Nov 19

Menorca – our first taste of the Balearics

It may surprise some people that, given the popularity of the Balearic Islands with UK holiday makers, neither Mike nor I had ever been there – so, after Andrea returned home from her holiday, we looked forward to putting this right. But, the weather forecast wasn’t immediately favourable as there were very strong winds in the Gulf of Lyon and we therefore left Calvi for a six and a half hour sail down the west coast of Corsica to Porto D’Arone…..

……. where we spent one night at anchor.

The following day was a short hop of just over three hours to Port Provençal, Golfe de Lava where we had to anchor well off because once again, and contrary to the description in the cruising guide, there were lots of local moorings and swimming buoys. We enjoyed a glorious sunset …

…. but, unfortunately, not such a glorious night due to roll which started about 3am and didn’t stop! Having risen early we then had to delay our start to allow a couple of small squalls to pass through before motoring through the “Passe des Sanguinaires”, where we saw depths of 5 metres…….

Approach to the Passe des Sanguinaires

…..and into the Golfe D’Ajaccio. Once in the gulf it took another hour and twenty minutes to make our way to an anchorage at the head of the bay. Anchoring in Ajaccio is not easy as most of the bay is either too deep, full of mooring balls or off limits. According to the cruising guide we were in an area which was marked as off limits because of a Natural Gas tanker dock but there were about 20-25 other boats there and it was well sheltered so we decided to join them and see what happened.

There are two marinas available to transiting yachts but we didn’t really want to go in unless the weather turned really poor – or we were told to move. As it transpired, on our last night there a tanker came into the anchorage and we were advised that we had to move by 7am the following morning for the tanker to dock. There were almost a dozen boats between us and the tanker dock and none of those moved – so neither did we, though I was up early [the only person on our or any other boat!] just in case.

Like the other towns we visited on Corsica, Ajaccio has a nice old town….

….and small fishing harbour….

…….and we spent three days wandering around, provisioning from a Carrefour supermarket -about a 30 minute walk from the anchorage – and making regular checks on the weather trying to find the best window to cross. In the autumn, weather systems build in the Gulf of Lyon which result in strong winds down the east side of Corsica and across to the north west of Menorca.  Travelling west, we therefore had to cross the wind/wave affected area and had the choice of being potentially battered or picking a “calm between weather systems” slot which would mean motoring.

In the end we left Ajaccio on 4th September at 2.30 pm and managed to catch some sea breeze which enabled us to sail until dusk when it dropped…..

Yeah…sailing!

The following day and evening was practically flat calm ….

Not sailing!

…….until the middle of the night, and my watch, when the wind rose from the SW and was therefore on the nose – even though NW had been forecast!! Fortunately after four hours of this the wind veered and by 09.30 had gone NE which pushed us towards Menorca and our landfall at Maó [Mahon].

The port of Mahon is one of the finest natural harbours in the world. It is 5km long and up to 1km wide and has a very narrow entrance. As such it has an extensive nautical and military history – as the fortifications on its shores and mid channel islets bear testament to. As well as housing the C19 fortress “La Mola”, the north shore promontory, which nudges out into the sea, protects the channel from the insistent northerly wind – the Tramuntana. Behind it is “Cala Teulera” where we anchored at 2.15pm on 6th Sept having completed our 245 mile crossing.

Despite the fact that it is a 20-30 minute dinghy ride into town, it is a fantastic anchorage. However, it is the only Cala in the harbour in which anchoring is allowed and it is time limited to a maximum of three days. On our second day the Port Authorities visited the boat and gave us the map below and very politely informed us that we could not stay there longer than the appointed time.

As it happens we had already booked ourselves onto the Club Nautico moorings for three nights so it wasn’t an issue for us. As far as we could tell some people just ignored it and were themselves seemingly ignored as we know at least one boat was anchored there for seven nights – though things may be monitored much more closely in high season.

Despite the cost [€57.46 (approx £51) per night in mid-season] we had decided to move to the moorings because a particularly bad weather front was forecast to hit Menorca full force, we wanted to take on water [not yet having a watermaker] and there was a festival in town which we wanted to be able to fully enjoy without the 30 minute dinghy ride back after a few bevvies!

The festival….

….. is celebrated between 6th and 9th September each year, though quite what, if anything, happens on 6th I don’t know as all information seems to be about 7-9 Sept.

Most of the town centre shops are shut and owners prepare for the parade….

Protection for windows and doors

….. the streets are decorated…..

…. Bands strike up…..

…..and everyone is in party spirit by lunchtime on 7th …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

……..at which time a peal of bells announces the start.

The riders gather and the “Colcada” makes it way through the crowds….

Awaiting the “Colcada”

…and around the town…..

There are certain “special” roles such as “Fabioler”, “Caixer Fadri”, and Caixer Pagès” – though we did not know who was what. However, we think this woman was the “Caixer Batle” [organiser/leader]…….

……and this man was the “Caixer Capellà”……

….who waits his turn to join the Colcada at the church of Santa Maria.

Over the three days the riders meet twice and on each occasion there is a ritual order of progressing round the town. Mass is celebrated on the second day and on the last lap of the Colcada each rider receives a palm frond.

Receiving the frond….

…and displaying it to the crowd

These statues were in the town hall prior to the fiesta starting but I have no idea if they were part of it or not…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….and on the second day there was a procession involving these figures….

….but we are not quite sure what they were about either – other than the parade moved down to the harbour front where the celebrations were supposed to continue. I say “supposed” because just after we returned to the boat having seen this parade the heavens opened, the wind really got up, the pyrotechnics were cancelled and everyone went home!

The bad weather continued until mid-afternoon the following day when there was a huge thunderstorm with hail which cleared the air, brought an end to the wind and blue skies returned.

Even had there not been the festival, Maó is a lovely town to visit…..

Plaza and old market

View of harbour moorings from the town

The “horses”

…has a gin distillery – which was unfortunately closed when we were available to visit – and is a good base for taking buses to various points around the island.

We didn’t have much time for this either but did take one bus to the small coastal village of Es Grau….

…from where we did a nice walk to Sa Torreta, passing a couple of anchorages which, in the right conditions, would be very quiet and peaceful places to drop the hook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main purpose of our walk was to see one of the “Taula” and “Talayot” sites.

The talayotic settlements are the best known features of pre-historic Menorca having been built during the Talayotic Iron Age [850-550BC]. The society responsible for their construction then and during the post talyotic period up to 123BC developed only on Menorca and Mallorca.

Talyot

Archaeologists have not yet been able to ascertain their original function but they do know that the structures were public buildings, a vantage point and a landmark and possibly had a religious/symbolic purpose.

The Talyots in the settlement are often positioned just a few metres from the Taula – a T-shaped structure comprising two huge stones.

Taula

Some sites contain several talyots but there is rarely more than one taula.

Nearby we also saw the “Naveta of Torreta”…..

… a chambered tomb.

We also saw an old threshing floor…

…and several examples of Menorcan style gates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flora and fauna captured at the S’Albufera des Grau freshwater lagoon, now a natural park….

White asphodel

On leaving Maó, we planned to visit a few anchorages along the south coast. First of all we entered Cala Biniparratx but found it far too narrow and scary. Mike had to do a three point turn to get us out of there. We worked out that given the depth at which you had to anchor we would have needed thirty metres of scope. With a fifteen metre boat that gives a ninety metre turning circle. The cala was 100 metres at its widest. Rather too close for comfort we thought!

We next tried Cala Trebalújer – which was wide enough and had good holding but the swell was pretty dire and after an hour of rolling we upped anchor and moved on again to Santa Galdana.

In the end we spent three nights there rather than trying out other anchorages. Maybe we missed out, but their descriptions suggested that once again many were narrow and we were comfortable in Santa Galdana [little/no swell] so why move.

The only issue we found with Santa Galdana was that the holding was a little patchy. Initially we were quite close to this rock….

…..but when space became available we moved as we dragged a little – we think there was bedrock under fairly shallow sand.

We spent one day on a bit of maintenance….

… but took one day out for a walk to Cala Turqueta.

This is a popular anchorage which, during the day, is full of visiting tourist boats and people. As you can see, the swimming area means that boats have to anchor out and as a result are exposed to the wind. It would no doubt be lovely on a calm day and/or out of season but as I said above, we were happy in Santa Galdana where we were protected.

The walk itself was very pleasant…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… was a nice end to our short stay on Menorca, and we sat in the cockpit that evening looking out at our next stop….Mallorca.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2017/11/19/menorca-our-first-taste-of-the-ballearics/

Oct 26

“Tiddles” Travels – Corsica

My last post saw us sailing from Elba early on the morning of 12th August….and what a passage that was. We left a sunny bay, turned west and ahead was a huge storm cloud. Fortunately it was travelling in a north-easterly direction so while we saw lots of rain and lightning and heard the thunder, none of it was actually directed at us. However, the storm had kicked up some fairly rough seas so we felt rather like laundry in a washing machine! The 48 mile passage took 7hrs 45 mins and by the end of it the wash programme had slowed to a gentle rinse.

Our landfall was made at Bastia, Corsica….

….where we were scheduled to meet Andrea, Mike’s sister, our first visitor to “Owl and Pussycat”. The following morning, before she arrived, we went ashore for a bit of orientation and shopping. Initially we wandered down the wrong streets and managed to bypass the Place du Marché, finding ourselves instead in the Place St Nicolas….

….where there was a market – but of the bric-a-brac variety.

Fortunately we found the correct market place – with its lovely fountain….

…and the Sunday produce market just before it closed.

We treated ourselves to a Corsica beignet snack made with “brocciu”, a local sheep’s milk cheese doughnut/fritter cross which was sold either salted or sweet and, surprisingly, the sweet ones tasted as good as the savoury.

“Tiddles” arrived late that afternoon and two weeks of experiences and adventures followed – some good, some less good but as Andrea said “I now know it isn’t all plain sailing and what it can be really like to live on a boat”.

So, let’s get the less good out of the way first. Half way through the holiday we had to be towed back to port having broken down between Macinaggio and Saint Florent. Our engine slowed and then died. No alarms, no nothing but it certainly set our hearts beating given our recent engine experiences. We investigated everything we could think of at the time.

There was absolutely no wind but the waves round the top end of the island were quite big, following the wind the previous day, and these were making us roll a lot and pushing us towards a lee shore so we didn’t have much time for diagnosis. We did wonder whether we might be able to anchor if we were pushed closer but we had discounted that anchorage when planning our route as it was described as poor holding. Not knowing what was wrong we were also a bit concerned about being in a small village at the end of no-where which wasn’t on a transport route. Andrea was being very stoic throughout this time but, as a non-sailor it was obviously pretty scary and then – to top it all – at about midday there was a weather warning on the radio for Force 8 winds expected late that afternoon!! At that time I decided something had to be done, radioed the coastguard and about an hour later, during which time Mike had at least managed to get us sailing very slowly parallel to the coast, along came the “Pasqual Paoli”.

Tow rope attached – time to relax!

Back in Macinaggio harbour there was much talk about the anticipated gale and we were advised to berth pulled well out from the wall with everything battened down and the passerelle lifted. As it happened the most we saw was Force 5, gusting 6 but that would not have been good in a poor anchorage or on the windy side of the island trying to limp to port. So, we think it was the right decision and we were now in a town with a boatyard and a couple of small chandlers. In the event, it was a snapped connector on the engine end of the battery cable. The cable had obviously been taken off and put back again when our engine was replaced. It was a young apprentice to Luigi who did that work. If he had only told us the connector was dodgy [old/bent/corroded/whatever] a mere €6 would have prevented this happening.

But, strangely enough, it was the incident at the end of Andrea’s holiday which we found more annoying. We hired a car for the day and when we picked it up Mike commented to them that there was no spare tyre. “No” they said, “you have a special repair kit which re-inflates the tyres. You don’t need a spare”. Mike rues to this day saying “Well let’s hope I don’t need it then” – so you know what’s coming next!

The flat tyre!

Corsican roads are fairly narrow and many are along steep sided, rocky gorges with fallen rocks at the side. Yes, we scraped past some rocks!! To cut a long story short, at around 6pm on a Saturday evening our tyre deflated. The re-inflate kit wasn’t up to the job. The rental office was closing and they didn’t know anyone who would come out but, fortunately, found someone who would do it – for an “out of hours” price. We waited about 90 mins. The rental company had not said we were three people and Mike had to travel in the car on the back of the truck. We all then had to get a taxi from the airport drop off point. We were charged for the tow, a new tyre and a new repair kit and obviously had the taxi cost too. Mike argued the toss and finally they agreed to cover the repair kit. His argument was, and remains, that hiring out a car in those road conditions without a spare is wrong – especially as the manager of the rental company who he met twice and travelled with in his car carried a spare wheel!!!

The positive end to the story was that even though it was around 11.00pm when we finally got back to Calvi, there was a restaurant open and we got some drinks and a decent meal – otherwise it would have been a really awful way for Andrea’s holiday to end.

But – all the rest was good!

As a strategically situated island, Corsica has been occupied, colonised, invaded and generally fought over for most of its history. As a result there is a lot of evidence in the main coastal towns of fortification with walled and bastioned citadels etc. With disease being more rife at the coast and to make it more difficult for some raiders to reach the population, smaller settlements are often of a dual nature – the coastal fishing harbour and the inland village – the latter usually occupying a hilltop or at least a higher point.

All this makes the island very picturesque and fascinating to explore.

The three main coastal ports we visited during the fortnight – Bastia, St. Florent and Calvi – all developed around their respective stronghold, the Citadel. Built mainly by the Genoese during C15/C16, they housed administrative buildings, churches and governors palaces. They were generally laid out with rigorous “Town planning” principles – with houses of the same height and broad squares.

Governors palace – “The house of 12”, Bastia

Main castle- St. Florent

Cathedral – Bastia citadel

Calvi

St. Joan – in the “Legion” barracks in Calvi citadel

Monumental gateways were sometimes added at a later date….

Louis XVI gateway – Bastia

As well as catering to tourists with the many restaurants, shops and bars contained within the walls……..

Corte

Bastia

……they remain “lived in communities” to this day….

Preparing for a service – Bastia citadel cathedral

Street life Bastia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A “garden” in the citadel

There is only one inland Citadel, which also happens to be the only Corsican one. It is at Corte which was a main stopping point during our day trip by car.

On the upper level is the castle where the former barracks can been seen….

…and from where there are excellent views down to the old and new towns….

Corte and the mountains

….from the “Eagles Nest”.

In the lower town is a statue commemorating Pasqual Paoli…

…who, as well as founding the University of Corte, drafted the only constitution that Corsica ever had. A fine military strategist, he governed his country during the only fourteen year period in Corsican history [1755-1769] when the island was not controlled by other people or nations. That short period of independence followed 10 years of revolts during which time Paoli worked closely with Jean-Pierre Gaffori, a native of Corte who was assassinated in his home town in 1753.

Gaffori’s wife, Faustina, also took part in the clashes and she is portrayed in the bas-reliefs on the pedestal of his monument.

Allegedly, knowing her son was being used as a “shield” by the French she shouted to her fellow patriots “Don’t think about my son, think about your country”.

Despite Paoli’s defeat in 1769 he continued to fight against French rule and in 1794 he appealed to the British for help. Lord Hood and the British fleet were dispatched and attacked at St. Florent. The town was taken but the round Genoese tower on Pte de la Mortella …….

Torre de Pte de la Martella

……..refused to surrender, seemed impervious to bombardment and held out for a long time. This so impressed Lord Hood that he had the specifications recorded and on return to Britain advised that similar coastal defences should be built against, ironically, French invasion. They are known as “Mortello” towers – a derivative of the name of the one which almost defeated Hood.

Cruising round Corsica it is impossible not to notice the many towers as there are still 67 of remaining. Built from 1530 onwards their original use was to warn the islanders of invaders, particularly pirates.

Between Calvi and Ajaccio

Erbalunga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the present day many of the citadels host temporary or permanent exhibitions. In Corte we learnt about the islands links with America. Corsican families emigrated to seek their fortune and then returned and built large mansions some of which are unfortunately now in ruins but some of which have become hotels or are signposted/marked on maps as “The American House” and can be visited. American women often followed their husbands…..

I found the small exhibit of her dresses most interesting….

So small in stature and minuscule waists

In St. Florent we had the pleasure of a contemporary art and sculpture exhibition …….

Beautiful wood carving

Love the ship

“Polyphonic A Capella” singers – just for Tiddles

Acrylic on canvas – created by “Nadja”

More wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favourite – excellent use of textles

….and by the end of our various visits to towns and villages we felt we could have started our own exhibition called “In this house”……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the citadel cathedrals there are many other beautiful churches and chapels to be seen….

Amazing altar

Calvi

Old chapel – Erbalunga

St-Jean-Baptiste, Bastia

and inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mosaic outside L’Oratoire de l’Immaculee Conception, Bastia

Fabulous ceilings…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…….and pulpits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rogliano

…..and also many old town buildings……

Bastia

Rogliano

…. and other “relics”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course all of these towns have harbours and I realise it’s about time I showed some of the places we anchored.

Bastia harbour – we were outside

Erbalunga inner harbour – not for big boats!!

The anchorage at Erbalunga

Calvi

….and its fishing harbour

St Florent – not the anchorage!

Macinagio

Many of the town anchorages mean a considerable dinghy ride. There are sometimes moorings closer to the towns which are probably well used during the main season. We were surprised that when there were only about half a dozen boats in a mooring field containing over a hundred buoys we were still expected to anchor well out….

Far left – 15 minutes in the dinghy from Calvi town

….and in all places had, of course, to take account of any buoyed off swimming areas.

We arrived in Corsica just after a fairly serious brush fire near Bastia. Whilst we didn’t see any actual fires [a good thing] we did see fire planes. They seem to like flat sea to swoop over and collect water and so we saw them near to the coast and, a couple of times, passing through anchorages……

…and we also saw some dumping water on the mountainsides. It was actually such an occurrence that originally drew my attention to them. Whilst sailing along one day I thought I had seen a plane crash into the side of the mountain. Of course, what I thought was smoke was water… but it certainly gave me quite a start!

Another rather unusual “craft” was captured by Andrea…. [I tried to get a photo as well but it wasn’t half as good]

…… whilst we were on one of two main walks we undertook.

The first, from Macinaggio, wound slowly up valley trails and scrabbly paths giving us great views back to the coast…

The anchorage and Isla Capraia [Italy] in the background

…and also up towards our destination – Rogliano.

We took a detour to visit one of the old windmills…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….and another to ensure that we took in one of the towns “Lavabo’s” – which were for washing clothes, not people!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rogliano was a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours….

The old tower – now a house

Mausoleum roof

Monastic life

….and we somehow managed to turn the second half of the walk, back down a valley road, into a wine tasting event….

Our second walk was from Baie Loto….

…..through the interior…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…to Baie Seleccia.

Both of these were anchorages we could have stayed at- but there was no time. We did however manage to include one secluded anchorage, “Anse D’Orlando” for Andrea to enjoy a perfect sunset.

Of course we also had magnificent views of the mountains and countryside whilst on our car journey ……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statue on the high pass

Ponte Leccia

Looking west – a lovely stop for an early evening drink

…and during that day and on our walks captured some of the islands flora and fauna.

Corsican Pine

Chestnuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prickly Juniper

 

Sea holly

 

Yes…. a cow!

…and a cormorant

More interesting [at least in name] – A Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard

and a Roesel’s Katydid [Bush Cricket]

I have to say that I was rather disappointed by the lack of visible wildlife. Maybe it was the time of year but certainly in relation to sea-life there was a marked absence – which may also account for the very few birds.

There are supposed to be wild boar on the island – certainly there are alleged wild boar products on every menu – but the nearest we came were free roaming pigs!

Shops selling wild boar pate’s, smoked meats and local cheeses abound and while they are great to look at…..

…I found the prices a bit steep. The same can’t be said for the local fruit and vegetable shops/stalls.

Not only is their produce competitively priced, it is of excellent quality.

Synonymous with Corsica is its famous symbol of the Moors head – used originally by the Aragonese kings to celebrate their victory over the Moors [Remember the Livorno statues in my previous post?] It ceded to local clan leaders and was then adopted by Paoli as a symbol of Independence. As well as on the flag we found examples everywhere – mugs, t-shirts and just about every form of souvenir – as well as on bronze plaques….

……wooden bar wall adornments……

….and perhaps, best of all, as an advertisement for a vineyard – the Bacchus Moor!

So hopefully my descriptions and the accompanying photos have shown that overall the “good” was pretty good. Maybe the “less good” has tainted our view of Corsica as it is not somewhere we would rush back to. But it was interesting historically, had some pleasant towns and beautiful countryside and, most importantly, we did have lots of fun….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey…. she’s in charge!!!!!!!!

We now look forward to welcoming other visitors to “Owl and Pussycat” and, hopefully, to more “Tiddles travels” in the future.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2017/10/26/tiddles-travels-corsica/

Sep 10

Off we go…at last

“Able was I ere I saw Elba”….. is one of the most famous palindromes and, indeed, able we were at last – with Elba as our first major goal.

Able to leave Livorno….

“Sailing away… but watch out for those cargo ships.”

Able to visit islands…..

Arriving on Elba

Able to swing at anchor….

Able, once again, to do what we set out to do six years ago.

We finally left Carlo’s yard on 3rd August and motored through the commercial docks into Livorno harbour ….

…….where we had a “free” berth [i.e. Luciano did not charge us]. Our intention, whilst there, was to stock up on a few things from the market, enable Luigi to come on board whilst motoring and complete any adjustments/calibrations to the new engine and finally visit a couple of sites which, despite all our time in the city, we hadn’t actually taken the time to see.

The old fort [Fortezza Vecchia]….

….a symbol of Medicean rule was completed in 1534, though some of the buildings inside date back to the 1100’s and the circular tower to 1241. Unfortunately we were unable to go inside because the system of automatically opening the pontoon bridge did not appear to be working, despite our going at the appointed 00-15 or 30-45 mins past the hour.

We were, however, able to access the New Fort [Fortezza Nueva] built between 1580 and 1596 but it was really rather uninspiring. The walk around the shaded, grassed area was pleasant and we got views of Livorno – including where we had spent a month living….

…. but the plan of the fort….

Fortezza Nueva

….was probably more interesting than the reality!!

Much more interesting was the “Quatro Mori” [Four Moors] – Livorno’s most popular monument which symbolises the victory by the Medici Grand Dukes over the pirates who roamed the Mediterranean. The huge bronze figures were the work of Carrera sculptor “Pietro Tacca”.

It is said that from a particular spot in the square the noses of all four can be seen at one time and that finding this spot is supposed to bring good luck. I’m all for that…..

One, two, three, yeah, four….

Unfortunately good luck wasn’t an immediate feature of our lives. Whilst laying out the anchor chain to put in our new markers we noticed that the windlass wasn’t working properly. When we changed anchors [back in May] we had lowered the old one and raised the new but now the chain did not seem to want to come out. We had serviced the upper part fully and wondered if we had put it back incorrectly so Mike took it apart again. No problems there. The motor was running so it could only be the inner workings and, on investigation, Mike discovered that the bearings had collapsed and jammed the worm gear. We had been on the hard when we ran it and now surmise that it was gravity which lowered the old anchor, not the windlass mechanism. It was stuck in “up mode”.

So, a new windlass was needed and, now for a bit of luck… Forniture Nautiche in Cecina had one in stock and were open the following week – even though it was the first week of Italy’s two week break when practically everyone in Italy goes on holiday and virtually no factories/businesses are open.

So, instead of heading out for Capraia we did a 30 mile passage south to Cecini to spend two nights in the marina there.

The old housing had been sealed down with sikaflex and it was a real struggle [understatement] to get it off. But a few strained muscles later and the job was done just before sunset.

We decided that we now didn’t have enough time to visit Capraia but, as the wind was in a direction which would have caused swell and roll in the islands only anchorage, perhaps this wasn’t a bad thing. Instead, on 8th August we set out for the 40 mile run to Elba and finally felt that we were properly on our way.

Elba’s capital, “Portoferraio” is so called because it was the port for iron ore export. It is a lovely harbour which Nelson described as “for its size the most complete harbour in the world”….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…but it is very expensive to berth there so we anchored out.

Early morning clouds over the eastern hills

We prefer to be at anchor anyway and the dinghy ride wasn’t too bad – as long as you were able to avoid the many ferries!

According to a billboard there are upwards of 100 ferries a day. We think this was an old advertisement because the number was nearer to 30 – but every one of them involved wash across the anchorage! Fortunately they don’t run during the night so all was calm then.

We only had three nights on Elba but made the most of our time there. As everyone knows, Elba is the island to which Napoleon was exiled in 1814. Now, maybe my historical education [or memory] is lacking but, my idea of exile and the reality differs somewhat. I hadn’t realised that although in exile he was actually in charge of the principality of Elba and Pianosa. He had with him 700 soldiers and a small naval contingent on the brig “Inconstant”. Whilst there he modernised the town, constructed roads, built the “Teatro Dei Vigilanti”…..

……. and a hospital and lived in total comfort in two different properties. His country house was three miles away in San Martino so we didn’t see that but we did visit his town house…..

…..the “Villa dei Mulini” which he shared with his favourite sister, Caroline, who was considered one of the most beautiful women of her time and who loved to party.

Green was for princesses only

The Italianate gardens were really quite lovely.

Portoferraio is famous not just for Napoleon. The pictorial walking guide….

…. also pinpoints the various Medici and Roman sites that can be seen such as the remains of the “Villa Romana” with its below sea level baths.

The site of the Modello tower on the south eastern point is now a small museum dedicated to “Sandro Pertini”, a political prisoner for many years – as a result of his anti-fascist stance – who then became Head of State [1978-1985] and remained a Senator until his death in 1990.

Portoferraio is a maze of tiny back streets and alleys….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….and full of hidden surprises such as this old water fountain….

….and this interestingly decorated building.

You can decide for yourself what it might have been or continue to be.

Not having time to stay in any other anchorages we travelled to one of them, Porto Azzurro, by bus.

An often crowded harbour, with 25 visitor berths, and a large bay containing several anchoring choices it offers an attractive option in pleasant green surroundings – the shores lined with trees, shrubs and Mike’s favourite…

A smaller, but equally quaint, town….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…..it was until fairly recently known by its original name of “Longone” which was also the name of the C16 citadel which, during C19-20, housed notorious, hardened [Mafiosi] prisoners.

That, unfortunately was all we had time for but before we leave Elba, just a few observations.

Most provisions are available but, understandably, at a cost greater than on the mainland.

A couple of chandlers/fishing tackle type outlets on the quayside but only for smaller items.

Restaurants abound but we found them to be of poorer quality and with rather surlier staff than we had grown accustomed to in Livorno. End of season syndrome? Tourists not locals so who cares if the customer returns or not?

Pretty island – green even towards the end of a long hot summer.

Historically and architecturally interesting.

So, although it would have been nice to see more of Elba, we had an appointment to keep in Corsica and therefore on 12th August we set sail from Napoleon’s island of exile to the island of his birth – so you haven’t heard the last of him yet…..

Permanent link to this article: http://www.sigasiga.co.uk/2017/09/10/off-we-go-at-last/

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