A Tale of Two Citadels

In case you missed the last blog, we had a lovely detour into Bonifacio.  Sue hadn’t been there for 31 years and Donald hadn’t been there ever, so a trip seemed mandatory.  Bonifacio is so lovely that I was ready to return after a week.

The pen we were given was a pen right at the dock, 50 inches to the nearest restaurant.  Donald actually jumped off at the end of the arm, to check that there would be enough room and to take the stern lines. We backed down to the space and 39 diners put down their forks and watched James put Mercier into the confined space. At the best of times, mooring and anchoring are a tense task.  With the feeling the whole of Bonifacio was watching, the pressure was certainly on.  Thank goodness for James great eyesight and bow thrusters!  Donald took the stern lines and bounded back on board.  There was a collective sigh of relief by the crew and the diners had to continue with their lunches without any amusing incidents to fill their postcards. Not to worry, a few charter yachts, which berthed on the next arm, gave them ample material to send home.

 

Luckily, it was only a week, since James and I had been to Bonifacio.  Did I mention that my friend Sue is a fitness trainer?   Not to mention, Donald is hyperfit  and has incredible balance*.  Sue says like a ‘monkey on springs’.   James and I had climbed to the Citadel three times last week, so we could almost keep up with the Swannos as they bounded up the steps.  Sue saw amazing changes since she had last been in Bonifacio, so I will let her tell us about it.

Sue taking a photo of petanque players in the Citadel at Bonifacio
Sue taking a photo of petanque players in the Citadel at Bonifacio

SUE: ‘ 31 years since I last sailed into Bonifaccio & was delighted when we berthed in almost exactly the same position as on that last visit. However the ‘town Quay’ of the past where visiting yachts simply dropped anchor & reversed stern to the main street has now been replaced by a large number of pontoons accommodating the unbelievable number of visiting yachts that now seem to frequent the pretty ports of the med. The restaurants of the quay all now have their few street tables of the past sitting in glamorous waterfront annexes complete with retractable roofs, wicker flooring & cane lounges. The waterfront by day was teeming with people & there is a whole new development on the opposite side of the fjiord like bay which appears to be still being added to. However as we climbed the steps to the old town, admired the spectacular views & strolled around the charming little streets very little appeared to have changed at all which I found strangely relieving. A memory of one of the favourite places of my youthful travel can hold its place & so grateful to James & Gaila for the opportunity to revisit.’

In the Citadel at Bonifacio
In the Citadel at Bonifacio

We walked out to the edge of the citadel before dinner to gaze across to Sardinia.

We had another lovely dinner at Stella D’Oro, we went back so Sue and Donald could also taste these typical Corsican dishes. Then a lovely walk down to Mercier.  It was an early departure planned for the morning, to make up the time well spent in going those extra ten miles.

In the morning, it was once again bright and sunny and we motor sailed into Castelsardo in the early afternoon.  We were all telling ourselves it would be a “quiet day”; no super yachts, none of the excitement of Bonifacio.  We were all pleasantly surprised when Castelsardo came into view.  The old city is up on a granite outcrop, with the castle built in the 12th century by the Doria Family and today’s town built around it still exists from about 1624.  The streets and the buildings are essentially  the same today.

The Castle at Castelsardo
The Castle at Castelsardo

The old castle is now a museum, mainly of beautiful pieces dell’apprezzata basketry on display including for sailors, a ‘boat’ made of lake reeds with marsh hay to create a Fassoi boat, used by fishermen from local islands.

On the Rampart Castelsardo
On the Rampart Castelsardo

We climbed up to the ramparts passing cross bows, a rock throwing catapult and drawbridges.  The views from the ramparts were beautiful vineyards in the distance and we could see Corsica in the distance.  On the ramparts baby seagulls were learning to fly, being encouraged by their mothers.  It was a noisy affair with the chicks crying out “Wait for me” and the mothers squawking back encouragement.

After our Aperol Spritzers, we walked back down to Mercier and a ‘ Sue cooked’ dinner.  We enjoy the aromas from the cockpit, with a bit of Swiss jazz radio in the background.

Sue tenderising the meat with special implement
Sue tenderising the meat with special implement

Several other sailors are walking back up the steep hill to town for dinner  stop by and chat about which way we are headed tomorrow and we hear about where they have just been.  A beautiful pork dinner arrives as we sit outside watching Vivid Castelsardo, colors being beamed onto the granite cliff behind the marina. .   It is warmer now and we last outside until coffee.  We all agree Castelsardo has been a marvelous surprise.

Rene, how about these doors for the Nand V?
Rene, how about these doors for the Nand V?

Swannos, Sunshine & Superyachts

I should say I know I shouldn’t use alliteration but this all fits together so smoothly.  Let me explain – Sue and Swanno arrived yesterday about 5 PM to a windy evening in Olbia but at least the sun was shining.

A minute to drop off the bags and the four of us go into Oblia to visit friend’s Kate and Mike on Voyager of Noosa at the Olbia Yacht Club near the centre of town.  We had a nice little bottle of Mercier Champagne and had a tour of Voyager. Then off to a very nice Sardinian trattoria for a lovely dinner.

This morning, we were up and away early, it was clear, sunny and the breeze was light. We sailed pass acres of mussel farms as we sailed north towards Porto Cervo.  As we were sailing out of the Golfo Aranci, we came across a pod of dolphins fishing, glistening in the sun. They sailed around the boat, not wanting to be distracted from their fishing.

Swanno polishing the stainless
Swanno polishing the stainless

There was enough wind and enough sailors on board to christen the code zero. Swanno and James were up the bow putting the Code up and we sailed off Porto Cervo right to the middle of the Super Yachts on Day three of the Dubois series.

There were a number of Dubois yachts racing (14) and another group of Dubois yachts just there as spectators. It felt like Mercier was a dingy in comparison. These yachts are between 100 feet and 190 feet long- amazing to watch, all seemed to have had about 20+ crew to keep them moving.

Two of the Superyachts
Two of the Superyachts
Watching the Superyacht action
Watching the Superyacht action

We are on our way to the La Maddelena and we have been told about a lovely protected bay to anchor in for the evening. The astonishing fact is that none of us are wearing jackets or scarves or sweaters. – it is sunny, the wind is light and it is warm.  We have a lovely Italian meal on the back deck with music and sunshine. Perfetto!

We wake early to another sunny day.  We are sailing north to the top of Sardinia. We are on our way to a small fishing village.  James points out Bonifacio, across the straits and says “Bonifacio is just about 11 miles away.  We all digest the fact that one of the more picturesque towns in all of the Mediterranean is just a few miles away,  A quick discussion, a few calculations, smiles; we tack and sail to Bonifacio.  Minutes later, a flock of flamingoes soars by overhead. It is a vision of pink, grey and black, shining in the sun, we think we have made the right decision.

Flock of Flamingos flying by
Flock of Flamingos flying by
The crew in Bonifacio
The crew in Bonifacio

 

 

The Ride of Your Life

Here we are in Marina di Olbia, a newish marina in Sardinia. A very swish Marina- clean and modern but not Porto Cervo prices.  Very nicely laid out with stainless bollards, beautiful warm showers, Auchan (supermarket) right down the street and our favourite houseboat cafe just 50 yards away. Also bike paths and a free shuttle to Olbia city,.  A great place by all accounts to winter your boat.  Just last night we took our passegiata at sunset overlooking islands. mussel farms and a myriad of granite outcroppings around the full expanse of Marina di Olbia.

Part of Our Paesagiata
Part of Our Paesagiata

Here’s the thing, it has been too cool until yesterday to sit outside and just enjoy a coffee on the deck. Anywhere you turn people in are speaking In Italian, German, Dutch, French and English about the unseasonable weather.  “Froid, bagnato, troppo vento, ijskoud and damn cold, what!”, you get the idea.

Great name, just missing the prefix 'Dis' from the home port
Great name, just missing the prefix ‘Dis’ from the home port

It was so windy, you walk into the wind head down, to create a smaller profile and quickly to get out of the wind.  I was surprised to see a boat’s name catch my eye – The Ride of Your Life beside me on the pontoon.  It stopped me in my tracks, we do have the ride of our lives on our boats.  We love the feeling of a beam reach on a fair wind. We enjoy running downwind on a fresh breeze or being heeled over in 20 knots while rounding a mark. So even if it is blowing 25 knots, there is plenty to smile about.  I think about Bill Gilbert who can always pull the positive from any weather.  Davo will always say let’s do the Friday twilight,” because by 6PM, the rain will be gone.” I think about Bill Merrington who sailed as much as he could in his 98 years, rarely leaving Eventide on her mooring.  How do you enjoy “the ride of your life”?

The Houseboat Restaurant
The Houseboat Restaurant

Yesterday, the sun came out and Kate and Mike Rider came over from their yacht Voyager of Noosa on bike & by foot from Olbia.  It is hard to explain how lovely it is to talk to someone from home especially since we were able to have coffee in the cockpit and sunshine. We really appreciated former Beneteau dealer, Mike’s expert advice and helpful suggestions.

Today is the second sunny day in a row, the sun is out and so is the bike.  The Swannos are coming tonight, so we are looking towards going to the La Maddalenas tomorrow after the six of us enjoy a nice dinner in a quiet Sunday night Olbia

Ciao Bella.