12 November 2019

Crew Has Arrived - TransAtlantic Leg One

Our beautiful crew, Rebecca, Em and Georgia, exploring the old town of Tangier, charming all the shopkeepers.   They grew up together, sailing dinghies on Stony Lake.  Now they are on Milly having travelled from Victoria, B.C., Toronto and India, we are so happy to have them aboard.
Jumping to Tangier, this post takes you out of chronological order.  But the TransAtlantic deserves prompt coverage, especially as Emily and two of her childhood cottage sailor friends are joining us for the first leg - Tangier to Canary Islands - about 580 NM.  It is so fun for Peter and I to watch their excitement.  It reignites ours!

Some serious rug shopping.  Difficult choices but each found a rug to take home.  Georgia was especially good at bartering.

A plethora of olives,

spices, herbs, and lots of mysterious unknowns.

The guy selling scarves retied Georgia's, just so.
Although Milly spent ten days on the hard getting her bottom painted, her topsides polished, cutlass bearing unexpectedly replaced in Gibraltar, she still needed some work.  Rigging checked, 12 volt water maker reinstalled, fresh produce purchased, safety lecture completed etc. etc., we are ready to sail tomorrow a.m., November 13.  The forecast predicts a downwind sail in 20-30 knots with 3-4 meter waves.  It will be rollicking!  And the girls are looking forward to it...a little nervously.

It is exciting to be back in colourful North Africa, a great pitstop.

3 November 2019

Elba - Our First Circumnavigation

We enjoyed several of Blub's masterpieces decorating metal service boxes on house walls around the island.
Elba, the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, was a beautiful, manageable island (only 223 square km.) with sweet towns and well-marked, rough trails.  With the fickle Med wind which changes direction several times daily, we circumnavigated the island in a successful search for safe anchorage.  After our disappointingly quick scoot up the Corsican coast, we slowed down and spent some languid days exploring Elba.  No matter how much time I spend in a place, however, there is usually more to see.  Can't quite figure out why Napoleon didn't just kick up his heels and stay. 

A lighthouse on the west shore gave us a stunning view in the early morning after an all-night sail from Corsica up the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Corsican Channel.

Reminiscent of the Azores with "beaches" of rock enjoyed by many, Elba's sand is hard to find.  It might be hard and lumpy but much more attractive and appealing than the battalions of beach umbrellas found on any stretch of real sand on the Italian mainland.

Portoferraio, the capital city, with citadel and pastel buildings.  Taken from the huge protected bay and anchorage where we spent a few nights.  Napoleon's house was perched near the top looking north toward the Ligurian Sea.

Blub in his blue period.

Napoleon's town mansion.  He also had a country estate a few miles away.  I'm sure not as opulent as what he was used to, but not bad as a punishment.  The Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1814 dethroned him and exiled him to beautiful Elba where he was essentially sovereign.  During his months on the island, he carried out a number of economic and social reforms.

This "parade bed" used while the an entourage moved from one city to another, was the primary feature in the living room and only sitting area in the house.  Rather strange.

Napoleon's sister, Pauline, came to Elba to live with him.  Her lovely cape was an accessory to a very simple white cotton floor length, climate-sensible dress.

Napoleon added his garden to the estate while exiled.  He was allowed a personal guard of 600 men but the island was closely guarded by the French and British navies.  On February 26, 1815 he managed to sneak past his guards, get by an intercepting British ship and return to France.  His exile was ten months long.

Elba was mined extensively on the east coast Piombino Channel.  The abandoned buildings and scarred slopes did not seem to distract the multitudes of bathers on the beach.

We were being closely monitored on our hike.

Our anchorage at Porto Azzuro on the west coast was lovely.  The town was celebrating a music festival.  In the evening, we watched in disbelief as a singer, a guitarist and a pianist performed together from separate floating rafts in the bay.  The piano legs were submerged as were the angels of the guy playing and the vocalist grooved in inches on water.  Luckily, the piano was white and probably didn't show the salt stains.  The groups sound was occasionally distorted by waves.  

Charming Marciano full of artists' boutiques.  

Blub was everywhere.

Our hike took us to a chapel and monastery Napoleon used to frequent to contemplate and meet a lover.  It's peaceful isolation served both purposes, I guess.  These wonderful carvings were on the raw rock walls surrounding a fountain's pool.

A handwritten sign on the chapel door requested that the door remain ajar so a bird nesting on the chandelier inside could fly in and out without worries.

Leaving Elba from the quaint town of Marciano Marina.  We had hiked up to the hillside town on the right through thick woods of chestnut trees.  

1 October 2019

Northeast Sardinia - Cruising Extraordinaire

We had been warned that the VIPs would be in Sardinia...and, indeed, they were.  Milly was in fine company.  I think Yacht A is following us around - this is the fourth time we've sailed by.  The other ship, "Dilbar", was moored beside us.  Note the crew on the little bridge sticking out the starboard side of the bow directing the lines to the dinghy below.  She's the world's biggest yacht at 157 m (512 ft), taking up to 36 lucky? guests.

Leaving from the Tiber for seas north, it made sense to only touch on the northeast corner of Sardinia.  And what a coast it was.  A perfect cruising ground - countless anchorages in beautiful bays with sparkling, clear water.  Being on the east side of the island, it was easy to find protection from the predictable mistral which belted through the strait between Corsica and Sardinia.  No intimidating local boras like Croatia that arrive in twenty minutes or long-lasting, buffeting winds like the Aegean's meltimi.  Anchoring was in sand and not too deep.  No need to tie to shore. The only downside was that the towns, although pleasant, were newer with unimaginative architecture.  Croatia wins for sweet, old, walled villages.  It was August and the height of the crazy Mediterranean season.  Although, the anchorages were busy, especially on weekends when locals come out in droves to party, we always found a place.  Charterers were far fewer then in Greece and Croatia, although it is the perfect chartering location!

The wind honking through the Bonifacio Strait and our own inertia dictated that we spend ten days exploring less than 50 NM of Sardinian coast followed by three nights in Corsica.  We had been looking forward to Corsica based on what other cruisers had told us.  However, we realized that they had come from the north and made their way south with the prevailing wind and along the very indented west coast enjoying a myriad of rugged anchorages.  We were heading north against the wind and, therefore, on the east coast where there were anchorages only at the southern and northern tips.  So when the wind was in our northern bound favour and the anchorages disappeared in the long, flat middle of the east coast we headed on an overnight to Elba.  What we saw of Corsica was rugged and beautiful.  Need I say, we'll have to go back.

We left our humbler location on the Tiber River.  Two months later, Milly still suffers from stubborn tea stains around her hulls.  She's overdue for a polish.  The river, although peaceful, had opaque water if there is such a thing.  At one point, a bloated, very large water rat, floated by - probably overeaten.  Although the swan family seemed to be thriving.  The brown adolescents were turning white when we returned after three weeks away.

Anchorage number 1 on Sardinia in Cala Coda Cavallo with the amazing Isola Di Tavolara looming in the background.  It's a narrow solid chunk of granite.  

The Isola Di Tavolara is a magnet for small boats.  They anchor in it's shadow and then visit from boat to boat all day.  At night the anchorage is empty with only the hardcore who shun marinas as much as possible.  There are not many of us.

Anchorage number 2 at Porto Brandinghi.  This was a undeveloped beach - everyone brought their own umbrellas.  Only one cafe and if driving you had to walk about 500m to get to it - relative isolation.  It was still packed.  We went for a walk and cars were parked in every nook and cranny all along the road.  Milly was heaven.

We holed up in Golfo Aranci for several days while the mistral honked through the strait stalling our progress north.  We were stuck on board for a day or two but hiked up to the top of the highest peak in the background.

Most trails in Europe have been very well marked.  We were off the usual path heading straight up the  rocky slope.  But someone who had been up before us had kindly left cairns to mark the trail.  This special one, strategically piled in a dead but not quite fallen tree.

We saw only a tiny portion of Sardinia, a part that is apparently well-developed, with a lot of tourism.  It was busy, lots of boats to keep us entertained but nothing like Croatia.  Human development was limited to the coast - not particularly attractive - but the interior mountain slopes were completely untouched.  Compared to the mainland of Italy where many of the hills are topped with villages, Sardinia was largely left to nature.

Pellegrino Falcons are very strange in Sardinia!  The semaphore station was our hike destination.

In a very sad state of decrepitude but with a glorious view and a cool history.

Around the station were several mounds of rock with religious figures in nooks - burial mounds?

The Costa Smeralda was developed in 1962 by the Aga Khan and others.  The building of villas was strictly controlled to be tasteful and to blend in with the environment.  Porto Cervo, above, is the yachting hub of the Costa.  Apparently, it attracts the likes of Bruce Willis, Mick Jagger and royalty show off their super yachts.  We joined a parade of super yachts on TomTom but went to the very end of the huge marina to be a little less conspicuous.  The development if a little too artificial and rarified for our taste.  We left without a souvenir.

Corsica, crowded but vacant of development.

Beyond the rocky coastline hills, lay the huge rugged mountains of the interior, each cloaked in blue.

A very sad reminder that the wind and waves, even in a protected anchorage, can drag a boat to an early demise.

Porto-Vecchio, an old walled Genoese town, was an unexpected and sweet surprise with a stunning background.  It's current French sophistication was clear while it's historical influence was Italian - nice combo.
Dates:  August 6 to August 19, 2019.