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Published: September 11th 2012
Jonah and the Whale...
Well what a change. Cagliari’s back-streets have been explored, bilges played in, 12v circuits examined and re-examined but we can’t get over the fact that something is different!
Richard and Sally arrived on 31 Aug and ever since the Mediterranean has been plunged into depths of winter. The mistral blew through for the last 4 days and strong winds continue to sweep round the south-eastern tip of Sardinia.
The new crew
Richard “The Blocker” Wallace (not because of his defensive play in the NFL but instead for his role in applying human-loctite to the pipes of the forward heads) is able to strip and reassemble the loo like a US Marine Corps Gunny Sergeant stripping down his M-16. Aunt Sally has made the numerous cups of tea that we expected. Tea is a bit wet without a slice of fruit-cake and alas it would appear that “I would have made a fruit cake” is not as good as “I made a fruit cake” – in grammatical terms this is the difference between the conditional and the past tense of “to make”! But despite the poor weather both new crewmembers
have overcome insomnia and are strong sleepers! Both Sally and Richard are getting to grips with life aboard. They have started to understand which winch does what and how to helm the boat.
Yesterday’s sail across the Gulf of Cagliari was a quick one with a difficult rolling sea on the starboard quarter. Sailing downwind is not the panacea that everyone imagines. A reach is much more comfortable for all on board. For a short period as we rounded Cap Carbonara in a heavy swell behind us and goose-winged (genoa on one side and main on the other) and surging along at just under 10 knots it was exciting but not relaxing. The boys are, frankly, ambivalent – they mooch up and down the companionway steps like meerkats occasionally coming into the cockpit for food or to warm in the watery sunshine before descending below again to sleep or play games. They have become accustomed to life at sea and are becoming seasoned aquatic travellers.
We sit this morning in crystal clear water inside the eastern side of Cap Carbonara, the wind is blowing and the air is crystal clear in the wake of countless showers that have
necessitated the crew to jump to action stations at the mention of the word “hatches!” to secure them down and reopen as necessary.
We have just finished a wonderful sail. The boat seldom dropped below 8 knots and we roared up the east coast of Sardinia. The sea was light as we hugged the coast but the wind ranged from 14 to 25 knots and Fabiola was charging along. Everyone helmed at some point. Only the fastest fish could have kept up with us and our new squid took at least one large bite but alas the Duncan’s fish-drought of 2012 continues! 50 miles and shy of 7 hours and we pulled into Porto Frailis. It’s a little bit rolly but still winds and curry is on the menu. The forecast is isolated wind on the nose after the curry. The sun shone most of the day, with the exception of the final approach, where we had a little rain.
Cameron and Richard really got to grips with helming the boat fast and all got used to watching for the wind and easing / dumping the mainsheet as the wind gusted harder and
she became overly-pressed.
Much later on... (11 Sep 2012)
It’s been a week since my last confession... We have made our way up the east coast of Sardinia. The first half was largely unexciting as regards the scenery; wide open bays with not a lot in them other than purpose built tourist villages. They don’t make very exciting exploring - Porto Frailis, Cala Ganone, Porto Ottiola pretty much blur into one. There are no markets or fishing fleets, interesting architecture. That said the weather has made a significant improvement. By comparison we had looked forward to the southern half of Sardinia and dreaded moving through the Costa Smeralda because of its fearsome prices and uber-glam reputation but we are absolutely bowled over by how stunning it is. We are limited by Fabiola’s 3.2m draft but even hanging out at with the larger boats on the edges of the bays you cannot be anything but amazed at the beauty of the place. The “Emerald Coast” was established by the Aga Khan in the 1960s with a number of hugely wealthy co-investors and they control the appearance of the entire region. The beaches are white crushed shells and
the water is crystal clear. We ghost through it under gennaker and marvel as the little bays open up and the super-rich’s boats charge for Palma at the end of the summer season. It is thankfully moving into low-season and it is not as frantic as July and August when the “beautiful people” descend – instead we mingle with the “not-badly-scrubbed-up-untermensch” and avoid Porto Cervo, Porto Rotunda and the other marinas where we “need” to be seen.
Passing on to the islands to the north east of Sardinia, around Madalena we spend 2 nights in empty, stunning anchorages and wished the weather had been better earlier on in our time around the island and wished we’d been less worried about the Costa Smeralda's reputation. As it is there is so much to see and when / if we get to Toulon with my next job we will be coming back with Niki – again sneaking into the beautiful bays.
We crossed “La Bouche” of Bonifacio yesterday morning. La Bouche, or the mouth, has a nasty habit of blowing hard so an early start enables us to cover the 10 miles between the islands and
enter one of our favourite spots so far. Bonifacio, on the southern tip of Corsica, is an amazing place. A citadel atop the limestone cliffs with a very narrow entry channel which cannot be seen from the sea it is a top spot for sailors. Over 20 years ago Gill came here with Pam and Alastair and were swept away by the place. It is still fabulous all these years on. The yachts on the quay are much bigger and there are many more tourists but is drop-dead gorgeous. It is lovely to be in a country where we understand the language again but Corsica is more than that. They remain fiercely independent, like the Sicilians are from Italy.
The little narrow streets are thronged with people. It is a parcours playground for Samuel taking on steps and gateways, threading at maximum speed (there is no other speed with Samuel) through tourists. It is a climb to the top (which I never remember doing all those years ago) but the top is worth the schlep. Napoleon looms large in the island’s history. Everywhere you go you are reminded of “Le Petit Caporal”, for example in the top of the
Haute Village (citadel) a plaque tells you he stayed in this house with relatives in 1725, he ate here, he played boules here, he used these public urinals – you get the picture!
I’m sure I would have been buying those red packs of bangers to let off in backstreets with Ben, much to the annoyance of Mum and Dad, but Cameron and Samuel find necklaces with a dolphin and a polished shell (it’s a bit too metrosexual for me) but that is how times change. I’ll see if I can get them some bangers today!!!
Back to school
School has started and this has been received with mixed responses. Samuel has his faults (too many to mention here except a new one which is hiding in the mainsail –little f*cker) but he does like to get his head into the books. Cameron is more reluctant but to give them both their dues they actually get stuck into the maths exercise books that we have. I think that this is in part due to the long break that they have had and anything new is interesting – I’m sure it will wear off! It is
quite difficult to turn from Mum and Dad into teacher – although I am hoping that Lisa may have an outfit – I can certainly find a cane somewhere!
A number of British boats are alongside us in the anchorage in Bonifacio. They are warning of a coming mistral – which grounded us in Cagliari for 3 /4 days. This may mean that we are again stuck, but as per Cagliari, there are worse places to be in that position. We are well-secured and there is much to do nearby, perhaps a hire-car and some degustations at local vineyards and some room to run for the boys in the hills. We will probably be here for several days (more jobs...) and this will almost certainly mean that Sally and Richard will see out there last days here and catch a bus to Ajaccio or be dropped off by us. It is not worth beating north into a force 7 to get somewhere potentially less secure and more expensive than where we are.
In the meantime market day and almond croissant with cafe au lait time – fabulous! Up the hill we go.
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