Thursday, 22 July 2010

Straits have the last laugh ..... July 2010

16-21 July
Bonifacio buildings clinging to the cliffs

It was finally time to leave Port Vecchio, we had decided to head south and then around the bottom of Corsica and up the west coast if we got calm enough conditions. We had a easy day and just motored the 12miles to our first anchorage at Porto Rondinara. We had seen post cards of this picturesque horseshoe bay with a beautiful white sandy beach and crystal clear waters and it did not disappoint, it was a lovely spot for the night, we could have stayed longer. However the winds were forecast to stay light so we decided to move on the following day and try and anchor at Bonifacio in the compact free area. Both Eye Candy and Gone with the Wind were in front of us, the winds were building in the straits and we got another free salt water washdown before we entered through the narrow gap between the cliffs into Bonifacio harbour. The small designated anchorage area was reasonably empty but there have been bow lines laid which ran back to the solid cliff wall, so instead of dropping anchor you need to position the boat, hold station, one person dinghy ashore, retrieve first one then the second bow line, get back onboard, attach these to the bow, then take stern lines ashore again by dinghy and attach them to rings or rocks. If this sounds tricky, well it is! Eye Candy were in first and needed help getting the lines. We dropped our dinghy and Mark motored over to help them, while I, my first time alone on Balvenie under way and helming went backwards, forwards, round in circles in the very tight area within the harbour entrance, trying desperately to keep out of harms way!!

Eventually Eye Candy were settled but the wind had increased more and was now coming in beam on, we decided it would be too difficult to try and get Balvenie tied up without a bow thruster, even with Eye Candy's help, so we abandoned Plan A. Plan B was to anchor in either of the 2 anchorages just west of Bonifacio but Gone with the Wind had checked them out while we were helping Eye Candy and reported that neither were tenable with the building wind, Plan C was to carry on 30 miles up the northwest coast, beating into the building sea - that was quickly dismissed and Plan D was formulated, we turned around and headed back in the direction we had come from.
Ready for the gun outside Bonifacio

We rolled out the headsail and sailed downwind back through the straits, turned north into much calmer water and looked to anchor. The first anchorage was getting bullets of over 30 knots so on we went. 6 hours after leaving Porto Rondinara we anchored just 3 miles south of it at Plage de Balistra, in flat water but the wind still howled over 25 knots and there we stayed for 2 nights sitting it out. We managed shore leave the following day for a short time and walked along the lovely long white sand beach, this was a remote area with one small shacky bar ashore, a few campervans parked, some hardy experienced windsurfers and little else except for a few nudists at the end of the beach.

The wind eased so we decided to give the Bonifacio Straits another try, leaving early before the seabreeze kicked in we motored through the straits in flat water, what a difference a couple of days and no wind can make. A yacht race was taking place outside Bonifacio and if I didn't know better I might have thought we were actually competing in it, once a racer - always a racer! As the wind filled in we were able to sail northwest, only tacking 10 times (no we weren't racing, this was just for fun!!), and we covered the 42 miles to Campomoro without the Bonifacio Straits beating us up again.
West coast from Campomoro's watchtower

The anchorage was busy, we were surprised as this west coast is much more open to the elements, and when the swell rolls in it has come all the way from the Spanish coast but the French sailors are a hardy bunch and there were plenty of yachts of all shapes and sizes on their annual sailing holiday. It was a great anchorage, deep in places but well sheltered, flat water, a pleasant village ashore, a great watch tower perched out on the headland and some well signposted coastal walks. We spent most of the following day there then did a short hop across the bay to Porto Pollo. The bay is full of official visitor mooring balls so we hooked onto one, no one came for payment and there was nowhere visible ashore to pay so we happily excepted it as being free. It was another laid back small town with a couple of camping grounds and a holiday feel to it. We had dinner ashore then next morning tried to organise a car/taxi/motorbike - anything really - to visit the megalithic monuments at Filitosa. They are from 4000BC and are related to the stone statues at Stonehenge and are supposed to be excellent, we will never know as it impossible to arrange any sort of transport to visit the site, oh well we haven't missed much else and we did try.
The clear blue waters of Cala d'Orzu

Weather conditions were still settled so we took the opportunity to keep heading north, and had a leisurely sail all of 8 miles to paradise. We had spotted a bay on the chart and read it in the guide book, it sounded ok but nothing special but when we pulled into Cala d'Orzu and could see our anchor buried in the white sand 8 metres below we felt like we had returned to the Pacific. There were even a couple of shacky bars ashore with driftwood decking, fishing nets hung for decoration, all very cool. It was totally open to the west but we had ideal conditions and relaxed there for 2 nights, it truly was one of the most beautiful, unspoilt, quiet spots we have had in the med.

Cruising info for Porto Rondinara, Plage de Balistra, Campomoro, Porto Pollo and Cala d'Orzu:-
Anchorages -

Porto Rondinara 41 28.167N 09 16.266E 7.5m sand some weed. Watch out for the charted but unmarked rock in the middle of the bay, one yacht went right on it, not a good look or sound! (Eye Candy got it all on video)
Plage de Balistra 41 26.023N 09 13.645E 6.5m sand and weed. Good to sit out a blow from the west
Campomoro 41 38.255N 08 48.788E 13m sand and weed. Quite deep look for shallow pockets
Porto Pollo 41 42.541N 08 48.053E 16m but on new blue mooring buoy, about 40 buoys, free it seemed (20 July so peak season), no lines on buoy so either find a friend to help, back up or jump overboard
Cala d'Orzu 41 44.146N 08 42.215E 8.5m sand, we were inside the yellow buoys as was everyone else. The white floating thing that looks like a big cup and saucer is a rubbish bin!
Communications - No unlocked WIFI signals anywhere. Maltese Vodafone roaming and SFR signal on our GYMSIM both ok
Ashore - Campomoro had small grocery shop, mobile butcher and bakery. Porto Pollo a good supermarket that you could land dinghy on beach in front of. Don't remember seeing ATM anywhere. The others just had small beach bars
Formalities - Gone with the Wind were boarded by French Customs in Plage de Balistra who asked to see ships papers and passports. They went through there cruising guide and showed them the best places to stop! We were anchored about 50metres away and did not get a visit

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