An October cruise: Sardinia - Tunisia - Sicily - Malta

Part 1


Porto Cervo – La Caletta (37 miles)

On our Jeanneau 43 DS, in three persons we set sail from our home base at Porto Cervo Costa Smeralda on the North East of Sardinia, around mid-day with a providential North wind pushing us southwards. While off Cape Figari, the Coast Guard contacted us over the radio to keep a look out for a presumed boat on fire in the area. After a long search, we all concluded that the sighting must have been a smokey ferry storming out of sight over the horizon. So we proceeded, keeping an eye open for the many fast ferries going in and out of Olbia, to sail around the spectacular steep cliffs of Tavolara and headed for La Caletta. This we found to be a very good marina as far as Sardinian standards go, very well run with a most helpful manager, who did most of our mooring work himself. There is a good fish restaurant in the main street, “Il Ristorante”, a walk all the way around the darkened marina.

La Caletta – Santa Maria Navarrese (41 miles)

We set off from La Caletta early in the morning with a very strong tail wind and a heavy stern sea, initially at Force 7, but settling to an acceptable strength after Capo Comino, though continued to difficult to steer, being fully astern. Occasionally I tried to butterfly the sails, but the gybes made me decide for a less direct course. There is only a small port on the way down, Cala Gonone, but it has very little space available, as it is all taken up with fishing boats and should only be used in an emergency or in very good weather. The gulf of Orosei provides no other shelters, consisting of unbroken sandstone cliffs. In good weather it provides a very spectacular scenery and some of the most beautiful beaches of Sardinia: Cala di Luna, Cala Sisine and the paleolithic grotto of the Bue Marino.

The tail wind and waves accompanied us all the way to Santa Maria Navarrese, which lies just 3 miles before Arbatax, a small industrial town with a large free port. However I preferred Santa Maria, as it is smaller and prettier, snuggling up against the rocky cliff face. During this trip we encountered several sail boats, of all nationalities, all heading home north after a long summer’s sailing; we were the only ones going south. In Santa Maria we were suggested a good fish restaurant, “just a bit along the beach”, which turned out to be 1.8 kms, however it was worth the walk.

Santa Maria Navarrese – Villasimius (56 miles)

 This was an uneventful and tranquil trip. There is a new marina half way down, Porto Corallo, which is in an open country area, without a local town to provide some spice, so we gave it a miss. As you approach the southern part of the island, you see the new tourist resorts, which are reasonably well inserted into the landscape.

Villasimius lies on the Capo Carbonara point, which is a national park, with its particular restrictions, the first one being a narrow passage permitted, of only 600 metres, on the western side of Serpentara island; so you must keep close to the mainland. For the rest, this park is strewn with rocks and islands, though all well charted and makes an interesting internal passage, daytime, in good weather and proceeding slowly. I would give it a wide berth at night time.

Villasimius is a modern marina just around the point and makes an excellent stopover. There is a beautiful beach right next to the marina and a fabulous beach 500 metres eastwards across the isthmus. You either wade across or walk around a shallow round lake, to the main beach, with its lovely sands and warm waters. Southern Sardinia can get quite hot in Summer, but the off season is delightful. The lively township of Villasimius is, alas, 1.5 kms away. In summer there are regular busses, otherwise you take a taxi or ask a marina worker for a lift, as they often go back and forth.

Villasimius – Cagliari (20miles)

This makes an interesting coastal cruise, along the developed coast, with its mixed assortment of constructions. As you approach Capo Sant Elia, you can make out the long flat coastline of the Poetto, the famous beach of the fortunate inhabitants of the city, who have such a lovely beach so close by. At the western end is Cala Piccola, and as the name suggests, it’s a very small harbour for the local yacht club. It can provide some shelter, but first check to see if there is room. I prefer the main port of Cagliari, as you are closer to the city centre, well within walking distance. The main shipping docks are to be avoided though , as I have heard that they are subject to petty thefts, so I chose the Lega Navale, which is fenced off and guarded.

The old city on the hill-top is very well worth visiting, and the museum, with its Nuragic, Punic, Greek and Roman artifacts, tracing the history of Sardinia over its various stages of 4000 years. Another main attraction of Cagliari, is the abundance of excellent restaurants at reasonable prices – they express an agreable mixture of Sardinian, Italian and Moorish cuisine, much based on seafoods.

The city is well equipped with ship chandlers and boat repair facilities. On this stop-over I had a Navtex installed and purchased from Ga.Pi.Mar. (tel 070-5212519) a wide C-Map GPS chart of the central southern Mediterranean, since I planned to sail to Tunisia. Marino, who is an institution at the Lega Navale, took me to a sport fishing shop for a trailing rod and tackle, which was expertly prepared with bait and ready to go. My friend Giuseppe supplied me with print outs of weather forecasts, which bode well for the crossing. It took me a while to set up the Navtex and get the hang of it, but now I would not go without it and recommend it for all Mediterranean cruisers.

Its installation got behind schedule, as a bug got into the works and I was most dismayed with all the boat’s electronic guts strewn around the cabin, just before our planned departure. At 10.30 pm the workers wanted to call it quits for the day, but some salami, cheese and beer gave them the strength to finish the job.

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