Italian Islands- Elbows Out
02 March 2021
We left France to continue our journey east to Greece. Luckily for us, after our frolicking with the French, we had a great passage to northern Sardinia. Now, if we thought there were superyachts in France, Sardinia put them to shame. But we will get to that.
Sardinia exceeded expectations. We flew through the Strait of Bonifacio into water that was clear and warm. The bays were beautiful, and we were always able to find a spot. We had expected the worst as the Costa Smerelda is reported to be one for the most expensive places to moor a boat. It is a place of the rich and famous who go to "be seen". Well, that was not in our cruiser budget so we had to avoid those bays which required you to use mooring buoys so that you were not in the way of the superyachts- the fees per night for Swift would have been over 200 Euro! We were able to do some sleuthing and figure out less likely hot spots for the rich, and then usually could find a nice place to drop the anchor. However, the Island did not come without its quirks.
Italian powerboats are ridiculous- fast, furious, and rude. It may sound like a generalization, but northern Sardinia can get feisty weather with plenty of Italian attitude to go with it. It felt like we were almost a constant moving target- the powerboats would see you, and you could see the glint in their eyes as they bombed past as fast and as close as they could. The swamping wakes were like none we've ever experienced. When we moved, we were always steering with our elbows out trying to convince ourselves that we were holding our ground (we weren't), and wished we had learned more Italian on Duolingo to shout out a few choice words. Instead we were forced to communicate with expressive gestures which were often joyfully returned as the captain thundered away towards the next small sailboat.
One of our favourite spots was Porto Liscia at the northern tip of the island. It is a giant bay with lots of room for superyachts and poor cruisers alike, and a long sandy beach for land time. The other exciting part for us was that it was kiteboarding hotspot. On our second day at anchor the kite gear was dragged out, and we dinghied across to the beach to set up shop. For anyone who knows us, the Finleys never travel light (one look at Swift's decks proves that!) and setting up for an afternoon at the beach always seems to include enough stuff to fill the dinghy.
There are interesting rules about beaching dinghies on swimming beaches in Italy, so it was a convoy of swimming our stuff ashore and anchoring Swifter out. We had picked a spot down the beach from where all the schools were launching kites so that the kids wouldn't be underfoot and we would have some space. Or so we thought! Well, Sardinia is the playground for the rich, and apparently the group closest to us was one of those who, despite being a rather young group, was set up with teak furniture and canvas umbrellas. They politely took offense to our closeness (which was still quite a distance) and firmly asked us to move even further down the beach. We were a little shocked, but as the passive polite Canadians, we had our elbows tucked in and of course moved! We watched this same group later get picked up by crew to head back to their superyacht. Their lair on the beach was left as is- dirty towels and all, so a couple members of the crew were dispatched to clean up. What a different way of living!
What we didn't realize was that our new location further away meant we were in the clothing optional section of beach. You would think that we would be used to this after France, but while in France it was mostly topless women, Sardinia was completely filled with proud, buck naked older men with large bellies. I am not sure which is worse, but it was always prudent to avert our eyes when going on a beach walk to avoid unwelcome surprises.
The kids really loved AIS in northern Sardinia and started to stalk the superyachts we passed. It became a game (which continued on in our time in Europe) to guess the size of the boat, how many crew/ cabins, and who the owners were. A favorite one had a waterslide and a basketball court on the foredeck.
As we traveled through Northern Sardinia, we were gearing up to continue east to Greece and found a decent provisioning spot to load up on cured meat, cheese, fresh pasta, and some truly amazing Sardinian beer. With our fresh supplies we took a break in the weather to head southeast. To break up our passage, we headed to the Aeolian Islands (Volcano Islands). We had planned this stop purely as a break and knew little about the islands. They proved to be a shockingly amazing gem and should have been a destination in itself. Sometimes we feel so lucky to stumble onto such neat spots and this is one at the top of that list. The anchorages were all a bit rolly, but you need to put that aside. We anchored in some of the clearest water to date, and in the first place the bottom was all boulders. It was interesting and challenging to anchor in, but amazing for snorkeling and swimming. Again, super crowed- don't bother trying to anchor away as people will join you, but we were now getting used to the Italian way. There were several passionate "discussions" with gesticulating, which happily most often resulted in a peaceful ending. See- we Canadians learn- elbows out! Playing the "we're sailing back to Canada with our kids" card also piqued interest, diffused situations, and provided some great local knowledge.
A hike up the volcano on a hot day, more swimming and we were off to the Straits of Messina. We motored through the flat calm Straits without another vessel in sight (unexpected), fueled up (I don't even want to mention the cost of diesel there), and set sail past Mount Etna- Greece, here we come!
Check out the photos from this trip in the gallery don't forget to check Instagram for updates: @sailing.swift