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We had a very long ride to Sardinia.
To reach Sardinia from the tiny island of Ponza requires making a long, one hundred and sixty nautical-mile, twenty-hour passage. Although we have made many overnight passages we do all we can to avoid them. There are cruisers who look forward to these passages but that’s not us. With only the two of us on board we have to take shifts at the helm, and there isn’t enough time for our bodies to adjust to any kind of sleep schedule. Most people who do long passages will tell you that the first day on a long passage is usually the toughest.
Fortunately, we had a perfect forecast for an absolutely calm ride.
For the first sixteen hours of our passage we had perfectly calm seas. About four hours out from Sardinia, as it was just getting daylight, the wind started climbing. Soon it was 35 knots, directly in our face. The wind was coming from the west (the same direction we were going). Luckily though, we were close to Sardinia and the waves didn’t have time to build. We saw only three to four foot chop. The thought foremost on our minds was how lucky we were that the wind hadn’t come sooner. Had we been farther offshore, we’d have been blasted in the dark by much taller waves.
During the last couple of hours we passed a catamaran that was really getting trashed by the wind and waves. I tried to shoot a video of the catamaran, but wasn’t thinking clearly at the time (sleep deprivation) and couldn’t get the stupid camera to focus. Here’s my 15 second attempt. It’s a terrible video, but somewhat shows the seas:
Our first hint that Sardinia would be different came as we were approaching the anchorage. I looked out the window with the binoculars and couldn’t believe what I saw. It was literally a megayacht parking lot! I had never seen so many megayachts in one place.
Upon arrival at 8:30 in the morning, we dropped anchor and then everyone on both boats went to sleep. Normally we drop the tenders and go exploring, but no one was in the mood for anything. Unfortunately, what had been a calm anchorage upon arrival was soon invaded by many boats generating wake and bouncing us around. We didn’t care, though; we dined onboard and did nothing for the rest of the day.
Marinella – Our first anchorage in Sardinia…
We anchored behind a huge megayacht named Exstasea. With 20/20 hindsight, we anchored closer than we should have. We use our radar to measure distances to other boats when approaching an anchorage. I set the radar such that each ring on the radar represents 150 feet of distance, and our goal is always to drop the anchor with no other boats within three rings (450 feet) of us. Because of Exstasea’s size, I allowed for five rings (750 feet.) This seemed plenty, but a couple of days later when the wind dropped and both boats were floating freely, I discovered we were MUCH too close. When the wind is high, boats point approximately the same direction, with their anchors hundreds of feet in front of them. When there is no wind, they drift randomly anywhere their anchor chain will let them. Ecstasea departed just as I was thinking I had to re-anchor.
We anchored behind this boat, named Ecstasea. I looked it up on the internet and it was 282 feet. It was carrying a bunch of Hollywood celebrities who I only sort of recognized (I’m not up on the latest pop culture.) What most impressed me was the jet engine at the back. Searching the boat on the internet I discovered that it has over 43,000 horsepower of engines and can run at over 30 knots. And…it was sold a few years ago for $200 million.
I said to Roberta that for all the cruising we have done this year, this was the first time I had felt like we were in a “real” anchorage. It seems like all we’ve done this year is either go into port or drop anchor in a place completely open to the sea. Finally! We were able to swim and have fun. These are the times that make the difficult days worthwhile.
Our anchorage was called Marinella, and we loved being there! The first day we just lounged around the boat until we built up the energy to drop the tender (which only took about ten minutes). Then we went exploring.
We hiked along the beach and found a great beachfront restaurant with a tender dock for dinner. The approach from the water was rocky, so we tied up the tender in a marina about a mile away, and hiked with the dogs to the restaurant. There were some buoys in the water indicating the tender-approach to the restaurant, but we didn’t understand what they were telling us. I phoned the restaurant to ask for tendering-in directions but the language challenges made it impossible for them to communicate. But we wanted an excuse for a beach-hike anyway.
Once at the restaurant the buoys were explained and later in the evening we went in for dinner along with Steven and Carol from Seabird. Halfway to the restaurant Steven said, “Darn. I left my shoes on the boat.” Oops. He had fancied up, but forgot to put shoes on. We said, “No problem. They won’t care.” And, the restaurant didn’t care at all. They also provided extra chairs for our dogs to sit on.
Dinners are always late here. It was nearly 10pm when we left the restaurant and the crowd was just arriving.
A side story:
When we arrived at the dock for dinner, there was a couple from another boat (a 72′ something) who noted that we were American and asked if we owned the two Nordhavns in the bay. We confessed that they were ours, not sure where the conversation was going. He said he liked Nordhavns and had even read about our boats in Circumnavigator magazine. We talked about our journey to get here and all the places we’d been. He was duly amazed at how far we had come. He then asked, “So. Do these boats ever have problems?” It was funny in that both Steven and I said simultaneously, “These are great boats!” but, then a few seconds later we both backed down on that statement and said, “Well. They are boats. And, with boats something is always broken.” Clearly the guy preferred our first answer. He pushed and said, “So. They break a lot?” We were somewhat stumped. Nordhavns are reliable for boats. But on a boat, there is always something that needs fixed. It is part of boating. We take the boats places where they get slammed around in a harsh salt water environment. The good thing about Nordhavns is that they are the best possible boat for doing what we do. But…when challenged on a boat dock as to whether or not our boats are perfect and never break …both Steven and I were at a loss for how to respond. In 40,000+ miles (each) we’ve never had to be towed to the dock, and never had the boats floating dead in the water. But, perfect? Nah. It’s a boat, and boats will be boats.
Which was a fitting discussion, because later that evening, when I was least in the mood, something broke.
After dropping off Steven and Carol at Seabird, Roberta and I returned to Sans Souci. I went to check my email and realized that there was no power in the pilot house. The lights came on, but the monitors were all black, as were all of the electronics. No satellite internet, no satellite TV, no navigation computers, etc.
Argh! I thought about putting off investigation until the morning, but knew I wouldn’t sleep until I had solved the problem.
After a bit of investigating I realized that it was the UPS for the pilot house (Uninterruptible Power Supply.) It is hidden deep beneath the pilot house settee. I tore apart the settee to get at the unit. All power to the electronics passes through the UPS, which has a battery, so that if the pilot house loses power it can keep the power on for some period of time (approx. 20 minutes).The UPS unit, when I finally got to it, had an error message, “Battery needs replacement. Contact APC.” I unplugged and replugged the unit, and the power came on. Great! Roberta and I settled in to watch TV, when about 15 minutes later, the TV went off and power to the pilot house was cut again. Crap!
I called APC (makers of the unit) to ask if there was a bypass. I was hoping I could press a button and tell the unit to not worry about the lack of a battery. APC said, “That capability is not available on your unit.” I then went about hunting for a power strip, to plug everything into that had previously been plugged into the now useless UPS unit. I’m sure there is one on the boat, but, “Where?” After a fruitless search I went to work with wire cutters, removing wire-ties, to get access to the power cables that were plugged into the UPS unit, and luckily, I was able to find alternate places to plug everything into. The power came back on, and life was good again on Sans Souci.
We watched the rest of our program on TV, hit the hot tub, and finally, at – 2 a.m. — hit the sack.
I’m not at all sure that I need the UPS unit. I need to think about it, but it seems to me that the inverters accomplish the same task. If we lose power then the inverters immediately put the boat onto the battery.
Anyway…it wasn’t a big deal, but…boating is like that. Once in a while stuff happens, and you just have to deal with it. But I’m happy it happened at anchor and not in the middle of a long dark passage.
Golfe De Pavero – Our anchorage at Porto Cervo
Our next destination would be Porto Cervo. An article in Forbes last year summarized Porto Cervo this way:
It was in this very town a few years back that George Clooney was refused entry into one of the exclusive nightspots….”
I emailed the port to get pricing for moorage, with no response. I also tried phoning, but my calls went unanswered. My guess is that moorage is booked a year in advance, and that I wouldn’t have liked the price anyway.
Instead, we went to anchor in a bay just southeast of Porto Cervo called Pevero.
Anchoring was a little bizarre. We entered a huge bay (perhaps half a mile across.) As we were entering the bay I thought, “This is going to be great! There’s a ton of space to anchor.” But, as I was hunting for a place to drop anchor I was approached by two guys in a tender, who said that I needed to anchor next to shore, and started guiding me to a corner of the bay.
Roberta told me to ignore them. We’ve been in many bays where there are guys waving flags who try to direct you to some private dock of theirs (or private anchorage) and they charge you money. However, these guys had uniforms and felt legit, so I decided to give them a try. They guided me to an incredibly pretty, but shallow, place near a bunch of rocks.
Seabird was behind me and didn’t like where I was being led, so they headed off to the other side of the bay.
When I was next to the guys in the tender, they pointed at where I should drop my hook. It was 17 feet of very pretty water. About 200 feet to my port side was shallow water and rocks. It wasn’t a place I’d normally drop. They insisted and said it was the safest place from the Mistral.
Mistrals are high winds from the northwest that come up suddenly here, and can go from nothing to 50 knots in an hour. They had guided me to a safe place, and I was convinced they were honest. They didn’t seem to want money. Meanwhile Steven and Carol (Seabird) had headed to the other side of the bay, and they were getting swell and wind. He realized I was in a good spot, and backtracked to where I was.
The guys were indeed good guys! I was in a great spot, and Steven dropped anchor next to me. They are apparently associated with the mooring balls in the center of this bay, and push the little guys (like me) to the side so that the megayachts have plenty of room on the mooring balls.
Being so close to the rocks I put out only 150′ of chain.
When we dropped our anchor there was only one boat near us, but within an hour other, smaller, boats invaded.
Our intention yesterday had been to have dinner in Porto Cervo, which is only a couple miles from where we are anchored, but we spent the whole day totally surrounded by smaller boats. We were in the middle of a packed parking lot! Several were sitting in positions where if the wind should shift we’d quickly run them over. Usually, when boats anchor too close we walk out carrying large fenders, and that gets their attention. In this case, there were so many that we just hoped the wind wouldn’t shift, or that if it did, they’d be quick to start their engines and move.
By dinner time we were tired and not in the mood to go out. Roberta cooked a great meal and we ate on our upper aft deck.
Then we watched a movie and afterward hung out in the hot tub late into the night watching the tenders come and go from the megayachts around us.
Actually…here’s a story I almost certainly shouldn’t tell, but will (even though it really isn’t that interesting)…
We were sitting in the hot tub at 7 one morning drinking our coffee and admiring the view. I pointed out to Roberta that I thought maybe a nearby fancy yacht was taking an attractive young lady out for a photo shoot. She was standing on the swim step, surrounded by guys, wearing a sparkly evening dress, with purse and high-heels. It’s not what one normally wears on a swim step at 7am. I assumed she was a model, and they wanted to catch the morning light for pictures. Minutes later she was joined by three other similarly (night-club) attired young ladies.
Aha! This was not a photo shoot. It was the crew taking “visitors” back to town in the early morning. Oh well .. not that interesting of a story. But, at 7am, how many stories are there?
Anyway…we soon departed for Porto Cervo in our tender. Finding a place to dock it was easy. We hiked around and explored “the village.” Clearly, it is a community designed to target the high-end yacht crowd. Every major luxury brand you can think of had a store in town.
But being “commoners” we merely shopped at the grocery store and bought some needed provisions, and then read some menus intending to head back into town for dinner.
As seems usual this summer, our plans were defeated by a southeast wind that suddenly kicked up. In fact, I think that we may have dragged our anchor. This was particularly surprising in that we were in fairly light (15-20kt) winds. It wasn’t much of an event, in that we caught it within minutes and simply re-anchored a few feet from where we had originally dropped the anchor. We have only dragged anchor three or four times in 40,000+ miles of cruising, so it is worth noting and analyzing.
Although nothing happened, had we gone into town for dinner, the scenario may have played out much differently, perhaps even disastrously.
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t like where we were anchored. We were in a tight, shallow location with a rocky wall only a couple hundred feet behind us, and rocks poking up from the water only a couple hundred feet to our west. It was an incredible, and beautiful, place to be — but there was no margin for error. And, as I said, normally we wouldn’t anchor in such a place as we normally like deeper water with lots of space around us.
Here’s what went wrong:
In this picture, we were anchored at position “A.”
When anchoring I always have Nobeltec (our chart-plotter software) place what we call a “snail-trail” onto the chart. This track shows where the boat has been, and is the red line in this picture. I also put down a yellow boundary circle, the radius of which is the amount of anchor rode (chain) I have put out. In this picture the yellow circle is not in its original location because I re-anchored.
The etching labeled “B” is the outer limit of what was my original circle. The smaller circle you see around point “A” is a fake circle, caused by light winds. When the winds are light enough the boats tends to circle around wherever the chain happens to be sitting.
Point “C” on this picture is the one that shows the anchor starting to drag towards shore. The etchings around point “C” were steadily working their way towards shore, and were outside the yellow circle.
When we dropped anchor, the wind projection was for a west or northwest wind, which would have blown us off-shore, thus I set my anchor by backing the boat from Point “A” towards point “B.”
When the wind turned around 180 degrees and was blowing towards shore, the anchor flipped over. The anchor was dug into the sand, but the 180-degree rotation caused it to pivot and come unstuck. Normally, this is not a problem, in that the real advantage of my anchor (a Rocna) is its ability to re-set itself quickly when the boat pulls back with the wind.
In this particular case, I had set the anchor on a patch of sand, surrounded by seaweed. When the anchor came unstuck, it found itself on seaweed where it could slide. My guess is that it would have found some sand, and dug itself back in again before we hit the rocks, but I didn’t want to test the theory.
Some thoughts on anchoring in general…
Sans Souci’s anchor chain (rode) is all chain, whereas smaller boats tend to use rope to form their rode.
There are pros and cons to using an all chain rode. Chain does not stretch, unlike rope. When the wind is such that there is a straight diagonal line between the boat and the anchor, you can have a problem. That said, it takes a huge amount of wind to have an exact straight line between the boat and the anchor. The reason for this is the weight of the chain itself. The chain is heavy, and most of the time when Sans Souci is at anchor the chain drops in a straight line to the bottom, then lies on the bottom from where the boat floats to wherever the anchor sits.
For example, let’s say that Sans Souci is sitting in 40 feet of water. The general rule of thumb with an all-chain rode is to put out five times as much chain as the water is deep; or two hundred feet. In calm conditions, the chain hangs straight down from the bow, leaving one hundred sixty feet of chain laying on the bottom, extending to the anchor. If there is wind, some amount of chain gets lifted, but not all of it. As the wind rises, more and more of the chain gets lifted. 99.9% of the time, there is some chain sitting on the bottom and there is no pull on the actual anchor. To the extent there is pull, the pull is exactly horizontal, which happens to be the best possible angle of setting an anchor for it to hold and not drag.
I’ve always wondered how much wind it takes to lift my chain off the bottom, and recently one of the readers of my blog pointed me to a webpage that had the mathematical formulas to compute the amount of wind it would take to completely raise my chain from the bottom at different levels of wind. Completely raising the chain from the bottom doesn’t automatically mean that the boat will drag anchor, but it is the first line of defense. If the full chain were stretched tight, then a sudden jerking motion caused by a wave would be transmitted all the way to the anchor, potentially pulling it, and potentially resulting in a very bad day.
Rather than bogging my blog down with a long mathematical formula, I constructed a spreadsheet, which can be downloaded from this link:
This spreadsheet has the values for my boat. The key information to be plugged in are: length of boat, length of chain, weight of the chain, and the depth of the water.
This begs the question of, “Why not just use rope as the rode?” As I mentioned, the good thing about rope is that it stretches, acting as a shock absorber when waves hit. However, the bad thing is that it is light and lifts off the ground almost immediately. There is a compromise solution that many boaters who have all-chain rodes use, called a snubber. In addition to other benefits which are outside the scope of this blog entry to explain, the snubber (which is really just one or two pieces of rope) is stretched between two links of chain, forming a shock absorber, yielding the best of both worlds.
Anyway, I’m off-subject. My mistake here was anchoring in a place with no margin for error. I was on a small patch of sand, with no room for my anchor to catch and re-set if it came loose. The smart thing we did was to stay onboard when we noticed the wind had shifted direction and wasn’t behaving as forecast.
Lastly, below is a picture of Sans Souci floating at anchor. You’ll see that our flopper stoppers were out. This added a bit of “fun” to the equation. Bringing them in is a 15-minute process, and we were in a situation where we needed to hurry. All I could think of to do was to pull the line that goes to the fish (the dangling plates for the flopper stoppers), so that the fish would be lifted six feet into the air. Anyone watching would have thought we looked very funny. But, this took only a few seconds and allowed us to quickly re-anchor the boat.
The area south of Porto Cervo is called “The Costa Smerelda.” Wikipedia has this to say about the homes in the area:
In a study released by the European luxury real estate brokerage Engel & Völkers, Romazzino Bay in Porto Cervo is the most expensive location in Europe. House prices reach up to 300,000 euros per square meter.
 In 2011 Costa Smeralda had the second, the 4th and the 6th most expensive hotels in the world, the Pitrizza, the Romazzino and the Cala di Volpe Hotel.
 In 2012 the Hotel Cala di Volpe, which is featured in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me is listed at number 7 on World’s 15 most expensive hotel suites complied by CNN Go in 2012. The presidential suite of the hotel is billed at US$32,736 per night.
A Windy Anchorage As We Prepare To Depart Sardinia
After a couple of days of high wind at Porto Cervo the forecast was for a couple days of dead calm. We had been watching for a chance to cross the Strait of Bonifacio, which divides Sardinia from Corsica. It can be a nasty piece of water and we wanted the smoothest possible water for the crossing. We also wanted to position closer to the north end of Sardinia to have a shorter run across the strait.
We studied the charts and found a bay, called Porto Liscia, that seemed perfect. It looked well protected from the forecasted southerly wind and would be perfect for our jump across the strait. MAKE SURE YOU PLAY THE VIDEO BELOW TO SEE WHAT HAPPENED.
We anchored at Porto Liscia thinking we’d be well protected from the wind. However, what we didn’t realize was that Porto Liscia was the exact opposite of what we were seeking. Instead of having a nice calm anchorage we wound up in a place that was famous for its wind! This video shows what we found.
NOTE: Some email programs remove videos. If you do not see a video above, click the link below to see the video:
Given all the wind we were nervous about our departure and made the decision to depart at daybreak, when the wind is usually the calmest. We woke at 5:30am to get the boat ready for departure (put the tenders on deck, put in the flopper stoppers, check the engine room, etc).
We were up at 5:30am for our trip across the Bonifacio Strait. It was the night of the “Super Moon.”
From Wikipedia: “A supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth.”
It’s probably a good thing that this is such a low-quality image, because I was standing on the deck to raise the tender, unshowered, unshaven, and worse of all un-coffee-d.
Despite our concern, the weather cooperated, and we had a perfectly calm ride across the strait. We arrived at a great anchorage (Sant Amanza). The “big city” on the southern end of Corsica is Bonifacio and we were almost walking distance away. I say almost, because Steven and Carol (from Seabird) decided to try walking and it didn’t turn out so well (more on that later.)
Sant Amanza, A Terrific Place To Anchor
We anchored in a large bay (Sant’Amanza) in the southeastern corner of Corsica. The bay offers perfect depths for anchoring, and most importantly protection from the winds, good holding AND multiple tender docks for getting to shore. We had been frustrated by our anchorage at Porto Liscia, in that we could see restaurants on shore, but with no tender dock we couldn’t get to them.
Roberta and I went ashore for lunch at a beach front restaurant, then took the tender exploring around the bay, swam from the back of the boat, let the dogs walk on the beach, and just had a great time.
We had dinner with our friends from Seabird, the Argosys, at a place called “Maora Beach” which is the kind of restaurant that I have a particular fondness for (beach front, feet on the sand dining, tender dock, upscale but funky, water taxi, good food, massage, clothes-shop, chill music, etc).
At dinner the Argosys described their day, which was somewhat less fun:
We are only 3.5 miles out of Bonifacio, so they decided to walk. It turned out to be a long sweaty uphill walk on very hot, narrow roads, and turned out to be closer to 5 than 3.5 miles. Their plan was to see the city, do some grocery shopping and then taxi back. All went well and they enjoyed the city.
When it came time to taxi (via car) back to where they had parked their tender, loaded with bags of groceries, they had a hard time finding a taxi. They found one taxi driver, who refused to bring them to our anchorage. The driver didn’t speak english, and even though Steven pointed at a map on his phone, the driver just didn’t want to tangle with taking a couple of Americans to the boondocks. The driver left the taxi stand with other clients, and no new taxi appeared. Finally, Steven and Carol started the long 5-mile hike back, lugging their bags, hoping a taxi would pass by. It didn’t. Two hot sweaty miserable hours later they were back at the boat.
One of Steven’s projects in town had been to find a local internet sim card (a way of getting fast internet cheaply.) He picked up one for himself and for me. I helped him (with my struggling french) get it running, or at least I tried. The card (which cost around $20 USD) is supposed to give two days of “free” internet followed by offering you a chance to buy more days at some unknown cost. However, where we were anchored barely got a cellular signal. So, the card worked long enough to be activated, but then lost signal. Darn. So we shared my V-Sat satellite connection, which is good and gets the job done, but nothing beats fast 3g or 4g local cell service.
Bonifacio – Visiting The Port And Old Town
Roberta and I went the next day to visit Bonifacio, but given Steven and Carol’s experience with not finding a taxi, we set up a car and driver to take us there, who then waited to bring us back. It cost a lot more than walking – but — we’re here to have FUN and ten-mile walks in August heat just aren’t part of that equation.
Here are a couple of 3d pictures from our visit to Bonifacio:
In the 3d picture above from the marina, if you look around, you can see the citadel on the hill, which holds the old city.
There was one major negative at Sant Amanza. Our impression was that we were seeing the weather as calm as it gets. The wind is funneled between the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. The weather reports were for dead-calm (the weather chart literally showed zeroes for the wind all around where we were anchored.) However, we saw 10+ knots all day. We even had wind surfers and kite sailers around us every day! The forecast were predicting the wind to be 25-30 knots at Sant Amanza within a couple days. Given that winds seemed to be higher than the predictions, we knew we should get moving.
Four Days In Hell (actually Porto Vecchio)
From Sant Amanza we moved twenty miles north to Porto Vecchio, a large sheltered bay.
We knew several days of strong winds were coming and our research indicated that Porto Vecchio was the best place to ride out high winds. Actually, I’ll take that back. The best place to ride out high winds is at home, by the fireplace, watching television. But, since that was not an option, we chose Porto Vecchio.
When we first arrived at Porto Vecchio all was calm, and we could immediately see that it was perfect for what we were seeking. We dropped anchor in breezy, but nice conditions.
The anchorage itself was nearly perfect. We had sheltered land all around, and the water wasn’t very deep, but was wide and big. We anchored in only fifteen feet of water. Shallow water lessens the amount of chain we need to put out in order to safely anchor. I knew wind was coming, and there were no boats anywhere around us, so I let out 175 feet of chain, giving me a ratio of well over ten to one. We were ready to ride out a hurricane!
All of our preparations were rewarded. The expected wind did come, and then some! Whereas the weather reports predicted a steady 20 knots of wind, we had day after day of 25 to 30 knot sustained winds, with occasional long stretches of 35 to 46 knot winds. The wind did calm on two of the three nights enough that we could sleep, but we had one night where the wind stayed high around the clock.
When the wind is over 25 knots, sleep on Sans Souci becomes difficult. The wind rattles everything on the outside of the boat making a howling sound. The chain, at the bow, makes clanking and clunking noises every few minutes at it shifts position with the wind. There are fairly simple techniques to reduce the sound of the chain, so that you don’t hear it inside the boat, but I come from the opposite philosophy. I like hearing the anchor chain and knowing what it is doing. Similarly, we have a wind monitor in the master stateroom, as well as a way to view our chart plotter. On particularly windy nights, we check these things periodically, and also go up to the pilothouse regularly just to take a look around. On some occasions we have stood watch, as if we were at sea, with Roberta and I taking turns monitoring the situation from the pilot house.
The strength of wind rises exponentionally with the speed of the wind. At 10 knots the wind is at most a mild annoyance. At 20 knots, the wind can be a problem in some circumstances but is generally acceptable. At 30 knots the wind starts to become dangerous. It is the speed where boats that aren’t well anchored start to come unglued. Tender rides become very difficult or impossible. And, at 40 knots, the forces are incredible.
We were solidly anchored, so I never worried about us breaking anchor (our anchor dragging.) The problem was that we were confined to the boat. We use our tender to reach shore, and were able to visit town a couple of mornings, but most of the time the wind was too high to leave the boat.
Even if the wind would allow our tender to be used, we didn’t want to be away from the boat for long. This may seem strange given that I’ve said that I wasn’t worried about our boat dragging anchor. The problem is OTHER BOATS. As the wind increased, the anchorage around us filled with boats. The good news is that most of the boats around us were larger boats with professional crew. It was different last year in Croatia, where most of the boats around us would be chartered sailboats. These chartered boats are usually run by people who have little boating experience, and haven’t the vaguest idea how to properly set an anchor. In Croatia, with even mild winds, these sailboats would drag anchor potentially running into us. Larger boats with professional crew have better equipment and know what they are doing.
And, that is mostly how it played out. We didn’t have to wait long for boats to start breaking loose, though. Within a few hours of our anchoring at Porto Vecchio the first boat, a 40′ sailing catamaran broke loose in 35 knots of wind and narrowly missed Seabird. Steven and Carol saw it coming and were standing on their bow with large fenders in hand, waiting for the impact.
Sans Souci has “flopper stoppers” (big butterfly-hinged aluminum plates) dangling in the water beside our boat. We call these plates, “fish.” The fish hang from giant horizontal poles on each side of our boat. Their goal is to reduce the side to side motion of the boat while at anchor.
Because in Porto Vecchio the wind was keeping us pointed the same direction as the swell (waves) the flopper stoppers really wouldn’t be needed. When the boat’s bow is being held into the swell by the wind, there is very little roll (side to side motion). There is only pitching (up and down movement of the bow). However, from time to time there would be speedboats that would come zipping by our boat at full speed generating huge wakes. Our boat is somewhat unusual for the Med, with the strange poles hanging out the side, an American flag on the back, and a rugged, trawler look. We attract too much attention at times. Other boats like to “check us out.” They tend to forget the large wakes and the bouncing we get as they pass by.
Anyway…we had our flopper stoppers down, assisting with roll, and…
Did you see the movie “The Perfect Storm”? In that movie there is a scene which I thought was silly at the time, but suddenly felt much too real. The fishing boat in that movie had something very similar to our flopper stoppers, except that they are intended to reduce side-to-side roll while underway, whereas ours are optimized for stabilization while sitting still at anchor. In the movie, when the seas were rough, the wind grabbed the fish (the dangling plates) and they became missiles. Mark Wahlberg had to climb out on one of the poles to cut lose the fish with them flying through the air like missiles.
At 30 knots of wind, the lines that hold our fish in the water were blowing out diagonally. Whereas when we dropped them in calm conditions they were hanging straight down, sitting about eight feet beneath the water. When the excrement started hitting the fan, the lines holding the fish went so diagonal that they came very close to breaking the surface and becoming flying fish.
With the winds high I was worried about trying to pull them from the water. Steven from Seabird brought his tender over to Sans Souci and helped me pull them from the water. (which went very smoothly.) After that, we missed them, but knew we made the right decision.
This boat broke anchor very narrowly missing Seabird. It finally came to rest about 150′ behind Seabird.
No one was onboard at the time it broke anchor, but within 15 minutes the boat’s owners came blasting out from the nearby port on their tender. They jumped aboard and (I’m guessing from what I saw) discovered that their windlass was somehow damaged in the process. The windlass is the motor that raises and lowers the chain. I saw them with a little popsicle stick-sized lever trying to lift the anchor by hand. They gave up within minutes, and called for help. The coast guard arrived and helped them move the chain to a cleat, but then departed, as did the owners. The boat was still sitting at anchor two days later when we departed, so I’m not sure how they’ll ultimately get the anchor up.
Here is a video that gives a small sampling of what our life was like at anchor. The wind was high enough that it overpowered my speaking, and the production value is horrible — but, it’s worth seeing, if only for the view of the truck that passed us by.
NOTE: Some email programs remove videos. If you do not see a video above, click the link below to see the video:
The next boat to break anchor was a 130′ professionally crewed Mangusta, a large luxurious go-fast boat. Steven called me on the radio just after it broke anchor and asked that I keep an eye on it. He said that the anchor looked small, and the boat seemed to be swinging back and forth in the wind too much. I gave him my theory that professionally crewed boats don’t drag, and he just said, “Just watch.”
Steven was right! Not 30 minutes later Roberta shouted from the pilot house, “There it goes!” I jumped on the radio to warn Steven that the Mangusta was heading his direction. Once again it narrowly missed Seabird and did not come to a stop until it was a couple hundred feet behind Seabird, at which time the crew came out from inside the boat looking confused.
The only boat that dragged anchor at night was a fairly small, perhaps 25′ sailboat. It dragged into the middle of the shipping channel used by the giant ferry we’d see come and go each day. At 7am a tugboat came along side it and started blasting the horn, waking the still sleeping owners, who came onto the deck half asleep and very surprised.
Roberta and I never did get to have dinner in Porto Vecchio, and the saddest of all is that it feels like the weather gods are sending us a message. When we arrived at Porto Vecchio summer was in full swing. The water was a warm swimmable 83 degrees. Passing boats were loaded with sun worshipers in bikinis (and sometimes partial bikinis). Yesterday, the water temperature had already declined to 72 degrees and passerbys were instead wearing long pants and jackets.
We are hoping that the weather will improve in Elba (which is back in Italy, Corsica was in France.) Our time on the boat is starting to wind down and I’d like at least one more burst of good weather.
And in closing…
That’s it for this issue of KensBlog… My next report will be from the island of ELBA!
Thank you for following along on our big voyage!
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Ken and Roberta Williams
MV Sans Souci
PS – In case you haven’t figured it out, clicking on any of the pictures above will give you a higher-resolution (bigger) version of the picture.