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 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


Sardinia circumnavigation details
Friday, May 15, 2009

We kayaked 828km - 517 miles - around Sardinia in 29 days from 3rd April - 1st May 2009. We have 3 days off due to strong winds and quite a few very short paddling days due to winds. One of the nicest things about paddling here was the clear sea, which is every shade of blue and green imaginable. It’s so clear and you can usually see the sand, rocks or weed on the bottom as you paddle along. Where you have shallow white sand, the sea is an amazing turquoise colour.

Most Sards live inland and the coast is largely undeveloped, except for clusters of identical tourist villas and the occasional gigantic hotel. The tourist season doesn't start gearing up until the start of May so these complexes were often deserted and the restaurants shut, which felt a bit weird. The coastline is really rugged and beautiful – in places pockets of white sand nestle between craggy granite headlands, in others imposing limestone cliffs rise over 500 metres from the sea, towering above us & providing a nest site for circling elanoras falcons. Elsewhere long beaches stretch for several kilometres. In April they were mostly deserted but I’m sure they will be crammed with sun loungers and parasols in a months time.

Most days the weather was warm and we kayaked in shorts and a thermal or rash vest – sometimes with a cag over the top. If it was particularly windy and overcast we'd wear warm trousers to kayak in. To start with the nights were cold and our thin sleeping bags were a bit inadequate but by the start of May we were warm enough. Sardinia had much more rain than usual for April and we must have had over 2 inches fall in a day on the south coast. So much rain that a stream broke it’s banks and flowed under our tent!

I was expecting a lot of onshore winds in the afternoons or late mornings as in theory the land warms up quicker than the sea and the warm air over the land rises. The colder air from the sea rushes in to take its place forming an onshore breeze. In reality, there wasn’t an obvious pattern to the winds and we had quite a few days with very little wind, or F3/4 winds that could be onshore or offshore. We also had lots of days where low pressure systems dominated the winds, blowing strongly from 1 direction all day. The strongest winds (that caused us to have days off) were from the north or west ( or NW) although we had 2 days of Force6/7 NE winds, which we took advantage of and surfed along the top of the island.

The channel between the north coast of Sardinia and the south coast of Corsica is renowned as a wind corridor and we certainly experienced that. Strong ENE winds gave us a push on the first day, then a day and a half of calm was followed by 4 days of really strong westerly winds which slowed us to a crawl and then held us poised at the NW tip of Sardinia waiting for a break. Finally we snuck around the corner at 6.30am on a glassy calm morning and kayaked a 50km cliffy section with few places to land

The swell was surprisingly large at times, considering there isn’t a huge fetch, and we experienced up to a metre and half of clean surf swell on the west coast. When it was stormy the wind waves also got up to a metre and a half. The swell on the east coast was up to about a metre at times, although both coasts were also flat calm on some days. Even when there was a large swell, we could usually find a protected bay to land in.

We used an MSR dragonfly stove and when our white gas ran out we bought unleaded petrol from a garage. In Italy you can buy gas canisters for stoves in a lot of supermarkets but we couldn’t find any other type of fuel so had to use petrol when we ran out ( we knew this in advance). Although most of the coastal development was (often deserted) tourist villas, we did manage to find small supermarkets in a lot of coastal villages/ resorts so we could restock our food. We were able to stop & camp near larger towns when we felt the urge to walk into civilization for a pizza and a beer ( which was increasingly often towards the end of the trip)! There aren't many streams for drinking water and most Italians only drink bottled water but we found the tap water to be fine! We started going to marinas when we needed drinking water and asking one of the boats to fill up our bags for us. Camping outside of campsites is not allowed in Sardinia and paddlers have been fined by the police when they’ve been caught camping so we mostly stopped for the night on deserted beaches away from towns, and finding these wasn’t usually a problem.

Neither Barry or I spoke any Italian before we went to Sardinia. Armed with an English/ Italiano dictionary and a few words of French and Spanish we mostly managed to communicate a bit with locals but I missed the easy conversations that I've had with people I've met on other trips. Italians - or certainly Sardinians - largely don't speak much English & we tried... but certainly weren't fluent!! We have a few favourite encounters with people.... We spent a great day with a local family on the south coast and enjoyed lunch and a traditional Sardinian dinner with them. We also spent a day in a B& B in Lozarai, which admitedly was run by a couple who are originally from the U.K. but it was great to chat to them and the other people staying there. We met up with a local kayak guide, Francesco, that evening which was also fun. When Anne dropped us off at our kayaks the next morning, a local man (who had allowed us to leave the kayaks under his yacht in the marina) thrust a bottle of Sardinian red wine in our hands as we left. Much later on in the trip, on the north coast we asked 3 people walking along the beach how far it was to the nearest pizzeria. The answer was that there might be one open about 2km away! We set off walking down the road, and after about 20 minutes, a car beeped and it was the people from the beach. They'd driven in the wrong direction to pick us up and take us to their local pizzeria! Finally, when we finished our trip, it was on May 1st, which is a public holiday in Italy, and no-one was at the campsite where we had left our van locked up. We phoned them up but there was no answer. After about 2 hours, we asked Mirko, the man who ran the small beachside hut/ shop if he know how to get hold of the owners. He made a few phonecalls, then produced a key for the side door to the campsite and helped us carry the kayaks in to the van. He left his key with us overnight so we could get in and out, before waving us good night and leaving!

Sardinia is a beautiful island with potential for warm water, warm weather, protected paddling, but it can also be very windy with swell and surf..... It would be a great place for a multi-day trip, or some day trips.


Blogger karel said...

Thanks for the info.

7:24 am  

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