Home run to Gaeta
03 March 2018 | Gaeta
Thursday 28 October 2017
Today’s the day we will berth at our winter home town, we have heard nothing but glowing reports on Gaeta marina and the area itself so we’re very optimistic.
After a pain free slipping of the lines at our alongside berth in Nettuno we departed at 0700; the sun was coming up and hopefully we would make it across the bay and past the firing range before 0800 when, apparently, firing practice starts; mission accomplished! Due to an extremely light wind on the nose we have just the mainsail up and the engine on, we hope to complete this 49 mile passage in daylight; we weren’t prepared to wait for a windy day as there was a lot of rain forecasted for the next few days. Once not far off our half way mark we could see the 541m striking promontory, Monte Circeo, which could easily be mistaken for an island; only one more headland to go around and we are now aware that we are entering earthquake and volcano territory- probably best not to think about that too much! We now have a wonderful flat sea and are looking at the greenery on the rugged mountains which are surrounded by blue sky with the odd fluffy white cloud, so serene. We are passing the area of the Appian Way and can see an old fortification, terraced on the side of the mountain, with a boundary wall on either side and a turret at the bottom. The wind has now swung behind us so we have just the genoa out; we’re feeling very relaxed now, chugging along at 5k and admiring the autumnal colours of the beautiful mountainous coastline edged with sandy beaches; we would have liked our last sail of the season to be without the engine, but hey, you can’t have everything! Many yachtsmen do carry on sailing on throughout the winter but we prefer to spend the unsettled months land exploring and soaking up the different cultures. Finally we round the high rocky promontory where Monte Orlando stands, which we would be exploring soon enough, and have Gaeta in sight, so exciting! We made good time and arrived at Base Nautica Flavio Gioia, a family run marina, at 1715 and wow what a fantastic welcome; the port officer, Jayne, had been in email contact with us for some months advising us on routes, areas of interest, etc and she had organised welcome drinks with other live-aboards: Prosecco and antipasti on her terrace, followed by great Italian pizza at the marina restaurant- we’re definitely going to like this place. To top it all, we had a contract set up from the 1st November and the marina told us that they would not charge us for being three days early. By the way, for those of you thinking of over-wintering here, they offer 30% Cruising Association discount.
We spent the next few days settling in and getting to know the other live-aboards, of which there were only a handful, being of all nationalities; however, this is a lively marina, there are plenty of Italians coming and going to their boats and we have made lots of new friends. There is also an American warship based here, Mount Whitney, so there are a few English speaking inhabitants around. If you’re after an ex -pat community with lots of activities being organised then this is not for you. It is here that we met Val and John aboard SV Scarlett, they got here about a week before us and gave us a guided tour of the town.
The marina itself is situated right in the heart of everything having a backdrop of beautiful, sometimes snow-capped, mountains. Opposite the marina we have Via Indipendenzia, a cobbled, medieval street which is full of life, except for the afternoon of course, when everybody retreats inside after their massive four course lunch! This street caters for pretty much every need: butchers, green grocers, bakeries, coffee shops, delis, pizzerias, a hardware store (where you can get your camping gas bottles refilled), grocery stores, pharmacies, gift shops, clothing and shoe shops and even a Chinese shop, which sells all sorts of useful bits and bobs. The area surrounding this street has lots of other shops, fishmongers, banks, a post office, launderettes, dry cleaners, seamstresses and supermarkets. There is also a daily fish market and a weekly market selling fruit, vegetables, cheese, local olives, home-made wine, honey, cold meats, hot chickens, clothes and household items. Paul has managed to source all sorts of electrical and mechanical sundries for Swallow’s winter maintenance. There’s a chandlery at the marina and others further along the seafront towards Formia. The marina can point you in the direction of various tradesmen too.
On the evening of 30th September we experienced Le Vie di Gaeta, the cultural food festival along this old street: all of the shop and restaurant owners, and also residents, who are adorned in traditional dress, set up stalls where you can try small samples of the local dishes and wine of Gaeta in exchange for Follaro- the currency of the 10th to the 13th century; we swapped our euros for some of these old coins and filled our boots! We tasted tiella (local pie), fried calamari, anchovies and courgette flowers, soups , stews, olives , donuts and cakes; the red wine and prosecco were wonderful at 50 cents a cup; there were also several musicians along the way, entertaining us whilst tucking in! Young and old had turned out for this annual occasion and the atmosphere was wonderful.
The following few days were spent unwinding, swimming (yes the is water is still warm) down at the beautiful, sandy Serapo beach and exploring the national park up to Mount Orlando .There is so much to discover: The Turq’s cave, split mountain, mausoleum, old batteries, beautiful churches, the medieval town with its windy alleyways and steps leading up to the mountain, an art gallery, museums; restaurants and cafe bars are abundant and Christmas is crazy- I’ll save that for another blog! There are places of interest a bus ride away too, such as the famous Montecassino Abbey; the marina have given us a 130 page booklet, which they have compiled themselves, on all of this and so much more.
I cannot recommend Base Nautica Flavio Gioia enough as a marina for winter live aboards; the location is great too, being half way between Rome and Naples transport links are great- either city is an hour away by train. I would also say that Gaeta is a great place for a summer holiday, although I have been told that the bus routes in and out to Formia train station (15 minutes) might be rather congested in July and August.
Now I have a quick visit home as my daughter has been ill and needs some help with our gorgeous grandson- can’t wait to see them. In November they will be visiting us, their first trip to Italy, I’m sure they’re going to love it here as much as we do. Watch this space for more stories from Gaeta.
Riva di Traiano and Nettuno
27 February 2018 | Nettuno
After two nights in Giglio it was time to move on to mainland Italy on the Tyrrhenian Sea to start our southwards sail to our winter destination in Gaeta, where we were booked in for the 1st October 2017. We knew that wherever we stopped along this coast it would be extortionate and none of the few anchorages seemed very appealing given the unsettled conditions; a Dutch guy on the neighbouring boat recommended that we go for the marina at Riva di Traiano rather than Civitavecchia, which is a commercial harbour where the cruise ships dock, we did see the Queen Victoria docked there as we passed. After a long slog, motor sailing for 47 miles we arrived and were welcomed in by a flock of storks flying in perfect formation. There wasn’t much of interest here so we walked to the Co-op half an hour away to stock up. At this stage we had both ‘hit a brick wall’ and were looking forward to hanging up our foulies for the winter.
On Monday 25th September 2017 we set sail for Nettuno , our penultimate leg. We started off with only a F1 wind and a smooth sea, we passed a solitary dolphin and the odd pot buoy; the plotter wasn’t working at first, which meant no AIS either, so we were relying on Captain Paul’s I Pad, if that fails then it’s good old fashioned paper charts, which I quite enjoy in calm conditions; panic over- Paul found the loose connection and normal service was resumed! As we passed Rome we saw a fairly flat unexciting coastline, who would think that such a vibrant, historical city lies beyond. We were then almost half way into our 60 mile passage; the wind was very fickle, the sun was shining down on the sea creating a bright sparkly blanket. Being an ex- aircraft engineer Paul enjoys a spot of plane spotting and so today he was thrilled to spot a formation of 10 fighter planes in front of us, made us think of the wonderful Red Arrows back home. With 5 miles remaining the sea became extremely rolly and the wind kicked up to 16k with 20k gusts, we were on a broad reach with a 1m swell on the beam; we had to negotiate a large fish farm on Anzio point whilst being tossed around all over the place, there were charted wrecks and pot buoys thrown into the mix too- certainly not a boring sail today; a French motorboat kindly came past us slowly and checked that we were ok. We arrived safely in daylight at 1730 and were thrilled to be moored up alongside, rather than the usual med style mooring, the staff were lovely- should be at 50 euros per night! This marina offers very basic facilities but is well protected and right next to the old walled town, which is rather quaint but spoilt by graffiti. The main town has many budget supermarkets so this a good place to replenish your food lockers. We found the whole town to be rather run down, dirty and unkempt; the two beaches were not particularly attractive either- we hoped that Gaeta would be better. The only pristine place in town, about half an hour walk away, was the absolutely massive second world war American cemetery which was incredibly moving. Now we just had to wait for a weather window to complete our journey to Gaeta which couldn’t come soon enough!
26 February 2018 | Tuscan Islands
On 20th September 2017 we awoke to a beautiful rainbow and light winds, so at 0845 we bade farewell to the Corsican mountains and set sail for the Tuscan island of Elba, 44 miles away; we sailed the first half of the passage close hauled but later had a great beam reach.
As we passed the small isle of Pianosa ,with 12 miles to go, Paul was delighted to catch a 6 lb mahi-mahi; OMG what a blood bath- I’m surprised we didn’t attract a frenzy of sharks; I think next time, rather than bash the poor creature on the head we should adopt the alcohol knock-out method ( for the fish, not the crew).
Our first sighting of Elba was rounded sloping cliffs, carpeted in greenery with trees dotted along the tops. We found a peaceful anchorage in the Golfe della Lacona and yes you guessed it- fish for dinner. Unfortunately the weather was not going to be settled for long, so after a pleasant night’s sleep we moved further south to the island of Giglio. We vowed that we would return and see more of this beautiful island, and in fact the whole area- there are seven Tuscan islands in this national park but some are out of bounds.
The 42 mile passage to Giglio was pretty uneventful, apart from me losing my favourite red polarised sunglasses over the side whilst shelling prawns! We were close hauled most of the way, with one reef in the mainsail; sounds mad in next to no wind but we’ve discovered that this gives us a nicely balanced boat when we manage to get the genoa out too. We are constantly surprised at how many sailboats we see without their sails up, they just motor everywhere and don’t bother. Each island and the mainland coast had fluffy moisture clouds over them, my favourite pastime on days like this is to see what shapes I can see in them- today it’s a baby elephant! Before the days of plotters these clouds, formed by the warm moisture rising, used to tell the navigators that they were nearing land. We’d been feeling quite emotional on the way, happily reminiscing about our childhoods, brought on by listening to Abba for hours; these feelings turned to sadness as we approached the area where the Concordia went down claiming many lives. Our first sight of Giglio port, on the NE coast of the island, showed us the typical old Tuscan houses of various muted colours with terracotta roofs. We ventured just past the port to an anchorage in the pilot book but the shallower area had been buoyed off so it was too deep for us, so, coupled with the fact that there weren’t any other boats there, we decided to try our luck in the port. The coast guard answered our radio call as we came in, he promptly summoned the harbour master, Roberto, from the taverna and within five minutes four amused Italians were gesticulating and summoning us into a spot along the wall; we were asked to berth stern to as there were no mooring lines meaning we would have to drop anchor in the harbour- a first for us, a bit nail biting as Swallow doesn’t like going backwards so Captain Paul had to steer leaving me to drop the anchor, which for me was a bit worrying as I could see other chains below us; luckily no snags when we came to leave.
This harbour is so picturesque, you could sit here for hours just watching the comings and goings of the inhabitants, small boats and the rather large ferry which causes quite a lot of wash! Exploring the village we found narrow streets leading uphill to cute little houses having terraced gardens growing fig and apple trees. There are several bakeries, selling ginormous rolls, pizzerias and a few very expensive grocery stores (well it is an island). We sampled the delicious fried calamari in a cone, give me that over fish and chips any day! The church has a shrine to the Concordia victims, very moving; there is still salvage works operating just outside the harbour. We took the bus( 4 euros return) 400m up the very steep mountain to Castello, not so bad going up but on the way down I felt like I was surfing! Quaint and peaceful Castello is an Aragonese walled village which is still inhabited, we found a maze of narrow alleyways and steps leading to tiny doorways- the villagers must be very short. The views from here, overlooking the graveyard and beyond out to see, are breath-taking. Giglio is definitely another place on our ‘return to’ list.
Corsica and Bonifacio Straits
07 November 2017 | Corsica
After four days of obsessively studying Windyty in Castelsardo we set off for Bonifacio on Saturday 9th September 2017 at 0845; luckily we managed to fuel up, expensive though at 1.58 euros per litre! There were a few black clouds but no rain had been forecast; apparently this was an unusually bad September, weather wise- just our luck. The predicted wind was a southerly of 10 knots but we had a Force 1 of WSW and, at 1000, misty rain, lovely! Consequently the genoa was barely filling and then an hour later we got hit by a really nasty squall with a massive swell which was pretty scary; Paul had to go on deck to try and reef the main while I kept Swallow pointing into the wind- not easy when you’re getting corkscrewed around all over the place- this is not my favourite part of sailing! We were so out of control in the end that Paul decided to drop the whole sail and we then carried on downwind with the genoa on a dead run ( the wind directly behind us); the wind eased half an hour later but the white horses were still galloping behind us, then the sun came out- and breathe! Now was a good time for Paul to raise our French courtesy flag. When we were 10 miles off Corsica and approaching the start of the Bonifacio Straits the waves got bigger. This is a beautiful mountainous coastline and Bonifacio is hidden by stunning, eroded limestone cliffs, we could see the old town on top of the cliff; the deep narrow harbour is situated in a slit in the cliffs with the fort and citadel high up on one side; the citadel is so well fortified that in the fifteenth century the inhabitants successfully defended their city against Aragonese attack without troops or artillery. Our 37 mile passage ended at 1615 and we had little help from the marinaros tying up; luckily a kind Frenchman took the lines from me, it was so bouncy. Many superyachts berth here and so far, at 55 euros a night, Bonifacio has been the most expensive marina we have been to with the worst facilities and unhelpful staff; our budget was to suffer here- weather conditions determined that we were here for seven nights, ouch!
The following morning winds of 30 knots, gusting 45 knots, funnelled in towards us and there was a real chop in the harbour. We had to remove the anchor as we were pushed hard against the quay; there were three men helping us push the boat back to tighten up the stern lines (fellow yachtsmen are generally very helpful)- we were sitting ducks basically as every yacht that came in missed us by inches, it was so nerve wracking; we thought: what on earth were they doing out in predicted winds like that in the first place? This continued for four days and I was like a mearcat , popping my head up every time I heard an engine; on our last day another yacht did bash our outboard engine which is bolted on to our push pit, luckily no serious damage though.
On the plus side this place has fantastic sunsets and a wonderful medieval town set within a fortress which, although has seen so much conflict, maintains so much of its’ original structure and features such as tiny winding alleyways, churches, look out towers and sheer walls looking down to the crashing waves below ; this is a town not destroyed by tourism- the tiny shops and restaurants, serving wonderful French cuisine, are nestled into its’ original fabric; the inhabitants here, and on Corsica in general ,are slightly aloof but this adds to the charm! We also made some new friends here: Juan and Mariela from Buenas Aires and Kellie, Nicky and Jonathan , with whom we had a very entertaining evening aboard Boomerang, having a ‘ sing-off’ with a French boat, their line dancing put our rendition of Chiquita to shame!
On 15 September 2017 the winds had settled down earlier than predicted and so we made a snap decision to leave Bonifacio at 1300; Juan helped us with our lines and we departed our berth; there was quite a swell in the harbour entrance but once away from there we had a good breeze and east going current which took us for 17 miles around Iles Lavezzi and Cavello towards Rondinara, another stunning anchorage where we enjoyed an early evening swim; we felt a massive sense of relief to have negotiated this infamous stretch of water without any drama. Rondinera had beautiful, crystal clear water; bright green bushes lined the sandy beach and very few buildings were visible along the attractive undulating coastline; it was so peaceful here, there were a few strong gusts but the holding was really good and so we had a restful night. The next morning a force 3 NNW wind filled our genoa and took us speedily further up the east coast towards our destination of the Golfe de San Ciprianu; this is a beautiful cruising area, so unspoilt. We sailed past the nature reserve of the Isles Cerbicales ; all around us was the stark landscape of sandstone, spotted with dark red, and evergreens; there were a few scattered villages that blended into the scenery so well that you could hardly pick out the houses. As we rounded the Pointe de la Chiappe the wind died and so the engine took us the last few miles, we arrived at our anchorage at 1400 and had a very relaxing afternoon. On Sunday morning we awoke to a squall of 20 knots winds and a big fetch of white water; again we were holding well and Paul decided to let out some more chain, which isn’t easy in those conditions as we do not have an electric windlass- needs to be added to the wish-list I think! The afternoon was perfectly still and we watched two red and yellow firefighting sea planes practising their water bombing techniques- luckily not over us. We were sorely tempted to set off for Giglio, a Tuscan island 80 miles away, but decided to wait until after dark so that we could maximise our daylight hours, especially as the nights were getting longer now; heavy rain was forecasted for the following night and didn’t look to be improving all week so we figured it was a good idea to leave that night as planned. We knew that the winds would be strong when we left but Windyty had promised a lull further up the coast and across to Giglio. So, with the lee cloth ready in place for the night watches, we waited for a lull in the wind to weigh the anchor and set off at 1830. Note to self- never again interpret Windyty so literally, it is only a forecast after all! A few hours in we kept thinking soon the conditions will get better but the wind behind us just got stronger and the swell got bigger, we were totally out of control; tempers were frayed and the tension was tight, we couldn’t agree on a plan of action ( for the non-sailors amongst you, you could compare it to being lost in the car and the man won’t stop and ask for directions- that kind of disagreement); Bob couldn’t cope either (he’s our auto-helm; everyone else seems to have named theirs so we’ve joined in- after Henry Bob, our grandson!) Eventually, after admitting defeat and heading back to Corsica, we arrived at Solenzara at 0130; there are not many safe havens along this stretch of coast and the pilot book recommends against entering this particular marina in the dark; there are lots of rocks and shoal water close to the entrance so we really were guided by just our chart plotter and the cardinal light- I was at the bow trying to keep a lookout, it was all pretty confusing; once inside we couldn’t figure out where visitors were supposed to go so we tied up alongside the fuel berth, in the morning we realised we had a massive pile of rocks behind us which we had narrowly missed. The plus side to all of this was that the fuel berth had electricity and water and nobody knew we were there all night so it was free. Of course now we’d missed our weather slot for the Tuscan islands so we decided to head further up the eastern coast of Corsica so that we could have a much shorter passage across to Elba, neither of us fancied a night sail anytime soon after that experience. This 30 mile journey was a total contrast, brilliant sunshine and next to no wind so we motored up to Port de Taverna with the genoa barely filling. Time to relax after last night’s ordeal and enjoy the beautiful scenery of dark red and green hills backed by the mountain ranges with cumulus clouds above them which resembled flying saucers; we saw a solitary dolphin and overhead a mirage and a super etendard were flying along the coast, there is a long military airstrip here. We spotted lots of little inlets along the way, called etangs, and also sandy, uninhabited beaches which were glistening in the sunshine. Suddenly Bob decided that he wanted to go in the opposite direction- the exact reciprocal of our set heading; it took us fifteen minutes, after studying the manual in detail, to suss out what had happened- I had tucked our insect curtain, which has a magnetic closure, against the wardrobe which housed the flux compass . With four miles to go the rain started so at 1645 we were relieved to finally reach the marina, with the help of lots of hand signals the marinaro managed to find us a berth which had the mooring lines actually attached to the bottom. This marina, which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, was a bit soulless although the local boat owners were friendly. We had a very mediocre meal in the restaurant and all the staff had that blank, Corsican expression on their faces. They told us that there was not a shop for miles but we headed off on a brisk walk through the woods, stopping for a coffee/ hot chocolate en route, and found a well-stocked Utile 2km away in Prunette. That night there was a pretty dramatic thunder storm above us, we were relieved to be here. In a couple of days’ time we would be crossing the Tyrrhenian Sea for the Tuscan island of Elba; we’re really excited to be bound for Italy again.
A taste of Sardinia
24 October 2017 | Sardinia
As much as we would have liked to circumnavigate Sardinia time constraints and shorter weather windows would not allow it; we were booked into Gaeta on mainland Italy for October so we decided that we would head north and through the Bonifacio Straits. Firstly though we spent five days in Alghero due to organising the repair to our stanchion post and lifeline; the silver lining was that it was a lovely place and the insurance would be paying for our berth (Italy is more expensive than Spain and we had planned to be mainly anchoring).
Our first day in Alghero was occupied with sourcing a rigger to give us a quotation for the insurance company; after putting out a question on the Cruising Association forum we were recommended to go and see Roberto in Aquatica Marina. This guy was a CA rep. and called out SOS Nautica for us and also sorted a 20% discount on our berthing rate; the repair went smoothly, although we now have one stainless stanchion and the others are aluminium (you can only spot this on close inspection). As a bonus we made some nice new friends, Claire, Clive and their 8 year old son Oliver- they were on the boat moored next to us and were soon returning back to the UK after a summer adventure around Greece; they kindly gave us a few useful items that they wouldn’t be needing anymore, one of which was a wifi box as ours had decided to burn itself out! One of Paul’s old chandlery customers also turned up on Rum Truffle, Mark and Gina- they would be following us through the Straits but would then be heading straight for Greece; it’s always nice to meet up with fellow sailors to swop stories and tips; sometimes you can feel a little low not having your friends and family around you and meeting like-minded people always helps to lift your spirits. We also made a local ’friend’ who spends all day, every day hanging around the town quay chatting to the boat crews; I would recommend to anyone who moors here to go in bow to (as we generally do)- a lot more privacy.
Although the modern part of Alghero is a little shabby the old walled town, where we were moored, is charming; every evening we wandered around the cobbled streets admiring the old churches and towers and pottered around the little shops where coral jewellery (sourced locally) was in abundance; of course there are gelataries on every corner and Prosecco is plentiful- I am in heaven! There are so many restaurants to choose from here, we picked a tiny pizzeria overlooking the sea and sat outside watching the sunset- bellisimo!
On Monday 4th September 2017 we set off at 0930 for an anchorage on the north of the island, 36 miles away; we had a fantastic port beam reach with full sail for the first hour but after that the wind died and the engine had to go on and we rigged up a preventer for the main sail. Five hours in Paul had to top up the tank from our 20L reserve can as Alghero was all out of diesel- hopefully we’ll be able to get some in the next port. This coastline is beautiful with sheer, craggy cliffs of ochre and grey topped with green vegetation and backed with sloping hills. We were 9 miles from our destination and we noticed loads of seabirds chasing little fish who were trying to escape a shoal of tuna; there were loads of pot buoys a couple of miles out from the shore too. There was now only 2.5 m under the boat and we were heading through the very narrow Fornelli Passage which was well marked but a bit nail biting- you wouldn’t be wanting to go through here on a rough day! Once through here we noticed two anchored boats and so picked a spot in 4m of water; we were in between Isla Piana and Isola dell’Asinara, which has been a quarantine island, a POW camp and a Mafia prison and is now a national park. As soon as the anchor was set, at around 1700, we had a lovely, refreshing swim, the turquoise water was crystal clear and we could see the sandy bottom; a solitary dolphin was playing 200 metres away. Once again we witnessed an incredible sunset and then a full moon; it was an extremely still night. Strong winds had been forecasted for the next few days so the following, windless morning we set off for Castelsardo, 22 miles away; it’s hard to believe that it can blow a real hoolie through here but I’m sure we’ll witness it soon enough.
On approaching Castelsardo we saw a hilly, quaint fishing village, lined with multi-coloured houses and topped with a ruined castle- just like a picture postcard. Again we were guided in by a friendly marinaro and we were delighted to be told that our rate would be 15 euros per night. The medieval village inside the castle walls up on the hill was spectacular, rewarding to see after the steep walk up there; there were a few shops and restaurants scattered around the alleyways and women were sat in their doorways weaving baskets, it was like going back in time. Many of the old houses had been turned into holiday lets but many older locals still remain; it was so peaceful up there; the 13th century castle, church and bell tower are all worth a visit. The view out to sea from up there was incredible too. Rum Truffle caught up with us here and we had a great evening aboard with them.
We knew that we had to press on and tackle the Bonifacio Straits, unfortunately the weather here was untypically bad for September, so we knew that we would not be able to cruise the Maddalena Islands as we had originally planned; instead we decided to head over to Bonifacio on Corsica and then edge our way around the east coast of the French island before crossing over to the Italian mainland. So as soon as weather conditions allow we will be sadly leaving this beautiful island; hopefully we will return next year.
Passage to Sardinia
23 October 2017 | Sardinia
At 13.30 on Sunday 27 August 2017 we sailed out of Fornells bay bound for Alghero, just below the north western tip of Sardinia, some 200 miles away. There wasn’t any significant wind forecasted but we chose this as a trade-off; apparently any decent wind for sailing this crossing would bring considerable swell; there is often a strong mistral which blows down from the Golfe du Lion between Menorca and Sardinia. Windyty (our weather app) had promised us some strongish winds half way across but it was not to be! We had some light breeze, on the nose as usual, so we kept the main up, close hauled. We’ve never before had such a smooth sea, it was like sliding along glass; consequently we had the engine on the whole time but we figured this was better than the opposite extreme which some of our sailing buddies had experienced.
Luckily I had ‘cooked for the five thousand’ as I find eating a good way of keeping myself awake on passages lasting 44 hours, which this one was to be. Although the lack of wind made this a monotonous journey we were pretty excited to be on our way to yet another beautiful destination and enjoyed the sights that our wonderful solar system has to offer.
Losing sight of Menorca on that first afternoon with no land ahead of us all I could see was a giant semi-circular horizon; it seemed as though we were heading for the edge of the earth, into the abyss. I really admire discoverers, such as Magellan and Columbus, who ventured across the open seas not knowing what to expect, having only basic navigational instruments, very crude charts and relying heavily on the stars to guide them- note to self: learn how to use a sextant and study our solar system. This trip has really made me feel closer to the elements and that we should not take for granted how our planet functions in relation to the sun, the moon, the whole universe!
Late afternoon Paul caused some excitement by catching a very large dolphin fish (mahi-mahi); this fish is beautiful- blue and green with deeper blue spots. It tasted pretty good too! The only downside for me was that the whole performance of catching and killing it caused blood to be splattered all over the cockpit and over me too! ( Luckily I’d finished eating my tuna pasta ). This delightful creature took up so much room in the fridge so Paul decided to reel in his rod.
That evening we saw no other vessels; we seemed to be the only boat on the ocean with just the man in the moon for company. The radio was fairly quiet too, just an occasional French conversation, which we figured we were picking up from Corsica. Paul did the first night watch and I surfaced at 0230 to see the half -moon shining down behind us; the Milky Way was so bright and I was lucky enough to see two shooting stars. At one point I mistook a star for a ship’s light; I could not see the horizon, the sea had merged into the night sky. The stars and moon began to gradually disappear and at 0530, heading East, we were approaching daybreak. At 0600 the sunrise began and the sea was full of orange and pink ripples; at 0700 the burning bright orange ball appeared- I never tire of seeing this! As it was such an uneventful evening I really had to pinch myself to stay awake so at 0830 I was back down in the cabin pushing up zeds for a few hours.
Monday brought us pretty much the same smooth sea, which resembled a giant swimming pool, and very light winds so we plodded on with the iron sail; we were heading slightly north of our destination as we hoped the predicted northerlies would push us back down later- no such luck! Paul went for an afternoon nap and I caught up with Eastenders on the I-Pad to relieve the boredom! At 1600 we finally had some company- I saw two cargo ships cross each other ahead of us; then Sega made radio contact, they had left a few hours after us and were now not far behind . At 1700 Paul raised our pristine Italian flag. The sun was shining a pathway behind us and would soon be setting, the sea was like a mill pond! Paul gutted his fish and chopped it up into steaks ready for the barbecue when we get there; he decided to cast his rod one more time. Conditions were so calm that we were able to have deck showers, with no spectators for a change! Then we were engulfed with sea mist from the heat haze, it was eerie, all we could see were the beautifully coloured ripples on the sea surface which were a reflection of the pink and blue sky, the half-moon was already visible, the whole scene was just like a water colour painting. At 2015 I was just about to dish up dinner when a massive fish took Paul’s lure- the one that got away.
At 0700 the next morning a stunning sunrise welcomed us towards Sardinia; we were shattered but elated that we would finally be stepping off onto Italy, a new country for us to explore. We could hear the locals on the radio, such a beautiful language. We came around the imposing Cape Caccia and into a stunning bay; we were a little apprehensive, not knowing what to expect and not being familiar with the language- we had read that Alghero is run by the Ormeggiatori which conjured up Mafiosa images in our heads, turns out we had no need to worry; there seemed to be a lot of competition and intimidation between the various marina owners ( we had eight options to choose from) but the customers were blissfully oblivious to it and obviously it meant there were deals to be had! One of the marina owners, in his dinghy, met us at the harbour entrance and tried to entice us in but once we told him that we’d already booked the town quay online he left us alone. The Ormeggiatori helped us tie up and gave us a fantastic welcome- we think we’re going to like Sardinia!