Posted: 27th September 2011.
Owners of a Lipari 41 “In Tune”, David and Louise (Lucy) Solomons report their stories of cruising The Mediterranean with good friends Coralie and Allan Davis owners of a Lipari 41 “Whiskers”. Both couples purchased their cats from Australia and took up the “factory pickup” option which saw them venture to the Fountaine Pajot factory in La Rochelle, France to collect their boats. They have been enjoying some amazing experiences since.
Here is the latest update from Lucy …
Thankfully most of you have been receiving brief up dates from time to time so you will know that we are still in good health and enjoying ourselves — mostly.
At the end of “Tuning In “ Episode 7 – which was around June27th – we were about to leave Menorca in the Baleares to travel to Alghero in Sardinia. We are on our own now since‘ Whiskers’ is still in Mallorca. They are enjoying a visit with their son and family and will follow us as soon as they can.
So – off to Sardinia.
The weather looks calm for our 35 hour trip and we set off at 5.30 am. After motor sailing most of the first day we eventually manage 6 hours of good sailing without motors. I must admit, I don’t mind the lack of wind, it is much more relaxing – especially at night.
We are excited to see quite a few flying fish – they rise up about a meter above the water and can travel a good 50 metres or more. Lots of tuna also entertain us for hours, as they leap bodily out of the water. David puts out a lure hoping to catch dinner.
By evening all is very quiet and a 360 degree panorama of the horizons shows – nothing. We see very few other boats on our crossing.
The morning sun peeps up into a cloudless sky. The June weather is much warmer now – only three layers on last night and no red jacket.
Sardinia comes into view — “ Wow cliffs and mountains even higher than Mallorca!”
We drop our anchor near a lovely little inlet in the cliffs which has a small café called Dragunara and take our dinghy ashore to explore the famous Neptune’s Grotto. This is an amazing limestone cave at sea level with 640 steps leading down to it from the cliff top ( we counted them on the way back up) It was well worth the effort – the underground caverns remind us of scenes from Phantom of the Opera.
After treating ourselves to a Magnum at the café, we hop back in the dinghy to return to ‘IT’. David feels like some more exercise and decides to row.
Mid-stroke he freezes … “ There’s a man on our boat!” I look up and spot two men ….. no ….. three men !!
I have never seen David react so quickly – he drops the oars and yanks our outboard with such force it wouldn’t dare not respond. It roars into action but as we come closer we see four men. We also notice that “IT’ has moved a good 100m out into the bay.
“ We are dragging the anchor !” calls David. Alarm is replaced by relief as the reason for our intruders becomes very obvious. Three dinghies are tied up behind ’IT’
All four men are huddled over our anchor locker until one spots us. They come to the back of the boat and help us tie up and begin telling us – in French – what they were doing. With mostly pointing and sign language, we work out that they have been trying to let out more anchor chain hoping to stop it from dragging, but couldn‘t figure out how to first retrieve the bridle. Apparently, this is a common spot for anchors to drag since the water is deep and the bottom mostly covered in weed.
We thank them profusely as we start up the motors and look for a sandy spot. Again we are impressed by the camaraderie and helpfulness that exists among the yachting community. There are only three other yachts in the bay – all have come to the rescue. I hope David has enough cold beers!
Brad and Erika join us a few days later – we have rain for the first time in months but it soon clears. Unfortunately they have only 6 days – so instead of rushing on a passage we decide to sail south down to Bosa. I am very happy to let Brad take over ‘crew’ duties and David is delighted to have such a keen and willing ‘student’.
It is fun to just sail for pleasure without having to rush to get to a particular anchorage.
Bosa is essentially a town of fishermen and farmers and is therefore especially charming because it is not at all touristy. An afternoon walk on shore certainly confirms this. The long beach is literally covered in different coloured umbrellas from the local people. Most are family groups and we enjoy watching the children and adults frolic in the wave-less shallows, many wielding racquets and splashing after balls and inflatable toys. Shrieks of pleasure drift towards us from teenagers playing ‘dodgems’ in two paddle boats.
We decide to stay another day.
The week passes too quickly – fortunately we have some very hot days ( these have been rare) and Brad and Rik have a chance to enjoy some welcome swimming in the lovely clear water.
Our next visitors – David’s brother Louis and his wife Michele arrive in about a week, so we need to leave Porto Conte immediately to sail around the northern end of Sardinia to Olbia where we have organized to meet them.
Unfortunately the wind is wrong again – we try to tack but it is taking too long so we end up mostly motoring again with the wind on the nose. We stop at Piana Island for the night and then move on to Baia Reparata at Capo Testa on the northern eastern tip.
The forecast tells us that a very strong westerly wind (mistral ) is coming and this is an anchorage with very good holding in the sand so will be a good place to shelter.
I wake next morning to stormy skies and seas to match. Staggering upstairs, a bit like a drunk, holding on to anything I can for support, I gaze wistfully out to shore. Waves are crashing onto the beach sending up plumes of spray – there goes my chance for “shore-leave”!
David gives me a disapproving look when I suggest getting the dinghy down. I realize that if we don’t get soaked motoring or rowing to shore the chances of getting out onto the beach without a dunking are pretty slim.
Already feeling a little queasy – I resign myself to an “ In Day“.
The following day, the weather settles and I do have a chance to explore this very historic area where the Roman town of Tibula once stood. A sandy path leads me through an amazing area of magnificently sculptured rock eroded by wind and water and formed into incredible shapes. For a rock-lover, like myself, this is Heaven.
The winds finally look favourable and we move on through the national park area of the Maddalena island group.
“ This is the best day yet !” enthuses David “ We’ve sailed nearly the whole day – often at 8 knots and the scenery is as good as any we’ve seen.”
I have to agree. The archipelago is made up of seven major islands of which only Maddalena is inhabited. It is a lovely natural environment with a splendid harmony of colours between buildings, water and land. This will be a very good area to take our next visitors. There are also plenty of places to anchor with lots of bays and inlets and lovely beaches as well as towns with supermarkets where we can pick up supplies.
We sail all the way into the Golfe de Arzachena and anchor behind the tiny island of Zui Paulu. It is beautifully still and after a swim we dinghy to shore.
A walk along the foreshore past the village only improves our impressions of Sardinia. A real effort has been made to limit modern development and each village seems to have its own unique style of architecture with buildings constructed using local natural woods and granite columns. The colours, curves and archways blend naturally with the surrounding rocks, cliffs and forests. Carefully tended gardens, enhanced with natural stone and timber, rest behind fences and gates fashioned out of polished driftwood and twisted tree trunks. Purple bougainvillea drape over verandahs to meet pots of bright geraniums and petunias.
It is wonderful to see the respect given to the surrounding landscape. Nothing is garish – nothing stands out. This uniformity may sound boring but it achieves a genuine regard for the surrounding countryside as everything blends in harmony.
I stand and stare and absorb and take lots of photos.
We arrive in Olbia and anchor in the harbour until a place becomes available on the commercial quay, which is free but has no electricity or water.
Louis and Michele join us the following day in a rare rain storm. This is not so good when carting heavy luggage but is certainly welcomed by the yachties who are out in force with brooms and brushes cleaning down their decks.
Poor weather keeps us on the quay for a few days but Olbia is quite interesting and there is still a lot of tourist activity happening. Street stalls and booths selling everything from food to carved out grammar lamps, hand-made jewellery, toys and smoking statues line the main street. Louis is very happy to find a large number of gelato shops. There is also a large supermarket a short walk away which makes re-supplying very easy.
With improved weather we slowly head north back towards the Maddalina Islands via the beautiful, very indented coastline of Costa Smeralda and take our time enjoying days of sailing and swimming and walks. We go as far as Liscia – a wide bay which must have a reputation for consistent winds. I count over 50 kite surfers at one point and as many wind-surfers – who delight in going as close to us as possible.
This is where Whiskers catches up with us and we have a lovely and very special, family re-union.
After Michele and Louis leave Olbia we have nearly three weeks to fill in before our next visitors arrive.
Corsica is only a short sail from Liscia and apparently the medieval town of Bonifacio is a must see. So after re-stocking with food, our two boats head north again.
With excellent conditions we manage to sail most of the way and marvel at the majestic buildings clinging precariously to the cliff overhang. We are certainly not disappointed.
“If you dig down through the floor of those buildings you would finish up in mid air,” points out Allan.
The harbour entrance comes into view so we put down our sails and prepare to enter the very narrow opening – along with a number of other vessels as well as ones coming out. This is an experience we will always remember!
It is peak season and absolutely full of yachts and pleasure cruisers. Four yachts reach the narrow entrance at the same time. We all move into single file as the passage narrows even further. All goes well until a 40m cruiser pulls out in front of us and everything stops abruptly – causing a traffic jam. We are packed on all sides with fenders and Coralie and I race around checking distance between us and encroaching craft – ready to push them off.
That one passes and soon another -even larger – does the same.
David and Allan do a marvelous job of maneuvering our boats to miss everything and even manage an expert, on-the-spot, pivot turn at the end of the marina to allow us to go back out.
Somehow, it is a little less congested and as Coralie and I stand on the front decks with camera in one hand and a defensive fender in the other, we can’t stop grinning.
The harbour is truly amazing with cafes and shops lining the waterfront. Ancient ramparts and defensive walls and towers stretch up behind. We are determined to come back here.
This we manage the following day.
After anchoring around the corner in the Golfe de Sant’ Amanza, Coralie, David and I take a taxi back into the town. The weather is perfect and we spend the day enjoying what we consider to be one of the most beautiful and interesting places we have ever seen. Even the 8 kilometre walk back, when there are no available taxis, does not dampen our impressions.
Our next stop is Porto Vecchio which also has a medieval section as well as a good shopping centre. We stay for three days but mainly due to bad weather.
After discussing things with Coralie and Allan we feel it will be too much of a rush trying to get up the east coast to Elba – which was the original plan – so we head back down south and up the west coast to Propriano where it is more sheltered. Here we book a bus tour to take us inland to the mountain village of Bavello.
The sales girl assures us that it is a lovely, two and a half hour trip through small villages and beautiful scenery – this sounds like a great way to see some of Corcisa‘s interior..
We are the only four passengers on the 12 seater bus and fortunately, I am able to sit up front because the bus is soon twisting and winding up the steep mountain road. The countryside is spectacular and would rival any we have seen. I am already loving Corsica but now I am completely hooked.
I try to take some video but this is impossible. We had not counted on the ‘grand-prix’ aspirations of our maniacal driver. As if in a race, he speeds up, then rams on the brakes at every turn, then accelerates away again – you can smell the brakes as they ‘cook‘.“
We hold our breath many times – sometimes in awe of the huge mountain peaks but mostly in angst and horror as we are thrown around another twisty corner and our eyes are forced onto the road rather than on the spectacular scenery.
Then his mobile rings.
With mouths open, we gape in disbelief – somehow, he manages to steer and change gears ….. one handed…..!!
A few prayers go up!
All is soon forgotten when we reach the idyllic mountain setting of Bavella. It is not really a village – just a few tasteful shops – one a bar and restaurant of course – and a few old wooden cabins where people can stay. It is a walkers’ paradise and part of a long walking trail that stretches down Corsica.
David and I manage to fit in a wonderfully enjoyable 2 hour walk through the splendid rocks and alpine forest.
Allan has not been too well so he and Coralie are happy to relax and take in the atmosphere.
Then we have the downhill bus trip back ……… which is now over full ….. no time here to tell that tale. ….. ……..we do eventually make it back!
All in all though, it has been a great day and another hi-light for us.
From Propriano we have a lovely sail back to Sardinia but then have to say a sad farewell to Whiskers.
Allan and Coralie have to be back in Oz so they will sail south to Tunisia where they will leave ‘Whiskers’ then return to Oz.
Meanwhile, we have more visitors coming – this time our two sons Mark and Ian and daughter-in-law, Jaimie. It will be a rare and very special time for us having our whole family here at one time and in this situation. We are very appreciative and excited as we make our way back to Olbia.
The boys sailed our ‘Flying Ant’ (‘Runaway’ ) for many years and are very keen to test out ‘IT’s capabilities. Fortunately Jaimie is coping well with the sea-sickness and is handling the sailing very well.
Ian only has a week with us and is allowed to be ‘Captain’ the first week. His last day sees some unexpected excitement however.
We shelter in Porto di Cugnano expecting a mistral during the night. At 3am. we hear the winds crank up and David gets up to check our anchor.
“All hands on deck!!!!” has us up in seconds !!!
It is pitch black but I see the buoys marking the beach lapping our stern.
“ We are dragging” yells David as he starts the motors. I turn the instruments on and man the helm while David grabs the anchor control. We are very grateful for the extra eyes as the kids run around with torches and relay information. I can neither see David at the anchor or hear his directions above the wind.
Getting the anchor up in strong wind and waves can be tricky at any time but managing in 35 knots in the pitch black is another experience altogether.
The beach and rocks are far too close.
As David winds in the anchor I work the poor motors flat out to keep us off the beach.. We have a lot of chain out and it seems to take forever to wind it in as the boat lurches and pitches.
Finally the anchor is up and the kids torches guide us across the bay.
We pick a spot safely away from neighbouring boats and David drops the anchor again while I struggle to keep us straight in the wind. I pray that we will hold and not drag again. I push the motors in reverse – — we hold.
No more sleep tonight though.
Ian reluctantly leaves us – we wish he could stay but he is due to transfer to Chicago in a few weeks with lots to do. Fortunately, Mark and Jaimie still have two weeks and this is enough time to go back to Corsica and to show them Bonifacio. We set off immediately.
With the main tourist season over we actually manage to get a berth in the marina at only 62 Euro ( about $80) per night. We stay three nights and experience the most incredible electric storm we have ever seen.
The lightning is continuous and the wind whips the torrential rain in sheets as we batten down the hatches and watch in awe. Like most storms – it passes quickly and after an hour or so the clouds disperse. Everything feels shiny and clean as puddles reflect the lights.
It is with reluctance that we leave this incredible place but the bay of Rondinara around the corner has another beauty. Unbelievably clear, turquoise water and lovely sandy beaches for swimming and snorkeling – plus a very nice café/restaurant on shore entice us to stay for another three relaxing days. We are also waiting for good winds to sail us back to Sardinia.
The time passes too quickly and soon we are back in Olbia to farewell Mark and Jaimie. It is sad to see them go and the boat feels strangely ‘quiet’ without them but in the evening we are gratefully distracted from our new ‘aloneness’ when another Aussie boat, on the quay, invites us over for evening drinks.
We also meet a lovely UK couple and while we chat, another Aussie boat arrives.
The following morning, a New Zealand couple knock on the hull to say ‘hello’.
Of the 8 boats on the quay half are Aus/NZ . As you can imagine there is a lot of empathic, exchanging of experiences and helpful information happening. We are also, all heading in the same direction and will keep meeting along the way.
Our focus now is getting ‘IT’ to Tunisia. ‘Whiskers’ is there of-course though Coralie and Allan arrived back in Oz.
We are not rushing – just going with the weather . On our way to Arbatax we even stay ‘becalmed’ for over an hour – it is lovely and instead of David getting frustrated, as he often does, he relaxes and plays his guitar and we sing. His determination not to motor lasts until we began drifting backwards, then the motors have to go on. We also need the motors on to run the water maker – so we don’t mind.
Suddenly – peace changes to action ! ….. … we are jolted out of our relaxed mood rather abruptly …… I’ll let David tell this story.
“Where has all the water gone? “
We always try to keep our water tank topped up and so we run our water maker when we can, usually when we are running the motor(s). On this particular occasion, after having filled the tank, Lucy announced that we had no water. “Impossible” I said, feeling really confident on this one, but certainly no water came out of the tap when I turned it on, so I thought perhaps the water pump had failed. However the water gauge which was showing ‘full’ was now showing empty – not a good sign. I started checking all the hulls for water, then the starboard engine compartment, and finally, there it was, the port engine compartment had 520 litres of water sloshing around in it. About a 1/3rd of the engine was covered but it was still chugging merrily away, my main concern was for the alternator and other electrics. We turned off the engine immediately. This is when we discovered that the manual bilge pump is very effective at removing water from unwanted places. We dried everything out for a few hours, and then thankfully, the motor started and ran normally. Phew!
We could also see the problem. The deck shower hose runs through the port engine compartment and the hose had burst at the base of the nozzle. I must have over pressurised the system when I filled the water tank, and that was the weak point. Another lesson learnt and a bit of excitement for the day.
Speaking of weather – it has been very, very pleasant with very few really hot days over 30 degrees. It is starting to get cooler now though and the days are becoming considerably shorter but the water is still very pleasant and we are still trying to swim every day.
Another bonus has been the lack of flies and we have only had the occasional mosquito.
The mistrals however, are becoming more frequent it seems and a 40+ wind has been forecast – the worst one yet. It seems that we will be forced to stay in the marina at Arbatax for a few days. This could be good since it will give us a chance to leave the boat and do some interior exploring.
I will leave it here and talk about these events next ‘episode’. There should be lots of time to write when “In Tune” is resting in Tunisia.
We plan go via Sicily and be there around 10th Oct. and have booked a UK service company to meet us and help us with any entry formalities etc.
We hope to be there for three months – plans after that are sketchy – we have a few options …… but more about those when I write again.
Our Italian dongle runs out on 29th Sept. and we may have trouble renewing it so we may not be able to contact you too easily until after we get to Tunisia. Hopefully we can get another dongle there. Otherwise we’ll be using wifi places or internet cafes.
I have added a few photos as an attachment – too many take too long to download. When Erica was here she set up a photo album for us but I am a bit behind in editing and adding the latest – we are working on it today – hopefully it will be finished soon and we can send you the link. I really wanted to get this sent off.
So the adventure continues. We have seen some wonderful places and met some great people. Many more doubts and uncertainties have been put in the ‘experience-box’ and we have grown in confidence, easiness and courage and have learnt a lot more about ourselves and each other in the process.
We do think about the future and try to make plans but inevitably things happen to change them. Happily, this no longer causes the drama it once did.
Although incredibly challenging, for us both, this journey has been and will continue to be, an amazing learning experience.
Hope this finds you all well, happy and in a good space.
It may not always seem like it but ALL of you are in our thoughts at some time and we always value hearing from you.
Love, light, peace and warmest wishes be with you always,
David and Lucy – Louise