May 19, 2014

Exploring Corsica and Sardinia by Sailboat

By Robert Cross

Moving east towards Italy on this quick read of cruising waters around the Mediterranean, there is one last haven of French culture to consider in the list of charter destinations.

It is hard not to consider Sardinia without including Corsica or otherwise. With just four miles separating the French Corsican Isle of Lipari and the northern tip of the Italian La Maddalena Islands,this can be considered one big charter territory, all with easy access within the EU.

Sailing without boarders

Even separately, both islands provide sizeable cruising grounds. The Corsican coast covers 240 miles all the way around, and Sardinia is too big to consider circumnavigating on a normal charter holiday. So to get the best of both islands in the time available, the accepted itinerary takes in the north of Sardinia, La Maddalena National Park and the southern end of Corsica.

Itineraries that start in northern Corsica provide easy access to the many interesting places at the top end of the Island, while the crossing from the mainland just 45 miles distant gives the chance to take in the fascinating Elba islands on the way. 

I consider a Sardinia/Corsica itinerary to be suitable for more experienced charters. The region can experience isolated thermal patterns, and one should plan with some understanding of what is creating the wind. The high land and deep water causes the wind to accelerate through the pass between the two islands, often in strength exceding that predicted. When planning to navigate this stretch of water, be prepared to wait for the wind to pass. Any such change in plan can be managed easily within a two-week charter period, which most allow if wishing to see these parts of both countries. An itinerary of just one week, however, will generally allow visiting just one island or the other. The winds when they do come are fleeting, often just getting up in the afternoon and dying as the heat goes from the day. This is great for keeping cool and hiring a windsurfer or dinghy to blast along in the brisk but soft breeze.

Visiting both Islands offers a depth of contrast both cultural and geological. Corsica is a white rock island where Sardinia is red. Apparently back in Gondwana days, Sardinia was on a different tectonic plate, over by the Balearics to the west. When it almost collided with the plate containing Corsica, Sardinia broke off, and from then both islands travelled together to their current location. This contrasting composition of the geology of two countries so close to each other while so far from the mainland is what makes these islands unique. The main and many small Islands have developed their own diverse reasons for being, providing a huge variety of experiences as you go.

If your plan is to explore the north of Corsica and cross over to the coast via the Elba Islands, we have one exceptional operator regularly adding new boats to their base in Macinaggio. They have just taken delivery of two of my favourite cats; the 2014 Catana 47 carbon and Lagoon 39 catamaran, both with excellent sailing qualities. For the more sedate catamaran experience with the family, there is also a 2014 Lagoon 400 owner's version. One hull for mum and dad and the other for kids or crew.

Among monohulls, pick of the bunch is one particular Sun Odyssey 54 in Propriano. My reasons for picking this aged boat is I know it well. It has always been the only monohull in this particular catamaran fleet, and has until this year been skippered only. As a result it has never had a lot of work and has been well looked after by a dedicated skipper with not so much to do. Now it is finally available as a bareboat. The really good news is that its age - 2007 - means they are offering it at a discount of 25%. The Sun Odyssey 54 was the flagship for the marque, a ground-breaking design and still one of my favourite all-time boats. This is an as-new example and is very reasonably priced. Peak weeks in July and August at 5233 Euro bare boat rate, compared to the Jeanneau 53 at around 6500 Euro. The 54 is in my opinion the better boat.

The options do not end there. Several operators we hold in high regard have boats on the Tuscan coast of Italy.

A good read for more information on Corsica and Sardinia is to be found on these tourist board websites. They do a much better job of images, so I have left it to them to display the beauty of the region.

These websites make irresistable reading about Sardinia and Corsica. But remember what you know to be true. It's always better exploring by sea on a bareboat charter. We would love to see you do just that, and help you plan your next sailing holiday.

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