"Wouldn’t it be great if you could come by boat?" my nephew teased. Why not indeed!
Leaving late April, we crossed the Atlantic from Norfolk, VA, with three days to spare, and after celebrating the grand occasion laid up our 40-foot Beneteau Bagheera in mainland Spain. The short visit had wetted our appetites. We returned the following spring, eager to sample more Mediterranean magic by exploring new regions, besides revisiting favorites places from our family’s circumnavigation, before leaving the boat in Turkey.
It was late July, one of the most crowded and expensive times in the Med and we were lucky to find space in a small arm off the ‘fiord’s’ north shore. Several sailboats were already anchored mid-channel, with stern lines tied to rocks and trees ashore. After assessing the ‘cats-cradle’ of anchor lines, we laid ours carefully, with fingers crossed. Tangling anchors is an occupational hazard throughout the Med, where Med-moor, in tight spaces, is common.
Inevitably touristy, but oozing Gallic charm, the narrow streets and old stone buildings take one back in time. A climb to the top of the ancient walls gave an excellent workout, a necessary one after considerable cockpit carousing with other cruisers along the way! We gazed down on the impressive southern cliffs that stretched for miles into the distance. To the north lay the harbor, our anchorage and an amazing variety of fishing, tourist and private yachts. Of course we ate ashore! Moules were on every menu. Small, but succulent, these local mussels are quite delicious steamed in a garlic, cream, or wine sauce. They were my diet for the next week accompanied, naturally, by excellent French wine, bread, patés, and cheeses.
Shaped like the back of a clenched left fist with index finger directed at its former ruler Genoa, Corsica lies 100 miles from the French Riviera, from 50 to 120 miles from the Italian west coast, 220 miles east of the Balearic Islands and Spain, and just seven miles north of Sardinia. Although a 100 miles long and 40 miles wide, its indented coastline stretches over 600 miles giving one of the finest cruising areas in the western Mediterranean.
With few anchorages on the east coast we headed west then north along a shoreline that is riddled with rocky bays and sandy beaches of every shape and size. Most had a yacht or three at anchor, typically small and French, with crews living life to the full in the translucent, turquoise seas. Sailing past ancient ‘salt-shaker’ shaped Genoese towers that guarded the headlands, we gunkholed the coast, motoring in the morning through a glassy calm then barreling along under sail as the typical afternoon sea-breeze filled in. Dolphins frequently joined us, joyously leaping in our bow-wave as we passed unforgettable vistas ashore: old citadels, spectacular rock formations, and yet more white-sand bays. Baie d’Elbo was particularly notable with soaring cliffs and islets of iron-red rock carved by the elements into extraordinary shapes that dramatically contrasted in color with the deep blue of the ocean and lush vegetation behind.
We stayed a few days in Calvi, climbing the citadel in the cool of dawn and taking the narrow gauge train that swerved and rattled up into the interior. Corsica’s history enveloped us everywhere from the prehistoric big stones, menhirs, torri, and nuaghi and the famous skeletal remains of the ‘Bonifacio woman’ that date back to 6,500 BC, to the Romans who were its first real conquerors, with the Vandals, Goths, the Byzantine Empire, and the papacy all leaving their mark.
Our last stop was at the attractive town of St Florent near the delta of the river Aliso in the southwest corner of Corsica’s northerly ‘index’ finger penisula. Burnished from the glow of the fading sun, the old town and high mountains behind made a spectacular landfall. We savored a last dinner at one of the many lively restaurants, enjoying some wild boar flavored with chestnut, washed down with local red wine. We were leaving for Livorno on the Italian coast the following morning to tour Tuscany but car. Hardly a hardship! But we regretted that we didn’t have longer to enjoy this wild, beautiful island with its bountiful bays for cruising and diversity of activities ashore.
Chartering in the Med
If you decide to leave your pride and joy on this side of the pond, there is a chartering option well worth exploring.
Evasion Location has sail and powerboats with bases in Ajaccio, Calvi, Bastia and Bonifacio. http://www.evasionlocation.fr.
Time of year to charter and climate
May to October are certainly the ideal months, although July and August are the busiest and hottest months. Winds are typically northwesterly Force 3-4 (seven to16 knots) with an afternoon sea breeze typical. The stronger mistral can last for two to three days. Weather forecasting is excellent.
How to get there
Four airports, mostly serviced from France (expensive airport taxes, no internal air travel). Car and high-speed ferries from France, Italy, and Sardinia
Circumnavigator Liza is the author of four books on cruising (three are Canadian best sellers) that include:
Just Cruising (Europe to Australia) and Still Cruising (Australia to Asia, Africa and America), about their family travels around the world.
Cruising for Cowards, a readable yet fact-filled A-Z of sailboat cruising (co-authored with husband Andy).
Comfortable Cruising, Around North and Central America, the latest narrative and technical planner.
And a video Just Cruising that was a finalist in the CANPRO awards.
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