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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Tuscan Islands – Elba

Jen dolphin watching Sailing around Elba in the wind

You know it’s windy when:

  • You try and eat your breakfast outside and you end up wearing the milk from your cereal instead of eating it
  • Boats that were anchored start drifting past you in the dead of night moving in the same direction as the wind

As you might have guessed wind was definitely a theme of our visit to Elba – the largest of the Tuscan islands. It felt as though the wind arrived with us as we sailed from Nice to Elba. All the way along the trip the wind just kept on building more and more until we ended up with a reefed main and Genoa as we passed Cap Corse.

We had a few days break from the wind for the first couple of days as we sailed around the west coast of the island but the majority of our stay there was in 25-40 knot winds. We tried blaming Jen for bringing the English weather with her when she arrived but we have to admit it’s more likely that it came along with us…


Elba is a beautiful island which I think loos a lot Devon – large and green rolling hills, steep cliffs and the odd remote village. The likeness stops there though when you start to think about the long white beaches, crystal clear water and sailing boats everywhere you turn. In fact – maybe I only think it’s like Devon because of the wind, thunderstorms and rain that we experienced…

The good thing about being on a small island is that you can always find shelter as you can tuck into one side of the island depending on the wind direction. Jen, Geoff and I failed to see the fun side of this when the force 6-7 was forecast to be southerly tunring northerly at the early hours of the morning meaning we had to wake up and move … but on the plus side at least we could always find some sort of shelter.

Beyond the weather there were some fantastic sights and memories I’ll always keep with me:

  • Portofario old town – a really beautiful old town with some fantastic cafes and restaurants dotted around. Jen and I went to see the house Napoleon was exciled in which I enjoyed (very interesting for me as I’ve been to the Ascension Islands so feel a bit like a Napoleon “spotter”)
  • The best ice-cream I’ve ever had – it’s  a shame the cash machine wasn’t working so we could only afford one between the two of us
  • Dolphins- on the way over to Elba and when we left the island

But, Elba will never go down as somewhere I want to visit again or somewhere I’d recommend for a sailing holiday. To start with the marinas are few and far between and at 100 euros a night are best avoided unless you’re stuck in a gale (like us) when they are impossible to book or get into. Most of the time anchoring is fine but the holding around the main sheltered marina (Portofarraio) isn’t great – as we found out.

It’s the first time I’ve realised that you can be the most organised boat with trustworthy gear but you’re as much at the mercy of your boat as you are of everyone else’s. Our first stormy night anchored in Portofarraio was fine and our anchor did an amazing job holding us safe until 6am when Geoff came in from anchor watch and I went on. I’d literally just downed my cereal when I went on-deck and saw two boats careering straight into us. One went one side of us, the other went the other and only then did I realise they were both tied together by their anchor chains which had got tangled. Add to that the fact that they then dragged our anchor up and pulled us into another boat making a 4 boat pile up in a 30 knot wind… We learnt pretty quickly how to deal with the situation so out came the hack saw to separate the main offending anchor and soon enough we managed to all get untangled, away from the boat causing all the trouble and securely anchored where we started.

The second anchor dragging incident however was us and it happened a few nights later. The location was once again Portofarraio and the wind was nearing 40 knots. After laying a second anchor we started dragging and (thanks to Jen’s muscles) we managed to pull the anchors back up. We re-anchored several more times in the same location only to find that we could get no traction and just kept dragging – very frustrating and strange as we’ve been fine with the anchor in this weather before…

It was only after chatting to some other French and English boats in Corsica that we discovered that Portofarraio is renown for bad holding (another fact that’s wrong in the ICC pilot books…) partly due to a sunken tarpaulin and partly due to the volume of boats that pass through it. So we headed out of Portofarraio to a much more sheltered and less busy cove to gather our energy and make a plan for the rest of the day and night.

That night we saw the most amazing thunderstorm which was all around us but thankfully not above us. Jen tried to take some photos but decided that the two hardest things to photograph are lightening and dolphins… Oh well, at least the memories will always stay with us!

Not all was lost on the weather front though as we had a fantastic sail from Elba to Bastia (Corsica) on Jen’s penultimate day of her holiday. We sailed all the way with the sun shinning, home made croissants, perfect wind and beautiful dolphins. We arrived in Bastia at lunch time so moored up, set up lunch and started to enjoy what was once again a beautiful day in the Med. Maybe you need a few days of bad weather to help you really appreciate the good weather when it finally comes out!

Books, books and more books

Thanks to my mother we now have a whole cupboard of books to read – which is impressive considering she only had hand luggage when she arrived. Here are some we’ve read so far:

  • Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett: I’d been recommended this book on several occasions but had never got round to reading it – until now. Geoff and I both enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something engrossing the page turning (as long as they didn’t have to carry it very far as it’s quite big). An interesting, engrossing and entertaining read. I’ll have to get hold of the next one as I believe there’s a sequel..??
  • The Help, I have’t got the book anymore and can’t remember the author’s name:  I really loved this book and would recommend it to everyone. I’m not normally one to analyse books but, the characters in this are great and make it a very entertaining and enlightening read. Funny, captivating and sad all at the same time – I think we both really enjoyed it
  • The Boy Next Door, Irene Sabatini: In Geoff’s own words “Another one for the bin”. OK, so I didn’t think it was that bad (or that great either), Geoff couldn’t finish it quick enough just to end the torture. I thought it was OK but nothing I’d ever want to read again.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nice, Cap Ferrat and Monaco

More super yachts, old market towns and Monaco Casino

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The Cote D’Azur: St Tropez, Cannes and Antibes

Super Yachts, Food Markets, Pina Coladas and Ice Ice Baby

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sailing in Provence and the West Cote D’Azur

Calanques, Cassis, Port Cros and Hyeres

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sailing in France – The Golfe du Lion

Collioure and Marseille OK – slowly but surely I’m catching up on the blogs… after this one I’ll only be a couple of weeks behind… The Golfe du Lion has become a location of interest to Geoff and I during this sailing trip because, if there’s going to be wind it’s going to be here. [...]

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sailing in Spain

It feels like we haven’t been in touch for a while so we’re making the most of having a quiet day and are catching up on our blog writing. Hopefully this one will bring us slightly more up-to date although not completely… Leaving Mallorca We left Mallorca and the Balearic islands just over a month [...]

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

More sailing in Mallorca

Soller and Andraitx- the north east coast of Mallorca June 2010 This was our second Mallorca trip and this time we were on the north east coast. As there are less calas and anchorages on this coast we stuck to Marinas – Andraitx first and then Soller. Andraitx Whilst Andraitx is a fairly large port [...]

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Sailing in Ibiza

May – 8th June 2010

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Holiday auction: Costa Brava 13th – 20th June

We’ve got a one week holiday in Spain available so, as it’s now short notice, we thought we’d start a holiday auction to see whether anyone fancied a bargain break. The way it works – we’ve got a spare week so you send us a “reasonable” offer for a week’s sailing, sunshine and relaxation. The [...]

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mile Building Barcelona to Mallorca

Mile building – Spain (Barcelona) to Mallorca (Pollensa)

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