Monday, 24 June 2013

By Sail to the Coast of Tuscany and Train to Pisa - Italy



June 8-9, 2013


 We were all excited about crossing to the Italian mainland and beginning the next leg of our travels along the west coast of the big boot. Our initial destination was 36 nautical miles away at a marina in the busy port of Livorno in Tuscany. From here we could take off inland to explore Pisa, Florence, Siena and the countryside between.


Time to swap the sea-boots for backpackers

With a good wind forecast we were looking forward to a nice sail across from Isola Capraia and got underway reasonably early. We raised the full mainsail while still in the smooth waters of the large harbour, unfurled the genoa and set our course for Italy. A warm sun was shining down on us as we sailed out through the headlands and nothing could be better. Funny how you get conned by nature sometimes.
As we moved further from the shelter of the island, the wind strength kept growing and was soon past the forecast maximums. The old saying is when you first start thinking about reducing sail it’s time to do it. So rather than delay, we pointed up into the wind and pulled the main down to the first reefing point. It proved to be a good call as within minutes we were experiencing gusts over twenty knots. Alcheringa sails extremely well reefed down and we had no trouble pushing along at over seven knots.

Unfortunately with the stronger winds came cloud and without the sun to warm us up the cool breeze soon had us rugging up a bit more. Then with the cloud came the showers and before long we were all in our wet weather sailing gear too. With the wind and the rain came a bigger swell so now we were cold, wet, rocking and rolling and wondering where the hell summer had gone. Never the less we were making good time and were sailing right along the rhumb line straight towards our destination and that’s how we spent the next six hours.

video

Approaching Livorno with the rain limiting visibility we were again very thankful for our AIS system. It is a very busy commercial port with plenty of container ships and large ferries coming and going not to mention huge cruise ships that stop over to disgorge their thousands of punters for a one day bus tour of the sites of Tuscany. With the AIS we were able to avoid a couple of the ferries and sail through the harbour entrance confident no bad surprises were heading our way from the other side of the high breakwaters. We dropped our sails inside the protection of those big walls and made our way to the Yacht Club Livorno Marina where we tied up, tidied up and enjoyed hot showers and being warm again.

Isola Capraia to Livorno - 36.5 Nautical Miles - 6 Hours 16 Minutes
Average Speed 5.8 knots - Max 7.9 knots
The Italians are made keen on rowing. These guys were fighting it out for
first place coming past our bow in the marina after racing around the harbour



Marc had travelled through Tuscany previously so he elected to have a few days relaxing on the boat while we went into backpacker mode and found ourselves at Livorno’s main station next morning trying to make sense of the timetables on the wall, ticketing system and general mayhem going on. After a calming Cappuccino in the station café we made our way to the platform to wait for our train to Pisa. Then, thanks to the assistance of a helpful young guy with good English skills, we made our way to the correct platform to await our train thus avoiding arriving in Rome a month ahead of schedule.
 

The trip to Pisa only took about twenty minutes so before long we were navigating our way through the streets of this famous city with the assistance of the GPS and maps feature of Karen’s IPad. The primary destination of course was Piazza del Duomo ( Cathedral Square) home of the famous bell tower in the world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
 

While it was still both early in the day and early in the summer, the square was already quite busy with tourists all jockeying for the perfect photograph of each other either holding the tower up or pushing it over. If they realised how ridiculous they looked inching a fraction to the left, right, forward, back, with a palm in the air I’m sure they wouldn’t bother. It provided us with plenty of amusement though as we settled for the more conventional shots.


The whole street was lined with people trying pose the hand on the tower shot


Construction of the tower occurred in three stages across 344 years. Work on the ground floor began on August 14, 1173. The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-metre foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for almost a century, because the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca, and Florence. In 1272 construction resumed and in an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. Because of this, the tower is actually curved. Construction was halted again in 1284, when the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans in the Battle of Meloria.
 
The seventh floor was completed in 1319. There are seven bells, one for each note of the musical major scale. The largest one was installed in 1655. The bell-chamber was finally added in 1372. The total amount of years that the building of the tower took was between 185 and 195 years.
 

The heart of the Piazza del Duomo is the Duomo itself, the medieval cathedral. Its Construction began in 1064 and set the model for the distinctive Pisan style of architecture seen throughout the Piazza. The façade is of grey marble and white stone set with discs of coloured marble, was built by a master named Rainaldo. The massive bronze main doors replaced the original doors destroyed in a fire in 1595.


Each of the eight major scenes on the door are incredibly detailed

The Duomo was fantastic to wander around soaking up the ornate marble interior and sumptuous artworks by medieval masters. Looking at some revered person’s skull in a glass case on the wall and reading the story of some of the crypts had us shaking our heads in disbelief. Even with Rob’s background as RC (Retired Catholic) we both struggled with the concept of hacking a person’s body up into pieces so ‘holly relics’ could be shared between the Vatican, various cathedrals and wealthy churches.
The timber ceiling is beautifully intricate.
At least the lucky body in this glass case appears to be in one piece
 
 
 
Karen of course was absolutely in her element gazing at the endless art to be found at every turn. The marble pulpit, sculptured by Giovanni Pisano is absolutely amazing. one the masterworks of medieval sculpture. It was packed away during the redecoration after the fire and not rediscovered and re-erected until 1926.
 
 
When you look to the heavens you find more spectacular art works
It's a hell of a building to just house a baptismal font,
even one the size of a large spa bath.

The Baptistry opposite the Duomo was also well worth spending some time in. Its construction began in 1152 and completed in 1363. Built on the same unstable sand as the Tower, the Baptistry leans 0.6 degrees toward the cathedral. The stunning pulpit was sculpted between 1255-1260 by Nicola Pisano, father of Giovanni, the artist who produced the pulpit in the Cathedral. An external roof was added later giving the shape of a cupola. As a side effect of the two roofs, the pyramidal inner one and the round external one, the interior is acoustically perfect, working the space as a resonating chamber. If you stand by the curved interior wall you can clearly hear someone whispering on the other side of the very large room. The climb up the stairs to the upper balcony provided not only great views down over the baptismal chamber, but also out through the windows to the cathedral and bell tower.



The octagonal font  dates from 1246 and was made by Guido Bigarelli da Como.
The bronze sculpture of St. John the Baptist is a work by Italo Griselli.


From the upper level you have great views down over the font, pulpit and altar
as well as through the windows to the Duomo and the bells at the top of the tower.



A pleasant feature of the Piazza del Duomo while we were there was the constant rumble of Harley-Davidsons echoing around the square. The European celebration of the 110th Anniversary of Harley Davidson was being held in Rome the following weekend attracting 30,000 Harley enthusiasts from all over the continent. Of course many were taking in all the tourist high spots on their way and we had the chance to chat to a number of fellow HOG (Harley Owners Group) members from all sorts of places while we wandered around.
These HOGies from France were amongst those we chatted to.
We also explored many of the streets of the old city beyond the square and had a nice lunch of local dishes and wine at a sidewalk café. We then slowly made our way back to the station where we caught a late afternoon train onwards to Florence for the next stage of our adventures in Tuscany.
 


Away from Piazza del Duomo there are many more great buildings to be found.
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Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Island of Capraia – A hidden Italian Gem

June 7-8, 2013

 It was unusual to be able to have a sleep in on a sailing day but on Friday June 7 we were leaving Corsica and making our way eighteen nautical miles to the Island of Capraia, handily located a third of the way to Italy’s Tuscan coast. The forecast predicted no wind before around 11am so we didn’t lift the anchor until 10.30. This gave us enough time to motor clear of the huge wind break of Corsica’s Cap Corse and be in clear air to take advantage of the expected eight to ten knot breeze, if and when it arrived. Yes we’re still sceptics when it comes to weather forecasts in the Med.
 

This time the weather gurus were pleasantly spot on the money. Within twenty minutes we turned into the slowly building wind to raise the mainsail, eased back onto our course, turned the motor off and enjoyed a glorious broad reach in warm sunshine almost on a direct line all the way to our landfall on the southern tip of Isola Capraia.

 
Marc trying to get a phone pic of our Italian landfall to post on his facebook
Isola Capraia is a great stop when crossing from Corsica to Italy
 
And what a land fall it was. Punta Zenobito is a spectacular geological formation. The western cliffs feature well weathered granite, contrasting red rock infusions with a sporadic coverage of dense, low green foliage and bright yellow wild flowers. Rounding the point we were completely sheltered from the breeze and sailed into dead calm waters. We discovered a fellow cruising yachtsman anchored in a tiny indentation in the cliffs where the aged granite met a sheer cliff face of red rock. It was certainly a picturesque spot to say ‘Hello Italy’ for although the island is closer to French territory in the form of Corscia than the Italian mainland, Capraia is very Italian.


Karen enjoying the sunshine and sailing as we approach Isola Capraia
The contrasting rock colours, vegetation and wild flowers were dramatic
What an anchorage under the cliffs of Punta Zenobito
No Karen. There is not room in there for us too.
It’s known to have been settled in Roman times and the ruins of a Roman villa can still be seen near the village at Porto Capraia. It was later settled by monks who over the course of time apparently slipped into what Pope Gregory the Great referred to as ‘unorthodoxy and loose behaviour.’ It must have been very loose because the said Pope dispatched an armed force to show them the error of their ways and ‘encourage’ them back into line. Like much of the Mediterranean, the island was also ravaged by pirates for centuries. Lord Nelson captured it, which no doubt looked good in Admiralty dispatches at the time, but in the end there was no point in keeping it so he sailed away and onto the next conquest we guess. These days the small population of islanders earn a modest income from a little tourism.

Capraia is part of the Tuscan Archipelago Nationals Park with the island and its waters a marine reserve. No access is permitted at all to a large area off the west coast while in the waters around most of the remainder no fishing of any sort is permitted with all diving and anchoring regulated.  The harbour at Porto Capraia itself is the only landfall permitted on the island but we chose to make the most of the incredible looking water and anchored in Ansa Ceppo, a bay surrounded by sheer cliffs on the south eastern side.


In the clear waters of Isola Capraia Karen had her first swim of the summer. 
It was glorious. Marc and Rob had no sooner got the anchor on the bottom then there was a loud splash at the stern. Karen wasted no time getting in for her first swim of the summer and was in even before the engine was turned off. Rob followed soon after in snorkelling gear. Checking the set of the anchor in the sand was a simple matter as the bottom could be seen clear as day over eight metres below the surface. He also took the opportunity to give the boat’s  waterline a quick scrub to remove a bit of the marina grime that had built up since she went back into the water in Ceuta back in March.


A guy's work is never done. Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.
The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the serenity, with a few sundowners of course and a great BBQ dinner in the cockpit. It’s so nice to not be living below all the time now the weather has warmed up. We love summer.


OK. So it's not all hard work.
Macinaggio to Isola Capraia - 18.2 Nautical Miles - 3 Hours 55 Minutes
Average speed 4.6 knots Max 6.6 knots
 
Next morning we raised the anchor and headed offshore a little to try and pick up some phone service. Back home in Australia our Daughter, Yasmin, was expecting our fifth grandchild anytime now so we hated being out of reach. Unfortunately our French sim card couldn’t quite connect across the 33 kilometres of water back to Corsica so we gave up and turned for Porto Capraia.


Wow! Approaching Porto Capraia we rounded a point as found this.
What a gem of a place. With the weather predicted to stay very settled, we were able to safely anchor in a corner of the harbour beside some cliffs topped by a medieval watch tower. We soon had the dingy down and made our way the short distance past an unusual sculpture of a sea nymph on the end of the  breakwater and into the inner harbour and marina area to the waterfront village.


That's what you call anchoring under protection.
Looked like this little sea nymph at Porto Capraia was deep in thought.
Anse Ceppo to Porto Capraia - 
 
It was a very attractive spot with just a few dockside cafes and a small general store. Our priority was to find some WiFi to get an update on the state of play with not only the impending birth of our soon to be youngest grandson, but also to catch up with how our elder two were faring with their racing in the Junior Dragster Class at Australia’s biggest event, the Winternationals.

We adjourned to one of the cafes and ordered a nice bottle of Tuscan wine as we made our connection with the outside world. First things first, Yasmin was able to inform us that she was still regrettably in one piece rather than two. However she had been experiencing some labour pains so said she was expecting to evict Junior sooner rather than later. Like all mums to be in the final stages of pregnancy she was clearly over it all and looking forward to the idea of sooner much more than the possibility of later.


Things are pretty relaxed on Isola Capraia. This how you change a tyre.
On the racing front, Ethan had driven exceptionally well but unfortunately his car didn’t match his performance on this occasion and he’d been beaten very narrowly in the first round. Caleb on the other hand was going gang busters and was moving through the elimination rounds quite nicely. He had one more race to win to reach the quarter finals and get to be part of the huge main finals day of the event.

Our fingers were crossed that things went smoothly for both Yasmin and Caleb but as we were sailing for the Italian mainland the next day we were going to have an anxious wait until we reached port and could connect again to get the next instalment of news from home.

While we handled all of our communications with family, Marc went off in search of a teller machine to get some cash. A friendly local provided the info that there wasn’t one in the village and said he’d have to go ‘to the city’ pointing to the walled fortress and it’s surrounds on top of the hill. An hour or so later Marc reported back that the city was in fact a very nice, but sleepy and very small town atop the hill overlooking the harbour entrance.



We found Capraia an absolutely delightful, unspoiled place, with extremely open and friendly people. It would have been nice to spend another day there and explore the old fort and long closed prison along with some of the national park area but the weather gurus were predicting a very good sailing wind to push us the rest of the way to the Italian coast the next day . You have to make the most of the wind when it’s in your favour, and besides, Pisa, Florence and the hills of Tuscany were calling us.

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If you only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway. We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.

 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Cruising the Coast of Corsica

May 28 – June 6, 2013

On Tuesday morning we farewelled Steve and Trish as they headed off to explore more of Corsica for a few days before returning home to southern France. Then we prepared to get underway again. Our original intention had always been to cruise the dramatic west coast of Corsica but the spring weather was not playing the game. Not only had temperatures not really warmed up yet but the fearsome mistral winds were still blowing strongly down off the French Alps and across the Gulf of Lion all the way to Corsica. The west coast had been hammered with gales for the last few weeks and the forecast was showing no let up.

 


Rather than sit on our heels hoping for an unlikely break in the weather, we elected to continue up the east coast of the island instead. While this coast offers a number of spectacular anchorages in the very south and a few along Cap Corse at the island’s northern tip, there are not many options in between. As a result we would have to spend more time in marinas on the way up. Luckily, we’d moored beside a British couple, Brian and Linda, in Porto Vecchio who have been sailing this area of the Med on their yacht French Maid, for over 20 years. They were very forthcoming with advice on various places and proved a mine of valuable information.



While not as spectacular as the west coast, much of Corsica’s east still provides a pleasant backdrop to a day’s sailing.
Our first hop was 20 nautical miles from Porto Vechchio to a marina at Salenzarra. Despite high seas and strong winds on the west coast there was very little in the way of breeze in our part of the world so we had a sedate motor along this quite attractive stretch of coastline. Our new friends had recommended this as a nice marina in a small but very pleasant town and that’s exactly what we found.

Porto Vecchio to Salenzarra. 19.9 Nautical Miles - 3 Hours 33 Minutes – Ave speed 5.6 knots Max 7.0 knots
Salenzarra was an attractive spot to stop under the gaze of the high ranges still dusted in snow.
 We initially planned to stay two nights here just to give us time to have a look around and make use of the Laundromat near the marina. Needing to get two week’s worth of washing done at a time is a pain and proving to be one of the more expensive items in our cruising budget. A trip to the Laundromat can cost up to 50 Euros. ($70 Aus) We can now understand why so many cruisers are now looking to have small washing machines aboard. Although you can only use it in port unless you have an onboard generator, a machine would still quickly pay for itself if you can find somewhere to fit it.

 Otherwise however we were quite impressed with Salenzarra and thought it might be a good spot to leave the boat while we hired a car to drive over and spend a couple of days checking out the west coast we were missing. We’d had a great time meandering around in the south of the island in Steve and Trish’s car while we were in Bonifacio and had really enjoyed driving around Menorca as well.

Rob went off to see if he could hire a car in the town and discovered the good news that the local service station was a Hertz agent. Even better news was that they had a tiny Renault hatchback available for the next couple of days. Surely that would be cheap. Then the bad news. The price was 158 Euros per day ($223) After recently paying just 30 Euro per day on Menorca it was a very quick ‘Thanks but no thanks’.

The weather finally warmed up enough to break out the bbq


While we had reasonably good weather, we did watch a few awesome thunder storms blow through north of us.
We were back to the plan of moving on next day  - until Marc discovered the electric anchor windlass was not working. Bugger. A quick check of all the obvious suspects didn’t reveal the problem so off he went to the local ship chandlers to find a marine electrician. ‘Sorry too busy today. Should be OK tomorrow.’ Alright. So we wouldn’t be moving on tomorrow after all.

We then sat around most of the Thursday before receiving a phone call from the chandlery mid afternoon. ‘Too busy today too. Maybe Monday’.  Rob spat the dummy about unreliable bastards and went and sought some help from Brian of French Maid who was also in Salenzara by now. Fifteen minutes with a multi metre narrowed the likely culprit down to the solenoid relay box but two minutes stripping back some wires from the hand control also revealed some badly corroded copper. Brian offered to take the hand control back to his boat and solder some new cable on overnight which would at least fix that problem. Next morning Rob refitted it all and replaced another suspect section of wire he discovered leading to the relay box and sure enough up and down went the anchor again. All good.  Instead of a 100 to 150 Euro for the chandlery’s marine electrician we took Brian and Linda to a waterfront café and shouted the drinks. Much better value and a lot more fun.

Saturday morning we slipped the lines and motored out onto another glassy sea a little before 8.00am and set course for the city of Bastia over 50 nautical miles up the coast. Immediately on leaving the marina we headed well offshore as our pilot guide book warned of a military bombing range adjacent to the French Air Force base located just north of Salenzarra. It was also clearly marked on our electronic charts so we decided we’d rather not become a live target for the French fly boys.

We shouldn’t have bothered as no sooner had we got a couple of miles out to sea than we saw a stream of yachts, including French Maid, begin sailing right through the middle. Oh well at least our seaward position saw us get the first of the wind that did come in complete with a better sailing angle than the short cutters so we actually rounded the point for the run to Bastia a little ahead of them anyway.
Alcheringa under sail approaching Bastia. Thanks to Brian on French Maid for getting the shot.

We had planned to anchor in a small bay on the southern side of Bastia but the south easterly wind was generating a moderate swell which would have seen us rolling badly at anchor. Rather than put up with an uncomfortable stay, we reluctantly headed for Port Toga marina on the northern side of the city on Brian’s recommendation. It was good advice again as we were welcomed warmly by the mariner who helped us berth and then returned to the boat twenty minutes later with a key for the pontoon gate, code for amenities block and the comment ‘Bring boat papers to office later sometime. Non hurry. Pay when leave. Enjoy!’ Now that’s friendly service.
Salenzarra to Bastia – 55.8 Nautical Miles – 9 Hours 38 Minutes – Ave Speed 5.8 Knots Max 7.4 knots
The scenery through the interior ranges of Corsica is spectacular

 
Bastia actually proved to be a very enjoyable stop. The next day Marc wandered off to explore the old town while we joined Brian and Linda for a train trip up into the mountains. We wound our way through spectacular ranges before finally reaching the town of Corte. Here we hiked up through the steep streets to a restaurant our knowledgeable friends had discovered on a previous trip. The house specialty was Wild Boar. We have to say riding on the coat tails of other people’s trail blazing was working pretty well for us. Like all the little bits of advice Steve and Trish had provided while with us the previous week, Brian and Linda’s experience in this area of the Med was invaluable. The lunch was spectacularly good of course, as was the local Corsican wine. The views of the ranges, valleys and castle from the very top of the town were worth every bit of the high altitude huffing and puffing it took to get up there. Awesome!
Lunch of Wild Boar with Brian and Linda of French Maid. Now 77 Brian has been sailing
the Med for over 20 summers with Linda since retiring as a British Airways 747 pilot.




The walk to the top of Corte was worth every single step.

 
 
 
 
That night we swapped stories of what we’d all seen with Marc and then followed in many of his footsteps next day wandering around the Castillo and old walled town areas of Bastia. At one point we were making our way up a steep, residential laneway when an elderly chap standing by a high gate spied Rob’s camera and very enthusiastically insisted in very patchy English that we follow him inside for ‘magnifique photo’. Dressed all in black Karen though he looked like a Mafia boss. We warily stepped through the gateway and found a courtyard leading to not one, but two, spectacular villas with high elevated views. From our broken conversation we gathered he was the fifth or sixth generation to live in the family property.  The view from the courtyard’s terrace not only looked over the Castillo but stretched to the islands of Capraia, Elba and Montecristo made famous by the fictional Count. Our unexpected tour guide assured us that, on a clear day, Italy was visible. When our host learned we were not English but rather Australian he was very impressed saying ‘So far. Another planet’. He was so open and friendly our unexpected experience will remain with us as one of the many highlights of our time on Corsica.
We had no idea a walk up this steep lane would lead to such an unexpected encounter.
Karen with our impromptu tour guide on the terrace of his villas
Rob took so many photos of the old town area it was really hard to choose just a few.



Napolean was born on Corsica and is revered but this statue depicting the rotund little
megalomaniac  as a Roman Emperor may be taking things a little far.
 
While we really enjoyed Bastia, by the time we headed back to sea on Tuesday June 4, we were ready for two things, some warm summer weather and a few nights not in a marina. Fortunately we only had to go eight nautical miles up the coast to a delightful bay at Pietracorbara to find both. The sun shone warm and bright and the anchorage was very calm and the water even clearer. While we considered the water still to cool, after putting a toe in, Marc decided the time had come for his first swim of the summer and, after berating us as sooks, struck out for the beach. After a walk along the sand and a short stop for an overpriced beer at waterfront bar he swam back to the boat and admitted the water temperature was still a bit chilly once you broke through the top few inches. Never the less we had a great day reading and lazing around in the sun and fired up the boat’s barbecue for a great dinner and sundowner drinks.
At last the weather was starting to match the date and with the first true hints of summer
Once again the Corsican coast was an awesome backdrop
 The bay at Pietracorbara was just the sought of anchorage we’d been hanging out for
That’s the bottom, five metres down
The fruits of the BBQ. We do it tough on Alcheringa.
 Bastia to Pietracorbara – 8.2 Nautical Miles – I Hour 21 Minutes – Ave Speed 6.0 knots  Max 8.1 knots
In fact, we enjoyed it so much we moved all of 2.2 nautical miles further north into another great bay at Porticcilio and did it all again next day. Without the Marc’s swim part though. In this bay we discovered the most incredible, iridescent coloured jellyfish floating around in their scores. Pinks, purples and even some orange examples drifted past in the crystal clear water. They may have been beautiful but they also had very long tentacles which we imagine may have had an unpleasant effect on human skin.


Our neighbours in Porticcilio. Our view was better.
These guys were unbelievable.
All photographed from the deck. No underwater shots at all.


This one had managed to ingest a blade of sea grass somehow which was visible all the way into its body.
Pietracorbara to Porticcilio – 2.2 Nautical Miles  - 0 Hours 28 Minutes
 Ave Speed 4.5 Max 5.3 (Our shortest one day passage yet.)

Our last stop on Corsica was planned to be the marina at Macinagio on June 6 but when we arrived we discovered an excellent anchorage just outside the harbour entrance and elected to spend the night out there rather than be rubbing shoulders with the neighbours again and have the added expense of mooring fees. Macinagio itself is a nice little town with very attractive cafes and stores along the harbour front. We were able to top up our fresh food supplies and enjoy a nice afternoon ashore. The only thing we weren’t able to achieve was the one reason we came to Macinagio. Our pilot book said there was a customs office here and after not being able to check out of Spain on Menorca, nor able to check into France at Bonifacio, we wanted to clear customs out of France before arriving in Italy. However the marina office informed us there was no longer a customs office in the town. ‘only in Bastia. Go there.’
We had a relaxing downwind sail using the genoa only to Macinagio
Porticcilio to Macinagio – 5.8 Nautical Miles – 1 Hour 52 Minutes – Ave Speed 3.1 knots Max 5.9 knots
 


Macinagio’s waterfront is thick with lovely old buildings.
 
It was now obvious that modern Europe doesn’t seem to give a hoot about border controls. We figured what the hell. Let’s just keep going.

MARINA REVIEW: Porto Vecchio - Corsica  **1/2

 

Cost per night for our 43 foot (13.2m) yacht – 44.05 Euro (including VAT, water, power and WiFi. Separate charge for shower tokens)


On arrival we went straight to the fuel dock and topped up our tank. We then had to wait there until 4.00pm for berthing instructions as the marina office was closed for siesta. We were eventually advised by radio to go stern to anywhere available on the first pontoon finger. No mariner assistance was provided.

The marina is very well protected and a huge natural harbour. Shower and toilet could only be described as disgusting. They were so dirty and unhygienic we chose not to use them all. We showered on the boat and made use of the toilet facilities in a nearby café/bar we patronised. We believe they are about to be renovated but we certainly hope they also learn to clean them.

There is no security on the pontoons and we were advised by other cruises that there had been cases of serious theft from a couple of boats including an Australian couple who lost laptops, Ipads, cash, passports and other valuables while ashore having a meal.

Despite being quite a good marina structure wise, Two and a half stars was the most we could give on the value rating due to the state of the facilities and the all round unhelpful nature of the staff.

MARINA REVIEW: Salenzara - Corsica  ***1/2

 
Cost per night for our 43 foot (13.2m) yacht – 45.60 Euro (including VAT, water and power and WiFi. Separate charge for shower tokens)

The entrance to the marina is a little shallow but not a problem with care. There were not a lot of vacant berths and we can imagine boats being turned away in the peak summer season. No doubt the price climbs too.

On arrival we were directed via a radio to a stern to spot on the outer wall between two large motor boats. No mariner assistance was provided. However the reception staff were extremely welcoming and helpful with information about the town.

The showers were operated by a two euro token for ten minutes. The facilities were extremely clean but were locked up at 7.00pm which is a bit early when the sun doesn’t go down until after nine. Laundry, supermarket, chandlers and a range of reasonably expensive restaurants are all nearby. Slightly cheaper food options are available away from the waterfront.

MARINA REVIEW: Porto Toga – Bastia - Corsica  ***1/2

Cost per night for our 43 foot (13.2m) yacht – 51.60 Euro (including VAT, water and power. WiFi was not provided but many very close dockside café/bars offered free WiFi. We could actually access one from on deck without the benefit of a mast head WiFi aerial like many cruisers use.


(We had also sort a price from the alternative ‘Vieux Port’ marina on the southern side of Bastia which was 70 Euro per night.)

The entrance to the marina is both narrow and shallow but not a problem in reasonable weather with care. It would get ugly with a north easterly swell running.


On arrival we were met by the mariner in a rib who led us to our alongside berth and provided assistance with mooring He was extremely welcoming and helpful . Most berths are bow or stern to.

The shower facilities were accessed by a code and  clean although a little dated. A very large supermarket is located straight over the road from the marina. A large, well stocked chandlery is onsite.  

We enjoyed our stay in Port Toga but with marina prices rising as we head east we would expect at least the inclusion of WiFi for our 50 Euros and up before we give more than three and a half stars for value.

For more about our travels and lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at Dreamtime Sail on Facebook

If you only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. Stuff it. Let's just go sailing anyway. We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.