Monday, October 02, 2006

Balearics to Sardinia - side trip to Tuscany

Photo: Tuscan landscape in September

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From Spain to Italy…
Well, actually, from the Balearics to Sardinia. Some of the inhabitants of these islands have separatist leanings with distinctly different customs and language dialects than their mainland counterparts. Not such a bad thing, as that often translates into friendliness and a slower pace.

But first, our “side trip” to Tuscany, then back to the “sailing bits”.

Deborah returned to the Balearics late August from her extended trip to Ontario and we immediately flew to Rome to meet up with our old NZ friends, the Dodds and the Shaws. What a week that was! We had rented a farmhouse in Tuscany in the region of Siena and using that as our base, van-tripped daily around the beautiful Tuscan countryside, visiting all the small hilltop villages and towns enjoying the scenery, wines and food.

The photos describe the Tuscan views and villages far better than I ever could, the foods we sampled delighted our palattes and naturally the local vinos complemented the food. Wild boar sandwiches, local cheeses and sausage, of course typical Italian pizzas and pastas. The farmhouse had a traditional outdoor oven in which we barbecued several times and even roasted a leg of lamb (as Kiwis are wont to do when together).

Photo: the six of us in Tuscany - L to R: the Dodds, us and the Shaws.

Photo: The serious cheese rolling competition we came across on a Sunday afternoon in Pienza (Tuscany).

The way our flights were scheduled meant that we could spend two half-days exploring the city of Rome. We were selective and it was not rushed. The Ancient City ruins, the Vatican, an open-air bus city tour and a long stroll around the city on Saturday night (with the millions of tourists and locals) were plenty for us this time around.

Then back to Chinook. The weather took a week to cooperate for the next planned sailing leg of our "Med. trippin’". Sardinia is 200 n.m. due east of Menorca, which meant for Chinook’s slower rate, 40 to 48 hours of sailing. For the past week the winds had been hard northerlies – gale force at times – but they were forecasted to slowly lessen over a period of 2 –3 days. We left the harbour at 8:30 a.m. in very lumpy seas, a legacy from the northerlies, but agreeable 15 knot winds which virtually died by late afternoon. Not in the forecast. The “iron genny” (the engine, landlubbers!) was pressed into service and we motored and motor-sailed all night and most of the next day. The wind again sprang up enabling us to sail some more until it backed around to be on our nose, forcing us to motor-sail the last 25 n.m.

So, not quite by design, we ended up entering the new marina “Sifreda” in the town of Carloforte on the island of San Pietro on the south western tip of Sardinia at 8:30 a.m. exactly 48 hours after leaving Menorca. Tired, we tied up Chinook and got some real sleep for a few hours. On the passage we had seen five freighters, several fishing boats, one pod of dolphins, received a visit from two small land birds (finches we think) - which obligingly cleaned up some of the flies that somehow had flown out to Chinook - and had an invasion of moths (yes, 50 n.m. from land!).
Photo: Deborah with the pink flamingos which live in the salt flats on the outskirts of town.

A deal for the marina prices was struck (ten euros a day) when we found the town to be one in which we would like to enjoy for a few weeks. It (the town) is pretty, the people exceptionally friendly, and cycling around the island affords fabulous views not to mention good cardio-workouts. The ferry service to the Sardinian mainland is frequent and we took one to the capital city of Cagliari to check out the marina (Del Sole) where we think we may spend the winter. Both city and marina lived up to our expectations and so by the first of November, that is where we shall be.

In the meantime, weather permitting, we will sail to ports around Sardinia and practise our Italian on unsuspecting and confused locals, at the same time fleecing them of their vinos, pizzas and delicious chapata bread. Somehow we missed the fig season (a very short one whilst we were in Tuscany) but the grape harvest is in full swing and other fresh fruits abound. Our dangerous life continues…

Ciao, Brian and Deborah

Photos: Our sailing route in July and August around the Balearics; some of the classic sailboats in the regatta held in Mahon in August; the Colliseum in Rome