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Sardinia & West Med

We have a few more days here in Rome before we set sail again.  The plan is to head south in company with Johanne and Allan who have a few days holidays.  Whilst we wait we visited Ostia Antica:  the most amazing place - just as impressive as the sights in Rome, if not more impressive as you can walk around them at your leisure.  Ostia Antica was the original port for Rome which was abandoned some time after a great flood changed the course of the Tiber and therefore the activity from the sea.

I have some shopping to do whilst here - Italian shoes and dresses!!! 

We will document the trip between Rome and Malta on a separate page in the 'Into the Med' section.


21-24 September 2011 - We flew out of Rome on Thursday on Easyjet with only hand luggage - one bag half full and one bag empty.  You guessed it - we were off to the Southampton Boat Show.  We were looking forward to a dinner of Fish and Chips on Thursday, the boat show on Friday, the Rustler Owners dinner at the Royal Yacht Squadron on Friday night and then back to Rome on Saturday.

The flight out of Rome was fine, if delayed 1/2 hour by a second security check as you boarded the bus to the plane.  The pilot announced it was 14 degrees in London which made us a bit worried about the cold.  Fortunately it had warmed up by the time we landed.

Thursday night we searched high and low for a fish and chips shop, eventually resorting to going to movies to see the last episode of Harry Potter followed by a burger in TGIF.  F&C doesn't appear to be high on the culinary tastes of those in Southampton.

Friday was sunny and warm.  The boat show definately felt the economic downturn in terms of footfall.  Last year we were fighting our way through crowds in some parts and this year you hardly bumped elbows with anyone.  We visited the Rustler yachts and were deliighted to see their new 33 along with their 24.  (if anyone wants to buy me a birthday present the 24 would be most welcome)!.  We hoped to get our fish and chips at the show however despite our search we ended up with Pizza Express.  As we left, much later in the day, we found the fish and chip stand hidden away in a tent (thats why we couldn't smell it).  Disappointing but we had a lovely dinner to look forward to with the Rustler Owners.

We raced back to the hotel (via John Lewis and M&S to purchase last iinute requirements in clothing to allow us to attend the dinner).  We had half an hour to get ready before the taxi collected us to take us to the ferry to Cowes.  We made it!  The ferry trip was very smooth (our first time in the hydrofoil ferry) for which we were glad as we didn't want to spoil our beer at the pub on the way to the dinner (we were early!).  The dinner was everything we expected - food and the service was wonderful.  An RYS member gave us a tour around the castle after coffee, which was very interesting.  Then it was the last ferry back to Southampton and next day a couple of hours trying to fit everything into our bags to return to Rome.

Thank you to the Rustler Owners for another fine event and to RYS for a wonderful dinner and evening.


Italy - Rome

12th September and we are weather checking.  When we woke this morning the wind was quiet but we could see the white horses left from yesterday on the horizon.  We checked weather at the marina office which had a cautionary advice out for a local Force 7.  They couldn't tell us anything about the weather outside the Bonifaccio straits.  As there is no internet in this marina we had to make a trip (20 minute walk) to the ferry terminal to find the internet point (a single pc in a cafe).  We checked our usual different weather websites and all indicated that a Force 7 from the west was due by 2pm that day and would affect the Bonifaccio Straits as it was heading out of the Gulf of Leon.  We decided to leave at 1pm which would give us time to get out of the straits and any effect of the F7 would be in our favour (being behind us).

This proved to be a good decision as we were able to sail for 12 hours of the 20 hour trip, averaging 7 knots most of the time.  Once we were out of the Straits and into the Tyrrhenian Seas the wind started to die.  By 1am we had no wind and had to put the engine on.  

We arrived in Rome at Porto Turistica di Roma on Tuesday  13th September about 1pm (2-3 hours earlier than planned).  We will stay here until the end of the month before heading south.  We have some chores to complete whilst here.  An addition to the Bimini is required for Med sailing.  A very welcome recommendation from Allan gave us a visit from Roberto who has now completed a repair to our spray hood, adjustment to existing Bimini and completed an extension to cover the whole cockpit. (see links for website info).


(pic: traffic en route to Roma)

Sardinia - Santa Teresa

11th September we headed toward Santa Teresa on the north east tip of Sardinia.  The weather was sunny and calm - no wind and flat seas.  As we travelled north up the bay the wind started to increase and we managed about and hour of sailing before it became 20  - 25 knots on our nose.  The seas had built up into a good chop so we decided to hug the coast as much as possible.  Once we rounded Capo Testa (the most northerly point) the wind was on our stern however with only 5 miles to go we decided to keep on motor sailing.  We could not raise anyone at Santa Teresa marina so we found our own place on the pontoon.  A French couple came out to assist, however the lazy line was too short so we had to find another space at the next pontoon, which belonged to a different marina.  The wind continued to rattle around for the rest of the day and overnight but we were secure and well sheltered.

Sardinia - Castelsardo

We left Aghero on Friday 10th September to head for Castelsardo.  John and Josephine (our neighbours) were on the pontoon to wave goodbye and help us with our lines.  We have promised to keep in touch with them and to contact them when we arrive in Australia (they are visiting their son Jeff who now lives in Italy).

(pic: Wombat & Red Ruth)

The day was sunny and bright following a couple of days of windy weather.  We managed to get a 5 mile sail in before the wind died and we had to motor.  For a change this was quite pleasant as we were able to motor around the headlands and view the caves (Neptunes Grotto) and have a good look at the geology of the cliffs. 

As we approached the Fornelli Passage the traffic increased.  This passage has least depths of 3 metres and is used by all the vessels to cut off a 20 mile trip around the top of the island.  One of the reasons for our delay in leaving Alghero was due to the depths here.  Our keel is 2m and with a 3m depth and 2m waves we weren't taking any chances of bottoming out.  Its a lovely passage with the clearest waters but we were glad to navigate out of it.  The leading marks were difficult to see (they were quite small) and any deviation from them puts you into the shallowest water. 

We continued across the bay to Castelsardo for the night.  Again we had tried phoning and calling on VHF with no response however we trusted that they had heard us but not having good english decided not to respond as they were at the marina entrance waiting for us.

The marina is well sheltered with a most excellent supermarket.  The old town looks like it could have been Camelot.  The town walls are intact with the castle at the highest point and the homes tucked up under the castle shadow.


(pic: Castelsardo)

Sardinia - Alghero

We arrived in Alghero on Thursday 1st September after a 200 mile journey from Menorca. True to form the weather was nothing like that predicted. We had calculated, based on the weather forecasts etc, that we would probably be motoring at about 5 knots with the journey taking us 36 hours. Within an hour of leaving Menorca we had all the sails up and were charging along at 6 to 7 knots. We continued like that for 180 miles arriving off Sardinia 6 hours early, which was the middle of the night (about 2am), despite heaving-to during the afternoon to have lunch in the sun. 

From 11pm we had been watching a lightening storm on the horizon, which was spectacular, but we had a clear sky around us with all the stars out. Its an amazing sight to be able to look up at the night sky and see almost every star there is. At 3am the storm closed in on us obliterating any sight of the night sky. The winds picked up to gusts of 30 knots so we were both up, at the helm and reducing sail. We decided to tack away from our course and head back out to sea for an hour or so as we were looking at a lee shore otherwise (with the wind and waves pushing us onto a rocky shore). As daylight broke, around 6.30am, we tacked back onto course and felt the obvious results of the wind with a sea which had built into 2 metre swells. 

Red Ruth handled very well in the conditions with an easy helm, taking the swell in her stride. An hour out from the marina the thunder caught up with us and a downpour gave us a good wash down, however this abated as we reached the marina. We had reserved a berth at Marina Aquatica (on a recommendation from Daphne and Paul whom we met in Addaya), but as we arrived at 8.30am they hadn’t yet opened so we tied up at Marina St Elmo. At the office we were told the rate for the night was 110 euros. On checking the facilities, a single toilet and shower in the back of a shed didn’t seem to equate to the cost of the berth, so we took a walk to find Marina Aquatica. The manager there offered to speak to St Elmo to allow us to move over to Aquatica, which he did, and we moved to our reserved berth at 50 euros a night with proper facilities and the ambience of a restaurant/bar attached. (They also offer a discount to Cruising Association Members).
(pics: Church in the old town & sea from old town walls)                                                                      
Some of you will be thinking that the rates for a pontoon berth (bow or stern to) seem especially expensive. When we set off on this trip we thought the same however the rates in the Med in August have been from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Portugal – Cascais – 60 euros a night
Gibraltar - £18 a night
Ibiza – 250 euros a night (we didn’t stay there!)
Formentera – 225 euros a night (we didn’t stay there either)
Majorca – Andraitx – 70 euros a night
Majorca – Puerto Soller – 40 euros a night (on the Port authority pontoons)
Menorca – Addaya – 70 euros a night (down to 50 on 1st September)
There are lots of places to anchor which don’t cost anything but there are times when you need to get ashore, replenish water, diesel and supplies so a marina is a necessity.  We try to equate it to a nights B&B for 2 in the Premier Inn/Travel Lodge (admittedly one based in the middle of no-where) so anything around 40 euros a night is reasonable.
 (pic: the owner of this fishing surfboard won't have to worry about marina fees!)
Today, Sunday 4th September, we are very glad to be tied up in a Marina. Last night another storm broke over Alghero with winds over 30 knots and rain. We haven’t seen so many yachts and motor launches on the water since we arrived in the Med. They were racing in to the harbour and the marinas in their droves. There was the usual drama on the pontoons with everyone adjusting lines, one yacht had a stern line that was about to snap so the Marineros sorted that out as well as racing around in dinghies trying to help people into spaces that were 1/3rd the size of their boat. The coastguard went out with a blue flashing light – they were out for an hour or two returning at the same time as a small yacht but it doesn’t appear to have required rescue or a tow. 
Thankfully the storms brought some relief from the heat and humidity. Today feels quite comfortable, although its raining cats and dogs, so far with both of us being able to have a good night sleep last night. We’ll check the weather for the next few days and may have to adjust our departure from here but as Alghero is a nice place we won’t rush to go.


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