Overview: the waters between Sardinia and Corsica are the most famous of the Med. Challenging winds, sheltered archipelagos, crystal waters and fashionable harbours.
The top places to visit: Porto Cervo, La Maddalena archipelago, Budelli, Cavallo and Lavezzi, Bonifacio, Tavolara Island and Caprera
Wind and Sea: testing.
Kids friendly: medium
Mileage (approx) :80-100
Cruise length: 1 or 2 weeks
When to go: june to october
Harbours and marinas: expensive or crowded
Gourmet and restaurants: with few exceptions, to expensive for the quality
Weather: Like every famous expanse of water, the Bonifacio Strait and the Corsican Sea provide both, stunning natural beauty and a remarkable amount of difficulties: these come in the shape of a northwesterly wind called Mistral, which may flow in every month of the year with fierceness carrying along high seas raised all the way back in the Lion’s Gulf. When it is funnelled between Corsica and Sardinia and plays with the currents of the strait, a certain amount of fun must be expected. A good forecast (channel 79, 3 times a day), attention to the barometer (it’s a cold front, therefore watch out when the glass stops to fall) and knowledge of the good shelters are the main ways to face it. Like every cold front, it follows a warm one, ending a possibly long series of hot, sticky and squally days. The other dangerous wind is the Libeccio, the southwesterly, usually less fierce and much warmer but again capable of raising decent rollers. The interesting side of Corsica is the west, therefore wide open to both bad winds, and not many are the coves providing good shelter to both winds. Here is a list of those providing protection from at least one of them, of choosing the most beautiful ones. We decided to list the harbours according to the shelter they afford to westerlies because the last month of august saw 5 westerly gales in Corsica, and not many of the sailors had much fun. We start from the beautiful SE side, all sheltered from the high seas of the west side, therefore providing a safe area to sail and anchor. Weather and navigation. The prudent sailor never casts off with the assumption that Nelson was right when he said ‘there are three excellent harbours in the Med: Mahon, July and August’. Strong winds, cold fronts, thunderstorms and squalls must be expected at any month, even if they are of course less common in summer. True, safe havens, coves and bays abound along the Dalmatian coastline, and the endless channels provide smooth sailing even in strong winds. But nevertheless some cons must be reported. First of all some anchorages look bottomless. So always make sure that you are leaving with a long and heavy anchor chain, a serious spare anchor, possibly a fisherman, and lines to lay ashore in constricted waters and/or for better protection. Second, the more or less complete absence of sandy beaches indicates that sand is unlikely to be the bottom your anchor will fall on. Rocks, grass and other delicacies are more likely, and none rank high among the preference of sailors. So set your anchor well, have a look at it whenever possible with your snorkelling gear and always choose to lay out warps ashore towards the direction of the stronger prevailing winds whenever possible.
Style, elegance and social life Corsicans are not strong at attracting the smart set, which can be a good thing if you prefer to stay away from the paparazzi bunch. But cross the Bonifacio strait to Costa Smeralda and the atmosphere is a trifle different. Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo are the summer capitals of the Mediterranean if you own a Learjet, sail a superyacht or star in Hollywood. This is where Berlusconi, Putin and Blair meet and go sailing, where every single fashion guru spends his summer, and where models try to become tops. September’s Rolex Races in Porto Cervo are a world venue.
Tavolara Island – Sardinia. A favourite of our British guests, this amazing table-shaped island has 1500ft. cliffs falling straight in the most amazingly blue water, two nice anchorages at the W end and a decent restaurant as well! A must seefar from the madding crowd.
Cala di Volpe and environs. The VIP centre of the yachting Mediterranean, this wide bay affords good shelter, amazing beaches and blue waters, and the view of a fair slice of the world’s supeyacht at anchor (to save on the port tax)
Caprera Island. This mostly wild island is our favourite place in the area. Porto Palma affords great surroundings and the best all-weather anchorage available, Cala Coticcio and Cala Napoletana are simply amazing with their rock and colour show, one is a stone’s throw from fancy Porto Cervo and still a century away. Cala Portese is another great cove. In case of strong westerlies, lay out lines ashore to the rocks at the W end.
Maddalena Island: the village is nice and cute, providing a very good stop for food and water. The coves north of the bridge linking Caprera and Maddalena have been foolishly been filled with private buoys and no anchorage is allowed. 70 € a night, it’s outrageous. The nicest anchorage is Cala Francese, on the W coast. Obviously not well sheltered. Islands of Razzoli, Budelli and Santa Maria: this is the wild heart of the Maddalena National Marine Park (do not be surprised when they come and sting you for 25 € just for being there). The superb blue lagoon in the middle cannot be accessed, also because too shallow, but vessels can anchor or moor to the buoys in the 3 different bays around it. Blue waters, red rocks, white and pink beaches, no one around at night when the tourist boats leave. A place to be in gales, when few boats will be around. A must
The coast begins being wonderful again at Punta Senetosa, a spectacular collection of rocks, small coves and bays where you can anchor in decent weather. Find your favourite spot acconrding to the wind.
The coast south of Punta Senetosa and north of Bonifacio is open to the west, but in good weather you can enjoy some of the most beautiful bays and beaches of the Med, like Plage D’Argent (41°30’55.38″N, 8°53’17.33″E), Mortoli Bay, Roccapina Cove.
The next step is Bonifacio, easily one of the most beautiful harbours of the Med. Get there early to find a berth, maximum at 12.
The islands of Lavezzi and Cavallo are around 9 miles to the north. The former is an amazing combination of light gray granite blocks forming three separate anchorages, one more spectacular than the other. Unless you get there in november, do not expect solitude. Cavallo is a private islands with a flashy hotel and awfully expensive villas, and you are not sopposed to roam around freely.