Holidaytime in Sardinia

Dick and Irene Craig
Sun 26 Jul 2009 13:11

The night before the mistral was due to reach us, the town quay was packed with boats causing the electricity supply to be overloaded on two occasions. Fortunately, we had just finished barbecuing our steak when the power went off for the first time. Not that this would have bothered us unduly as we use our own generator.

Next morning by 9am, the wind was already gusting force 7 and the tripper boats stayed on their moorings. The wind and sea conditions were too severe for them to visit Neptune’s grotto, some eight or nine miles away.

There were a few people on the beach but none in the water. Yesterday, even at 6pm, the beach had been packed with holiday-makers and the water’s edge had been full of people cooling off.

Alghero, despite being a holiday resort, is a very pleasant town, founded by the Dorias in the 12th century then, two hundred years later, conquered by Pedro IV of Aragon, it became Catalan and there are still a very few of the older fisherman, who still speak Catalan. The walled town still retains Gothic towers and chapels as well as a Gothic style cathedral.

After the First World War, many European refugees fled here.

Sunday morning, with the wind much reduced, we motored to Cala Tramariglio, one of the bays off Porto Conte, which is just six miles from the marina. We dropped the anchor just beyond the pontoons which belonged to Club Caccia. We had tried to motor sail with the genoa but the wind was too much on the nose.

The forecast for the day was force 6 going down to force 5 and although the sun was shining in the blue sky, the wind kept the temperature down to the mid twenties.

There were three monohulls at anchor in the bay when we arrived. An additional five, plus two small motor boats had arrived, by the time we had eaten lunch. Even the locals weren’t venturing out until the weather improved.

There were a number of people on the beach and a few in the water. Three canoes were paddled across from the beach, circled our boat and then paddled off.

The boat moved gently in the water. Apart from the sound of the wind in the rigging it was very quiet and peaceful.

Wooded, limestone cliffs almost enclose the transparent, blue water. Neptune’s Grotto which is the Sardinian sea side of Porto Conte, is just one of the many caves in these cliffs and many tripper boats visit this cave. It is also possible to use a staircase to access the Grotto but it is a long climb.

Next morning we took the dinghy to one of the pontoons closest to land and made enquiries regarding mooring our boat there on Sunday, the night before John and Janie fly home to the UK. The man in charge was totally uninterested in even talking to us.

Before leaving our anchorage we raised the mainsail, sailing out of the bay, unfurling the genoa as we sailed off.

After an hour, we replaced the genoa with the gennaker and sailed south, anchoring in the bay, just outside Bosa marina.

The pilot book warns that the man that runs Bosa marina will try to stop boats anchoring in the bay, in an attempt to make them use his pontoons. We anchored, as did a number of monohulls and none of us were accosted.

We all swam off the boat including John, whom we applauded for his bravery. He swam in the sea for the first time, using a special snorkel, which he connected directly to his windpipe. Following an operation several years ago, John can no longer breath through his mouth and nose.

Next morning, Dick took Janie to one of the pontoons in the marina, to allow her to step off and walk to the castle, located on a hill-top, several kilometers away. As soon as Janie climbed from the dinghy onto the pontoon, the manager/ owner started remonstrating with her and pushing her. No way was she permitted to use his pontoon. He pointed towards the rocks against the breakwater.

Once Janie was safely back in the dinghy, Dick made for the place indicated. However, landing here was also not permitted and the man cycled rapidly across telling them to go away.

The aggressive attitude was quite incomprehensible. The initial attempt to land might have been because we wanted to enquire about using a berth in his marina. It was not surprising that his pontoons were almost empty of boats, other than dinghies and other small vessels which belonged to local people

Shocked but not stirred, our intrepid explorers made their way around the outside of the breakwater, making passage to the river and the centre of town, where Janie was at last able to step foot on the land and commence her trek to the castle.

We met up with Janie again later when we met for lunch before returning to the boat to swim.

The other boats which had spent the night in the bay had all departed but during the afternoon and evening, four monohulls replaced them.

At 6am, we were disturbed by the constant tooting of a horn. When we went on deck to check what was causing the noise, it transpired that one of the cruising boats, which had anchored in the bay during the previous afternoon, was very close to our boat. The owners of the other boat told us that our anchor had dragged and we needed to move and re-anchor. Dick pointed out that our anchor was well dug in and was set in the sand, just at the side our boat, with no tension on the chain. He pointed out that there was hardly a breath of wind and because all the boats had swung round during the night, the other boat had ended up too close to our boat. The female member of the couple swore at us and huffily they raised their anchor and moved on out of the bay.

We had delayed our departure by a day because the forecast looked as if it would give us wind from the right direction to sail northwards. The wind from the expected direction didn’t materialize and although we managed to sail for an hour, by tacking back and forth, what little wind there was disappeared and we switched on the engines, to make any progress at all.

We anchored in transparent blue water at Porto Conte on the north eastern side of the enormous bay. The sun shone hotly and we swam and snorkeled in the water looking at the fish, trying to tempt them with the skin from the peanuts.

Next morning, Dick, John and Janie went ashore to the small marina, to get a price for a berth for Sunday night, though I expect that we will return to the town quay at Alghero if there is room for us. There was nothing else there other than the marina so they were not gone long.

We raised the mainsail, putting in one reef., lifted the anchor, unfurled the genoa and we were on our way, sailing. We tacked out of the bay where we had spent the night, into a more exposed part of the bay and towards the sea beyond. The wind which was initially blowing strongly, gradually reduced. Soon after 1pm, we were all getting hungry so we found another little bay, dropped the anchor in a weed-free spot and had lunch.

While snorkeling after lunch, we saw a lot of fish of varying shapes and sizes. What was of particular interest, growing among the weed, were plants which were white-beige in colour, at least 30 centimetres in height and 20 centimetres in width. They resembled clams, with their mouths open and stood upright like two large pitta bread.

Friday morning there was a sea mist just creeping over the hills and within minutes, the visibility was reduced to about 30 metres. An hour and a half later, the mist had been completely burnt off by the sun. As the visibility gradually improved, I could see two holiday makers, wearing just swimming gear, on the beach.

We left the anchorage and traveled in a north westerly direction, past Neptune’s Grotto, admiring the limestone rock formations and the myriad of caves.

By 1pm, the sea mist was coming down again over the hills so we made our way back towards one of the many coves off Porto Conte, where we dropped anchor and had lunch. Our boat was surrounded by sea mist, with a visibility of 50metres but we were in a little oasis of sunshine. It was truly, a really odd phenomenon.

Janie swam ashore and climbed the cliff to the small tower which was in considerable disrepair. From the summit of the cliff she could look out towards the Sardinian sea and see nothing but mist. Looking back into the bay she could see nothing but mist. We were just below, in our sunny oasis, out of her scope of vision.

It was bizarre to be swimming in the transparent, blue water, looking at the many fishes and hearing the fog horns as boats continued to go about their business.

About 6pm, although there was no wind, the mist disappeared. We lifted our anchor and returned to the bay where we had spent the previous night. It was quiet, peaceful and without any hotels or restaurants nearby, safe from the noise of discos and karaoke.

The wind was already blowing force 4 when we left the anchorage next morning, with the forecast threatening force 7.  We sailed for an hour with the parasailor, before changing direction and then sailed with the main and the genoa for another couple of hours, tacking back and forth like regular day sailors.

A solitary dolphin came to greet us and stayed around the hulls for a short time. It did a few more jumps out of the water and then departed.


Below: Unusual style of boat, belonging to one of the local people. View from our boat Sunday morning