Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Pelagia's cruise 2017 part two, from Sicily to Sardinia

Our crew man James Dick left us in Sciacca in Sicily and Pat and I then sailed the next day on to our last port in Sicily, Marsala, a sail of 43 miles. Marsala is of course famous for the fortified wine of that name which was first manufactured by an Englishman , John Woodhouse. Although our berth in the harbour was good with excellent facilities it was a long way into the centre of town. Pat and I started to walk it but the busy roads with no defined pavement scared us to death. We decided that we were not that keen to see the obviously dilapidated town and ducked into a small bar where we got coffee and a sweet Marsala. Using the Wi Fi in the bar we discovered that the wind pattern was perfect for our trip to Sardinia over the next few days so decided to leave in the morning and end our Sicilian adventure.
   We left at first light from Marsala harbour and set course for the Egadi islands just west of Sicily. These islands are very high mountains in contrast to the low lying western end of Sicily and we could see the furthest island clearly as we left the harbour. However, the sun was bringing up a mist off the sea and before we had gone 10 miles we were plunged into thick fog with about 100 yards visibility. Worryingly there were a few small fishing boats about so we motored slowly with our eyes straining to see into the fog as it swirled around us. It lasted an hour by which time we were level with the last of the island group and the sun burned the fog off and exposed the sheer granite structure of the island in all its beauty. 

At last we could set course safely for Sardinia and let our jangled nerves rest. A light following breeze established itself and setting our cruising chute gave us a speed of about four knots. 

Pods of dolphins joined us on occasions one pod was eight individuals and they played with us for half an hour. We were able to keep that sail up all day and into the evening when the breeze became more fickle. We motored through the night making good speed but in a strange quartering sea the motion was not ideal for sleeping and the waves seemed larger than the wind strength warranted. The sunset was perfect as was the sunrise and no repetition of the early morning fog. Many ships in the night kept us busy checking our safe clearances using AIS and radar and it was soon morning. 
   A clear approach to Sardinia helped us negotiate the rocky islets on the south east corner and make our way into  Villasimius marina, a very well protected harbour. We last visited here five years ago on our way across the Mediterranean and the marina has improved and developed since then. 

We had logged 175 miles in 29 hours and neither of us had slept much so after hosing the boat down and tidying away we had a couple of hours kip. A wonderful shower followed and then we tried the rather splendid looking restaurant. It lived up to its appearance and we enjoyed huge starters followed by a main course of lobster and salad, all eaten overlooking the setting sun over the mountains behind and the sparkling sea in the bay. Boy did we sleep well that night!
  We stayed in the marina for a few days as we had plenty of time to spare in our plan and it was a useful shopping and washing place. Then we left the marina and anchored in the bay just outside where we could swim and relax for free for a couple of days. The bay is wonderfully protected by the surrounding islands and the warm clear sea as clean as any you see in the Mediterranean. There are hotels along the shore but tastefully built and with a wonderful backdrop of verdant high mountains beyond making it a beautiful setting. The
water is crystal clear and the bottom pure white sand with good anchor holding. 

After two days there we awoke to a light easterly breeze and decided to sail to Marina di Capitana about 12 miles up the bay towards Cagliari. Setting our  Genoa we sailed at good speed west along the coast then north west round the corner as the wind strengthened and veered in our favour. It was now blowing force four and we were having a tremendous sail when in an instant the wind died. We were now only five miles from Capitana so we motored the rest of the way and were  greeted in a friendly manner by the marina staff who showed us to a berth. Whilst checking in at the office we noticed that the sea outside was white with surf and the wind had risen from the south blowing up to force seven which it continued to do until nightfall when it dropped equally quickly. The winds here are extremely unpredictable even to the locals and a couple of local boats coming in had great difficulty berthing up in the blustery conditions.
  After a couple of days in Capitana it was time to make the last leg to Cagliari itself ready to meet our next crew , Corine, who would then be with us for the sail to the Balearic Islands. The last leg was short, 12 miles only and light winds after which we berthed in the Marina San't Elmo. The huge harbour of Cagliari has water of a deep brown colour which was such a contrast to the clear blue we had experienced so far. The old city was much praised by D H Lawrence in his book the Sea and Sardinia and it turned out to be rightly so. We started our tour at the Elephantine tower, built in 1307 as part of the then city walls by the Pisans who established a large walled city here. 

It has fantastic views all around the city and harbour and looking as far as the large international airport here now. The portcullis is still in place as is the small elephant carved on the stone outside the entrance. Many of the piazzas and grand buildings and churches have been renovated providing interesting views all around the city with beautiful tree lined boulevards and open squares to sit. 

We happened upon the university library and saw that it was free entry to visitors so went in. It is an amazing room built in 1780 which houses 550,000 books dating back many centuries and all on display to the visitor.  

We very much enjoyed the beauty and friendly ambience of the city even though it was incredibly hot!
Pat and I had logged another 246 miles since James left us making the total this year so far 852  and about a third of our total plan. 


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