The Scarlet Papers - 2 - Sardinia

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Mon 20 Nov 2017 15:42

The Scarlet Papers  - 2 – Sardinia


We managed to sail about a third of the way to Sardinia, leaving Menorca (Mahon) around 4pm on Monday 17th July. We elected to go to bed first and take the 2am watch, as by this time Susan had got over a bit of sea sickness caused by the point of sail (a beat) and the sea state (a short, steep chop). Our watch was a real treat as there was a beautiful starry night sky and the moon was just starting to rise as well. We managed to keep Scarlet sailing for another couple of hours but, eventually, it came time to give in as we were making no discernible progress eastwards, and put the sails to bed and turn the engine on.  The wind had died completely. The rest of the watch kept us busy as various vessels appeared over the horizon and either crossed our wake or crossed in front of us.  As usual the AIS provided lots of information about who was out there, where they were going, and, most importantly, if they were going to get anywhere near us.  At 6am it was time for a bit more sleep as out watch finished, before getting up for breakfast.


The sea was now completely flat and we just chugged along at a fair pace eating up the miles to Sardinia. It was all very relaxed on board throughout the following day and we all took turns to have a snooze etc. There were no clouds in the sky and so shade was much sought after as swapped and swapped about keeping an eye out for other vessels. The highlight of our day was probably the turtle we suddenly saw and which quickly disappeared from sight, that and the football floating by, absolutely miles from anywhere, we wondered if it was going to end up on the beach in Menorca.


As the day ended we sorted ourselves out for the night watch; we took the 10pm to 2am watch this time. As the sun set and the night darkened the stars started to come out twinkling beautifully in the velvet sky. The Milky Way looked wonderful and a few shooting stars were spotted as well…..this is what night sailing is all about. Just before our watch ended at 2am we could see the flashes from the light house off Sardinia so nearly there. We headed below to sleep after Scarlet was slowed down as no-one wanted to enter an unfamiliar harbor in the dark, then at around 5.15 we heard the anchor being dropped and we had arrived at Porta Conti, a very still, large and quite shallow bay, and first light was just appearing. It was bliss to have the engine turned off and we all slept again for a while. We had sailed/motored for some 195 nautical miles.


After breakfast we set off for Algherro past a very lovely coast line with lots of pot markers and dramatic cliffs, just as well we hadn’t tried to get into the harbor in the dark. Having phoned ahead we made our way to the town quay and tied up hoping to stay for a couple of nights at least whilst we checked the weather for the next leg of our trip.


Algherro turned out to be a real gem of a city, another walled city with lots of character. We all really enjoyed wandering around the narrow streets finding hidden places, squares and small shops in unexpected corners and, as with Cuitadella, the city had a different feel once the sun had set. Algherro is on the North-west coast of Sardinia and is a very lively city. Along with a few touristy bits there is a much to enjoy. Over our few days there we explored most of the place finding out where the supermarkets were and where we could get a nice lunch. Many of the streets were decorated with bicycles and bicycle wheels and pink ribbons and pink hydrangeas, so we wondered if we had just missed a festival but it turned out that 2017 was 100th celebration of the Italian Bike race equivalent of the Tour de France, with a leg of the race taking place in Sardinia during June. As part of the celebration they had also placed around the town photographs of local people who were 100 years old or more, they may not have remembered the first race, but quite possibly a few of the more recent. There were some fabulous portraits of the men and women in various settings, one of which showed a man of 104 riding his bike, naturally, with this inspiration (!) we borrowed the marina bikes and had a ride around, locating the bigger supermarket, very local in character, and the laundry, so some much needed housekeeping could be done. Then another lovely meal was relished before an evening stroll was taken, returning to Scarlet in time for a show on the quay.


The previous evening we had watched as a troupe of acrobats went through a routine just along the quay. We had a great view from Scarlet and spent quite some time speculating what we thought was going to happen­­­­­­­. It became obvious that this was a rehearsal so we wondered if we were going to be there for the actual performance and so it turned out we were. The acrobats were working from a large spherical structure and much of the performance involved ropes and the acrobats performing a range of stunts at around 20 metres or so above a stage. The structure was held up by a crane you would normally see hoisting construction equipment.  The rehearsal also employed a range of music and a light projection on the wall of a house, something that wasn’t used in the performance – but we didn’t mind. We didn’t think the actual performance went as well as the rehearsal but we enjoyed it all the same and then had a bit of a jig to the music before watching the fireworks at the end of the evening….sometimes you just happen to be in the right place at the right time.


The following morning saw us leave the dock to refuel before heading out to pastures new….well anchorages at least. We were heading north to go round the top of Sardinia before some strong forecast winds arrived. With the wind on the nose, as usual it seems in these parts, we motored past some spectacular scenery, rocks, caves, a pod of dolphins; with so many water craft moving around it was certainly not boring and we made our way to the Isle Asinara where we thought we might anchor but after looking around decided to go down to Stintino instead but couldn’t anchor there (Maritime authorities had prohibited anchoring there), so ended up back in Asinara and found a lovely little spot for the night. It was quite busy when we arrived but gradually the anchorage emptied out as folk went home after their day out.


Around this time we had a call from daughter Jenny, our granddaughter Mysha had managed to break her elbow and although they had set her arm they weren’t happy about it so they were going to operate to re-align it.  As it happened when they looked again in the morning they decided everything was ok so Mysha didn’t have to have to have surgery after all and has since made a great recovery.


After a very quiet and still night we got up early and once Maisie had had her walk we all mucked in and made the dinner to be cooked in the Mr D. Mr D is a modern day equivalent of a “hay box”. You start your meal off and cook it for a while and then it goes into a giant thermos that keeps the heat in and continues cooking the meal until you are ready eat, hours later. We knew we had a longish day sailing to our next port of call and in spite of all the activity we pulled up the anchor and were on our way again before 8.15am.


Another motor along the coast in hot, sunny weather ensued. The coast of Sardinia is certainly spectacular and on a big scale after Menorca.  As we approached Porto Pozzo we saw Corsica in the distance, that was where the winds were due to come howling down from  in a few days so we were really pleased when we were able to tie up to a buoy in the bay for 30 Euros a night. Our chicken meal in the Mr D was delicious, lovely and tender and moist yum, yum.


The wind picked up the following day and we had ringside seats watching other folk come into the anchorage and pick up buoys, all very interesting and we were glad we had arrived before the wind. It was very nice here though as the marineros came out and helped you get your lines on…. much easier than using the boat hook. The guys also checked each boat carefully, at least twice each day,to make sure the lines were not twisted and where necessary put extra lines on as well.  We knew that the wind was definitely going to get up and it did but nice and secure on our mooring we took it in our stride.


After looking at the weather we decided to stay for a bit longer day and then had a new plan for the day. We went ashore and caught a bus to the local town of Palau about half an hour way. Lyn and David were looking for a part for the outboard engine which had starting making a funny noise – part of the starter pull line had failed.


Palau was another interesting and busy place but not as pretty as Cuitadella or Algherro (we think we have been spoiled by these two special places). We split up, us to find some groceries and Lyn and David to look for the part and met up after lunch to catch the bus back. We were successful and located a few bits but Lyn and David had no joy with their mission so it was back to Porto Pozzo and another lovely meal.


As we have constantly found, you just never know what will happen and the following day we had entertainment in the form of the local fire brigade making sure that a spontaneous fire on shore did not take any further hold in the very strong north westerly winds. Again we had ringside seats and great views of a helicopter going back and forth, scooping up many, many loads of seawater and then dumping it on the site of the fire. We started counting out of interest to start with and then abandoned that as we realized they were going to be at it for a while. We were glad that we were further out in the anchorage as the helicopter seemed to get very close to some of the masts further in but that was probably just perspective.


In the meantime we heard from Linda (thank you so much) in the marina that the old rudder had actually been picked up and was now going to be taken back to the UK (albeit slowly) so a mould could be made of it for the new one……hurrah….stage one or is this now three (?) complete.

We had stayed on the buoy for some 4 days as the wind blew at a constant 30knots plus at times – this was the Mistral and boy did we know about it. At this time of year it seems to blow for 4 days, relax for 5 or 6 and then blow a hooly for another 4 days – well at least in this part of northern Sardinia.


Having had no real joy with the outboard parts we decided to carry on down the east coast of Sardinia heading for a bigger town where we would either find the parts or have them sent to us, so on a lovely cloudless morning we set off for Cannigone and a lovely yellow buoy for the night. This part of the trip took us through the famed Madelena’s but we didn’t stop as we were once again on a mission to get somewhere before the next batch of wind came howling down.


We were glad we had gone for a swim when we arrived in Cannigone as by the evening the predicted wind had picked up and so we weren’t tempted in a second time.  We did go ashore for an evening walk round the town before heading back for Scarlet and bed.


Up and at it the following morning, after taking on water from a floating raft (most unusual) we had a cracking sail down to Olbia past wonderful scenery and managed to get a spot on the town quay, only having the engine on for about an hour, it was great. The town quay was good(ish) – tricky getting lines securely ashore, and no facilities at all but then it was free!! The quay is right by the town and Andrew and I went to explore and found the places we needed.


After a warmish night everyone got up early David taking the record at 4am because of the heat. We have been very fortunate and have only felt really sticky a couple of times, but most of the time we have been tired so just went to sleep. We were looking forward to a nice wander round Olbia but when returned from the supermarket we were informed that was a regatta later on in the day and we had to move from the quay so we decided to leave and go round the corner to another new place – Brandichi which had the advantage of making the next stage a bit shorter.


What a lovely afternoon we had and having arrived in time for lunch it wasn’t long before we took the dinghy in to shore to a very tiny beach. The water was crystal clear and very warm and we could easily see where to avoid the spiny Normans (sea urchins). Susan tried out her new full face snorkel and then so did everyone else. The mask is one you can get from Decathlon and is designed to cover your whole face with no need to have anything in your mouth. It works very well and we had seen lots of them being used around the various anchorages and managed to get one whilst in Algherro. You can’t dive with them but for lying on the surface watching fish etc they are excellent and very easy and comfortable to use. They are very, very popular it must be said and to see so many folks of all ages snorkeling and enjoying the water as brilliant – well done Decathlon.

Another lovely evening ensued, this is another very pretty anchorage and the day was finished off with a beautiful sunset and then the moon rising – bliss.


The next day we had another early start as we wanted to cover nearly 40 miles so were up and at it and on the way before 9am. We were finding the Sardinian coast line very attractive, there are not that many flat plains on this side of the island, so  between anchorages, bays and the odd (ie remote) marina’s, there were lots of rocky imposing mountains to look at. On this trip we saw a great hill town, and absolutely miles and miles of golden sandy beaches. We took a brief look at Culetta but weren’t tempted to stay and carried on down to Gonone where we were expecting to find a small marina.


Approaching Gonnone we motored past some huge caves and then pandemonium. We suddenly found ourselves in the midst of so many ribs and small motor boats we thought there was a rally going on. Going into the tiny harbor it became very clear that there was definitely nowhere we could berth and all the small craft were headed in to refuel so it was completely chock-a-block. We had to carefully turn round and go back to the anchorage all the while dodging the ribs etc whilst they shot this way and that around us. Day hire of ribs is very, very popular in this part of the world – rafts of them anchored outside this particular harbor for the night (and we’ve seen a few such rafts elsewhere), before the day repeats itself – these ribs are not cheap to hire either. This was definitely not what we expected from the pilot book, and with hindsight Culetta was looking very good, definitely a marina and definitely plenty of room to maneuver. We ended up anchoring off the beach and pumped up the inflatable canoe for a shore run so Maisie could have a nice walk then it was dinner and bed with a bit of music coming from the shore.


What a night, as it progressed the swell got up and  rolled us about, getting more and more rolly as the night wore on; probably the worst place anchorage we had been in so far; no-one slept very well and so by 6.30am we were on our way again and heading for Navaresse. At least we didn’t have a long trip this time having achieved our objective by stopping at Gonone.


Navaresse (recommended by John from Out of the blue) was much better and having tied up in our berth we investigated the facilities and then stood under a lovely warm shower. Next on the agenda was a bit of laundry and then once that was hanging out to dry, we had a lazy afternoon dozing and reading, followed by an early evening walk up the hill to the town, finding a nice supermarket and some burgers for the barbecue and a goodly supply of cheap red wine. There were lots of comings and goings in the marina so we were well entertained whilst dining in the cockpit and then we all sank into our bunks, our lovely still, quiet none moving bunks and zzzzzzzzzzzzz.


Lyn and Andrew had started an informal challenge of finding good red wine for the lowest price – 2litres for just under 5 Euros was the best we found after extensive testing and research – excellent value, and it was found in several Sardinian supermarkets – brilliant. The most we paid was about 4:50 Euros for a litre, and it wasn’t bad either. Also a challenge was finding beer at a good price – around 40c Euros was the best we could find for 330cl can. For a treat though David was introduced to Desperado’s – a fine thing to behold and taste.


The following morning feeling very refreshed we pottered about and then took the dinghy out to the islands in the bay. We had seen quite a few boats leave the marina and go and anchor over there so went to investigate. It was very pretty over in the day anchorage but small and very rocky so after a little while we went over to the very gritty beach, which was Maisie friendly, for a lovely swim. There were lots fish in the sea so we got a bit of snorkeling in before heading back to the marina where more entertainment awaited us.


Arriving back at Scarlet we noticed that all the berths on our port side were now empty and that the marineros were up to something in the marina. They seemed to be replacing (we thought) some of the lazy lines that we all use instead of anchors when “Med Mooring” in a marina. Having a ringside seat it was fun puzzling out what they were up to and then we suddenly saw a huge, and we mean huge, motor boat/cruiser backing in through the marina entrance. We watched in disbelief at this 36.2 metre long, 8 metre wide behemoth was maneuvered stern to the hammerhead pontoon behind us. Suddenly all the moving of the lazy lines made sense as everyone worked to make sure she was docked securely for the night. Looking up the boat on the internet we discovered it was being chartered (and you can do so from 70,000 euros a week) but is up for sale for a cool £2.6 million pounds. Well there would be no more yachts arriving on the pontoon after this arrival, it practically took up all the available maneuvering space and marina entrance, but it was very entertaining watching the crew get the passarelle (gangway) ready so the passengers could get ashore. All in all a very interesting time. The pilot guides state that only boats under 30 metres are permitted here – hhmmmmm………the owner did not want any photo’s of him taken……hhhhmmmmm…..we are in Italy….hhhmmmm


The following day we hired a car and went to explore some of the interior. It was a lovely day out and the scenery was beautiful. We drove through the regional capital of Baunei first and then Dorgali, following the twisty mountain roads wherever they went, stopping at the pass through the mountains for a break. There were quite a few cyclists (some of a very impressive age) and people land skiing (that’s the only way we can describe it). We then headed for Orgosolo as we had heard they had a lot of murals around the town. After a couple of false starts we found the right part of town and had an enjoyable hour or two looking at murals painted on the buildings, a great deal were very political, reflecting events from around the world, many were old school revolutionary, some were locally focused and some were simply good art – a very interesting place. After lunch there we headed off to the highest town on the island, Funni, where we enjoyed a lovely cold ice-cream. Heading back to the marina, we had a dip in Lago de Gusana, the lakes fresh water was a gorgeous temperature so a lovely refreshing swim was had. We finished our day by driving down to Arbatax, the town across the water from Navaresse and having looked round the marina we decided that was where we should go next and promptly booked ourselves in for the following night. Then it was back to Navaresse via one of the big supermarkets. The wine and beer supply was diminishing, as well as bread and stuff of course!


Before leaving for Arbatax the next day we motored over to the little islands and had a great time swimming off the back of Scarlet in beautiful clear warm water, though with a fair current running, and timed our arrival for 5pm when we were able to refuel and then get settled in our berth. After a lovely quiet night we got up following morning and went off to explore whilst Lyn and David were busy sorting out a problem with the gear box (reverse would not engage – tricky) ……… we were also waiting for the outboard parts to arrive as Lyn had ordered them a while back and they were being delivered to Arbatax. It was a bit hotter than it had been of late so we were all a bit sticky but the showers are good so we survived and quite unusually we saw a dolphin swimming through the marina. The next few days were spent doing all the usual marina things, washing was caught up with, the cupboards were filled with supplies (cycling on small bikes with no suspension or gears towing a shopping trolley for a 5 mile round trip did wonders for our overall well-being!! – the saddles were something else!!) and we waited for the various parts to arrive. Andrew and Susan went to explore the red rocks across the way from the marina and discovered that we had just missed a performance by Yes a few days earlier, that we would have liked to have seen, yes we are that old, and aged hippies still!.


Eventually things began to happen, the gear box was fixed and worked ok (by a Sardinian engineer who spoke no english, so all the communication was by sign, gestures, drawings and workshop manuals), the transom was sorted out with a work around (it intermittently worked, leading to some challenges as this was how we got off and on Scarlet!) and then the outboard parts arrived – hurrah – we would be able to continue on our way after 3 nights in Naveresse and 7 nights in Arbatax. In truth, Arbatax is a large marina complex and little else – not a brilliant place to stay for a long time, but possible a reasonable place to leave a yacht for some time, or even over winter as it had secure hard standing, multiple travel lifts, engineers, fuel and some nice marina staff! Popular with Italians on holiday as part of their August cruise it was, in the past, an industrial port linked to oil-rig construction. And the marina’s distance from the “town” speaks volumes. And numb bums!


Leaving Arbatax after a prolonged (well it felt like that) stay was a great feeling, we were keen to be on our way to a rendevouz in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. With the gear box now working properly we enjoyed the motoring, which was just as well as there was no real wind to speak of. Anyway we all really enjoyed being at sea again. As we went further south the coast line changed becoming less rugged. We saw lots of boats small ribs on the water, along with the odd super-yacht (sailing and mobo), and passed some beautiful beaches and finally stopped for the night at Cala Cappuchina – it was a little rolly but now where near as bad as Gonone. The water temperature was again a balmy 29 degrees and visibility was terrific. We swam to the rocks and snorkeled spotting many purple-blue fish and so enjoyed it that after Andrew’s tasty prawn taglietelle we went for another dip before bed.


After a pretty sticky night we had another swim off the stern of Scarlet before breakfast and a lazy morning and then headed on our way, having rescued yet another bit of kit (an inflatable banana) … stop Cagliari.  With once again no wind to speak of we motored round the bottom of Sardinia and then found ourselves in 20knots plus on the nose (typical) as we approached the city, and into the Marina Del Sol where on the dock to greet us were Pat and Duncan from yacht Samji; we last saw them in Lagos over a year ago, so it was great to catch up on news. They were about to leave their boat and head back to the UK for a few weeks before carrying on their journey down to Sicily and on to over winter on the south of Italy – the in-step so to speak. As the afternoon wore on the wind built and we went to bed pleased that we were tied to something solid.


The next day we headed into town, a lovely flat walk (but long) around the various boat yards, marina’s (there are a few – some private, some public), and docks and into the city, past where the cruise liners dock. We headed for the highest point which was the Cathedral, on top of the hill, of course, and had to take a very scary (for Susan at least) lift with glass sides to get to the right level, but once there the views were worth it. Heading back down again (not via the lift this time) we had a little wander round the streets to check the place out then it was back to the marina followed by  a trip to the supermarket for supplies for a BBQ that evening with Pat and Duncan.


One of the really nice things about Marina Del Sol was that they would lend you a little battered and disheveled car so that you could go and get a good stock of provisions, so, naturally that was what we did. We were given instructions on how to find the Carrefour which was attached to a big mall and so had a bit of retail therapy before heading back to the Marina with provisions. During the afternoon some dolphins appeared in the bay and swam past the clubhouse. The showers in the marina were on a dock that swayed and moved in the wind – somewhat disconcerting it must be said – the wifi was alright in the bar, that also moved in the wind and swell – does a picture of secure berths and investment spring to mind – and at 80Euros per night - sheesh.


The wind now dropped overnight so we had an even more settled blissful night and were ready to be on our way. We weren’t going terrifically far and were delighted that we could actually sail there this time and, after seeing more dolphins, we slipped our lines. We were going to anchor at Capo do Pula but after a look around decided to go round into the next bay – Aguma – where we had a wonderful time in a very shallow but almost deserted bay. We took the dinghy into shore and had a swim and then went back to Scarlet to do it all over again.  By the time the sun went down we nearly had the place to ourselves after the sailing school/resort people had returned from a day sail. It was just lovely. We woke in the morning to find one of the buoys, that showed where boats should head into shore, along with a great length of line, was right beside Scarlet. We had seen a motor boat come in the previous evening and it looked like he had snagged and broken the line and here was the proof.  So David and Andrew gathered it up and took it and tied it onto another of the buoys further in.


We went on our way, motoring of course, rounded Capo Malfatono to anchor off Perda Longa in gorgeous turquoise waters. There was a bit of a breeze building and lots of comings and goings to watch and then a 53metre gun metal grey yacht called “S” anchored behind us. It didn’t stop us enjoying a lovely evening and the beautiful starry night sky.


We were rapidly coming to the end of our time in Sardinia and started our last passage the following morning with a bit of a dark sky and even had a few spots of rain on our way to Carleforte. Then it brightened up and we even got the sails up for a few hours.  During our passage we passed  by  some rocks that sported quite a large yacht wrecked on them, (it looked like quite a recent event), and we wondered at the story behind it. Off the Madalena’s we saw a salvage crew lifting a yacht – wonder why it was done there, but this yacht appeared abandoned!


Arriving at Carleforte at just after 2pm we had plenty of time to sort ourselves out and go for an explore. Pat and Duncan had said they liked this place and so did we. However wifi was terrible and virtually non-existent – the berths were concrete, the showers weren’t, the mooring lines left much to be desired and it was a pretty pricey place. We did enjoy exploring the little back streets, especially at night when the place was full of local people and holiday makers wandering the narrow streets. The following morning we came across the biggest collection of market stalls that we had seen so far and hauled back some very fresh vegetables and then treated ourselves to some salmon for dinner that night, it was delicious. We could easily have stayed a bit longer but it was now time to say goodbye to Sardinia and Italy and head back to make our flight back to Lagos, so on Thursday 17th August in the early dawn we set off once more, after a great visit to this lovely Island, and headed westwards towards Menorca.


More in due course,


Andrew and Susan with Lyn and David and Maisie,