The end of December and the first week of January went past very quickly. We were intending to go back to England at the end of January to see family and friends but we have had an offer from our friends Steve and Fiona that needed to be seriously considered. 


We first met Steve and Fiona from the yacht ‘Supertramp’ when we sailed to Ibiza anchoring in Cala Bassa. To be more accurate we didn’t meet them but I remember the yacht when it came in the day after us as I liked the band and wondered if it was named after them. I also remember them cheering encouragement a few days later as I pulled the anchor up when we were leaving. We waved at each other as we motored away. We met them a couple of months later in Menorca. We entered the anchorage at Addaya to see ‘Toy Buoy’ and ‘Supertramp’ anchored in this lovely spot. They had already met Mike and Suzy along the way and we all met up for a drink with them ashore and our friendship began. Anyway our ways finally parted when we left Fornells as we crossed to Barcelona and they made their way to the Canary Islands ready to join the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). 


Well they are in the Caribbean now and have invited us to join them for a month to sail with them to the USA. They have asked us a couple of times now and I think we are going to take them up on their kind offer. It will mean changing our plans to go back to England as we want to go back to say hi to everyone but we can’t afford to go twice so we decided to return to England in April and fly from there to the BVI’s…………. Blimey. 


While all this was going on Neil and Erica, friends we first met in Moana last year have invited us to spend a week with them at Neil’s parents’ house near Padova, Italy, at the end of January. As we were now not going back to England until April we could say yes to this kind offer too and promptly booked a flight from Cagliari to Bologna leaving on the 25th January.

 

I received an email around this time from the sailing magazine ‘Yachting Monthly’. I had offered them an excerpt from this web site to put into their ‘Cruisers Blog’ feature. I picked a piece from our trip to Holland in 2014. The process of editing the piece, I re wrote it a couple of times and my friend Kevin McCarthy had a go too was quite lengthy but they have finally agreed to publish it so buy a copy of February’s edition.


Both Graeme and I wanted to get some work done while we were here. Graeme wanted a stern arch made out of stainless tubing to mount his solar panels and I wanted to upgrade the stainless tubes in my spray hood as the existing ones are only 19mm and flex quite a lot as you grab hold of it to pull yourself out of the cockpit and onto the deck. We went to a couple of engineering workshops armed with drawings and explanations of what we wanted translated into Italian. We only received one reply and the price for me was ridiculous at 800€ for two pieces of bent stainless tube they must be mad. I went to the chandlers purchased the tube and the fittings I needed and bent the tube using an olive tree in the middle of the roundabout in the marina. I must admit I got some odd looks and when Karen (my sister) saw the pictures she thought I was practising Feng Shui….Hahaha. But it only cost 93€ and it fitted perfectly.

Winter in Olbia

Graeme has been carrying a set of golf clubs with him on Scarlett and while we were away in Venice he found a golf club which wasn’t too far so on the 1st February we all set off for a few swings on the driving range with Graeme paying to complete the front 9 holes. It was a very nice course with views on the sea every now and then. It was too expensive for us all to play as we would need to hire clubs as well as paying the green fees so we walked the course watching Graeme who played very well considering how long the clubs had laid idol.


We were all looking forward to the 6 Nations rugby starting. Kieran and Beth another English couple recently returned to their boat ‘Seeker’ knew of a small café/bar that would show the games so on Saturday 4th we could be found shouting at the TV screen with a lot of bemused Italians looking on!!
 

We watched the game on Sunday and those the following weekend on board Scarlett as we wanted to hear the commentary in English. England against Wales was a brilliant game.


On the 16th February we decided to go for a drive to visit the town of Alghero which was about two hours away. The roads are deserted which makes driving a pleasure. I am not sure if it's like this in summer but it was good now. Alghero was a complete surprise as it was the first town that we had visited in Sardinia that had a bit of character about it. It was nice walking through the old town, along the old sea defences stopping for a bite to eat sitting in the warm sun.

 

Alghero has the usual list of settlers, the Phoenicians etc. but when the town was conquered by the Crown of Aragorn all of the inhabitants were deported to main land Spain and Majorca as slaves and replaced by mainly Catalan speaking families that were offered land and titles. This occurrence has led to Catalan being spoken in this area of Sardinia to the present day although it is spoken less and less now. Even the street names are in Italian and Catalan!!

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We are slowly getting through our list of winter jobs. I glued the patches back on our old dinghy that hold the oars as they had fallen off months ago giving it a really good clean before putting it back on the deck of RR. I had a new glow plug posted out from England for the Eberspacher which is a small, built in diesel powered heater that had stopped working. We don’t use it often but I believe that you should try to keep everything on a boat in a good state of repair.


I went along to give Kieran a hand on his Nicholson 32 which has engine trouble. Kieran has taken the engine out and is rebuilding it in the saloon!! It an old single cylinder SABB. The parts are still available on the internet and we visited a shop in Olbia more than once that sold oil seals, and ball races.


On the 24th February we were all invited for lunch by Marc and Rosita. This nice couple live in a house that overlooks the marina. We first struck up conversation with Rosita as she often walked her lovely dog around the marina. Marc her husband has a small business servicing some of the yachts here. They suggested we went into town to a restaurant called ‘Mario’s’ run and owned by a friend of theirs. Mario and his son Jacopo were really nice people, the food and wine were excellent and we all had a brilliant time. We noticed guitars, a trumpet, amplifiers etc in a corner of the bar and was told that on Saturdays Mario has a little live music session. 


Claire has a Yamaha electronic keyboard that we have had since leaving England but she has only played it a handful of times. It has been taking up valuable space in the front cabin so we asked Mario if he wanted to buy it. ‘Yes’ he said so we agreed a price and delivered it the following day. Result.
 

We went into town with Kieran and Beth on the 28th Feb as there was a carnival. I’m not really sure what it was for? Easter is close but it didn’t seem to have any religious overtones just lots of people having a really good time. There was about 10 very large floats and hundreds of people dressed up in funny costumes having fun. We stood by the side of the road, beers in hand to watch it as it went past. I have never seen so much confetti we were ankle deep in the stuff. Before we went back we stopped for a beer or two in Mario’s.


March 2nd saw us heading back across the island in the car with Graeme and Jayne to visit the caves of Neptune. Steve and Fiona on ‘Supertramp’ suggested we visit them. We paid about 13 Euro’s each for the tour then started the walk down to the cave entrance. There are around 600 steps that cling to the side of the cliff face but the views were well worth the effort. We were met by the guide who showed us around the caves. It was fantastic with some of the larger columns taking millions of years to form. The walk back up to the car was breath-taking too, not because of the views as we had seen them on the way down I think it was more to do with the 600 steps. As I was climbing back up I was hoping that some of the entry fee was to provide an oxygen tent at the top!

After we had recovered we drove into Sassari which is a large ish inland town.  We wanted to walk around the town with a bit of lunch thrown in for good measure but we, once again had the timing all wrong. We got there around 14.30 which meant that virtually every shop was still shut for lunch, the streets were deserted and the restaurants had stopped serving!! Oh well we did have another reason for stopping here. There was a large Decathlon store which was right next to a large Carrefour supermarket. I didn’t really need anything in Decathlon but Claire and Jayne bought a few things. I was more interested to see if Carrefour stocked Branston pickle as we had run out weeks ago and I was missing my fix. Unfortunately they didn’t.  Oh well back to the marina and our floating home.


Saturday 4th. We had a winter job that needed doing but neither of us was looking forward to doing it. We wanted to clean under all of the floorboards. This doesn’t seem that bad but stored under the floorboards was a lot of stuff, my stuff. Under the floorboards was my ‘garage’ everything, well nearly everything was in plastic food containers. Nuts and bolts, electrical connectors, spare rope, spare lights the Christmas decorations!! Claire wanted all of this out so she could clean the inside bottom of the boat (The bilge). It took us all morning and it was hard work. We took the opportunity to update our ‘what’s under the floorboards’ diagram and list while we were at it.


We had something nice to look forward to though as we were going out to Mario’s that evening with Jayne, Graeme, Rosita and Marc. We got there around seven and had a few drinks before going in for dinner. Marc had pre ordered a very nice sea food entrée or as they say in Italy Antipasto. It was made up of all types of locally caught seafood including the delicious mussels that are ‘farmed’ just outside of our marina. We had the pasta dish next the ‘Primo’ which was beautiful. We were also consuming copious amount of red and white wine. We all wanted more food but could not fit anymore in so we had a coffee and a chat. 


I started the ‘hanging a spoon on my nose’ thing and soon almost everyone in the restaurant was having a go. It was very funny. We moved into the bar where Mario had started the music. It was a great night, we danced a bit, drank a lot and talked to the Sards in the bar who were out to enjoy themselves too. We got back around three in the morning. What a brilliant night.


On Monday the 6th I spent an hour checking the lines and fenders etc as we were expecting very strong winds for the next 24 – 36 hours. The forecast was accurate and we saw 50+ knots on the instruments more than once as we tried to get some sleep. I got up several times in the night to check all was OK. After a couple of days the wind eased and I washed the boat down with hot soapy water to get rid of the salt that was encrusted on every surface. Sadly one of our large fenders had popped after being squashed between us and the boat to starboard. After the strong winds came heavy rain which eventually produced some beautiful rainbows around the marina!
 

The next job for me was servicing the winches on RR. The winches on a boat are very important as virtually every control line be it from the sails, halyards or getting the dinghy back on board uses a winch. It's quite a simple job but messy and time consuming. In the middle of this little project Kieran needed help getting his engine back into position as he had finished the rebuild. Graeme and I helped but Kieran did most of the very fiddly jobs. We were with Kieran for 7 hours so the winches didn’t get finished but we did find time to watch England teach Scotland how to play rugby in the 6 nation’s championship.


The following morning I was back on the winch rebuild when I heard a very strange noise in the water close to the boat. I got up and saw a large black fin slip under the water!! I couldn’t quite believe what I had just seen! I jumped up and got onto the pontoon at the back of RR. Suddenly a large dolphin broke the surface of the water, vented and went down again. Then another came up further out in the marina. I shouted for Claire. There were three in total swimming around the boats, they stayed for 10 minutes or so before making their way out of the marina. Fantastic. What a way to start the day.

Thursday 16th we all jumped in the car and drove around to the other side of the Olbia estuary to go for a walk along the coast towards Cala Saccala. The weather was perfect and the walk was great as it was reasonably flat and about 5 miles long. The scenery was beautiful. Jayne was really pleased to see bee orchids growing wild. Flowers were in bloom everywhere we looked and it really felt like summer was on its way. Graeme even had his shorts on……..not a pretty sight!


Another small job was to move one of the anchors, I have three on board from the anchor locker at the bow to the stern. We use a stern anchor reasonably often and I thought it would be easier to keep it handy. I bought a reel that clamps onto the pushpit to hold the line and chain and tied the anchor alongside making it easier to deploy.


On Saturday 18th we watched all three six nations’ games with Graeme and Jayne and were dismayed to watch Ireland teach England how to play Rugby!! Oh well. As soon as the England match ended we were in the car heading into Olbia for their ‘beer festival’. I was hoping they may have reasonable beers but no! It wasn’t a festival of beer at all and they should be pulled up for misrepresentation or false advertising or something. They only sold one type and it was fizzy, horrible larger. Oh well the music was quite good. Perhaps they should call it a music festival with crappy beer instead!!

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