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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Amazing Elba

As I write this we are sailing from Elba to the Italian mainland, rocketing along at eight knots with 25 knots of wind on the starboard quarter.  We’ve just had morning coffee along with lemon and ricotta muffins made, with great difficulty, in a rolling galley.

Elba was truly wonderful and we loved our week there.  We spent three days in the most gorgeous bay in Golfo di Viticcio doing chores, mainly cleaning Bandit’s filthy bottom.  The stainless steel also got polished and numerous other jobs done along with lots of swimming in the crystal clear water.  We met up with a lovely French Canadian couple also sailing a MOODY 46......identical except blue....and it was interesting to see what modifications they had done.   One evening we sat in the cockpit looking over at their boat saying, several times, “what a lovely boat”.  They assured us they were doing exactly the same looking at Bandit!  We’re constantly looking at bigger and better boats but seeing an identical boat made us realise we’re actually pretty happy with what we’ve got and got us thinking of that wonderful old saying “be careful what you wish for”.
Bandit at anchor (behind the palm tree) in Elba

We spent a lovely day anchored off Marciana Marina, once the fashionable spot for the wealthy and still a charming town with its elegant 19th century houses draped with plumbago and bougainvillea and streets dotted with oleander, olives, magnolia and palms.  Elba is where Napoleon was exiled and, during a day in the main town of Porto Ferraio, we walked to the two citadels and saw his palatial home.  Despite being in exile, he was there with 600 odd staff!   During his stay he was reportedly desperate to leave and escaped back to France at the first opportunity – but was then sent to St Helena, where I’m sure he wished many times he was back on beautiful Elba.

We also explored the island by bus, visiting the inland hilltop town of Capoliveri which has stunning views down into Golfo Stella, the north east waterfront towns of Cavo and Rio Marina and Porto Azzuro on the east coast.  What struck us the most is how fertile and green the inland areas are with numerous vineyards, orchards and lucerne paddocks.  The entire island is beautifully planted with trees including pines, cypress, and eucalypts and is absolutely enchanting.

Now we are looking forward to reacquainting ourselves with La Spezia which is where we were based for three months in 2005 while working on the 135ft classic schooner Aschanti.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stunning Corsica

We finally left Sardinia at the end of June. Tacking up through the Madalena Straits, well reefed down, with winds up to 20knots.....we admired the wonderful scenery for the last time....on Bandit anyway! Through the Straits of Bonifacio the wind got up and it was a bash across...
Good sailing in the Bonifacio Strait we took shelter for a few hours on the south coast before heading out again to an anchorage just north of Bonifacio. Next day it was up to Campo Moro where we once again (for the third time) had the pleasure of uninvited French customs on board. Grim faced, they asked the usual questions....."any cigarettes or alcohol on board and do you have more than 10,000euros in cash". Ha!! Funnily enough, they didn't laugh when David replied "I wish". A fairly humourless lot we were pleased when they left.

Then it was onto Ajaccio where we anchored in the bay very close to a large Carrefour - Brenda was in heaven.  All that amazing French produce - pate, brie, baguette, goat's cheese....divine!  We were here for one reason - to take the historic Micheline train up into the mountainous interior.  The 230km track takes in 32 tunnels and numerous bridges and viaducts.....through a spectacular route that cuts through and under the granite mountains.  The trip was spectacular....through emerald green forests of plane trees, holm oak and laricio pine with the ragged snow capped mountains in the background.
The Citadel at Corte
  We spent several hours at the stunning town of Corte before catching the bus back.  Corte wears the scars of early battles - many of the houses are pock marked with bullet holes.  An intriguing spot and a great day out.

Fully provisioned we headed out and were sailing up towards Calvi when we got a text from Marlborough friends who were sailing south from Calvi.  So we rendezvoused in a beautiful bay about halfway - anchoring underneath amazing red cliffs in deep inky blue water.  Had a great night on board Jungle with Pete McLean, his children Sam and Charlie and a bunch of friends - always fun to meet up with Kiwis, especially fellow Marlburians.
Jungle in Corsica

The winds were kind to us up the west coast and we had some lovely sailing.  One day we were followed by a school of tuna - they swam alongside Bandit like dolphins but despite David's best efforts we couldn't get a single one to take our lure.  Oh well...pasta for dinner.  The winds lightened to allow us a safe trip around Cap Corse which can be notorious.  This part of Corsica is spectacular - beautiful little stone villages dotted on a ragged landscape with sheer cliffs plunging down to the sea.  Beautiful clear waters too that have now warmed up to 25 degrees - perfect for swimming.
Beautiful Ajaccio