Off the grid

5 to 11 April 2019

Santa Maria Navarrese to Isola Ruja, N40° 32.72’ E09° 48.29’, 30nm, 6 hours

to Porto Taverna, N40° 51.63’ E09° 39.32’, 21nm, 4 hours 30

to Golfo Aranchi, N40° 59.5’ E09° 37.3’, 8nm 2 hours

to Spiaggi Bianca, N40° 59.36’ E09° 39.52’, 2nm, 30 minutes

to Cala Razza di Guinco, N41° 02.79’ E09° 31.64’, 12nm, 3 hours

to Palau, N41° 10.72’ E09° 23.34’ 17nm, 3 hours

to Anse de Roccapina, Corsica, N41° 29.68’ E08° 55.99’, 31nm, 5 hours 30

After the excitement of another continent and our return to Sardinia and having definitely exhausted our sightseeing tolerances we decided to do this bit of our journey more organically. With no real timescale to get anywhere in a hurry, we planned to take it one day at a time, take better advantage of the weather and go where the wind wanted us to.

After a few nights in Santa Maria Navarrese we also set ourselves the challenge of anchoring as much as possible whilst the opportunities of northeastern Sardinia lay ahead of us.

For seven less than perfect days we worked our way round the north east coast of Sardinia and over to the southern coast of Corsica one anchorage at a time.

We started with a perfect sailing day travelling north passed the rugged cliffs of Cala Gonone to Cape Camino. With wind from the south we had a downwind sail all the way. We rather regretted towing the tender when the swell started to catch up with us and started to fill it. We had to put the engine on to keep ahead of it.

Needing protection for the night from the southerly wind and swell we found it between the tiny Isola Ruja and the cape. The first thing Stefan did once we were settled at anchor was to jump in the dinghy to bail it out!

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And there we were again. Back to relying on a chunk of metal hopefully dug well into the sand with no electricity or water provided by someone else and with no one else around – completely off the grid. We watched the sun set over the distant Supramonte.

Our first night at anchor was followed by our first breakfast picnic of the year. However, over winter we had clearly forgotten two key things about getting around in the tender.

  1. Sometimes getting ashore means paddling and sometimes up to your knees!
  2. If there is swell, pull the tender as far ashore as possible to avoid it filling with water as the waves roll in. For a second time in two days Stefan had to pump it out!

On the beautiful white sand we found what looked like a washed up woolly mammoth but was actually just weed and the perfect perch for our picnic on one of the sand dunes.

We ventured further north to an anchorage fringed by the strange red rock sculptures that we had got to know during our first visit to the Maddalena Islands.

There we had a wonderful view towards Isola Tavolara, a 565 metre rock of granite inhabited only by birds and wild goats. There, inspired by our return to Sardinia, I made pane frattau, a local dish of pane carasau (thin crisp bread) and tomato sauce topped with an egg.

The next day we were running low on fresh bread, milk and vegetables so we pulled into the Golfo Aranchi to go in search of a supermarket. Despite appearances, the resorts and streets were deserted out of season and the first two grocery shops I passed were firmly closed. A little further I was able to find a shop open for the basics we needed to keep us going at anchor for another few days. The bunker on the shore brought back memories of Albania.

We knew that strong winds were coming the following day and so we decided to tuck ourselves away for the next couple of nights in a small bay across Golfo Aranchi off the beautiful Spiaggi Bianca (white beach). There we were anchored in perfectly clear water and had another great view of Isola Tavolara.

We sat out the day in the bay in winds gusting up to 30 knots and bringing the scent of blossom from the maquis on board. “It’s probably blowing all the pollen over too” said Stefan! The anchorage wasn’t perfect for the wind direction with rocks to our stern and we spent the day anxiously on anchor watch. During the afternoon, whilst Stefan was doing some jobs, the empty diesel can was blown overboard and he had to launch the dinghy for an emergency rescue! Despite our concerns, the anchor held perfectly during the day and by night the strength of the wind reduced enabling us to sleep well.

Continuing further north, we left the Golfo Aranchi and rounded the spectacular cliffs of Capo Figari. From there we could clearly see the Maddalena Islands and behind them Corsica. Here, along the Costa Smeralda, we were in the territory of the rich and famous. In 1962 the Aga Khan and his friends bought up land along this beautiful coastline and the building of luxury homes and resorts began. Now it is more often home to the superyachts of billionaires than 47 foot sailing yachts but in early April we had it all to ourselves. We settled in a spot across the bay from posh Porto Rotondo where Silvio Berlusconi has his holiday home and held his “bunga bunga” parties. We just about had time to enjoy a walk on the white sandy beach

before the sky darkened and the threatened thunderstorm raged around us. All afternoon the rain hurled down and lightening struck close by. With no other masts anywhere near we felt like a sitting duck but there was nothing to do but shove all the electronics in the oven and hope it passed quickly. By nightfall it was calm again.

The next day the sun came out again and we were very happy to see it. The wind was kind too, blowing us north as we rounded the top of Sardinia

and passed the islands of Caprera and Santo Stefano where we had anchored two years before. This time we did not have a permit to navigate or anchor in the Maddelena Archipelago so we carried on to the port of Palau

where we anchored outside the harbour. With rain clouds gathering again I made a dash to find a better shop than those we had encountered so far. My walk was accompanied by the brass band celebrating something in the square. It was well worth the climb high above the town to get a clear view down to Pintail alone in the anchorage and to find a very well stocked supermarket. The heavens opened for my walk back down and I was like a drowned rat when Stefan collected me and my bags with the dinghy.

The April showers continued as we left Sardinia for Corsica and our seventh night at anchor. We started with clear blue skies and soon swapped our Italian courtesy flag for the French one we hadn’t flown since our whistlestop on Corsica in 2017. It wasn’t long though before the clouds descended and we could see the rain in the distance creeping closer.

The south coast of Corsica has slim pickings for anchorages that offer good protection from wind and swell. The best one appeared to be one which also offered the danger of above water rocks and required careful navigation to avoid them. Arriving in the anchorage was a bit stressful but inside the water was calm and the seabed nice and sandy. As it started to drizzle we ate a sandwich. I couldn’t decide whether to have a hot or cold drink. Stefan said a hot chocolate would be nice.

Hot chocolate is not something we usually have on board but we had bought some cocoa to do some baking in Tunisia so I was able to make a mugful for each of us.

As the rain set in we took in our surroundings. The water was a beautiful aquamarine and high above us one of Corsica’s many Genoese towers and a rock called the Lion. It really did look like a lion. For the first time in a week we were not alone in the anchorage. A French yacht took shelter next to us but closer to the rocks. A few groups of walkers emerged onto the beach from their hikes but despite them this felt like a very remote spot indeed.

After a calm night we said goodbye to the Lion to head up the west coast and there our winning sailing streak ran out. On a miserably drizzly day we encountered light winds but a big swell right on the beam. The worst kind of swell. Soon Pintail was lurching from side to side and, having not taken our tablets, we were both feeling sick and had the prospect of another 5 hours of the same before we reached Corsica’s main town, Ajaccio…

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