North Eastern Sardinia

Tom Fenton and Faith Ressmeyer
Wed 3 Sep 2014 07:26
41 10.780N 9 23.108E
Sardinia had 28 days of Mistral in July, the first time this has happened in 100 years, the manager of the Pontile dei Fiori at Cannegione told us. This and the forecast gale had made me anxious about reaching Palau in time to greet Isabel and Manolo, and so we rather rushed the passage from Cala di Luna to Cannigione. 

The dominant feature of the passage is without doubt Isola Tavolara. It is massive, the most visible landmark for many miles from the south. Approaching requires navigating the channels between small islands and rocky reefs. 
We chose to go outside Tavolara, which allowed us also to sail close to its sheer cliffs. And particularly to its northeast tip which was until recently a US military communications base. Enormous masts on three high rocky pinnacles soar into the clouds, still connected by cables in some gigantic but redundant piece of communications technology. The whole area is now a marine nature reserve, and the rules for access are almost as strict as they were when the Americans were there. 
After Tavolara you cross the wide bay of Olbia, approaching the Costa Smeralda. Despite the dreadful reputation of this artificial and expensive playground for the nouveau super rich, Faith was deeply frustrated that our course, chosen to be the shortest route avoiding the ominous sounding Isola Mortorio  and the outlying rocks called Mortoriotto, kept us well clear of the coast. At Porto Cervo, centre for the super yachts, a Regatta was in progress. The sound was completely filled by sleek, shiny, dark grey monsters, with grey or silver sails, taller than office blocks, each with its crew of 20 or more, all men, in uniform white polo shirts and navy blue shorts. It was hard to make sense of it: were they racing or practising? Or posing?

We overheard VHF calla that went something like "PC Control, PC Control, this is Windflower. Yes, Peter. Go Channel 71. PC Control, this is Windflower on 71, good afternoon, John, the master has finished with his day's sailing and we are coming in. Please prepare the berth. Will do. Thank you, John. Windflower out."

We picked our way through these expensive boats using the motor (and cone so it would be clear who was the give way vessel), took a short glimpse of Porto Cervo, and the billions of dollars worth of gleaming boat still in harbour, and proceeded along the last of the Costa Smeralda, until, with some relief, we rounded Capo Fero and entered the Maddalenas. The Golfo Azarchena is a large V shaped bay with Cannigione at its southern tip. We anchored a night in a small bay on the western side of the Golfo, and swam. The next day was the day of the forecast gale, which we sat out in Cannigione, for a night that cost €41, the most we have ever had to pay, with no mooring assistance from the staff, and only one working shower for the whole harbour. The town was small and pleasant, and we met Vittorio, owner and skipper of Ali Blu, a luxury charter boat, definitely one of the good guys. The next morning we left in an F4, tacked our way up the Golfo and across the sound dividing the mainland from Isola Caprera, and picked up a mooring buoy in a bay called Porto Palma. Empty, save for a few very discreet cabins and two sailing schools, it is a lovely anchorage, so well protected from the forecast north westerly wind that when we sailed out the next morning we had to reef in a hurry as we saw the yacht ahead if us almost knocked down by the stiff breeze. With 2 reefs in both sails, we had an envigorating beat to Palau. Two days without using the engine except in harbour. 

Palau feels like a young town but its harbour is busy, has a mixed economy (although no commercial fishermen that I can see) and is cheap. Unbelievably cheap, even in full season. And we are in the heart of the Maddalenas.