We pulled into the harbour of Carloforte on the evening of the 12th. A bit of Googling beforehand revealed a free town quay, which luckily had a Bumblebee size space left free. It was an awkward spot but we managed to manoeuvre into place and set to work piling up fenders and spring lines to absorb any wash from the passing ferries.
Our crew at this point included Julia and myself, plus our Sardinian friends Rossella and her brother Marco. We would be staying at their house above the harbour, so thought it prudent to leave a note on the boat with emergency phone numbers.
Our first impression of Carloforte was of a calm authentic town without the tourist tat and restaurant touts found in previous places. Here people can buy fresh fish directly from the boats and Tuna is the local speciality. Rossella and Marco (R&M) took us straight to the best tuna restaurant to sample the local delicacies; a tuna tasting menu and bottarga carbonara.
After a proper night’s sleep in a real bed, we hopped in Marco’s car and set out to tour the island. We made our way to La Conca, with it's curious rock formations that were a popular spot for cliff jumping and snorkelling.
The town itself is a wonderful maze of tiny streets and twisting steps where life is lived outside each house; old ladies set up chairs in the middle of the streets and children doodle in chalk on the paving stones.
After two nights on the town quay, with the fenders getting black from the rubbing strips, we took bumblebee out for a tour of the island’s coast. We had R&M onboard and Michele joined us too. We sailed out to the north and headed west around Carloforte, reaching a point where the cliffs dropped down into the sea. The underwater topography was a mix caves and huge boulders with a patch of sand large enough for a few boats to anchor. We sat down to lunch and dug out the masks and fins.
We hoped Rossella’s friend Hugo might join us and part with a bit of wisdom as he is a deep sea diver and freedive instructor. In the meantime we thought it would be a good idea to hoist Marco’s GoPro and get some footage looking down from the mast. The mistake we made was not accounting for the weight of the halyard overcoming the camera and leaving it stranded on the topping lift! We immediately realised our mistake but it was too late and the GoPro was out of reach. Various retrieval methods proved unsuccessful including launching a snorkel attached to a line and casting a squid jig with a fishing rod (which also got stuck). In the end we sent Julia up to complete the mission, keeping the nearby boats well entertained. We returned to Carloforte and treated Bumblebee to a night in the marina.
Sunday was a national holiday and we were invited to a party just outside the town. Roast piglet was served; head and all! We drank rum, smoked cigars and danced until the small hours.
On Monday we said fare well to R,M&M and set off back towards Cagliary. We had a great time on Carloforte and were sad to leave. Fortunately we were on our way to pick up Ed and Elyse so spirits were soon raised. As we left we saw boats being mobbed by the competing marinas for business as they approached the harbour!
We anchored after dark at Porto Pino, setting off at dawn past Malfatano where we sat out the Maestrale a few days earlier. A kind English couple from the marina invited us for a curry onboard their motoryacht anchored nearby but we were already on our way.
On Tuesday we rounded the southeast corner, past Villasimius and made our way north. At 4pm we anchored off the beach of Sant Elmo, deployed the dinghy and collected Ed and Elyse in very choppy conditions. We continued up the East coast with strong following winds and waves pushing us along nicely. At the party on Sunday I chatted with a delivery skipper with ten years of experience. I mentioned a downwind sail we had not yet found the confidence to dig out of the locker and hoist. He urged me to stop worrying and string it up. So that afternoon, after a bit of discussion, saw us wrestling with what turned out to be a huge blue spinnaker. None of us had a clue what we were doing.
We connected a few lines and a halyard and hauled it up. The power of the wind as it filled the sail was phenomenal and in the ensuing moments of chaos we reached a new record of 9.2 knots. The photo below looks quite cool until you realise the sail is upside down! We somehow managed to wrestle it back down only to raise it a second time completely twisted. After these two failed attempts we were exhausted and lucky to still be onboard with all our limbs. We stuffed the spinnaker into the forward hatch and agreed to google spinnaker sailing that evening.
That evening turned out to be in the sheltered harbour of Corallo. There was a large welcoming party gathered on the quay who we guessed were not there for us. It was unfortunate though as we had hundreds of spectators as we messed up a windy stern to mooring. There was help on hand with a filthy dinghy that shoved us around making a mess of clean white hull.
The gathering turned out to be for a religious holiday. We sat confused as a fleet of boats filled with priests, officials and a Virgin Mary, then set out to sea. We left the boat and wondered up to the only restaurant, where we luckily found an empty table. There followed delicious pizza, a bit of supply shopping and a well-earned sleep.