A Squeaky Return to Elba


The weather was decidedly shifty when we reluctantly woke at 6am; an early start to make the most of the south winds. Our slothful mood wasn’t aided by the cold, grey weather and it took nearly an hour before we were ready to leave.

We only needed to motor as far as the edge of the bay before we were able to unfurl the genny (our fore sail) and sail away north. Once clear of Giglio’s bulk, we picked up a wind from both the south east and south west, as it curved around each side of the island. Looking back, the clouds stuck on it’s peak looked like a huge Walnut Whip. A thunder cell crackled to the south, we gybed and cracked on north as the wind picked up. We’d timed our departure well.

Giglio looking like a Walnut Whip

It was a rolly trip, and the dinghy slipped in it’s davits so that the rubber fender strip was lying against the steel Hydrovane post, making a particularly piquant squeaking noise. Impossible to fix without lowering the dinghy, which was far too dangerous in the swell, it was something we had to either endure or blot out.

As we made progress north, the wind fizzled out, leading to a flurry of activity: engine on, genny furled away and the main raised to help against the roll. The engine noise at least covered up the dinghy squeak.

An hour later the wind returned and we reversed the tasks: genny unfurled, engine off, try to ignore the squeak. We managed to sail 10 more miles before losing the wind again. By now we were close to Elba and the day was far more pleasant, the grey skies now painted bright blue. As we passed through a race fleet, we congratulated them on their perseverance as they bobbed along at less than 2kts.

Experience the squeak and roll with us!

Our target on Elba was Margidore beach in Golfo Stella. We wondered on our way in if the swell generated by two days of southerly winds was going to be an issue and discussed our options: continuing on for another two hours to Porto Azzurro, however, the pilot guide said south swell could be a problem there too. Or to Portoferrario which seemed far too far, and had it’s own swell from the ferry wake. We kept to the original plan and of course, a swell was rolling in. As we were the only boat there, we had our pick of where to anchor in the large sandy area. Anchor down, at least we sat bow to the swell. To help ease our minds a few more boats joined us as the evening went on.

We reseated the dinghy to remove that squeak and so discovered there had in fact been a duo of competing squeaks. The second came from a broken block on the main sheet, but we had a spare onboard. Annoying noises silenced, we slept well, Emerald laying either bow to or stern to the swell overnight, and by morning it had flattened down to barely nothing.

Lacona Hiking

Elba has a large network of hiking trails, one of the reasons I like it so much. Next to the anchorage is a finger of land called the Lacona peninsula which has several tracks with beautiful views to each and west. We walked some of them last year, but there are plenty enough to be able to create some variation.

Lacona Bay

Ashore, the small marina where we left the dinghy last year, was undergoing works. There was still a loading pontoon for temporary stays, but large banks of earth had been piled around the shore making pulling the dinghy onto the land nigh on impossible. Diggers and earth movers sat waiting for instruction and a long floating array of buoys snaked their way alongside the entrance fairway. Colin gallantly decided he was happy to rest aboard today, so I went off alone. Having burned off a few miles, whilst waiting for a pickup I saw a sign had been erected – the harbour would be completely closed tomorrow for works. That evening a tug arrived towing a barge, so the next morning we decided to move on.

A flurry of movement caught my eye – a hawk had caught it’s dinner. It seems to be looking right at me!
Welcome shade from an avenue of trees

Marina di Campo

Marina di Campo is a seaside town with a long curve of soft sand drawing visitors in. We’d visited by bus last year, this year it would be a new anchorage for us. Almost half a mile wide, the bay has anchoring depths of 6 – 10m and good holding. There was a lot of space available, the main decision being how far we wanted to dinghy to get ashore. We aimed for a little beyond mid way, hoping it wouldn’t get too crowded. Over the three days, there were around 30 boats anchored, but with room for all, and nobody anchored on top of anyone else. The southerly swell had reduced down by now, and the wind remained steadily north.

The anchorage off the beach at Marina di Campo

There is a quayside on the west of the bay, lined mostly with powerboats and signs saying private – no mooring, except at the end of a short pier where many other tenders were crowded together. Then we saw another dinghy pulled up onto a patch of sand at the mouth of a river. As the river was currently dry, we pulled ashore there.

Ashore there are all the amenities of a busy seaside town – supermarkets, restaurants and plenty of ice cream shops. Many eateries offered an aperitif with a happy hour buffet, but we chose to indulge in pizza instead.

A quiet morning in the anchorage, it was busier in the afternoons

Hiking in the Heat

There are several walking routes to be explored around the bay. However, temperatures were ramping up towards the first heatwave of the season. We would need early starts to escape the worst of the day. Good intentions and all that, it was usually around 10am before we’d be heading ashore.

The first two walks were on the west side of the bay, through the welcome shade of woods up to admire the far reaching views across to Corsica from Capo Poro and Monte Turato.

A butterfly feeding

The heat was really ramping up when we decided to walk the beguilingly titled ‘Way of the Rosemary’ on the east side of the bay. It started off gently as a wide, gravel track hugging the curves of the coastline. This ended abruptly however, as we skirted around the gardens of a private house with a short, sharp up. Enough of that we thought, but then what goes up, must come down! With our aim to visit Fonza beach we had several more steep ups and downs to negotiate.

Before deciding whether to make the final descent, we sat down in the shade of a large tree to review the map and scout out an easier return route. As we did so, a man ran effortlessly up the track beside us. We sweated some more just watching him.

A fairly level part of the Via dei Rosemarini

Down at the back of the pretty cove, which played a role in the liberation of Elba in WWII, we found the dirt road that cars can use to visit the beach. It was a hot and dusty return leg, but the views from higher up were worthwhile and the walking much easier in the now midday heat.

Off road Piaggio

We’d noticed some interesting looking snorkelling sites and hidden coves below the path as we walked by. To cool off in the afternoon, we investigated by dinghy and found some scenic spots. The fish were abundant from tiny, translucent spry less than a centimetre long darting right in front of my mask to shoals of larger fish basking in the pools of sunlight streaming down.

The bay of Marina di Campo

The Wreck of the Pomonte

On the south west side of Elba, off of the village of Pomonte, lies the wreck of the Elviscot, which foundered on rocks in January 1972. The remains now lie in 12m of incredibly clear water, easily reached by swimming out from the nearby beach or as we did, by anchoring in sand close by. Problems with my ears meant I wasn’t able to dive it, but viewed by snorkel from the surface it was still worthwhile, with lots of fish having made it home. We arrived at the right time; as we picked up anchor and pointed Emerald towards Corsica, a fleet of trip boats descended on the area. We left them to it and motored off on a flat calm sea.

The wreck lies on it’s side in 12m
With dive gear, you can get inside

Sailing Info

22nd June: Giglio Campese to Golfo Stella, Elba – 35nm (18nm sailed)
Anchored in 7m, sand, in position 42 45.555’N 10 19.363’E
There is a small boat marina ashore, however works were taking place when we visited so we’re not sure what the future impact of those works will be on being able to leave a tender there.

24th June: Golfo Stella to Marina di Campo, Elba – 5.3nm
Anchored in 9m, sand, in position 42 44.74’N 10 14.54’E
Good holding in a large anchorage.
The town has all amenities available.

27th June: Marina di Campo to Wreck of the Elviscot – 7nm
Anchored in 12m, sand and very clear water. Position 42 44.557’N 10 07.188’E

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