2,400 miles from The Solent to St Tropez in Eleanda
by Nigel and Heleen Lindsay-Fynn
Our summer of 2007 was taken up with sailing Eleanda, our new Hallberg Rassy, from the yard in Sweden the long way round, via Norway, Scotland and the West Coast of Ireland, to Hamble Point, on the Solent, where she spent last winter. Where to sail for 2008? Heleen’s brother Robert has a holiday home in the South of France and, over a family Christmas, skiing in Austria, he urged us to sail to St Tropez and compete in Les Voiles de St Tropez, held every October. Pressure also came from our grown family, who don’t enjoy cold water sailing. It was all at least six months away and gradually many of our friends were saying We hear you are sailing to St Tropez. The decision seemed to have been made for us. It couldn’t be that far, well under the 2,000 miles, of our Sweden – UK adventure. We would leave in mid July with two legs, one of three weeks and a second, in late August into September of two weeks, back home for three weeks and then Les Voiles. We weren’t thinking about Biscay, crews or detailed planning.
Three months later the doubts began. Once plotted on the laptop it was 2,500 miles and how do you enter Les Voiles, largely reserved for the Classics? But gradually it came together. Crews accepted and cancelled, and others filled in, while Monsieur Beaufils, Les Voiles Secretary, accepted our application, for which a largely Irish crew plus wives paid a deposit on an outrageously expensive villa on the edge of St Tropez.
On Saturday 19th July we assembled at Hamble Point, on the Solent for an early evening departure at 17.10 to catch the ebb tide towards the Needles. With us were Bruce Mauleverer, a retired litigation barrister, our Yachtmaster daughter, Miranda, and her brave friend from South Africa, Antonia, who had never sailed before and was looking forward to Biscay. If possible we don’t do nights. So after a brisk reach in 15-20 knots wind, just under two hours and 13.4 miles later we anchored in 14m off Yarmouth, ready for the last hours of the ebb tide at 06.00 on Sunday.
The Biscay crossing was planned to leave from L’Aber Wrach mid morning, Tuesday. So St Peter Port, Guernsey, and dinner with island friends was planned for Sunday. We left on time in calm conditions and after the 5.2 miles to the Needles found 11 knots of wind from 3300, which steadily rose to 18 knots and a grand reach on our course of 2060 straight to the Roustel lighthouse between Herm and Guernsey. At 16.20 after 86.9 miles in 10 hours and 20 minutes we anchored just south of St Peter Port in Havelet Bay in 9.5m with 2m out of a tidal range of 6.8m that night. After drinks on board for our friends we took a dinghy ashore for yet another return to the traditional Da Nello’s for a true Italian dinner.
With 100 miles to L’Aber Wrach, it was wake up at 06.00 to depart at 06.30. It was a totally calm day under engine but by midday there was enough northerly breeze to cut the motor and reach until 16.30. The northerly entrance to L’Aber Wrach, leaving the rocky island of La Malouine to port can be exciting. But with blue skies and calm seas it was just dramatic and without danger. Once again we did not go right into the moorings but anchored ½ mile out at 18.35 in total tranquillity. The crew looked doubtful, as there were no boats near us. But it is what Heleen and I love. We had covered 98.9 miles in 12 hours. There followed a quiet dinner in the tiny restaurant, Escale, small, cheap but good quality. The previously famous Le Brenig has shut down – tant pis.
Tuesday – we can lie in and finally rose to a heavy dew and blue skies. The estuary is so peaceful and we enjoy breakfast in the cockpit. We are due to go just East of Ushant and to catch the best of the southerly tide we can’t leave until 11.00. Miranda and Antonia even have time to go shopping. It is a 2km hike to a small supermarket, patisserie, pharmacy and a fish and fruit market. We left on time and 22 miles later passed the Kereon lighthouse with Ushant to starboard. We turned onto our course for Spain, 2090 and motored in flat calm with curious dolphins never far away. During the long evening twilight an easterly breeze built to 10-12 knots from 670 and at 21.30 we could unfurl and motor sail at 9-10 knots. As the sun set an even larger group of dolphins came to play around us.
The wind strengthened as the barometer dropped. At midnight we could stop the engine, enjoying 18 knots from the E through the quiet clear night. From time to time we saw the lights of fishing boats in the distance. To enliven the night, at about 01.00, Bruce dozing in the cockpit was surprised by a roll, slid off his seat and, to avoid Heleen opposite, somersaulted backwards down the companion-way. He survived but quite bruised.
The sun rose at 07.00 on Wednesday, 23rd July, just peaking through a cloudy sky. We were living on borrowed time. As the wind moved towards the southeast we turned to 2170, but the barometer continued to fall. The Grib forecast had the wind moving to the south at 20-25 knots. In the meantime it was good fast sailing but choppier than yesterday.
At 11.00 I was dosing in one of the Saloon armchairs when I heard a new non-Eleanda clunking/clanking noise. I looked up through the deck hatch above me to see the lower starboard diagonal stay flopping around doing just nothing. At least we were on port. The bottle screw had worked loose and it might fall off. We furled the sails, woke Miranda who had recently gone off watch, motored at dead slow on a rolling run and held our breath while she went up the mast. With the screw tightened and duct taped, at 12.50 we turned back onto our course now motoring with only the main out. The wind continued to move to the S.
As the evening wore on it got increasingly uncomfortable. We had 25 knots of wind on the nose and a huge sea. We had to slow down with just half the main sheeted tight to stabilise, but still we crashed into a trough every few minutes almost stopping the boat each time.
Nothing changed during the night watches into Thursday, 24th. We saw several fishing boats and as we neared the Spanish coast the AIS picked up plenty of shipping on the chart screen but none that caused us to alter course.
I had aimed to get as far south as possible, as our three guest crew wanted to leave us on Friday. Early in the crossing doing almost 10 knots in flat calm I had hoped for Leixos or Figuera da Foz. But having slowed down to 7 knots for comfort, we had lost too much time. So I plotted our course for Baiona. As Heleen, ever active, cooked lunch, the wind began to abate and the sea became much less uncomfortable. We passed close to Cape Finnisterre just before 12.00 with 50 miles to go. In relative calm we motored on to Baiona, where we arrived at 18.00. Anchoring off looked well sheltered but we wanted the city life and our crew was leaving. Outside the Marina a marinero picked us up and led is in. We were soon moored to a very short finger pontoon. We had covered 457 miles in two days and 8 hours, an average speed of 8.16 knots despite 24 hours of a 25 knot head wind. Since leaving Hamble Point we had covered 657 miles.
On the other side of the pontoon was a motor boat, Vollare II or III from Cork, which we discovered was owned by ICC member, John Rohan! He was very friendly.
Late that evening, after Eleanda had been washed tip to toe, we strolled down the sea front to an unnamed but friendly restaurant to consume quantities of Tapas, ordered by Miranda in fluent Spanish, washed down with local Albarino, while we relived our adventure into the small hours. Sadly Miranda left at 6.30 the next morning, Friday 25th, and Bruce and Antonia not much later. Now reduced to Nigel and Heleen only, we contemplated the next two weeks with 900 miles still to go, if we were to get to Cartagena by Saturday 9th August. We had, say, 13 days sailing and two at rest. We had to cover around 70 miles a day, about 9 hours at 8 knots. By the end, we were going to feel like a delivery crew!
It was drizzling when we left the Marina at 12.15 having spent the morning on laundry, cleaning and engineering. We motored south along the coast bound for Leixos, 63.4 miles away. At around 14.30 we passed the Estuary of Rio Mino and into Portuguese waters. Within 30 minutes the Portuguese Port Control had radioed us, presumably seeing our AIS transmission. Where were we going? How many on board? Skipper or owner? Etc, etc and finally Have a nice day! This happened every day and sometimes twice a day while we were in Portugal. Almost every Marina had a separate police office that required passports and ship’s papers. Contrast this with Spain, where there are no checks and no radio calls.
We reached Leixos at 20.15 and anchored in the northeast corner of a very commercial and unattractive harbour. Unlike Cormac McHenry, who wrote in the 2007 Annual about an anchor drag, on our second attempt, our anchor dug in and held fast. At least it was a peaceful and quiet spot. Our next stop, Saturday, after motor sailing 64 miles, was Figuera da Foz, an attractive old town on a river with the Marina on the north side. They put us on the reception pontoon as we were too big for the marina pontoons. No electricity or water, but they only charged us €30, ½ price. They also booked our popular excellent and crowded Restaurante Cacarola, Rio Candido, serving the best sea food. Altogether one of our favourite stops.
Two further days’ motor sailing and 101 miles took us to Cascais, where we stayed two nights in an expensive, luxurious but empty marina so that we could visit Lisbon. On the way we had tried to anchor in the attractive horseshoe bay, Sao Martinho, but the entrance was too shallow, less than 2.5m, and we had to turn back to Nazare, where we spent a wakeful night on the piles of the smelly fishermen’s pier. Fortunately we carry fender boards. But more bureaucracy; we were immediately accosted by a Stazi cloned marine policeman wnating our passports etc, before we had even finished tying up. He didn’t even offer to help! Early next morning the friendly Captain Haddeley, RN retired, the marina manager, told us to leave by 08.00 so that he need not charge us for our uncomfortable berth.
Back to Cascais, where at 16.20, on Monday 28th, we moored to the reception pontoon of the ultra modern marina building. Having signed in, three young men in smart uniforms in a rib were ready to push us, if Nigel couldn’t back onto the pontoon (some chance), took our ropes and connected electricity. Later we walked over to the deserted shopping and restaurant area. Most of the shops were unoccupied. It must be a disaster for the developer. This was our first sight of the excessive development of modern Spain and Portugal. Half finished buildings, idle cranes and hundreds of apartments for sale. Despite this we found Cascais most attractive, from our first night restaurant booked for us by the marina, 100 Mineras, with a window table overlooking the promenade, to the relaxed atmosphere of the old town centre.
On Tuesday we took a 30 minute train ride to the centre of Lisbon where we bought a tourist bus pass for the day. We walked rather too far up Rue da Praia to bus stop 3 where we found an excellent busy, locals only, fish restaurant on the south corner of Pinoquio Square. Our cultural needs were then satisfied with a bus trip to the Calouste Gulbenkion Art Museum, an extraordinary mixture of Turkish and Ottoman rugs, tiles and velvets, fascinating Lalique glass and just awful French furniture. There were more than 30,000 items. Where on earth did he put them all before he gave them away? We returned to Cascais by a very circuitous bus route and the commuter train. It was a tiring day. We rather thought we should have relaxed in Cascais instead. Much later a very loquacious patron entertained at his well known O Pescador Restaurant, not gourmet, but good fun, +351 214 832054.
Its Wednesday 30th and we have 15 knots wind from 3100. We sail the 53.6 miles to Sines, averaging 7 knots. It has a very beautiful beach, with a small marina in the south corner, with 2 helpful marineros to take our warps. It is just possible to anchor off. But a 50’ ketch, that came in after us, tried and had to move twice.
Thursday is Heleen’s birthday. We awake to dense fog and dew covered decks. We left in the mist at about 10.00 and motor in flat calm. After 56 miles we begin to round Cape of St Vincent. It is very dramatic – the lighthouse built on the high cliff band, dotted with grottoes and caves. But then the wind got up from the northwest, gusting up to 25 knots, and we had a cracking sail to Lagos where, after 76.2 miles, we anchored off the beach. The evening was warm and we dined in the cockpit enjoying a glorious sunset. Despite the gusty wind we hardly rocked and slept soundly.
The next day, Friday, we took the dinghy up the river to a pontoon on the west-bank used by the tripper boats, where the friendly ticket tout pointed us to the fish and vegetable market. Everything was perfectly fresh but basic, no lobsters or luxury. We bought sardines, anchovies, avocados and salad, and returned to Eleanda. We were under way again by 12.15, heading for the Faro estuary where we intended to anchor north of Ilha da Culatra, 41.7 miles away. We managed 45 minutes sailing before the wind dropped. It was engine on, engine off all the way. At the entrance to Cabo da Santa-Maria, to prevent silting, are long moles out sea, into which the tide was running at 2 – 3 knots with plenty of tiny whirlpools. The island itself is no more than a scruffy sand dune with numerous wooden shacks loosely gathered into a couple of villages. At 17.30 we anchored half way along the island in 6.5m at half tide. We did not fancy landing on the island as there were no suitable jetties and we don’t like sand from the beach in the dinghy. So we dined on board interrupted by the incessant passage of ferries to Olhao and buzzing ribs long into the night. Add to that weed everywhere and in the filters; so it’s not recommended!
On Saturday we awake to perfect blue skies, but cool and no wind. The water was like an oil slick. We are going 80.4 miles to the east side of the bay of Cadiz, to Puerto de Santa Maria, so we depart early at 08.30. Our course is 1070 so when there’s enough wind it’s a run. It’s another engine on, engine off day. In mid afternoon there was a steady and noticeable increase in both air and water temperature – it had got hot! Portugal was cool, southern Spain definitely was not. Since Baiona we had hardly seen another sailing boat. But we arrive in the middle of a regatta, bedlam, and full marinas. We anchor easily between the Puerto Sherry Marina and the northern mole at the entrance to the Rio Guadelete. Later we take the dinghy ashore – and walk a mile or so along the promenade beside the Playa de Puntilla with a couple of simple restaurants. We have booked the Michelin starred restaurant, Porto del Faro. We are not quite certain where it is. It was a long, long walk there, 60 minutes, and back again as we couldn’t get a taxi. Nevertheless it was a wonderful Spanish experience. Once again we were the only foreigners there.
We had two attempts to sail to Gibraltar, about 72 miles away. On Sunday there was 8 knots of wind at 8.40 when we left. But by midday it was gusting 30 knots on the nose and we were managing a very uncomfortable 6 knots. We got past Cape Trafalgar, but as we turned east it became less and less tenable and at 13.20 with 40 miles still to go, we turned round. What wimps; but it was holiday! At least we had a great sail back on a near run at +30 knots of wind. We spent the night in the Puerto Sherry Marina, another desolate half finished development, and set out again on Monday at 08.50. The wind had died and we motored all the way, passing Tarifa and turning gradually northeast into Gibraltar bay. It was quite a sight, with hundreds of ships and tankers at anchor both east and west of the Rock. At 17.20 we entered the harbour and by 17.30 were moored to the fuel pontoon where we took on 1,845 litres of diesel at the so called duty free price of GB£0.83 per litre. We had covered 1,301 miles since leaving Hamble Point with full tanks on 19th July. 45 minutes later we were moored stern-to in the pleasant Queensway Marina. Almost immediately an English delivery crew on an Oyster 56 moored next to us, on their way to Ibiza.
Gibraltar is a duty free dump. Contrast tapas in Spain, sardines and shellfish in Portugal, with over-cooked steak and chips and very basic English pub food in Gibraltar. Tax haven signs are everywhere. Our neighbour at the waterside restaurant was the marketing manager of a Gibraltar based internet poker company. The shops sell duty free alcohol and cheap gold jewellery. We had no need to stay.
The following day, Tuesday 5th August, we were to motor 74.2 miles along the coast to Puerto Caleta de Velez. But first we thought about the famous cable car to the summit of the Rock. Heavy mist made that a useless idea, so we left at 11.00. We had to weave our way through countless anchored ships as we turned east. We even took a photo of the computer screen with all the AIS targets, as we had never seen so many. It was flat calm in a Mediterranean temperature well over 300C. At 19.43 we anchored just west of the harbour of Calete de Velez and cooled off in a very warm sea. But we were too close to the fishing harbour and throughout the night were disturbed by the wash and noise of all the boat traffic.
Wednesday 6th, departing at 09.45 we could motor sail with some wind from the south. We were heading for Almerimar, 61.6 miles away, and had time to stop for lunch and a swim. Punta de Carchuna was just 32 miles, and at 13.45 we anchored in a small rocky inlet just east of the point and a mile or so from the tiny resort of Calahonda – no cranes, no high rise, just families on holiday. Swim, lunch, cold white wine and depart at 15.10. We motored to Almerimar where we anchored off the marina at 18.25. We went ashore to find a typical Costa del Sol development. The tourists were mostly English and a few German. The restaurants served English more than Spanish food and two thirds of the modern apartments were empty. They were all built round the marina, which looked excellent. It was full of Brit live-aboards.
For Thursday we had planned just 50 miles to a south facing anchorage, Agua Amarga. We swam and had a lazy morning finally departing at 11.35. Were leaving the Costa del Sol and turning North for the Costa Blanca. By 13.00 we turned off the engine and reached in a 15 – 20 knot southerly wind at over 7 knots. But now anchoring at Agua Amarga would be too uncomfortable. Instead we headed for Las Negras, sheltered from the west and just 45.2 miles from Almerimar. The wind veered to the west and as we approached was gusting over 30 knots. We anchored off the tiny resort at 17.25 in 7m. We ended up with 35m of chain, as there were signs of dragging. It worked. By 20.00 it was gusting to 40 knots, so we stayed on board, and then, within an hour, it died to nothing. There was one restaurant and plenty of activity including an all night beach party with numerous bodies still comatose on the beach the following morning. A couple of idle cranes threatened the future. From here to Cartagena was easily the most beautiful coast we had seen since Baiona.
Friday was our last full day. We intended to enter Cartagena early on Saturday morning. We had about 60 miles to go and left at 10.55. We motor sailed north along the coast aiming for San Juan de los Terreros, a small south facing bay sheltered from the east, for lunch, where, after 30 miles we anchored at 14.45. An hour later we left, heading for the tiny hidden lagoon of Cala Carreda, where we anchored at 18.45, but just for 30 minutes. It was so small that our 62’ needed a line ashore and if the wind got up with only two of us, we mightn’t get out. After a drink admiring this glorious setting, we motored out and round the corner west to La Azohia, which proved a popular mooring and anchorage, and where we anchored at 19.15 in flat calm. We stayed on board for dinner but suffered from unbelievably loud music until very late!
We left at 08.40 on Saturday for Cartagena just 11.7 miles away. We had booked into the Club Real Nautico, but on arrival saw to starboard a virtually empty marina with a marinero standing on a pontoon waving at us. He turned out to be English. This was far superior to the crowded and noisy Club, so we instantly changed. Yacht Port Cartagena, +34 636 877 374, isn’t in the 2008 pilot book or on the internet. It was built for super-yachts, but extra pontoons have now been added for smaller boats. We recommend it with confidence along with the interesting old town of Cartagena. We found and recommend a local fish restaurant, within walking distance, Restaurante Varadero, +34 968505848.
Now it was time to pack up. We had covered 1,558.9 miles in total, 903.3 in the last 15 days on our own. On Sunday 9th August we flew back from Alicante, an hour by taxi, to Exeter. But returned on the 21st from Bristol to the much closer Murcia Airport where we hired a car and waited for our guests to arrive for the next two week leg to St Tropez. We found Eleanda well looked after by the marina staff, all polished and clean.
Our crew was to be Miranda again and Tom Caplin, a friend from London, both of whom we picked up at Murcia on Saturday morning and Urs Biasi, a skiing friend from Zurich who flew into Alicante. We were to pick up Miranda’s sailing friend Hannah, from South Africa, and our 19 year-old son, Charles, later on Sunday.
The Grib weather files predicted little wind for the next few days. We left at 09.40 on Sunday and motored towards Alicante. We passed the commercial harbour, Escombreras, as we turned east along the shore, 21.3 miles to Cabo de Palos, which shelters Islas Menores and the bay of Isleta from the South. We turned north at the cardinal, 42.1 miles to Alicante. There was just enough wind from the southeast to motor sail. Charles had by now arrived at Alicante and joined us when we arrived at 16.50 on the fuel pontoon to take on 600lt of diesel. It looks an excellent and well developed marina in the northern end of a substantial tourist and fishing harbour, visited by numerous cruise liners, one of which was just about to leave as we did. Opposite us we saw the Oyster 56 that had been moored next to us in Gibraltar. We were going to anchor, as usual, just 3 miles up the coast opposite Sierra Grosa, where we would be sheltered form the East by Cabo de la Huerta. At 19.50 after a day’s run of 66.5 miles we anchored in just 4.3m, just off the numerous moorings. While Miranda and Charles went to the tiny fishing harbour in search of Hannah, who was arriving by another bus, the rest of us swam in the gloriously warm water. Much later we all went ashore and walked up the hill to a rather deserted hotel to enjoy tapas in the garden. We debated the options for our route. We will leave for Ibiza tomorrow morning early and go on to Palma, Mallorca. There we will asses the weather and either continue to Menorca, Sardinia and Corsica or, if bad weather, go North to the Golfe du Lyon and along the French coast.
We had around 98 miles to Ibiza town, so we left at 07.20. Once round the Cabo, our course was to have been 730 for 90 miles, through the gap south of Isla de los Ahorcados, and 8 miles north up to Ibiza town. But after 4 hours we decided to go up the west coast instead and altered course for Port Roig, a tiny bay tucked in behind Cabo Negret in the southwest of Ibiza, now some 51 miles away. A Spanish neighbour at Cartagena marina had recommended the anchorage and a restaurant. There was enough southwest wind after 14.00 to sail on a close reach to the entrance of the bay where we furled the sails and motored in to anchor at 17.30 in 9m with 35m of chain. We had covered 87.1 miles. The young went ashore for a drink. We joined them later at what was no more than a simple beach restaurant (Estorrent, +33 971 187 402). May I see the wine list? I asked. The patron pointed to the glass-fronted cooler. It was largely full of Dom Perignon and other premium champagnes. From now on, every mile closer to St Tropez seemed to cause an increase in prices, even here, nearly double mainland Spain. Despite this we had excellent paella and sea bream.
We were a day ahead and Tuesday could be a day off. After a lazy morning we motored just 7 miles northwest to Cala Vedella, an attractive but narrow and shallow inlet mostly taken up with moorings and a beach restaurant at the end. At 11.45 we anchored in the entrance for lunch, snorkelling and swimming. Later we sailed most of the way to Cala Salada, some 9 miles north up the coast. But on arrival we found it far too crowded and motored south to the next bay, Punta Galera, which, with no beach restaurant, was deserted. It is just 1.7 miles from the raucous San Antonio. It was deep. On the second attempt we anchored in 16m with 50m of chain. The young went off to meet friends, not returning until after 05.00. The oldies dined on board – just perfect.
It was time to move on and at 08.15 on Wednesday 27th we set out for Palma. The course was mostly northwest, so was the 10 knot wind. Once again we motored all the way. For 14 miles we followed the coast which gradually fell away to the south as we headed on 670 for Punta de Cala Figuera, our landfall in southwest Mallorca and so onto Palma. Miranda rang and booked a berth at the Real Club Nautico de Palma, extravagant, at over €100 per night, but right in the centre of the old town. After 73.7 miles we arrived at 16.40. After quite a wait, we went stern-to on a big boat pontoon next to two monster Wallys. We were dwarfed! Huge super-yachts surrounded us, particularly to the West. Later we went to Restaurant Forn de Saint Joan, +34 971 728 422, were we enjoyed yet more excellent tapas and main courses.
Thursday 28th August was a day of rest and tourism. Miranda rented a large 9 seater Renault mini-bus and the Eleanda hillbillies set off for the Monastery town of Valdemossa, where Chopin and George Sand had spent the summer in 1839. It is an attractive hilltop town. The shops are inevitably touristy. But the Church, Monastery and Palace are fascinating. Later we lunched at the famous Hotel Valdemossa, with glorious views from its terraces. We had dinner that night at another excellent, good value, old town restaurant, that we discovered by chance, “La Cauxa” Restaurante Almazara. Despite the razmataz and the conspicuous consumption, we had enjoyed Palma. But it is definitely the southern entrance to the playground of the super-rich.
By Friday we had decided on the island route to Menorca and Sardinia. We departed 10.05 to motor along the south and east coasts to Cala de sa Font, just south of Cala Ratjada in the northeast. On the way, after 38 miles we turned into Porto Petro, a most attractive inlet with expensive villas and a pretty fishing village, where we picked up a mooring for a swim and lunch. We left at 16.45 and motored up the east coast. We arrived at Cala de Sa Font at 19.30, after 61.4 miles for the day, and anchored in crystal clear water in a small inlet with a 1970s hotel at the head.
The next morning, after some anchor winch maintenance, we left at 12.25 to motor the 1.7 miles to Puerto Ratada, where we anchored off for lunch and a swim. Hannah would leave from here by bus to Palma for her late flight to London. After lunch we gently motored into the small port and dropped Hannah on the stone breakwater. We left at 15.30 and motor sailed at 810 in an 8 knot southeasterly, towards the passage between Isla del Aire and the south east corner of Menorca, where we turned north, up the East coast and eventually into the estuary for Mahon. There was a classic regatta; but at 20.35 we found a berth on a pontoon off Isla del Rey in the middle of the harbour, which still cost €130 for the night! We had covered 47 miles. We went ashore and found a Tapas bar near the Yacht Club and admired the classics.
Pedro, Miranda’s friend from London Business School, arrived the next morning, Sunday. Miranda, Charles and Urs took the dinghy to meet him and do some shopping. We were now heading for Sardinia, an overnight crossing of 230 miles. We left at 12.05 and motored down the estuary then turning north. But we had time for lunch first. So it was just 6 miles to an anchorage behind Isla Colom. We left at 15.00 and motor sailed into the evening with a 12 knot southerly. The sea was calm and it was a fine night; but the wind died and at 03.30 on Monday we furled the sails. We operated 3 hour night watches, one crew coming on every 90 minutes, followed by 6 hours off. The sun rose at 07.00 and, as the day warmed, the wind got up from the North, enough to motor sail. At 14.10 after 199 miles we rounded Punta Dello Scorno, the tip of the north west finger of Sardinia and a nature reserve. We furled the sails and turned south. After a few minutes we stopped. While Eleanda drifted, we swam in the warmest water yet. The air temperature was well into the 30s. We then motored on to Castelsardo in the northeast of the Golfo dell’Asinaro. The marina just had enough room for us. But it was a hike to the town.
We took a taxi from the marina to the citadel and admired the near 3600 view from the top. In the end we didn’t like any of the tourist restaurants up there and chose the hotel on the sea front – good fish.
On Tuesday morning we said good-by to Charles, who was to fly from nearby Olbia to Bristol. We motored out at 12.30, but were soon sailing in a stiff breeze, heading for a late lunch and swim in the Baia di Santa Reparata, 30 miles away on the south side of the straits between Sardinia and Corsica, so convenient for Bonifaceo. The straits are known as a wind machine! It was a windswept sort of place but warm and suited our purpose. Several boats were already anchored there. We anchored at 15.35 and departed at 17.30. Bonifaceo was just 9 miles away but we found 18 knots of easterly wind, giving Eleanda a good 9 knots with everything up, even if only for an hour.
The entrance to Bonifaceo is very dramatic, steep white cliffs and a fortress citadel that was once the HQ of the French Foreign Legion. We were lucky to be given a finger pontoon, although near the large powerboats. We were close to the centre, but not the disco-bars. We Chose restaurant Le Voilier, from the Guide Michelin, good value with a 3-course menu for €35. Along the promenade were some chic clothing shops, a fishmonger charging outrageous prices, a butcher and a Spar. It was one of the most scenic and buzzy places and we would definitely return, but not in July or August.
We now have two days sailing up the west coast of Corsica to Calvi. Before leaving we had bought lobster for a dinner at anchor. We ignored Ajaccio, the birth place of Napoleon. The weather was so stable, we could stop anywhere so long as we were out of the swell from the south west. After 91 miles all motoring and glorious mountain scenery, we motored into Calvi at 18.45 on Thursday 4th September. The approach is glorious with its 13th Century citadel with ramparts and battlements guarding the entrance to a wide marina. Lots of room and a friendly marinero soon sorted us out. We were moored with other smaller sailing boats and a large gas guzzler on the outside. On the outer pontoon were the super power boats including an outrageous black, sleek monster, belonging to the Rolling Stones Manager. The promenade alongside the marina was one long stretch of cafes, bars, ice cream parlours and restaurants. We had some expensive cocktails at a bar, watching the world go by, followed by a rather mediocre restaurant.
Friday 5th September is our last full day and a 108 mile crossing to France. I had planned the tiny inlet of Port Man in the northeast of Ile de Port-Cross as our landfall, just 25 miles from St Tropez. We were up at 06.30 for an early shop and departed at 07.30. Within a couple of hours we had 15 – 20 knots of wind and more from 1700 and reached at 9 knots on 2840 even shortening sail for a time. Urs and Tom helmed for 3 or 4 hours. We, being lazy cruisers, prefer the autopilot! But by 16.30 the wind was dropping to 10 knots and we motor sailed to the cove of Port Man, where we anchored in 9.5m at 19.45 sharing it with two other small yachts. We were nowhere near any civilisation, but Heleen made incredible lobster soup!
My farming brother Adrian had introduced us to David Varley, Repco Marine, +33 607 346515, a yacht agent in Port Grimaud. He had organised a berth for Eleanda. So after our last swim and breakfast, we motored out at 09.00 for the 28 miles to Grimaud. It was dull and overcast. Eventually we turned into the Golfe de St Tropez. The anchorage off the harbour was full of enormous super-yachts that should have belonged to a James Bond movie, as was the harbour itself, we discovered later.
David Varley met us at the entrance to Port Grimaud, just 1.5 miles from St Tropez. We followed him through the winding canals to berth outsaide one of the fishermen’s waterside cottages. It was meant for no more than a 30’ boat and a diver came to lay a stronger mooring for us. But she was safe for the moment. After our October racing in Les Voiles we moved to the marina in the centre, Grimaud III, ideal for the winter months ahead.
We had arrived after 35 days sailing, 15 just Nigel and Heleen alone, but with too many engine hours. We had covered 2,426.3 miles and consumed 2,565lt of diesel for 226.3 engine hours. We had brought Eleanda safely to St Tropez, ready for 2009 when Italy and Greece will beckon. We thank all our friendly crew for all their entertainment and help.