snorkelling from the boat, seeing a common octopus, greater hermit crab plus lots of fish including the Annular bream, two banded bream, Salpa, Wrasse, grey mullet – we have a new chart to identify fish!  Not forgetting that we had 25-30 knots for the entire time we were there, more wind!

Enjoy a glass of bubbly to celebrate Dans graduation

Beautiful blue sea
We were then lucky to have a good breeze to sail back to Palau as from here Dan could catch a bus to the airport and save us a 30+ mile sail back to Olbia.  With 15-20 knots we had a reasonable quick sail giving Mark the opportunity to race (not that they knew) with some of the bigger charter boats heading in our direction.  We also passed the Bear Rock which stands on the hill close to Palau and is a Sardinian natural monument.

Dot on top of hill is Bear Rock
One final ice cream stop for Dan and he was ready to head back to the grey and rainy UK.

mmmm icecreams

Over looking Maddalena island

Mark & Amanda over looking Maddalena