Saturday, 16 June 2012

A dash of Corse

The sun going down is a daily affair, I know, and in the future I'll be judicious in my use of sunset photos. But this one is a bit special. It's taken on Enki's first "passage", a term which implies night sailing, as opposed to the more manageable coastal or inter-island day-hop.

In this case, the passage was a short one, an overnighter from Antibes to Porto Vecchio at the bottom of Corsica - but still, a passage is a passage. We ran out of wind very quickly, the weather having settled for a few days under a torpid high pressure system. Enki's engine pushed us along quietly and efficiently on a rolly sea. We were eating pasta in the cockpit when a couple of whales pushed their backs above the surface, not far from the ship. None of us expected to see whales in the Med, nor for that matter flying fish - yet we've seen both.

Cap Corse, the northern tip of Corsica, has a nasty reputation, and sailors are warned to keep well clear of it in all but the most benign weather. But there was nothing to fear on the night we rounded the Cap, except for other ships passing in the night, of which there were many. The swell had subsided by then and the unfamiliar starry sky was still and crisp. When the moon rose shortly before dawn I mistook it for an approaching yacht carrying a pale orange spinnaker.

A gentle breeze pushed us down the east coast of Corsica. Enki sails beautifully in light airs. I'm not an expert in these things, but there were times when the instruments registered an apparent breeze of 6 knots and speed over ground of 6.3 knots, and variations on that theme. I found that exciting.

We anchored in Porto Vecchio harbour, in the south-eastern quarter of Corsica, at about 5 pm. Knowing little or nothing about these coastlines, we are pretty much chained to the cruising guide books written by Rod Heikell, a Kiwi who has poked his nose into just about every cove and marina in the Med, it seems. Still, even with his notes, it's not until you get to a place that you know for sure whether it's going to work or not. Porto Vecchio works wonderfully. It's a shallow harbour, but deeply bitten into the straight-edged eastern seaboard of Corsica. There's a walled village high above the small marina which was first established by the Genoese in the mid 1500s. You can see why they thought the harbour worth defending. These days Porto Vecchio is a holiday town, but it's one with older stones, thicker walls and better views than a lot of Cote d'Azur resorts. The 100th Tour de France starts from Porto Vecchio next year. Good choice.

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