An early flight from Gatwick meant that our bodies thought it was lunchtime by the time we arrived at Bastia Vieux Port around 10.30 on 29th June, and so we gratefully accepted a cold beer from outgoing Summer Cruise Supremo Andy Bowerman. After establishing that his ferry company was on strike and that his departure for Nice was delayed until the evening, the only thing to do was eat moules and drink chilled white wine in the glorious sunshine.
That evening, seated at a nice table outside at a fabulous restaurant in Bastia, there was a spot of rain which we bravely weathered under the awning. When it became a bit of a deluge we moved inside. By the time we’d had the most gorgeous meal, with Tiramisu to die for, a full-on storm was raging and we had a fairly sleepless night as Quartette rocked around in the harbour. Both Matt and Debbie were on deck at 3am to tighten and check on everything as the racket was almost unbearable – the skipper woke up, listened to their discussion and went back to sleep confident that everything was under control.
On getting the weather forecast the next morning, the Capitanerie laughed when we suggested that we wanted to go north around Cap Corse and said we had no chance, so we stayed put until late afternoon when the weather was forecast to drop to a force 4. And so it did, for a while, and Quartette made her way gracefully towards Maccinagio. And then the (unforecast) high winds returned, with gusts of 41 knots changing the sailing conditions somewhat. Oh, that’ll be a force 9 then Mr Weather Forecaster!
Calmer winds the following day allowed us to round the notorious Cap Corse with ease, marvel at the scenery and head directly to Calvi, unfortunately missing the stop in St Florent planned for the previous night, but getting us back on schedule. Forecast – sea state smooth, reality – very bumpy indeed! We were now starting to wonder whether the Corsican weather forecasts were intended for an alternative universe.
Calvi is a beautiful port, with a striking citadel at the entrance, and having been here the previous week Quartette had now completed a full circumnavigation of Corsica. However, with two Quartette visits in a week to the same port, Steve did have a bit of a job in convincing the Capitanerie that he was not John Halliday. Highlights of our evening were some fabulous seafood, with everyone having food envy when Caroline’s fish arrived, the most amazing profiteroles, and Matt helping our neighbours moor up whilst desperately wishing that he had the same swimwear collection!
Picture 1 - Matt suspects our neighbours may be smuggling budgies...
Picture 2 - Leaving Calvi
Picture 3 - The view from our mooring in Girolata
Wednesday saw us depart for Girolata, a sheltered harbour only accessible by boat, and with the most dramatic coastal scenery on the 30 mile sail. This stretch fully justifies choosing the windier west coast of Corsica passage, with towering red cliffs, amazing rock formations and beautiful bays. A lunch stop saw us anchored in a sweeping bay, deserted except for an elderly nudist gentleman, and enjoying the opportunity to swim and snorkel. Thanks to Andy Connor for leaving the flippers on board (yes, I know they should be called fins, but it really winds serious diver Greenham up when they are referred to as flippers!). Girolata is packed with tourist boats during the day, but we arrived just as they were leaving and secured a prime mooring only around 30m from the shore, meaning that it was time for the dinghy to be inflated and for Matt to demonstrate his rowing skills. A stunning location overlooking the harbour was secured for dinner, and we ate the most delicious 3 course feast for only 22 Euros/head. A little translation help was required, and we were introduced to the famous Corsican “Dangerous Pig”.
Picture 4 - Blue sea and red cliffs
Ajaccio was the destination for Thursday, more spectacular scenery en-route, and the day ending with some truly brilliant boat parking by Skipper Greenham.
Friday was a fairly long run to Bonifacio, with our departure delayed until the overnight high winds were forecast to ease late morning. The pleasant sail across the Golfo Ajaccio was uneventful until a hot breeze, which felt like a hairdryer stream, arrived and was followed by the sea whipping up and gusts peaking at 44 knots. Time for sails in & engine on! The squall didn’t last for too long, and so the refuge port wasn’t needed, but we did learn that the spray hood and bimini don’t act as very effective protection against getting soaked in these conditions. Progress was pitifully slow heading into the wind and waves , with Quartette making less than 3 knots SOG progress at times, but eventually the wind eased to below 20 knots and the sea state calmed down allowing us to make reasonable speed towards our destination.
Caroline remains cheerful despite being soaked
- Matt enjoys his expensive lobster
And what a truly spectacular destination Bonifacio was. The entrance was hidden until you got close – a narrow gap in the white cliffs, but easy to spot when a ferry suddenly appeared coming at full speed towards us. Having dodged the ferry we followed the inlet and rounded a bend to starboard to find ourselves in a natural harbour surrounded by cliffs, overlooked by a medieval citadel full of narrow alleys and quaint shops.
Quayside restaurants to suit every budget surrounded the harbour – which contained boats to suit every budget from expensive to outrageous. Dangerous Pig was on the menu again, and they even had fluffy ones in the shops. We learned that Euro 15 for lobster was the price per 100g, that the waitress was possibly being less than totally truthful when saying that it was not expensive like other places in Bonafacio, and that a reasonable sized lobster for 2 costs Euro 150! However, choosing one big lobster rather than two small ones did save a lobster’s life (for that evening at least).
Picture 7 - Looking down from the clifftops into the natural harbour of Bonifacio
Picture 8 - Bonifacio Citadel, from the sea
Picture 9 - Bonifacio Citadel from the harbour
As both outgoing and incoming crew were using Olbia Airport, it made more sense to do the changeover at Santa Teresa Gallura on Sardinia, so a quick 10 mile blast across the Straits of Bonifacio in a perfectly constant force 5, with good sea conditions and bright sunshine gave a perfect end to a great week.