Med – Sardinia

John B text, Richard B images GPS traces

The island of Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (Sicily is slightly bigger). The web will tell you it has ‘1,149 miles of coast line, generally high and rocky.’

With that as a selling point Andrew W sent out an email asking if people were interested in joining him for a week in September 2013. Having known Andrew for a while and respecting his methods and judgement I signed up. With very little input on my part, I joined Andrew, Richards B & G and Andy & Ingrid at Gatwick 13th Sept with just 20kg of ‘stuff’ and a bag to bring in the cabin. I had 2 large Trangias’ a 2-man tent and my own buoyancy aid. We were soon scattered around the cabin and off to Sardinia……

Despite their 825 mile journey the luggage arrived and we were soon at the campsite a few miles away. We were able to set up ‘base camp’ for the next 2 evenings. The flight in held interest for us all thanks to the geology we had seen. It was all looking good for the week ahead…

Saturday was really adventuring

We had a problem!! Cooking food! No gas canisters, at least ones we could use! This was not unexpected but eventually we found most of what we needed, including “Alcool” – the Italian version of meths.

That night we were joined by Clark, the owner of Sea Kayak Sardinia, that Andrew used to hire the kayaks from. We had a mix of plastic P&H Scorpios and Valley Nordkapps. In good condition except the hatches which had suffered unduly from the heat & sun and as we were to find leaked (badly).

The plan was for a one way trip north from Olbia to the Maddalena archipelago, and possibly a day to Corsica and back. The weeks of flat calm weather changed a few days before leaving the UK, and high winds were now forecast. So we followed the advice from Clark was to go south to avoid the bad weather and have more days on the water.

Sunday 15Nm Porto Taverna to Capo Coda Cavello

Managed to squeeze gear into the kayaks and went round Isola Tavolara. This is an island just off Olba with cliffs rising straight out the sea to almost 1,900ft above us. It is 3 miles long and lunch was taken in glorious sunshine on a sandy beach at the far end. Unknown to us the island has been home since 1962 to a NATO Station and our lunch spot was totally off limits, oops.

A bit breezy in the afternoon. Sadly almost as soon as the tents were up the rain arrived. Once the double rainbow arrived we were all out and the food was soon being prepared.

Monday 7.5Nm. Capo Coda Cavello to north of Ottiolu

Rounding the first headland we found the forecast wind and stayed inshore for much of the day. At lunchtime we wandered into the town of San Teodoro for supplies and lunch in a local taverna. Camped in a grassy area, plenty of driftwood for a shoreline bonfire and reasonable shelter from the expected high winds it was time to go swimming. The evening was spent tending to a decent bonfire, sadly we had forgotten the marshmallows.

Tuesday - paddling day off!

Richard G and I remained with the gear whilst others explored the town 30 minutes walk away. The sun remained and the wind did too, even if it seemed a little less than forecast. As a result we decided to return back the way we had come, reverting to the original route north and get up to Palau.

Wednesday 9Nm north of Ottiolu to south of Isola Tavorlara

At the start all seemed calmish. The morning involved heading back to San Teodoro for water and food before hugging the coast. After pushing directly into the wind we lunched at a reasonably popular sandy beach. Even though it was popular we were able to find plenty of space for us to shelter away from the wind.

But once back on the water the wind had not reduced much at all. Passing the spot we had camped the first night we could see the huge mass of Isola Tavolara. As soon as we left the lee of a small island we found our progress came to a halt ; we were paddling ’on the spot’ going nowhere.

With our speed at less than ½ knot we headed back into the shelter of the island to see if the wind would decay. There was just one section large enough to take our 4 tents and we had found it first time! At least the wind was keeping insects at bay.

Thursday 9Nm south of Isola Tavorlara to Sandy Beach 7 miles east of Olbia

With our early start the wind was better at first. Once past Porto Istana we stopped for lunch. Rather than ‘just sunbathing’ or swimming. Richard B, Andy & Ingrid headed back ½ mile for some minor supplies. They returned with a bottle of chilled beer for us, which went down very well indeed.

Back on the water but with the wind still there progress was slow. Once on the Northern shore we really had to pick our moments as we threaded off-shore rocks. Eventually we arrived at a fantastic sandy beach with just a few sun worshipers. It was totally out of the wind, sunny and had ample space for tents! Something had to be wrong. A sign was proclaiming lots of rules and regulations. Basic translation made us suspect it was to do with Tortoises. A check through the phrase book revealed it was something to do with hydrotherapy, obviously. Having set up a kitchen behind the sign we found the information on the back in 4 other languages (it had been obscured by a huge bush).

Friday 20 Nm east of Olbia to Isole Nibani

It turned out to be Richard G’s birthday. To celebrate the wind had dropped but the clouds had arrived making it seem like home. Across the bay, 5Nm away, was a large yellow cruise ship and hopefully shops! Arrived in Aranci just as the sun came out. Coffee and croissants in a beach front café to celebrate Richard’s birthday.

Another corner and we got hit again by heavy wind and the waves were getting to be lively. Sadly (?Ed) I had loaded quite a bit of wine in the rear of the kayak and by the time we arrived at a little island the rear hatch was almost at water level. Still the wine was OK

The wind dropped and we were able to enjoy the sun and scenery to it’s fullest. We had a rough idea for camp spots and as we arrived at the last option we found it full of sun loungers and revellers, grrr. Managed to find a spot on an offshore Isle with a decent table from an old fridge door and pallets. The mossies were back in force. It was this particular evening that Andrew confessed he was ‘very surprised and had not expected mossies’. At least I think that was what he said, it was a bit tricky to hear as he muttered from inside his midge net.

Saturday 18Nm Isole Nibani to Palau

Headed for coffee at Port Cervo. The area was full of many yachts we had been seeing all week. Arriving at the end of a jetty it was easy to feel we were a little under-dressed. Our euro’s were as good as every one else’s and in soggy salty gear we were welcomed at the local café.

Having ‘tasted’ civilisation and ‘found it wanting’ we made our way to the Maddalena Islands. Again their height made estimating distances tricky. Threaded our way through lots of small motor boats moored with folks taking in the sun to find the great sun-kissed beach we had figured would be great for lunch was already full. A couple of miles round the corner a rocky inlet was found but at least we could stretch our legs. In ‘typical’ form just ½ mile after we were back on the water we found another gorgeous beach that would have been perfect, grrr.

A pause for some genuine Italian ice-cream at La Maddalena we ended at Palau just 2 miles away. Our route became remarkably busy as ferries bore down at us or came from behind. It was almost like the Solent. Made even more so as some of the ferries are identical to the IOW ferries! Andrew had guided us to a campsite that meant we could camp as close to the water as we had been doing all week. It saved a huge carry with the kayaks and they had proper showers, luxury. The 18 miles had been broken up into 4 smaller journeys but even so no one was rushing to get the food sorted.

Sunday 22nd Palau

We were dropped off in Palau and exploring the town. The evening at a harbour area restaurant allowed us to take in the local cooking style.

It also gave a chance to reflect on the week. We were just 22Nm from where we had started but had covered 78.5 Nm! It had been a varied week and we all had various highs and lows. It was just our luck to find the F8 coming through but the temperature had made up for it.

Many thanks for organising it Andrew and hope to paddle with you all somewhere during 2014.