III - Sardinia.
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II - Sicily, we eventually begin travelling.
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IV - The Balearics's, Menorca, Mallorca & Ibiza, Spain.
Log Entry Monday 20th June - Our first attempt to leave Sardinia fails, large seas and not enough wind, welcome to the Bonifacio Straights!
Yesterday we sat through the electric storms yesterday as they passed, as forecast, today one would not believe they had even happened! Still, a positive, it gave Sailaway a good bathe in fresh water, clearing the dried salt from her decks!
Today we leave or the Balearics, Menorca to be more specific, exactly which area depends on the winds, Mahon would be ideal. The selection of Mahon is simple, we fly from their next week for Jane's and Warren's graduation, we are so proud of them both. We have another series of gales heading our way on Saturday, so we either leave now or risk loosing our flights and missing the graduations. The trip ahead is approximately 280 miles, probably three days, we have told our family 4-5 days at sea to allow for a margin of error, calms etc.
We leave Cannigione about 0800, no real time scales as we arrive when we arrive, could be daylight, could be darkness, that all depends on the winds. It is interesting to see the mix of buildings in Golfo di Arzachena, the old, and the horrible hideous new, predominately holiday resorts. At the head we pass a camping area, it appears visually, to have more character than most of the resorts?
Our path is easy, follow the south channel through the Maddalena area, holding to the mainland coastline. The channel is easy to locate visually, follow the large coloured lighthouses. We exit the gulf and turn northwest, past Isola Caprera, Isola La Maddalena, Isola S. Stefano and eventually Isola Spargi. There are numerous small islets but all clearly visible.
One town that did surprise me was Porto Palma on Isola Caprera, a very industrial looking port for a nature reserve, but people have to live?
As we passed between Isola Stefano at the narrowest point of the channel, we even passed a single, well fitted out boat yard, able to service the islanders, a must out here.
The passage past Porto Paulo on the mainland and port La Maddalena on the island of the same name was interesting, you could see on approach the almost continuous stream of ferries servicing the island. As we passed through the ferry route, I must confess I did exceed the normal engine revolutions "just to make sure". It was understandable not to expect the ferries not to deviate, they would not be able to maintain their service.
As we continued we passed magnificent properties and the mix of modern developments, I had read about the control of building regulations implemented to maintain the natural beauty, well that's just the theory I guess?
Then we began to enter the Bonifacio Straights, the narrowest portion between Sardinia and Corsica, the forecast had told us to expect light winds and a sea of 0.5 - 1.0 meters - clearly this place had a mind of it's own! The swell, straight at us was as always, difficult to measure but it must have been in excess of 3 meters, at a pitch of about 20 meters? We as the other vessels did, would rise and then disappeared into the swell, there was no wind to assist stability. Our speed over the ground would accelerate by about 2 miles per hour as we slid down the swell. The trip was now becoming a little concerning as no more than 5 - 10 knots of wind was forecast throughout the next couple of days, and we were now unsure of the sea beyond? I watched two sailboats exit "S. Teresa di Gallura", then turn and re-enter the port, the large ferries to Corsica found the task easy obviously. We did a quick assessment, and decided to turn back and seek shelter from the swell, when it falls further, the light winds would make it more manageable? We retraced our path east and turned into a bay offering good shelter, dropping anchor at Cala Marmorata, a modern holiday resort.
We dropped anchor in 8 meters well clear of the trip boat platform and buoyed area of the beach, this would be our resting place for the evening. We were joined in time by three other vessels, our mobile just worked so a weather update was also available, tomorrow we move on out of Sardinia.
Log Entry Friday 18th June - We move anchorage across the bay, and await a weather window for the Balearics.
Yesterday and during the night the prevailing winds reached consistently 35 knots, the resulting sea too great, our choice of anchorage is not best suited for that! Sailaway never moved but sleep and relaxation was obviously difficult, the simple solution was to move to a more secure area. The weather is still very unsettled, we see regular news broadcasts so it is not just here but the whole of Europe? I had plenty of time to review our options going forward, we plan to leave from Golfo di Arzachena and make directly for the Balearics, Menorca, to be more specific, about 270 miles none stop.
So after breakfast, around 0830 just as the bathers begin to arrive at the beach that has been ready waiting since 0800 hours we begin to raise our anchor. It takes some getting out as it is well dug in due to the force of the winds. Once secure we plan to refuel down at the marina at Cannigione, here we had our first experience of "Costa Smeralda?" At the fuelling berth, in my best Italian I was asking for 100 litres in both tanks, a total of 200 litres, that was acknowledged, I thought. I began to put fuel into the first tank, in time the pump stopped, much sooner than I thought? I enquired, and I was told that was €100, I asked how many litres? Eventually I realised it was only 56 litres, costing €100, €1.78/litre - "Costa lot!" I settled for the 56 litres per tank, that would see us through until we got back to the real world in Spain @ around €1.45/litre! I checked later at a local garage, the price there was excessive for Sardinia at €1.51/litre.
We left the fuel pontoon to move to a more suitable anchorage, the choice was simple, we anchored with others to the north of the marina, just off Cannigione. We now had some protection from all but northerly direction, but more importantly, if we dragged our anchor we had a good quarter of a mile to drag in any direction until it became an issue - perfect.
It did have slight negatives, we were in an area of traffic, but nothing we could not live with. Strangely enough the anchorage in which we had joined others was marked on my charts as "No anchoring or fishing zone!" No one seemed too troubled so we stayed. It was interesting to see one of the sailing schools, every day there were numerous kids out on the water, hard to believe the daily numbers?
Ashore they have most things, just priced rather expensively, for example chicken at €10 plus per kilo, we were used to paying around €4? The salad and fruit priced very similar, we paid what was asked. It is the local people you have to feel sorry for, I am sure they are not earning twice the going rate per hour? I found a chandlers, we had two empty gas tanks, we paid €7 each last time, they wanted €25 each, we still have almost two full gas tanks so we did not purchase. The examples could go on and on, but, if you need it you have to pay, again, I feel sorry for the locals.
There is not really a lot here to see, the street art the most attractive, it's entirety is based around the beaches and trips to the islands.
We did have some laundry that needed doing so we sat in one of the outside cafes down by the marina, spent most of the day there actually. One thing I will say about the place is the people are very friendly and helpful!
Log Entry Wednesday 15th June - After watching the world go by for two days we move again!
We had sat for two days while the winds blew from the north, today there was nothing first thing but the forecast was promising southerly winds this morning, building up to 20-25 knots this evening. A perfect wind to take us north to Porto Cervo, said to be the "Jewel of the Maddalena Archipelago National Park and Marine Reserve." Wait for it - name locally as the "Cost Smeralda", the Consorzio Costa Smeralda was formed in 1962 by a group of six property owners headed by the "Aga Khan". The Costa Smeralda then became, obviously the playground of the very rich and the envy of many!
My first question was, " Will they let us in?" the second, doesn't that just mean "Bloody Expensive?"
We had watched everything that was going on around us for the last couple of days, from the mooring procedures for the larger ferries to the wind swept loonies chasing their inflatable toys along the beaches. Some even pitched wind deflectors during the blow to stop the sand lashing their bare skin as they "cooked" - you would think they could find something better to do on holiday?
Still that is up to them, we see wind developing in our area so we decide to make way, we wait until the Corsica Ferry is fully secured, we then lift our anchor and move off, south around the ferry terminal, turning east around Isola di Figarolo to round Capo Figari. As soon as we approached the Capo we could see ahead somewhat of a problem, the sea was still a little high from yesterday. That plus a northerly wind of 5-10 knots was going to make the trip not so enjoyable, we tried tacking, not enough wind to power us through the almost two meter sea. The trip was a short one, around 15 miles so rather than turning back we decided to motor sail on, as about five boats did behind us. We sat back behind our spray hood to stay dry and let Sailaway do the hard work.
Our coarse was essentially northwest, past Isola Mortorio and Isolotto Mortoriotto, to the seaward side to pass through as smooth a sea as possible, then past Isola Nibani towards Porto Cervo.
As we passed Isola Nibani, the entrance to Porto Cervo was easy to find - watch for the super yachts, coming and going. We dropped what sail we had up and went inside. We made for the internal anchorage, I had checked on goggle, imagery taken in 2016, it was showing vessels at anchor, the anchorage being marked with yellow buoys! But guess what, as we approached the area it was full of yellow buoys, all too close to allow anchoring and nothing we could tie too. As we were trying to workout what it meant we were approached by a guy in a rib and are told the anchorage is now closed you have to use the marina or Porto Vecchio - both out of our price range, what ever the costs were?
We gather our thoughts, thanked the guy and left Porto Cervo to continue our route through the La Maddalena Archipelago. Oh well, the life of the wealthy was not to be for us, well not here anyway? We left the port and turned north, the southerly wind had finally appeared, canvas out and engine off at last!
We were now heading for the channel between "Capo Orso" on the mainland and "Isola Bisce" clearly marked with two distinctive lighthouses, we then turned east.
After review our options en route we decided to make for "Golfo di Arzachena", there was a number of anchorage options in our aging pilotage, highly unlikely that all would be still available but worth a look. We were not moving into the islands of the archipelago as we did not have, nor wanted cruising permits. We turned into the Golfo di Arzachena, still under sail we made for the south anchorage as it seemed to offer more protection from the forecast strong southerlies later this evening? As we worked our way south we passed a few boats at anchor, so there were still anchorages here, except the one in the south that we were making for, that anchorage had now gone too!
We turned around and made for a anchorage already containing two other boats on the north east corner, we dropped our anchor and settle down for the evening.
The anchorage suited us had a nice beach etc, etc, etc and a dream house, with a gardener/handyman obviously - very nice!
Log Entry Sunday 12th June - Golfo Aranci, our first step ashore for 6 days!
We head into the small harbour at the north end of the bay, alongside the closed fuel pontoon is a launch slip, a perfect place to secure our dinghy. We are somewhat held at bay by a snoozing cormorant, as we approach the slip slowly as not to startle it, it lifts it's head and looks at us? We sat for a few seconds, it did not seem too interested, so as we climbed ashore fortunetly for us it waddled over to the other side of the slip giving us room to secure the dinghy. It is clearly used to humans, it watched us unload our gear and walk off!
The fishing harbour is extremely busy, full of character, there is an inner harbour also, all of the boats seem active and well kept.
The port area is very quaint in it's own way, we check our our target restaurant for dinner this evening, it is so relaxing siting on the waterside. We spend so much time there we almost miss the supermarket as it closes for lunch.
We have a short walk to the supermarket, pick up a few things, mainly salad and fruit, then back to the dinghy and Sailaway - back this evening, or so we thought?
As we got back to Sailaway, within the hour, the sky clouded over and the wind picked up quite a bit. We are due strong westerlies for the next few days, due Sunday, we intend to sit them out here. The temperature also dropped, we decided to leave the restaurant for another day, no fun dinning outside without blue sky and warmer temperatures?
Log Entry Friday 11th June - Off further north to Golfo Aranci, very strong winds coming!
We have had our time here, we had seen no other here in the two days, other than one catamaran arrived during the night, just how we like it. We leave about 0930, Golfo Aranci lies only about 15 miles to the north, there we will sit the winds out from Sunday through to Wednesday. We made our way east along the peninsular and rounded Capo Coda Cavallo. We had two route options, the first, north around all of the islands, or through them. With a good stiff breeze we initially opted to sail around Isola Molara and Isola Tavolara and then turn west to Golfo Aranci. We lasted on that route for about three large wind shifts where the wind would go through around 100 degrees of change, back our sails bringing us to a halt! Too old for that sort of drama we put our canvas away and started the engine and took the route through the islands where we saw almost no wind for most of the trip!
We motored our way between the mainland and Isola Molara, then on between Isola Piana and Isola Tavolara. Isola Tavolara truly dominates the landscape, the cloud struggling to pass over it, it's sides so steep almost shear!
We took the narrow channel between Piana & Tavolara and then turned north towards Golfo Aranci, once from the lee (shelter) of Tavolara the wind hit us hard from the north, we tacked best we could, but now a great deal of unsteady wind from the surrounding terrain. It was only a short trip of less than 5 miles.
We had the busy traffic from the port of Olbia to keep us occupied, we were soon anchored off the commercial quay and fishing harbour.
Golfo Aranci has a real appeal, certainly the harbour area, as you pan west it is clearly a developed tourist resort.
Sitting on Sailaway we even have our eyes on an restaurant for tomorrow's dinner, we will access it in the dinghy via the small fishing harbour.
Log Entry Thursday 10th June - A day of rest and "Jobs" at Porto Brandinghi!
Today was a planned "day off", well except for the things that need doing? Living on a sailboat that usually means the "needed" jobs take up all of your day off!
My first task of today was to find that crucifix that I had photographed above the tree line last night - no luck! I must say, from a scenery perspective, this morning is the clearest morning we have seen on the coastline!
People had been preparing for the arrival of the tourists from around 0730, the first tourists began to arrive on the beach around 0830! You would think they would have some thing better to do on holiday?
Just after breakfast in the cockpit we had a flock of flamingos pass us, we had seen them return from their daily feeding last night!
Most of the day was actually spent on things that needed to be done, regular maintenance, navigation, living requirements, not exactly a restful day?
Log Entry Wednesday 9th June - From Porto Frailis, further north to Porto Brandinghi, 60 miles on the engine - disgraceful!
The forecast today was indicating very little wind at all! We had already resided to the fact that today would be under engine by the time we were ready to move, that was exactly how it was to be.
As we left the bay of Porto Frailis and turned north to pass Arbatax it was interesting to see the low cloud pouring out to sea from the valley to the north of us. It was so low you could almost believe that the mast was passing through it?
Arbatax looked a very uninviting place, still very necessary to support the economy.
Once through the low cloud, ahead was very misty, the dramatic coastline almost hidden from site at times. With only the engine working and no sails to attend it is very boring, hot and noisy, we dislike it immensely. Under such circumstances it is hard to make anything interesting!
About 45 miles later, about 9 hours we arrive at "Capo Comino", both Ann and I had looked for wind continuously, no more than 2-3 knots ever seen. Ahead of us appeared "Isola Molara" out of the mist, we were making for Porto Ottiolu or Porto Brandinghi. They were just to the south west of the island, so at least "the end was in sight". The only thing that had kept us very occupied during the day was looking out for "pot markers", we must have seen in excess of 50 throughout the trip so far, some in 50-70 meters of water. To have one of them wrapped around our propeller shaft would not be pleasing. When sailing they are not so critical as you tend to just brush past them! As time was passing and the volume of pot markers continued we were a little reluctant to motoring during the hours of darkness "just in case" as they are unlit and invisible in darkness.
As we left Capo Comino behind us we had the first wind of the day, about 8-10 knots on our stern, we were less that 10 miles away from Porto Brandinghi and many pot markers ahead. I have to take full responsibilty for our decision, we decided to raise canvas and utilise sail but keep the engine running! I preferred to get us through these markers and to anchor in daylight hours, and I am the Captain! We motored on at 6 knots as opposed to sailing at 3 to 4 knots.
We arrived dusk, we tried to anchor in the southern section but the seabed must have been a very coarse grass as the anchor just kept dragging and would not dig in at all, so we moved to the northerly section. The bottom was very visible, mainly sand, we set our anchor and settle down for dinner. As we did, the sunset through the whole sky around us into colour, I took many photographs but they never fully catch the colours you see by eye.
A strange thing happened as I was reviewing the pictures after dinner, I noticed something in one of them - a crucifix above the tree line! I used the same frame to give me the above close up, I could not find the crucifix in any other of the photographs - nor, could I find it again the next day? That gave me something to think about!
Log Entry Tuesday 8th June - We leave Cala Pira and continue north up the east coast of Sardinia to Porto Frailis.
We left Cala Pira, a sleepy little cove, at around 0800 hours. We could have easily sat there a few more days but we do have a form of schedule and about 900 of miles to cover in a month. We turned north and continues up the east coast, little wind forecast, maximum 5- 10 knots, but we will utilise what we can. It was going to be mainly a "motoring day" - we hate those!
We continue to travel in one of those hazy climates, we pass many beaches, hamlets and of coarse resort developments, mostly hidden in the mist.
We eventually find enough wind to move us, the 5-10 knots of wind, enough to move us at engine speed or perhaps a little slower. Our speed varies between 4 - 5 knots, after 3 hours it begins to fall off. Eventually with only 3-4 knots of wind we are barely making 1 knot through the water we roll up our headsail and motor on. Out of our 10 hour day we were only able to sail just over three hours., very disappointing.
The traffic on the water varies, very few pleasure craft, mainly small trawlers and fishing boats. We had planned to travel overnight, probably motor, but the numerous "pot markers" we find ourselves having to work around gives us second thoughts on that? We, motor on, reviewing our option we decide to utilise an anchorage ahead, rather that risk a pot line around our propeller shaft in darkness. At around 1700 hours, we turn in towards the coast and head for Porto Frailis, 5 miles to the north of us, it sits just to the south of Arbatax.
Looking ahead we are eventually able to spot the tower marking the bay of Porto Frailis and head directly for the bay, one vessel appears to have beaten us to it, already sit there at anchor. Getting in and anchoring in the small cove, just over 300 meters across is no issue, we begin to settle down for dinner and the evening, we open our last bottle of wine! We are later joined in the anchorage by two more additional vessels while dinning.
The bay offers a beach at it's head and housing around it's water line. There are a few restaurants, the large cranes in view are that of the commercial area of Arbatax harbour, to the north.
Log Entry Monday 6th June - No wind today, taken by the peace and quiet we stay another day at Cala Pira.
We are quite taken by the peace and tranquillity, and, with a forecast of less wind than yesterday we decide to sit still for another night. The two other vessels motor off. We had a few "bits & pieces" to occupy ourselves as people with boats have, then late in the afternoon we drop the dinghy and head ashore.
The people began to arrive at the beach area around 0800 this morning, still plenty of room, we land and make the dinghy secure.
Behind the beach we see lots of "No Entry" signs, we investigate, we need somewhere to deposit our rubbish. We walk into a private estate, some occupied at present, some not. We walk the lane to find electronically controlled gates at either end. It is so exclusive it even seems to have a garbage collection system, as opposed to centralised skips to deposit their own rubbish in. We pick a house and leave them an extra bag as a collection is clearly due?
We had our thoughts on dinner out, clearly that was not going to happen. We exited the private estate back onto the beach and made our way to the north corner, we were had noticed a carpark from Sailaway. To our relief there was a cafe, we grabbed an ice-cream and a drink, around 1700 they seemed to be closing, I ask if they were? I was told no problem, did you want something else, we weakened and had a couple of beers, they closed down the bar area and gave instructions how to leave the place secure once we had finished!
Log Entry Sunday 5th May - We leave Cagliari to make our way up the east coast, to the north.
We leave Cagliari today, our route up the east coast of Sardinia, across the north and over to the Balearics We leave our berth around 0800 hours and head into the main harbour. As we approach the exit/entrance we see towering over the wall an incoming ferry, we hold back and give way for obvious reasons, it is much bigger than us!. We exit in time and leave Cagliari in the distance.
The winds are light and still unsettled, we raise our canvas, switch off the engine and do the best we can with it. We have no more than 5 - 8 knots of wind so our progress is slow, but no matter, at least no noisy engine. Our route along the south coast just visible in the mist far in the distance, about 15 - 18 miles, Isola dei Cavoli, around which we turn north up the east coast.
The wind changes from northerly to southwest, as per forecast, we continue on. As we approach the Isola dei Cavoli, it swings quickly to the east, "bang on the nose" as we say! Our sails back, so we drop all and motor towards the island, under engine we decide to take the shorter route, through the channel between the island and mainland.
As we pass through the channel, we see on the island the equivalent of what we thought, the Englishman's garden shed a place where he can hide from the wife!. Here, in a small bay, a building where the guys tell the wives they are out working all day, meet up with their friends, chat etc? It was indeed a strange set up, but used by quite a few that was clear.
As we came through the channel, on the east coast the wind was from the northeast, up went our canvas, off with our engine and we tacked out to sea. Far enough out and we would be able to follow the coastline without have to beat continuously, the wind should also be cleaner out there, we can see it is stronger.
Well that was the gamble we took, once out far enough we turned and began to run parallel to the coastline. As we approached Isola Serpentara the wind began to drop off, an hour or so later it went completely - time for Plan B. We had two options, firstly start the motor and motor on up the coast, or, call it a day and head in some where for the evening? We went for the later, a place to spend the evening, Cala Pira was about 4 miles to the north, we motored to there.
Cala Pira, in our ten old Pilot Book was described as a beach, small campsite and wooded area - it was now a small town, cafes etc. We dropped anchor and settled down for the evening.
Isola Sepentara offering the only protection from the east, but no worries, none needed.
Log Entry Thursday 2nd June - Cagliari.
We soon find ourselves re-accustomed to Cagliari, our last visit being the winter of 2010. We do not remember the large, modern passenger terminal utilised by the cruise ships?
The well organised "Farmer's Market" is excellent, we stock up on fruit and salad, we previously remember it as a typical market, it is now very well organised. Even the pricing is less, but very close to the supermarkets, the quality good. In the morning we visit the supermarket and organise a large stock up, they could not deliver until tomorrow so we use a taxi to get the purchase back to Marina del Sole. Consequently it is fairly late when Ann gets back to the market, it is quite empty, one or two stalls already gone, including my "Pea - Pod Stall?" Or so Ann told me?
Across from the market, Ann visits the "Cattedrale di Santa Maria" something we had never done in the past, we must have walked past a thousand times? The view from the top of the grand staircase is excellent showing the entrance to the main harbour and the mountains running south.
The internal of the Cathedral is magnificent, in perfect condition, not a single area of deterioration. I, personally find it strange that in modern times, these places of worship are always in pristine condition, reflective of the amount of available cash the church has, or has always had?
The cathedral is service by two identical organs, towering apposite each other.
There is also an interesting exhibition, explaining generally their present activities, from community assistance to efforts abroad.
Log Entry Tuesday 31st May - We make for Cagliari, last there 2010!
We leave Villasmius Marina today, fully rested, gear sorted, our destination, Cagliari. We could do with a couple of things, the principle being flooring, our Sailaway still has bare wood floors with mats, from the winter strip out. We are hoping to source something we can lay for comfort, if anything is available in Sardinia, Cagliari will have it!
Our trip is just over 20 miles, the problem today will not be the lack of wind, the wind direction a little problematic, but we head south far enough to give us a good run, almost due west, straight to Cagliari.
As we passed Isola Cavoli, the wind stiffened even more, clearer airs, we tacked and sat for a few hours chatting. We cannot believe this weather, again, no sun and cloud. We have seen no sun since we left the Aeolian Islands almost a week ago?
There were plenty of pleasure vessels, we saw about five, sailboats making a similar trip, to or fro, all motoring for whatever reason? Once we passed Capo S. Elia, industrial Cagliari came into view, the container dock, then the cruise ships. It seemed strange returning here after so long, we wintered here in 2009 & 2010.
Once entering the outer harbour, the root to Marina Del Sol was an easy one, we were assisted to a berth by a gent we knew as "Little Max", he remembered us - most people do? We settle in and said our hello's to the farther and son owners, Antonella & Max.
We had forgotten about the daily flamingos that to and fro on a daily basis to the salt marshes nearby, they do look much better in blue skies!
It is two years since the passing of Ann's mum today, this evening our plan was to return to a pizza place we had taken Mum back in August 2009 when she joined us here for the summer.
We made a good evening of it, talking a lot of her adventures with us on board Sailaway. The food was great I was a little too adventurous, ordering the "Gigantic" size pizza, I ate what I could? I was approached by the waitress and chef to see if there was something wrong, I explained that my eyes were bigger than my stomach, they seemed to understand!
Log Entry Friday 28th May - We leave for Sardinia, a trip we will never forget! If anyone has lost a 10-15 meter section of fishing drift net, we have it!
We had targeted today as our intended day for departure to Sardinia, based on a four day easterly forecast we had seen for a couple of days now, it was again finally confirmed this morning. There was a slight change, extremely light winds for the first twenty four hours, around 5 knots only. Still we were good to go, the winds are usually stronger than forecast we find? We would leave around lunch time as the easterlies were due to set in, there was already evidence in the anchorage of the change starting. We had some interesting arrivals over night. A third freighter in the 5 days we had been here, pumping something ashore? It was interesting watching the ferries manoeuvre around it, no problem to them obviously, no matter what their size. A classic wooden sailboat arrived, looking like something from "The Pirates of the Caribbean". It was a sailing school ship from Malta.
This was my favourite, a young couple arrived last night on his very fast trimaran. They sailed up dropped anchor then, from a single, central storage area pulled out an amazing amount of kit - even a small table and two folding chairs. The outer hull dagger boards were removed and clipped into place to make a central floor area. A tent like canopy then covered all, protecting them from the elements. True adventurers, and of coarse they had to be French!
We started our engine after lunch and motored out of the anchorage, the active crater looked quite over powering from a distance. We would then turn north and pass through the narrow channel between Isola Volcano and Isola Lipari and continue due east for about 250 miles to the south east tip of Sardinia, at least that was the plan.
All was good, hardly a breath of wind but some could be seen ahead so we motored on towards it.
It was just a matter of time as the wind appeared, funnelling through from the north, between Isola Salina and Isola Lipari, up went the canvas and off went the engine around 1330 hours, not to be heard again until Thursday morning - great stuff!
Keeping Sailaway going in such light winds (5 - 10 knots) was hard work but rewarding, we must have used every sail combination we had to suit the wind.
There were as usual "bits and pieces" to be sorted as there always is, Ann took this shot, reckons it is my best side?
We were now, as the sun was going down, leaving Isola Filicudi behind us with Isola Alicudi ahead in the distance.
We sailed on through the darkness, then around 0030 hours Thursday morning Ann called me up on deck. Sailaway had veered off coarse and was now set off the wind, the autopilot alarm sounded? I looked around, there was no more than 5-8 knots of wind but I could not get Sailaway to respond to my steering, she would just not turn? The first question was, is the steering working, it checked out as good?
Then followed my mistake, the wind had now pushed or sails back, so I thought perhaps some help from the engine would push us back through the wind? My mistake was that I had not checked the water around us? I started the engine, as soon as I engaged the gearbox a strange noise could be heard, I stopped it immediately - I then looked in the water around us!
We had sailed straight into a long drift net, the floats could be seen coming from Sailaway's stern heading off to the north and south of us? From the floats I could make out with our spot light, it lay at least 100 - 200 meters either side of us? This net was not lit, nor guarded by a fishing boat, it was in very good condition and stretched, so it was not abandoned. It had just be set out and left to look after itself, perhaps it's lights had failed although there was no evident of lighting on the float line?
It took some time for me to comprehend why some one should do such a thing, but that did not help our situation, we dropped all of our sails and sat to ponder on a coarse of action. We had over a meter of swell, so getting into the water in the dark was not the preferred action. Being an optimist I wondered if we cut on section away, the shear weight of the net would pull itself from Sailaway's hull, so that was plan "A". I used a boat hook, to pull up the net and Ann standing on the transom ladder, cut away at the net with one of our diving knives. It was hard, wet work as the stern kept slamming down into the water in the swell. The net was at least two meters deep, I snapped the first boat hook, the net was just too heavy. I bent the second, and just could not reach the bottom final section of the netting. I though of launching the dinghy and trying to work from that?
Enough was enough, we would wait until daylight, then I would get into the water and examine the full extent of the problem. We remove our wet clothes, dried and redressed in warm gear, the kettle went on! As I took my coffee from Ann, a noise nearby got my focus, I could hear a boat engine, it sounded close but there were no lights to be seen? I asked Ann to switch on our deck lights to make us more visible. Then, from out of the darkness an fishing boat appeared dead ahead and came along side, the only light I could see was a cigarette end? Still, navigation lights or not, they were clearly there to help. It took very little effort to explain our situation, only the spotlight to highlight the net running from our stern, they further switched on a floodlight on their vessel. The guys working from their boat, they began pulling and cutting at the net, Ann and I fended them off Sailaway's transom, within 10 minutes of their efforts we were free and the now two sections of net disappeared into the darkness. The remaining section (10 - 15 meters) held fast to our hull and could not be pulled free, the lead fisherman asked if we had goggles to see what the problem was? I explained, in my best Italian, that we would now try and sail till morning and have a better look in the daylight, they acknowledged their understanding, abandoning the net, they disappeared back into the darkness, literally! We aboard Sailaway, tidied up, checked the motion of our steering and rolled out the genoa, we sailed off making a couple of knots towing behind us a couple of meters of torn netting. It was now about 0300, only a few hours before day break.
It was clear that I would have to get into the water in the morning so I retired and slept for a few hours, at dawn, we had put a few miles behind us, we rolled up our sail and began to get ready, it was cold! We prepared a tank, put on a wet suit, as I looked down at the debris I realised we were still moving through the water, the debris still stretched out behind us. I check the GPS against the log, yes, we were being blown through the water, the 6-8 knots of wind was giving us 1 - 1.5 knots through the water. Normally one would not complain, but, in this instance, if I jumped into the water I may be left behind! We needed to slow Sailaway down, we put over into the water every length of free rope we had, even the free end of our genoa sheets.
It worked to an extend, but in the gusts we were still moving between 0 - 0.6 miles per hour through the water. It was clear I would have to enter the water with a safety line attached, anchoring me to Sailaway. This dive was interesting, when I put my head below the water for a quick over view, sure enough the net was wrapped around our hull, closing together at our stern around the propeller and shaft, rudder and skeg. The float line had wedged itself behind our anodes, securing it tight. A technique had to be developed to cut away the sections, as due to the speed through the water, once free they would shoot off behind Sailaway. You needed to ensure that you were holding the vessel at the final cut at least. Ann did great, supporting me from the deck, ensuring I had free motion from the safety line as I worked the full length on both sides of the hull. I submerged periodically to provide an update as to where I was up too, it would have been an impossible task without the tanks, or at least the 40 minutes in the water would have been hours!
Once every piece of net and float line was clear, I got out of the water, at this point I did realise fully the need for the safety line, once surfaced and free I had to pull myself to Sailaway, swimming to her was not possible. When I climbed on board I glanced at the gauges, the wind had increased as has our speed through the water. It was now just a case of tidying up and getting going again, by 0830 we were under way again, what a night!
We had plenty to occupy us, we had usually between 5 - 10 knots of wind from various easterly quarters, there was work to be done keeping the speed up we had lost a lot of time and wanted to make Sardinia before the pending strong westerlies on Saturday afternoon. As we passed the outer island, Isola Alcudi, Ann received a "WhatsApp message", we were receiving a mobile phone signal, even about 3 miles off. I down loaded the latest weather files, the westerlies had move forward slightly, as much speed needed as possible.
During the night, as darkness fell, the winds took a southerly turn, then southwest and stiffened, now we had periods of 20 - 25knots, our speed clearly increased significantly. The issue was, during that period, too much sail up, we reefed down accordingly, we had about 5 hours of good fast sailing. Then, around 0400 the wind disappeared completely over less than an hour, we started the engine. With the updated weather and no wind, we changed our destination, we were originally heading for Cagliari, we were now heading for Villasmius. The reduction of 24 miles would ensure that we would not meet the pending westerlies, we had done enough, fighting through those winds was not an option today!
Dawn had us completely engulfed in fog, we had been watching the AIS and Radar, during darkness but it was still needed during daylight as visibly was down to about 2 miles at times. I even dug out our fog horn, I had not even seen it since the UK ten years ago! We saw our first commercial vessel for some time, a freighter crossed 2 mile behind us, just appearing through the fog, we had been watching it on the AIS. Fishing vessels worked around us, never seen and never an issue. We eventually made sight contact with Isola Cavoli, it was now just a case of working through to Villasmius. The anchorage in our ten year old pilot book would have been ideal but the harbour wall was lined with "Fines for anchoring notes" so we went into the marina.
Villasimuis Marina, is a strange place, I could only describe it as a "stop over" place, very large, few permanent berth holders other than small craft. It 3km from town, where we never ventured, but I must say, friendly enough!
A couple of days later, I looked at drift net fishing, I had not realised the illegalities of the method of fishing, perhaps that may explain the lack of lights, both on nets and boats? However there was no reason why the net should have not been patrolled, or perhaps the patrolling vessel just did not see us?
RSPCA - Illegal Driftnet Fishing in Italian Waters