Cruising Corsica  

Corsica is very different from Sardinia: the geography, the language and the food. A startling contrast with Sardinia is also the pleasant joie de vivre of the french; the towns are full of life, with dozens of restaurants, pizzerias and creperie to tempt you every evening.

The spectacular cliff-faced entrance to Bonifacio should not be missed, nor the walk all the way up to the fortress town on the hill, where you will enjoy an unforgettable sunset, from a dizzily vertical cliff over the sea. The spurned lover may here join the Foreign Legion which has its headquarters and forget it all.

But I would suggest to keep on sailing around Corsica, but the quandary is which way, west or east? The traditional way for a complete circumnavigation of Corsica is eastwards, going counterclockwise, so that you will be favoured by the NE Mistral when you descend the more exposed west coast.

So let us proceed towards Porto Vecchio, the first stop being Lavezzi island, the pearl of the straits, unless you stopped there on your way over from Sardinia. The sea must be calm to enter the little cove, and you must know your rocks, as they are very tricky. Perhaps you should anchor outside and visit the delightful little beaches with your tender and also the wind swept graveyard, home of the 600 souls that lost their lives in a tragic shipwreck two centuries ago.

The next island is Cavallo, a private exclusive resort, with air-strip, villas and small central piazza. Normally it can be visited, but attention to the miriads of rocks in these waters, so venture only with detailed charts. There is an exciting narrow passage northwards close to the coast, passing the Pertusato golf course and the isola Piana's shallow emerald waters, providing a unique swimming spot. Having rounded the next headland, you arrive at Santa Manza, a deep bay (3 miles) and sufficiently protected for a safe overnight anchorage.

The next cape, Punta Chiappa (buttock in Italian), brings you to Porto Vecchio, after carefully following the 4 miles along the dragged winding channel. Deep keeled boats beware of the shallow waters, though you may stay at anchor in the bay. Avoid a night landfall, as the town lights are deceiving and the lighthouses are not always in function. Should it happen, either lie at anchor in the bay or moor at the commercial port and then motor over to the marina in the morning, as there are treacherous rocks between the two ports.

Take note that the winds can scream down the high mountains like willywas - I have sailed in 45 knots in the harbour! Once again, don't be put off a visit to Porto Vecchio, as it is worth the visit, notwithstanding the short but steep climb up the hill to the town.

Proceeding northwards from Porto Vecchio the coastline remains interesting, with a pretty stopover circular cove of Rondinara and then it flattens out, though the high mountains and the clinging villages remain in view.

The Campo Moro  marina provides a safe mooring in the long trip north and the long white beaches give plenty opportunities for a swim. Keep well away from all river entrances, as there may be sand banks and shallow water quite a way out. All this coastline is well protected from the Mistral, so you have a tranquil passage to up Bastia, the main city on this coast.

Bastia is an attractive and ancient city and a berth right in the Vieux Port makes a very pleasant stay. It is to be preferred to the newer port further north, but the places are limited.

The traditional last stepping stone in Corsica is Macinaggio, a tiny frontier town on the finger of Corsica which points to Genoa and faces the nearby Italian island of Capraia (15 miles). Elba is only 27 miles, so the crossing from France to Italy can be safely done within site of the coast. Just around the corner of Macinaggio, on the fingernail, is the Giraglia island, with its powerful lighthouse guiding sailors towards Corsica and assisting them around this critical tempestuous point. From here on you are you have to deal with the Mistral and take good note of the rather few havens on the western side of Corsica and carefully calculate your passage times, with an eye on the weather. Saint Florent, Calvi Ajaccio and Propriano are the major stop-over ports, on a largely craggy and inaccessible coastline, very much uninhabited and almost untouched by human intervention. There are a few safe bays for anchoring overnight, giving you a unique opportunity to be alone with nature.
Ajaccio is the capital of Corsica, a large though interesting city to visit and was the birthplace of Napoleon. Both Ajaccio and Propriano are stuated at the end of very wide deep bays and are sheltered from the Mistral.

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    Copyright L. Camillo 2000