Sardinia and Sicily Here We Come.
Since my last article we have cruised around Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca, Sardinia and now we are anchored near the ancient port of Syracuse. A lot has happened but it's time to reflect on the experience and to tell you about my favourite ports and anchorages so far.
Ibiza cannot be faulted if you like the hedonistic lifestyle and nakedness in beautiful calas but of all the Balearic Islands Menorca wins for me. The port of Ciudadela is just an absolutely beautiful natural harbour. The problem is that the marinas are right out of visitor berths in August. The anchorage at the entrance to the deep cala that forms the harbour is prone to a confused swell as boats enter and leave the harbour. When you find a safe anchorage launch your dinghy and motor right into Ciudadela harbour leaving it tied at a wharf just under the bridge beneath a restaurant. Everything is "just right" but slightly pricey in high season. Mahon on the east coast of Menorca reputedly has the largest natural harbour in the world. Within this giant harbour you'll find marinas charging hundreds of Euros per night or space to lay at anchor for free. The town is a much larger version of Ciudadela and the yachtsman will find his every need catered for.
From Mahon we sailed on a 36 hour passage to Sardinia arriving at the northwest corner of Sardinia and arriving and what could be my favourite spot so far - the small fishing port of Stintino. Once it was the centre of the Sardinian tuna fishing industry but overfishing left it high and dry until it realised that it's small but quaint port was a magnet for cruising yachts. The small town boasts three restaurants, a hardware store, a fishing shop and our first taste of home made Italian "gelatos". It's ice cream heaven! My addiction to "gelatos" and "granites" has had free rein and I'm likely to suffer cold turkey when I return home.
From Stintino we motored to Castelsardo as I communicated with marine engineer Roberto to diagnose an apparent alternator problem. It wasn't an alternator problem but a need to swap out the domestic batteries. Our stay in Castelsardo was extended to three days because of the "Ferragosto" national holiday. The upside of this is that we had time to explore the town, view the Ferragosto procession and fireworks display. We were sad to leave Castelsardo but relieved that Roberto had managed to supply new batteries that would allow us to continue our cruise.
From Castelsardo we cruised past the Costa Smeraldo unimpressed by the excess of the mega yachts at anchor. Every yacht made my pride and joy seem like a bathtub! Past the Costa Smeralda we dropped anchor at Isola de Tavolara where the pilot book was very specific; anchoring was prohibited but given that another 30 yachts were already anchored their we felt we were law breaking in good company! This was reinforced when a superyacht called "Cloudbreak" dropped anchor next to us. She carries her own helicopter and a little research on Google revealed that she can be yours for the modest price of $100,000 per day excluding fuel and provisions! In the morning the helicopter lifted off and headed for Olbia Airport. We speculated if they were going to pick up George and Amal - or Kate Moss.
It was soon time to head across to Sicily. This was a 40 hour passage with too much motoring except for a period of perfect wind that had us heading at 8.5 knots towards the Aeolian Islands during 12 hours but then it puffed out. We were determined to climb the crater at Isola di Vulcano and do a night time cruise off Stromboli to see the eruptions. I'll tell you more about these weird volcanic islands in the next instalment including my hot and cold swim in the sea! These islands are only accessible by boat so check out www.boatshedgibraltar.com to follow in my wake.