Crossing the Bonifacio Strait and making way to mainland France
We stayed at the anchorage where we made landfall in northeast of Sardinia for a day to have a rest and do a few checkups on The Dream rigging, sails and engine before embarking on the next leg of this journey.
Day 1 (2022-04-15)
On the morning of the 15th we were up early to lift anchor and start heading towards the famous Madalenas. Our cunning plan was to slowly sail between the reservation areas and Sardinia proper and this way enjoy the views of this place while taking a short cut to the Bonifacio Strait.
This would also allow us to avoid the swell of the Tyrrhenian Sea and this way making possible for us to sail in a very light downwind breeze (without the constant slamming of sails) towards Palau town where we would stop to get some fuel for the next leg.
The views were great and the polite sail was very enjoyable.
We made our quick stop in Palau, got 50 litres of fuel, gave Ella a much loved swim and then got back moving towards the next part of this day journey.
We crossed the Bonifacio Strait during the afternoon on a nice beam reach, with winds of 8 to 14 knots, only one cargo vessel to be seen.
Again the view was stunning, Bonifacio white cliffs and the green lush landscape of Corsica ahead of us, the pink tones of the Madalenas behind us as the sun started to make its way down.
As we approached the cliffs of Bonifacio the wind started dying on us, now we had the rush of getting into our anchorage before the sunset so we could see the bottom and avoid any rocks or Posidonea seaweed patches before dropping anchor. There was also the concern that this was a reasonably small anchorage so if other boats were already there we needed to be able to have distances accurately.
In the same moment we were about to enter the anchorage we noticed some disturbances on the water in front of us. John grabbed the binoculars to see it better and said: “I think there’s a small whale or something on the west shoulder of the anchorage". I quickly slowed down The Dream and put the autopilot on standby so I could hand steer our way in very slowly.
John keeping an eye on whatever animal that was. It was definitely bigger than a dolphin, very unlikely to be a small whale.
As we passed that area we understood it was two or three porpoises frolicking in the shallows by the anchorage entrance.
There was another yacht already at anchor. Our big sister a Dufour 560!
We found our sand patch and dropped anchor behind them, as we did that they rushed outside to see the fellow Dufour (us) at that point they noticed the porpoises playing in the anchorage entrance.
We all stayed simply watching them as the sunset brought all the pinkish skies. A truly special moment in the most stunning anchorage.
Day 2 (2022-04-16)
Another early morning start.
We left the anchorage a 6.30am and hoisted the mainsail, turned west and prepared for a nice polite sail.
The day look sunny and inviting, the Corsican coast a pleasurable view.
What waited for us as we bent Capo de Feno to head up the coast was a bank of fog that stayed with us for hours.
AIS on, radar on, eyes wide open.
What a bummer, we could not even enjoy the view and of course the reason why the morning fog wouldn’t lift was the lack of wind. A slug of a morning not even with a view to keep us entertained, just our eyes glued to the radar and out into the thick fog.
Just before lunch time the fog finally lifted or maybe it was us that managed to finally peel away from it.
Jib opened at last and we got to enjoy another little gentle sail until we bent the cape just before the gulf of Ajaccio when the wind died out to none. A bit more motoring and then it was time to somehow anchor The Dream a 50ft sailing vessel in between the mooring field of small day-tripper boats and an old jetty just in front of the marina, the only place where one can anchor in Ajaccio. Successful mission.
Now we needed to wait one day due to a big blow coming from northeast before heading towards the France mainland.
The following day we tried to go provisioning but apparently supermarkets close at lunch time on Easter Sunday so we decided to go celebrate Easter our way with a Corsican lunch.
Moules for me and Veal sausages with mash potato for John.
Day 3 (2022-04-18)
Another early start, this time punctuated by some concern on finding out if our anchor had snagged something on the bottom of this anchorage. It was not the case, the anchor came up without a hiccup!
We took a sneaky short cut exiting the Ajaccio gulf by passing in between the Iles Sanguinaires (the Bloodthirsty islands, interesting name choice), the weather was calm, the visibility good so we simply motored through this very narrow and shallow passage. On the other side still some residual swell that would drive us mad for most of the day, causing the boom to slam due to the very light winds from the aft quarter
Eventually, by late afternoon the wind moved a bit more to the port side quarter and we managed to motorsail more efficiently. We rehoisted the Mainsail with 1 reef.
During the afternoon we had a bit of a scary moment when a cargo vessel persisted on turning towards us instead of avoiding us despite our many attempts to clear his way. It was Johns off watch and he had to come to the helm to help me steer the boat away, while I frantically called the cargo on VHF. It seemed to me that the cargo had been left unmanned or that the operator was sleeping… once given the bullocks they corrected course super fast and we all avoided a catastrophe.
Many little stowaways visited us during the afternoon from swallows to sparrows we should have charged tickets, that’s how many caught a ride with us.
By night the winds finally moved just aft the beam on port side and filled in, we were finally sailing with a reefed mainsail and full jib. True winds of 7-11 knots, speed over ground 5.5-6.5 knots.
What a treat, albeit we could have hoisted the full mainsail and easily be doing 8-9 instead but we were in no rush, after all we wanted to arrive our anchorage in daylight.
We had a few more episodes with cargo vessels that we had to advise and request they adjusted their course given that we were under sail and now sailing upwind.
Due to the proximity to Toulon it seems this area is highly monitored on VHF by authorities and all cargos not only reply to any VHF calls immediately they also take action to facilitate our navigation.
The night wasn’t as cold as on previous passages but it was very damp.
John did the first watch until 23h30 whilst I stayed on watch for the remainder of the night. John took over early morning and brought us in while I slept.
By 6am UTC, 8am local time we were anchored at the beautiful cristal clear waters beach of the island of Porquerolles, where we enjoyed a delightful sunny afternoon while snoozing on the foredeck cushions, and Ella had a nice swim.
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.