Bonifacio: One of the most beautiful harbours in the Med.
26 August 2013 | Bonifacio, Corsica, France
After cousin Ingrid and family left us on Saturday, we waited a couple of days in Baia Reparata, Capo Testa, at the North tip of Sardinia, for strong West winds to subside.
Monday, we sailed to the French island of Corsica. A total of 10 miles across the Bonifacio Strait and 90 min or so later, we entered Bonifacio, a natural harbour. It is shaped as a deep, narrow inlet (but wide enough to accommodate a marina for 450 boats, many of them expensive super-yachts.) The inlet has vertical cliffs on both sides. The medieval town is on top of the outward cliff, looking at sea and protected by the walls of a citadel. It is truly spectacular.
We had called the marina and asked for their nightly fees. We had two choices: 190 euros a night in the main harbour or 40 euros a night to tied up to the cliff walls on the Calanque de la Catena, a little bay on the North side of harbor. The difference, you may ask? Well, the 190 euros gives you a dock and help from the marina crew to tie up your boat. With the 40 euros choice, you have no help and no dock. Guess which one we chose? Tying up to the wall of the Catena bay with wind gusts up to 25 knots from the side, was almost as exciting as getting caught on one of the mooring lines as we were leaving the Santa Teresa marina in Sardinia, and lying across the two boats on either side of us. In Catena, Alec and Roan jumped in the dinghy while Mark was holding Por Dos with the engines; a tricky maneuver due to the big gusts of wind coming down the cliffs. It took a couple of tries for Alec and Roan to find a suitable mooring line - these lines are often attached to big metal rings on the wall; from there, they run underwater all the way to a mooring block in the middle of the bay. Alec handed me the mooring line and I attached to the starboard bow cleat. Then, while Mark was spinning the boat to face the middle of the bay, we ran a starboard stern line to one of the metal rings on the wall. With the starboard side secured, we found a mooring line for the port bow and ran a port stern line to another metal ring. With Por Dos nicely secured, we jumped on the dinghy and went ashore to explore Bonifacio and treat ourselves to a French Corse dinner.
I will tell you more about our Corsican visit in a later blog, but let me digress here for a minute on the Mediterranean stereotypes - which, by the way, are all true. We have gone from the Spanish need for smalltalk to the Italian exuberant ways with their hands. From those two cultures, nothing can prepare you for the sharp and short ways of the French - you need to remember, they are doing you a favour by talking to you :-). No matter how you tried to phrase an open question with the idea of getting as much information as possible, you get "Oui", "Non", "C'est pas possible" or the dreaded "Je suis dessole, madam" which it translates into either "Please go away, I can't/won't do anything for you" or "I do not know the answer, but my culture forbids me to say that I do not know". Of course, I am referring at people in businesses and customer service; we have met plenty of nice Spanish, Italian and, yes, even French, sailors and non-sailors alike.