Browsed by
Month: June 2015

Sicily – Sciacca 19th – 21st June 2015

Sicily – Sciacca 19th – 21st June 2015

We were pleased to leave Marsala and travel the 37 miles down the southern coast to Sciacca. The wind was a steady F4 behind us most of the journey (as per forecast), but during the final couple of hours the winds gradually increased creeping up to a F5 then a F6. We noticed an influx of local fishing boats all heading rapidly into port; we thought it a bit odd to have so many heading in, then as the wind continued to increase and howl we realised it was one of the local “winds” getting up that they had not forecast so we followed suit increasing our revs and ran for port, Again Mark had the challenge of mooring in strong winds a F7 by this time.

282- 2015.06 -  Sciacca

Sciacca has a much nicer feel; the marina staff were more professional and very helpful, although it is still a cash only policy, with the marina a reasonable 40 euros. As you look past the marina up the hill you see first the run down but still charming fishermen’s houses, behind are modern flats then at the top of the hill the old town. Many buildings are neglected and falling apart or supporting new plant life, but this is a working town and it’s full of life and atmosphere. The old town at the top of the ceramic tiled steps is charming with narrow streets, lots of shops especially ceramics shops, which is the local product.

286- 2015.06 -  Sciacca

283- 2015.06 -  Sciacca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The port area is dominated by the mass of fishing boats, which is a good indication that Mark may land another tuna (we live in hope) and little cafes filled with the old men in groups chatting loudly and drinking coffee. My only criticism of the area is the level of rubbish, some areas are filthy, it is a shame.

285- 2015.06 -  Sciacca

We did struggle on Saturday night when going out for dinner, trying to find a restaurant that served anything other than pizza was a challenge. There are not a lot of restaurants here, which is surprising for a largish coastal town, but Mark found hidden away a tiny restaurant used by the locals. We had the house starter consisting of 7 different local appetisers which were all delicious, followed by two different pasta dishes, nice but different and then a small fish platter, it was a lovely evening. Unfortunately I did not get to experience the local thermal springs (heated by volcanic activity) for which the town is famous and has been visited since Roman times, because they are closed on Sundays, never mind. The strong winds have continued each day whilst we have been here, so with a calmer window we plan to set off again Monday bright and early to our next port.

 

Sicily – Marsala – 16th – 18th June 2015

Sicily – Marsala – 16th – 18th June 2015

Mark and I did not like Marsala from the off, we just did not warm to the place. From the start when we had to negotiate with the marinere in his hut on the mooring charges and then it was cash only with no paperwork,  all a bit back hander to me (he wanted 100 euros for 2 nights; we got it for 90 euro’s). The marina is a distance from the town, the port frontage is desolate, dirty at times and run down (not pretty), then pending your route you have to walk through the local housing estates to the main street full of shops and further to the old town. The old town is quaint, we found having a drink out expensive, but I guess we expected to pay more in the old town, but it seems similar all over. the objective in staying here was to get the water maker fixed and hopefully it is now working. The picture below reflects many of the buildings in the area.

280- 2015.06 -  Masala

Sicily – The Sail to Marsala – 15th – 16th June 2015

Sicily – The Sail to Marsala – 15th – 16th June 2015

The Sail to Sicily – We left bright and early at 6am on Monday morning on the 204 miles (30 hours) passage to Sicily. The trip was more eventful than we expected or hoped for, as we left Arbatax it was raining a little but as we headed out to sea the heavens opened, and we had an un-forecasted thunder and lightening storm (joy), luckily it was Mark’s shift so Hudson and I stayed below keeping dry. After the storm we settled into the 2 hourly shifts with periods of sailing and as the wind died engine on. On one of my shifts, 100 miles out, the wind seemed to revive itself and I decided regretfully, to set the foresail and turn the engine off. However, there wasn’t quite enough wind, so I turned the key to get us motoring again, to be greeted by silence. We spent a very uncomfortable hour deciding whether to continue or go back to Sardinia, while Mark tried to fix the engine, which in the end was a lose connection on the starter motor. We had all this time been sailing so fortunately did not lose much time, and could finally relax. The passage turned a bit ugly again towards midnight, as the raw water seemed to be sucking up air and so we made the decision to stop the engine to investigate. Both of us held our breath as we went to restart the engine after sorting the issue and fortunately it fired up and we continued on route arriving in Sicily in a force 6, which made the reverse mooring downwind onto the pontoon an appropriate end to the passage.

271- 2015.06 -  En Route Sardinia to Sicily

Sardinia – Arbatax 10th – 15th June 2015

Sardinia – Arbatax 10th – 15th June 2015

The plan was to pick a well protected marina, and a town with plenty of facilities to keep us entertained while we sat out the forecast of bad weather of F8 winds, some thunder & lightening and even rain. Based on the pilot book, we thought the town of Arbatax would fit the bill. It described the marina as being built in the centre of a busy commercial harbour, with the port being developed for the pulp and plywood industries and the building of offshore gas rigs, all set with “magnificent” mountains and beaches close by.

The reality was different. Following an early 6:00 am start from La Caletta, we sailed 45 miles down the coast to Arbatax, the cliffs were massive and lined a lot of the route down. Amazingly we were able to sail half the trip, we really haven’t been used to using that great white flappy thing to power our progress across the Med a great deal at all so far. On arrival, the marinieres were “off-site”, so we had to wait about 30 mins for them before we could moor up. The staff were helpful and the mooring relatively cheap at 35 euros. The marina has every facilities as well as lifting gear available for any boat up to large super yachts; unfortunately they lie unused for most of the day. The commercial port is now a deserted waste land, it must have been an incredible hive of activity in it’s hey day. The crane used to assemble gas platforms lies idle and is visible from many tens of miles out at sea and there are so many big empty buildings that were there to support the gas platform business, now deserted. The town is tiny and doesn’t seem to have scaled to the size of the industry that once was in Arbatax, mainly residential with 1 food shop, 3 bars and a couple of cheap tacky looking restaurants. We were highly disappointed.

252- 2015.06 - ArbataxBut with time to kill and being positive we hired a car for 2 days and went sight seeing into the mountains, which were stunning. The roads climbed steeply with impressive drops too close to the edge of the road. In several places, we tried to look straight ahead and not at the quick trip down the mountain if we made a mistake. The roads were as expected, however when visiting some of the more remote sites they become rocky dirt tracks, very narrow and quite hard going in our tiny Fiat Punto, but fun. We visited a beautiful sink hole, the water was so clear and tasted delicious.

255- 2015.06 -  Arbatax

The mountains and countryside seemed to us, to make up for the disappointing towns, which were either purpose built tourist centres (nicely done but soulless) or the original Sardinian towns which were basic and deserted, maybe they knew we were coming.

We found the local fish shop and bought some great fresh tuna, I watched him slice my one very large slice from the whole tuna sitting in the chillier, and hopefully Mark will supply the next tuna meal. Food is definitely more expensive here than Spain (no prawns for a while as they are 33 euros a kilo here and not as big compared to 9.75 euros we were paying in Spain).

Sunday 14th June, we took a day trip on the local trenino verde (green train) to a mountain village Sadali. The journey up into the mountains usually takes about 3.5 hours plenty of time to admire the scenery.

261- 2015.06 -  Green Train Arbatax

The trip was a great success and more entertaining than we expected, with the train driver stopping several times to collect wild mushrooms from the side of the track for his dinner. Then half way up, one of the motors which is needed to get us up the steeper inclines, stopped working, but our very capable train driver dug into his tool box and found a large tree branch which he wedged against the starter motor and off we went again. All this activity had obviously exhausted them so we stopped for a coffee break at the next station.

263- 2015.06 -  Green Train Arbatax

 

267- 2015.06 -  Green Train Arbatax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived at Sadila, our final destination, and were treated to a tour of this quaint little traditional Sardinian village built around a mountain spring. The guide who lived in the village knew every one of the other 500 inhabitants and explained that she had to say hello to each one she met or they might think they had upset her. The tour showed us how life used to be, visiting the source of the all important stream and local flour mills powered by it. We had a great lunch in one of the two restaurants, trying out the homemade wine, cheese and pasta. The pasta dish was delicious and wine pretty strong, a lovely leisurely lunch then off we went to the caves called Is Janas.

269- 2015.06 -  Green Train Arbatax

 

Sardinia – La Caletta 9th June 2015

Sardinia – La Caletta 9th June 2015

A short hop of 26 miles down the coast we arrived at La Caletta, again a one night stand. With the objective of getting further south ready for our sail to Sicily before the low pressure forecast for Friday arrived. There seems to be a localised wind affect due to the surrounding mountains in this area, the wind picked up along the coast and increased considerably just as we wanted to moor up (typical). The best way to describe La Caletta, the marina was bland and the town was in need of a repaint and face lift. We had a walk into the town, which consists of one main road a few shops and restaurants/bars. Not the place to shop, simple souvenirs and beach items was all I could see. But on the positive side – the drinks were cheap 2.50 Euro per bottle of beer but no goodies. Sorry this is the only photo we took and it is not brilliant.

Marina cost e44

249- 2015.06 - La Caletta

Sardinia – Porto Rotondo 8th June 2015

Sardinia – Porto Rotondo 8th June 2015

Porto Rotondo was a one night stop over on our way down the eastern coastline. As we set off the winds were looking promising, with an apparent of 20 knots, as we have not had much on our journey I was initially a bit nervous but just needed to settle into the sail. Unfortunately just as I get comfortable the wind disappeared. We have discovered another hide out or play ground for the super rich, as all down the coast are plenty of super yachts (mainly motor) anchored outside their nice big houses perched on the top of cliffs. One looked like the Flinstones pad but much bigger, dug into a rocky outcrop, the surface appearing to be made from boulders….but very expensive manicured boulders, and proper “English” grass lining all the slopes around the house. The gardeners would definitely have one leg longer than the other.

Porto Rotondo is a man made marina with a large well designed and beautiful done holiday complex. It is all set around the marina, with expensive boutique shops, restaurants and bars hidden in a labyrinth of streets. It is very pretty, but something is missing as Mark put it, it had no soul and no people. the supermarket was basic and expensive although their locally made mozzarella was amazing.  It was very quiet we found the only bar with other people sitting having a drink, all 8 of us – and it was very expensive we paid 28 euro’s for 4 small beers, but you do get a picnic with it of crisps, peanuts, pretzels, Italian breaded bits and cheesy tapas, who needs dinner?

(Marina costs 44 euros)

Sardinia – Cala Bitta 7th June 2015

Sardinia – Cala Bitta 7th June 2015

We said goodbye to Corsica, which we have really enjoyed and headed back to Sardinia, with the initial aim of anchoring in a bay at the southern end of the island, Isola Caprera. We sailed round a very rocky and mountainous coastline dodging the islands and rocks that make navigation interesting, and into Porto Palma bay, we were not inspired. The bay was a little exposed, and although very pretty, there would not have been a lot to do there, all rocks and not a lot else. We did a U-turn and headed across the waters to a little bay called Cala Bitta. We have become a bit fussy with regards to the standard of Cala we will stay at, last year we would have been ecstatic with Porto Palma, but this year we have anchored at some stunning places, so only the best will do now. We require a sandy beach, hills gently sloping up to a mountain range in the background, a couple of other yachts for company and a quiet secluded bar serving ice cold beer in the corner of the bay. The occasional tuna jumping onto our fishing line would be a bonus.

The pilotage book does not do Cala Bitta justice; there was a lot more there than described. The bay was quite protected, and we were the second boat to anchor. We were soon joined by 4 others most of whom found it difficult to get their anchor to hold in the weedy bottom. It made Mark a little nervous, so out came the snorkel and off he swam to check we were solidly hooked on. On shore the crumbling jetty was patrolled by an ancient Sardinian who taught Mark another word in Italian when he tried to tie up the tender and the word was privato (or something like). Many holiday makers were crammed onto the main sandy beach, and a few yards away small empty stretches of beach separated by rocky outcrops, which seemed like they were the private property for a few houses that stood close by. There was the obligatory beach cafe/bar then up the hill a supermarket and further round the coast a holiday village, with shops, restaurants and bars. The village was purpose built but done tastefully and with style. So although it was a Sunday, we were able to top up our supplies and have a beer. Prices were reasonable and they were very generous with their accompaniments (crisps, peanuts and olives).

Corsica – Punta de Rondinara – 4th – 7th June

Corsica – Punta de Rondinara – 4th – 7th June

Corsica continues to excel, as we came into the bay which is protected by a narrow entrance, we were greeted by sandy beaches, uncluttered hills with hardly a building, but those that were there were built extremely sympathetically to blend in. There is a bar in the south corner of the bay which so reminds me of the Caribbean, in which we have a 5:00 pm appointment every night. We have anchored here for three days, swimming off the boat, yes even me. We finally inflatied my armchair, which Mark has tied to the transom so I can get a more comfortable suntan and i have to note I love it. There have been 5 or 6 other yachts anchored and coming and going, one of which was anchored on the shallow bit in the centre of the bay. Mark swam over and did the gentlemanly thing, even though they were French, and told them they were metres from disaster. The weather is perfect for anchoring, blue skies, close to 30deg and hardly a sniff of wind, yet still cool enough in the evenings so we can sleep comfortably. Tomorrow we head back to Sardinia, again with regret, Corsica is lovely and we have really enjoyed ourselves and would highly recommend it to others.

Picture taken from our beach bar

245- 2015.06 - Rondinara

Corsica – Bonifacio 1st – 4th June 2015

Corsica – Bonifacio 1st – 4th June 2015

12 miles from Isola Rosa, we left Sardinia and arrived in Corsica. As we motored into Bonifacio on the south coast, we got a flavour of what was in store, the old town was perched on the top of a hill surrounded by cliffs on one side and massive walls around the other. Ancient four story houses were built on the very edge of the cliffs, which have been undercut by centuries of waves. The entrance of the harbour was frothing with the wakes from tourist boats going to visit the local bays and islands and the usual gaggle of super yachts also lined the entrance.

228- 2015.06 - BonifacioWe instantly decided that we liked the place and decided to stay for 3 days. The marina was surrounded by bars and restaurants and very busy with every different type of marine traffic. The pontoons were impossibly close for the size of boats that they expected to park opposite each other, we were on the end of the pontoon with what seemed a minute gap between us and the boat opposite, yet we were amazed to see 50 foot boats squeezing though to take up a berth closer in on the pontoon. This is the first place we have found you are on your own with regards to mooring, you get told a pontoon then its get on with it, no help is on hand from the marinara. It gets interesting from between 5pm and 6pm, as it is when all the boats seem to arrive, then it is everyone for themselves in finding a space, entertaining to watch as long as you have all your fenders out just in case.

236- 2015.06 - Bonifacio

The old town, as you would expect, was very quaint with tall buildings built very close together to keep cool in the summer. Staircases stretched high into the dark interior of these buildings providing access to the upper stories, we both agreed that we wouldn’t fancy negotiating these after a night on the hard stuff or with your “Tesco” shopping. Hudson was exercised along the cliffs on the side of the town, but it was a little too hot for him, so we didn’t go too far, however the views and scenery were spectacular, (many photos taken). The next day we took a more sheltered walk which after 4 or 5 miles lead us to a secluded bay with 10 people and a couple of boats moored, so tranquil, until Hudson got a swim. The dog really hates water, but loves food, so a bit of bribery got him in to cool down.

230 - 2015.06 - Bonifacio

Although the marina area and town were lovely the shopping was disappointing. With regards to food they had two small supermarkets but both were expensive and limited fresh meat and no fish, not happy. The cost of wine in the shops was very different from Spain, where we had been spoilt with the fresh fish on offer and wine prices; in Spain a cheap wine was about e1.50 (did not taste good) and a reasonable wine around e4.50, here a cheap wine was e8.oo and a good wine e11.00 plus. Overall cost of drinks, eating out and shopping was more expensive than I expected and sadly there was nothing interesting for me to buy to remember Corsica.

The weather has upped its game and has been around the late-20’s for a while now, and I can’t remember seeing a cloud for quite some time. Reluctantly we leave Bonifacio to go to Punto de Rondinara, an anchorage to the east in a sandy bay.

Northern Sardinia – 30th – 1st June 2015

Northern Sardinia – 30th – 1st June 2015

In transit to Corsica – Our travels in Northern Sardinia at this point, are brief as we are port hopping on route to Corsica.  Stopping in Stintino and Isola Rossa.

Following a great 2 day sail (203 miles) from Menorca, we arrived in the quiet port of Stintino in Northern Sardinia at 2pm. The north western coast- line of Sardinia is very barren, it is just rocky cliffs; it was only after we went through the Fornelli passage that the scenery began to change with green hills appearing and a few low rise buildings slotted into the hillsides and sandy beaches. The harbour of Stintino was pretty bland, no view or atmosphere, the village was inoffensive but it did not have enough to make us stay. So the next day after leisurely start we set sail to Isola Rossa 31 miles up the coast.

Arriving on a Sunday afternoon the marina was closed so we selected our spot and moored up, the marina was smaller than we expected and not a lot of space for boats our size. After sorting the boat out, we put on our swim gear and headed for the beach right next door to the marina, which we spotted on the way in, a lovely sandy beach. Mark was straight in and I very slowly braved the cold water, however I confess it was the quickest swim in history. The village was a small holiday area, with a few restaurants and shops, pleasant but again not enough to hold us there and we were looking forward to Bonifacio in Corsica. For Mark’s birthday we had a few beers and enjoyed the tasty tuna mark had caught – it was delicious.

220 - 2015.05 - Isola Rossa