Corsica – wow
17 July 2019
Our passage from Menorca to Corsica from Friday 14th June to Sunday 16th June comprised 12 hours of sailing and 33 hours of motoring as the wind dropped to 3-5kts. The 255nm passage was quite benign apart from a very sloppy sea at times and us putting a tear in the mainsail when sailing downwind with full main in 25kts.
We arrived at Baie de Sagone at 0625 and anchored in 9-10 metres near the mooring field. We explored the small ribbon-like village which is very low key but boasts a couple of supermarkets and a hardware store. We were the only boat anchoring for the couple of days we stayed and took the dinghy to the fishing harbour on the north side of the bay. It was all quite pleasant with the backdrop of Corsica mountains.
On Tuesday 18th June with no wind, we motored the 24nm to Anse de Castagna and dropped anchor in 9-10 metres off the beach near Marina de Porto – there is an anchoring area marked by a line of yellow buoys that show the limit of approach for motorised vessels to the beach and a seaward line of buoys intended to stop the high-speed RIBs that ply their tourist trade for Porto to the Scandola Nature Reserve.
Despite the large numbers of tourists (and we had not yet reached high season) we enjoyed the atmosphere, taking the dinghy up river to tie up and being warmly treated by such as the guys on the fuel dock. The walk up to Porto village is OK and there are supermarkets and cafes.
After a couple of days we moved on again to Girolata, a small settlement that provides a large mooring field. We stayed two nights and really could have anchored if we had known. The moorings are fore and aft, but the marineros are very experienced and helpful in taking lines and getting boats in. However, it was prudent to put out fenders. The marineros also provide a navette service (taxiing crews to one of the jetties) – taking your dinghy ashore is discouraged and particularly tying up to a jetty as this place is really busy with tourist boats heading to Scandola.
We were in need of a hike and followed the Sentier de Girolata to the ridge between the Golfe de Girolata and Golfe de Porto, taking some 5 hours for the round trip.
Then on to Galeria where we carefully anchored in sand – there was a huge and apparently chaotic mooring field with a couple of boats tied up. We were joined by three other boats at anchor. However, when we went ashore with the dinghy the local official said we had to move to a mooring to protect the Posidonia sea grass. It appeared that he did not have the use of a dinghy to come out to advise boats anchoring or indeed to assist with fore and aft mooring. Hm. We are not sure whether the sea grass argument is about getting income from the moorings or protecting the sea grass …
We decided that the very settled weather offered a great opportunity to get close up in the Scandola Nature Reserve and headed that way on Sunday 23rd June. It is a WOW. We particularly enjoyed making our way through the Dog Leg Passage, which is very narrow and only to be entered in calm seas. The headlands and rock formations are quite impressive and we enjoyed the dawdle.
Eventually we continued on our way and anchored at a great spot near Calvi – Golfe de Revellata - in a big sandy patch in 9-10 metres.
We wanted to do some inland touring so the next day, Monday 24th June, we motored the couple of miles round to Calvi and picked up a mooring so that we could get a hire car. The main downside was the wash from boats ferrying cruise ship passengers and we deployed our flopper-stopper which helped … a little. We were quite surprised that even in late June only 20 or so of over 100 moorings were occupied.
We had the car for three days and visited Bastia – quite nice but busy, and drove the coast north around Cap du Corse, partly to enjoy the scenery and partly as reconnaissance for anchorages. The drive took us through the arid Desert des Agriates. The next day we went back south for a land experience of Scandola – the narrow, twisting roads are not for the fainthearted, but the views really are breath-taking, if you will excuse the cliché. We walked in the Spelunca Gorges between Eva and Otisa, where many people were cooling off from the >30degC heat in the river.
The third day we headed to Corte in the heart of northern Corsica. The most dominant monument in Corte is the citadel, built in 1419 and perched improbably on top of a large rocky promontory in the centre of the town above the confluence of the Restonica, Orta and Tavignana rivers. Corte was the centre of Corsican resistance to Genoese and then French rule and commemorates Corsican leaders from the 18th Century. Interestingly there is alive to-day a movement for Corsican independence, but the main activity seems to be attacking road signs either by shooting at them or painting out the names of places that are in French and leaving the Corsican language versions … that’ll get the French government thinking and ready to award independence then ….
Nearby are the Gorges de la Restonica, and we drove the length eventually stopping at the final carpark – even at 1400 metres above sea level the temperature remained above 30degC so the hiking was very limited and we were glad of the air conditioning in the car. It is a very popular place with hikers, cyclists and motor-bikers, as well as car-borne folks.
Phil returned the hire car to the depot at the airport and given the extortionate price of taxis had decided to walk back to Calvi, but as is often the case, sticking out the hitch-hiking thumb brings rewards and after only a few minutes a ride was secured.
We moved to anchor further east in the bay of Calvi to sit out some 25kts wind and dropped in 7-8 metres off the beach – given that the wind was coming off the land, we were very comfortable.
We were hoping for wind to take us to Italy and our five weeks lay-up in the River Arno near Pisa. No such luck. However, we decided to shorten the distance and first moved to an anchorage at Anse de Periaola, some 16nm, dropping in 6 metres on sand. Then 29nm to Marine de Barcaggio anchoring in 3.5 metres.
So, on 1st July we motored the 57nm to the River Arno for our reserved berth at Arnovecchia marina where Minnie B is staying until our return from a UK visit at the beginning of August.
We very much enjoyed Corsica and with care and research we were happy that we had been able to find suitable anchorages and largely avoid the cost of moorings and marinas.
Lots of photographs in the Gallery.