We landed at Porto Frailis on the east coast of Sardinia and were pleased to find a small sheltered bay surrounded by a rugged coastline.
The sandy bottom provided good holding in the crystal clear water with the only draw back being the music that started about 1100 hours would occassionally be thumping away at 0300. We took up residence and made regular trips to the harbor around the corner for provisions. Each day at sunset the day trippers would pull anchor and we would be left with four or five other yachts to enjoy the moon rising bright orange over the craggy rocks.
Sardinia is at an economic disadvantage to the rest of Italy because of the high mountains and barren soil but today the island it is finding a foothold in tourism. The northwest region of the island has many marine reserves and high end marinas and resorts that draw the "rich and famous". It is now the height of the season and every beach is filled and small boat traffic fills the waterways.
We decided it was time to move on so we pulled anchor at sunset and arrived at Porto Brandinghi the next morning, a much larger port with many more boats. But the wind shifted bringing a swells into the bay so we headed for Isola Tavolara, a massive rock of an island with an anchorage on the southwest corner. We timed our arrival at 1000 AM thinking if people were going to move they would be gone by that time creating a greater opportunity to select an anchorage spot. When we arrived there were only a handful of boats but we found the anchorage deep and the bottom covered with grass. We were unable to get a "set" on our anchor that we were confident with so we decided to have lunch and then move on up the coast. But before you could say "ham sandwich" a hoard of boats descended upon the anchorage and we were embayed, not by the winds or current but by the traffic. We knew that none of the boats had a good "set" on their anchor either so we waited it out. It was too dangerous to swim with all the traffic but enjoyed "people watching". Rene did risk a swim to our anchor and found it sitting buried in weeds.
As we waited for dusk to wash away most of the boats, what impressed us was how calm everyone was. This is Italy and in these crowded conditions you might expect some excitablee language and even a few hand gesturers but no, everyone was pleasant and relaxed. The Coast Guard came by and asked the small boats too close to shore to move and they all complied without complaint. We couldn't see anyone drinking although smoking still seems popular in Italy. One of the things we Americans love to do is wave at everything on the water but here in Italy you will get no return wave. It's like, "do I know you?"
There are many sophisticated speed boats of custom design and custom paint that sparkle as they go by and it would be way uncool for anyone on board to wave. It seems that style is paramount in Italy and you can see it in cars, boats and attitude.
The day we were at this spectacular anchorage the police came out in force. There were blue and white helicopters, blue and white speed boats and blue and white wave runners with drivers in white Star Wars helmets in blue and white lycra suits and matching streamline back packs. I don't know if they completed their mission but they looked like something from a James Bond movie.
Finally most of the boats left and there in the middle of the bay was the largest mooring ball ever, so we tied up and decided to go into the only restaurant for dinner at around 1830. With less than a dozen boats on the island they informed us that the resturant didn't open until 2000 hours and then asked if we wanted a reservation. Now that is way cool. We opted for spaghetti on the boat.
As we continued to work our way up the coast, we soon realized that we had only been on the edge of cool, for now we were sharing the water with 42 foot open deck inflatables equipped with satellite disc, power boats that were sleeker, longer and faster, classic sailboats, high tech racing yachts and you couldn't anchor because there were too many mega yachts in the water. Yes this is the place where, according to our guide book, Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart stalk the waters during August and September.
We pulled into the most plush marina along the coast which was, by our charts, to have an anchorage inside the wall. Instead of an anchorage we found a mooring field. Okay, good, how much could a mooring ball cost? In our first sortie into the marina we unloaded our rubbish which was to be sorted for recycling, well maybe next time. We couldn't find the office so we headed back to the boat and loaded the fuel cans into the dinghy and weaved our way through the mega yachts and pulled up to a dock that was way higher then we but the attendant handed us the hose and we filled the cans without spilling too much into the dinghy. None of the yacht crews that were standing about in matching polo shirts with boat names embroided where there use to be a pocket for a pack of cigarettes laughed at our small inflatable, so all's good. Back on Shiraz a boat attendant in a fast dinghy asked us to register at the office. We headed in at 1700 hours since nothing was opened the first time we were in.
We filled out the forms and an attractive young lady with an oversized nose ---I mention this only to let the reader know that everything at the marina was not perfect---- typed all of our information into the computer and asked if we had any rubbish. No, no rubbish on board (which technically was true since we had already unloaded). I signed the form and she asked for 100 Euros. Now the last time I looked at the exchange rate that would have been $139 USD for one night on a mooring ball. We looked at each other and said "no thanks" and headed for the boat and got underway by 1730 hours. So long to Mick and Rod and any other new friends we missed, we were off. Leaving the marina was like entering rush hour traffic around Atlanta without brakes. It was a contest to see how big and how fast and how much wake a boat could produce.
An hour later we were around the corner in a beautiful bay but with a lousy grass bottom celebrating our good sense but feeling more than a bit uncool.
To view our Italy Flickr set of photos just click on the "smiley face" and enjoy.
If you're headed our way:
- Porto Cervo is extremely expensive. You can go in early and grab a mooring ball or even drop the hook for a few hours and leave without charge but you may be run off by the marina staff.
- Porto Olbia has a very good grocery store with a wide selection of almost anything. We dropped the anchor near the bridge for a couple of hours while we provisioned.