Rampage to the Eternal City…..

July 29, 2010

Apologies once again for the delay in publishing another blog.  The only time we’ve had internet access in the last two and a half weeks was whilst in Calvi and we had quite a lot going on while we were there and never got around to the blog. 

We left you last time in Stintino, and for the following week, we were making ground north up the coast of firstly, Sardinia and then Corsica.  Having had only a Spanish courtesy flag up for nearly a year, we’ve now changed it 3 times in the past two weeks – feels a bit strange. 

Our track since leaving Menorca - click on picture to enlarge.

We saw little of Sardinia apart from the, admittedly very attractive, coastline as we were somewhat behind schedule and felt we must press on north.  We had a deadline to meet as we’d arranged to be in Calvi by 19th and our friends there, Nicky and Paul had very kindly pulled various strings to get us a berth for our visit, (thereby hangs a tale but more of that later!)

After leaving Stintino we headed for Isola Rossa almost directly across the vast bay of Golfo di Stintino in northern Sardinia.  Leaving there next day, we planned to anchor by the narrowest point on the Bonnifacio Straits (the gap between Sardinia and Corsica).  In the end, we anchored about 5 mile short of our aiming point, as we’d spent the whole day tacking towards the straits, covering nearly 40 miles to make 20 on the ground.  Never mind, it was really great sailing.

Isola Rossa

The following morning, (J’s birthday) we left the anchorage with no wind and headed across the straits to our next stop in the Golfe di Murtoli near Roccapina in Corsica.  By the time we’d cleared the land, the wind started to pick up and we were charging along at 6 – 7 knots.  We put all three reefs in the mainsail and then took it down altogether and furled the foresail until we only had about ½ of it out and we were still doing over 6 knots most of the time.  Exciting stuff – what we’d thought of as a day’s sail took us ‘til just after midday and we tucked ourselves into a little cove along with a stack of other yachts, including some superyachts to add a little tone to the event.  Then the wind changed and we moved down to the other end of the bay looking for protection before the wind died away completely as night arrived.

The next morning we moved on again to Propriano, (not on our little map – oops!  Too difficult to change now!) which was supposedly a reasonable little town where we might expect to get food and such like (we’d be eating out of tins again if there wasn’t any food to be had).  In the event, J went ashore by herself as the wind was once more being a little exciting and I didn’t want to leave the boat unattended in case the anchor dragged.  She found some small shops but paid an arm and a leg for some simple provisions before returning to the boat.  We then beat a hasty retreat from the wind and found a nice, if crowded, anchorage at the entrance of the bay.


Next stop was Ajaccio, the first sizeable town we’d been near since leaving Menorca.  It’s built round its harbour, a nicely protected bit of a deep, west-facing bay.  We arrived in Ajaccio Bay on 16th but had been put off coming anywhere near the town by the fact that there were a number of “exclusion areas” marked on our (admittedly rather old,) chart, so we anchored in a small bay to the south.  However next This morning, as we were getting our act together to go swimming, we were accosted by a neighbour who was swimming round the area, who then proceeded to gossip with J about life, the universe and living aboard yachts generally.  She told us that the ‘exclusion zones’ had been removed and you could anchor at the head of the bay, just by a large Carrefour supermarket.  And there was a laundrette behind the port office and so on and so forth……

Accordingly the next day, we moved Rampage closer into the town and had an admin day, doing the laundry, shopping, getting new oars for the tender etc.  (Did we ever tell you we lost one of the oars whilst in Porto Conte?  Most irritating!)

Girolata Bay

J here now – finishing off where he left off!  Sunday 18th saw us heading north once more.  Girolata is a small bay that had been particularly recommended to us by Paul & Nicky.  It is very attractive, with a ruin on the headland and a scattering of buildings on the hill above the bay with a few wooden shacks on the beach.  These included the Capitanerie, a fresh bread stall and various bars and restaurants.  The bay is not actually an anchorage but laid out with mooring buoys and you tie up to these, fore and aft, assisted by a couple of guys in RIBs, (rigid inflatable boats.)  Having seen you safely to your particular mooring, they then present you with a rubbish bag and a leaflet about the recycling.  Although it isn’t an island, there is no road into Girolata and it was explained that all refuse is removed by helicopter.  Anything else usually comes in or out by sea.  (N&P told us later that the postman became bolshie a few years ago and is now only prepared to walk over the mountains to collect and deliver mail once a week!)

The shacks on the beach at Girolata

That evening we sent a text to Nicky & Paul to let them know we were on schedule and at about 5pm on Monday 19th we radioed through to Calvi marina to announce our arrival and explain that we had a mooring booked.  We were told to go to D29 so we headed over to where a number of boats were attached to mooring buoys just outside the marina.  We couldn’t spot any numbers on the buoys but the form seemed to be the same as in Girolata and we explained to the guys in the RIB that’s we’d been booked in and had to go to D29.  They seemed a bit surprised but duly took us to a mooring buoy and helped us tie up. We’d barely got ourselves settled and reached for the mandatory beer when we received a somewhat irate text from Paul asking what the bleep, bleep we thought we were up to?  It seemed they had just about sold their souls in order to secure us a berth in the marina and if we did not deign to take it Nicky (or possibly me, or even both of us) would be sold into white slavery or similar and their amicable rapport with the marina, built up over the last ten years, would be lost overnight. 

Sant Antoninu

We therefore made haste to move into the marina, much to the bewilderment of other boats using the buoys who wondered if perhaps we knew something that they didn’t about the weather forecast for that evening!  After this rather inauspicious beginning, thereafter all went well.  Before long we were all installed on N&P’s boat, catching up with news over a few drinks before heading into town for some supper.  We were left to our own devises for most of the next day and having been on the move pretty well non-stop since leaving Menorca, it was nice to relax, go for a swim etc before joining Nicky and Paul for supper aboard their boat.  On Wednesday however, we were taken out for the day; we went on a circuit up into the mountains on the far side of Calvi Bay finishing up at the delightful hilltop village of Sant Antoninu.  We parked the car and walked up through the cobbled streets admiring the spectacular views of the mountains and down across Calvi Bay and along the coast.  We then continued our trip through more beautiful hilltop villages, finishing up at a fantastic restaurant right on the beach where I had what I reckon was probably the most beautifully cooked piece of tuna I’d ever eaten.  It was a brilliant day and we are hugely grateful to our kind and generous friends for showing us places we would never have discovered if left to our own devises.

That evening the two of us strolled up round the marina and through the town to the citadel, perched high on the headland.  There is not a huge amount to see up there apart from the enormous stone walls and one or two bars and restaurants.  However, once again the views along the coast were tremendous and as sun was just going down across the water, it was all very pretty.

Looking across the marina to the citadel above Calvi

Thursday had been designated Shopping Day, as Nicky as Paul had offered to drive us to a supermarket where we could stock up on water, wine, beer and other heavy items which could be brought right to the boat by car.  Having done all our shopping on foot or by bicycle for more than a year now, this was an offer we couldn’t refuse.  Calvi marina had other ideas however, and decided that we must move that morning as the berth we’d been allocated belonged to a charter boat which was due back in that day.  As a result we found ourselves on the far side of the marina, berthed bow-to, next to all the bars and restaurants.  As we were only there for one more night this really wasn’t a problem except that Paul was no longer able to bring the car right up to the boat and also, getting things on board over the bow of the boat is more tricky and resulted in two broken bottles of beer.  Apart from that minor (minor – minor what does she mean it?  It was terrible I tell you – lovely beer running away down the drain and she dismisses it as MINOR…… Oh all right, it was only 2 small bottles D) tragedy, however, all went well and it was a great help to be able to replenish the store cupboards.  Paul and Nicky joined us aboard Rampage that evening for a final meal together.  They were brilliant hosts and we cannot thank them enough for all their wonderful hospitality.

Part of the coastline of Corsica, seen on our day out with Nicky & Paul

By 9am last Friday (23rd) we were on our way once more.  We stopped that night in St Florent.  Paul had warned us that force 8 winds were forecast  and not having access to the internet, we were unable to get an update on this so decided  to stay put for the next day too, as Cap Corse is notorious and we had no wish to try rounding it in a gale.  It was therefore Sunday evening before we reached Macinaggio on the east coast of Corsica, anchoring once again, just outside the marina.  This was our last night in Corsica as the next day we headed off towards Elba.  We woke to cloudy skies and fairly strong winds so we set off with some trepidation (and in a hurry before the onshore wind got up too much D).  As we tried to make our way east, the wind was coming straight on the nose and we found ourselves tacking a long way south and making little progress eastwards.  In addition, dark and threatening rain clouds were approaching from the north which gave us some concern and it was sufficiently chilly for us both to dig out sweaters for the first time for ages – not what we’d signed up for!!  Once again we were sailing with all three reefs in the mainsail and the headsail partly furled.  Lunch was a few breadsticks and some cold sausage as we couldn’t face trying to sort out anything more complex.  And then, all of a sudden, the sun came out and the wind disappeared; we made the rest of the journey on the motor in a flat calm. 

One of the highly decorated ferries heading into Portoferraio

Elba is beautiful – or at least, what we saw of the coastline.  We spent just one night there at anchor outside Portoferraio on the north coast.  Hopefully one day we can go back and see a bit more of the island.  (NB. The ferries entering and leaving the port there are notorious for small boats as they are very frequent and create a spectacular wash which can upset life – quite literally if you happen to have a glass of wine on the go!  Thankfully we were anchored sufficiently far away from their route not to be too disturbed.)  We needed to press on though, and find ourselves a marina near Rome where we could safely leave Rampage whilst we return to UK for Polly & Tommy’s wedding. 

By Tuesday night we had reached the Italian mainland and were tucked up in our last anchorage for a while, at Cala Grande (near San Stephano,) where we watched a splendid sunset, anchored next to a boat called Julia, which has just arrived in the marina here and is moored 2 down from us!  Yesterday morning we were off again, heading down the coast to Civitavecchia where Duncan had identified a possible marina not too far from Rome.  To our delight there was plenty of room and the facilities are good so we are now booked in to Riva di Traiano, until 12th August. 

Well that’s it!  A bit of a marathon but we’ve finally managed to bring you up to date with our activities.  The next blog will doubtless include a pic of a girl in a long white dress … 

Sunset in our most recent anchorage in Cala Grande on Tuesday evening



  1. Dear Julia & Duncan,

    I’m sure you’ll not get this until you return to the Rampage. Please send love and best wishes to Polly and Tommy ~ have a lovely trip and return safely. We miss you and look forward to details on when we can come and visit (over winter). It’s been such a joy, reading your adventures!

    Can’t wait to see the pictures!

    Love, Ruth and David

  2. So exciting to be leaving my fishtail behind and coming ashore for the wedding. Looking forward to a lovely weekend with you all.

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