39° 12′ 2.3328” N
9° 7′ 33.8772” E
July 19th to July 28th
“Are you off to Sicily tomorrow? Take plenty of seasickness pills,” recommends our Australian neighbours. They have sailed for three years non-stop in the Mediterranean, and one can’t rule out, that they know what they are talking about.
“We have decided to wait until Friday,” says our French neighbour to the other side. He just got his wife and two grandchildren on board, and we had – more or less – planned to sail off to Sicily at the same time. A trip close to 182 nautical miles eastsoutheast, 30 to 40 hours of sailing according to the conditions of the wind.
“We are also waiting till Friday,” says the Italian sailor mooring on the other side of the pier. He thinks that one-and-a-half-meter high waves are somewhat above his level of ambition.
We go to the harbour captain. Let’s hear, what he says: “Wait for tomorrow,” he recommends. The last days of strong breeze are decreasing, but still the waves are high on your way to Sicily.
We do not have anyone to impress with our daring style. We are not even in a hurry. We’ve just – once again – been blown in for four days, and we were so much looking forward to Thursday. But okay. Now it’s going to be Friday instead. We’ll spend another day in Gagliari, the main city of Sardinia.
Gagliari is a large provincial town, about 200,000 inhabitants, and a total fuck up of city-planning, where everything is planned to please private car drivers, and where it may be possible to walk around but impossible to go by bicycle. The city has miles of beach, but to get to this and home again, we have to lift our bikes across the car guard several times and cross the highway traffic. Signs about where to go? Forget about it.
The city built a pedestrian promenade of several kilometers for pedestrians and cyclists. A very popular place for kissing lovers, and the huge harbour basin is the hunting arena for dolphins, forcing small fish into a corner of the harbour.
This promenade is only a few years old. Nevertheless, the gang-boards are loose and the fence towards the harbour is in the process of rusting.
This is also Gagliari. A city that does not really catch up with time.
We live in Marina de Sole, one of Gagliari’s many harbours. We went there, because we could see on the web, that many other long time cruising people go to exactly that harbour. Here again we are surrounded by gang-boards, wrecked yachts, a primitive port office in a tent and a toilet, that threatens to topple in the harbour, partly because the toilet bowl is loose and partly because the toilet floor is leaning down towards the harbour.
However, Marina de Sole wins over time. There are many long-distance sailors in that port. There is a fine atmosphere. The captain and he his staff are very helpful. Even the potentially destructive toilet, they take control over. They mold a new floor. The toilet bowl is fixed. My soul what more could you possible want?
Bonus info: Port money can be negotiated. First draft from the port in Gagliari is 50 € per day. We end up paying 33 € per day. Gagliari is said to have Italy’s largest fish market. It’s sumptuous. From swordfish to oysters. Upstairs they have a vegetable-, cheese- and meat-market, which beats most, of what we have seen till now. The market is not easy to find. But do ask for it. It is definitely worth the effort. We found satisfaction in visiting Sardinia’s National Archaeological Museum. You either like that sort of thing or you do not. We do. Best pizza we got at Pizzaria Sardegna. Best dinner we got at Bistro Fork.
39° 56′ 16.2384” N
9° 42′ 15.714” E
July 13 to July 18th
I do not know what it is with us and town festivals. Ever since we lived in Elsinore 20 years ago and sailed up and down the Swedish coast, we have had the accidental misfortune, that we often go inadvertently to the quay in small towns, just as they are starting their annual town festival – you know, that kind of festival, that goes on until two o’clock in the night, and after that the party goes on in the neighbouring boat, where party-participants continue to the bright morning with more and more snuffling voices.
We know the signals: Colourful swings, carousels, radio cars, flashing lights and from early evening high music from six-seven rides at the same time.
Nevertheless, we go to the dock in Arbatax. It is the only harbour in within miles that has a diesel station, and as we enter the harbour we recognise radio cars with the glimpse of an eye, but it’s too late to retreat. We have another 34 miles to the next port.
Next day we have dinner with two former colleagues from Odense, and then follows two days of strong wind. We are caught in the middle of a harbour festival. Sigh.
Three days of radio cars and dazzling disco rhythms. I desperately try to recall the time when the arrival of a Tivoli to the show area of my childhood town in Denmark gave me palpitations and the hope for beautiful, unknown experiences. But this feeling is lost. I can no longer mobilise enthusiasm for that kind of thing. Diplomatically said.
We had stayed for a couple of days in Santa Maria Navarrese but have now sailed three miles south to fill diesel in our tank and to seek fresh air and new experiences.
Many sailors prefer Santa Maria Navarrese to Arbatax. Santa Maria Navarrese is surrounded by high mountains and high piers, superbly protected from winds from all directions, a secure harbour with 16 restaurants and beautiful beaches with parasols and sunbeds. It has everything a vacationing heart can ask for.
But the air stands still. It’s a bit like being beaten in the head with a hammer of heat. Nothing moves. Arbatax is an alternative to this. It is less protected, more open, and for that reason, cool air flows constantly from the sea. You do not bathe from a beach in Arbatax but from cliffs, and the range of restaurants are scarce.
Anyway. Arbatax is an alternative. You should just avoid the second weekend in July, where they have a three-day harbour festival with radio cars, horns, drum dance and on sunday a ceremony where a sainted figure sails at the head of an armada of local boats three times around the huge outer pool of the harbour, while presumable 10,000 spectators are watching from land.
But then again. Who in this world would enter the port of Arbatax in the second weekend in July?
Bonus info: If you are in Santa Maria Navarrese and want to eat out, try Mec Puddu’s. It is Sardinian fast food in good quality and at reasonable prices. If you are in Arbatax then try the marina’s restaurant. Pretty good with amazing views. At the local ship chandler you can have a meter of rope for your newly purchased fender with a tailor-made tackle for two just euros. We like that.
40° 7′ 26.2344” N 9° 40′ 35.346” E
Guest blogger: Lasse Folkersen, guest crew member
Ronja-round-the-world is about water and anything related to water. This blog post is about what happens under the sea. As guest-crew on Ronja, along the eastern coast of Sardinia, we had already experienced the majestic cliffs and fantastic beaches offered by the island. But a stay-over day in a harbour with a dive-shop gave the opportunity to expand this into scuba-diving. I have most of my dive-experience from the warm colourful waters of South East Asia and I was unsure what to expect from Mediterranean diving.
I was not disappointed; everything is different, and in some ways less ‘saturated’ – but not at all in a bad way. Of course there are colourful fish here as well, but what I find most attractive is the synergy between the odd-shaped rock formations and the pure white sand. The white beaches of Sardinia in fact continues below the waves, as sandy paths into a maze of underwater tunnels with colorful plants all set in the ever-present Mediterranean azure-blue light from above.
Bonus info for sailors: If you are sailing in the area north of Arbatax I recommend taking the time for one or more short visits at the beautiful but road-inaccessible beaches. They are not well suited for night-time anchoring, particularly not with strong winds. This is probably the reason why they are not shown in anchor-guide books. But for good reason the beaches are popular destinations for local land-based tourists, using chartered inflatable boats. So many people do this that the beaches are overcrowded in times between arrival and departure times. This, however, is the freedom of having your own boat – and so my best advice is to contact a local tour-agency and ask for their destinations and times; and then go to that place, at some other time than them. At Cala Mariolu, between 1pm and 2pm seemed fairly empty. On arrival, then anchor and swim or row in. That’ll give you pristine, beautiful, secluded and non-crowded beaches.
Bonus info for scuba divers: I can highly recommend “Diving Cala Mariolu”, which is a tiny diving-operation consisting mainly of three umbrellas, a solar power array, and a few diving guides with a stock of pre-filled air-tanks. All in a very ad-hoc and accessible manner set up directly on the beach. Very straightforward, and actually nicer than some of the larger operations seen elsewhere. I was particularly impressed by dive-instructor Andreas: he managed to be both guide and photographer at the same time, while seemingly also having the overview of the above-water operation. One dive, including all equipment and photos: 60 €. It’s a little colder than South East Asia. Already at 12 m, a short sleeve 3 mm wet suit definitely felt too cold. I also had a booking with Aquatica in Santa Maria Navarrese, but due to a miscommunication I went to a wrong boat from that company, and so I never had the opportunity to see if they were recommendable dive guides.`
41° 12′ 40.1724” N
9° 24′ 15.7428” E
June 30th to 4th of July
Porto Palma is a large open cove with ample space for anchorage, and during the daytime you can even be part of an exciting sailing competition. Two sailing schools use the bay to practice racing for youngsters and sailing for beginners. 30 boats are on the water. We have thrown our anchor in the middle of the race course and, as afternoon entertainment, we can follow every tactical maneuver, every piece of fine sportsmanship and every failure, when a boat ends top down.
Cale Coticcio is another, somewhat smaller, anchorage cove. It is called Tahiti Bay by the locals, perhaps because of the popularity, the many day-sailors who come from nearby cities and spend the day in the azure-blue waters.
In this part of the world Palma and Tahiti have in common, that they are both part of the La Maddalena archipelago. We have reached Italian Sardinia. The two bays are located on the island of Caprera, which, together with the main island of Maddalena and 12 other islands, form a large and tightly regulated natural park.
You buy permission to be in the area. The price is 60 € per week for a sailing yacht. Nature prefers sailingboats, so we get a discount. The license gives you the right to sail and anchor in the area, when following a detailed set of rules.
The rules say, that you cannot pick flowers here and you cannot collect stones. They say do not go ashore here, unless you are accompanied by a nature-guide. Do not go fishing here. Do not snorkel here. Do not deep dive. Do not pump out water from dishwashing and showers. Do not be here at all. It all varies from bay to bay.
The rules are so complex, that we give up figuring them out. We stay aboard Ronja, enjoy the bathing life, and show our permission when asked by park officials in inflatable boats.
Especially Tahiti Bay is in the daytime a circus of whining children, shouting parents, rustling anchor chains, loud outboard motors and sailing ice cream sellers, who manage to get 5 € for an ice cream, that costs 1,65 € in the local supermarket.
At about 19 o’clock, peace settles over Tahiti Bay. The locals sail back to their home ports, and from being 70 boats we are only 7, when darkness and an remarkably clear sky with stars descend upon Tahiti. On Sardinia, that is.
The islands are absolutely beautiful, but hardly more beautiful than so many other places in the area. And we do not understand the logic of the natural park. Why do they use so many resources to check if we have paid? Why do they not use the resources to put out permanent anchor buoys in the bays, so we don’t have to damage the Possidonia grass on the seabed, every time we throw out the anchor.
One might think – probably wrongly – that all the talk about a nature park is mostly about getting even more people to understand, that these 14 islands are something quite special, in an area, where numerous beautiful destinations fight for the favour of sailors.
Bonus info: Cala Gavetta on the Maddalena island is a positive surprise. Charming town, lively in the daytime, peaceful at night. We stayed two days in the harbour. The first day cost 27 € for a berth. The next day the same berth cost 56 €. Why? Because it was July 1st, and the price list changes to high season price, which is double the price the day before.