Not so long ago, Palermo
was the richest city in the world.
Phoenician sails were sunset gold
across turquoise seas, Greeks brought
dazzling marble, white as snow,
Romans green or purple phorphyry,
Moorish mathematicians mapped
the nights high-domed starry sky
and Monreale Valley air was filled
with fragrances of flowering lemons
from the royal groves Boccaccio knew.
But most precious of all Palermo’s pearls
is time, memories the Muses cannot lose
nor countless Mediterranean waves erase.
Memoria by Patrick Hunt
And we were back in Italy. We pointed the bow into a choppy little anchorage nestled in a round cove, rocky coastline all around us. We struggled a bit to find a calmish anchor point as the seas were very confused, swell coming in to the cove, refracting round the horseshoe bay so we took Stravaigin is as much as we dare. Hook down and settled we took stock of where we were. Capo Testa was a stunning Sardinian spot. Rocky peninsulas and inlets formed from pink and cream granites with close growing, wind worn plants sheltering in the cracks and cuts. We were tired so relaxed for a while before deploying the dinghy and my training continued. It was choppy and bouncy but I managed to get us to shore safely and dry. The little beach was peppered with families and couples enjoying the sun and pink sand so we decided to join them and spread our towels finding a suitable back rest and relaxed.
It lasted 20 mins.
Let’s go for a walk I suggested as J fidgeted and rummaged about, not a fan of beach life. It was the better decision although as the coastline was simply stunning. How many more surprises can Sardinia offer, they just keep coming. The rock formations were amazing and coupled with the waves which had built considerably since our arrival, made for a spectacular scene as they pounded the rocks and spewed high into the air sending salty spray over the spectators. I recalled as a child being with our family on holiday in Durness and father, for some reason or other, decided to venture quite far out to the edge of the cliffs to see the huge waves surging in and exploding against the rock. There was a spout of sorts in the cliff edge that sent a jet of water sky high every now and again and he took it upon himself to stand astride it! I think I remember him wearing his kilt too.
He did return unscathed but Mum was not amused.
Luckily the captain did not copy this behaviour though did venture further out that anyone else as is his modus operando, a trait followed by most of our offspring too. I usually look away and hope it’ll end alright.
We wandered along to where the lighthouse stood strong and safely, I always get a comforting feeling when I see them, a symbol of safety and that someone has thought about us folk at sea and decided to take care of us. There were some very trendy cliffside bars with palm leaf roofs and white aproned staff, a bit too “Night Manager” for us so we followed the stone steps down the cliff to a rocky cove and found a tiny path that peeked its way along the shore to a little boat house with wrecked wooden fishing boats dragged high and dry into the caves in the rock. The path continued along through low growing shrubs that we had to stoop under to get through. J went ahead but stopped at a promontory and looked out to sea then back at me and smiled. I knew what he meant.
Back on board I made food for us quickly, the swell was not pleasant, so much so we decided to move a little further in as we had the depth and with the forecast, reckoned we’d be here a day or two to let the high winds pass. We did manage to creep her in and round the promontory a little which did settle her a bit and it was lovely sitting out in the cockpit enjoying a cool G&T, the only boat in the cove and drawing admiring looks from the beach goers.
The next day we decided to walk to the little town for some shopping so took the rucsacs and set off. It was a lovely walk along a trail that paralleled the road and led to the town, Santa Teresa Gallua, we built ourselves up for a nice lunch too so were glad to walk down the dusty road into the village to stop at the first café and have a good Italian macchiato. We’ll save ourselves for lunch. We walked to the first mini market, shut. Oh well another 10 mins to the next, shut. Ok, so there is one on the outskirts another 15 min walk so we hurried along checking our Google directions and found it just as they pulled the shutters down. Nada, nothing, zilch to be had in Santa Teres Gallua, nothing for it but walk back and see what we could find on the boat.
It was lovely to see Stravaigin bobbing about in the bay as we crested the hill, she looked so proud in her white hull, blue stripes and St Andrews flag flying pronouncing her origins. The flag often drew glances and curiosity which we were happy to chat about if asked. We are proud Scots. We’ve sailed her from home and she feels very far away.
I was feeling far away, so once we had finally found a little café, right at the head of our bay we settled down to a plate of calamari and chilled wine and I called Mum. It was a delightful chat, our middle and fiancé were with her having come down to spend the day with her. He had made fish pie so they had enjoyed that, then they had taken her out for a little walk as it was sunny and warm, she could walk a little with her stick but they had her wheelchair so they could take her further and show her the air field that she lives near, the beautiful shoreline of Lorn, the new extension to her neighbour’s house and finally a tour of her garden where everything was in full May bloom. She told them the names of each flower and plant and I smiled as no doubt they wouldn’t take in as I hadn’t but they would have nodded earnestly and engaged beautifully, as I do. They called us on the video phone and we sat, us in the garden of the café by the sea and them in her living room, her red lipstick and scarf echoing her brightness. And we chatted and laughed and caught up on news, she looked so happy and I was happy that she was well and my family were loving her and enjoying her as much as I do.
I slept sound that night but in the morning when the young couple sent me pictures from the day and I saw her in her wheelchair she looked so frail and little. Her eyes soft, clouded and smiling, her arm outstretched showing them something, her scarlet red jacket punching the scene with her being. I yearned to go home and be with her.
J knew I was getting homesick and we were on our way, not long now. It seemed a constant battle of emotions to stay and enjoy this experience, to live every moment, keep exploring and discovering. And the yearning to be at home, in my home, pop over to Mum’s and put the kettle on.
We left Capo Testa as soon as the weather calmed a little, it was a slightly tense exit from the cove as the waves pounded all around and we had to keep a straight line out the entrance but once onto the open sea she sailed well and we headed her round the coast, southeast across the large bay to Stintino, our next port of call.
This was a cute little place. The marina was basic but had a nice feel to it. We were berthed next to local boats but with a liveaboard English gent who appeared to take our lines and gave us a quick run down on the place. I love that cruisers do that, they know what you need to know and try to help you live your just a little easier. Once settled in, hooked up to water and electricity, rubbish cleared and boat washed down we wandered ashore. It seemed easy to walk along the shore on the floating pontoons to access the village, we saw a group of teenagers amble along, their jostling and japing making me smile. They are no different the world over. Once at the end of the pontoon though it disappeared and there was no way ashore, we sighed and contemplated the long walk back and round the road way when the youths sprang to our aid and insisted we follow them. Well there was bit of a pantomime as one bold dare devil leapt ashore using one then two rocks as stepping stones and dug up a long plank from the sand that he promptly set across the rocks to just about reach the pontoon and indicated quite proudly that we should walk the plank. J of course managed fine and I looked a little hesitant. No problem, one took my hand and edged me across while the captain met me on the other side. Who says youths are ignorant trouble makers, these were delightful. It was obvious Stintino was yet another tuna port with paintings and posters proudly depicting the corralling and hunts. Each house in the town had a painting or mural of a villager who was a tuna hunter or a fisher man, it was lovely that they were so proud of their heritage and commemorated their heroes but on the other hand look where it had got them. None left. Though in talking to locals they say they fished sustainably, only taking enough for the village and a little to sell for a profit, it was when the huge tuna factory ships came from other countries, greedy and short sighted, the stocks were depleted.
Back at the boat, we sorted things out, cleaned and enjoyed a little down time. J was busying down below as he always does and I sat on deck enjoying a cup of tea and watching the world as I always do. There was a large, new, sleek Italian fire patrol boat moored alongside the dock, powerful and grey. It seemed there was trainees aboard as they were tying and untying ropes and warps. I nonchalantly watched them as the engine started and a few on deck prepared to cast her off, in the “springing off” technique we often use, from the bow. The engine roared and the ropes tightened and the waters around boiled as the props stirred them in a whirlpool. And she shot forward, full speed. The rope broke and she drove straight into the concrete dock, full speed! I looked, mouth open, not really believing what I was seeing. Much shouting and blue uniformed men pelting around on deck and a couple of marinaras running back and forth like a scene from “Carry on Sailor”. She proceeded to drive herself further into the concrete as bits of the wall crumbled off and then her stern rounded towards the rock break water, smoke and racket emanating from the engines. A pleasure cruise boat appeared from stage right, threw lines to the deck crew and pulled her off the dock side, just as the engine finally cut out. “Eh J, you might want to come up and see this?” It had all happened so quickly, all he saw was a large, sleek, new Italian fire patrol boat with a large dent in the bow and a concrete dock with a bite out of the side and chunks of rubble tumbling into the water.
Well the marinaras would have something to recount a hundred times down the bar that night with a hundred suggestions of what they think happened and what they should have done.
Time was moving on and so should we, so we reluctantly took our leave of Stintino and made the short hop across to Isola Piana to spend the night and be ready for our departure from Sardinia and crossing over to The Balearics. Everything seemed to be getting so real now, we were actually nearing the end of this amazing journey. We anchored in a pleasant bay, a couple of small day boats around, likely to move off as the sun went down. We dinghied ashore and walked round the coast, it was wild and not really with a path so we picked our way through scrub and scratched our ankles on thorns to reach the other side with a view of Spiaggia Della Palosa, renowned as the most beautiful beach in Sardinia. Well as we approached over the rise we could here the pumping tunes and see the jet skis raze around on the admittedly stunning turquoise waters. It was a shallow bay, too shallow for us but I was quite glad as it seemed full of the beautiful people in motor boats and being there just to be seen. We turned our backs on the scene and happily picked our way over to the opposite side facing Isola Asinara, a nature reserve. No habitation though I believe there had been a jail, what is it with jails on these idyllic islands, I think if I were a criminal, I’d be quite happy with a sentence here!
Sitting on a warm rock contemplating my good fortune not to be imprisoned here but here by choice I looked down and saw a small tortoise fumbling his way along the scrubby ground. He looked very cute, wee legs and tail and blinking eyes. I’d never seen a wild tortoise before. I filmed him for a while deciding to send the video to J’s little cousins thinking they might be tickled to see a wild tortoise. They were adorable wee girls and we had this pretence thing going on of Captain J and Auntie E living life on the ocean wave, mermaids waving to us from wave washed rocks, dolphins clicking at us from the tops of breakers and pirates brandishing cutlasses from wooden ships, the Jolly Rodger flying. They had come with us the day we had renamed our vessel performing the ceremony with King Neptune’s blessing and they had been spellbound so I guess the reputation had just stuck. I liked it, little people should have magic, mystery and imaginations fired.
We dinghied back aboard and settled down for an early night, at dawn, well pre-dawn we were off, back across to Minorca. Heading west.