Wednesday 15 August 2012


As we work our way back west towards Mallorca we stop off at a beautiful anchorage in one of the Magdalena Islands in the Costa Smerelda. There must be 100 boats in the anchorage when we drop anchor but as the afternoon wears on, most of the power boats and ribs run for home leaving a handful of yachts to enjoy the sunset. The water is so clear that even in the moonlight we can see the ocean floor beneath us.

We continue west across the Golfo dell' Asinara to the northwest tip of Sardinia and anchor off the town of Stintino. We have become addicted to anchoring in the knowledge that every time we avoid a marina we save buckets of Euros, which pays for a lot of Italian restaurants.

I wake early because today we plan to tackle the Fornelli Passage, a shallow channel between the mainland and Capo Falcone, which saves us about 25 miles of sailing around Isola Asinara, the northern most tip of Sardinia. The trouble is that it is only 3 metres deep at its shallowest point and a swell would reduce this even further. As Juno draws 2.7 metres we won't have much to spare so we leave shortly after dawn while the water is flat and the channel is fat and full. With our hearts in our mouths, Fatty hunches over the chart plotter calling the bearings and I line up the transits on the shore. In the event we never have less than 2 metres under our keel but it's still a big relief when we pop out the other side of the channel and the echo sounder starts to count up again towards a safer depth.
We anchor in the huge bay of Porto Conte just across the water from Alghero, under limestone cliffs which have eroded over the years. Another night of free mooring, another excuse to go out for lunch and as we approach the wooden dock of the restaurant in the rib, the owner takes our painter and gallantly holds out his hand to help Fatty ashore. Its more Caribbean than Mediterranean with palm trees on the beach and we sit at a table on a wooden deck on stilts over the water. Tomorrow we will dock in Alghero where Fatty heads for the UK and Andrew joins me for the sail to Palma.

This was where we started our summer cruise back in May and it gives me an opportunity to reflect on this leg of our journey before we travel west towards our destination of the Canary Islands.

We have fallen for the Italians. At the risk of offending everyone (am thinking Mother and Consuelo), the French take themselves very seriously whereas the Italians are simply happy all the time. They shout at each other, make a filthy din and are quite vulgar in the way they dress and behave, but they enjoy life and live it to the full and in today's climate of gloom, the Italians just have fun and it's refreshing and infectious. We have loved Sardinia with its dramatic scenery and the fierce independence of its inhabitants. I was apprehensive about Sicily but we found the people friendly and the food divine, as good as we have eaten anywhere in the world. But most of all Sicily surprised us because it is so understated with its hidden treasures of Greek temples, Moorish towns and sublime piazzas dominated by spectacular duomos in sparkling white marble.

We have decided that we like islands best: The Egadi Islands off the west coast of Sicily such as Faviana where we anchored in a gale and had Kim's vongole under a scarlet sunset. The volcanic Aeolian Islands north of Sicily are somewhere where we have vowed to return. The oldest lighthouse in the world, as the volcanic Island of Stromboli is known, with its regular shower of red magma is more reliable than any cardinal mark and we are determined to sail East to the Greek islands next year through the straights of Messina with Stromboli as our guiding beacon. I have to mention Panarea, also one of the Aeolian Islands, less dramatic and less volcanic but so bohemian and laid back and stylish and the source of Fatty's Italian silk dress which drips with elegance. Then further north are the islands of Capri, Ischia, Ventotene and Ponza - our favourite, oh so trendy but also so casual and stylish and somewhere else we will return. More islands further north in the form of Gianutri, Giglio and Elba - all charming and distinctive. In fact distinction is how I would describe all the places we have visited. You would think that one port or anchorage would be so much like another and yet every single one is different with its own personality and a character all of its own. But it will come as no surprise to you, if you are still reading at this point, that what makes any location memorable is not the scenery or the colour of the water or the sunshine in the sky. The single overwhelming factor that creates an amazing experience is of course the human interaction with good friends, family and even strangers who we have met along the way. Patrizio, the erudite Italian teacher who shared his freshly caught sea bass with us in our cockpit in Cagliari and explained with great feeling why 'the crisis' was decimating families in southern Europe and would change capitalism for ever.

The missing element in our cruise has been our boys, Tom and Jamie, who have been busy travelling and working to earn money for university next term. This doesn't stop us from missing them and we have decided to cut short our trip so that Fatty can fly home to disturb their bachelor lifestyle in Haslemere. Jamie and Sophie will be coming with us in September to sail to delicious Formentera and we are secretly hoping that we will be able to persuade Tom to come as well.

So next it's back to Palma where the engine and generator service is booked and the list of jobs in my notebook has now swelled to two full pages, all to be done before the ARC leaves in November.


  1. Nice close on that chapter paul - I think I agree that capitalism has a challenging future - perhaps a mixed economy is the way forward - a good debate for whiling away those Atlantic hours!

  2. If you've the time and desire, perhaps in a future blog you might expand a bit on some of the technical aspects of living aboard (ie. daily maintenance required, snags you've run into, overall impressions of Juno etc.) I might be the minority in this request, but nonetheless would find it quite interesting to hear about the ins and outs of keeping Juno ship shape.
    Thanks again for sharing.

  3. KK
    i will be happy to do a blog on this subject. good to hear that you are still reading.

  4. Loving the blogs paul, keep them coming, superb photos paint a great picture,

  5. hi caspar
    good to hear from you. will be looking out for you at those anchorages pretty soon.

  6. And for the record, I too was reading right down to the bit where you asked if we were reading!
    You write like a God, and if we can't be with you, at least we can read about it. Well played the Frew! (Now get back to the Island - we have a management meeting for you to attend!)