Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

1996: Cagliari

This web page describes a portion of a 7 week trip with S/Y Thetis in 1996 from Greece to Malta, Sardinia, Ustica, and Calabria in Italy, and back to Greece. The portion described is our stay in Sardinia, Italy. In addition to Cagliari, where we had moored Thetis, we visited Nora, Su Nuraxi, Alghero, the Gulf of Oristano, Costa Rei, and Su Cologone. It is illustrated with maps and photographs, also included are some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.

Map of Sardinia
Map of Sardinia

Wednesday October 2, 1996 Day 20

So here we are moored in Cagliari, Sardinia. After Sicily, Sardinia is the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sardinia offers some of the most varied sailing in the Med along its nearly 1900 kilometres of coastline, with a number of small, picturesque harbours as well as the main ports of Alghero, Cagliari and Olbia. Other attractions for the yachtsman include enchanting offshore islands such as the Maddalena archipelago on the NE side and Carloforte and Sant’Antioco at the southern tip; smart and exclusive marina developments like Porto Rotondo and Porto Cervo; idyllic anchorages with dazzling white sand and crystal-clear water—especially on the eastern side—and overall a more laid-back and friendly ambiance than will be encountered on mainland Italy.

Inland, the island boasts some spectacular scenery, especially in the mountain wilderness of the Gennargentu national park, the romantic, lake-dotted plateau of the Giara de Gesturi and the peaceful solitude of the Monte Arcosu nature reserve west of Cagliari. The landscape is a palimpsest of several successive cultures, of which the most fascinating in terms of remains is the Bronze Age Nuraghic culture, which left massive, stone-built circular structures (whose function is still shrouded in mystery) and unusual “giant’s tombs” all over the island. Most of these attractions can be accessed from one or other of the harbours around the island, where motor scooter or car hire is usually easy.

I woke up at 7:00. After my coffee I walked ashore to the telephones and called to my brother Nikos. He was sick! He did not want to come to Sardinia until he feels better etc. I am to call him in a few days. I am very worried about the EUTELSAT problems and now Nikos being sick. What if I have to go to Paris? If Nikos cannot come what route should I take back and so on.

[Photo of Thetis in Cagliari Harbor]
Thetis in Cagliari Harbor

Later Lewis and I went ashore exploring the town of Gagliari. The town is full of activity in the morning, with many street vendors, many of them African in native dress, selling all shorts of things from watches to ivory statuettes. We found a chandler and amazingly enough they did carry the Greek brand of navigation lights that Thetis has been using. I bought 3 spares, a red, a green, and a white. We looked for a replacement of the empty camping gaz bottle, we had ran out of gas which was used for cooking during the passage, and we think that we have located a store that carries them. We then looked for a travel office so that Lewis can arrange for his ticket back home. We found an office but their computers were down so they could not look up any flights or prices. We asked them if they knew where we could rent motor scooters. They directed us to the Hertz office near the train station.

We located the train station by asking and found the Hertz office. They only rent trucks! No motor scooters but they had cars at their airport office. We walked back to the travel bureau. The computers were now working long enough to ascertain that there were no seats on the October 6 flight from Rome to London but there were seats to Athens. The price was not very different so Lewis decided to fly to Athens, alas the computers were down again and they could not book him. They suggested another car rental. A place named Ruvioli not far from our dock. Lewis left all the information they needed and an imprint of his credit card and they promised to book him and issue the ticket. We could pick it up anytime.

We walked to Ruvioli. They did not have motor scooters either but they did have a tiny car. Since they were many clouds on the horizon we decided that motor scooters may not be a good idea after all and a tiny car may serve us better. So we rented a Fiat Punto but it turned out we still had to go the airport after all for the final paperwork. Off we went with two gentlemen of the Ruvioli office. The young man at the airport completed the paperwork, gave us maps of Sardinia, marked them with all the “must see” places and escorted us to the tiny car. Off we went back to the port. It was incredible. Here we are in a large city, in a busy commercial harbor, full of traffic, with cars parked all over the sidewalks and we drove the car right up to the dock next to our boat, and parked it. And it was all free!

After a snack in Thetis we set out with the car. We drove SW of Cagliari through an estuary with flocks of pink flamingos. I wanted to photograph them but Lewis was afraid to stop on the highway. We proceed south to Nora near Pula. Here in a lovely setting was a Nuraghic ruin (the Nuraghies were the oldest known inhabitants of Sardinia) and a Roman town with a darling little theater and two hot bath-houses. The site is quite large and right next to an old lighthouse.

The Roman Theater in Nora
[Photo of Roman Theater in Nora] [Photo of Roman Theater in Nora]
[Photo of Byzantine Tower near Nora]
Byzantine Tower near Nora

We then drove along the southern cost, “Costa del Sud,” it was a spectacular drive. Most promontories have a mediaeval or a Byzantine watch tower. There are many small beaches with fine sand, interspersed with reddish rocks. The water, however, was not very clear; it was clean but not as clean as the Aegean.

As we drove West the scenery changed from very arid to lush green, the mountains were tall and sheep bells could be heard from distant flocks. There were many, too many, holiday villages and large hotel complexes. At least most of them were tastefully done. When we reached Teulade we turned north and took the mountain road back to Cagliari. The road was full of sharp curves and it went up and up. There were many κούμαρα (arbutus berry, a red berry) and prickly pear cactuses along the road. We stopped to cut and eat some, and I managed to get prickles on my lips which were very painful.

Back in Cagliari we had a very nice and inexpensive dinner at the Trattoria del Serafino.

Thursday October 3, 1996 Day 21

We started early in the morning on a quest forcamping gaz replacement. We went to the store that we had located yesterday. They looked at the canister and told us to leave it and come back in one hour. We then went to the travel agency and picked up Lewis’ ticket to Athens for October 6. Then we started looking for a place to do our laundry (which has been accumulating). We located a place, and after making inquiries, we went to the boat and brought them our dirty clothes. It was a misunderstanding. They only do dry cleaning, no laundry. They suggested another place a few blocks away. We found it and they promised to have it done by early Saturday morning. We then went back to the gas store. They could not refill the canister in less than a week, they could only sell us a new one at a high price. Frustrated, we took the empty canister back to the boat.

At last, having done as many errands as we could, we got into the car and drove to the island’s interior. We first went to Su Nuraxi, near the small town of Barumini NE of Sanluri. This is the largest Nuraghic site on the island. It has a very impressive stone fortress (circa 1200 BC), reconstructed and surrounded by the ruins of a sizable Nuraghic village, a World Heritage Site.

Su Nuraxi
[Photo of Su Nuraxi] [Photo of Su Nuraxi]
[Photo of Su Nuraxi]
Another view of Su Nuraxi

We then drove to Santa Giusta just south of Oristano. Here is the earliest Christian church on the island. Unfortunately it was closed so we could only admire it from the outside. We then drove to Cabras which is situated north of Oristano and is supposed to have a unique type of a fishing boat, to be very picturesque, and have the “loveliest women of Sardinia.” The town was not very impressive, we only saw some dilapidated fiberglass boats and an old hag. It was very disappointing.

Next we drove to Bosa from where we took a secondary road hugging the NW shore line towards Alghero. The road was very dramatic, full of hairpin turns. The west coast is very rocky and there was considerable surf.

[Photo of the West Coast]
The West Coast
[Photo of Alghero]

The town of Alghero was built by the Arabs and was occupied for a long time by the Catalans. Its inhabitants are still speaking a Catalan dialect. It was very picturesque. One of the first things, after reaching the town, was to call my co-worker Pei, as we had arranged, but I only spoke to her voice mail. We wandered around the narrow streets and the esplanade watching a most dramatic sunset. We then looked at the various stores and bought few gifts. As we were wandering the streets we looked over the restaurants, and we decided on one which had a terrace overlooking the sea and we had there a very nice dinner. After dinner, I tried calling Pei again and once more I spoke to the infernal voice mail. No idea what was happening at EUTELSAT.

[Photo of Su Alghero]
Su Alghero

It was now late and we started on our way back to Cagliari via the town of Sassari. The total drive was 250 km and we reached the boat by 12:30.

Friday October 4, 1996 Day 22

We slept a little late. We begun the day with coffee and by starting the motor to charge the batteries and ran the watermaker. We than siphoned diesel fuel from both the jerry cans into the main tank. We drove the empty cans to the nearby gas station and re-filled them. Back to Thetis we topped the tank from the jerry cans, we then drove back to the station to re-fill the cans again. This exercise took a good part of the morning.

[Photo of Cagliari City Hall]
The City Hall of Cagliari

We then walked to the post office, past the elaborate town hall, and mailed postcards to various friends and relatives. At a bank we changed some money and had a most pleasant surprise. The rate of exchange was 1500 lira/$ and not 1050 as we were told at the travel agency. We walked back to the boat and had a light lunch.

In the afternoon we took a drive towards the gulf of Oristano and then took a dirt road from Uras to San Antonio di Sartadi, a tiny hamlet overlooking the gulf to the north. The dirt road was very bad, full of mud and water holes. Lewis was very scared that we would be stuck in the mud and kidnapped by the “banditos.” At San Antonio we found a public phone from which, as it was 10:00 AM in D.C., I tried to call Pei but once again spoke to her voice mail. We then drove south, along the high mountains of the Costa Verde. This was a spectacular drive and I do not think that any photograph can do it justice.

Costa Verde
[Photo of Costa Verde]
[Photo of Costa Verde]
[Photo of a Mine]
A Mine

From Montevecchio we turned left and via a mountain pass we reached the town of Arbus. This area is high up in the mountains and is full of old mines, some working but most of them abandoned. It reminds one very much of Colorado.

From Arbus we had again a fantastic drive to Iglesias from where we joined the highway which led back to Cagliari.

Once more I tried Pei and once more I spoke to her blasted machine. Later Lydia from the S/Y Salubria came to Thetis for an ouzo. We tried a different restaurant where we had an indifferent dinner after which we went to bed.

Saturday October 5, 1996 Day 23

I called Nikos, but he was still sick and he said that he will definitely not come to Sardinia. Well, this is it! I am on my own, starting tomorrow. Now that this is real I am scared but I think that I will manage it. While Lewis was still asleep, I looked at various routing possibilities. I could go to Isola di Ustica about 200 M east and then via the Eolian islands for another 100 M to the Straight of Messina and after stopping at Reggio Calabria, to Cephallonia in the Greek Ionian (200 M). This would be the shorter route with several stops and alternatives along the way. But these stops could be problematic since they all require docking. In none of these places can one stay αρόδο (off shore). Also the Straight of Messina can be a bad problem, according to Heikell, depending on the combination of winds and currents. Alternatively I could go south of Sicily with an optional stop at Isola Egadi (about 160 Mi) and then straight to Pylos or Methoni (about 460 M). This route will require about six days sailing non-stop which could be exhausting with a constant lookout. In addition the use of motor is seriously curtailed because of the distance. Also I would have to go round Cape Maleas, which could have very bad weather this time of the year. I cannot make up my mind and will decide later after thinking some more about the possibilities and looking more closely at the prevailing weather patterns.

This is Lewis’ last day in Sardinia. After he got up we went to collect our laundry. It was not ready. The pleasant young lady promised it for 2:00 PM. This would ruin the sightseeing of our last day with the car. We asked them to forget it and give the clothes back. She said, that they were all wet. We asked for them nevertheless and she went to the back to get them. She disappeared for over ¾ of an hour. I guess she just washed them. After carting the heavy, wet clothes to the boat, we hanged all of Lewis’ clothes and as many of mine as we could with the available clothes pins.

[Photo of a Villasimius]
The Villasimius beach

At last, we got in the car and headed east to Poeto, a suburb of Cagliari. Again we saw some pink flamingos and I did photograph them, but they were at some distance and I was not sure that they will show. We bought some supplies at a supermarket and drove to the beach of Villasimius where we ate our lunch. I called Alice from there and she sounded very edgy.

We then drove the back roads along the “Costa Rei.” Sardinia island, which is larger than Cyprus, is amazing in its variations of terrain. It now reminded me of the arid areas of Colorado and Arizona. We continued driving north and stopped at the town of Tortoli for a cup of coffee. From there I called Pei at home.

[Photo of a the East Coast]
The East Coast

The Eutelsat situation was bad. They were very agitated and had written a nasty letter to COMSAT. There was a problem with the group delay measurement which I did not understand. Pei had managed to compile the Kp measurement but got stuck in the Am setup procedure. She was very frustrated with EUTELSAT because she had very limited access to the system for testing during the past 3 weeks and now they keep disappearing for long lunches while she gets up at dawn to test. We just have to wait and see how this situation develops.

We drove on to Dorgali. The road was over very high mountains, over 1400 m altitude. The views were breathtaking. I really would like to return to this island. From Dorgali we took a short detour towards the sea and went to the little harbor of Cala Gonone. It is a pretty resort with scuba diving as one of its main activities. Again I observed the sea water, it was nowhere as clear as the waters in Greece.

Back on the road we drove towards Nuoro. It was now dusk and we started thinking about dinner. The young man at the car rental had told us not to miss eating at an “Agrotourismo.” These are farms which prepare a typical Sardinian meal of roasted lamb and pork. Earlier in the day we had seen at least two such signs, but although we had been watching we had not seen any recently. As we drove nearer Nuoro we saw a large sign with a lamb on a spit labeled “Su Cologone Restaurante, Sardi Tipico” (Sardinian Cuisine). As this was only a 2 km detour we stopped and look it up in the tourist guide. It turns out to be a fancy hotel/restaurant and according to the guide one of the best tables in all of Sardinia. We got there but it was only 7:20 PM and the restaurant opened at 8:00. We took a nice walk in the complex. The hotel was situated in a large track of land and there were stables and horse trails to the nearby mountains. At the restaurant, we ordered the item “menu tipico” which was an amazing procession of dishes. To begin with there were the antipasti: Sardinian salami, prociutto, a kind of kokoretsi (κοκορέτσι - a shish-kebab made of entrails), hot cheese dumplings, funchi, sweet breads, and a very sharp soft sheep milk cheese spread accompanied with Sardinian bread (thin crusty pita). These were followed by the “primo piato” consisting of a colorful arrangement of ravioli with grated Sardinian cheese, macaroni, and a dish of some kind of an omelet. Then the “secundo piato” of a combination of roasted baby lamb and roasted baby pig accompanied with a potato dish. These were being roasted on spits at an enormous fireplace. Following the meat was a green salad with fennel. They were prepared to serve us an assortment of pastries but we passed and had only coffee.

The drive back was very tiresome and long. By the time we made it to the boat it was 12:30. Lewis started packing and I went to sleep.

Sunday October 6, 1996 Day 24

We left for the airport at 6:15 AM. Lewis checked in and left without any problem right on time. The car rental place was, of course, closed so I could not return the car yet.

Back on the boat I started a major pickup/cleaning operation. I rearranged my clothes to take advantage of the empty front cabin, but I will continue to sleep in the rear cabin as it is better when the boat is tilting heavily.

[Photo of Cagliari]
The Cagliari citadel

Since I had to go back to the airport to return the car, I gave Lydia a ride to meet her arriving husband. We waited for a while, she did not have the exact flight number, and watched several flights from Rome, but there was no sign of her husband. I returned the car and the nice man drove us back to the harbor.

I made a shopping list for the trip but had to wait for the stores to open on Monday. I hung the rest of the wet laundry to dry, and continued with a thorough boat cleaning. The weather was exceptionally nice with a clear sky, but the weather report called for a high pressure in Spain moving towards us and a low pressure moving from the east. I made lunch from leftovers and took an afternoon nap. I was planning to leave tomorrow but still had not decided on the routing.

Later in the afternoon I took a long walk to the Cagliari citadel (the old town). The view was very good but not that interesting as most of the surrounding area is industrial. I found the archeological museum which, amazingly enough, was actually open. It is a small museum but very nicely done in a brand new building. Their Nuraghi exhibits are very interesting and they show models of the main sites as well as most of the findings. There are many clay figurines and pottery which remind me of Cycladic but not as refined. After the museum I walked by the Cagliari cathedral and then walked through the many small streets of the citadel.

[Photo of Cagliari Cathedral]
The Cagliari Cathedral

As I was walking back to the boat the wind started blowing briskly from the East and many dark clouds started gathering.

I took a hot shower and then sat at the cockpit having an ouzo and watching the clouds. There was distant thundering. Lydia from Salubria came with her newly-arrived husband, Bob, and joined me for the ouzo. We later moved to their spacious cabin. He related their voyage of 8 years. They left San Francisco, sailed for a while in the Sea of Cortez, then transited the Panama Canal and then cruised in Costa Rica where they had a number of unpleasant experiences with the local authorities (graft, extortions, and outright stealing). They then sailed north all the way to New York city. After a stay there they crossed the Atlantic on a northern route. Eventually they entered the Mediterranean where for the last four years they have been cruising in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. They have 7 grown children who visit them occasionally. Now they are on their slowly way back to San Francisco where Bob is starting a new business to market Internet related services.

Later I went to the Tratoria Serafino for dinner.

Monday October 7, 1996 Day 25

During the early hours the wind came on, blowing hard 20-27 knots from the South. It started thundering and to rain hard. I closed all the hatches and the companion way but some water was leaking in. I adjusted the fenders. Later the wind increased further with gusts up to 35 knots. This raised appreciable waves within the harbor. The boat was being pressed hard against the concrete dock but the fenders were protecting us.

In the morning the wind was still blowing hard. Even if I was crazy enough to want to leave the harbor, I was not sure that I could do it without a large crew, as the boat was blown smack on the dock.

I went ashore on another search for camping gaz, to a store that Bob told me about. Yes, they used to have it but not this time of the year. I hoped that I had enough gas left for cooking and most important, for the morning coffee. I called Nikos. The weather in Greece was also bad, he had also looked up the weather on the Internet and it did not look too good, but maybe it will improve tomorrow. If it does I will leave then. I had a long shopping list. First I found a new alarm clock to replace the old one which stopped ringing. I really needed one for the trip. Then I bought groceries, clothes pins, etc. I also found Arab coffee in a Moroccan store. This was very good because I had been running low on this most vital commodity.

Later in the afternoon it started raining again, first on and off, later heavily and continuously. I spent some time labeling electrical cables and repairing some of the wall upholstery which had started pealing off.

During one of the no rain intervals I walked to the “Capetanaria di Porto” and looked at the posted weather report. The Sardinian Sea had 7-8 on the Beaufort Scale from the SW while the Tyrrhenean Sea (the sea between Sardinia and Sicily) had only 6 SW. Maybe I will be able to leave tomorrow.

I spent most of the late afternoon and evening rain-bound reading in the leaking cabin. This was getting tiresome! I turned on the instruments to measure the wind speed, they did not work. It must be a bad electrical connection, but it was almost impossible to trace wires in the rain and at night. This I will have to do in the morning.

I put on the storm jacket for protection and went ashore to eat.

Tuesday October 8, 1996 Day 26

Just a little past midnight I was woken up by a horrific sound. The wind, still from the South, was blowing furiously into the harbor. This harbor is as secure as a harbor could be. It has 2 enclosure arms which totally prevent any waves from entering the harbor. Yet, tonight, the wind was so strong that the waves raised within the harbor were substantial. Thetis was being smashed against the concrete quay despite all six fenders The fender covers were now all in tatters. I got dressed in a hurry with storm gear and installed extra spring lines in case the old ones brake. But it was the smashing against the quay that had me worried. The wind was increasing and all six fenders were now almost flat against the quay. I was afraid that any one of them could disintegrate and then Thetis, unprotected, would break. The best I could do was to stand amidship, prop myself on the rigging, and push with all my strength with my legs against the pier in an effort to attenuate the force on the fenders. I did so in the driving rain and howling wind for what seemed to be forever. The Swiss young man from the yacht two boats down from Thetis came to help. He, his young wife, and 5 year old daughter were on their way to Tunisia for the winter. He walked all over the piers looking for old tires or anything else that could be used as an extra fender but he found nothing. On the section of the pier which was now exposed to the fury of the elements were 3 other sail boats besides Thetis: an unattended Italian, the Swiss, and the American Salubria. All of them, except Thetis, were not touching directly on the concrete but were touching on huge, rubber, long, cylindrical fenders attached horizontally by chains to the pier. Unfortunately when we sailed into Cagliari the one empty spot had such a fender with one of its chains broken, so that the cylinder was almost vertical with one of its ends in the water. Because of this Thetis had to rely on her own fenders exclusively and was now in great danger.

I spent all together 2½ hours in the rain pushing continuously trying to save my boat. At last rescue come in the form of Bob from Salubria. He saw what was happening and, despite his jet lag, he and Lydia searched their storage areas and found three old but large semi-deflated fenders which he was now bringing me. With these in place, in addition to my six, Thetis was no longer in danger, just very uncomfortable. The wind in the harbor was measured to be a steady 38 knots with gusts over 50! What a night! Relieved and exhausted I went back to sleep.

In the morning the wind was still howling but thank goodness it was now coming from the West and not from the horrible South. The boat was not forced against the pier anymore. I started looking at the problem with the instruments. There was no electricity coming to them at all. I started tracing the wires and I did find a bad contact. I soldered it and now there was voltage at the instruments but they still did not work. I connected them with a jumper directly to the battery and they worked fine. So there must be a high resistance on their power line and they were not being supplied with an adequate amount of current. I went ashore and bought some thick electrical cable and connected the instruments with a temporary line directly from the electrical panel as there was no way to replace their permanent line without removing the cabin ceiling. Now all the instruments were working again.

Later in the afternoon the wind was blowing at 35 knots and black clouds with thunderstorms were rolling in again. It was very hard to get weather reports. The “Capetanaria di Porto” had not updated their report and no one there had any idea. I was given a telephone number for the Italian weather service but they only spoke in very rapid Italian and hung up on me as I tried to explain in my broken Italian that I wanted a forecast for the South Tyrrhenean sea. From what I gathered from the Italian AM radio broadcast, the wind was at force 7 and from variable directions. I spoke to the Italian gentleman, Tony, from Ghengus who said that there were three weather systems moving from here towards Greece. I did hope to be able to follow behind them but I was not sure which is the worse evil: a night like the last one or 7 on the Beaufort Scale in the open sea. Tony promised to come tonight to Thetis before the AM broadcast at 10:30 and interpret it for me.

In the early evening I called Alice and told her that most likely I will be leaving tomorrow and if not I will call her again. I tried Nikos but he was out and so I recorded a message. I spoke to my mother Pitsa who, of course, did not know where Nikos was. I was too tired and depressed to go ashore for dinner. I cooked and ate onboard. Tony, true to his word, came around 9:30. and we started having some ouzo. He looked around and saw some Greek cookies - Παπαδόπουλος brand and his eyes lit up. He considers them very special, especially with ouzo! He is 61 years old and a retired naval architect. A few years ago his only daughter was killed in a car accident and he fell apart. He devoted all his energy into building Ghengus which is over 50 ft and looks like a submarine, really ugly. He then retired and spends most of his time onboard. His wife joins him from time to time (only for two week periods) and together they have sailed all over the Mediterranean. As he cannot handle the boat by himself he hires someone to help him. Presently he had a German youth whom he hired in the Balearics a couple of weeks ago. They were on their way to Trieste for the winter. He will be going through the Messina straight.

We listened together to the weather forecast. The wind was basically force 7 all around Sardinia and will be dropping off to 6 later tomorrow. The wind direction was variable and unpredictable. West of Sardinia it was blowing from the NW , and east of Sardinia towards Sicily it is blowing from the NE changing from the SW. In the Ionian it was SE force 7.