September in Sardinia Part II

Heavy rain – before we realised
we were dragging

While waiting for our quarantine clearance to be able to go ashore and explore, we pottered to the Southwest corner of the island for a few days’ change of scene in a series of sheltered inlets.  Well, they were mostly sheltered, until Thursday 10th when a fierce squall blew in from nowhere in the middle of the afternoon: torrential rain and a fierce williwaw of around 36 knots.  Visibility was nil but it was obvious our anchor was dragging, so we got the engine started to try to motor into the wind to take the pressure off the anchor chain, but we were too late, and within a few moments the wind had dragged our anchor 300 metres towards the beach at the head of the inlet, until we came to a stop on an underwater reef between the land and a tiny island.  Thankfully the worst was over very quickly, and Skipper donned his wetsuit and literally stepped off the back of the boat to inspect below the hull, and nudge us away from the danger.  Yet again, thank goodness for the strength of the aluminium hull and lifting centreboard.

Our ‘drag track’ is the yellow line that starts on the right and ends near bottom left of this screenshot

Later we were to discover some damage to the propeller blades and edges of the rudder boards, but this was not immediately obvious and didn’t greatly impede our passages for the remainder of the year.

The rather bland exterior of Sant’Antioco church leads to a wonderful interior

It took a week for our negative test results to be confirmed, and we then spent another few days near Sant’Antioco, a little further up the SW coast of Sardinia, an island joined to its big sister by a causeway.  We enjoyed a wander around the hilly town, and a visit to one of the most memorable churches we’ve been privileged to explore.  From the outside it looks like many another, but the interior is truly ancient and built of huge grey stone blocks: unadorned, ungilded, unpainted and all the more spiritual for its simplicity.

Later reading a novel set on this tiny island, Mate learned of a unique and ancient craft that is still practised today, that of Bisso, or sea silk, spun and woven from the ‘beard’ of a marine bivalve.  If you’re interested, look up Chiara Vigo – she’s the craftswoman famous for this stunning textile work.  Sadly, the museum was not open when we were there – like so much else at the moment.  We were also delighted by the wildlife hereabouts: a large flock of sheep and goats wearing bells were shepherded along the nearby beach each dusk, and behind the beach the salt pans were home to a large number of flamingos.  It was the first time we’d seen them in the wild, and were entertained by their dance – a fast-stepping dabble paddle to stir up the mud to release their food, followed by that distinctive upside-down beak in the water to scoop in a range of delicacies.  Another particular thrill was a brief visit by a kingfisher, who perched on our guardrail.

Flamingos: wild and funky; European Bee-eater hitching a rest stop

On our way back to Malfatono Bay, a European Bee-eater took shelter on our sprayhood for a much-needed rest from being chased remorselessly by a sparrowhawk: it was visibly panting like a tired dog.  The hawk circled us for several frustrated minutes, but when the bee-eater took its chances back on the wing, the pursuit continued until both birds were out of sight towards land.

September in Sardinia Part I

Part I – Stretching our Sea Legs, and Quarantine

On Wednesday 2 September we upped anchor and were away for Sardinia by 0915.  Within the hour we’d threaded our way down-channel and back out to sea, where we set the first reef in the mainsail and accessorised with the staysail, in a keen NNE F4.  The wind remained lively and gusting to F5 through the morning, but mid-afternoon it eased quite suddenly as it swung to the North, although the sea was still rolling.

As the evening wore on towards a red moon and red sunset, the wind continued to back and reduce to NNW F2-3, and by dawn the following morning the log reads “wild ride”, as we were back to NW F4-5.  At noon on 3rd, Mate changed the courtesy flag from Spain to Italy, none too soon as the former was looking very windworn and bedraggled. We had just under 100M left to sail to the waypoint off Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia at her Southwestern tip.  During this stretch we were happy to accommodate a tiny tired bird in need of shelter and rest.

Sunrise over Sardinia’s SW coast, 0500

Although the wind remained in the North, it was now right down to anywhere between F1 and F3, and a little help was required from Trevver here and there.  By evening the sea state was a comfortable ‘slight’ and the wind a steady F4, although it dropped completely during the second night at sea, and by the early hours of Friday morning, 4th September, we were motoring again.  By 0800, however, we were back to full main and genoa, enjoying close-hauled sailing along spectacularly mountainous coast.

Spectacular Southern Coastline

During the afternoon we motor-sailed as we checked out a possible anchorage, Mate still loving being at sea after 51 hours.  It was deemed too rocky on the seabed so we carried on into Cagliari Bay and settled just South of Cagliari harbour, behind Capo Sant’Elia, completing 273 Miles in just over 58 hours, a respectable average speed of 4.7 knots.

This was a passage of Firsts: in 39 years of sailing, it was the first time Skipper was seasick while Mate was fine; we reached a point furthest yet from any land: 100M from anywhere, with the closest 3km – straight down!

It proved not to be the most comfortable anchorage, and the following morning our first encounter with the islanders was the local police, one of whom fortunately spoke English and was able to explain to us that we’d anchored too close to the rocky shore – in fact we’d swung a little in the night and stretched out our anchor chain.  We were happy to note the courteous advice for future reference, and soon made our way into the harbour, to make arrangements for our entry paperwork and to meet Covid-19 regulations.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing it was established that a local agent would contact us to let us know how and where we should obtain the required tests, and we rounded the headland to the South, the Sella del Diavola (Devil’s Saddle) to find shelter off the Marina Piccola del Poeto.  We later discovered this was the ‘city beach’: “the hub of summer life with its limpid blue waters and upbeat party scene.”  Admittedly it was towards the end of the season, and there was some activity from the early morning aquarobics classes off the beach and the local sailing school, but the party scene was (thankfully) distinctly lacking…except on Sunday evening, when the Coastguard helicopter and then officious grey high-speed vessel came to a yacht nearby that was hosting an apparently Brazilian-themed bash for the pretty young things – with no evidence of adherence to coronavirus masks, social distancing or limits on numbers congregating, never mind shattering the erstwhile peace of a Sunday evening.

Sunset at Poetta Beach, 1800 hours

On Monday morning we moved back closer to the marina to take the dinghy ashore and hail a taxi to take us to the local hospital for our swab test.  Technically, by this point we were in quarantine until the test came back negative, but we were able to make a quick trolley dash for a few supplies from the small supermarket opposite the hospital, to make the most of our expensive taxi ride.  Needless to say, even this became a small adventure, as Skipper managed to leave his treasured Tilley hat in the store, and had to make a return trip to retrieve it – successfully.

On Tuesday 8 September we were approached by a Guardia Fiscal vessel, who reached across a fishing-style keep net to collect all our boat papers and passports for inspection.  Much to Mate’s consternation, they moved off without returning them, but checked in a few other boats nearby and eventually delivered the plastic wallet back safely.

Cruising Menorca – Week Four – Last days

Wednesday 26 August – Tuesday 1 September

The lighthouse at Cabo Favoritx

On Wednesday we topped up the provisions supplies, and on Thursday set off yet again to make water, this time heading North and anchoring at Playa d’en Tortuga, Turtle (or Tortoise) Beach, which is just South of Cabo Favoritx, where the lighthouse is a twin of that at Portinatx, on Ibiza, with diagonal black stripes on white.  During the afternoon, we enjoyed a brief swim and snorkel while the wind built, producing an uncomfortable chop, so it was decided to head a little further to the sheltered inlet of Addaia.  Carefully following the buoyed channel through an interesting maze of rocks, the scenery is reminiscent of the West coast of Scotland, with sunshine, and becomes increasingly Baltic-like as the mini fjord penetrates the land for a good couple of Miles.  This impression was heightened by the sight of Danish and Norwegian flags on yachts in the anchorage inland of the small marina at the foot of a cluster of houses.  We continued right to the top of the navigable water, and anchored at dusk in masses of space on mud and weed in a beautiful spot, all round shelter and 2.5 metres of water – oh, the joys of a lifting centreboard.

Friday was spent relaxing, swimming, re-anchoring (twice), trying and failing to lay the anchor onto sand, ever apprehensive about the Posidonia police, and enjoying the ripples reflecting along the shoreline, a curious sight of light and shadow rolling along the shore.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, we were woken by the forecast storm – lightning rolling continuously around the sky and torrential rain – we know how to celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary!  Having disconnected the VHF radio as a precaution, there was no danger, but the boat was washed thoroughly and we were glad of the cockpit tent, de-bagged for the first time since January, to provide some shelter and air while all the hatches below were closed.  The storm passed through, as they always do, eventually, and we spent the weekend relaxing.  On Sunday we ventured into the small port and had lunch on the quayside – an impressive vegetable timbale with patatas bravas for Mate, and a whole bass for Skipper, washed down with some local beer, and on Monday we went ashore again, to see what the small store in the small town could offer in the way of provisions.  The first day of another new month, Tuesday was spent preparing for the next long passage, while we reflected on the weather having ‘broken’ into Autumn, with softer light and cooler temperatures, although the water is still deliciously warm for swimming.  We’ve also been looking at a variety of options for over-wintering, and thinking about what we might do next year, post-Brexit – more on this to follow.