Sailing to Rome via Bonifacio Strait

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Goodbye Ibiza… we woke up later then planned in Cala Llonga and pointed Squander North East, aiming at northern Sardegna (Sardinia) via Mallorca. We had a tight weather window that would allow us to get to Mallorca in one day where we would hide from the bad weather that was forecast to hit the area the following evening. From there we would pick the next good weather window, scrape past Menorca and continue sailing through the night onto Sardegna.

We’ve been watching the storms that roll down from the French alps and the Gulf of Lyon and blow like crazy in the northern Med… this one was heading a bit further south then other ones we had see on our GRIB files which meant we would be right in its path if we didn’t get a move on.

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Having left early in the morning, all was going well until mid afternoon when conditions started getting a bit bumpy. It was a sobering reminder that after all we were sailing and not just moving our floating party palace from bay to bay. I think it was the shake up we needed. The seas were confused at best and the breeze was building steadily and throwing us around as we found ourselves sailing upwind into 20-25 knots. Simon went down below for a nap having done a good stint on watch earlier in the day whereas I put in a few solid hours hand steering around the sloppy seas – it was great to get the feel of Squander again in the open seas after such a long break from ‘real sailing’.

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We were pretty exhausted  by the time we pulled into the lee of Palma de Mallorca and as we had a reasonable list of things to do whilst there, I decided to try and get us into a marina – five phone calls later, we were advised by all 5 marinas that all spots were taken as everyone was hiding from the bad weather that was coming…. hmmm how bad is this going to be??

The large open bay was still very bumpy and my original plan to anchor right next to Palma was looking somewhat suspect… but with the sun setting we had little choice but to continue the extra 6-8 miles deep into the bay and trust our gut feel. When we finally got there and didn’t see a single other yacht in our planned anchorage, my heart sank a little – but trying to keep my tired, Ibiza-battered head together I reasoned that there was no reason why this couldn’t be a safe place for us to sit out the next 48 hours of winds, rain and thunderstorms – and so it was that we tucked ourselves right into the head of the bay, and dropped anchor with an amazing cathedral as our backdrop.

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Our backdrop as we sat out 30 knot winds and rain

As it turned out, the anchorage was perfect for the next 48 hours and really sheltered us well. The rain wasn’t as bad as forecast and with the wind veering to the east as predicted the swell was almost non existent. The next morning we woke up and had a neighbour in the anchorage – we couldn’t believe our eyes – it was Marco whom we’d met some weeks earlier in Ibiza – he was alone with his dog, sailing to Menorca to do a charter – Marco came onboard and explained to us where all the chandleries were ashore as well as offering to give us a lift to the second hand chandlery where you can pick up lots of bits and pieces at great prices… it was all working out.

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The never-ending To-do lists – proud to say most things on this one have now been crossed out 🙂

We managed to get a lot done and by the morning of the second day, the storm had passed and it was time to set sail again.

We finished up our jobs and in the early afternoon, picked up some more fuel and water and set off towards the south western corner of Mallorca.

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“Red Sky at night, sailor’s delight”

All went to plan, we anchored in an amazing un-spoilt bay and early the next day we headed north east again.

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Waking up in paradise

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No we haven’t run aground – that’s 6 meters of crystal clear water.

We sailed off early and by evening we had covered the distance between Mallorca and Menorca. We sailed past Menorca as the sun set and picked up a nice easterly during the night that allowed us to climb North in order to be able to pick up the North Westerly winds early the next day.

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We often use passages as a time to catch up on things such as reading, cleaning, sorting out small jobs and so on… I was going through some of our stores earlier in the day and came across a 5 month old pack of tortillas = NEW GAME – the tortilla throw off! IMG_1577
Simon analysing his work!
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There was a definite technique to keeping the soggy tortillas from folding.

We sailed through the night and by morning were on track for entering Bonifacio strait – the channel that divides French Corsica and Italian Sardinia… As Simon put it “buongiorno to Starboard and bonjour to Port. IMG_1608
Looking a bit groggy after a first nightwatch in a while
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The north westers start kicking in – Squander reveling in the conditions IMG_1643 IMG_1644
Sun rising over Bonifacio strait – Sardinia on the horizon

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By the time we hit Bonifacio Strait, the swell was starting to fire up and the wind was pushing 30 knots – however all from behind us which made it a fun and fast ride.

We weaved our way past countless little islands, bays & lighthouses  gybing only 3-4 times in 60 miles.

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A 40+ foot cruiser punching into the weather
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Scraping past one of the many lighthouses
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The local fleet out racing in 30 knots. 2nd reef and tiny headsails were the go.

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Seriously impressed with the Sardinian’s dedication to sailing – a family out sailing with a trysail (orange sail above) usually reserved for storm/survival conditions.

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The Starboard marker was having trouble staying upright. Amazing how flat the seas stay despite the heavy winds. lots of islands deflecting the swell from Bonifacio straits.

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By late afternoon we were out of the breeze and safely on the East coast of Sardinia – entering Porto Cervo – a shwanky town/marina that tried charging us 145 Euro for a mooring in the middle of the bay. We declined and anchored 20 metres away for free… and amazingly no complaints from anyone!

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Anchored under a full moon

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Superyacht carpark near the old town

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Our neighbors enjoying the safety of their 145 EURO per night floating yellow ball… Gracie but no gracie!

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Having neglected our washing for the past 4 weeks and not having been near a marina for over a month we decided to use the opportunity to get the washing done as we went about sight seeing – we should have waited until we went to a more down to earth town – $100 aussie dollars for what ended up being 35 kilos of washing…. hahahah funny stuff in retrospect but it really hurt at the time!
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Having spent 2 days in Porto Cervo, we lifted anchor and sailed south towards Olbia where we were picking up Agatha & JB. On the way we stopped at Cala di Volpe another hangout for the rich and famous.

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Cala di Volpe Hotel

We decided to get amongst it and head out to the exclusive Moorish style  Cala di Volpe Hotel for a drink. A fun experience enriched by our waiter who seemed to rejoice in the fact that we were not guests of the hotel – he kept a vigilant watch on us, offering advice for where to go out at night, cracking jokes and bringing us plate after plate of tasty snacks – nice work Mario!! We also ran into Holly Valance, but that’s another story altogether.

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Squander anchored in the distance
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Enjoying a quiet drink. Jen from Australia joined us onboard Squander for 5 days. Hope you’re enjoying yourself in Sri Lanka Jen.

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Entering Olbia, sailing past the muscle farms

The next morning it was time to pick up Agatha & JB in Olbia and sail together to Rome. Coincidentally JB was already in Sardinia visiting a friend and Agatha made a last minute decision to fly in from Paris after work.

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Agatha’s welcoming committee
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Cruising the streets of Olbia

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Ag & JB reunited on Squander – ready to sail to Rome across the Tyrrhenian Sea. Ag working on her navigation – Could this be training for an Atlantic crossing??!!!

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The things you see at sea – nice Warner Brothers inspired paint job on the cruise ship.
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Ag & JB enjoying perfect sailing conditions. IMG_1804

We arrived in Rome and amongst other things picked up Simon’s brother Adrian who flew in from London to spend the week on Squander.
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Adrian getting a bit of sea time as we move Squander from Porto Turistico to Darsena Traiano in Fiumicino

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Entering the river at Fiumicino – Squander’s home for the next 2 weeks.

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The harbour at Darsena Traiano near rome, it was dirty, no frills and definitely “Italian” –  but a great stop nonetheless with a lot of character.

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Fiumicino Harbor Darsena Traiano contact details, Rome

Vincenzo’s the man to speak to about a berth – took us 2 days to find that out – for anyone who may be in a similar predicament to us his ph is +393494765881

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With Squander safely tied up, it was time to explore the local beach bars.

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Aaron came over for a visit and introduced us to the concept of Aperitivo Aussie style – with a 3 litre ‘jug’ of beer on the table.

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Aaron had to catch the last train to Rome, so we continued without him exploring the beach bar Scene in Ostia.
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Midnight and people start rolling in – the beach was full by 1:00am.
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Getting into the Mojitos!
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…and the local attractions – a mojito inspired game of foozball!
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How italian is that… who wears white socks to the beach??! (if you missed it see top right hand corner)

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24H shop – beer, toy guns, aftershave – all from a vending machine – the funniest thing is that teenagers hang around it all night drinking coca cola – not beer!!!

With all said an done it was time to go to Nina & Richard’s wedding in Lake como, whilst Simon and Adrian minded Squander and got into Rome’s attractions.

See next Post:

A wedding in Villa Balbianello, lake Como, Italy

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Carol & Paul Cook

    Love your adventures. We leave CO 9/28, will be sad to leave but good to be back in NC. Will go to Annapolis Sailboat show, move aboard Odysseus late Oct. and head to FL Keys late Nov. Early Jan. to Bimini, Exumas and south. Have fun (like I really need to tell you that!) and be safe. Carol & Paul

  2. filippo

    O do tell the Holly Valance story! any pics?? i need pics, doing a school project.

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