We sail from Le Grazie to Elba and Corsica. Then, we cross the notorious Bonifacio Straight to Sardinia, where we reflect on the first year of our sailing trip.
Le Grazie (ITA) – Porto Liscia (ITA)
Ivar is on watch while Floris catches a few hours of sleep. In the absence of the moon the Milky Way provides the only light. As far as the eye can see, there are no other ships around. We are alone on the water, somewhere along the Tuscan coast on our way to Elba. Suddenly Ivar senses movement close the boat. He sits up straight and stares into the darkness. There it is again, this time accompanied by breathing sounds. Ivar spots a fin, then another one – dolphins! Four of them perform magic tricks, diving and swimming under the boat while leaving fluorescent light trails in the sea. As if to say: you’re not alone, we’re here too! After a few minutes they vanish in the darkness, just as abruptly as they appeared.
The only sound left is that of the hull moving through the water. There are virtually no waves and a gentle breeze pushes us forward through the night. It almost feels like we’re still at our anchorage in Le Grazie. Slowly a faint light in the distance becomes stronger. Its three regular flashes identify it as the lighthouse of Portoferraio on Elba. Yet before Ivar can see the island, it’s time to wake Floris for his shift.
As we close in on Elba in the morning, its densely forested, bright green mountains become ever more imposing. We continue to head for the lighthouse. It marks the entrance of a large bay on which Portoferraio is built and where we intend to anchor. The town’s fortress sits on a rock and towers high above the sea, while colourful houses along the historic port make for a warmer welcome. We pass the port and head for a sheltered spot at the end of the bay. Yet shortly after dropping the anchor, we experience more swell than out at sea. Numerous ferries enter and leave the harbour and the waves they create rock the boat. It’s uncomfortable at times, but luckily the nights are calm. During the day we’re off the boat anyway, exploring the town and this part of the island. We discover that it is remarkably unspoilt and unpretentious. Its claim to fame aren’t even its white beaches and pine forests, but the fact that Napoleon lived in exile here for less than a year.
A few days later we sail to the well-sheltered bay of Porto Azzurro. The water here is crystal clear and the sun shines all day. These conditions are ideal for the watermaker. The solar panels generate so much electricity, we can run our own water factory on a daily basis and replenish our fresh water supply. We need fresh water more than ever for drinking and showers, as it gets warmer by the day. Temperatures of up to 25 degrees Celsius mean it’s high time to set up the bimini to provide some shade in the cockpit.
Warmer temperatures also turn the water that surrounds our boat into our playground. We dive into it to cool down, relax and exercise. It is still quite fresh, so when it’s time to do some maintenance underneath the boat, Ivar puts on his wetsuit. While cleaning and inspecting the hull earlier that day, Floris discovered that the zinc anode protecting the propeller had almost disappeared. Ivar knew this moment would come, so he quickly finds a new anode and the necessary tools to fix it underwater. It may seem like a hassle, but it’s much easier than hulling Luci out of the water. As a side-benefit, it also gives us a chance to test our diving gear.
After Ivar has put on his gear, Floris checks whether everything is attached and working properly. Armed with an underwater camera he accompanies Ivar to the propeller. He films Ivar loosening the screws of the anode, but regularly has to swim to the surface for air. The job is done in 15 minutes, so Ivar uses the rest of is oxygen supply to thoroughly clean the hull. A very fruitful dive!
After saturating our appetite for hikes and gelati, we make use of a very light, but steady wind to leave Elba. The direction and circumstances are ideal for our light-weather sail, the genaker. The huge red-white-blue sails keeps us moving, even when the wind is almost gone. It takes us 30 hours (instead of the usual 16) to sail 80 miles, but it goes so smoothly that we arrive fully rested in the bay of Porto Vecchio on the southeast coast of Corsica.
Floris has been on Corsica before, but for Ivar it’s the first time. He is very curious to explore the island after hearing Floris’s enthusiastic stories. The size and geography of the island make exploring it on foot alone challenging. We decide to rent a car for a week, so we can reach the hiking trails from our anchorage. It also enables us to pick up our friend Katherine, who is eager to explore the island with us.
We spend the next days immersed in the Corsican wilderness. At times we walk for hours through dense forests without seeing anyone else. Nature really rules here. Corsica is very mountainous, with more than 50 peaks towering above 2,000m. We decide to climb the peak that is considered the easiest to reach, Monte Renoso. On our way to the summit at 2,350m we even encounter a half-frozen lake and fields of snow. In June, no less. When was the last time we saw that? Excited about our first “winter experience” in more than a year, Ivar even starts a snowball fight.
To get a taste of Corsica’s history and culture we visit Ajaccio and Bonifacio. The setting of the latter is unparalleled in the world. Fortified, it is surrounded by the sea and sits on top of steep limestone cliffs. They have been shaped over eons of time by heavy sees from strong Mistral winds racing through the Bonifacio Strait, which separates Corsica from Sardinia. The Straight is only 7 nautical miles wide here and has a notorious reputation among seafarers. The mountains on both sides force the winds through the narrow straight and create a significant wind tunnel-effect. We are there on a calm and sunny day, the only bustle coming from the many visitors in the historic centre.
The next day we visit Corte, in the mountainous middle of the island. Once the seat of the short-lived independent Corsican republic, it is now a sleepy tourist town with spectacular views. Katherine treats us to a delicious lunch before we head to the Restonica river for a hike. The river is fierce, carrying melted snow from the high mountains. Yet there are many natural pools which are perfect for a refreshing dip. Ivar is the first to jump into the crystal-clear water. Ouch, what a shock. “How is it?” Katherine and Floris ask. “Oh quite nice” Ivar lies, barely able to breathe and feeling as if stung by a thousand needles. Luckily the hot rocks and the sun provide some relief.
After we say “until next time” to Katherine, we leave Corsica to cross the Bonifacio Straight. The westerly wind is ideal for our course due south. As we get closer to Sardinia it gets stronger and reaches speeds of more than 25 knots. Racing up to 8 knots, Luci crosses the Straight in no time. We reach the lee of the Maddalena archipelago, but conditions are not getting any calmer. Instead the wind becomes gusty and stays that way until we are deep into the bay of Cannigione. We seek shelter in the lee of a hill and drop the anchor. It turns out to be an excellent spot with good holding, even with wind gusts approaching 40 knots the next day. Luci keeps on trying to move, but our 40kg Rocna anchor is firmly set and doesn’t give an inch.
Cannigione proves to be an excellent base to wait for the winds to abate. We can stock up on groceries, wash our clothes and do some maintenance. From our anchorage we have a view on Caprera, an island in the Maddalena archipelago. It’s part of the National Park and we need a permit to anchor there. Friends who were just there reported that there were no checks, so we decide to go there and see what the fuss is all about. The surroundings make our jaws drop: Bays with white sand, smoothly shapes rocks and azure blue water. We drop the anchor in a serene bay, amidst some 15 other yachts. When most of them leave very early the next morning, we do get a bit suspicious. And sure enough, not much later the park rangers visit us and make us buy a permit for a stiff €59… Our contribution for maintaining the national park.
When we explore the island on foot, we find it quite barren. Quite unique, certainly, but the mainland has beautiful bays, too. The next day we leave early and leave the anchorage just as the park rangers are starting their round from boat to boat. We set sail for Porto Liscia, an immense bay lined by kilometres of golden sand. A suitable place for our anniversary celebrations.
Time for Reflection
It’s been one year ago since we left the Sixhaven in Amsterdam. All this time Luci has safely carried us from one place to the next, although the year has left its marks. The scratches on her starboard side remind us of Harlingen, where we had the compass calibrated before we went onto the North Sea. And paint is missing where we hit the pontoon after we couldn’t slow down in the marina of Vilamoura due to a sheet in our propeller. The flag has faded so much, it hardly qualifies as a Dutch flag anymore. At least that’s an easy fix. After hoisting a new one, we reflect on the past year. In twelve countries we visited twenty sustainable solutions, far more than we expected. Inspiring people enthusiastically showed us how they are working towards a more sustainable future, at the same time motivating us to continue what we are doing.
We also realise that since our departure, sustainable change has become more urgent. We’ve seen alarming news on climate disruption, as evidenced by extreme temperature records, increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations and Antarctic ice-sheets breaking. A report was published on the ocean plastic nightmare, predicting that by 2050 there might be more plastic than fish in the oceans, and we read about the demise of the Great Barrier Reef, a unique and important ecosystem.
It’s easy to get depressed, but we want to focus on the many positive examples we have found. Like the Danes, who use wind energy, the Norwegians who use hydropower and the Scots who are developing marine energy. They all prove that we can do without fossil fuels. Also, ocean plastic clean-up initiatives have been set up. They increase awareness to prevent further pollution. We’ve seen communities leading the way, where national governments lag, such as the city of Copenhagen that is well underway to achieve its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. We decide to write a press release that summarised the first year of our mission.
11 Ways to Support Us
Ivar is reading an inspiring book on sustainability that a friend gave him. It uses a metaphor that compared our planet to a theatre. One of the lines that stuck with us is “As smoke mounts in the global theatre, the Exit signs grow ever brighter”. The need for sustainable solutions is greater than ever. We need more “exit signs”, and they should be easier to find. As Sailors for Sustainability, our mission is to inspire people for sustainable change. We’ve seen our audience grow and we’ve enjoyed a lot of media attention. That encourages us, but we still try to do more. How can we create more impact?
Our number one goal is behavioural change. So if you apply our sustainable solutions, you are actively creating a sustainable future. At the end of each sustainable solution we describe, we list the ways in which you can make a difference.
If you wonder how you can help us achieve our mission, there are some very easy things you can do. It can be as easy as telling others about it, sharing our stories or liking our social media posts. We redesigned the Support Us tab on our website to list the many ways in which you can help us.
Become our Patron!
A new tool for us is Patreon, a modern crowdfunding platform. It allows patrons to connect directly with us, while we are able to provide our patrons with unique rewards. Hopefully, it will expand our reach towards new followers. With the financial support of our patrons, we can cover the necessary boat maintenance costs and travel expenses to complete our journey. With additional resources, we’ll also be able to fully dedicate our time to finding sustainable solutions and creating inspiring videos, while we can also professionalise our research, videos and articles. And it improves the financial sustainability of our journey.
We created an introduction video that explains what we do and how Patreon works. As a token of gratitude, our patrons will be able to see our videos ahead of everyone else. Depending on their level, they may also get additional rewards. Naturally we continue to provide all our videos and stories free of charge to everyone, so we can inspire as many people as possible with the sustainable solutions we discover. Curious to see what the result is? Check it out on our Patreon profile page!
Sail with Us as a Trainee
We realize how much we like having visitors. Until now we’ve had quite a lot of family and friends visiting, which we have thoroughly enjoyed. We have now decided to set up a trainee program to allow followers to engage more deeply with our project. It will enable us to exchange knowledge, train people in sailing and how to live within the limits of a boat. The trainees, in return, can provide support for our foundation. If you interested to sail with us as a trainee or know someone who might, you can find more info here.
The summer awaits. Which sustainable solution will we discover in Sardinia? Which famous explorer and climate journalist will visit us? Follow us on social media or wait for our next logbook story to find out!