Yacht Pipit


Popping out for a pizza, Carloforte, Sardinia, 25th September 2012

Wake up!

Well 194 nautical miles to be precise, but more on that later...

Following on from our last update, the week before last the forecast blow arrived in Addaya on cue, and our (expensive) decision to go back into the marina was vindicated: yachts at anchor were slewing around all over the place in the F9 and two broke their moorings, one ending up on the mud and another coming to rest on and causing damage to Barbara's (who works in the marina) boat. Once again the seas were monstrous outside of the shelter of Addaya, but by Saturday the wind had subsided and, having stocked up with provisions, we moved back to anchor.

A final photo of beautiful Addaya.

There appeared to be a suitable weather window to cross to Sardinia on Tuesday so we pottered around doing odd jobs on Sunday whilst the sea calmed down and returned to Mahón on Monday. We arrived at the fuel station at 1400, just as it had closed for two hours... We managed to reverse alongside the pontoon with wind blowing us off and used the time to fill with water, dispose of rubbish and have lunch - probably not the best view of Mahón!

1600 soon arrived and we were quickly topped up with diesel (fortunately only a top up - the most we have paid per litre yet) and on our way to Cala Taulera via the, ahem, 'back passage', a man made (is there any other type?) canal round the back of Isla del Lazareto which serves as a short cut from Mahón to the Cala. The forecast was now showing another blow emanating from the Gulf of Lion on Wednesday morning, so we were now in two minds whether or not to go: if that system travelled as forecast it would be only 6 hours behind us; if it was a bit faster than forecast then it would catch us up and we'd be in F6/7 winds with 3 metre seas about 100nm before we reached Sardinia. We decided to go to bed early and set the alarm for 0400, when we would look at the forecast again. This we did and alas nothing had changed, so we made the extremely frustrating decision not to risk it - we probably would have been fine, but we might not, and the spectre of a nasty weather system chasing behind us would not have been conducive to a relaxing passage.

So we spent the day wondering if we'd made the right decision - we'll never know. As forecast the wind arrived early on Wednesday morning and by about 1000 it was clear that the single handed Italian yacht in front of us was no longer in front of us - he was along side us and dragging his anchor towards rocks. I think there's a joke about Italians going backwards in there somewhere... Shouting his boat name didn't elicit a response, but a few blasts on the fog horn did. Despite having sailed in fog on a number of occasions, that's the first time we've used the fog horn! He seemed grateful we'd alerted him and started his engine pretty quickly, but then proceeded to roll a fag and start to smoke it before thinking about getting his anchor up!

After a few more days at anchor the next potential weather window was due, so we headed up the Canal de San Jordi into Mahón and took a mooring on a walk-ashore pontoon in Cala Llonga to top up our water tanks and provisions. A phone call had revealed a price of €19.50 per night, which we queried as we had been quoted €76 just a few weeks previously (we hadn't gone there...). So we weren't too surprised when we arrived to discover it was actually going to be €51 per night - still a ridiculous amount but it's all we paid all week and it's where we wanted to be, so we stayed. Although across the water from the town of Mahón and associated additional choices for shopping (there's only one small but adequate supermarket in Cala Llonga), it was much quieter than the berths in Mahón, most of which back onto the main road, and in a very pretty setting, with a similar feel to it to Addaya, quietly upmarket. We treated ourselves to an alfresco meal at the restaurant in the 'aparthotel' up the hill, tasty mixed platters of cheeses and cured meats, whilst enjoying the views from the terrace across the water towards Mahón.

Cala Llonga, Mahón.

Looking out from Cala Llonga.

On Saturday we returned to anchor in Cala Taulera, an easy place from which to depart in the dark. Our 'speedo' had stopped working, and as we'd already removed the log impeller and cleaned it we suspected weed growth around the fitting, especially as it worked perfectly going astern - I did suggest we reversed all the way to Sardinia but Ann wasn't keen... Anyway as Ann is a much better swimmer than I (and I didn't want to get my hair wet...) she dove under the hull armed with a deck brush and managed to remove most of the weed - not easy, for us at least. This did the trick - we could have gone without the log working (GPS shows our SOG), but it is useful for getting the true rather than just apparent wind speed & direction, so a last minute job well done. Andy pre-cooked a chicken curry to have ready for our Sunday night meal on passage, then we prepared ourselves and Pipit for our early morning departure.

There was just enough background light reflected from Mahón to see the other yachts in the anchorage and the unlit channel markers as we left Cala Taulera at 0510. As forecast, there was virtually no wind and the sea was flat. By 1100, just enough of the forecast southerly breeze came up to allow us to motor-sail with just the mainsail set, giving us perhaps an extra half a knot of speed. It was a shame the skies were cloudy, but it was still pleasantly warm and the sea remained fairly calm.

A little feathered visitor who stayed with us for some hours.

The weather continued exactly as forecast through the afternoon, increasing just enough to fill both sails, although we continued to motor-sail to keep our speed up. As the sun was setting the wind had picked up slightly more, so we took one reef in the main to ease the angle of heel to make it possible to re-heat the curry and cook some rice for dinner.

We had both had rest through the day, keeping two-hour watches, a pattern we continued through the night. By the time I took over at 1100, the wind had increased to about 15 knots, and although the sea had picked up a bit and the decks were getting a good saltwater wash, Pipit's motion was still comfortable and we were making good speed. By midnight however, the wind was starting to top the maximum forecast and reaching 17-18 knots. No choice but to call Andy back on deck to take a second reef in the main and reef some of the genoa. Andy's next watch saw the wind increase to 20-22 knots, making bracing at the helm harder work, but as we weren't doing the constant rolling back and forth we'd done crossing Biscay, I could still rest, if not sleep below and there weren't the horrid creaking noises we'd had then.

Although the winds were slightly higher than forecast, they continued southerly right through the night, veering south-westerly, then westerly almost on cue as we closed the Sardinian coast through the morning. The cloudy grey skies didn't really dampen our spirits as we were both excited to be finally reaching Italy! Well Sardinia. Well actually Isola di San Pietro just off Sardinia!

The obligatory courtesy flag raising photo!

Brand new Italian courtesy flag and our rather more weather-beaten CA burgee - proves we've done a few miles...

Our approach to Carloforte on the Isola di San Pietro required some pilotage around the shallows, in rather hazy weather. Some of the channel markers are missing, but one ferry was leaving and one approaching Carloforte, so we had confirmation we were going the right way... We hadn't made a final decision on which of the two marinas to berth at as each, according to the information on their websites, CA sources and the pilot guide, have two different sets of pontoons on each side of the harbour, some of which may not have had showers and other facilities - all quite confusing. Neither answered the phone or radio as we approached, and the wind had now veered north-westerly and was blowing at up to 25 knots. I spotted an ormeggiatori (marinero as they say in Spain) in a RIB from Marina Sifredi going alongside a German yacht that had also come into the harbour, so that more or less made our decision, along with the fact that Marina Sifredi was in the far north-western corner and should offer better shelter. Andy circled around just outside the marina whilst I got lines and fenders ready. By the time we were ready, the ormeggiatori had finished helping the German yacht moor and headed out to us. He confirmed that they had showers and free WiFi so we made our way to the berth. He helped us moor, pointed out where the office and facilities were (why is it that marina staff everywhere feel the need to point out the electricity and water points at a berth - surely nobody can miss them or get them mixed up?!) and said there was no rush to complete the formalities, just to pop to the office after 1700. Much to our amusement, he then zoomed off in his RIB, doing a kind of doughnut and deploying maximum power just before a car horn sounded nearby - yep, we're in Italian parts!

Perhaps surprisingly, the paperwork took less time here than it did anywhere in Spain, no separate forms for access cards, no deposits. We had what we thought a well-deserved beer or two in the cockpit before showering and heading into town for dinner. Obviously it had to be pizza!

It's a bit unfortunate that, due to it being so late in the season, we will be missing most of Sardinia, not to mention Corsica, but we are both still keen to reach the Ionian by next season. It was, after all, the place that first inspired our conversion to cruising sailors. Anyway, we can always return one day and spend a season or two in Italian waters - it's doubtful that we'd return further west to the Balearics and beyond, so we're glad we spent more time there.

We'll stay in Carloforte for a few days, then move on to Cagliari, probably from where we'll cross to Sicily.

Finally, this lovely little cottage in Penryn, Cornwall, is available for rent - contact us or the agents if you or anyone you know is interested!