Emerald on the Costa Smeralda

Golfo Aranci

From Olbia our  first stop was just a few miles away in Golfo Aranci and what looked like would be a good anchorage for northerlies forecast for the next few days.

Anchored in a spot off of the Lega Navale pontoon we had a short trip ashore and when we asked someone on the pontoon if we could tie up, they directed us to a metal ladder along the boardwalk. It was a sturdy ladder, unlike some of the rickety ladders we’ve climbed in the past. The town had a relaxed and welcoming vibe and a very friendly butcher with whom I had my first all in Italian conversation!

Great view from the anchorage

An effort has been made to make the seafront attractive with sculptures dotted along the boardwalk, the most unusual one laying just off the shore. Being a bronze mermaid, she spends most of her day reclining underwater, only rising above the surface around 7pm every evening to ‘sing’ a selection of Italian songs broadcast on loudspeaker, for thirty minutes or so before reclining back into her watery home. Across the other side of the bay is an underwater museum, with even more sculptures placed below the waves, that you can dive or snorkel on or pay to view from the Yellow Submarine glass bottomed boat.

The mermaid rises from her watery home


A war time pill box turned into a memorial; we like to think that a James Bond baddy has hidden a rocket under there; seafront fountain; seafront sculpture

The holding was good and we felt happy to leave Emerald to enjoy the trails on Capo Figari which loomed over us. The first part of the track was wide and well defined, gently sloping upwards through shady oak trees. We then branched off onto a narrower and altogether steeper track that would give us a short cut to the top. After a spot of scrambling and playing spot the cairn, we were up on the main dirt track and the going became much easier.

The easy track at the start of the Capo Figari walk


Enjoying the view whilst taking a breather

At the top, on past a modern day transmission mast stands the Semoforo di Capo Figari – a now decaying building that deserves a little more love given the role it played in radio transmission history. Originally built in 1890 as a means of providing light signals to guide passing ships, it continued in this role for 40 years. Then in 1930 Guiglielmo Marconi chose the site as a location to undertake experiments in the sending and receiving of microwave signals. These were successful and led two years later to the sending of the first shortwave radio transmission, also from this location. Unfortunately it’s place in radio history ultimately led to the it’s demise; roll on a few more years and ships were being fitted out with the new radios, there was no longer a need for signal lights and so the building fell into disrepair.

The former radio house on Capo Figari

Like many former military installations we’ve come across in Italy there are no restrictions on access and we could wander freely through the old rooms with no mind given to health and safety other than your own, hopefully sensible, precautions. Having ascended some concrete steps we drew the line at crossing the rotten looking wooden floor in the attic. We don’t really need a visit to hospital. The building’s antenna is still there, but now lies at a wonky angle, broken off from it’s base and pointing in the general direction of Italy rather than up to the sky.

We spent a while enjoying the breathtaking views whilst absorbing a spot of history, very relevant to us both being electronic engineers. I was sponsored through university by a company which evolved from the telecommunications company originally founded by Giulielmo Marconi, so I had a lot to thank him for.

The way down was much easier than the up, following the dirt road which took some very long winds to get us back to sea level from 344m up. Just before we reached the bottom we detoured off to visit the English Cemetery. In a peaceful, shady glade are the graves of 13 sailors who sadly lost their lives at sea. Most of the graves are unmarked, the stand out one having a Celtic cross and marked with the name of an English seaman who succumbed to malaria at the tender age of 18. It turns out he’s the only Englishman there, the other graves belonging to Italians whose names have now been lost to history, but the location has taken on the name from George Bradshaw’s grave.

Cimiterio Inglese

Back to sea level and past the small but pretty Cala Morersca with a few boats anchored off. Behind the beach, through a gate left slightly ajar, are the remains of a metal furnace, the result of an experiment to bake lime which never came to fruition. The metal cylinder looks like a helter skelter or perhaps a rusting space ship, with a cool looking old truck left abandoned below (I have a thing for old vehicles).

Helter skelter?

Another day and another walk; this one on a circuit around the tiny coves dotting the coast along from Cala Sabina. Being not far above sea level didn’t make it any less scenic that the Capo Figari walk, but despite being less strenuous it was a much more scratchy walk, the path narrower and the foliage doing it’s best to leave a reminder on our poor, bare legs.

Cala Sabina walk

Whilst we were there the town also celebrated it’s local saint, San Silverio. His effigy was carried solemnly along the waterfront before being loaded onto a fishing boat for a lap around the bay. Back ashore he was then paraded back to his church for a blessing and mass. The festivities continued into the evening with live music and dancing, then when it went dark we joined in with the support being shouted to teams competing in a rowing race in wooden gig boats in front of the beach.

San Silverio festivities


We had the best sunsets of our summer so far


The bay is shared with a ferry port but we didn’t feel any wake from them

To The Costa Smerelda

The wind stopped blowing from the north so we took the opportunity to move on, next stop being Cala Volpe – we were now in the 20 mile of so stretch of coast known as the Costa Smerelda. We’ve never been anywhere named after us before! OK, so we know it wasn’t really named for us but we could pretend for a moment that we were worthy.

Cala Volpe is very much superyacht territory with massive mooring buoys laid out for them all across the bay. We picked a spot outside the mooring field, just outside the entrance to the Cala. We thought there was more space to swing there rather than inside the narrow looking cove. It wasn’t the best of choices; we were then annoyed throughout the rest of the day by RIBs zipping by in and out with their wealthy guests.

The next day the wind went west and blew strong. More superyachts arrived. Another day passed being annoyed by their tenders. The following morning the wind switched back north and stayed strong, gusting up to F6. The mooring company was out laying even more concrete blocks that encroached on where we were anchored. We were politely asked to move as they wanted to make a new mooring right where our anchor was. We pondered going further into the cala but decided to check out anchoring opposite where we were, off the beach off Capriccioli instead. What a result, the mooring company had done us a favour! Better shelter, no RIBs annoying us and a much more comfortable place to swim without worrying about being chopped into bits by a passing propeller. We did look up the fees for staying on a mooring and could see why they wanted to put even more out.

Emerald and some superyachts

Liscia di Vacca

On a cloudy morning, we moved on to Liscia di Vacca which provided shelter from east winds. We bimbled there at 3kts with the genny out, playing ‘I Spy Superyacht’ as we passed the anchorages around Porto Cervo. Into the bay and we found the views to be much more pleasing than Cala Volpe and we had plenty of space around us.

In the afternoon, thunder storms began to rumble both north and south of us. We kept our eyes glued to the lightning strike website. Somehow we remained in a small area at the north east of Sardinia that remained untouched and we were able to relax and listen to England’s first game of the World Cup on the radio.

The lightning strikes that day covered most of Sardinia except a few pockets, one where we were lucky enough to be anchored

The morning dawned bright and clear with all signs of yesterday’s storms gone. We went ashore, landing on a beach along the east side of the bay from where we could walk to Porto Cervo, about 20 minutes away.  

Locking up Crazy Horse to a wrecked fishing boat in Lascia di Vacca


Porto Cervo church

We couldn’t really see what the appeal of Porto Cervo was. Just a marina and a shopping village. The lack of price tags on the clothes in the shop windows meant it wasn’t a place for us – it you have to ask, you can’t afford it! 

Le Saline

On our way back from Porto Cervo we could see clouds bubbling over Corsica and forming into the distinctive anvil shaped cloud that can only mean the thunderstorms hadn’t stayed away for long. We got back to Emerald with plenty of time and watched it creeping towards us on blitzortung.com. The sky clouded over and it got pretty chilly in the fresh wind that set in, now blowing straight into the anchorage. The thunder and lightning thankfully changed direction and headed west away from us but the wind kept on blowing straight in. We decided to run away to a more sheltered bay rather than risk a night bouncing uncomfortably about. 5nm away was Cala Saline where there was better shelter, only a handful of boats and lots of space to drop the hook.

The wind seems to be very changeable around here. The next day, rather than blowing from the forecast north, it came from the east and straight into the bay. We decided to put up with it and by evening it switched to west and we stopped bouncing. We were entertained during the day by the Lazers and dinghies of a sailing school whizzing around us, enjoying the breeze. 

Cala Saline is protected from north winds by Capo d’Orso (Cape Bear) on which sits a large rock. The wind and rain has weathered the rocks into interesting shapes – in this case a bear. It was more obvious at different times of the day when the sun created shadows or highlights.

Is it a bear or Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders?

Getting low on fresh supplies we decided the next morning to head a few miles around the corner to Cannigione and anchor off the marina. The flipping wind was once again not sticking to what the forecast was telling it it should be doing and by the time we anchored it was blowing straight into the long bay. I did a quick dash to the supermarket which is the most ecologically unsound one I’ve ever visited. All the fresh fruit and veg was already parcelled up into plastic containers and wrapped in clingfilm resulting in a huge waste of plastic and no possibility of picking exactly what and how much you wanted. Even single aubergines had their own tray and wrap. Awful. Once I’d paid I took all my purchases out of their wrapping and looked in vain for somewhere to recycle it, but there was nowhere. The shop didn’t even want it back.

Back to Emerald bouncing at anchor, we decided to return to Seline which was a shame as Cannigione looked nice for a wander. Ah well, can’t go everywhere. That afternoon the wind went west and the anchorage at Seline became busy with yachts looking for shelter.

Next – to the Maddalena Islands!

The view from Capo Figari

Sailing Info

We weren’t overly impressed with the Costa Smerelda. The scenery was pretty and it was good that the coastal properties were all low rise but the bright green splodges of the manicured lawns were out of place with the background view. There are several attractive anchorages from which to choose to find shelter from the ever changing wind direction, but there isn’t a lot to do beyond swimming and perhaps playing ‘I Spy Superyacht’. This is of course based on the opinion of someone who likes to get ashore. And if they can’t get ashore for a few days starts to get restless. So, after a few days of wind induced boat time, when I did finally get ashore I was hoping to find a nice walk to burn off some energy, but in general we were met with unwelcoming private property signs or exclusive resorts.

17th June: Olbia to Golfo Aranci – 8nm
Anchored in position 40 59.977’N 9 37.125’E in 8m

21st June: Golfo Aranci to Cala Volpe – 11nm (3nm sailed)
Anchored in position 41 04.929’N 9 32.352’E in 7m
Later moved to position 40 04.769’N 9 32.703’E in 8m

24th June: Cala Volpe to Liscia di Vacca – 9nm (3nm sailed)
Anchored in position 41 08.805’N 9 30.85’E in 9.5m

25th June: Liscia di Vacca to Le Saline – 5nm
Anchored in position 41 09.611’N 9 24.758’E in 7m

27th June: Le Saline to Cannigione to Le Saline
At Cannigione anchored at 41 06.449’N 9 26.81’E – dropped off on a pontoon in the marina to do the shopping. There are mooring buoys at the head of the bay.
Back in Saline we anchored in 6m at 41 09.637’N 9 24.698’E