Minnie B

Making it up as we go along

12 August 2019 | San Gimignano
17 July 2019
13 June 2019
03 June 2019
03 June 2019
16 May 2019
16 May 2019
16 May 2019
16 May 2019
16 May 2019
30 April 2019
12 November 2018 | Serra de Monchique
12 November 2018
12 November 2018
12 November 2018

A week in Tuscany

12 August 2019 | San Gimignano
Phil Heaton
After a really superb visit to the UK, seeing family and friends, hosting Greg and Carol and then Robin and Pauline in York, a weekend in London with Julia and Tim, visits to Beverley with Anna and Neil and a few days in NI, two trips to the pop-up Shakespeare Rose Theatre in York (‘Twelfth Night’ absolutely brilliant, ‘Henry V’ absolute disaster) we were ready for a rest …

We arrived back at Minnie B late on Saturday 3rd August and all was well. Sunday was provisioning and then a start on changing the engine exhaust elbow. It was much more straightforward than anticipated and the local Volvo engineer even gave us some engine paint for the replacement parts.

By Tuesday we were ready for some tourismo and took the bus into Pisa for the show – it was not as busy as expected but the crowds were determined to do the photos either as if holding up the tower or pushing it over. We passed on those and visited the Baptistry and the Cathedral, both of which are beautifully crafted and maintained. A stroll to the Piazza dei Cavallieri and an ice cream made for a pleasant afternoon.

Up for more, the following day we visited Lucca by train. Altogether a more interesting city than Pisa, but much less visited. Again the Cathedral is a must along with the Torre Guinigi which is surmounted by a few trees … and several hundred tourists. Thank goodness it does not lean. We had a good lunch in the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro and then a stroll around the walls and a beer in Piazza Napoleon before taking the train and bus back to the boat.

Next was a hire car for some serious provisioning, shopping for various cabin items and more tourismo. So Conad supermarket and Ikea did the trick in the morning and then off to San Gimignano in the afternoon, with plans to visit Siena the following day.

San Gimignano is probably at it best from a distance where you can see the hilltop, the vineyards, the poplar trees and the famous towers. Close up it was wall-to-wall stuff for tourists and wall-to-wall tourists – but hey, we are tourists too. We had a nice ice cream in the square outside the Cathedral and then drove back through quite delightful Tuscan countryside.

So to Siena. No not to Siena. Overnight our full-to-the-brim fridge/freezer stopped cooling. Oh well, urgent requirement for a refrigeration engineer, who arrived after a couple of hours and diagnosed a faulty controller. He came back late in the afternoon to install the new one so we had to hang around for him. Anyway all working, so we then went to the Carrefour for more wine and food.

The refrigeration engineer’s visit along with a very small sail repair that was done for us while we were away, put us in mind that Roman traditions are alive and well in modern Italy. Think Centurians ... the Romans were best at counting in 100s … sail repair = Eu100; refrigeration engineer = Eu100 (he installed our spare controller) and as we have stayed a few more days in the marina than planned also Eu100.

Now we are pretty much ready to go cruising again and the plan is to head for Elba and make our way gently south to northern Sicily for mid-September where we will pick up David and Jacquie for a few weeks (they think they are coming on a luxury cruise with full onboard drinks package but they will have to do a lot of stainless steel polishing, winch servicing and general cleaning, and the drinks package is a daily ration of grog: one teaspoon of rum and half a pint of water … to share).

Corsica – wow

17 July 2019
Phil Heaton
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.

Medi weather eh?

13 June 2019
Phil Heaton
So, with the ridiculous cost of a berth in a marina we needed to go in search of anchorages.

One of the good things about Menorca is its size – just 34 miles long and 11 miles wide – so in theory as the wind shifts round the compass you can always move on and find a sheltered bay. Hm, theory eh? So, what happens when the forecast wind shift from north to south occurs at 0200? AND is taking place every couple of days. Not meant for relaxed and easy-going cruising.

The next option is to find somewhere with all-round shelter - and we did.

Going clockwise around the island on Tuesday, 4th June, we had a great sail – beam reach in 12kts Northerly … for two miles … then the forecast northerly turned to an easterly and as we progressed it simply paralleled the coast.

We thought of going into Cala de Puerto de Fornells but the cruising guide is iffy about the holding and despite the narrowish entrance it is quite a wide expanse of water with considerable fetch from north through east to south.
Ultimately, we settled on Cala de Addaia (Addaya) – superb.

At first we anchored between the boats on moorings and the small marina but moved as soon as we could as new arrivals had hemmed us in, but our choice meant that when the wind shifted from north to south we were a bit too close to the channel and marina – a marinero came out and asked very politely if we could move please. So we did, further into the cala, beyond the moored boats going into OVNI mode and anchoring on a sand bar in less than 3m water. A lovely location as the photos in the Gallery show.

Ashore at the marina is a friendly cantina and up the hill in the village is a supermarket and a couple of bars/restaurants. There is a bus to Mahon and Fornells – we took the latter on Friday and had a seafood paella sitting by the bay. There is a walk to the headland and a defensive tower – and restaurants. A pleasant place.

We enjoyed being in Addaia as it is very peaceful – no hotels, and you guessed, no clubs. An old path runs all the way around the island, with excellent signage, the Cami de Cavall – it was to enable the local militia to move quickly on horseback to any points where pirates or invaders might be looking to land – so we had a very nice walk to the old salt pans at the end of the cala.

We needed to provision and do laundry before leaving for Corsica. Having watched the forecast closely it was looking as if leaving around 14th June would do the trick, therefore we headed for Mahon for the added charm of some tourismo.

A berth with Club Martimo de Mahon put us very close to the old town and easy walking to a supermarket and laundry … the arrival of the large ferries and small cruise ships between 0600 and 0700 is a bit alarming at first given the noise and then the slap of the wake hitting our stern (we are bows-to the quay).

The town is very pleasant with some fine old buildings and charming squares. The old markets are now heavily geared for tourists so we avoided buying the Menorcan cheese there.
The whole harbour has to be one of the most superb and extensive in the world – safe all round shelter once past the entrance and the guarding island. There are major fortifications dating back to the British possession in the 18th century – there is no doubt about it, the British did very good fortifications … all over the world … Hm …

The forecast is OK for leaving on Friday 14th June for Corsica – 235nm rhumb line for Ajaccio, but we will decide our arrival point nearer the time. We should have a good sail for the first part of the trip but then the wind looks as if it will ease considerably so either a slow passage or burn some diesel – we are not in a hurry.

So, off to part of France then – it will certainly be easier for us to communicate, but we have very much enjoyed our short cruise through the Balearics … even though we never made it to any clubs.

To Menorca

03 June 2019
Phil Heaton
Having visited Mallorca over 30 years ago and then chartered a boat there about 17 years ago, it was not high on our agenda for spending a lot of time - so we didn't. We had intended to go to Cala Magraner, about 33nm from Cabrera but we got fed up of punching into a northerly 10-14kts so gave up at Porto Colom and anchored near the entrance to the bay for the night.

We left the next day, Thursday 30th May for the 49nm to Cala Galdana, Menorca and were rewarded with a great 4 hours of close reaching in 12-17kts NNW wind - the whole trip took just over 7 hours. We found a sandy spot to anchor and all was well - two big hotels and the prospect of some clubbing at last.

Ah, wrong again - this is Menorca and the destination of families, old folks and Spanish holiday-makers. We made do with watching the world go by at a couple of bars and a walk to Cala Macarella.

Provisioning and laundry called so after a couple of nights we went on the 13nm to Ciutadella and did the Medi mooring thing with lazy lines to pick up the mooring warps. What a gem. It is a super place and again a "must visit". The town was sacked by the Turks in 1558, led by Barbarossa, and the inhabitants carted off to slavery. The rebuilding has left a legacy of beautiful palaces, churches and houses, and narrow winding streets and alleys, in many ways reminiscent of Moorish medinas, albeit the Moors were expelled in 1287.

You are now starting to wonder if we have made it to some clubs - well, our musical highlights have been a very Menorcan group of very old musicians playing very Menorcan music for Menorcan men and women to do Menorcan dancing ... as a fund raiser for the local Scout troop. AND a band playing very solemn music accompanying the parading of the Virgin Mary through the streets near the Cathedral in celebration of ... something. So, no clubs ... yet.

We plan to visit a few calas for some quiet over the next week or so ...

Goat Island – Cabrera

03 June 2019
Phil Heaton
We had been advised that we should not miss Cabrera, or Goat Island. We were somewhat in two minds as you have to take a mooring, book in advance and … no clubs.

However, we made the reservation for 3 nights and left Santa Eulalia at 0705 for the 68nm trip. Once clear of the headland we were romping along on a beam reach in 13kts NW-N winds. The wind died for the last 8nm so we motored and arrived at 1750, which was perfect as the arrival time for the moorings is 1800.

‘Upshot’ had made the passage too, so we had fine company.

This is a “must visit” place and we enjoyed it immensely – it is a National Park. The castle on the rocky outcrop overlooking the bay offers superb views; the park staff provided a guide (free) to take Peter, Alison and ourselves on a 3 hours evening walk around part of the island, with spectacular views; we did another hike together on one of the open paths (many are closed or restricted) to see the western lighthouse; the park staff opened the museum which is very well done, and displays and describes the history of the island. There is a small cantina in the harbour to slake the thirst after the hikes. All in all, a superb visit … despite no clubs. Oh, and no goats either.

Ibiza … clubbing then …

03 June 2019
Phil Heaton
Then on for the 18nm to Cala Tarida on Ibiza. This was fun … NOT. We anchored in the north part of the bay and instantly got our chain stuck in some rocks despite having carefully dropped the anchor in sand. Eventually after much toing and froing we managed to free the chain without having to dive on it.

Getting in the water was not a prospect to be welcomed – jellyfish everywhere. Yes, we have been in the Balearics for three weeks and still have not been in the water. We enquired about the stinging potential of these critters – high – and the pain level – “oh, the pain only lasts for 2-3 hours”. No thank you.

Anyway, we went ashore for a drink but no clubs in sight … oh well.

The next day we motored the 18nm to the north of the island and Cala San Miguel – hm big hotel in the bay. This looked like it could be clubland. However, we found a small cove on the west side of the cala with a beach bar and from where we could walk to one of the many lookout/defence towers on the coast. We stayed two nights but again no clubbing.

With some rain forecast and the need for some laundry our next stop was the marina at Santa Eulalia on the east coast. Big town, lots of tourists so should be some clubs. Nope – too early in the season. So, we had drinks onboard ‘Upshot’ with Peter and Alison – lovely folks who are also OCC members; and a very nice meal ashore at Ristorante Canasuni. The town is very pleasant and has everything you could wish for … apart from closed clubs.
Vessel Name: Minnie B
Vessel Make/Model: OVNI 395
Hailing Port: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Crew: Phil and Norma
Minnie B's Photos - Dominica Dawdle
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Carla and Gayle ... and dogs