Sardinia – Part Due

Sardinia – What to see

We are now settled into the Moys Marina in Olbia, Italy (Sardinia). To bring you up to date on the Covid and regulatory issues, upon our arrival in La Maddalena in the NE corner of Sardinia, we were notified of a new regulation for persons arriving from Spain. We needed to get a Negative Covid test and we were required to quarantine aboard until that was achieved. Arranging the test became a challenge so we employed the services of a marine agent to help us navigate the new unfamiliar waters. After a few days, arrangements were made to have us tested while at anchor in a harbor about 20 miles South of our present location. So, we needed to obtain permission from the harbor in La Maddalena to leave to get the test and we were then required to return immediately following the test. We were able to accomplish all of this in the course of 1 day and returned to the Marina in La Maddalena where we awaited the results.

After a few days we were informed by email that 1 of us was positive for the virus but upon further reading, we discovered that the positive result was for a person NOT US, on another boat. Getting everyone notified that this was an error was the highest priority and lucky for us, our negative results came in by the end of the day. To say that we all felt a new lease on life and an indescribable freedom finally stepping on firm ground thrilled all of us. While we would have loved to stay another few days in La Maddalena we really needed to get moving. We are so very grateful to the lovely staff of the Cala Mangiavolpe marina for their kind and gracious hospitality. If you are on your way to this stunning archipelago, give these guys a call.

The Cala Managiavolpe Mariners were fantastico!!!!

So moving right along, we left the next day and went to Olbia where we had considered making a long term winter reservation. This is a good time to tell you a bit about Sardina. The second largest island in the Mediterranean and is one of the 20 regions of Italy. Of those 20 regions, 5 regions enjoy some autonomy by a special statute and this is one of them. The capital city of Sardinia is Cagliari which is in the South and while we rented a car and hoped to drive down to see it, I fear at this point that is an unlikely trip for reasons we will discuss further along. Several points to note here about Sardinia- which made Sardinia a priority to see, were that it is one of the few “Blue Zones” on the planet with the highest number of Centenarians in the world. We saw a Netflix program about it with Zac Efron and arriving here, the island felt nearly familiar after that introduction several weeks ago. The farming and agriculture – vineyards and mountains must be the reason for this longevity. There is a wholesomeness to life here I believe due to the vast diversity of the ecosystems and largely uninhabited territory. While driving from one village to the next one can discover road -side fruit and veggie stands which sold only locally grown produce. The taste! Oh the taste!! Honestly the best melon and best peaches we have ever eaten!

Another reason we were excited to visit is because of the inhabitants from the Paleolithic age but of particular interest was the Nuragic civilization which lived here from the 18th century BC! Yes nearly 4000 years ago these people lived on this island and built these truly remarkable structures which still stand today! The island is literally “littered” with some 10,000 structures standing as tribute to this civilization which lived here. The Phoenicians travelled past on their way from what is now Lebanon to what is now Britain to trade and some remained and settled in the coastal reasons where alliances were formed with the Nuragic. Eventually parts of the island were conquered by Carthage (what is now Egypt) in late 6th Century BC and then of course, Rome in 238 BC. – And that is just a snapshot of this rich history. There is so much more leading up until the medieval times.

We drove to Tharros, a town 2 hours to the SW of Olbia – essentially is is ½ way down the West Coast. Recent excavations are continuing to reveal ancient civilizations and what was particularly surprising to us was that one could identify in the dig which artifacts were from which group of occupants. It was truly remarkable and personally – I just felt like my entire life was just the tiniest of snapshots in the bigger picture.

Another “field trip” was to the really stunning town of Bosa. Also, a 2 hour drive away and on the West coast this town was developed in the Medieval times and the amazing stone walkways and hairpin turns throughout the town and up the mountain make it mostly suitable to walking (in sturdy shoes) rather than driving. This town is the only village on the only navigable river and is surrounded by the most amazing green valley of produce. Walking through the cobblestoned streets make a trip to the Malaspina Castle. Built in 1112 on the top of a hill by a family who settled here in the middle of the 11th century. The views from here are the most impressive.

Today is my birthday and we are taking a day to rest. Jack and I made an ice cream cake to replicate the one that I love at home – the Dairy Queen Ice Cream cake. There are no Recees cups to be had here so we substituted in the Snickers bars. Alec and Jack bought me the most beautiful flowers and tomorrow I have an appointment for a spa day! Which brings me to why we may not make it to Cagliari…

Is this insane or what!?

We are most anxious to continue our exploration of Italy – at this point we have approximately 9 weeks left of our summer cruise so we decided that we will have to re-visit France another time. Due to the difficulty getting into Italy, we can’t risk that re-entry will be a problem from France in the future so we will have to skip it. If all goes well, we will leave Sardinia on Friday and head to Genoa where I hope to get in to see the lakes of Italy via train. From that point we will begin our trip South so we are open to any and all suggestions of “must see” Italian stops.

Winter plans

We are planning to “winter” in the Ragusa Marina in Sicily. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Sardinia and this marina is an excellent facility. We would highly recommend i for anyone traveling here, but for wintering – I’m not sure I would love it. We rented a car while here because the island is so rural and this marina is remote but in the entire 15-16 months we have been traveling, we have only rented a car 3 times and 2 of those times were due to guests being accommodated. We truly prefer to travel by bus or train and bike, and we like to stay in places where that is possible. The grocery store is lovely but a bit too far for walking with bags of groceries. There is a shuttle, but I like more autonomy and independence than relying on that. And finally, I like a closer-knit community. Following a full and active summer with a lot of movement, settling down and enjoying meeting others who have just finished their summer cruises is a wonderful way to get a sense of community and fellowship. The Ragusa Marina in Sicily sounds like just the right mix for us so that is where we are headed.

Sardinia – Not all fun and games

“You got what you wanted”. Jack’s ever present ability to sum up a situation in a matter of a few words if not well timed, has always been a skill. The timing, however, will have to take some finesse in the coming years though. Let me go back a couple of days.

Our Anchorage

We made a 35 -hour passage from Menorca to Sardinia and having reservations already planned for our arrival we rested easy knowing that we had a nice berth in which to sleep after a complete lack of sleep for two days. Rarely are things what they seem and even more so after a longish passage between 2 countries during a Covid Pandemic. Once in cell phone coverage we checked our email and discovered that the dock reservations were unavailable until Friday. No problem, we will just hang out at anchor until we are permitted in. In the meantime, we searched Navily, the app we use to find suitable anchorages (and marinas for that matter) in Europe. Upon studying the options in this lovely archipelago with very tricky regulations governing the mooring and anchoring, we thought we found a suitable spot. After several attempts to set the anchor and with 30-35 knots of wind blowing across the bow, we decided we were never going to sleep in this “less than ideal” set of circumstances, so we continued to look for a better place. Mercifully, one such option presented itself and after verifying that it was permissible based on our cruising guides of the area, we dropped the hook and began the work of purchasing a permit. The website was in Italian but lucky for us, we have 2 phones, so I used Google translate on my phone to purchase the permit on Alec’s phone. Now, we have US phones and let me just say T-Mobile is the very best company in America. We are so very happy with them and the service that they provide for us while we are here – but the unlimited plan we have for data is at 2 G speeds and takes some patience while offshore and trying to get something important done. Mostly we just leave it until we find WIFI, but this was absolutely necessary, so we persisted. And persisted. Success – though not without its challenge – we were able to get the permit and some dinner and a quick swim to verify the anchor situation, and made it to sleep in a lovely anchorage with really good holding. Tomorrow is a new day!

Loaded into the “the family car” to go to town

So we got dressed up for town and customs, something we always try to do to show our respect for the local authorities, and lowered the dinghy into the water for the trip to “town”.

Town in this case is La Maddalena, a really adorable village which looks like something out of central casting for Italy so it was a terrific first experience. .. So far… The archipelago off the North Eastern corner of Sardinia is comprised of 7 larger islands and several smaller islets. We are looking forward to doing some exploring after our time in the town and hope to anchor out or tie to a mooring and island hop for at least a week. The regulations governing these islands is strict. Well done Sardinia for the conservation work they have been doing since the 1990’s, after noticing decay of this really beautiful natural resource. In order to dive or snorkel or even walk on several of the islands, one must be in the company of a certified naturist. I wish the Bahamas would institute some of these protections. On our most recent trip to the Bahamas, in addition to watching boat loads of tourists with no training or education being dumped into one of the most pristine and lovely snorkeling sites – to then clip “go pro’s “ to coral, drag anchor through precious sea beds and stand on top of live rock, it almost became too much to watch. But I digress…

First stop – we tried to find the Customs and Immigration office. Using Google translate and our map programs we looked and looked but had no luck. We found a government office and we were “shooed” out before I could even try out my horrible attempts to communicate in Italian. We asked around using hand signals and my phone – no luck. This is when Jack offered, well Mom, you got what you wanted! You see, I was a little disappointed that our “winter home” in Lagos, Portugal involved so much English and so little opportunity to try our hand at foreign language. It was what I wanted, though not at this exact moment, thus the timing was a bit lacking given my current level of frustration.

Deciding to put our immigration issues on the back burner for the moment, we decided to go to the marina next and enquire about dockage for the following day. Good news – the slip was available tomorrow. We next asked about immigration and the marina dock attendant advised us – no worry! no problem! – we will take care of all of it tomorrow. Hmmmmm May we walk around the town? Even eat lunch before visiting Immigration? “Sure” he said – No problem he said – of course he said. Hahahahah. So the next day, and after eating a delightful lunch albeit a bit disappointing for Jack expecting pepperoni’s on his pizza and instead getting peppers, (more language challenges).

We tried to tackle the 3rd item on our list which was a trip to the Marine Archipelago center to purchase another night at anchor without having to do this via Google Translate and spotty cellular service. After a 45 minute walk with very funny directions we finally found the center – during the mid- day closing – in fact, open only in the morning, they close at 12:30 every day for the day. Truly we had enjoyed enough fun for one day, so we opted to head back to the anchorage rather than try to accomplish item number 4 which was groceries. We were seriously lacking in the grocery department.

So, another good night sleep (Thank God) and we were at it again the next day – Thursday.
To the marina we went and managed another tricky med-moor but at least I never went swimming – we must be getting better.

We washed Gratitude, went to dinner, enjoyed Italian cookies and gelato and again, decided to postpone the grocery run, in fact, why not have breakfast off the boat tomorrow and find groceries on the way home. Arriving back “home” at the marina we asked the dockmaster if he was ready to take care of the immigration formalities to which he replied – “Oh I don’t need anything – you are good as far as I’m concerned”. Uh oh…. We really did know that we needed to see someone from immigration. A few inquiries later, we learned that we were not permitted to walk to the office – due to Covid nobody was allowed into the facility. Our helpful Simone was going to make more inquiries. Which is the information we awoke to on Friday.

Effective 12 August (we left Menorca, Spain on 18th of August) Italy changed their requirements for persons arriving from Spain. A Covid test is mandatory and a quarantine until that is accomplished and the results obtained is necessary before disembarking. Oops. – I guess we have bigger issues than a stamp in the passport. I was going to start this sentence with “in my defense” but I just realized that I have no defense. Honestly, in these really crazy times, one must consult the rules daily not monthly for changes to the policies in inter-country travel. So – my bad, here we sit awaiting the person who will swab our nostrils who was purported to arrive near mid-day – it is now 1700. Not expecting this to happen today. Que Sera Sera… or whatever the Italian equivalent of that is….

Unfortunately, still no groceries… we have enough food in the freezer to survive but the fruits and veggies which we love so much are no more after the final apple eaten for breakfast. The marina staff has very generously offered to make a grocery trip for us but thinking that this was going to be a 48 hour issue I declined – Im now rethinking that offer.

Quarantine is great for board games and cards!

Stay tuned –

A quick update here – today is Monday – still no swab and no idea if/when someone will be coming. We did get groceries brought in – interesting side note here – when one writes red pepper on a grocery list, expect 20 red peppers and when one writes lettuce – expect 1 very tiny head of lettuce – We got 20 bananas – all ripe and ready to eat and when I asked for 2 mozzarellas, I got 8. I have never understood how anyone can send out for groceries. This is my very first experience with it and while I’m truly grateful and not complaining at all – I just don’t “get” how one can be happy with someone else’s grocery selection. So we made banana bread today and we will make banana bread tomorrow and probably have banana smoothies all week.

Also, we have contacted Olbia Marina – a marina on the mainland of Sardinia in the hopes that we will have more luck with this there. Good news – they have dockage – bad news – we are still no closer to making sure we can get swabbed there but I have reached out to a “handler” who may be able to help – stay tuned…