was time to leave Spanish waters and head for Sardinia some 200 miles
East. A good crossing, with a mixture of sailing and motoring saw us
tying up under the old city walls on the town quay at Alghero, just over a
day and a half after leaving Menorca. Shibumi, who we hadn't
expected to meet again, and who we were going to say goodbye to several
more times before they finally did head home, were wisely anchored in the
bay outside. Wisely, because the town quay was costing us €75 a
night, but we were planning to spend the winter in Alghero so needed to
sort out the arrangements. Things are different in Italy and in
Alghero harbour there are at least 8 different marinas, everything from a
single pontoon upwards, each of which had to be visited, the owner or
ormaggiatoro (how long have you got!) tracked down and negotiated with
he'll be in such and such a bar at 1pm - we never did actually meet
that one). As is often the case we settled on the first one we
visited, Aquatica. Nice people, we'd written in our notes, and so it
proved. Also theirs was the nicest price. It was the smallest,
newest marina and they're working hard to build the business. Just
under the old town walls and minutes walk into the town.
We stayed long enough to confirm
that this was the place we wanted to spend the winter, book our Christmas
flights to the UK for €4.99 with Ryan Air (which was the clincher) and
then we set off to circumnavigate the island.
|First stop was
Porto Conte - the largest natural harbour in the Med, but (fortunately)
too shallow for commercial use. great for yachts
though. The entrance is guarded by dramatic cliffs, it's completely surrounded by pine clad
hills and apart from
a couple of hotels, virtually empty. We stayed for a week, sat out a
gale, and then took the opportunity, with the temperature in the 90s to
walk two miles to a very small, very expensive mini-market in the middle
of nowhere, where we were able to buy virtually nothing. Why did we
do that? No idea.
|Sardinia, the second largest
island in the Med is a beautiful and dramatic place. Golden beaches
and mountainous terrain. Apart from the Costa Smerelda it remains
relatively undeveloped and even there the development tries hard not to
disrupt the natural beauty. Mostly it manages this well, and if it
sometimes seems a little twee, this is surely better than the concrete
high-rises found in other parts of the Med.
We sailed north and
clockwise around the island - through the very narrow and shallow Asinara
passage following leading marks with one eye and watching the bottom
through unbelievably clear and shallow water with the other.
We visited Stintino, a charming fishing village built on
the hill between two long narrow natural harbours. A marina has now
been built in the outer bay, but as the facilities have yet to be
connected it's free to use at present. Long walk to the village
Next stop was Isola Rossa. The whole area is pink
granite (similar to the work surfaces at Ketley Cottage, but of course
free!). It's an undistinguished holiday town with the novelty that the
harbour wall where we berthed is a concave curve. This means that
although the mid ships section of the boat is too far off to step ashore,
the bow and stern are touching the wall. This caused one of those moments
of sharp exchange between person on helm and person waiting to step ashore
with mooring lines - "Of course I'm not too close, I'm a mile
Then, the Bonifacio Straights. Like the Straights
of Gibraltar, the wind always howls through and is either behind you or
dead ahead (you can probably guess which in our case). Unlike at Gib
the Bonafacio is strewn with hazards and therefore wrecks. Once
through the Bonifacio you're into the Madalenas, a dozen or so islands
rich in natural anchorages and facing the bays and coves that make up the
Costa Smerelda. The Aga Khan certainly got it right when he chose to
invest so much money developing this part of the coast.
The Madalenas are such a perfect cruising ground, that
it's impossible to anchor anywhere that isn't gorgeous and you are assured
of finding shelter from wind in any direction. Also, the wind
funnelling between the islands makes this a challenging area for yacht
racing, which is one of the reasons that Porto Cervo attracts the 'super
yacht' set all through the season for regatta after regatta.
|During our time sailing in the Madalenas and the Costa
Smerelda we anchored in Porto Liscia, Golfo Saline (where we sat out a 45
knot gale), Porto Palm, Stagnali, Golfo Arzachena, Golfo di Cugnana, Cala
Volpe (all beautiful) and of course Cervo. We also met up with
Porto Cervo is the centre piece of the Costa Smerelda
and in the season is filled with the rich and famous. Nontheless,
ordinary mortals can still anchor in the bay just outside the harbour in reasonable shelter (though it took us 5 goes to get our anchor to
hold). From here we could watch the fun as the 'super yachts' come in
to berth at sunset.
|After the slightly soulless
sophistication of the Costa Smerelda it was just a slight relief to arrive
in a real town. Olbia is certainly that. Stalinist
architecture, demolition in progress, disused cranes and families
of rats on the quay. You'll notice the rat guards on Samarang's
lines (paper plates to land lubbers, but rat guards to us sailors). Inspite of all this apparently negative stuff, the place just buzzes with real life.
||It's 3 miles up the estuary so
fantastically well protected. You can moor on the commercial quay for free, but
to stay there for more than two days you are required to complete a form
and take it to the post office to buy a €10.33 stamp.
Challenge 1 is to find the post office. Challenge 2 is to guess
which of the different counters deals with mooring stamps and then to
select the correct ticket from the selection of deli-counter type
dispensers. Having done this you discover that the post office
doesn't have change, but will give you Lire stamps for the balance.
Lire of course are no longer legal tender, but there you are. If you
happen to need low denomination Lire stamps, then we have some!
Oh, Olbia also has the biggest and best stocked
supermarket that we'd seen since mainland Spain.
|We left Olbia to make our way to Cagliari,
capital of Sardinia. We stopped at a few more pretty bays and harbours
on the way, including Santa Maria Navarrese, a pretty village, but
directly across the bay from Arbatax, a large harbour serving
Sardinia's plywood industry. It also puzzlingly seemed to be the
home of the largest fairground ride we had ever seen. We spent what
seemed like hours examining it through our binoculars. Perhaps it
was something to do with plywood? But, no matter how long we looked at it,
and we got a closer look as we sailed past it on our way out, all it could
possibly be was a big dipper. We just couldn't understand why it
would be built here.
We learned later that it was actually the biggest
drilling platform in the world, laid on its side for repair! Well,
when they don't need it for drilling any more, it will make a great
|The pilot says, "thunderstorms seem to home in on
the gulf of Cagliari". Would that pilots were always so accurate!
They hit us one after the other as we crept into the harbour, but every
time the rain cleared there was the old town of Cagliari, piled up on the
hill, getting closer and closer.
Cagliari is a huge dirty commercial harbour and Marina
de Sole in it's corner is a family business run by father, son and a
grandfather who's a dead ringer for Del Boy's granddad.
dilapidated affair with pontoons held together with plywood and bits of
old packing case and has the least flow of water of the whole harbour with
the result that it has a permanent oily sheen and there are many dead
things floating there. Not the place for a swim then, but it's
extremely sheltered and inspite of the squalor,
rain, long walk, etc, etc - we liked Cagliari. We liked it a
lot! The old town is built on the hill that dominates the harbour.
Visiting it is like walking up through the inside of a multi-layer
wedding cake. Each gate one passes through seems to open on a
new town in a slightly different style.
In Cagliari we also had one of our most interesting
restaurant experiences at the restaurant Quattro Mori (literally the four
black men - they also grace the Sardinian flag). There was no menu,
we ordered a drink and they brought antipasti. They then brought more
antipasti, and more, and more, and more. We must have had more than a
dozen dishes pile precariously on our table. Not dainty cuisine
nouveau morsels, but dishes of stuffed pimientos, deep fried courgette
flowers (OK that is a bit cuisine nouveau) and octopus, stuffed squid, etc,
etc. It all looked fantastic, but an impossible quantity, especially
as we had by now noticed the size of the primo, and secondo courses.
Also we had no idea what any of this was costing us. Nor at that
time enough Italian to find out.
We ate a couple of dishes each and sent the rest back
untouched (perhaps you only paid for what you ate we reasoned). We
skipped the primo and went straight into the secondo, opting for fish
rather than the other option of horse meats steaks on the basis that the
fish should be a bit lighter and our stomachs were already gently
swelling. More wrong headed reasoning as it turned out. Three
different whole fish, a large squid and an eel - each! After the
fish course, an aperitif and a litre of house wine, we were in a kind of gluttony
induced narcotic haze. We gladly accepted the proffered plate of Sardinian
pastries and sweets, ordered a kind of sweet cheese Cornish pasty
smothered in honey (called Seadas) all topped off with coffee and of course the local grappa.
We also accepted that we would probably need to be removed from the
restaurant by forklift truck and that paying for the meal was probably
going to require a second mortgage - it is after all the duty of a tourist
to be ripped off.
But we needn't have worried. It turned out that
Antipasto was €12 no matter how much you eat and that the other courses
were fixed price as well - in retrospect we now realise that many of the
Italian diners were only having Antipasto and at €12 the Quattro Mori
deserves a mention in Great Lunch Venues of The World - if anyone
ever writes such a book.
|It was finally time to move on. We
hopped around the coast in the direction of Carloforte, a small island off
the southwest corner of Sardinia that had been recommended to us by everyone who'd been there. The final leg was a marathon 10 hour beat into
30 knots before finally tying up at Marina Sifredi. We were to be
storm bound in Carloforte for 8 days before we could head north to our
winter base. We moved onto the free town quay after 3 days and met
David on Night Owl who has a house very near ours in the UK. It is truly a very pretty place, but by now it was in
the process of closing down for the winter so after 8 days we were ready
to move on. In two more days we were back in Porto Conte for a last
couple of days of freedom at anchor, before admitting the season was over
and making our way round the corner into Alghero.