Sailing to Sardinia – Our Best Passage in the Med?


Due to the birthday celebrations of the evening before and the possibility of feeling a little shabby, we’d planned on an easy day and a short trip to anchor off Capo San Vito for one night and to take Friday’s forecast north easterly winds across to Sardinia. But after a lie in we were feeling full of energy and with a lovely fresh easterly building we decided to take it and get gone.

Sails up, off we go to Sardinia

It was a good decision! Within a few miles the engine was off and we were sailing with the wind at 150 degrees. Our departure time and the extra miles meant the possibility of arriving in the dark, but with a huge anchorage at Villisimium/Carbonara on Sardinia’s south eastern corner, it wasn’t much of a worry.

We went for a slightly more north course to keep the wind at a better angle for us to sail, nudging west as the wind varied. Dolphins came to visit us on and off, one group playing for over an hour around Emerald’s bow, leaping out of the water and looking like they were having a grand old time. After last season’s dolphin drought, it was wonderful to have them back. There’s something incredibly special about looking down from the bow and making eye to eye contact with a dolphin looking back at you.

Dolphins show us the way

Such wonderful creatures

The afternoon passed in a relaxed state of reading and doing puzzles with a chilli for dinner prepared that morning and just needing a reheat. As someone who is susceptible to seasickness when down below in confused or big seas, it was such a pleasure to be able to spend time below without any unpleasantness. I was even able to sit inside and watch some tv on the laptop during the chill out time before my night watch started. That’s usually a big no if I don’t want to be hanging over the side feeding my dinner to the fish. We sailed right on through the night, which is a first for us in the Med. Sleep came easily during the off-watch and watches were uneventful with only two ships spotted all night, although it was a dark night with cloud covering any moonlight.

We run three hour watches, starting from 10pm and I take the first shift because I’m better at staying awake than trying to sleep outside of my usual routine. My second watch covered daybreak, a time period I usually love as the darkness is chased away by dawn’s rosy fingers reaching from the east. This one however was gloomy with just a thin, fiery streak breaking through the monotonous grey to indicate sunrise. A light rain started up which set in for a couple of hours and cloaked us in a damp fug. But not for long as a few hours later the sun broke through and dried us off.

Having completed a respectable noon to noon run of 110nm our speed began to drop as the wind eased during the afternoon and gave up completely that evening. We eked out a few more miles but by sunset we decided to motor with 45nm to go.

A relaxing passage with no rolling about

The night sky was much clearer than the previous one and even though the moon was still only a thin crescent, it gave off plenty of light up until around midnight when it set. A bright light off our bow had me worried for a few minutes until I realised it was the light house on Cabo Carbonara, 30nm away. Aren’t lighthouses brilliant?

Crescent moon and maybe Venus light the sky

The area around Cabo Carbonara is a marine reserve within which we thought fishing was restricted, so there wouldn’t be any fishing pots to worry about in the dark. That thinking was roundly proved wrong when a buoy whisked by in the gloom close off our port side. A lucky escape and Colin spent the last couple of miles being a buoy spotter on the bow.

Even though we knew the anchorage was large, trying to make out the difference between shore lights and anchor lights is pretty difficult, especially when sleep deprived. We nosed our way in slowly and eventually the hulls of anchored boats showed up as slightly less dark blobs in the overall darkness. We dropped our hook and decided to wait up half an hour until dawn to double check our position was OK, which it was. However, now we could go to bed I was feeling wide awake! But once in our comfy bed sleep came surprisingly quickly.

So was it our best long passage? Well the good points were:

  • it was the best miles sailed to motored ratio that we’ve had,
  • the sea motion was kindly giving us a relaxed passage with no seasickness,
  • we slept well off watch without the banging and clanging that comes with a lumpy sea,
  • all those dolphins coming to visit
  • and no worries about close encounters with ships in the night.

The only downer, and a minor one at that, was the hour or two of rain. So all in all, we officially declare this our “best long passage in the Med” (so far!).

Sailing Info

17th – 19th May: Mondello, Sicily to Cabo Carbonara, Sardinia
Distance travelled: 192nm (144nm sailed)
Weather: An east wind F4 which veered around to the north during the passage, dying off in the evening of the 18th. A couple of hours on rain on the second morning but otherwise bright and dry. Cooler than expected meaning fleece tops and long trousers were needed, even during the day.
Anchored in 9m in position 39 07.506’N 9 30.026’E

Cabo Carbonara and the two lighthouses that guided us in

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