Friday, 30 July 2010

A speedy exit from Corsica ..... July 2010

The ancient Citadel at Calvi
26 - 29 July 2010

Our snug flat anchorage at la Revelatta was such a great spot that we stayed a second night. We dinghied ashore and went for a long walk along one of the many trails out to the headland, swam in the clear waters then sat back and watched all the boats heading in and out of Calvi. The following morning we motored the short distance around, past the spectacular walled citadel and into the anchorage. There is a small, manic, overcrowded marina, outside that is a large area with laid mooring buoys, at 40€ a night we moved on further along the beach to the anchorage area. It's a very long dinghy ride ashore, probably the longest we have ever had, but ok, so it was home for a couple of nights.
We dinghied ashore for the evening, walked up to explore the citadel and were a little disappointed. Previous old towns like this are still the centre of town, with bars and cafes spilling onto the streets, small cute shops and narrow alleys. This was rather a ghost town, with just a handful of buildings occupied as residences and held little charm.

However down at sea level the place was buzzing, there were small lanes parallel to the waterfront oozing with charm and more than making up for the deserted citadel area. Maybe everyone just got tired of having to climb up the hill and relocated to sea level!!! We had an interesting local Corsican dinner ashore including wild boar stew, not exceptional but we have ticked it off the list. We stopped to listen to a solo singer at a small bar but quickly moved on when we wisely asked the price of a beer, 10€ really was just way to ridiculous for a 500ml draught beer, especially when its 60c in the supermarket for 500ml can! Still too early to go home we stopped back down on the waterfront for a nightcap, only 7€ here for a beer, what a bargain - we have paid a new high for a large tap beer.

Calvi waterfront by night
The following day we took the small and very overcrowded narrow gauge railway along the northern coast, stopping at all the beaches enroute, to the small market town of Ile Rousse. This was a cute little place with a bustling morning market, busy town square and packed busy beach. This northern coastline is a campers heaven, the entire coastline was dotted with camping grounds, crystal clear blues seas lapping on white sandy shores. The train ride back was just as busy, everyone with buckets, spades, chilli bins, umbrellas - all enjoying the summer sunshine.

The winds were forecast to fill in overnight from the southwest then build and come around more to the west. We thought most of the anchorages would start to get rolly with a westerly blowing so decided to depart the following morning and maybe head for St Florent 25 miles east which showed the best protection from the west. The morning dawned with no wind but we decided it was time to move on anyway. By the time we had lifted anchor and raised sails we had gusts to 20knots, so with two reefs in the main we bore away and set sail north east, destination undecided.
Northeast Corsica, a different landscape

We had a rather wild sail, across the top of Corsica, dead down wind, with building seas and 25knots of wind. Our planned stop at St Florent did not eventuate, there was too much wind, churning up quite a sea and we felt it wouldn't have enough protection. We had hoped to rendezvous again with Steve and Karen on Threshold who were there, but sadly passed them by. A good decision on our part as they reported the following day several boats had dragged in the anchorage, with some ending up on the beach.
We came around the pointy finger at the top of Corsica within 100 metres of Gone with the Wind, they had left from St Florent and were both surprised to see each other out in these conditions. We both rounded the top and sought shelter at Rade de Santa Maria on the leeward side of the headland, although the water was much flatter we were getting hit by 30knots bullets shooting down the hillside. We managed to anchor out of the swell in shallow water and collapsed in a heap, that had been quite some sail!!

But there was little time to rest, the winds kept building and peaked before midnight at 43 knots, then silence - it died completely giving us a chance for some rest ...... but not for long. A wicked swell rolled in, tipping us from side to side, and if that wasn't bad enough thunderstorms were building and closing in on us, closer with each crack of thunder. The wind swung to the east, only 10 knots but putting us on a leeshore, it was a sandy bottom shallowing slowly so not too much of a concern until the storms closed right in, the wind built, the rain poured down, waves came crashing over Mark on the bow as we lifted anchor - we were out of there in record time. We have never pitched and rolled so much at one time, we had items flying around inside that have never before moved, not a sea state we wish to be in again!!!
Gone with theWind with Calvi Citadel at sunset
It was 5am and dawn was just starting to break, we headed offshore to deeper waters, motoring around the thunder storms and dodging ferries standing off, they too were waiting for better weather before approaching land. We looked at the charts, it was 40 miles to the Italian Tuscan Island of Elba, and that's where we headed. We had seen and done everything we wanted to in Corsica and she just gave us a little push to speed us on our way, au revoir Corsica we have enjoyed our stay.

Cruising info for Calvi and Rade de Santa Maria, Corsica:-
Anchorages -
Calvi 42 33.578N 08 46.638E 7.5m sand, very hard to get closer as no anchoring zone, swimming zones and mooring buoys further in.
Rade de Santa Maria 42 59.701N 09 26.978E 5.5m sand We spent an hour finding the most comfortable spot on this part of the coast for our conditions, normally this should be a lovely spot and looked great walking ashore
Communications - no WIFI, a couple of the cafes ashore gave out 30min connection with a drink. Vodafone Roaming and GYMSIM both had signals
Ashore - Take dinghy into marina, tie up where you can at concrete end (by foothpath), Everything you need ashore, small but adequate supermarket, bakeries, butchers etc all small but good. Fuel dock in marina (comings and goings in marina very very busy)
Formalities - didn't see anyone for our entire stay in Corsica
Sightseeing - The train trip to Ile Rousse hugs the coastline, if you are going to sail along here then it would probably not be worthwhile. If you don't get there early you may have to stand. Departs Calvi 0905, 1105, 1340, 1535, 1810 the return departs Ile Rousse 1005, 1205, 1435, 1710,1910. It's about 50mins each way and 6Euro each, each way.

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