With Elyse, Ed, Julia and myself onboard we made our way up the East coast of Sardinia. We anchored for a late lunch in a bay just south of Arbatax. Setting off a bit later than planed, we decided not to embark on the long stretch of baron coast and instead, looked for a spot to anchor for the night. We found a small island north of Arbatax called Del L’Ogliastra with sculptural wind eroded rocks and strewn with cactus. We dropped the hook on the inside shore and dinghied over to the island for a closer look.
We climbed up the rock face as the sun set, with Elyse and Julia reaching a small shrine the summit. On the way back to Bumblebee Ed and I gave a tow to some lost looking folk in a toy inflatable boat. It was unclear where they had come from or where they thought they were going.
As we sailed on north the next morning, we stopped at tight little anchorage by a rocky inlet. The chart pointed to a wreck in amongst the rocks so we went to investigate. There turned out to be huge remnants of a ship, smashed against the rocks some fifty or so years ago.
We pushed on up the east coast for the rest of the afternoon, anchoring momentarily for Julia to have a Skype conference call. As the sun set we pulled into a calm bay just south of Caletta. The chart showed the wreck of a 1960’s Corsair plane just by the anchorage, so at first light we set off in search but failed to locate it.
Our fuel was getting worryingly low so we made a stop at the marina at Caletta. The pumps were closed as it was midday so we tied up to the quay, did a supply shop and filled up the water tanks. While this was going on a pair of dolphins entered the marina and swam a few laps.
That night we had a very generous invitation to join our friend Charlotte and her family for supper onboard their 1981 78ft Swan. We made our way to Punta di Capacciolo where we had no trouble spotting their 30 metre masts and large Swedish flag. We anchored close by and started getting ready to join them for supper.
While showering and changing, a large motoryacht swept past, rocking the boat and sending everything flying. A large bottle of liquer smashed in the galley, covering the floor in sticky alcohol and glass. We had to lift all the floorboards and wash down the bilge with buckets of water.
After congregating on the bow to help swill all the fresh water into the bilge, we climbed into the tender and motored over to supper. We had a lovely evening with the kindest hosts who showed us all around their classic superyacht and treated us to great food and some fantastic wine. As we left them around midnight they weighed anchor and set off on their long journey south to Cagliary. We were all overwhelmed by their hospitality and fantastic ship.
Olbia was our next target as Giles was due to arrive the next day. As we approached the area, the average boat size multiplied and the traffic grew thick. We selected a suitable spot for lunch, pulling in to find it swarming with ribs and superyachts. There was good reason for this as the water was bright turquoise and strewn with interesting rocks and sandy patches. We tendered across to the shore and climbed up the rocky hill to the summit. Here we found a path and followed it to the far end of the island where we found an abandoned settlement. The route back down was a bit trickier as we descended a dried up river but luckily emerged in roughly the right place.
We were close to Olbia that evening when we anchored in a wide bay by Porto Istana. After securing Bumblebee we took the coastal path for a brisk 3km stroll to the nearby marina. The marina was small and really only suitable for motorboats, here we found a fantastic little restaurant. They were fully booked but kindly let us order if we sat on the benches outside. We had some epic mixed seafood and returned along the path tired and content.
The next day we sailed into Olbia to collect Giles. We planned to pull up at the fuel quay, fill up and kill time until Giles arrived from the nearby airport. As we arrived the wind flared up and we were pushed around by 30 knot gusts. We managed to secure ourselves alongside the fuel quay with some difficulty but Giles turned up on cue and we were soon on our way with a full belly of fuel. The wind carried on blowing for the rest of the evening and after aborting a trip out of the Gulf of Olbia due to wind and waves we dropped anchor amongst a throng of other yachts by Aranci. Here we settled down to supper and cards inside the cabin as the wind howled past.
In the morning we made our way out of the gulf of Olbia and sailed towards the Maddalena Islands. On the way we pulled into Porto Cervo to gawk at the opulent array of megayachts. The whole area was swarming with boats of inconceivable scale, leaving behind them wakes large enough to almost sink us!
As we passed the Maddalena Islands we spotted a beautiful inlet and pulled in for lunch. When we dropped the anchor we noticed the 30m metre Jongert ‘Anamcara’ we first came across in Corfu. The captain and mate were really helpful with advice when planning to leave Greece so it was great to show them how far we’d come. They alerted us to some strong north easterlies on their way and agreed that our plan to head for west Corsica should keep us out of the worst of it.
After lunch we continued north and set out across the Gulf of Bonifacio to spend a couple of days in and around the famous harbour town. As we set out, we met large rolling waves of about two or three metres but with a comfortable wavelength, making for a fun ride. Giles helmed most of the way, clearly having a good time.
Bonifacio is a breathtaking harbour to enter. At first we saw a tight huddle of buildings perched impossibly atop hundred metre cliffs. The entrance is invisible until you round the huge limestone caves on either side and pass the gun emplacements built into the sheer cliff edges. Inside the shelter of the deep gorge the wind is barely noticeable but the volume of water traffic took us by surprise. Sightseeing boats whip in and out, sailing boats jostle for space, little tenders buzz around and all the while gigantic megayachts shuffle into tight berths. We arrived at about 7pm and the place was rammed.
With no chance of a berth for the night we tried the smaller inlet with mooring lines coming away from the cliff. This too was full to bursting, so we departed in the company of other disappointed yachts in search of the nearby anchorages. These were just fifteen minutes up the coast and were also crammed full of yachts. After a bit of circling we secured ourselves a spot to drop the hook. It was getting dark but we were determined to explore the town. Using Google we located a rocky path that wound it’s way for 5km to Bonifacio. We left Bumblebee, tendered to the shore and found the path. By now it was dark and the path was hard work with flip-flops, eventually we managed to reach the town. We had supper in a quay-side restaurant followed by ice-cream before navigation the treacherous path once again and returning to the boat.
The wind picked up over night and we awoke with a bang! I scrambled onto deck to find the yacht in front had dragged its anchor and drifted right onto our chain. Luckily Bumblebee wasn’t touched so we paid out some slack to allow the other boat to power forward and off our chain. They anchored again upwind of us and spent some time swimming around their stern inspecting for damage. The wind continued to build and was gusting around 36 knots by 9am. We were all out on deck having breakfast, keeping a close eye on our surroundings when we too started to drag! In a flash we had the engine on and powered forward to pick up our chain so that we too could re-lay our anchor and hope for the best.
The wind showed no sign of abating, so instead of anxiously watching our anchor, we decided to head out for a sail. As we headed up the west coast of Corsica the wind developed into a full gale and we flew along amongst breaking waves and salt spraying in our faces. We were right on the edge of our comfort zone when a huge gust overpowered us, almost knocking us down. The rudder lifted out, we swung round, healed right over and came back up at 90 degree to our course. After that we furled up the sails and decided to motor instead.
Our water tanks were almost empty so we took a course for a nearby marina in what looked to be a sheltered inlet. The inlet turned out to be anything but sheltered and they were unwilling to give us water so we turned and left. We rounded the corner towards another bay where we could rest for a bit. As we motored along the wind dropped completely and for a moment there was a flat calm. It was not to last as the wind soon powered up, this time in exactly the opposite direction. The bay offered some relief from the wind as we anchored amongst clear patches of sand. As we sat and had lunch we were joined by Anamcara once again.
We headed back into Bonifacio after lunch to try our luck once again. It was 4pm when we arrived so we expected to get a berth. I phoned ahead and was told there were spaces but we could not book. As usual it was chaos inside the harbour. We waited in line with five other yachts, occasionally getting out of the way for a gin-palace to pass by. It quickly became clear that the harbour helpers in their ribs couldn’t care less about any boat under than sixty or so feet. After half an hour of this, one came to inform us the harbour was full. Somewhat disgruntled we headed up to the moorings, back towards the entrance. We were lucky and found a vacant lazyline where we managed to secure ourselves. Finally we were safely tied up in Bonifacio.
We took the dinghy ashore and went to explore the old town. We had supper with a view out over the Gulf from a cliff top restaurant. Later we found a shop still open and stocked up on a few essentials before returning to Bumblebee for Aperol Spritz and a few hands of Rummy.
We were still desperate to fill the water tanks, so in the morning we nipped over to the marina quay, tied up and filled our tanks. We were told we could fill up and stay for a couple of hours for ten Euros, so we did just that. We had breakfast in a boulangerie and explored a bit more of the old town. Soon enough the wind kicked up again and we found ourselves moored side-on to 30 knots of wind. We doubled up our mooring lines, while boats around us tried and failed to moor alongside. As no one came to tell us to move, we made good use of the time and set about fixing the water-cooled fridge. This was achieved by cleaning the filter and having Ed give the sea water tubing a good blow.
The wind kept gusting and the lines were under a lot of strain so we decided to leave the harbour. Earlier, from above the town, I noticed a few boats taking shelter below the southern cliffs, so we made our way to join them. We anchored within a stone’s throw of the cliff and waited for the wind to die down. While securely anchored we snorkelled amongst hundreds of fish, discovered a huge drive-in collapsed cave and looked on as Elyse hurled herself of the rocks!
That evening the wind died down and we were able to cross back to Sardinia. We anchored in a busy bay just south of Is. Santa Maria, waking up in the morning to find hundreds of boats swarming around us. We sailed east, past Maddalena Island to Caprera and found Cala Coticcio, aka ‘Tahiti’. Anchoring here was a nightmare as it was crowded and deep. Once the hook was secured some boats began to depart and we decided to stay for the night. Julia and Elyse climbed the nearby rocks, attempted to tame the local goats and were eaten alive by mosquitoes. I remained on the boat trying to upload this blog post through a painfully slow 3G connection.
Friday came and with it the departure of Ed and Elyse. We sailed into Olbia, had lunch tied up to the fuel quay, took a team photo and said farewell. With Giles due to leave the next morning we spent the night on anchor by the old town and went ashore for a bit of exploration and pizza.