Lat 41°23′, 4N; Long 009°09′, 8E (published January 2014)
Most of the planning we did for a week’s charter from the new Sunsail base in Cannigione, Sardinia, was around the logistics of getting there from the United States. We also read the excellent guidebook Italian Waters Pilot, published by Imray, in which Rod Heikell devotes ten pages to the numerous harbors and anchorages around the Sardinian La Maddalena Archipelago National Park and Marine Reserve. The entire area is part of an international marine park, and is one of the windiest places in all of Europe.
During the chart briefing, we wore down our pencils taking notes on all the places in Sardinian waters we could visit. Sunsail base manager, Enzo Maurizi, then stopped and said, “It is no problem to visit Bonifacio, Corsica, which is just across the channel.” The more my crew heard about the well preserved walled city, and the possibility of French food and wine the happier they got. I saw we had a reasonable chart, (NGA 3350), a French courtesy ensign and a few photocopied pages in French from another Heikell book Mediterranean France and Corsica Pilot, so off to Corsica we went.
Expecting strong winds in the Bocche Di Bonifacio channel between Sardinia and Corsica, our Sunsail Cyclades 50.4 was a great boat for heavy air and we found the sailing conditions perfect. There are mostly lazy lines in the marinas and you should practice your backing skills and the concept of having crew lower fenders between your vessel and the ones alongside to help you dock in strong crosswinds. Also, the sailing area has many well-charted hazards such as rocks and considerable ferry traffic. Note that skipper qualifications along the lines of an ICC/IPC Certificate are needed to charter in Italy.
Bonifacio from Cala Gavetta, Sardinia is a short sail but you should arrive early, as dock space is limited. The modern and friendly marina office is in the back of the harbor, and I needed to check us in with my passport, which was not stamped. There was no special check-in procedure when returning back to Sardinia.
We were entranced by the area, and decided to stay and spend an extra day exploring. The lower part of the city surrounds the harbor with shops, restaurants and even a disco. Then you can walk or take a tiny tram up the hill to the upper town, where you enter through the gates of a stunning ninth century citadel designed for the defense of Tuscany. From the 230-foot cliffs there is an excellent view of the sea and you can eat crepes, shop and sightsee. Napoleon Bonaparte, born in Corsica, lived in Bonifacio for a while and you can also see the former headquarters of the French Foreign Legion.
If your charter crew is anything like mine and loves quality “shore leave” this is as good as it gets.
Erik Westgard, a retired member of the USCG Auxiliary, lives in St. Paul, MN. He is employed in telecommunications and is an adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University. Erik has organized many charter trips and currently sails his Hunter 31 on the St. Croix River.