Relaxing in Sardinia


We tend to find single night passages to be more tiring that multi-day ones. During a single night our bodies have no time to adjust to the rhythm of the 3 hour watch system and we generally end up not sleeping very well. So after three overnight passages in a week, we were in need of a good rest, and Golfo Aranci provided us with good holding and shelter from the west round to east-south-east. We had a few days to chill out, do some jobs and enjoy some shore leave.

Golfo Aranci and the area south of Olbia is one of my favourite parts of Sardinia. We spent a few weeks here last year and were happy to be revisiting. I think it’s a much nicer place to visit than it’s next door neighbour the Costa Smerelda.

My kind of place – a book swap in town

The seafront boardwalk is dotted with unusual sculptures, including a wire giraffe and astro-turfed giant chairs. Around 7pm every night, a bronze mermaid rises up from the water and serenades passers by with a selection of Italian songs.

The mermaid of Golfo Aranci serenades us
The resident giraffe

Boat Jobs

The first job was to recommission the water maker after it’s winter lay up. We went through the start up checks and switched it on. All seemed good for a few minutes, but then the unit switched itself off. A few minutes later it would start up again, run for a while, then switch off again. This was the same problem we’d had at the start of last season, and after various tests and fettling, it had just started working. We’d been recommended to beef up the wiring, which Colin had done over the winter, so it was frustrating that the problem was back and if anything, worse.

Our watermaker is a Katadyn Power Survivor 80, packaged in a 50cm x 40cm plastic box which lives under the bench seat in our saloon, with ventilation holes cut into the front panel and a computer fan to provide an air flow. First off we lifted off the seat cushion and took off the box lid to help with cooling in case overheating was causing the shut off. This made no improvement. With the case off, Colin had a good look around the pump mechanism but saw no oil or water leaks other than a minuscule water weep from the back of one membrane housing. At a loss, we sat and stared at it for a while. Then, through a small opening in the metal frame, Colin noticed some wires which looked to be corroded. However, accessing them was not easy given they were connected to a small component (we suspect it’s the thermal cutout) behind the metal frame and with only a tiny rectangular gap through which we could see them. With the precision of a brain surgeon, he teased them out. On closer inspection, the wires were very corroded; the marine environment is not a good friend to bare wires. So, we removed the damaged section, soldered on new fasteners and put it all back together with protective heat shrink over the top.

And wonderfully it all worked! Now we could catch up on our water usage since leaving Monastir.

The wire had not been soldered on to the connectors and had since corroded over the many years since we bought the watermaker
The floor of the bench seat makes a convenient workspace for repairing the watermaker

Emerald Has a Dirty Bum

The clear water in the bay gave us a good opportunity to inspect the hull for growth. Over the winter, Emerald had grown a furry beard, mostly under the belly and on the keel whereas around the waterline there were a few patches of coral worm starting to form, with slime as an overall general feature. The prop had some large barnacles that needed knocking off. Having decided not to lift out in Monastir, we would now have to give the hull a clean by hand, the task made harder by the coolness of the water; fine for a short swim around the boat but after twenty minutes our body temperatures were dropping with the shivers setting in. This was going to limit our hull cleaning time.

Emerald’s furry bum

Restless Legs

But it can’t be all work and no fun. I was desperate for a long walk after so many days of sitting during the last week. So on a not-too-hot morning we set out towards Capo Figari to visit parts we hadn’t seen last year. Our route took us to an old battery station on a headland, then along a track between the two peaks of Mont Ruju and Figari, our noses tingling as our legs kicked up the aromas of wild herbs. Then, a deep rumble troubled our ears, seemingly getting closer. Proceeding cautiously, we rounded the next bend to see a Toyota 4×4 coming towards us, it’s tyres crushing everything in it’s path. It wasn’t stopping for us to pass, so we rushed to find a safe place in the trees as it lumbered by, the driver staring straight ahead, no eye contact with us, no thank you signal. What on earth was he doing driving a beast like that on a hiking path? He can’t have known the area as a little further on, the trees crowded in and narrowed the path to little more than person width. Sure enough, ten minutes later it was returning.

With the sound of the strange car fading away, we took a left turn off the main track, signed Mont Ruju. Our tired legs complaining at the angle of the rocky path as we aimed to climb as high as possible. Progress was halted when the faint path finally disappeared and our hiking sandals became inappropriate for the terrain. With lungs gulping in deep breaths of fresh air, we rested and took in the fantastic views.

Old kilns along the walk
Capo Figari to the right, Mont Ruju to the left
Colour in the scrub attracts the bugs for a party
Woow what a view

Fun, Fun, Fun

Boat jobs are thirsty work

The explosion in the craft beer market over the last few years has helped sooth our British ale missing taste buds. Sardinia seems to have caught the bug with several breweries on the island. Whilst visiting a couple of the bars in town, we were able to try some IPAs. For dining out, we visited a fried seafood shack along the seafront where you could choose your selection of raw produce then watch it be coated in a light batter before going into the deep fryer.

Less Fun in a Southerly

Golfo di Aranci is well sheltered for winds from the north and east, less so from the west and not at all from the south. With south east winds forecast that might go south for a short while, we decided to risk staying put.

Tucked in close to the pontoons on the east side, the large quays of the ferry dock gave us good shelter from the south east. All was well and I even made some soda bread to pass the time. However, as the afternoon wore on, the wind crept ever more to the south and soon we were doing a very fine nodding dog impression. We were holding well, as was every other boat, so sometimes the best we can do is sit it out. The forecasts indicated it would only blow from the south for a couple of hours and they were right! Like a switch being thrown, the winds shifted from south to north and the nodding eased off into the evening.

Emerald nods away in the swell from the southerly winds coming straight into Golfo Aranci

Porto Istana

A mini fleet of boats that we had wintered with in Marina di Ragusa had arrived up north, so in need of some company we went slightly backwards to meet up with them in Porto Istana, making the most of a northerly wind to gently waft us across the 7nm.

Wafting across the Golfo Aranci

Porto Istana was a new anchorage for us; lots of sand to anchor in, but during our nights there, it was often open to the winds which curled around Isola Tavolara straight in to the bay; nothing very strong, just enough to set a ripple on the surface.

The view from the Istana beach bar

The surroundings were lovely; at the head of the bay was a soft sand beach with bar. Around the bay ran a coastal walking path, passing secluded coves and fringed with rose pink and terracotta coloured rocks. Wild flowers provided splashes of bright colour and bees were busy gathering food.

Porto San Paolo and Shopping

Since we’d been in Olbia last year, a new shopping centre had been opened next to the airport. Not only were there stores for clothes and shoes but my favourite kind of store – a Decathlon and the sailor’s friend – a Lidl. The temptation was too great, especially as a bus ran past Porto San Paolo that could take us there.

We could have walked along the coastal trail between Istana and Porto San Paolo, but it wouldn’t really be practical once laden down with our purchased wares. So a short motor around the corner had us anchored off of Porto San Paolo with plans made with the ladies for the next day shopping excursion.

People and trolleys were loaded into dinghys and ferried ashore. After a ten minute walk and a bit of confusion over where the bus stop was, we found the correct spot with time to spare. The journey was only 15 minutes but then we had more confusion when the bus driver didn’t stop where we thought he should have so it was another ten minute walk from the airport terminal to the shops. By now we had taken large chunks from the time before the next bus back so it would have to be a later one. More time for shopping!

The Golden Circle

We had the biggest shop that we’ve had in a long time; rash vest and a shortie wetsuit for Colin, new shorts for me and a tonne of goodies from Lidl. We may well have bought a little too much for carrying comfortably.

We were now close to the bus departure time. We went to the stop where the driver should have stopped on his way in, but didn’t. Our bus wasn’t listed on the timetables posted there, maybe that was why the bus hadn’t stopped. Dilemma, what to do….. We had ten or so minutes to walk to a further stop, not knowing quite how far it was, we took the risk and set off at a brisk pace. I’m sure we looked an interesting sight to the drivers as we marched along the edge of the road, laden down with trolleys and bags! You’ll be glad to know, we made it on time.

Beach Party on Isola Tavolara

A beach party was suggested on Isola Tavolara with a couple of other MdR boats. With shopping quickly stowed, we headed over.

The setting is stunning with the imposing western face of Isola Tavolara providing a spectacular backdrop, however, we found the anchorages were not the best for holding. We tried on the north side of the small peninsula, Punta Spalmatore, but were put off by the clumps of rock and weed that seemed to be very close to the underside of the hull. On the south side, close to the end of the peninsula, we found preferable depths and after two attempts we managed to get the anchor to hold. Then it was beach party time!

What a backdrop
The beach party crew
Snorkelling sights
Punta Spalmatore, the small sandy peninsula at the end of the island

Waiting for the Right Wind

After a hike along the boardwalk path and a quick snorkel, we returned to Porto Istana to make some onwards plans and to wait for the right winds to take us up north. Waiting isn’t so bad when there are beautiful surroundings with hikes to be discovered and the never ending boat gardening to keep us occupied.

There is often a handy bush to tie the dinghy to
A field full of wild flowers and a Colin

Sailing Info

15th June: Golfo Aranci to Porto Istana – 7.7nm (6nm sailed)
Anchored in 5m in position 40 53.503’N 9 37.172’E
Good holding in sand. A few rocky patches but they are very easy to see in the clear water.
At the head of the bay is a long, sandy beach with several beach bars. Bins are also located on the beach. If going ashore by dinghy, beware of a rocky reef in front of the southern beach bar.
Hiking trail runs around the coast, can be used to walk to Porto San Paolo.

16th June: Porto Istana to Porto San Paolo – 3nm
Anchored in 4.5m in position 40 52.898’N 9 38.549’E
Good holding. Quite a dinghy ride to shore where there are two sets of pontoons, the more sheltered one is behind the concrete breakwater.
Small grocery store, restaurants and bars ashore.
Water available from the pontoons.

17th June: Porto San Paolo to Isola Tavolara – 2.5nm
Anchored in 8m 40 53.417’N 9 40.602’E
The seabed is weedy with occasional sand patches. OK in fair conditions.

18th June: Isola Tavolara to Porto Istana – 3nm
Anchored in 5m in position 40 53.528’N 9 37.199’E

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