Crossing to Sardinia
10 July 2016 | Sardinian Sea
The passage to Sardinia is around 195 miles, as we had a berth waiting in Cagliari we were aiming for the south west corner of the island where two smaller islands form a sheltered area. The trip would take us around 32 hours at our normal 6 knots but we wanted to arrive in daylight so some slowing down to achieve this was likely.
We arrived in Mahon around midday and refueled, we can carry 750 litres in our two tanks so this is more than enough to cover the whole distance under engine if we need to (and as a cat we can always run on one engine, this reduces speed but improves range) We wanted to get a few bits of food shopping and have time to prep the boat properly so reluctantly paid E30 to moor to a pontoon in the centre of the harbour for 4/5 hours. We dinghied ashore to shop and dump the rubbish, returned and made a tuna pasta dish for dinner later and did a good ‘boat check’. We always check the key systems and the engines before a passage –oil/filters/water intake etc but before a longer distance we check all the inside and outside of the boat, bilges, stopcocks, hoses and the joints and pins that support the rig and sails as well as making sure everything is secure incase the weather turn rough. We already had a passage plan and route entered into the chart-plotter (and noted on paper in case the electronics fail). By 17.00 hrs we had had a shower to cool down after all the work and were ready to leave.
We dropped the lines at 17.30 hrs and motored out of the main harbour at Mahon. We had been waiting for friends on ‘Joshuas Wake’ to arrive all week but hadn’t heard from them and assumed they’d been delayed. We were just entering the channel to the harbour entrance when they called us on the VHF radio. They were just entering the channel having crossed from Mallorca and had noticed our AIS symbol approaching them. Having waited a week hoping to catch up we pass in the harbour mouth! They turned and we motored side by side for a few minutes having a chat and then they went off to the anchorage and we continued out to sea. It was great to see them but rather a short visit!
Our passage was uneventful, there was little wind so the motors were on most of the time, the sea was calm and after the first night there was little swell. We took it in turns to keep watch, roughly 3 hours on, 3 hours off but varied this dependant on how we felt. There is not a great deal of traffic out on the Sardinian sea but Carolyn seems to attract it, all the instances where large ships decided to head at us came on her watches. We saw around 25 ships but only 4 caused us any concern, with our AIS system capable of spotting them 20 miles away and responding in good time there was never any problem and they all passed at least a mile from us in the end.
Off watch we mostly slept and ate, the tuna pasta did two meals and we ate sandwiches, snacks and our normal museli for breakfast. With the sea so calm we were able to read as well, when you can see nothing but water for 20 odd miles all around its not necessary to be watching every second, reading for 5 minutes and looking around before returning to the book works well.
By Friday evening it was clear that our 6 knot speed with 2 engines was going to result in a middle of the night arrival so we slowed down to one engine and for a few hours in the early morning the engines went off and Chris enjoyed his watch sailing along at 3-4 knots with the lights of Sardinia starting to emerge over the horizon. By 05.30 hrs on Saturday morning it was starting to get light and we were around 5 miles from the coast. At 6.30 hrs we furled the sails and motored the last couple of miles into Carloforte on Isola di San Pietro (St Peters Island). The harbour entrance is in a channel between the various islands but is not difficult to navigate though one of the marked buoys was missing. We called Marina Sifredi where we had booked a berth on the VHF to be told there was no-one at the marina yet so we could wait or go side to the external pontoon next to another cat. As we were tired waiting didn’t appeal so we took the external option and moored easily though the fact there were no cleats and you have to use the rings on the side face of the pontoon was unusual. We took 20 minutes to secure and tidy Splice and both hit the sack.
The total passage time was 37 hours covering 195 miles, highest wind speed was 12 knots with the average wind being around 5 knots. No issues other than halfway across we noticed that the outer sheath on our ‘topping lift’ (the line that holds up the boom when it’s not in use) had split and exposed the core of the rope – replacement needed when we get to a chandler.
First impressions of Carloforte are positive, it seems like a lovely old town with a very relaxed feel. We wandered about last night and had a drink in a couple of bars to test out the beers. Here you get served snacks with any drink you order - some of them very tasty (soft cheese with honey/dried tuna chunks/very small sweet onions pickled in balsamic) Mind you Chris has yet to find a beer he really likes – he is prepared to try a few more however! We had dinner last night in recommended restaurant and whilst the food –Tuna again!- was good the service was poor so no tip or recommendation. The area has a history as a big tuna fishing port and some of the old photos around show the mass landings of the past. It’s still a good business here and every eating place offers ‘tuna this’ and ‘tuna that’ as staple dishes. The old buildings are very attractive arranged in narrow streets. There is a nice square with four large fig trees shading it and in the heat of the day and in the evening this is clearly a gathering place for the town’s populace to chat and watch the world go by. We like it.
Tonight is the European Championship final between France and Portugal and Chris searched without success on the internet for a ‘Sports Bar’ where he could watch. When we walked into town there was a notice that a screen was bring erected in one of the streets outside a bar so that people could watch together. Nice touch, turning a sporting occasion into a community event. Guess where we will be tonight!
Photo: Carolyn getting ready to hoist our new Italian ‘courtesy flag’ – Cruising yachts fly the maritime flag of the nation who’s waters you are visiting in their starboard rigging