Flying the Spanish courtesy flag
Exactly 2 weeks after we decided we were ready to move on to the Balearics, we arrived! The Mistral was relentless, but finally it let up and we were off. It took us about 45 hours with lots of rain on the first night, but then the sun came out, we could sail, and all the rest is forgotten. In the early morning light we motored into the anchorage of Mahon, Menorca. After reading all the Patrick O'Brien books, we could just feel ourselves sailing into the English fleet in the Med. Although the British were actually in control here for very few years in the 1700's, their legacy is apparent in the building styles and the waterfront fortifications.
Our Spanish learned in the Caribbean is of almost no use here, since they speak Catalan first (the name of the town is Mao, not Mahon), and when they do speak Spanish it doesn't sound anything like we remember. Oh well, those brain cells will have to start working again. We are in town now after touring the museum this morning. Then we had lunch, went to the Church of Santa Maria for a baroque organ concert, and are now in an internet cafe. We were able to get unlimited internet as well as cheap phone calls to the US on the iPhone, but to get the connection for the computer was just too expensive. We will still keep up this blog, but it probably won't be as frequently as when we were in Italy. Apple won't let Adobe flash player load on the iPhone, so we can't update from the phone. "Why can't we all just get along?"
For the sailors among you, we won't give a lat/long for our actual anchoring spot, because this is almost August and space is definitely first come, first anchor. It is a 30 minute dinghy ride into town with our 3.5 hp dinghy engine, but it is an interesting trip and not much trouble with wakes at all. A nice young man named Antonio comes around to the boats in the anchorage and offers to bring groceries, take people into town, or whatever you need. His grocery list had prices lower than in the supermarkets in Gaeta, so that is very good for us. We have hikes to do, a fort to explore, and the market yet to visit, so there will be more here soon.
The mistral ended yesterday, and this morning the dock emptied out quickly. We left at about 10:30 heading toward Mahon, on Menorca, Balearic Islands. It is just 212 nautical miles, so we will arrive sometime on Thursday. It was rainy this morning but the sun came out just as we dropped the lines.
Once we arrive in Spain it will take a few days to figure out an internet connection, so the next update may even be a week away.
It's Saturday now, and we are still in the marina at Castelsardo with another Mistral coming in a couple of hours. At least we have had a chance to finally see some of the inside of Sardinia and learn a little about it.
This is the flag of Sardinia, which is actually an autonomous region of Italy. Boats here fly the Sardinian flag rather than the Italian one, and visitors like us are looked at more favorably if we fly it too along with our Italian courtesy flag. The Corsican flag is rather like it, but with just one Moor rather than four. It seems a rather odd flag for an island now part of Italy, but evidently in the 11th century the Spanish king (they ruled Sardinia for a long time) defeated four Moorish leaders. One source explained the red cross as referring to good old St. George, who slew the dragon, but we really couldn't figure out the connection. Anyway, we are flying the flag and seeing Sardinia. Our Italian is not much help here however, as in addition to their own flag they have their own language! The sign leaving one village said "adioso" rather than arrivederci, so the Spanish have left their mark.
Harry baked his delicious Chocolate Sliver Cake for my birthday, and we had a wonderful day. The next morning, as the Mistral hit with full force, we rented a car and set out to explore. Dotted across the landscape are rock towers, the remains of neolithic people here. Called nuraghi, they date from 3300 BC to around 1000 BC. Little is known about what they actually were, but it is fascinating to see these interlocking circular remains of stone towers still standing in fields, over 3000 years later. We also found a necropolis from the same period, which was elaborate groups on interconnected chambers dug into the rock below the surface of the ground. Photos of these are on the recent photo page.
We spent the night in a nice B&B in Alghero, another walled city with a medieval core. It was nice, but the highlight of our 2 day trip was a circle through the middle of the island to find a city called Busachi. It is not in the Lonely Planet, on the internet lists of "things to do", or even on the road map of Sardinia, but we found a little brochure on it in the library. It said "walking through the town, among its houses in red trachyte (stone), you can meet women wearing their traditional costumes every day with pride". We laughed, because in 1988 in what was then Yugoslavia, we went to the island of Susek to see something similar, but everyone was wearing shorts and T-shirts. No so here! We didn't feel comfortable taking photos as if these people were objects, but I did grab this one from the back. The people were so open and friendly, and everyone smiled and said hello as we walked through the streets. In just the short time we were there, we saw 3 ladies in local costume and one man, wearing a white linen shirt with billowing sleeves, brown loose trousers, and a cap. On the drive back, at one point we drove 12 kilometers without seeing even one other car. We love exploring the little back roads.
Our next opening in the weather seems to be Wednesday, but who knows. For the next few days we will concentrate on some neglected boat chores like polishing the stainless. Not so much fun, but it must be done.
When the winds eased, we decided to grab the chance to move a little bit more to the west. Saturday morning we motored to a beautiful anchorage about 20 miles away, Capo Testa, arriving before the afternoon winds built up too much. On Sunday, this time with no wind at all, we motored another 30 miles here to Castelsardo, an old walled town with the wall still intact, as you can see in this photo. Somehow, with our still very basic Italian, we were able to communicate with the marina and get a berth. There is another Mistral coming, so we will be staying here at least until the end of the week. We are now in the big curve at the top of Sardinia, so we are out of the direct line of the strongest winds. Thank goodness!
It is our first marina in over 2 months, so we have already washed the entire boat down and done 3 big buckets of wash. We have a watermaker, which is completely adequate for our needs at sea, but it does not allow us the luxury of just running a hose. Now that our chores are done, we are off to explore Sardinia by land. Harry will be baking a birthday cake today (his famous chocolate sliver cake) and we'll celebrate Jane's birthday tomorrow. More in a few days...
After an idyllic week in the La Maddalena Park anchorages, the dreaded "red tongue" started to appear in the Gulf of Lyon on the wind/weather forecasts. It starts off the coast of France, spreads toward the southeast, and when it gets to the Bocche di Bonifacio--where we are now--it screams through the narrow gap between Corsica and Sardinia.
So on Wednesday we moved back to our anchorage off Cannigione to get settled and get the anchor well set. Winds were light during the day so we went ashore for some groceries and visited the visitor center again. The woman there said with great sorrow, "No good for a few days. The mistral is here". All winds have names, and we are only 5 miles from the French Island of Corsica, so of course this is the well-known Mistral. We thought since we are not going to France that we would miss it, but no such luck! It began on Wed. night at 7 pm, going from almost no wind to 25 knots within 10 minutes. It is now Friday morning and still blowing, but we should be in the "green" by evening. Unfortunately another one is forecast for Monday-Wednesday, so we will be enjoying Sardinia for a little while longer. We plan to move to Castelsardo on Sunday and go into the marina there, so we can do some land exploring and celebrate Jane's birthday.
Sculpture on Ziu Paulu
It has been wonderful to hear from so many of our friends since we have started this blog. Some of you have clicked on the "comments" button, and we always read those and respond when we can. Others don't like the public nature of making a blog comment, which we understand. You are all welcome to continue to write us as usual using your normal email contact or to use the blog.
We are also changing the photo pages a little with this update. We have added a new page with just photos from the past month. That way you won't be slowed down by all the "old" stuff if you just want to check out our pictures. They are all in small format for the web, but if anyone wants to download one in higher quality, just let us know and we'll send it to you.
Now, for the update:
We recovered from our passage and went into Cannigione by dinghy on Wed. morning. We found this excellent anchorage (41 07 N, 9 26 E) just inside of the little island called Ziu Paulu, in an SSCA post, and it has clear water for avoiding the grass, shallow depth, and very good holding. On the island is this sculpture No information around, but it is probably a saint--since this is Italy. In Cannigione we visited the tourist information site to find out about the park, and after much discussion we decided to buy a 15 day pass. Sailboats get a 40% discount and a 15 day pass costs the same as 7 days on a daily rate, so we went for the flexibility. The next day we sailed just over 4 miles north, to Porto Palma on the island of Caprera, and we are still here.
Caprera was once entirely owned by Garibaldi, and he spent his last 21 years here and died at home, in the house which is now a museum and tribute to the man called "the hero". We did a little research on his life, and to us it seems as if he just wanted to go to war, wherever the war might be! He fought lots of battles in Italy, all over South America, and even offered his services to Lincoln when the Civil War broke out. However, when Lincoln offered him a generalship, he turned it down because he would accept nothing less than "commander in chief of the US armed forces".
We have hiked to the geologic museum and the museum of the sea as well as to the Garibaldi museum. The island is dry, and covered with twisted piles of granite. Vegetation is a kind of scrub called "maquis" with salt and wind tolerant plants predominating. Because of the narrow strait between Corsica and Sardinia, the winds really whistle through here. As a nature preserve, life is abundant, and we even saw two wild boar running across the road, in the middle of the day. There are lots of other anchorages, but for now we are happy here. And finally, today is a red letter day. Jane finally decided it was warm enough for a swim! Harry is still holding out for bathtub temperatures.
We woke up Sunday morning to light winds from the east and southeast, so instead of staying the day in old Gaeta and leaving that night direct for Sardinia, we raised the anchor and had a nice 35 mile sail to Ponza. Our idea was to take a nap, check the weather again, eat dinner, and get underway before dark (there are lots of rocks around Ponza). By 8 pm we were underway on the 168 nautical mile trip. To arrive in daylight, we needed to go more slowly than usual, but since the winds were light that meant we actually got to sail much of the way! Most cruisers call the Med the "motor-ranean" because the winds are usually either strong and on the nose, or too light. So this was an excellent trip.
At about 7 am we entered Porto Cervo, where the guide book showed a nice anchorage. Not any more--now it is full of mega-yachts and the old area for anchoring has mooring balls. So we asked about taking a mooring, and were told "for a day, 120 euro". Not for us, thanks, so off we went another 5 miles to our current spot where we are happily anchored in the Golfo di Arzachena for free! Our light winds of the trip became blustery 25 knot winds at 8:30 this morning, so we'll spend the day resting here at anchor and go ashore tomorrow to buy our park pass for the islands of the Bonifacio Strait, called the La Maddelena Park.
Gaeta Vecchia, 6am
This is the beautiful view of Gaeta Vecchia as we were leaving this morning at 6 am--and it still looked glorious when we anchored in front of it at 8 am! Our forecast of light winds from the SE in reality were 17 knots of wind directly from the W, and on the nose. Combined with sloppy seas, we decided we are cruisers without a deadline, so we returned to wait for a better day. Right now it looks like a Sunday night departure, but as always cruiser plans are "set in jello". So on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon we are relaxing in the cockpit, reading our books, and watching all the weekend cruisers play on the water.
Our good friends here have all made successful departures from Gaeta this week, finding either a good direction or favorable winds for their plans. First to leave this week was our close friend from the winter, Jayne, as she took a cruise group to the Swan rendezvous at Elba. Then Peter and Dorothy on Purr looked at weather Monday morning and moved their departure for Rome forward a day. On Thursday, Scott and Mary on Egret changed plans, within a 4 hour span, from cruising Italy and spending the winter in Gaeta, to motoring directly to Gibralter and then on to Nova Scotia by August. That is probably the best example of cruiser flexibility we know. The last photo is from this morning, and it is an arrival. The USS Mount Whitney, based here in Gaeta, came home in the mist of early morning.