And so we are back in the UK for a couple of weeks before we head off to Brasil for the winter.
The trip back was uneventful. We hired a car from Olbia and drove to Alghero, staying in a small B&B called Bentu e Sol in Fertillia. This is a farm house with guest accommodation and was very pleasant; it is also a 10 minute drive from the airport, exactly what we needed at 4 in the morning!
The flight was via Milan and we flew back to London City and got a cab back to Southend where we’ll stay with friends until we set off for Brasil on 6th December.
We intend to carry on blogging as we go and the ‘Brasil‘ page has a map of our route.
Marina di Olbia is a quiet, and very sheltered marina; it is about 3 km from an airport and from Olbia itself and has a supermarket / shopping centre within 10 minutes walk. The Marina is also home to about a dozen other Lagoons, all 400s and bigger, belonging to a charter company so Windependent won’t get lonely; it looks like Olbia will be ideal for leaving Windependent for the winter while we go to Brasil.
During the winter there are very few flights to anywhere useful from Olbia so we booked our flights from Alghero, which is 130 km or so from here. We have booked a hotel room close to Alghero airport and have hired a car to get there; if the rain stops long enough we may even see a bit of northern Sardinia!
Having spoken with a local boat yard it looks as though we will be hauling Windependent out again on 23rd March and she’ll be out of the water for a week while being cleaned and new antifouling applied, the engines serviced and some minor maintenance conducted.
So it is likely we’ll be on our way again by the end of March / early April. Currently our sailing plans are to spend some time exploring Sardinia before heading back to the Italian coast and following it round into the Adriatic before visiting the coast of Croatia and then travelling on towards Greece; the ultimate aim at the moment is to reach the northern Agean by the summer before returning east and making plans for next winter. But we shall see how things unfold!
The thing about rainbows is that they come with rain, lots of rain.
We have been in Marina di Olbia for over a week now and the weather has been, well, rather British. We have had 5 days of chilly (Valeria’s description), generally strong, westerly winds which have brought sun, clouds, rain and rainbows, generally all at once. This means that we have not been too inclined to venture further than the shopping centre about a 10 minute walk from here and even then have managed to get caught in a rain shower.
We did, however, catch a break in the weather on Saturday, the 12th. Sunshine, little wind, some light fluffy clouds and no rain-bows, so we went into Olbia for the afternoon.
Sardinia itself has been inhabited since the Bronze Age, although little remains of the ‘Nuraghic’ peoples. Olbia is situated at the head of a long, sheltered and well protected inlet and the town has a long history. It has been occupied by virtually all the Mediterranean cultures since the Phoenicians and has been known by as many names.
The major attractions are the two churches, San Paolo and San Simplico. Both are fairly simple buildings; San Simplico was built in the 11th century and I think San Paolo dates from the 17th, although they look very similar in style and construction. San Simplico lives up to its name but San Paolo has the most colourful, technicolour tiled dome!
The cab rides in and out of town were very expensive and we won’t be repeating the trip, having said that, the old town of Olbia was worth visiting. It is quite a picturesque town, with narrow cobbled streets and plain, but colourful, houses. It was very quiet but this is the off season and I would hazard a guess that, from the sheer number of restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlours (no, no Hagen Daz mercifully), it might be rather busier in the summer.
For the remainder of our stay we’ll remain ‘at home’ sorting the boat out to be left, packing our bags and planning how to get from Olbia to Alghero Airport.
Chanon deValois (Summerton) – 15th to 20th October – Genoa to Pisa
Flying into Genoa after the traumatic experience only known by Ryan Air passengers I was delighted to see sun and the marina conveniently located near the airport. Thus saving me from the fun of negotiating with the local taxi drivers to take the most direct route.
Retirement has clearly got a different schedule for Chris and Valeria as my arrival seemed to be much sooner after my scheduled landing than they had expected or perhaps they had forgotten my penchant for being punctual.
However, all was forgotten after the obligatory Windependant (“Agnes bored now”) tour and safety demo and a glass of Italy’s finest Prosecco.
The following day we spent discovering the sights of Genova and looking for the Hard Rock Cafe, which apparently no longer exists! I have shared some of my photographs that hopefully show the winner parts of the local area, marina and locals.
A few photographs of the hosting ship and the ‘crew guy’ as well as the views from deck including the neighbours and the evening light. I was most disappointed that the very posh ‘Vicky’ that took up half the harbour and had 16 crew did not invite me to join their ‘jetty party’ as I walked past but felt vindicated when I was treated to a feast created by Valeria while it rained!
We also allowed Chris, the crew guy, the option of choosing the evenings film and he chose a B&W George Clooney film called The Good German. We all agreed that it was rubbish and that the best part was Paul’s well timed text message in the middle of it.
I was really looking forward to getting out on the Med and doing some sailing as it has been a long while since I was in Australia sailing around the Whitsunday Islands but it seems despite out initial optimism in the harbour area, once out on the open road as it were it was tantamount to a mill pond with little wind.
We had a little look at the beautiful Portifino on our way to La Spezia for our evening stop over. You can see how calm the sea is, however poor it was for sailing it was very good for photography!
As we predicted the beautiful sunset we had hoped for previous nights was block on this night by land but we did get a peak at the day old super moon which was pretty nice.
You may notice the absence of photographs the next day and that would be due to the confused sea as Chris called it. I missed my calm sea from the previous day, and spent most of the day hanging on to the table, my breakfast, you name it!
However, once we arrived in Pisa I was pleased to see land and a beautiful sunset to boot. As you will see I did get a few photographs of Chris faffing with his boat once I firmly had my feet planted on the ground.
We spent the next day trekking into Pisa on the local bus which is notoriously unreliable we were told and wandering the streets to find that silly tower that someone never put proper foundations on.
It has been about 21 years since I was last in Pisa and I would say a few things have changed they still haven’t fixed the tower, and the price of admission has certainly gone up. We agreed that paying admission to a church is not ideal and as you can see below I used Chris for scale.
A fine excursion down the Northern Italian coast on the Windependant with the Thorne’s, their hospitality and facilities are truly worth a visit. My top tip for the trip is pack your travel sickness medication and do not let the the crew guy pick the movie.
We had selected Sardinia as the place to winter Windependent and it was a toss-up between Alghero on the northwest coast and Olbia on the north east coast.Plan A was to head for Alghero and spend a couple of weeks cruising around Elba, across to Porto Vecchio in Corsica, through the Straits of Bonaficio and then along the north coast of Sardinia and round to Alghero; we even bought our tickets to the UK from Alghero airport.
As the day for departure got closer the weather forecasts put paid to Plan A and we decided that Olbia would be easier to reach.We’d do an overnight passage to Porto Vecchio ahead of the predicted bad weather for the weekend and early part of next week and wait there for some calmer conditions and take a long day to get to Olbia.Plan B.
Plan C was a 30 hour passage direct to Olbia and on our day of departure it looked as if we’d have, maybe, 48 hours of acceptable weather from Pisa down to northern Sardinia; but forecasts change and so we decided to make the final Olbia / Porto Vecchio decision as we passed Elba, the courses were virtually the same to that point and indecision is the key to flexibility !
We set of at 9am on Thursday 3 November.The westerly winds of the previous couple of days had died away and we had light easterlies.I had been for a walk along the harbour walls on the day before and was watching the river mouth.Even a 15 knot breeze actually slowed or stopped the flow of the river.The floating vegetation debris wasn’t moving down stream and the muddy river water wasn’t making it very far passed the river mouth; the seas were also piling up on the breakwaters and raising clouds of spray.Getting out of Porto di Pisa would have been unnecessarily challenging in those conditions, but I knew in 24 hours we’d have offshore winds.
Even so, the following morning, our morning of departure, there was still a lazy 2 metre, onshore, left over swell running and as we left the Port entrance waves were still breaking on the breakwaters; looking astern as we left the conditions looked far worse than they actually were.And then we were off, sails up and motor sailing south with the winds behind us helping us along.
We reached Capraia, the island north west of Elba, at sunset and settled in for a long night, the clocks have gone back and it would be almost 14 hours before sunrise.We dropped the sails at sunset as Valeria doesn’t like the complication of sails during night watch keeping, and there was going to be progressively less wind until morning.During the early hours, as we closed the Corsican coast we got a phone signal and checked the forecast again and decided to go for Olbia direct.
It started getting light almost 90 minutes before the sun actually rose as we passed Porto Vecchio and approached Bonaficio.We motored on south and, as expected, the wind picked up from the west as we crossed the mouth of the Straits but was not sufficient for us to sail and was not bad enough to slow us down.As we got to the Sardinian side of the Straits the wind dropped away again and we motored passed Islas Caprera and Maddalena on the north east tip of Sardinia in brilliant sunshine and a warm southerly breeze.
We arrived in Golfo di Olbia just after noon and were all tied up in Marina di Olbia by 2 pm, 4th November.My translation of Marina doesn’t actually hold true now, as this Marina IS a marina and not an ‘on Sea’, and Porto di Olbia is a port for big ships ……..
So, we are in Olbia almost 2 weeks ahead of schedule; we fly back to the UK on the 20th, but it would only have taken an extended period of difficult weather and we’d have possibly been faced with crossing to Sardinia in unavoidably challenging conditions; hence the decision to just get here.This will also give me the opportunity to make some arrangements for the work I need done on Windependent before we set off again next year; primarily she needs to be hauled out, scrubbed and new Antifouling applied, but we can also take our time preparing Windependent to be left unoccupied over the winter, and perhaps take some time out to have a bit of a look around Sardinia before we leave.