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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Gibraltar to Sardinia 2007

It was with some trepidation we left Gibraltar in March 2007; it was our first real sail on our new pride and joy Bandit- a Moody 46 - and the area is notorious for winds.  Luckily we had crew; son Ryan joined us for the sail to Majorca, fresh from a Pacific crossing.
For those readers who think this is a real step back in time…we only got the blog up and running in our last season in the Med in 2010 so have a bit of catching up to do.   During our time in the Rio Dulce, Roatan, Belize and Mexico we’ve often found ourselves waiting for weather windows.  Towns in these places are few and far between and we’ve often been stuck onboard without internet.  Good time to catch up on blogs and post them once we find internet.  So excuse us if you see Italian, Turkish or Greek blogs appear – we’re just getting ourselves up to date.
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We bought Bandit in November 2006 and spent the northern winter working on her.  Plans were to have a shake down sail over to Morocco but there was just too much work to do.  Gibraltar was a reasonable place to be – only a few minutes across the border from cheap provisioning in Spain and a short flight from the UK for spare parts.
Despite being a relatively new boat Bandit had been sadly neglected.  Lucky for us it was all superficial and after weeks of scrubbing and polishing, she began to gleam again.
In March – after a trip to New Zealand and a few weeks of work in the UK to top up the sailing kitty- we set out from Gibraltar.  We were particularly cautious and did get strong winds off Europa Point but before long we were in calm conditions heading up the Spanish coast, trying to absorb the fact we were boat owners and sailing in the Mediterranean - a far cry from the Marlborough Sounds!
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 The Spanish coast was a disappointment…marinas were expensive and the few anchorages we found were rolly.  We didn’t linger as we needed to get to Majorca to meet David’s sister, brother in law and niece who were joining us.  We had a wonderful few days with Susi, Tim and Briony sailing around the south coast of Majorca.
It was wonderful to be back in the bay of Majorca on Bandit – we’d been here several times before, on Sea Gypsy in 2000 and Aschanti in 2004 and 2006.  In 2000 we met up with Charlotte (David’s oldest daughter) and drove to the north of the island.  This time we hired a car and explored the west coast with Ryan.
We said a sad goodbye to Ryan who had got work on a superyacht in the Caribbean and picked up Swiss friend Brigitta.  At last the weather was warm and we had a wonderful time sailing up the east coast of Majorca.
We left Brigitta in Cala Rajata and headed for Sardinia having an overnight stop in the north of Menorca.  We arrived in Sardinia just ahead of a Mistral wind and spent a few days in the shelter of Stinteno Bay until it passed.  We had Nick and Jock Clouston arriving in Corsica, so once we’d provisioned with delicious Italian produce we headed north to the stunning clifftop town of Bonifacio which was a favourite haunt of Napoleon Bonaparte.
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We had a wonderful few days with Nick and Jock on board and enjoyed showing them the sights of Bonifacio, the amazing rock strewn island of Levezzi and Sardinia’s Costa Smerelda.
They left us in Olbia and we were joined a few days later by Jimma Dillon.  We did the return trip to Bonifacio with Jimma – it is a route we absolutely love.  We had some great sailing, wonderful drinks out and memorable nights eating and drinking on board.
Once Jimma left we spent a few days around the Costa Smerelda(Emerald Coast).  We first came here in 2000 when David was working on Sea Gypsy.  In September that year we had a few wonderful days based in nearby Olbia.  We’d also spent a lot of time in this area while working on Aschanti so it was nice to return and enjoy it on Bandit without the pressures of work.   We went to Porto Cervo which is the designer port of Europe where so many yacht races are based including the Rolex Cup (which we took part in in 2006). 
This whole stretch of coastline was bought by the Aga Khan and business associates in the early 1970s and developed from bare rock into an upmarket holiday destination for the rich and famous.  Some of the houses along this coastline are spectacular beautifully nestled into the rocky landscape.   It’s a super yacht haven and we spent a night in Cala de Volpe alongside such huge yachts as Leander on which Prince Charles and Camilla holiday.
As soon as the weather looked good we headed down the east coast of Sardinia, past the intriguing limestone area of Cala Gonone.  There are some wonderful honeycomb caves here as well as sharp rock pinnacles favoured by rock climbers and stunning turquoise water.  Amazingly we got internet all along here thanks to our Italian dongle so could keep right up to date with goings on in the America’s Cup.
From here we moved to gorgeous Villasimius in the south east.  It’s an amazingly undeveloped area and we loved it.  The beaches are long, white and sandy and the water is crystal clear.   We anchored in one bay near a German yacht called Atares that we’d been told to look out for by one of the regular racing crew on Aschanti.  We went and introduced ourselves to Katrin and Frank and had a few great days and nights with them. 
We were keen to check out the city of Cagliari so sailed west.  Yachts can tie up at the town dock but the local policeman was having none of that and sent us to the marina.  They wanted 90 euro a night plus a luxury boat tax of 500euro.  This was a controversial tax placed on yachts over 45ft.  We decided to scarper and set sail for the Egardi Islands, near Sicily.
We loved our time in Sardinia and while we were sad to leave, but certainly weren’t prepared to stay and pay a tax.