Bonifacio – Villefranche 6– 13 J une 2010 - The final chapter

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Mon 14 Jun 2010 06:55

Bonifacio – Villefranche 6– 13 June 2010 - The final chapter


Sunday 6 June 2010. Left stern-to mooring just outside Bonifacio harbour to watch the Louis Vuitton final between Emirates Team New Zealand and the Synergy Russian team. On a simple upwind-downwind course off Punta Rossa between Corsica and Sardinia, the Russians were looking assured until their spinnaker ripped on the final downwind leg and went under the boat. They recovered well, but Emirates’ lead was unassailable and the audience of boats of all sizes went mad with hooters and firehoses etc.


The afternoon’s excitement was too much to go anywhere else and we anchored up in Golfo Saline, Sardinia ready for an early start for Ajaccio.


Monday 7 June 2010. Up anchor at 0645 to sail 48 miles before the WNW wind finally died at 1640. Fishing gear was deployed but Corsican fish seem uninterested in our Atlantic lures. The final two hours were under engine as we rounded Capo di Muro into the Golfe d’Ajaccio. In the only three-quarters full Vieux Port the staff, who were just off home anyway, didn’t seem too bothered about which berth to allocate us, and when pressed, narrowed it down to No’s 14 – 16. These proved to be about big enough for a rubber duck, so when they had gone home we quietly popped round to a proper one.


You know you are back in home waters when Jeremy and Sally know the restaurants again, and past knowledge led us to La Napoloeon up in the main town. Surroundings of faded splendour combined with food of imperial richness from the foie gras to the trifle to leave us slightly low in the water.


Tuesday 8 June. Motored round to Sagone, where conditions were calm enough to anchor overnight.  In fact a rare easterly resulted in minimal swell in the bay, which is rather exposed to the west. As we anchored we could already see Adrian’s red van waiting for us on the quay. After a short visit to Plein du Soleil with its fantastic views over the bay, we met up for a good quality dinner at the Ancora restaurant in the port.


Wednesday 9 June. An early rise for provisioning, then persisting calm conditions meant that unfortunately it was bus-driving all the way to Calvi. What little wind there was came round on the nose at every right-hand turn. Calvi has an impressive mediaeval castle and walled town on a rocky promontory that can be seen from well out to sea, and behind it there is a jolly holiday town with its promenade of bars and restaurants facing over the sheltered bay to the east.


We decided to pick up a mooring buoy as we suspected the rates in the small marina would be ruinous, and the decision seemed justified when we were charged €34 just for that! Paul went for a scout in the tender and returned with the view that it was imperative that all hands immediately repair onshore for a few swift ones in the waterfront bar. This turned into rather more than a few, while the comings and goings of innocent promenaders became increasingly hilarious. Finally we sent ourselves back to the boat, where after a simple supper we were rocked to sleep by an increasing swell.


Thursday 10 June. The strongest winds of the week coincided with Paul and Norah getting a soaking while going ashore in the tender to get the bread, walk up to the castle, and, ironically, get the local weather forecast. Conditions had already eased by their return, and were forecast to reduce further overnight, though the timing of this was rather vague. After a light lunch and afternoon chill, in the event a 1700 departure left only enough wind for two hours’ sailing out of seventeen. A still and, it must be said, lovely night offered few distractions other than ships crossing our path and shooting stars.


Friday 11 June. With first light the coast of France came into view and some four hours later we were threading our way into Villefranche port. The welcoming toots of all the ships’ sirens welcoming the homecoming circumnavigators had no effect at all on the old gent who was sailing his dinghy very slowly up the fairway in front of us.  In our honour we had been given one of the closest berths to the Swan office. This also proved to be one of the most difficult to enter, accessible only to the most seasoned yachtsman in what is probably an ancient Swan ritual.


Yves, Laurent, Stéphane and several others from the Swan yard were there to meet us, interested to see what three years’ sailing had done to their workmanship, and to hear from those who know, that Villefranche really is the trickiest harbour to enter in the entire world! Luckily a quick sluice down by Sally prior to entering had restored the back end of Astra to her former glory and all were impressed (or politely said they were) by her shining topsides and gleaming brightwork. A quick glass of champagne on arrival was as nothing to the reception laid on at lunchtime, when a trestle table laden with goodies appeared on the pontoon and most of the Swan boatyard became not very productive for a while. The crowds were parted to make way for the world’s press, in the form of a nice young man from Nice-Matin who wrote a sympathetic article appearing the following morning and said he’d like to do a trip like that some day.


So in a haze of champagne bubbles this particular voyage of Astra draws to an end as she returns to her home port from the other direction two years, ten months and one day after leaving.  It has been a great trip, complicated, frustrating and challenging at times but intriguing, rewarding and always interesting.



We leave you now with a competition. An Astra T-shirt to the closest estimate received by 15th July 2010 to our round-the-world nautical mileage. It should be the Nautical Miles travelled by Astra from leaving Villefranche in August 2007 till we returned to Villefranche this week. Answers by e-mail to Astra.