After Exodus’s last upgrades in Tunisia, we crossed over to Sardinia. We like this Italian island a lot. In 2013 – 2014 we even visited it 3 times. Two times on land and 1 sailing holiday. This time however, we were under time pressure to get to Cadiz, on the Spanish mainland, by the end of June. Therefore we only stayed 4 days. A few things that stand out for us:
Reentering Europe is laughable, but the joke is on us
We will start with the least pleasant one. We were re-entering Europe from Tunisia, on a European registered vessel, but with an American on board. As his Schengen visa only allows him 90 days to visit Europe, it is important that he is stamped in and out correctly. When we arrived in Cagliari and asked where to find the port authorities, the border control, the immigration, the customs, nobody really seemed to know where to go. We ended up walking down the entire harbor area and having to ask several times. We were sent from one corner to the next, to finally find the right office. It was very clear to us that the Sardos don’t really keep track of who goes where. They laughed when we asked where we should go and report for customs clearance, and told us they don’t really bother with that. This was an eye-opener. If we did not go and find the authorities, nobody would have known about us, our crew, or our boat. If we decided to bring along 15 ISIS fighters, armed to the teeth, it would have been child’s play to do it unnoticed. Quite a scary thought, that in this day and age of terrorism you can bring anything and anyone you like into European waters. A weakness and naivety that is surely not lost on your average jihadist!
Cruiser hang outs
In Cagliari we stayed in Marina del sol, which is the marina on the bottom end in the most forlorn corner of the harbor. You cruise past all the fancy marinas, with superyachts, charter companies and so on, and keep going until you come across a place where you find boats in all shapes, sizes and degrees of composure. There are a fair amount of residents (people that live on their boat), a few weekend sailors, and a large amount of cruisers. This motley crew -with people from all strands of life- complimented by an equally diverse staff, makes for an interesting mix. The place is a cruiser’s haven. It has character, even if the facilities consist of two tents: the one tent hosts a ramshackle marina office, bar and workshop with some dingy dogs. The other tent is for ablutions. The berths, quays and peer are connected with wooden plank decks of different sizes that rattle when you cycle over them. In comparison with the other marinas it is quite affordable, and chances of meeting interesting people with whom you can exchange information are much bigger.
From Cagliari we took a 5u sail to a small cruiser beach on the way to Carloforto. This was quite an idyllic spot, set in a beautiful bay. It is visited only by a few locals, most of them on their boat. Also on anchor overnight was a New Zealand couple. They have 3 kids on board, aged between 9 and 14. They are all homeschooled, through a New Zealand online correspondence system. They sail 6 months and go back for 6 months, and so on. Perfectly possible for those who are willing to make the effort.
Why we like Sardinia
Sardinia stands out for us as an island where the balance between humans and nature is still intact: Cities and villages are contained like pockmarks, lined with rugged mountains, forest and bush. The big granite slap on which everything rests, not only gives the impression to be solid and indestructible, it adds to the rough character we like. Outside of the cities it looks like a hard life, but the weather and scenery make up for it.
Scattered around the island you will find remnants of earlier civilizations, in a very typical snail house style. The Sardos have not felt the need to tear them down. They leave them be, protected as part of their heritage and for future generations to visit. Left for nature to take over.
Sardinia has a lot to offer for those who like diving and mountaineering. It has beautiful views, like driving in a post card. There are coastal drives with narrow roads that allow you to admire steep mountains plunging in the bright blue seas. It reminds us of Chapman’s Peak Drive in Cape Town. There are cave systems to be climbed or dived in.
Our next anchorage behind Carloforto bay was also picture perfect. We were looking out at vast rock formations, consisting of slaps of granite. Sheer cliffs sculpted over many centuries. But the artist did not stop there. He continued working on the top layers adding softer stone, earth, shrubs and bushes.
On Sundays there is the customary wild boar hunting, Italian style. You will find lines of cars parked along the road, with the hunters dressed in full camos but with a fluojacket over it, an espresso or cappuccino in hand while waiting for the wild boars to come to the road. Another national sport is spearfishing. Each coastal village has its own spearfishing shop.
The Sardos have a unique identity (which other country has a flag with 4 beheaded Moorish kings that tried to take the island?). They are proud to be their own island. We especially enjoy the cheap local wine (no fuzz, no extensive marketing, just good wine) and the typical Sardo bread. We have no problem with a coffee, pasta and meat loving people.
This makes Sardinia one of the few places in Europe where we would consider settling, once our bodies prohibit long travels.
Moving on to Menorca
As the clock was ticking, it was time for us to take off after four days. Our router stopped working, therefore we were unable to check the weather report online. Luckily we were not alone during the day on our anchoring spot. We kayaked over to the neighbouring boat and used their smartphone to check passage weather and got invited for a drink in the meantime. All looked fine for the coming two days to cross over to Menorca.
Casting off or lifting anchor are in itself quick movements, but the whole process of moving away from land is quite lengthy. At first you need to focus as you move through the fishing buoy zone. If there is enough wind, you hoist the sails. You catch your breath as slowly slowly the land gets smaller, and you hope the wind picks up.
More than 30 miles out on the sea, the deep blue water gave away that there was about 1700m water beneath our keel, we were sailing slowly on an 8 knot wind, when all of the sudden an butterfly came fluttering past. Amazing!