26 July, 2010

Mediterranean Cruisers Net

The Mednet as it is known to the cruising yachts in the Mediterranean is an institution to those in the know.  It is a network (talkshow to landlubbers) run on the SSB HF radio on Frequency 8122Khz at 07:30 Italian time.
I first heard the Mednet when we entered the Med on April 2007 and have follow it every summer since then.  A netcontroller introduces the Mednet then asks for vessels to check in giving their boat name, crew names, location and weather.  On good days when the propagation is clear the netcontroller can get up to 25 boats checking in, ranging from the Eastern Med near Egypt to the far western Med of Spain.  We have even had a few boats give us a call from the Bay of Biscay west of Portugal.
It is great fun to follow the people that check in day after day as they cruise in a particular sea either along the Turkish coast or on their way to Venice or wherever.  The purpose of the net is to to share information with other cruisers and to find out where your friends are.  This has been moderately successful because people are generally careful with their advice over the air however this year the netcontrollers decided to change the format and drop the formal reading of the weather and ask for more information to be shared.  I am the Netcontroller on Tuesday.  The fellow who does Monday has been able to get people to share such a lot of information that we are now starting to reach our goal. Some days it is good other not so good but we all listen even if the noise from the radio drowns out the people talking. (only one at a time)
The other benefit of the Mednet is that one comes to know the peoples' voices that checkin each day to such an extent that you feel you actually know them.  We have cruised the length and breadth of the Med over the last four years and have only actually crossed paths and met four vessel that check in to the Mednet.  Last week we cruised into a anchorage on the south coast of Elba and there right in the middle of the bay was the yacht Threshold.  The crew had checked-in this summer and I had come to recognize their voices.  It was an absolute delight to actually meet the crew of this great vessel. The conversation started as if we had last seen then that morning on the Mednet. In fact we have now sailed together for almost a week, enjoying their company more than somewhat.  The great advantage of the Mednet.

20 July, 2010

Blue water, White Sand, Hot Sun

What more could a cruiser want than the above.  Some would say a bit of wind.  Well it came through yesterday as we deceided to leave the great anchorage of Plage de Saleccia and sail the short distance to Saint Florent.  This beach is a wide open white sanded beach which is not accessable by road so those on the beach have either come by boat, which most do or have walked a few kilometers to get to the beach.  It has some history in that it was the site for the shooting of one of the first great war movies The Longest Day with Robert Mitchem.  I remember it well for it set the standard for blood and guts and relistic beach scenes of the Normandy coast.  The only problem for me is in the movie the real water must have been 10 degrees - well yesterday the water temperaturee was 28 degrees C.  Almost too hot to swim.
We anchored off the beach in three meters of water and a big yacht came and anchored right in front of us.  A good ditance off.  Later in the day two fellow came swimming by speaking english.  They stoped to say hi and we found out that the owner of the yacht is an art dealer who had done quite a lot of business with the Australian National museum in Canberra.
The water colour over the white sand is indiscribable so I have just included a picture.  The sunset beautiful as the water settles to a mirror for the night.  The one thing is the humididt which reaches well over 75% during the evening and morning.  I sit here down below dripping persperation.  The only releaf is to swim and then take a fresh water shower or you just sit in a pool of water.
Back to the wind.  We upped anchor and motored off to the wide deep bay of Golfe de Saint Florent and noticed some small waves in the distance.  As always the wind was on the nose but before one could say "up sails"  the wind was blowing 25 knots.  At that seep we sail faster than we can motor so up sail with one reef and the small stay sail.  We set off accross the bay at more than 7 knots to wards the mountains.  We were about two miles off when then the wind appeared to change direction and we fell into a hole.  No wind.  It had completely disappeared.  on with the motor but leave the sails up because we saw other yachts heeling over in the distance.
We were soon back in the breeze and cruising along at a nice pace.  Oh how great it is to sail onece in a while.
We arrived at Saint Florent with just 8 knots of wind and down went the anchor in a large bay - mud so no moving is the wind came up.  The off to town to get a bottle of the local Rose wine to go with the chicken.
Sunset and a calm hot night.  Just another beautiful day.

15 July, 2010

West coast of Corsica Cruising Delights

Corsica has always been bypassed by many cruising yachts because they believe that it is not the place to cruise and it is windy. Let it stay that way and the adventurous shall have it to themselves.
Well we where introduced to the wind the day we crossed the Strait of Bonificia on our way north to Ajaccio. We had visited Bonifacio in 2007. The wind had been forecast to blow at more than 25 knots.  So we set off at dawn and chose a sheltered bay as our destination.  It was a great sail but the wind started to rise as we neared our destination late in the afternoon.  We picked up one of the many free moorings and settled down for the night and the wind did blow for three days.  Not as high as forecast but blow it did.  What was astonishing was the swell that accompanied it.  In our case we were in a bay and the swell came round the point and caught us on the beam.  It was not nice.  In fact it was so bad we had to sleep on the floor.  When we ventured out the swell was still rolling in from Spain.  It was like sailing in the southern ocean again.  Up, up you would go then top the swell and down, down again.  We had only planned a short passage into the bay of Ajjaccio but it was long enough.  Fortunatly the bay is well sheltered and the roll went away.
From past posts on this site we had a great time at the Corisican wedding.
We spent more than a week sailing around the bay of Ajjaccio and anchoring off points and bay.  It is wonderful, clear water, long beaches and good holding.
We started to sail north past Capo di Feno and into the Golfe de Sagone.  Here again there are buoys but we anchored off the beach.  The next day it was on to the twin Greek and Cathlic chuch town of Cargese.  Each church stand opposite one another.  A relic of the past when the Greeks where imported to start a colony but the local Coriscans did not like the hard working Greek imports! How things have changed.
From there it is north to the red stones of the Golfe do Porto and Golfe de Galeria.  The latter reminded me of the coast of Tasmania with the rocks rising straight up out of the crystal clear blue water.  We spent more than a week just moving from one small bay to the next, sometimes with other yachts but generally on our own as the sun set.
Calvi was the next major stop.  The home of the winged dagger of the French Foreign Legion.  Having served alongside one of their number I have respect of that unit.  He was a large mean soldier who could run all day without a break but always ready to helped his lesser mortals (I remember you - Silva).  We visited the port and the castle built on the promontory and looked at the display of the units equipment and memorabilia of their time in Africa and other places.  It reminded me of the South African units motto "He who dares wins"
We picked up a buoy and paid the 30 Euro for the night but next day anchored way down the beach for a quiet night before proceeding north to the friendly town of Ile Rousse where we anchored off the beach.  We took the RIB ashore and as we were securing it a friendly fellow asked us to let his lines in an accent that was not French. He turned out to come from Eden just a few miles down the coast from Malua Bay our home port.  he is the deck hand on a vessel anchored just off our stern.  It is his first season and he was enjoying the trill of the adventure despite the long hours.
We stayed a few day at Ile Rousse not only to watch the football but to renew the Orange contract to access the internet.  A requirement these days.
In summary:  The west Cost of Corsica has the best cruising grounds we have visited in the Med IF the weather is good.  The town are cultured, the supermarkets so well stocked it is a delight to give your euros away.  the shops and people friendly.  The greatest cruising in four years.  Only another week and we will have to move on.

11 July, 2010

Lights Camera Action

So started the reception of the wedding we were attending in Corsica.  It had been planned to the last degree by an adoring father for his beautiful daughter who was getting married to a heart surgeon.  The wedding took place in the church where eight generations of the father's family had been married.  He chose the best restaurant on the coast close to Ajaccio fortunately owned by a family member then appointed his local Toulon caterers to do the food.  He had shipped in all the wine and champagne from France and stocked the restaurants cellar.
After the wedding we all got into cars and drove from Corte in the mountains down to the coast.  We had to get back on Malua and motor down the coast to anchor off the restaurant.  The sun was setting as we let the hook go not 100 meters off the beach.  We took the RIB ashore and put our long pants on before walking up the beach to the reception which was well under way.  People were standing around drinking and eating snacks of fois gras, Palma ham, cheese and other exotic things. 
We then adjourned inside to be seated at tables named after islands, ours - Maldives.  The place setting had a island setting with beautiful napkin rings, name places in the shape of ships and wine and glass of the best quality.
The menu was outstanding see link http://www.john-and-katia.gettingmarried.co.uk/Menu.htm
We started with quails breast on a bed of palm heart with saffron.  What a wonderful taste.  We were all guessing what the base was because it is so different.  Next came on huge white plates the best fillet steak I have ever tasted.  The kitchen prepared them in relays so each table got their serving at the same time.  Unfortunately for us the father of the bride was giving his speech while we were easting and his presentation was so good you had little time to enjoy the food.  Being in Corsica he had to speak French and then translate for us foreigners.  He was good and the works so touching.
The rest of the nigh seemed to fly past so fast that before we knew it the wedding cake was before everybody and was cut.  So different.
Dancing followed then singing and so it went until my feet hurt so much I just had to sit down.  The bus had arrived to ferry the guest to their hotels so we walked down the beach to the RIB and returned to Malua to listen to the music carry over the water as the part went on till down.
What a wonderful time.  If you wrote a film script you could not have got a better outcome.