We set sail from the anchorage at Mahon on the morning of Thursday 29th June for the South of Sardinia, the weather forecast was good although the winds would be light at the beginning. We set the boat up motor sailing with the autohelm and settled down to what was going to be a 36 to 48 hour journey. As it turned out the forecast was spot on with the wind slowly increasing from the north and by mid-morning of the 30th we were sailing on a reach at about 6 knots. Sardinia didn't show through the poor visibility until we were about 7 miles off, even although it's quite high. We had decided to make for a town called Calasetta on the Southwest corner where the chart indicated there was a marina and duly arrived at 9 o'clock in the evening. Glad to be in as the wind had by now piped up to a force 6 and we had been hard on it for the last 8 miles. Welcome to Italy!
Calasetta Harbour with the Marina in the background
After a light meal it was then off to bed for a decent nights sleep. On our approach to the marina the previous night we had noticed a marked difference in the architecture of the houses (they had sloping roofs), it looked a lot more like back home and was a pleasant change from the more Moorish style of Spain. On booking in at the marina office we noticed the second difference, they weren't interested in Passports or Ships Papers, only the money (this is the way it remained throughout the whole of Sardinia). As we were going to be in the marina for about 3 weeks we were able to get a 5% discount which brought the price down to 28.50 Euro per night and as things turned out this was very reasonable compared with the north of the island where we had to pay over 60 Euro per night.
That all important Suntan
We had friends (Christine and her sister Margie) flying in for a 10 day holiday with us, so we spent the few days before their arrival finding our way around the place and arranging for a hired car. We were now in Italy and had to start again with a new language, this is not a tourist area and the locals speak very little English. So in the beginning it was fun, but we got there. We picked our friends up from Cagliari Airport and spent a very pleasant time touring the area by car and ferry. The weather was very hot and the most was made of attaining a good suntan, which seems a very British thing to do. Not all the time was spent in the sun with the local cafe/bar coming a close second. We even managed a cultural visit to the Caves of Is. Zuddas which were magnificent with vast caverns connected by tiny passages which in some places you had to squeeze through. One cavern in particular "The Organ Room" was outstanding with massive stalactite and stalagmites, unfortunately photographs were not allowed.
On saying goodbye to Christine and Margie we headed North with our first stop at an anchorage behind Capo San Marco on the West side of the island. This turned out to be a beautiful spot with the ruins of the Roman town of Tharros easily visible from the anchorage. That night there was a beautiful sunset, with the remains of the Roman town in silhouette, the view was breath taking.
Anchorage at Capo San Marco with the Roman ruins of Tharros in the centre of the picture
We would have loved to had spent more time here but had arranged to pick up daughter Susie and friends at Alghero in the North of the island in a few days time, so next day we sailed to Bosa about 40 miles up the coast. On our approach to the marina at Bosa, we spotted a boat we knew in the anchorage, it was British Tiger and our friend Bill from Mallorca. So we diverted to the anchorage and spent a very convivial night in Bill's company. As it turned out Bill was also heading for Alghero so we departed next morning and arranged to meet up again in Alghero.
Alghero Harbour entrance with Cruise Liner outside
The trip from Bosa to Alghero was completely without wind so we had to motor the whole way. On arrival in Alghero we booked into the marina and were shocked at the price being asked of 58 Euro a night. We were even more shocked when we asked where the toilets were and were told that there were none, if we wanted toilets ashore we would have to use the public toilets. This was a modern marina based inside the harbour, where in Britain could you build a marina and operate without toilets? As it turned out this was not the only marina we visited in the North of Sardinia with no toilets and extortionate prices.
We picked up our new crew (daughter Susie, her friend Nicole and Grand Nephew Darren) from the airport on Monday 31st July. After a day in port to let the crew do a little sight seeing it was our intention to head off making our way to Fiumicino (the nearest marina to Rome) but the weather forecast wasn't good so we sailed to Porto Conte and anchored here to await a better forecast. This was the last safe anchorage before the North end of Sardinia where we would turn right through the Bonifacio Strait and over to the Italian mainland. At 3 o'clock in the morning the wind increased to gale force with even stronger gusts, we started to drag our anchor, so all hands on deck, get the anchor up and try re-anchoring. After three attempts, all of which failed to get the anchor to hold, we spent the rest of the night motoring up and down the loch until daybreak. In daylight the wind was still up at gale force so we tried anchoring in a different place but that didn't work, there was too much sea grass on the bottom and the anchor wasn't digging in. As a last resort we shackled on another 4 metres of chain to the end of the Bruce anchor and then our big Fisherman and put that out. The Fisherman got through the sea grass and we had no more trouble, so it was all back to bed to catch up on some sleep. Three days after entering Porto Conte the weather had improved enough for us to continue. The wind was still blowing F5 from the west and there was a 4 metre swell running but we bowled along at between 6 and 7 knots heading North to round Isola Asinara then turn East round the island heading for the marina at Stintino. Due to our delayed departure because of the weather it had been decided that we would spend the minimum of time in Sardinia and get to Fiumicino as quickly as possible as the crew wanted to spend at least a couple of days in Rome doing the touristy bit.
Next morning we were up and away early heading for our last port in Sardinia, S. Teresa Di Gallura. The day was a pleasant sail reaching our destination at 7 o'clock in the evening and booking into the marina at 63 Euro a night the most expensive we have been in so far. All around the marina there were numerous bars and restaurants, all of which were very expensive and were aimed at the high-class tourist. This was in complete contrast to what we had experienced in the South of Sardinia, which had a lot fewer tourists and catered mainly for the locals.
S. Teresa Di Gallura looking from the marina out through the entrance
For the overnight sail across to mainland Italy Susie who is sitting her RYA Yachtmasters Certificate would be acting skipper. This was bad news for the old hands, she had us up early morning running through all the safety briefing, allocating watches and duties, this was like having to sit your driving test again. However she made a good job of it and we set sail heading East out through the Bonifacio Straits then setting course for Fiumicino at the mouth of the river Tiber about 160 miles distant. The wind dropped as is normal in the Med in the evening and we motor sailed through the night. At dawn the sea was like glass and remained like this until early afternoon when the wind picked up and we turned off the motor and became a sailing boat again.
On reaching the Italian coast there were two gas rigs with exclusion zones around them three miles out from the river Tiber which had to be negotiated, add to this, the river flows out at 3 knots making for a tricky approach. Our skipper made a faultless approach entering the river at the same time as half the fishing fleet who don't care too much for yachts. Quarter of a mile up river just before the first bridge we turned right into the small marina of Darsena Traiano and were lucky to get the last berth. This would be our base for the next four days whilst we made our assault on Rome, after which our crew would be leaving us to fly back to the UK.
Darren the ship's chef busy in the galley making pancakes