It’s great to be back aboard Loki and I’m feeling so lucky to once again be enjoying the combined delights of sailing and travelling. Gaeta, Italy, just a couple of hours drive south of Rome, is a delightful sort of everyday place where Italians take their holidays. There are lots of quaint little laneways and vaulted passageways with not much English spoken which can sometimes make it a bit interesting getting things done, but that’s very much a part of the fun of travelling. The town has a solid military history as evidenced by the very large 1st century Roman general’s mausoleum that stands atop the hill of the peninsula, but also by the present day NATO base. We stayed in an apartment in the “newer” part of town (which dates back to the 7th century) whilst we we getting the boat ready. Fitzy particularly liked the butcher’s shop with the large vats of wine. Makes perfect sense to buy your food & drink at the same time! This year we came back to Loki and a fully reconditioned bow-thruster that Fitzy had to put back in the boat, a repaired engine fridge compressor, plus we needed four new house batteries. But it wasn’t long before Loki was back in the water and we were raring to go. At this point Alan W & Paula joined us and we readied the boat for heading west.
We sailed overnight to Bonifacio on the southern tip of Corsica, a fabulous natural harbour with the ancient town perched somewhat precariously along the high cliffs. Having a dolphin escort as we approached was a nice welcome to the islands. I find it very humbling to sail into a harbour and see it pretty much as it was seen by the likes of Homer or Napoleon. “We enter the harbour so well known to sailors, a sheer unbroken cliff rises all around and there is a promontory situated at each side of the entrance to the harbour, creating a stranglehold on the access.” (Chapter X of “The Odyssey”). Interesting old photographs displayed in some of the restaurant windows hark back to earlier days of peasant farming, rather than the tourist hotspot of the modern day. The views both of and from this town are quite breathtaking so we divided our time between the old town atop the cliffs and the lively waterfront.
The hot summer days have kicked in here already and as we sailed along the coast of Corsica we were entranced by the awesome skill of the water-bombing planes skimming along the sea to fill their tanks then dropping their loads on the coastal bushfire. After enjoying some time in and around Bonifacio it was time to farewell Alan & Paula who headed off to Palma for a couple of weeks chartering. (Or so we thought, but more about that later). Meanwhile, we sailed across to Castelsardo, Sardinia, with it’s pastel-coloured houses strewn down the hillside, before another overnighter to Menorca.
The last time we were in Menorca was in 1989 when we first sailed across the Med with a couple of young Swedish doctors, Tumas & Jakob. We had a great time on a boat called “Just For Fun” (very apt!) and said we needed to come back and do this with our own boat. The only thing I recalled about Menorca was a brief overnight stop and the need to get underway before the howling mistral wind approached. So it was really nice to spend a few days here exploring the island, which is less touristed than the other Balearic Islands. Mahon, the island capital, is an extraordinarily well protected natural harbour that has been influenced by a long succession of masters over the years, including Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Visigoths, Moors, French and the English. It was returned to Spain in 1802. Handsome door knockers hiding private patios and neoclassical facades only tell part of the story of the island’s rich history. We also loved visiting the charming towns of Ciutadella and Binibeca, the latter designed in the late sixties and built with blindingly white houses to resemble an old fishing village.
Our next stop was Palma, Mallorca for the main event of the season which is to replace our rigging, and that meant pulling the mast out. A good thing to do before ones goes across the Atlantic Ocean. Palma is one of the best places on earth to get stuff done on a boat. It’s like a yachting Mecca, and everyone who does stuff on boats speaks English! Pleased to say the mast pull all went very well. Now we just have to wait for the replacement rig to arrive from Denmark. Once the mast was out we busied ourselves attending to the long, long list of things to do, e.g. arranging to have solar panels fitted to the bimini, having the watermaker serviced (4 visits so far), cleaning the inside of the water tanks, etc, etc. We were delighted to have Karen & David join us for our second week aboard “Hotel Loki”. Even though we’re not going anywhere, it’s still a million dollar view from our mooring at Real Club Nautico, surrounded by yachts as far as the eye can see.
Whilst K & D were aboard we explored parts of the island, taking a day trip on the Victorian mahogany train that’s been running since 1912. The route meanders through a mountainous countryside of ancient olive groves and citrus trees before arriving at the attractive town of Soller which dates back to the 13th century. Another day we hired a car to visit the honey-coloured towns of Valldemossa and Deia, which are set on green-grey slopes beneath the limestone peaks of the Serra de Tramuntana, the mountainous spine that runs along the west coast of the island. The old monastery at Valldemossa was once home to Frederic Chopin and writer George Sands, but it was the Carthusian pharmacy that was perhaps the most intriguing aspect. It has a collection of Catalan ceramics, glass bottles and jars for ointments and extracts that look like they were used only yesterday. Hard to imagine just 13 monks, bound by the oath of silence, rattling around what was once a former royal residence. One of the highlights of the island is the extraodinarily picturesque and at times potentially hair-raising drive to Cala de Sa Calobra. With an elevation of over 1000m, Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, goes up the 12km of twisting, hair-pin bends in about 26 minutes!
During this time we also caught up Alan & Paula a few times, good for us but not so good for them. As luck would have it Paula had the great misfortune to have a fall during her first day on the island which required surgery, so that meant they didn’t get to go on their charter cruise. But Paula is one helluva tough person, and you can’t keep a good girl down! Cheers to you Paula. If I can have just half of your positive energy I’ll be doing OK! Wishing you all the very best for a really speedy recovery.
After a week that went all too quickly we then farewelled Karen & David, who were heading further east to take in a bit more of the Mediterranean culture. Safe travels guys and don’t work to hard at the conference!
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As they say in these parts,