Between Italy and France: the Straits of Bonifacio

There are certain things we take for granted on Can Drac. The fridge is one of them. We figured that out when a defrosting session went wrong. You see, when you use sharp knives to chip away at the ice forming around the freezer plates you run the risk of breaking something. So that’s what happened to us. Of course, nothing breaks during business hours when you are at a marina next to an expert that can fix it before your beer goes cold. For us, it happened on a Friday afternoon, in August (i.e. vacation month in Europe) and at anchor in a remote island.

After two days of begging for ice from our neighbors in the anchorage we were finally able to reach the folks at Vitrifrigo America in Florida early Monday morning. Special thanks to Doug and Dana for their excellent support and expedited shipment of the broken part!

The part came with our next guests: Jeff and Linda, who joined us again for a week. At the time, we were in the town of Cannigione, far from the megayachts and the glamorous scene that takes over this coast this time of year.

To celebrate their arrival our guests treated us to dinner at a peaceful waterfront restaurant called Entro Fuori Bordo, where chef Alberto recommended that we share a delicious sea bass for four.

On the way back to the boat we walked by the street markets, picking up a few hand made souvenirs along the way.

As August came to an end, we found that anchorages were not as crowded as before, while the weather remained superb. What a difference from just a week ago!

That peace and quiet allowed Linda to concentrate on her reading. She is preparing for a very important case and says there’s no better place for that than the cockpit of a sailboat. Who wants a big corner office when you can have a couple of cushions facing the crystal clear waters of Costa Smeralda?

In the mean time, Jeff discovered his new favorite summer drink in what Spaniards call a “clara”. No big secrets here: Just mix equal parts of ice cold beer and lemon soda and enjoy!

Thanks to another of Andrea’s exquisite fresh salads, the “claras” didn’t always fall on an empty stomach. Just take a look at that rich ménage of colors and flavors!

And then, to top it off, Linda ended up cooking us one of her signature vegetable omelets, just like she did on Sundays when we stayed at their house last December.

This week we also had the benefit of a full moon, rising over the horizon just before sunset.

What a perfect excuse for some lively “dancing in the moonlight” on the forward deck!

No matter how late we partied the night before, as soon as the sun was up, Linda and Andrea were out on the dinghy exploring each and every corner of these beautiful islands.

Between the rocks and the underwater grass, we found clear patches of white sand that made the water look like a swimming pool…

…except for the fact that we were not the only swimmers there!

A la France, s’il vous plait!
We didn’t realize how close the French island of Corsica is from Italy’s Sardinia until we saw it in the horizon. The Straits of Bonifacio are less than 7 miles wide. Perhaps that’s why they are known as a very treacherous waterway in high winds. Try squeezing the massive forces of a Mistral through that narrow passage and watch the surface winds increase substantially!

A trip across the Straits is never complete without a stop in the island of Lavezzi where a memorial commemorates the victims of the Semillante, which sank there in a storm in 1855 with over 700 souls on board.

But the sight that took our breath away was Bonifacio. No wonder these waters, the straits of Bonifacio, are named after this most magnificent port. This natural harbor is protected by high walls of rock on both sides and the town is perched upon a cliff. Talk about living on the edge!

As SeaKnots member and friend Art already warned in a comment on our previous blog, the entrance to this harbor is easy to miss. On our approach, we could see the classic yacht Kairos coming out so there was no mistaking the entrance for us. Unfortunately, a few days later we learned that this same yacht suffered a serious accident and hit a rock with such force that three of its guests suffered injuries to the head. We overheard most of the French Coast Guard rescue operation on the VHF. When we lost radio contact they were already taking the victims to a hospital but the boat was slowly sinking. We hope they are all OK by now and the boat was successfully salvaged!

Once inside the harbor, the atmosphere in Bonifacio is that of a French town. Cafes, bakeries and boutiques line up on the waterfront, just like they would on your typical Paris street.

But what’s really unique here is the citadel at the top of the mountain.

As you can surely appreciate, the view of the cliffs below is just magnificent, with all the jagged cliffs and the morning sun reflecting on the clear blue water.

From the little stores to the secluded cafes, each corner is filled with its own magic and charm.

It’s easy getting lost in these streets and wonder about what life was about hundreds of years ago when these walls were built and life on the water was a lot simpler.

And if after all that walking and shopping you end up working up an appetite, don’t worry: there are plenty of culinary choices here.

Being the wonderful tourists that they are, you can see Jeff and Linda in their new summer threads fresh off the shelves of Bonifacio.

As luck would have it, we ended up docked right next to the only charter boat in the harbor that was full of New Yorkers. What a small world! And what a hero of a captain they had: when we accidentally dropped the key for the water tank he jumped in and recovered it in one swift dive. Thanks!

Hello Mistral
After having spent so long in the Tyrrhenian sea, we had almost forgotten about the famous Mistral that occasionally whips the waters of the Western Med.

As soon as we saw the cigarette clouds in the afternoon sky we knew we were in for a couple of days of strong breeze. Back in the waters off Sardinia, the protection of the islands meant the waves were not too bad. Perhaps that’s why local dinghy races were not cancelled, despite the strong winds.

But when you are out on a small boat with sails that can’t be reefed there’s only one possible outcome of a strong gust. It was quite a show to see these poor kids being thrown in the water every five minutes.

And don’t think the wind gods spared the mighty megayachts either! Even the now familiar Maltese Falcon (the biggest private sailboat in the world) had to reef their colossal sails while racing in the same waters.

And speaking of megayachts: we thought we had seen it all until we witnessed a group of guests being dropped off by helicopter on this yacht. Who wants to sit in a limo in the middle of the mid-day beach traffic when you can get a ride on your vessel’s chopper??

Arrivederci Italia!
Once our guests disembarked on their way to explore Italy’s main land (Florence and Venice, we’re so jealous!), we started to make our way back towards the Balearics.

After crossing the Straits with a good breeze on our tail we landed in the town of Castelsardo, with its quaint town wrapped around the hill and a castle on top.

It was there that we met Richard and Willow from EcstaSea, only the second American boat we’ve seen in the Med the whole summer.

Today, as we look ahead at the last days of summer, we can almost see Barcelona in the horizon. But first, we’ll spend a few days in the Balearic Islands with Andrea’s brother Mikey as our VIP guest.

We are also very close to reaching our goal of raising enough money to build a water well for charity:water. If you have been reading our blog and haven’t made your donation yet, don’t wait any longer. Please, donate now at!

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Comment by CruisingEditor on October 6, 2009 at 9:53am
Beautiful Photos! Thanks for sharing them.
Comment by Art Dufresne on September 18, 2009 at 10:09pm
did I forget to mention that Corsicans take delight in bombing French tourist's cars?

Now that you've seen mistral you must now experience a sirocco...close the hatches or fill with sand
Comment by Suky Cannon on September 16, 2009 at 11:39pm
what an amzing journey and blog.... takes your breath away.... so beautiful to share this adventure. btw, I just bought a camera like yours.......thanks for all your work for Water and your blogging ~!~! especially like the last photo of the Goddess Andrea... looking off toward Barcelona !

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