Course to Corse

Mon 21 Jul 2014 09:06
Having settled our account with the Port de Nice Capitainerie, plotted our course to Ajaccio in the south west of Corsica, checked weather forecasts and Grib files, we say our farewells to Matt, Chloe and Sophia cast off our lines and motor out of Port de Nice at 11.30 into 25 knots of southerly breeze and a moderately choppy sea. Once we are a handful of miles off shore there is a little more west in the wind so we roll out the mainsail but being this hard on the wind means the motor must stay on. We hold our speed down to around six knots to ensure that we arrive in Ajaccio in daylight the next morning. A two metre swell coming from a little north of west (created by heavy weather coming down from the Golfe du Lyons to the west of us) means that it is a rolly ride and both Lynn and Liliane take to their berths feeling its effects. Rob and I stand three hours on, three hours off throughout the night. The swell is unremittent but it's a quiet night, little shipping and although at various points we both try more canvas the wind remains too close to anything but continue motor sailing. By 09.00 the following morning we are approaching the Iles Sanguinaires off Pointe de la Parata and once around the Tabernacle rocks we are able to head up into the Golfe de Ajaccio bearing away and protected from the swell out comes the genoa and off goes the engine and we enjoy a beam reach up to the city of Ajaccio. The ladies appear from below and a pod of dolphins amuse us as they amuse themselves in our bow wake. We head into the marina at about noon and berth side on on the visitors quay eventually being allotted berth B28, a finger pontoon a bit small for us but with enough mooring lines set we feel secure.

We were enjoying exploring this typically southern Mediterranean town when Lynn yelped as she heavily ricked her knee ascending a small flight of stone steps. We sat for a while on the chairs of a conveniently close but closed pavement restaurant hoping Lynn would recover but it was not to be so she attempted to hop and hobble back to the boat supported by Rob and I. She was finding it hard going when a kindly local lady seeing her plight offered to drive us back to the marina if one of us guarded her highly prized parking spot. Thus we managed to get Lynn back to the boat and unsurprisingly the evening was spent aboard in the hope that she would recover. The Harbour Master seeing our plight had assured us that we could stay another night if we wished. Next morning Lynn's knee was still very swollen so a taxi was called and we took her to the local hospital fortunately only a couple of miles away. After an initial longish wait whist the paperwork was resolved she was seen by a doctor of slight stature who bore a remarkable resemblance to Napoleon Bonaparte who as you may know was born in this town. Napoleon was very thorough, x-rays were done and scans were done images analysed and peering up at me Napoleon proclaimed that new knees were required! The accident had exacerbated and inflamed an existing condition, so anti-inflammatorys and pain killers, soothing gel and a pair of crutches were prescribed and duly purchased from a local pharmacy in town and after resting that afternoon she was able to hobble with the aid of the crutches to a restaurant not too far away where we enjoyed an excellent meal, returning to Pamarzi just in time for a sensational Bastille Day firework display over the harbour. We joined in by putting on all our mast lights and after the finale hooting away on the foghorn with lots of other ships and boats.

A good beam reach next morning over to Anse Sainte Barbe where we anchored and after inflating launched our new little dinghy, that must suffice until our replacement tender is delivered. We named her Sac de Sel (? - I know, it’s a long story, I'll tell you some time particularly as it has involved Lynn and I being elevated to become the Duc and Duchess de Sac de Sel!). A refreshing swim and then off again under a cloud of sail to the pretty and well sheltered bay of Campomoro where we dropped our hook in ten metres of gin clear water behind a rocky reef and had a very pleasant evening watching a dramatic sunset and enjoying the onset of night from the cosiness of our cockpit as Pamarzi rocked almost imperceptibly on the smooth a silent sea.

Wednesday we sail to the dramatically perched town of Bonifacio at the western end of the much feared straits. An excellent day's sailing, the motor on for only the last couple of miles to enable us to 'make' the entrance into the long (about 1 nautical mile) and narrow (around 100 metres) harbour. A sensational view of the citadel perched high atop the limestone cliffs as we approach. The entrance slightly dog legged would be dangerous even untenable in a big westerly swell. We close on the the red and green structures marking the ingress and the mayhem commences. A handful of yachts all approaching at the same time is fair enough but add to that dozens of power boats with little idea of Col. Regs. or maritime courtesy, several tripper boats plying back and forth at twice the normal harbour speed, a ferry coming in from Sardinia, what appeared to be a drink or drug crazed skipper of a passengerless day tripper boat doing the marine equivalent of high speed handbrake turns, mariniers, red shirted, standing in their Mercury engined harbour boats as they zip around telling all and sundry that there was no space (we had booked ahead) and "get out of the way" (in French) "as a 180 ft. motor yacht is coming out!". All of this frantic activity creating a confused chop sending masts arcing back and forth like crazed metronomes. We were not to be intimidated and on seeing an appropriate space on the main quay, we went for it, executed a neat Mediterranean moor and continued to watch the mayhem over a glass of beer in the cockpit.

We secured our spot at the Harbour Masters office and looked forward to exploring this one thousand year old citadel. Again, as in Nice our next door neighbours are vast motor yachts their power cables as thick as a manual workers arm snaking across the ancient quay and as we start our climb up to this crow's nest of a city we look down on them, they dazzle back with lights everywhere, under water lights, transom step lights, nameplate lights, bulwark lights, coach roof lights, lights on every one of their three sometimes four decks. But strangely in most cases only crew aboard. It never ceases to amaze me that these energy guzzling leviathans costing many tens of millions and millions a year to run are only occasionally visited by their fantastically wealthy owners. The city of a thousand years fascinates the chosen restaurant excels, we dine on pate de fois gras and succulent white rock fish in a creamy fennel sauce, the local white wine reminiscent of voigner, perfect. The girls much taken with the this, ancient town clinging precipitously to its overhanging cliff top, so it is here we will stay for another night to enjoy the scene.