Couldn't in Cannes but can in Corsica
14 August 2008 | Bastia, Corsica
First mate Ziggy MacKenzie
We Couldn't in Cannes, But Can in Corsica
Night sails have their rewards. At the moment, in the sheer darkness, it can appear that there isn't anything rewarding about sitting on deck, alone, peering at radar to spot ships, tagging them to check the distance until our paths cross, all the while huddled under a blanket, watching waves crest with crossed fingers...please don't spray on to the top deck...please let me stay dry.
But as the skies slowly lighten, the fear, no, not fear, but more apprehension also lightens. Suddenly what appeared ominous or mysterious, is normal in the light. And then, as the sun crests the horizon, the true rewards arrive. Brilliant sunlight brings warmth along with the early morning stragglers as they stumble out of their bunks. A smile, a little friend to offer a hug. And then the reward of being off watch and returning to your bunk for a few hours more of sleep.
Sighting land is another reward and Wednesday morning after we sailed from Nice we spotted the Corsican shore about 10 am. On course for St Florent, a small town at the intersection where your index finger and thumb meet in the shape of the island of Corsica, we spied a beach and altered course. Like a mini Illettes of Formentera, we were rewarded with crystal clear warm waters and a sandy beach. After a day of playing in the waters, we anchored a short distance away off the St Florent marina. Thursday morning we dinghied ashore for our typical quest for a boulanger for fresh baguettes. A short stop in a restaurant along the marina for a petit dejeuner (café au lait, croissant, orange presse) and then a return to the boat where Connor was still sleeping, a sign of his imminent voyage into his teens (Sept 22 he will be 13).
We sailed up the index finger and around the finger tip in good winds between 10-20 knots until we passed the finger tip taking us from the west to the east coast. At the Cap Corse, we encountered the predictable 25-35 knot winds and anchored in the first small bay offering us shelter. We fell asleep to the stifling heat of a windless night to awaken to the wind whistling through our hatches. After a slow morning we set sail and sail we did.
In Cannes we hunkered down in the marina when the winds gusted to 35 knots, our guests grateful for the reprieve from the potential upheaval such gusts can bring. In Corsica, knowing that Windancer was good for it and the crew were game, we set sail down the east coast of Corsica towards Bastia. With Connor at the helm, John reefing in the main and Ziggy correcting the jib, we reached a maximum of 10.4 knots speed over ground (SOG) with a double reefed main and triple reefed jib. The wind gusted to 47 knots periodically dropping to 35kn. You could see the wind as she gusted over the water bringing with her ocean spray. In the lee of the island we were saved from big waves, but when water sprays over the hull in 40 knots, it feels like being hit by a pea shooter at close range. Oh, the glorious feel of truly sailing after almost three weeks of no wind in Southern France.
After we anchored just south of the old village in a some-what sheltered marina, I glimpsed up at the Corsican courtesy flag, a black profile on a white sail of a bandana-toting pirate-esque figure. In the winds he seemed to move forward and kiss the line holding him tight. Now, at rest, he winked down at me as if to say, "For you see, in Corsica we do things our way, even the wind is better than in France."