Western Med Blog 6
05 July 2017 | Castelsardo
mart.....weather.....well this is the Med....so Med weather
On the afternoon of the Fiesta of San Juán (St Joan) we loaded up the bicycles and headed for the beach at the head of the Cala Santandria. The first mate was hot, bothered and snappy. We were greeted at the beach by a lifeguard who said we could not land on the beach with the dingy but had to tie it up 200m back against the cliff. This involved a lot of clambering over sharp dolomite to get back to the beach. This made the first mate even more bothered. This level of “botheredness” was to escalate further when she discovered she had left her shoes on the boat and had to go back and then because we had stopped using the auxiliary fuel tank on the outboard, left the fuel tap in the wrong position and ended up rowing in the heat [until it dawned on me, to turn the fuel tap to the middle!]
We had gone off to hire a bike for Dylan but on arrival at the beach where her bicycle was locked and waiting. She unfolded her bicycle open with the brake cable on the wrong side of the handlebars which resulted in the rear brakes being permanently applied. [these bikes are not easy to unfold!] After quite a lot of naming the bicycle in expletives, we managed to get the brake cable fixed. In the meantime, Dylan had pedalled off to escape the bike-naming. Our fiesta was off to a fine start!
At last, all three of us, cool breeze in face, cycled the 2½ km into town. Town was warming up literally and figuratively for the Fiesta. Streets were cordoned off. We went into the main square, which along with the rest of the town was draped with flags of St Joan, burgundy with a white cross. Marauding masses had matching tee-shirts and beer and ready mixed litre bottles gin (and apparently) lemonade were already flowing freely. It was all in plastic containers, no doubt a lesson from the past. We had a few beers. The first mate was starting to cheer up.
As we stood there on our second beer, a commotion came across the square straight toward where we were standing. It was a chap riding a mule and blowing a penny whistle. Behind him was a following crowd cheering and jeering. Just then the door right next to us opened and out stepped a Padré, dressed in black with dog collar. He greeted the mule, the two costumed people that were leading it and its mount with his whistle. We think he was the mayor? There was a brief blessing ceremony and then the whole procession proceeded down a narrow street with much aplomb, off to the house of the next Padré in town.
We had a snack down at the harbour and then decided to head back to the boat. The main festival madness was to be that night. On the way back, we stumbled upon the dressage horses, just coming into town. Shinning black stallions with riders in formal riding attire. They were highly trained and dancing, prancing and rearing with frothing mouths in sequenced moves. It was very impressive.
Back at the boat we hid from the heat and after much trying all afternoon Dylan finally got through to a taxi company and managed to book himself a taxi to the airport at 8 the next morning. It was good to have spent a week with him on the boat.
After Dylan’s departure the following day we waited for the wind to fill in and then had an exhilarating sail halfway along the north coast of Menorca to Fornells. Fornells is a large estuary and the most friendly and helpful buoy minder greeted us. He did not even want our money and said we were just to wave him down the next day as he charged back and forth in his RIB between the 50 or so buoys that formed his fiefdom. The next morning we had a pleasant breakfast ashore went up to the museum in the tower at the entrance. It had been built by the British during their occupation of the island and commanded impressive views out to sea and back across the estuary.
We then motored around to Addaia which is a narrow estuary just 6nM further east. This turned out to be a charming place, with deep wooded sides and a very friendly and welcoming small marina. We were going to go on to Mahon but scratched that idea and spent 2 nights on anchor and then 2 nights in a Marina berth. Grania flew in on the 27 June. The girls spent a chilled day swimming off the rocks avoiding two resident jelly fish, and then SUPping in the estuary while I hired a scooter and spent a day exploring Mahon, the south coast, the highest point of the island and taking in some Neolithic ruins. I also got thoroughly wet in a thundery shower but soon dried out again on the scooter without really getting cold. Menorca is a fantastic place, far less commercial than Mallorca.
After telling Grania that the weather for the crossing to Sardinia was not looking great and that she may have to fly back out of Menorca, a weather window for the crossing opened up. The account of the crossing follows.
Our crossing to Sardinia commenced 29 June in Addaia. As related later, first day of the crossing had been an interesting day’s sailing as the sun lay to rest. Above, and all around us, except to the north there was clear sky. In the north there was a towering ominous looking cumulonimbus. I was just admiring how majestic it was and simultaneously reassuring myself that with the wind direction as it was, we would stay clear of it. That is when I did a double take, and on the second take, turned to Veronica to say, “I don’t want to make you nervous but that is a waterspout”. By the time I had rushed down below and change the lens on my camera, it had dissipated somewhat. You will have to trust me on this, on first observation it was a solid twisting umbilical connecting the cloud to the sea but hopefully the photo is convincing enough.
We had got up in Addaia at 05h00 and spent most of the day struggling and tacking across the waypoint line and feeling frustrated that despite a trip average of 5.3knots, by late afternoon we had made only 43nM towards the Fornelli Passage waypoint. I was kicking myself as I had forgotten to put the rudder on Juluka, the mechanical weather vane, the first mate stalled the boat in a tack and as the sail backed we inadvertently reversed over the trawling tuna line we had out. It ended up wrapped on the towed generator propeller and around the starboard rudder. Miraculously not the main propeller of the boat! This resulted in a precarious operation, hanging over the back and the side of the boat with a boat hook to untangle it, forever fearful of getting it in the main propeller, while we hove to. It came free eventually but lesson to self, don’t fish and tow the generator at the same time. Also, our third crew member was suffering badly from mal d’Mer and we feeling bad about not being able to do more, other than to make sure Grania stayed hydrated. Later we had a bit of excitement as the wind came on the stern and we were going so well in a stable situation that I decided to break the rule of not leaving the pole up at night. After 3 hours of doing over 7 knots wing on wing, the wing changed and Murphy’s law came into play. The sheet knot jammed in the pole and I had to wake Veronica up and go on the foredeck at night on a safety line. So, all in all, an interesting and eventful day.
What followed was a magical 6 hours until about 03h00. The cumulonimbus ahead kept giving natures firework display, all in the upper part of the cloud. A giant illuminated mushroom cloud. Not once did I see any lighting to surface but still we were very happy not to be below it. The half-moon set at 00:13 and the night sky, a starry dome was as clear as you seldom see it in the northern hemisphere. For 6 hours the wind was at 90 deg and constant between 8 and 10.5 knots, the sea state mild and the boat sailed bolt upright at between 6 and 7 knots, what more could sailors wish for. The electric storm stayed a constant distance ahead and dissipated in the early hours, magical. The sunrise found us motoring under a half cloudy sky, at 11 the wind filled in and we sailed the next 9 hours with the wind abaft and the predicted rain came at about noon. In two months we have not had a jersey on but that afternoon we had to dig out the “foulies”. At about 15h00 the rain was so torrential the visibility was about 400m, it did not last long. The wind went to 20knots but the sea was flat and we scudded merrily along doing 7 knots with 2 reefs and much reduced Solent sail. We negotiated the 3m deep Fornelli Passage at 19h00 in 16 knots of wind and then motored the last 3Nm into wind to Stintino. We were met by a mooring madness, Sardinian silliness, much pulling and pushing with a RIB, loud gesticulating and a seriously odd Ormeggiatori. He insisted we listen to him despite my protestation that this was not going to work. When we finished doing exactly what he said, I pointed out that the boat was more than 2 metres off the quay. Too which he scatched his head and shrugged, silent for the first time since we met. I then said lucky we were South African and could jump like springboks, too which he suddenly lightened up and accepted my suggestion that we should lengthen the lazy lines. Welcome to Italy………whoops…..make that Sardinia. A 37:34 hour 208 Nm passage at an average of 5.6 knots, brilliant!
We spent 2 nights in the Stintino Marina, sitting out a Maestral that was probably only a max of 18 knots in the harbour but was getting very angry (30 knots plus) as it blasted down the Gulf of Lyon and across the seas we had just sailed between the Balearics and Sardinia. Stintino is a very quaint village barely changed by the ravages of time. We pottered around the waterfront that snaked around the two deep calas that had formed the original harbour. There were great restaurants and food shops in town. Typical Italian Alimentari, small, charming, brimming with things that were waiting to be tasted and an olfactory journey that makes one want to close your eyes and tilt you head back and inhale gently.
We met Alan and Michelle by seeing a British ensign and being cheeky to ask them what they were paying for their berth that was closer to town and administered by a different company. It was slightly cheaper. Alan was a retired London Met Police officer and they had kept their boat in Sardinia for 6 years. They also drove from England every year with their two dogs. This was a topic of interest to Veronica. They invited me to come over later with charts and books so that they could give me a few tips. This I did, much pencil scribbling in the pilot book and on the charts. It was really really helpful so many thanks to them.
Partly because we wanted to stop paying marina rates and partly so Grania could experience a night on anchor, we had been watching the wind and trying to make a call whether it would die off enough and the anchorage in the Pelosa Passage just around the corner 2½Nm away would be tenable. Boy, did we make a good call, as we arrived at Pelosa beach the sun came out and the wind dropped to below 10 knots. We dropped the anchor in 3m over the rippled sugar white sandy seabed with excellent holding. The passage itself carries only two metres at its shallowest part and less than 1km away outside the aftermath of the Maestral was crashing across the entrance. Remarkably none of the swell was making its way into the anchorage. We spent two days there, in fact the place is so lovely, it feels like you could spend the rest of your life there. Check out the gallery the sea is incredible azure blue that creates a sense of tranquillity for the soul. Grania had figured before we left Stintino that the airport bus made its originating stop at the beach. They next morning we took the dinghy to the beach to say goodbye and reiterate our thank you for her fortitude and assistance on the passage from the Balearics.
Yesterday we weighed anchor at Pelosa and turned the boat eastwards making a crossing of the Gulf of Asinara to Castelsardo. We flew the parasailor for several hours but the wind dropped off and we were then only doing 2½ knots. This is a delightful old fishing village. The castle dates back to the 11th century and was one of the principle defences for the Genoese in Northern Sardinia. We took the rather long trek around the harbour and up the hill to discover the narrow streets of the old village set into the steep slope below the castle and the 11th century cathedral of San Antonio Abate. We rambled through the maze of narrow alleys and had an excellent and very reasonably priced meal in a flagstone alley with the little round table and chairs tilting quaintly downslope. This place is recommended.
Today is laundry and restock day. This place had been recommended not just for the old city and castle but because there is a supermarket at the end of the visitors’ pontoon. We have a few days now before we return to England for a week for Dylan’s graduation. We will make our way to Bonifacio and spend a night or two there, before finding somewhere to leave the boat for a week while we are away. Until the next blog, ciao!