Sail North Corsica – Wonderfully Wild With a Soupçon of Rolliness 1

We crossed from Portoferraio to sail north Corsica. We left on a flat calm day, the sky washed clean by the previous days’ rain. As a result we really could see for miles and miles. In one direction we could see way up the Italian coast. Then as soon as we left the harbour on Elba we could see our destination.

Corsica met my expectations and more, being wonderfully wild with plenty of French culture and welcoming towns. What follows is part one of our travels – to sail north Corsica.

Arrival in Corsica

27th August: At last we were in Corsica and what a great start to our visit there. As soon as we arrived at the small anchorage tucked behind the Iles Finocchiarola, two boats left. This subsequently gave us a lovely big space to drop anchor in outside of the big yellow mooring buoys. These buoys prevent anchoring within the small nature reserve that surrounds the islands.

The setting was idyllic: the sea was flat, and a curve of golden sand lined the shore. Behind it snaked a coastal walking path waiting to be explored tomorrow.

The Customs Officers path runs for 26km. It starts from the nearby town of Macinaggio and runs right around the north pointing fingertip of Cap Corse before finishing at Centuri around the other side of the peninsula. I was only able to walk a small section of it but even so, I was treated to beautiful vistas, sea daffodils, golden beaches and clear, blue water. So far, Corsica was really ticking all my fun boxes.

Looking out to the anchorage from the shore
The coastal path is a little dicey in places, but there are detours
We would see many of these defence towers around Corsica’s coast
Sea daffodil
Sea daffodil
Looking inland
There are a couple of other anchorages in the area, this one is off Plage de Tamarone

Feeling Slightly Smug

Now that we were close to the end of August we hadn’t been sure what to expect in terms of crowded anchorages. However, our luck was in. There were a few French boats preparing for their overnight crossing back to France but it never felt over full. Once the other boats departed, we began to feel slightly smug that our summer had a few more weeks left to it.

Iles Finnochiarola

Is There a Downside to Cruising Corsica?

The downside of Corsica is the ever changing weather, which forced us to keep moving on when we could. Each morning we would look at a forecast and see 5 days of settled conditions, only for it to change the following day to windier conditions. We reluctantly left the idyllic anchorage but not before counting 23 pipe fish doing laps around Emerald’s hull.

Six of the 23 pipefish

We set off around Cap Corse. Initially the conditions were benign, but as we sailed round the top, we were met head on by galloping white horses and a F6. Fortunately, it didn’t last very long. Once around the other side the sea returned to flat calm so we took a chance to stop off at Port des Centuri for a lunch stop.

I took the dinghy ashore to buy bread and the friendly harbour-master pointed out a spot where I could tie up. That doesn’t happen very often! The water was such an amazing blue that we consequently took the opportunity for a swim. Colin also cleared some barnacles from the hull. Unfortunately, the holding wasn’t very good due to rocks and lumps of weed, so we continued on down to Sant Florent. As a result of Colin’s hull gardening, we gained some extra SOG!

The pretty Port di Centuri
Emerald at anchor
Colin does some hull gardening

A Little Bit of France in Sant Florent

During our approach to anchor off the beach at Sant Florent, a large flying object buzzed over the mast. It looked like a dinghy…. but how would someone fly a dinghy? By the time we were anchored, we saw it coming back in towards the beach. Amazingly, It was a dinghy! That was a new sight for us a flying dinghy. I began to make plans for where we could store some wings. I’m sure Crazy Horse would love to fly!

Yes that is a flying dinghy!

There is another coastal walk here, so the next morning we set off for an explore. But we discovered there are two miles of dusty, dull track to a car park before the real walk starts.

Views along the coastal path

We found a town that was pleasant for a wander with pretty squares and an old citadel. In true French style there with a large boules pitch behind the harbour. In addition, there were restaurants tempting us with moules frites, served with a large variety of sauces. It also has the nicest ever post office person I’d ever met. She was very kind and patient with me with my faltering French.

Unfortunately, Sant Florent attracts swell. Despite there not being much wind it still rolled in from the north. One evening it eventually got too much and we soon had to escape ashore and eat some of those tempting moules. It’s a hard life sometimes!

There is a large marina which did get busy on our second night when the swell really rolled in.

Sunset on the citadel
A town square
The harbour in Sant Florent
The boules green was very popular in the evenings

I Say Martello You Say Mortella

The swell was becoming more than uncomfortable, so we took a chance on an anchorage a little further up the coast. Here, a hook of land would hopefully give us some shelter from it. The best shelter was in a turquoise blue creek but it was full, so we took the second best option under the ruins of the Mortella tower.

From this tower came the idea for the martello towers (that’s not a spelling mistake) that dot the south coast of England and east of Ireland. During a siege in 1794, two British ships unsuccessfully attacked the tower. Following this, the tower was then taken from the land. However, the British were so impressed by it’s strength in withstanding the seaward attack that they copied the design and used them to bolster the British coastal defences. Unfortunately, on their departure from Corsica, the British blew up this tower, leaving the ruins that still remain to this day. They also spelt the name wrong!

The same coastal path we walked a few days ago passed right around the coast off which we were now anchored. I followed it for a few miles to the beautiful white sand beach of Plage du Lotu.

The anchorage
There isn’t much left of the tower now
Looking south over our anchorage
The Fiume Santo inlet – a bit too cosy for our liking but very sheltered from the swell
Soft white beaches dot the coastline
Plage du Lotu – the only way to get here is by boat or by foot. Definitely worth the effort for the soft, white sand
Storm clouds are rolling in, time to get back to Emerald

The Rolly Coast

The first day of meteorological autumn arrived and the temperatures were tumbling overnight. Subsequently, the duvet went back on the bed.

Early on Sunday morning I was woken by the sound of distant rumbling, similar to the sound of someone moving furniture in a flat above you. I kept my eyes closed in the hope that while I couldn’t see any lightning, then it wasn’t really there. I kept up the pretence for a few more minutes as more grumblings sounded. Colin was still sleeping; but eventually he stirred and I asked if he could hear them. He answered yes, so it meant they were really there.

I reached for my phone, connected to wifi and opened the page. There was a smattering of dots spread to the north of us like a rash of angry pimples. Sigh. So, up we got and went to close up the hatches and prepare for strong wind. Outside there was the faintest hint of dawn to the east, just enough light to highlight the angry blackness to the north.

Emerald prepared, the rain began, just a gentle pitter patter rather than the usual fire hose we have experienced with most thunderstorms. The storm moved west without passing overhead and we gladly went back to bed, the duvet still warm from when we left it 45 minutes earlier.

Heading into the rain

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

When we woke again, thunder was still rumbling about close by. It was dry, but rain was moving towards us. Whilst Emerald got another wash, we pondered our next move – a choice between moving on to Calvi in light winds today or staying put for another 3 days whilst some wind blew through. We chose to move, the rain had passed so we headed off.

Around Mortella point we realised how well sheltered the anchorage had been as a long, meter high swell rolled in towards us (video of Here comes the swell). There was little wind until we passed Pointe de Curza where it met us head on, knocking over a knot off our SOG. We caught some more rain then the sky began to brighten and the winds eased. There was still the swell, but as Meatloaf sang, two out of three ain’t bad.

La Revellata Anchorage

We decided against anchoring off Calvi as the swell was due to be from the north and it really didn’t look that sheltered, continuing on to the small finger of land called La Revellata that sticks up from the west coast. There are three anchorages to choose from – one tucked into the corner of the finger with a beach bar; this one was quite busy. The other two lie north and south of the Punta di l’Oscelluccia.

We plumped for the south side for better shelter from the north, although there is less sand to be found on this side. At our chosen spot there was one other boat and with the use of Google maps for sand spotting, we played a game of anchor darts and managed to hit the bullseye when we dropped in a small patch amongst the weed and rocks. Later when snorkelling, I spotted a hefty rock standing a few meters off the bottom. Not a risk for hitting the keel as we were in 9m but the anchor chain could easily get snagged. The next day with a wind shift we heard the graunching sound of chain over rock so pulled a few meters in.

The anchor on the seabed. That was a pretty good shot from 9m up
The big rock!
The snorkelling was fantastic with thousands of little fish darting about
The fire planes use the bay for practice
The anchorage
Spectacular views
La Revellata lighthouse
Cute gateposts
Emerald and Calvi Citadel

Visiting Calvi

The anchorage provided us with a great view of Calvi Citadel. As the sun set we enjoyed the change of colour over the mountains and the citadel walls. The sea was clear and great for snorkelling, although the water seemed a little chillier.

The Revellata is a nature reserve with a network of paths to choose from to walk out to the lighthouse or admire the steep drop offs on the western side. A track also runs to Calvi so I took a morning stroll whilst Colin took the dinghy across to take our shopping back.

We firstly wandered the narrow, twisting streets of the tiny citadel. During our stroll we took a look inside the French Foreign Legion museum before viewing the monument to Christopher Columbus. Calvi is just one of the places that claims to be the birthplace of the explorer.

Amongst the warren of streets of the old town we came across a wonderful deli. Coming from inside was an enticing smell due to the many saucisson hanging from the ceiling. It was a cunning ploy in addition to the sample slices to taste as we were easily tempted into buying a few to take home. But we lingered too long….. whilst we were shopping the wind had picked up from the SW and it was a soggy trip back to Emerald. If only we had a bigger outboard engine!

From our anchorage, we had a great view of Calvi Citadel
From where we could enjoy the changing colours of the sunset
The sun’s last rays turning the mountains purple-pink
The fishing harbour at Calvi
A monument to Columbus
Calvi Church
The view of the citadel from our dinghy ride – before we got wet

Sailing Info

Our route from Elba to Corsica and along the north coast

27th August: Portoferraio, Elba to Iles Finocchiarola, Corsica – 43nm travelled (6nm sailed)
Anchored in sand, 5.5m outside the buoys protecting the nature reserve around the islands.
Position – 42 58.988’N 0 27.844’E
Provisions are available in Macinaggio, approx 3km walk away where there is also a marina.
During swimming, watch out the fast RIBs that come racing through the gap between the islands.

29th August: Iles Finocchiarola to Sant Florent via Port di Centuri – 28nm travelled
Anchored in 9m at Centuri in rock and weed in position 42 57.946’N 9 20.74’E
Small village ashore with harbour.
Anchored in Sant Florent off the beach in sand, 4.5m in position 42 40.724’N 9 17.449’E

1st September: Sant Florent to South of Mortella Tower, 2nm travelled
Anchored in 7m in sand patch in position 42 42.588’N 9 15.398’E

2nd September: Mortella Tower to La Revellata, 28nm travelled
Anchored in 9m in a sand patch amongst lots of weed and rock.
Position 42 34.304’N 8 43.67’E
When swimming, I noticed a huge rock standing several meters up from the seabed. Not an issue for our keel, but we concerned that the anchor chain may end up wrapped around it so we pulled in some chain.

Calvi sunset

One thought on “Sail North Corsica – Wonderfully Wild With a Soupçon of Rolliness

Comments are closed.