30,000 Spoons Under the Sea

We had a stowaway aboard Barberry for the trip from Nice to Corsica. A Jersey Tiger Moth hitched a ride with us. Many thanks to my Facebook friends for identifying it for us

Kerry left you in Nice, describing a lovely visit to her cousin Monique. We departed Nice on Tuesday 18th July. First we topped up with fuel — probably one of the hottest experiences ever, in the baking midday sun. We’d timed it to leave at midday as it was about 18 hours to our planned destination of Calvi in north west of Corsica. This would mean a sail through the night and arrival in daylight the next morning. We have learned never to arrive anywhere in the dark if it can be avoided, especially an anchorage, filled with other boats — you can probably imagine why!

Perfect sailing conditions, and blue skies. Heaven.

The wind was very good to us and allowed us to sail at least some of the way, motor-sailing the rest, to ensure that we maintained about 5 knots all the way. We put together a watch schedule with Kerry and Fraser doing about 4 hours each overnight. We did not think it fair to give Patrick a full night watch as he was not familiar with the boat and navigation equipment, but he did take over a few times to give us both a break. 

“I’m the captain now.” Patrick in sole charge of Barberry.

We didn’t see any dolphins, but at one point Fraser saw a huge splash close by, but no ideal what it was. Kerry and Patrick also saw something grey/brown in colour, just below the surface, which they assumed was a shark.

It’s wonderful what you can cook up at sea. And everything tastes so much better when sailing — maybe living on the tilt constantly is an aid to digestion?

We were excited by the prospect of Kerry cooking us a hot dinner while underway, admittedly only out of tins. Unfortunately, our paraffin stove decided not play ball. As she lit it, it burst into towering orange flames. She switched it off and luckily it went out. Not being disheartened by this extreme fire risk, she tried again. Yip, more huge orange flames, this time taking a little longer to go out. Fraser went a little panicky, shouting, “Switch it off, switch it off!” Somewhat shaken she handed the job over to Fraser, who managed to light the other burner with more success. We have not dared try the faulty burner since!

There’s something truly magical about sailing at night. The stars seem extra bright, and the boat leaves a trail of phosphorescence behind her in the sea.

The night sail was amazing, with a huge sky of stars — zero light pollution. We saw the Milky Way, shooting stars and possibly a space station zooming by. There was other shipping around, but we had both AIS and radar so could keep a good eye on everything. The closest ship probably came within half a mile of us, which is close enough!

Fraser lowers the French courtesy flag as we approach the coast of Corsica and raises the Corsican courtesy flag. Corsica is technically a part of France, but the people here are fiercely independent. Coming from Northern Ireland, we can perhaps understand their feelings and are happy to pay respect to them

Just after daybreak we arrived in a beautiful sheltered anchorage, just outside of Calvi town. The morning was still cool enough to have breakfast in the cockpit, which was such a pleasure. Kerry had the great idea of doing the washing up in seawater, to save on our limited fresh water supplies.

Perfect anchorage when we arrived in Corsica. Crystal clear water, just the right temperature to cool off with a swim after a long night sail.

Fraser filled the ship’s bucket (which has multiple uses, as you may remember from previous blogs), and threw in all the breakfast dishes. Kerry swirled it around, removed the bowls and cups, then threw the dirty water and our 3 lovely stainless steel spoons overboard. She saw them go, but it was too late. We did discuss with Patrick the possibility of diving to 7m, but even he did not feel it was possible. Anyway, it was an easy mistake for Kerry to make. There’s probably about 30,000 spoons under the sea from others making similar mistakes.

Somewhere under this turquoise water are three shiny, stainless steel dessert spoons.

Next we went for a swim, trying to ignore the 3 spoons shining up at us from the seabed. We usually do this to check the anchor is bedded in well, but it was also a very inviting bay with crystal clear water. This was the big test to see if Fraser’s modifications to the boarding ladder meant that Kerry could actually get back onto the boat. We all swam for the shore to explore the rocks and caves. We saw lots of fish, but then a few little red jellyfish too. Surely the little ones don’t sting?

An example of Pelagia noctiluca, a small reddish-brown jellyfish that packs a punch for its size. Photo taken from Wikipedia.

The next minute Kerry cried out, “I’ve been stung!’

Such tempting water. It was worth the jellyfish sting (Kerry says) just to snorkel with so many brightly coloured fish.

Fraser swam back to the boat, by now quite a long way away, to locate the vinegar (thanks to Brian for getting stung recently and discovering this cure in Majorca!). Patrick stayed with Kerry to make sure she made it back to the boat. She was stung on the leg, so we were not to sure how well she could swim. Then of course she had to negotiate the swim ladder, which she had yet to conquer. She made it! Vinegar was liberally applied and it miraculously worked. We did read later that the sting from these Corsican jellyfish could cause pain for up to two weeks. Those of us who hadn’t been stung were a little put off swimming, but no doubt the heat would force us in again soon!

Anchor watch screen print. The outer squiggles represent the boat’s movement after Fraser got up at around midnight and let out another 10m of chain for better holding

That night was really windy and Fraser lay in bed worrying about the anchor as the others slept like babies. We were very close to other boats, so could not let out much chain, which mean more chance of the anchor breaking free. At around midnight, Fraser had had enough and, realising the boat behind them had gone, went on deck and let out some more chain. We found out in the morning that his night vision had let him down and the boat behind was actually still there, but had swung around in the night — oops. We were now very close to it, but at least had not hit it.

Conditions were challenging, but that was okay; what made us decide to turn around was the fact that we were moving so slowly against the wind that it would have been the early hours of the morning before we reached our next anchorage.

On Thursday, we set off around the west coast of Corsica, aiming for the capital of Ajaccio. There were strong head winds forecast, but we were keen to plug on. This proved a rash decision and the wind and waves were against us. Of course Patrick was having a great time when spray came into the cockpit, soaking us all, as we smashed through the waves. We kept this up for a couple of hours, but realised we were not getting anywhere and poor old Barberry was only managing 2-3 knots (less than walking pace). Realising that we would not get to our destination until well after dark, we turned around and sped back to Calvi, now with a lovely following wind and sea, hitting a steady 7 knots. It was a failed attempt, but we had learned a lesson well.

We stayed on this mooring in Calvi Bay for three nights until the wind eased enough to allow us to head south again.

We headed towards the town itself and checked if there was space in the marina. There wasn’t, so we then called the mooring service and they met us by RIB and helped us tie up to a mooring just outside of the harbour. It turned out to be a good choice as there was lots of wind in the mooring field to keep us cool. Did I mention that Calvi has a reputation for strong winds? We were starting to find this out!

In the dinghy park after we’d eaten an incredible lunch. The dinghy is our family car, and our only means of getting ashore if we’re at anchor or on a mooring ball. Note the two bright yellow dry bags to carry our valuables and then, later, our shopping.

We launched the dinghy and headed for the harbour and lunch — a really nice lunch. There are far too many good restaurants in Calvi, all outdoors along the water front — way too tempting! It was a nervous trip back on the dinghy, as the outboard dates back to the 1990s and hasn’t been used much recently. Fortunately it kept going, as for it to falter in such wind would mean being swept out to sea, and we had not thought to bring a VHF radio to call for help. There was no way we could have rowed in that wind.

Calvi Citadel as night descends. Not many holiday makers are lucky enough to see it from this point of view, and we recognise how privileged we are.

The forecast for the next few days was for more strong winds, so we sensibly decided to sit tight in Calvi and make the most of it. On Friday we explored the town and walked/climbed up to Calvi Citadel. On the way we spotted a banana tree, rich with fruit (or should I say herbs?). This was a first for us.

Bananas, growing in the wild! This was a first for all of us

There were spectacular views over the bay and we enjoyed an ice cream and eventually located the somewhat disappointing ruins of Christopher Columbus’s house. At least we found a few broken walls that we assumed to have once been his house.

The views from the Citadel were spectacular in every direction. Here you can see Barberry in the mooring field, just right of the centre in the furthest row from the camera.

The wind was even stronger in the afternoon and after another seafront lunch (Kerry and Patrick are bad influences), we set off in the dinghy back to Barberry. Again we just made it, but even getting from the dinghy back onto Barberry required some serious athleticism. 

Patrick has excellent balance, but even he struggled in the 30kn+gusts in the bay that day!

Despite the horrific winds, Patrick was keen to try windsurfing, although we were not sure how to get him back to the beach to check out the sail school. It was now beyond dinghy weather, so we booked a taxi — yes, a sea taxi. Very handy. Twenty minutes later, a big rib approached us and skilfully nudged against Barberry so that Fraser and Patrick could jump on. Patrick was more casual about this than Fraser, but they did both make it! The beach was actually quite sheltered from the wind, so Patrick made some valiant attempts at windsurfing. He certainly mastered the falling in part, with one particularly impressive head dive, but maybe he needs a couple more lessons before mastering the staying upright bit!

The water taxi was a lifesaver with the huge winds that tore through the bay.

On Saturday we provisioned, again taking the water taxi to the town (we need a lot more food with Patrick with us for some reason) and prepared for our second attempt to make it around the west coast on Sunday. And yes, we managed to get new spoons, so the emergency plastic spoons can be put away!

Is it an ent? Loving the variety of flora and fauna we’re getting to see on our travels.

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