Castlesardo - Flags and internet. Isola Rossa - wildlife - 41:01.422N 008:52.999E

Charles & Maggie Bevis
Thu 17 Jul 2014 09:38
What a busy 24 hours.

Tuesday 15 we arrived in Castlesardo - a fairy book castle and town clinging to the steep summit of a hill overlooking the harbour and (now) its modern marina.

In need of communications we set off at lunch time to climb the hill to the town in search of Tim (Telecom Italia Mobile). He is not there, it transpires - two shops could provide top-ups but no main dealer to dispense and register a new data sim card. We did find a really good gelati (ice cream) parlour to celebrate landing on Italian soil, then next door we invested in diet cokes so we could use their free wifi.

On returning to the port Charlie had a mishap with the Italian flag. We had earlier purchased for €5 a handsome (if miniature) Sardinian flag and while hoisting this below the Italian courtesy flag that we are obliged to fly as visitors, he became distracted by a bronzed bikini clad miss posing for photographs on the top deck of a nearby gin-palace. The girl lost her balance and stumbled, and Charlie, mouth agape, pulled the italian flag half way through the block on the mast crosstrees where it stuck fast! Maggie came to the rescue and (photo to follow) was then hoisted up the mast by said husband to disentangle said flag! Well it was well worth the ear bashing as she was very shapely - er Maggie that is….

Wednesday morning at 06:00 the alarm went off and at 06:30 we were both striding back up the hill to the nearest bus stop, having first ascertained that TIM could be found in nearby Sassari some 30km away. The local bus duly arrived on time (07:00) and along with the other passengers (one sleeping girl and another glued to her earphones) we are whisked through the countryside to the second city on the island. Now I failed to mention earlier that Castlesardo did not inspire at close range - run down and scruffy and the architecture, castle and cathedral apart, are uninspiring and generally poorly maintained. Well the same can be said of the outlying towns and of Sassari itself, apart from the municipal buildings surroundings the grand Piazza. The outlying country towns through which we passed and Sassari have some remaining vestiges of their medieval past with narrow winding roads, barely wide enough to accommodate our bus and passing traffic. The buildings in Sassari have been partly replaced and up-dated over the years, but the town planners were out to lunch when plans were drawn up and the buildings are, for the most part, a characterful mess and do not inspire. Sassari does however boast a modern tram system but from what we saw, there was little else to note, perhaps we were simply in the wrong district, even though we were in the city centre!

The countryside we passed through was a revelation especially after becoming used to mainland Spain where the landscape leaves a lot to be desired. Everywhere is green and hilly, and on this north coast at least, quite well developed for agriculture with multiple large olive groves and vineyards. Scrub land is populated by low lying pine bushes/trees and cactus plants. The roads take second place to the topography and wind their way through clefts and valleys. Passing places are few and far between, and on the road we were on the, bends are extreme and the bus had to frequently slow or stop and wait before negotiating some bends. The roads themselves were in good repair and the scenery was very enjoyable. Sadly the architecture was again, for the most part, very uninspiring, but occasionally we saw traditional homes. They’re quite ‘boxy', in appearance but with pretty square windows, the upper levels being tucked up high into the eaves and with lovely low pitched terracotta tiled roofs. Many of the houses are in a distinctive salmon/terracotta colour which is most attractive, especially when set against the dark green foliage. This side of the island does not appear to boast of any wealth or expensive housing, but it is charming. From out at sea, the villages paint a very pretty picture as all are terraced and set amongst some seriously steep hillsides; pity the poor builders, it can’t have been easy.

By 08:15 we had tracked down TIM, hooray. We had repeatedly asked for directions, all of which were unintelligible in light of our non-existent Italian, but the first few gesticulations eventually led us to the main piazza and then to a coffee shop where the gent in charge stepped outside to direct us the last few meters. Having located TIM’s lair (still closed) we backtracked and breakfasted in the coffee-house while we waited for the TIM personnel to start work. The sim was amazingly good value when compared to Orange in Spain. Data Sim card and 4G for two months for €28 with €10 top ups thereafter. We are connected - most of the time!

We also now have an italian phone number and can be contacted locally on (+39) 3336941809. This is in addition to Charlie’s usual UK mobile (don’t use it unless you really need to as we pay call connection charges) and our Satellite phone. Email/skype is by far the cheapest and easiest/best way to contact us!!

Local transport is cheap but not plentiful. Castlesardo to Sassari was 30km and the fare out was €4. The return trip, exactly the same route was €3 each - work that one out! However, there are only 6 buses each day, each way. By 12:00 we were back at Castlesardo getting the boat ready to leave before our stay at the marina over ran. For anyone considering following in our wake, the marina here is fairly reasonable at €50/night inclusive of all charges in high season. The water is good and sweet, and there is electricity on the quays. Best of all there’s an excellent well stocked supermarket on the quayside (50m from the boat) and the prices are not silly.

We sailed away from Castlesardo with a light west wind making 3-4 knots and having lunch as we went.

The only destination within reasonable range was the Isola Rossa. There is a bay there just beyond the Island with the prospect of a possible overnight anchorage as at last, the weather is now really settled. At first glance it looked too exposed but we found that by tucking up to the rocks on the north side of the bay we could get out of the swell. The water is beautifully clear and we can see the 5+m down below the boat to the bottom and so pick our spot clear of weed to drop the anchor. With a stern anchor set to hold the boat’s heading up to the west we spent a pleasant afternoon, evening and night.

Charlie took the camera ashore and found the rocks at the waters edge alive with wild life.. While passing a mooring line round a semi submerged rock he disturbed an octopus, The creature was not impressed at having his home invaded, had a little fight with the rope intruding into his home space before giving up and retiring - jetting off! Never seen that before! Also draped over a nearby rock was a fully grown and completely naked young lady sunning herself like a lizard! Honestly Bob the camera was to take pictures of the boat!

We are still both quite tired from the crossing from Menorca, so whether we stay here or go on the 30 miles or so today will be a decision to be made by Maggie.

Deckhand here - Decision made, we’re moving on …

DH - Err skipper …
Sk - What?
DH - Nothing’s happening!
Damn, the windlass control switch has failed again, (unfortunately we'd forgotten to purchase replacement fuses), so it’s a manual haul up of both bow and stern anchors, the latter being wedged under a rock (where did the sandy bit go?), which meant a bit of extra effort was required. Some careful manoeuvring instructions from the skipper to the deckhand and CALMLY, well almost, we eventually released ourselves from this nice little bay and avoided hitting any of the rocks. This time, we really were off.

It’s a hot day with light winds, we’ve tried sailing but only managing 1.7 knots, so little option but to turn on the engine if we’re going to get anywhere today. Way off in the distance we can just make out the island of Corsica, which is on the itinerary at some point in time.

Skipper has repaired the windlass control, but top of the shopping list now is a pack of fuses and maybe even a new controller, if we can find one. Charlie tellsl me they’re made in Italy, so it shouldn’t be too difficult - should it?

The climate is very different to that of mainland Spain, even the Balearics. Although most evenings are usually pleasantly warm, the temperature can drop quite a lot during the evening and we find ourselves donning something a little warmer or retreating downstairs. We’ve been waking up in the small hours of the morning feeling chilly, so need to pull over an extra layer. The daytime temperatures though are as you’d expect, hot on land, but usually comfortable when on the boat, catching whatever breeze there is and of course, sheltering under the shade of the bimini, which is really paying for itself now.

We will try to remember to post some pictures soon ,as we’re rather behind with them. Now we have the sim sorted, and once we arrive at our next destination, wherever that’s going to be, we’ll try to remember.
So much to do and so little time...