Sardinian heavy weather, Italy

Mountains, Wind and Waves

Arbatax Sardinia

After an 18 hour sail from Tunisia we arrived in Sardinia, Italy, and anchored off Cagliari breakwater in the early morning light. The Guardia Di Finanza didn’t turn up til the next day, and we appreciated the chance to have a breather. The Guardia are responsible for fighting financial crime and smuggling, and in our experience are the first officials to show up when you arrive in Italian waters.

We were unsure as to the reception we would get in Italy, as the Government website made it pretty clear that private yachts were not permitted to enter the country due to Corona restrictions. The Guardia took all our documents, including our Corona test results, and asked which one of us was Australian. I raised my hand, and he said ‘From Downunder? Oh they are great people’.

After some processing time, the Guardia told us we were free to enter Italy, which was quite a relief. They wished us well, and began to drift away off our stern before gunning their engines and pulling up alongside us again. They had noticed we had a line in the water, and wanted to make sure we weren’t hiding something. We showed them the rope was part of the system that secured the dinghy, and with smiles and waves they disappeared. They may have been friendly, but they were also fair dinkum.

We stayed in Cagliari for a couple of days, allowing a weather system that had given Spain a blast to move across us. When we left to head north up Sardinia’s east coast I was a bit crook, and stayed in my cabin whilst the others looked after the sailing duties. As I drifted in and out of sleep, I was aware we were beating into some heavy conditions.

When I emerged later in the afternoon we were at a pretty anchorage; a stretch of white sandy beach bounded by steep wooded hills. The Skipper and crewman filled me in on the day’s conditions, which included a steady 30 knots on the nose and gusts nearing 50 knots. Thankfully our anchorage was well protected and the weather had eased.

east coast Sardinia
The east coast of Sardinia is spectacular
Sardinian heavy weather
Great to finally see some timbered coastline that has been spared from clearing and development

For those readers unfamiliar with knots (nautical miles per hour), one of them equals 1.85km/h. Therefore 30kts is about 56km/h, and if you stick your head out of the car window at 56km/h it’s pretty blowy. 50kts is 93km/h, so next time you’re on the freeway poke your head out at 93k’s and you’ll get the picture.

Sardinian heavy weather
‘It’d blow the dog off the chain!’

We copped a bit more Sardinian heavy weather leaving our next anchorage too. We had dropped the pick the previous night in a sandy bay with a steep rocky headland to the north. There was a little swell rolling in, but we were confident of good holding and went to bed tired from the day. I was still not 100%, and slept heavily until after dawn.

I was aware of the boat rocking from a steepening swell, and the wind starting to whistle outside. However it was quite a shock when a broken wave, a broken wave, slammed into the side of the boat, sending various items crashing to the floor. I threw on my clothes and headed up to the cockpit where the Skipper, only half-dressed from leaping out of bed, had already started the engines. Looking around, I realised we had dragged anchor and been pushed towards the beach and into the surf zone.

Now the Mediterranean doesn’t get much swell, as it is only a relatively small body of water, however the impact zone of breaking 1.5 metre waves is no place to have a sailboat. We hauled the anchor up as quick as we could, and with engines roaring headed out to sea through the foam.

We spent the next seven hours making a mere knot and a half of progress into a 30+ knot headwind and two metre swell. The boat pitched like a rocking horse and spray from the bow rained into the cockpit.

Now an old salt would probably be saying ‘Heavy weather? You wouldn’t know the meaning of the word!’ Well listen here you barnacle infested old bastard, for starters that’s actually two words, and who wants to hear you bragging about how you’ve sailed the world’s oceans in the worst conditions Neptune ever threw up and how your wooden leg is longer that everyone else’s anyway? I certainly don’t. As far as we were concerned it was bloody windy and bloody rough.

Ship's dog doesn't like Sardinian heavy weather
When the weather gets heavy, the ship’s dog looks for the protection of the pack

After our early morning close call, and having had the crap beaten out of us all day, we were very pleased to round the breakwater and enter the calm of Arbatax Harbour. The marina staff helped us tie up, and after seeing our salt encrusted faces and clothes, promptly gave us directions to the bar and cafe. It was definitely time to relax.

Arbatax Harbour Sardinia
Arbatax Marina

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