On Sunday 20th November the weather was still fine so Red Rooster and Scarlett left the pontoon in Bonafcio just after 10.00. Motor sailing past the white cliffs taking the opportunity to get a closer look at the stone steps cut into the rock face and the buildings of the citadel that were perched on the very edge of the rocks. It was originally thought that the steps were cut by the King of Aragorn’s men during the siege of 1420 to gain access to the citadel but they are in fact a lot older. They were probably made by monks who lived within the walls as there is a fresh water well at the bottom.
As we motor sailed further out we could see the Sardinian coast curving away into the distance on our starboard side while the many islands that are scattered between Corsica and Sardinia were becoming clearer on our port bow.
As we got closer to the first of the islands we remembered to change our courtesy flags taking down the French and Corsican ones and replacing them with the Italian and Sardinian flags. We were back in Italy!!
The route through the islands was very picturesque and quite straight forward. We had been warned about the strong winds that often funnel through this gap but we had a beautiful day.
After an hour or so we were lucky to see many lateen rigged yachts in Cala Inglese probably from Porto Rafael they were very nice to look at. They appeared to be milling around waiting for the start of a race.
We had decided that if the weather was fine we would anchor for the night in a bay off one of the many islands. We decided to stop in Cala Stagnali it was a beautifully calm, horse shoe shaped inlet on Isla Caprera which is a nature reserve.
The small, very sheltered bay was perfect and we spent a pleasant night at anchor next to Scarlett. We were happily surprised to see a dolphin albeit briefly swimming around before we settled down for the night. As we lay at anchor we discussed the trip to Olbia in the morning with Graeme and Jayne. Strengthening winds were due to arrive in the afternoon and we decided to leave a bit earlier than normal at 08.30 for the 6 hour trip hoping to get in to the marina before the weather changed.
After a perfectly still night the morning dawned bright and clear with not a breath of wind, we used the electric windlass to pull up the anchor (Yawn) and motored around the end of Isla Caprera passing the lighthouse at point Rossa about an hour later.
This was a very beautiful part of the world, everywhere we looked we saw green fields and trees, oddly shaped rocks that had been sculpted by the elements into amazing often delicate forms.
As we cleared the island the sea began to build and the wind filled in quite quickly it was bang on the nose obviously but as there was a very good chance that this would be our last sail before we stopped for the winter I wanted to make it a good one so after a quick chat with Claire and a check below to make sure everything was stowed properly we pulled out the Genoa and bore off heading out to sea. Soon RR was heeling nicely and shouldering her way through the steepening seas.
Scarlett decided to continue motor sailing making straight for the headland at Capo Figari before turning into Golfo Di Olbia.
We had about an hour or so of sailing like this before the wind began to drop away. Bugger. The sea was still lumpy though slowing RR quickly.
I looked around and noticed a couple of other motor boats well inshore that were heading the same way. I assumed they were locals and decided to follow their example as they were motoring into the large bay of Golfo Di Congianus to get out of the swell. So we rolled in the Genoa and started the motor heading back towards the shore and into the bay. After about 30 minutes the wind started to fill in again. I thought that the strong winds we were expecting maybe coming in a bit earlier than forecast so I pulled two reefs in the main and two in the genoa as we headed into the bay. The wind kept building until we had a solid force 5.
We sailed between the two small islands of Soffi and Mortorio. Claire was helming and we saw 30 knots come up on the wind speed indicator. The sea was a lot flatter in the bay and we were flying.
We held our course for as long as possible only tacking when the depth gauge dropped to 6 meters. Our new course had us heading back out to sea. We passed quite close to the steep rocky headland of Capo Figari. As we got clear the wind and sea picked up. The sea wasn’t very rough, the waves were about 1 meter high I suppose but they were short (not much gap between them) and steep with the ability to slow RR down to a crawl every now and then.
I took over the helm as Claire’s legs were aching due to wedging herself in at the wheel. Every now and then heavy spay was coming right over the boat from bow to stern. I got soaked. It was very exciting sailing. Our course had taken us too close to the headland really and it was good to put some distance between us.
Once we were clear of the headland we needed to tack and then bear off as soon as possible into the Golfo Di Olbia but I wanted to make sure we had enough sea room first. No sailor likes to be close to a Lee shore in strong winds.
When I was confident we could make it with plenty of room I waited another few minutes just to be sure. As we tacked we also eased the sails turning onto a reach. The boat levelled off a bit then accelerated away as the motion changed for the better.
We could relax a bit now. The large bay opened out, the water was calmer here and RR was sailing well. I pulled out the reefs in the genoa and soon we set a new speed record as we flew across the sea towards Olbia. 8.2 knots!!!! We quickly passed Isola Di Figarolo carrying on for an hour or so before turning into the well buoyed channel heading towards Olbia.
There were ‘fields’ of buoys on both sides of the channel which we assumed were for mussels. It was a very strange site. There was a large ferry port to Starboard with the town of Olbia behind.
We started the engine and pulled in the genoa. We then dropped the main and motored into the marina where Graeme and Jayne were waiting for us with Scarlett.
Whew what a sail. Claire reminded me that I wanted a good sail before we stopped for the winter and she said that I needed to be careful what I wished for.
We had decided to stop here for a few days while we waited for a reply to an email I had sent to the harbour master at Santa Maria Navarrese as Norbert and Ulrike on-board ‘Paloma’ were there. It was about 60 miles further down the coast although I think we were all happy to stay here.
We heard from the harbour master the following day and there was not enough room for us so we have decided to stay at The Marina De Olbia. It’s a shame as it would have been nice to spend some more time with ‘Paloma’ We sent them a message promising to visit them by car as we intended to hire one to see a bit more of the island over the winter.
The marina here is quite new being opened in 2007, its clean and tidy, has very nice showers, with good toilets and WiFi. We have an all-inclusive deal 1700€ until the end of May 2017. I think we will be happy here. We also had a nice surprise in that the marina started our deal from the 1st December but would not charge us for the 10 days that remained in November. That kindness saved us €300!!!
We spent the first day or so in the marina on the visitor’s pontoon before being moved to a permanent berth for our winter stay. We discovered a shopping centre about 10 minutes’ walk away that had a large Auchan supermarket within it selling everything we needed as far as food was concerned.
After a few days sorting ourselves out it was time to get the sails off the boat. I wanted to give them a good wash and scrub before drying and folding them so we could store them in the forward cabin. Graeme and Jayne on Scarlett wanted to do the same so we decided to help each other out.
We picked a sunny windless day working on RR’s main first. Graeme and I were armed with brushes whilst Jayne pulled on the leach to keep the sail flat with Claire on the halyard raising and lowering the sail as we washed and scrubbed it with copious amounts of soapy water finally rinsing it off with fresh water leaving it to dry in the sun. We then went onto Scarlett doing the same thing before stopping for a well-earned drink.
The following morning we did the same with the genoas it was hard work for all of us but it was well worth the effort when you saw the amount of dirt that came off the sails.
We are settling in nicely here. It’s very different from Almerimar our last winter stop. Very few, in fact virtually no other ‘live a boards’ no bars open and no ‘community’ that said I am really enjoying it here.
Our parents intended to pay us a visit while we were here but on investigating the flights it became apparent that during the winter Olbia airport virtually shut down with no direct flights to England. Our parents didn’t fancy the hassle of changing flights or the rather lengthy stopovers in Milan or Rome airports so they decided to give it a miss. It’s a shame but we should be seeing them in January when we return to England for a visit.
At the beginning of December we hired a car for a month. We used it to get into town to visit a few chandlers as well as a couple of boat yards to find out the costs of being lifted out for a week or two.
The town of Olbia is only a few minutes’ drive away. Like almost everywhere else we have been Oblia has been settled by the Greeks, Carthaginians, Phoenicians and the Romans. It was very heavily bombed during the second world war with a large number of its historic buildings destroyed.
That said it's a nice place with everything we need including good restaurants and bars.
On the 8th December we all jumped in the car to drive the 60ish miles to visit Norbert and Ulrike. Unfortunately there was a landslide caused by the heavy rain we had experienced over the last few days and our road through the mountains was blocked. The diversion was lengthy but we passed through some beautiful countryside on the way finally arriving just after lunch.
It was great to see them, the marina was nice and we went for a stroll around Santa Maria Navarrese stopping by an Olive tree that was reported to be over 2000 years old and a very old church. We also stopped by a large stone that had strange hollows formed in it. Apparently there are a few of these strange stones dotted around the island and are said to be from the Neolithic age probably used as an altar of some sort.
It really was nice here and a shame that they were full. We said our goodbyes to Norbert and Ulrike and headed back to Olbia promising to return to see them early in 2017.
Graeme has found a Sardinian Web site that has some good walks listed so we tried one out. It was about half an hour’s drive, we parked up and followed a footpath that ran along the coast. We walked for nearly two hours passing a very small marina at La Marina Di Costa Carollina before stopping at the small village of San Paolo for a break. This wasn’t a circular walk so we retraced our steps which wasn’t a chore at all because it was just beautiful.
We are now beginning to think about Christmas, Claire wanted a ‘Fitbit’ for Christmas. This is a sort of watch that records physical activity, the amount of steps walked in a 24 hour period for example then works out how many calories you have burned off doing it. I on the other hand didn’t have a clue what I wanted but thought a drone with a camera would be a nice toy for me to play with.
Claire and Jayne have decided that we can have a proper Christmas dinner on-board with all the trimmings if we share the cooking between the two boats. For those without any experience of using a small galley (kitchen) on a yacht like RR or ‘Scarlett’ the main problem is the physical size of the oven which is quite small compared to a normal kitchen and that in most cases the temperature control of the oven is a bit hit and miss. So after a few trial runs of cooking roast potatoes and joints of meat it was decided that Graeme and Jayne would cook the meat and the salmon en croute for the veggies while Claire cooked the roast potatoes, stuffing and Yorkshire pudding. We decided to have Christmas day on ‘Scarlett’ and a buffet aboard RR on Boxing Day. Sorted.
As Christmas day got closer we were pleased to see lights and decorations going up in the town and we ‘dressed’ RR inside and out with Christmas lights as did Scarlett. The marina were a bit slow but they eventually got some lights up around the office.
We were feeling a little sad as every Boxing Day for the last 10 years we would meet up with friends and family in the Swiss Alps for a week’s skiing. But unfortunately this year everyone else had something else planned. At least that’s what they told us…….. No it was true, Grace was off traveling, Nick, Kerry, Zac and Poppy were saving up for a new Shearwater. Ian, Tina and Holly Blower were otherwise engaged. Simon was off visiting his fiancé. I think it was only Darren that could make it. Oh well we would save a few quid by not going but I was still sad.
We got some of the quotes back for a lift out, stay on the hard for a week then a lift back in with the cheapest being about 1500€ which was about 1000€ too much. We had paid about 300€ in Almerimar last winter. Oh well unless we can find somewhere a lot cheaper we will give it a miss. We can get a diver in to clean the bottom and check the anodes I am sure this will work out a lot cheaper. We will sort this out just before we leave here.
We have had a really bad few days of strong winds blowing at 40+ knots with driving rain it's also turned cold. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
My parents sent us a food parcel, well to be more precise a mince pie parcel! 18 beautiful Christmas mince pies. You can’t buy them here. Mmmmm thanks you two.
Christmas eve, everything is prepared, all the food, drink, presents are bought. We have been invited on board Scarlett for some mulled wine which was delicious. A bit like Vin Chaud which unfortunately made me think of skiing again but it's OK we are having a great time here. We have managed to Facetime everyone to say Happy Christmas. All are fit, happy and reasonably healthy so let the cooking begin.
We have planned to meet up on Scarlett at 15.00 so we had a bit of a slow start opening our presents in bed with a cup of tea while the boat warmed up a bit. Claire started cooking and although I was kept busy washing things up it seemed like all of a sudden it was ready and I was ferrying stuff around to Scarlett. They had been very busy too the chicken was cooked on the BBQ!! With the beef in the oven. Everything worked out well with us sitting down just after 3 to a very sumptuous Christmas meal. Well done to all the chef’s my contribution was to wash up on Scarlett as well. After everything was cleared away we watched Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in ‘The Road to Bali’. Quite a good laugh and the sort of film I used to watch at home with my family at Christmas when I was a nipper. Then ‘Sully’ a very good Tom hanks film.
We struggled a bit getting off of Scarlett and back onto RR, too much food and drink but that’s what Christmas is all about. A great time was had by all thanks Graeme and Jayne.
On Boxing Day we jumped in the car and went for a very nice, but strenuous walk to the top of a rocky promontory to an old look out post with beautiful views over the bay with Graeme and Jayne before returning to RR for a buffet and a few glasses of wine. We are living very well.