Western Med Blog 8 (Maddalena Archipelago and Southern Corsica)
02 August 2017 | Bonifacio
After spending a week at home, catching up with friends, shaping and cutting back the garden and of course going down to Portsmouth for Dylan’s Graduation ceremony, we returned to the boat on 19 July with Tayo. Just our luck, Sleazy Jet was 2 hours late so we arrived late and missed the last bus to Santa Terresa. We already had 2x €4.50 tickets that we had pre-purchased before we left. It was a bitter pill to swallow that, at that time of night, our only other option was to take a €150 taxi back to the boat.
The boat was in good shape and the marina was crowded with chartering types. The excitement for the morning was collecting our new braai, which had been delivered to the Marina office. I assembled it and christened it, “Die Blou Bliksem Braai”. The name bizarrely inspired by the fact that its predecessor was also BBB, “Die Bonteheuvel Briefcase Braai” and that I had just seen a boat, on the same pontoon we were on, called Bliksem. It was a name that you either have to be South African, Dutch or perhaps Belgian to understand. Oddly the boat had an Italian flag, no doubt there is a story therein. Anyway, it is a fantastic improvement on the previous BBB, which had served nearly 5 years and regrettably during a cleaning incident off the back of the boat, a critical component was lost to Davy Jones locker in (rare for the Med) murky estuary water, in the dark.
I spent the morning getting the boat ready for sea again, re-installing the safety equipment, opening the Bimini, sorting the tender, etcetera. The girls went shopping, luckily hitching a ride with the Ormeggiatori across the 50m to the other shore, which saved a kilometre walk around the bottom of the estuary. I had bought a weeks permit for the national park but it only started the next day, so we headed for Liscia again, this time anchoring on the other side of the bay off the isthmus where the kite board and windsurfing sailing schools are. We were treated to an afternoon of kite boarders zooming past the boat. This included some boards with Hydrofoils, which is quite radical (see Sardinia Gallery for pictures).
In the morning we headed for Isola Razzoli in the Northern Maddalena islands. The plan was to pick up a buoy in Cala Lunga but it was full and there was no room to anchor safely, so we headed into the shallow water north of Deadman’s Passage. The hoards were there during the day, swimming amongst the boats in crystal clear water and in sublime weather. As predicted by the Pilot Guide, like wasps and flies they disappear at night. A buoy came free and we claimed it. We spent two nights in this idyllic place. Tayo went up the mast to take pictures and the next day we explored on the SUP and with the dingy, towing Tayo on the SUP around to Cala Santa Maria and taking a walk up in the heat. A Maestral was looming and we were getting low on supplies. We sailed to La Maddalena town and did a stop and go shop, with me waiting on the boat getting slammed against the outer wall by the Ferry wash and lucky not to burst any fenders.
We spent a night on a Parks board buoy in Porto Palma on the base of Isola Caprera. The Maestral was building and in about 20 knots of wind there was a commotion and shouting at 2am. A 70ft British boat was dragging and the German’s behind us also dragged. The pilots guide actually says that anchoring is banned in this bay, use Parks Board buoys only but it seems that was ignored by some. Obviously the holding is not great but after about half an hour everyone managed to get their anchors reset and relative calm returned.
We needed to pick up Louise and hide from the predicted 30kt Maestral. We headed for Cannigione deep in the Golfo di Arzachena. Beano the buoy boy, was our man there, Ormeggiatori supremo. He was super helpful, charging around amongst his flock of buoys checking mooring lines on every boat twice a day, collecting rubbish, rescuing tenders and cushions that were victims of the wind and washed across cala to the downwind shore. The first night was pretty torrid with all the boats charging around the buoys and snatching in the line. The wind abated slightly the next day (to 20-25knots) and we went ashore to a rather pleasant little town. Louise arrived on the bus from Olbia at about 5pm and we got out the Blou Bliksem Braai and had a rather pleasant evening, despite the blustery mayhem about us.
The next afternoon we ventured out, heading for Cala Portese on Isola Caprera, we arrived at about 17h00 after a tough sail with the 3rd reef in and reduced staysail. There was a little shelter and we managed to find a mooring buoy, which we hitched onto. The wind dropped through the night and the next morning we saw a gap to move to a buoy close to the beach. It was a good move; we went ashore to the beach bar and generally just chilled. The wind built during the afternoon, the GRIB file had changed and the Maestral had extended its stay. Despite this we decided to go back to Deadman’s Passage. We did not get there, as we rounded the northern tip of Caperera, the wind was doing 30 knots plus and going to the weather was not working very well. Plan B was quickly instituted and we headed under engine, straight into the wind to Porto Massimo. It was a tough 4NM, engine at 2000rpm and making a mere 3.5knots into a 30knot headwind. Despite much negotiation we paid €120 for the night. There was a nice hotel complex and not much else except intriguing pink granite rock formations and really nice coves and beaches to swim in. Once we had digested the marina cost, it was a pleasant change to be off a buoy and be able to wash down the salt encrusted boat, eat ashore and not have to pack all your stuff into a dry bag for a dinghy trip. In the morning the girls went for a run and Veronica and I went for a long walk. The pinnacle of which, quite literally, was going up to the old granite lookout tower perched on the highest granite mega boulder around. It was surrounded by several severely decaying barracks, with water cisterns below and steel reinforced cement roofs that were clad with granite, no doubt to camouflage against being spotted from the air. The straights of Bonafacio have always been very important strategically and have a long and interesting military history. Maddalana, despite being a national park now was until recently an important NATO naval base.
After a week finally the Maestral started to back off, we spent a night in Deadman’s Passage again, which the girls really enjoyed. The excitement there was in the morning as we sipped coffee in the cockpit, in the first calm we had seen in 10 days. Louise suddenly shouted, “Is that a snake?” It damn well was, a finger thick metre long grey serpent swimming strongly toward the stern platform of the boat. It actually tried to attach onto the swim ladder, I banged on the hull and retracted the swim ladder. It disappeared under the boat and what ensued was mad speculation about whether it could get into the anchor drain and all sorts of other paranoid imaginative speculation in the midst of much internet searching on the topic of poisonous snakes in Sardinia. There is one, a viper/adder and this certainly was not an adder. We concluded that it was a Whip Snake. Thankfully we have not seen it since but it was an interesting and probably quite unique experience.
That afternoon we had a cracking sail to Bonifacio. Our second visit to a magical place, which the girls really enjoyed. Next chapter, if all goes well, will be the Corsican West Coast.