The Maddalena Islands

8 to 14 June 2017

Cala Coticcio, Isola Caprera, N41° 12.9′ E09° 29′

Porto Palma, Isola Caprera, N41° 11.2′ E09° 27′

Cala Bitta, Sardinian mainland, N41° 07.96′ E09° 28.1′

Cala di Villamarina, Isola Santo Stefano, N41° 11.4′ E09° 24.4′

Porto Liscia, Sardinian mainland, N41° 12′ E09° 18.4′

Clutching our permit to navigate the Maddalena Islands and with Suzie and Mike on SV Toy Buoy in hot pursuit we left Santa Theresa for a week at anchor. We took a route between Isola Spargi and the northern group of islands. Navigating closer towards Isola Budelli than us SV Buoy found some wind and managed a sail.

La Maddalena archipelago is a group of granite islands in the top north east corner of Sardinia. As somewhere to anchor for a week it came with lots of hazards to be navigated – lots of rocks above and below the water and lots of other boats, motor and sail, big and small, with varying degrees of knowledge of or adherence to the Collision Regulations! As hazardous as the rocks might be, their shapes were spectacular. Hewn by the wind, we could see granite rabbits, horses and hippos.

After trying two anchorages on the north east tip of Isola Maddalena, the group’s main island, and finding only very expensive moorings and anchoring prohibited we settled for a couple of nights in Cala Coticcio on Isola Caprera. We were back on another Goat Island! Waiting for the boat to settle on the anchor and whilst Stefan dived straight into the clear water, I heard some unexpected bleating from the cliffs high above the boat. Looking up we could see the eponymous goats peering back down at us, precariously perched at the top. It certainly made a change from seagulls!

For two days we didn’t set foot on land. We could have swum to the two tiny beaches but were content to laze around on the boat, sharing coffee and drinks with Mike and Suzie

and gazing at the mesmerising rock formations in their different colours and shapes.

On our second night we were treated to a beautiful moonrise and some unexpected wind which meant a sleepless night as we swung round rather close to the rocks.

We found more sheltered anchorages and greater distance from rocks in Porto Palma, still on Isola Caprera, and at Cala Bitta, just a stone’s throw back on the Sardinian mainland. At Cala Bitta our backdrop was three huge granite boulders, two of which looked just like enormous skulls emerging from the earth. We were joined in our little flotilla by Suzie and Mike’s friends, Claire and Del on their boat SV Red Rooster. It was great to be part of a small community again even for a short time.

With the Toy Buoy crew heading back to Santa Theresa and the Red Rooster crew staying in Cala Bitta to avoid the park permit police, we continued on to explore Isola Santo Stefano. Well, it would have been rude not to visit Stefan’s namesake. These few days had increased my boat handling confidence no end but the tiny inlet at Cala di Villamarina was very nerve wracking. There were lots of rocks in the entrance and, once we were in, not a lot of wriggle room with four boats already there.

Landing at the quay with its abandoned buildings we climbed up into the granite quarry where we found the pieces of an enormous statue, said to be of Garibaldi, Italy’s celebrated freedom fighter, who owned Isola Caprera and lived there for many years before his death in 1882. In four pieces the statue would certainly have been imposing if it had ever found its way to its intended destination.

Only up until a few years ago landing on the island was forbidden as it was a NATO base but we were able to continue our walk up to the top of the island and down to the other side where we had views across to Cala Gavetta, the main town on Isola Maddalena.

We decided against staying the night in Cala Villamarina and returned for a couple of nights to Porto Palma back on Isola Caprera, where the afternoon sea breezes brought dinghy sailors and kite surfers.

For our last night in Sardinia, we caught up with Red Rooster again in their anchorage at Porto Liscia, back on the mainland. We all got very sore feet from a walk on the course sand of the bay’s long sweep of beach.

With our permit expired and a revised passage plan to take in more Italian waters via a short stop in Corsica, we were ready to say a very fond farewell to Sardinia. What a beautiful place, inside and out.

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Selfie, with Suzie and Mike, Claire and Del, on SV Red Rooster

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