Tag Archives: Sardinia

Cagliari to Salerno across the Tyrrhenian Sea

We set off for Salerno at just before 9 am on Saturday 29th April with a 280 mile, 56 hour passage across the Tyrrhenian Sea ahead of us.    If we made 5 knots all the way we would be there by 5 pm on Monday 1st May. The weather forecast was consistently showing moderate north westerly winds for the entire weekend, which would mean having the wind behind us the whole way.

We’d spent our week in Cagliari in the Marina del Sole and by comparison to, I think, every other marina we’ve used this was by far the most run down and basic. The pontoons had all seen better days and there were a host of abandoned boats rotting at their moorings , some even growing plants from their decks! The pontoons lead onto a very tatty rotting wood ‘board walk’ and the marina office was a plastic table in a corner of the ‘bar housed in a tent! Having said that, the marina staff were friendly and helpful, there was water and electricity on the pontoons and the price was very reasonable. As a stop over to wait for the weather it was just what we needed.

Our route was simple, only about 2 courses, one from Cagliari down to Cabo Carbonara and Isla del Cavoli and the other from there to Salerno. As soon as we got away from the harbour we got the sails up and were roaring along at 7 knots, but that didn’t last unfortunately. Although as the voyage progressed the wind settled down to come from the north west is was not quite enough to allow us to sail throughout and a lot of the time we were motoring. But every now and then the wind would pick up and we could fly the big Code Zero and even reached a cracking 8 knots at one point!

We saw dolphins twice, or they came to play with us. Valeria saw what turned out to be a turtle, although thought it was a lump of drift wood until we were right on top of it and we had guests for both nights.

Hopefully won’t doing much sail trimming tonight!

At sun set on Saturday we found ourselves being ‘buzzed’ by 4 swallows, 2 of which settled down for the night on board and on Sunday we found ourselves hosting about a half dozen perching themselves around the deck. Come sun rise they were off again, but each left us a little thank you!

Sunset over Sardinia
Sunrise over the Tyrrhenian Sea

Approaching the main land we were due to make landfall at Capri and all through Sunday night into Monday morning we could make out the glow of Naples over the horizon.

Sunrise off Capri
Capri

We actually got to Capri as the Sun rose and were treated to some magnificent views of the south side of the island as we cruised east towards the Amalfi Coast. It is a place I’d heard of but wasn’t really prepared for how pretty it looked. It is very mountainous and rugged right to the coast with numerous houses and villages clinging to the mountainsides and ports such a Amalfi, Positano crammed into the mouths of valleys. In the morning sun it is easy to see how it became so popular!

The Amalfi Coast

Although planned to take us 56 hours we did it in just over 50 and by mid day we were tied up to the jetty in the Marina d’Arechi; this is a brand new marina, or rather an aspiring ‘marina village’. No ‘gardens’ on any of the boats here, and the only tents in sight are the gazebos along the jetty behind us for the 2nd Arechi Boat Show!

In all an almost perfect crossing, 280 miles and 2 days of fair winds and a following seas.

Cagliari

Cagliari was to have been a simple stop over on our way further around the coast before we set off for Salerno from a place called Arbatrax, half way up the east coast of Sardinia; however, a forecast of poor weather meant we stayed in Cagliari for 6 days before we could get a couple of clear days to head across to the mainland.

The city, Sardinia’s capital, is spread around the commercial port and pretty much conformed to my impression of Port cities. The old of town is built on a large hill and the castle walls were built to reinforce that hill, in places they are quite massive. Within the walls the town is a maze of narrow streets between tall buildings and much of the place seems to be rather shabby.

The most impressive buildings were the Bastione Saint Remy, the Cathedral di Santa Maria and the Palazzo Régio.

Bastione Saint Remy

The Bastione was a 19th century addition to the original 14th century walls and is described as a monumental staircase; an accurate description. It links the Constitution Square with the top of the ramparts. Happily there is a lift close by as the entire Bastione was closed for repairs.

Cathedral of Santa Maria

The Cathedral was started in the 13th century by the Pisans but was subject to the influences of the Aragonese, Spanish and the Genoans. It is suitably impressive.

Palazzo Regio

The Palazzo Regio is alongside the Cathedral and was originally built in the 14th century to house the Spanish Viceroy. Much of what is now evident dates from the 18th Century remodelling. During the Napoleonic Wars it was home to the Italian Royal family in exile from Turin. It is now the seat of the city government.

Councis Chamber in the Palazzo Regio

There is also a museum in the old town which houses the archaeological finds from the Bronze and Iron Ages in Sardinia, giving context to all the massive Nuraghe we’d visited on the island. That for me was about the best bit of the day, because otherwise we were pretty underwhelmed, even a little disappointed!

All the while we were in Cagliari we saw flights of flamingos which Valeria tried to photograph without much success, so on our last day we decided to go and visit them at the salt flats a few kilometres from the marina. The weather was overcast and the old salt pans were a bit dreary but the flamingos and other birds made up for it.

And that was Cagliari. My highlight was the museum, and Valeria’s was the flamingos!

Alghero to Cagliari – Day 4

Our night at Teulada was settled and pleasant. Once the cars had left the beach car park we alone, even the marina appeared devoid of people.

Morning Teulada!

Over night we had 10 knot winds from the north but they didn’t trouble us tucked away in the lee of Torre Budello.
We had a suitably relaxed Sunday morning, which, once the wind died away was quite warm. We set off at 1030 in almost calm conditions and didn’t even bother with the sail.

Once we set off along the coast the wind remained behind us and never actually got about 7 knots, not much use to us so we settled down to an uneventful Sunday drive to Cagliari.

Trying to look cool …..

Just until 1230 when we got pulled over by the Old Bill; well, Guardiã Finaza which we think is something like HM Customs. They turned around and came up behind us waving a fishing net wanting to see our papers; “Licence, insurance and registration please! Oh, and your VAT receipt.” All our papers are ready to go in my smart new Tarp dispatch bag and so were dropped straight into their net. Fifteen minutes later the bag came back and we were on our way again.  I can see why we were stopped, we were the only boat out there, but on a Sunday lunch time !!!

“They must be admiring my new Tarp Dispatch Bag”

The rest of the afternoon was a bit of an anticlimax! We arrived as planned and we all tied up in the Marina del Sole by 5.30.

On first impressions I am not sure what to make of the ‘Marina of the Sun’. The pontoons are a well used as you might expect, but as you get closer to the harbour wall they become down right shabby and rickety, and the Marina Office is a table in a tent. It is a substantial tent, with a bar in it, but still a tent!   But we have been quoted a very reasonable rate so we’re happy!

And you can’t grumble with sunsets like this!

Alghero to Cagliari – Day 3

Day 3 of our voyage to Cagliari started bright, breezy and still rather chilly.

Calasatta may not have been the most picturesque anchorage but it looked a little nicer in the morning.  It also served it’s purpose allowing us quiet night. Best of all, with only 30 miles to sail to Teulada, 6 hours, Valeria could have her lay in as well.

We left at just before 11 and our day was completely uneventful, other than the wind hugging the coast as were we and each time we changed course, so did the wind so that it remained stubbornly right behind us the whole way, and I mean directly astern. Annoyingly the wind built to 15 knots and I couldn’t keep the main sail up as the wind was flicking it from side to side, so we spun round, dropped it, and motored the last half of the journey.

We dropped anchor at 5 pm outside Teulada harbour, over looked by an old stone watch tower, the Torre Budello, on the headland; if you don’t look at the harbour it is very picturesque!

Torre Budello

Teulada is a rather large harbour in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It is home to some fishing boats and some yachts but there doesn’t appear to be anything else here at all; other than a nice big harbour wall to anchor behind out of the wind. We’re looking forward to another quiet, restful night, with a late start in the morning for our 6 hour trip round to Cagliari.

Alghero to Cagliari – Day 2

Thursday night off Tharros was rather uncomfortable. The wind continued from the east most of the night not dying away until about 5 am. That position is only properly sheltered if the wind is from anywhere other than the east!!

Tharros in the morning

However, in the morning the forecasts were all good again and so we decided to continue on south and we set off at just before 9 am.

Leaving a buoy is simple; far easier then catching the thing! You just let two lines and you are away, so within 15 minutes we were under sail, with an engine to assist.

And that was it for the rest of the morning with the wind behind us but not quite enough to get us to Calasetta on the Isola Antioco before dark.

Then, after lunch we spotted dolphins. We love dolphins but who doesn’t?

Valeria’s squeals of delight sound like she’s trying to speak with them; Portuguese, Spanish, a little Italian and basic Dolphin and who needs Google Translate! There were two of them, one bow each, and they spent about 10 minutes inspecting our nice clean hull!

Probably a coincidence but shortly after they left the wind shifted and steadied from the north west at 10 to 12 knots and we were off, wind on the quarter, Code Zero out making 7 to 8 knots at times!

Pan di Zucchero rock

We sailed right up to Calasetta, dropping the sails and creeping into a shallow anchorage off the harbour entrance, all done by 5.30.

My new markers on the anchor chain proved useful; although the chain counter is still accurate it is good to have visual confirmation as well.

Castlesata.

Hopefully tonight will be far more pleasant than last night. The scenery is not so appealing but at least the cutlery and dinner dishes don’t have a mind of their own.

Tomorrow we have more favourable winds forecast and will be sailing for just 6 hours to get to Porto Teulada and on Sunday to Cagliari.

Alghero to Cagliari – Day 1

Once Ana, Charlie and ‘Spider’ had left we started looking closely at the weather for our planned run down to Cagliari.

We needed a day to go shopping and do laundry and so kept our eye on Thursday. Ideally we wanted calm conditions first thing in the morning so it would be easy to leave the pontoon and 3 or 4 nights of calm weather to make anchoring easier; I plan to anchor off Tharros in the shelter of Capo San Marco on Thursday, then off a place called Calaseta on Isola di Sant Antioco on Friday, off Porto Teulada on Saturday before reaching Cagliari on Sunday.

The best way to achieve all that was to leave Alghero on Thursday morning. The winds over the rest of the week were forecast to be mostly light and mostly from the east or north, the only fly in the ointment would be Thursday afternoon when we had a couple of hours of 20 knot winds as we approached Sinis.

Leaving Alghero and Capo Caccia

We left Alghero as planned at just after 8 am on Thursday. It was still surprisingly chilly and I had to put the heating on to coax Valeria out of bed.

The trip south was pretty uneventful.  We spent the morning motor sailing  through billions of tiny jelly fish.  One lone seagul seemed to be snacking on them so we threw hom some bread so he could make himself a jellyfish sandwich.

The weather forecast was accurate and the winds slowly increased so that we could sail for the last few hours into the bay outside Oristano, the plan being to anchor off Tharros. When we got there we found a free mooring buoy and made fast to that instead of anchoring. And our timing was perfect, no sooner were we all secure than the evening strong winds arrived and we suddenly found ourselves bobbing around in 20 knots of wind from the opposite side of the bay; our sheltered anchorage no longer so sheltered!

Unfortunately it was rather uncomfortable but the views of Tharros were better from the boat than they had been from the site itself!

Tharros from the sea

So we settled down for a far from comfortable evening, consulting the weather forecast for Friday.  We have three sources, all giving slightly different forecasts but it now seems we may not be leaving here at all tomorrow as the winds might be 20 to 25 knots in the morning, not a good way to start the day, and the winds at our next anchorage might not look too favourable either.  Might be spending Friday admiring Tharros!

Sunset over Tharros

Continue reading Alghero to Cagliari – Day 1

Alghero with the Abbotts, and ‘Spider’

Valeria came to Alghero 10 years ago and loved it so much she wanted to come back, so when Ana and Charlie said they’d be able to spend Easter here with us we were over the moon.  They arrived on Thursday 13th, bringing Ana’s nephew Mateus with them, and we met them at the airport.

Banchina Sanita, Alghero

Once settled in and following a glass of Prosecco in welcome, we spent the evening wandering around Alghero. It is an old walled town and a the streets are a delightful maze of narrow cobbled lanes between 3 and 4 storey buildings.  Being Easter the place was quite busy, and got busier, giving the place a fantastic atmosphere.  In fact, apart from a visit to the Neptune Caves we spent most of our days either relaxing on the boat or strolling around the town.

Dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria
Alghero street

Valeria found us a great little family run restaurant called La Cullera; great food but they also served such fantastic ‘seadas’ (a Sardinian cheese pastry with honey and lemon) that we booked to return just for the Seadas.   They even made two lactose free ones for Valeria and Ana, their first ever, and it will now become a part of their menu.

Ice cream parlours were everywhere, which pleased Charlie. I was just happy we didn’t have go searching for Haagen Dazs for Valeria. Basically we had such a good time in each other’s company I didn’t even have the time to find out much about the history of the place ! It is pretty much the same as the rest of the island but there is a strong Catalan influence left over from the Spanish period, so much so that the town flag is the Catalan flag.

Our one excursion was by boat to the Neptune Caves at the foot of Capo Caccia.  These are limestone caves with magnificent stalagmite and stalagtite formations.  You can get there by bus and a steep stair way down the cliff or by boat; we chose the latter.  It was interesting watching how the boatmen actually got their quite  large boats into the narrow cleft in the rocks without smashing them to pieces.

But once inside the caves were quite magnificent. A path has been built through the caverns and unfortunately everything within reach of the walk way has been damaged by souvenir hunters but the rest of the formations are fantastic. The caves are flooded with sea water making still pools which reflect the formations above.

Our other ‘excursion’ was a walk along the coast towards Fertillia to the beach area which is bounded by a pine forest.  Ana had said she’d like fried squid for lunch, so we set off on our ‘Squid Hunt’.     The beach is very picturesque and is backed by hundreds of holiday flats; in the summer it wil, be heaving!   We failed to find anywhere we fancied for lunch and so walked back to Alghero to a place we’d had squid before.  We had worked up a good appetite covering about 9 km on our ‘Squid Hunt’ and really enjoyed our rewards, beer, squid and pizza!

Charlie inspecting the Sail Locker

But it wasn’t all rest and relaxation. Charlie helped with some of my routine maintenance; truth be told I was saving them up for him!   The main halyard and main sheet needed untwisting again, I had bought some markers for the anchor chain as a visual check of my chain counter and he and Mateus helped mark and stow the anchor cable.  Most importantly he helped trace a fresh water leak which was setting off the bilge pump under the deck in their cabin. I’d been searching for this for ages and a fresh set of eyes found the trail of water I’d missed. I’ve now tightened up the jubilee clip on the hot water pipe at the water heater.

When we first met Mateus in the UK we decided he should have a cool nickname. His surname is Aranha which means Spider, so it was a no brainer really!   He is staying with Aunty Ana and Uncle Charlie for a year studying English and to his credit he spent a lot of time studying.   He’s only been in the UK a few weeks and just managed to master ‘up, down, left and right’ and suddenly finds it is now ‘aloft, below, port and starboard’, not to mention galley, heads etc etc, all whilst visiting Italy!

Ana getting to grips with the lifestyle

By the end of their time with us Ana and Charlie were making themselves far too comfortable for my liking …… !

All joking aside, their visit with us was over far too soon and before we knew it we were saying good bye as they headed for the airport.   We set off for the shops as they left but once we got back on board it did seem very quiet without them.  We’re really looking forward to them coming to sail with us later in the year.

Olbia to Cala Lunga

As Valeria announced to Facebook ‘The sailing season has started’ and the first voyage of our season was from Olbia to Alghero where we are now to meet Charlie and Ana; we plan to be there on Wednesday 12th April.   The first leg was from Olbia to an anchorage in Cala Lunga, Isola Razzoli on our way to Bonifacio.

We’re off!!!

We left Olbia on April the 7th, just before 10, waving good bye to Jayne and Graeme from Scarlet, checking that they had Isabella with them as she apparently has a habit of getting stuck on other peoples’ boats! 

 We are grateful to Jayne for the photos of us as we set off.  

We had a trip of about 35 miles which would take us about 7 hours.   Our course took us north from Olbia along the coast and through the La Maddalena Islands.   The islands are part of a nature reserve and are very picturesque.    The islands are apparently granite outcroppings and have a vaguely pink colour to them and the elements have managed to carve the rocks into some fantastic shapes.  As we wove our way through the islands the wind was surprisingly chilly; Valeria was wrapped up like an Eskimo and I even had to put a jacket and warm hat on!

Although Valeria said earlier that the sailing season has started, I think it would be more accurate to emphasis that only our season has started; there were almost no other yachts about at all and the beach front hotels we passed were deserted, awning frames without awnings, no sun loungers, and no people – anywhere!

It was a pretty uneventful passage until about half past 1 when the starboard engine started to judder.   When motoring we generally use just the one engine and so I swopped to use the port engine and as we carried on our way I wondered what the problem was.   Whatever it was we couldn’t do anything about it until we stopped.     In Olbia as I had checked the boat over before it went back into the water I had joked with the engineer that he had bolted the propellers up properly.  ‘Ha Ha, yes, yes of course my friend!’ he had laughed!

We arrived in Cala Lunga at 5 and once anchored it became immediately clear what the problem with the engine was; a large sheet of heavy duty orange netting had tangled around the propeller and was floating around under the stern.   I had no idea what the water temperature was but it felt ‘bracing’ and so rather than mess about I burrowed into the sail locker and dragged out my wet suit!   This last saw action a couple of years ago when I went for a sail with Marco in his Laser dingy off Southend, that was definitely bracing Mercifully it still fitted and so armed with my mask, Go Pro and a knife I went to do battle.   Happily it wasn’t too badly tangled and I cleared it away easily! 

While I was in the water I took a swim out to find the anchor to make sure it was dug into the sand.   Part of the anchoring process is to drag the anchor in to the sea bed with the engines but it is always good to actually see it is set properly.

And so we settled down to our first night at anchor in a deserted bay, watching the sun go down as we had our dinner. 

Cala Lunga at sunset
Sunset at Cala Lunga

And it was quiet.   The island is uninhabited and the only noise were the waves washing against the rocks.   It was fantastic being the only boat in the anchorage and possible the only two people on the entire island. Starting off early has distinct advantages!  

A Cat on a Cat

Finally back home after almost 5 months away travelling and it is a fantastic feeling.  They say ‘East, east, home is best’ and that applies even when your home moves east, west, north and south as well as up and down and side to side!

I had promised Valeria a week of ‘Nada bem feito’ which translates to ‘Do nothing, done well’ but that sort of became lazy mornings with coffee in bed.   There was a lot of unpacking, tidying and cleaning up and we also had to completely restock the boat with food, and then  freeze a number of meals while it is easy to do so, and prepared meals take up less space than individual ingredients.

There has also been some routine maintenance and testing stuff ahead of setting off.   That annoying squeak from the spinnaker halyard block required Valeria to haul me 18 metres up the mast to lubricate it ….. Block lubricated but Valeria has now discovered that in addition to the Naughty Step and Naughty Hull we now have the Naughty Mast Head  ……. for when the other two just won’t do !

But at least the view is good!

The generator works, so we can keep all the meals frozen.  The radar, chart plotter and anchor  work, so we can find interesting places to eat them, and the water maker works so we can make the water to wash the dishes.   As you can see we are very food orientated!

And then of course there is the socialising ……. There are three British boats here at the moment, Red Rooster – Derek and Claire, Scarlet – Jayne and Graeme and Solent Salamander – Michael and Joyce.    Add into the mix Marc and Rosita, a Dutch couple who live here and it has been almost one endless social whorl.

As we prepare to leave Derek and Claire are off to the BVIs to help sail a friend’s yacht, Supertramp, to the US via BermudaMichael and Joyce have left for the UK and so it was just us, Graeme, Jayne and their cat Isabella for a farewell dinner on Wednesday.   Ourselves, Scarlet and Red Rooster are all headed in vaguely the same direction and so hope to bump into each other again.

“I’m really not a cat person!”

So now we have paid the marina fees and planned our passage round to Alghero via Bonifacio and have our fingers crossed that the weather will hold and we’ll have an easy start to our year.

Best news of all though is that will Charlie and Ana will be coming out to see us for Easter in Alghero!

 

Barumini and Nuraghe Losa

Nuraghe are everywhere in Sardinia and the fact they are still standing is amazing; being built without mortar they are basically massive stone cairns.

The earliest are just that with perhaps a corridor inside them but they developed into these enormous complex castle-like structures with massive rooms and stairways within the walls and flat roofs supporting corbels.  They are amazing things to see and intriguing because no one knows exactly what they were for and as they left no written records there is no way to know!

Su Nuraxi (Barumini)

This is the largest and best excavated of the Nuraghe sites. Built between  the 17th  and 13th century BC it had three central rooms on top of each other and was originally about 19 metres tall.   Even now it is quite staggering.

Nuraghe Barumini

The central ‘keep’ was surrounded by 4 smaller towers which enclosed a courtyard with a well.  There was another wall outside that with 7 towers on it.

Looking down into the courtyard
Looking up from the well

The well courtyard was a regular feature of the ‘keeps’  in the Nuraghe.

The ground floor room of the Nuraghe.

Outside the ‘keep’  was an extensive town of some 100 round houses although later square ones were apparently attribbed to the Romans.

Some of the buildings outside the fort  appeared to have water basins surrounded by seats in proximity to an oven or furnace.  The theory is they were some form of sauna.

The towers was topped off with corbels, supported by the weight of stones placed on top of them, again, no mortar.

Nuraghe Losa

The Nuraghe Losa site is larger in extent than Barumini but less well excavated and is surrounded by a wall enclosing an area of about 3.5 hectares.   From the outside the Nuraghe appears to be one large triangular tower, but is in fact a central tower with three smaller ones included in the main structure.  Within the walls are a system of stairs and corridors linking the various elements of the tower with just the weight of the stones keeping it all together.

Nuraghe Losa
One corner of the tower
Apex of the conical ceiling in the centre of the tower

Of everything we’ve seen in Sardinia so far I think these Nuraghe are the most impressive.   They were built at the same period in history as the New Kingdom in Egypt but apparently in complete isolation, there being nothing else like them outside Sardinia.  They are intriguing and quite enigmatic, more so as there is no way to understand why they were built. Well worth seeing.