SAILING THROUGH THE STRAIT OF BONIFACIO WHEN MISTRAL BLOWS

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Particularly feared by ancient vessels, the Strait of Bonifacio is not impossible to cross by a modern sailing boat.

Although mistral is particularly strong and fast in the narrowest point of this canal, that is between Punta Falcone in Sardinia and Punta Sperone in Southern Corsica, a good concentration and a moderate speed are sufficient to sail through the Strait safely.

Another thing is the return journey, thais from the ancient Corsican city to the coastal Sardinian town. Some days, even with the right boat and equipment, in front of a very short steep 2 or 3-metre-long-wave and a 30-knot-wind the first question coming to a sailor’s mind is ” Why would I do that?”. A mistral blowing up to 20–25 knots is a rather frequent condition even in summer so, if we don’t want to lose a charming landing pier under the high walls of the fjord, we must accept to pinch and tack. All things we can do safely with some precautions.

 

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Some days ago, we left the wonderful mooring of Manto della Madonna in Budelli at about 03:00 pm to head for Bonifacio. Before sailing off, we used the first trick we recommend to you today. In addition to a good weather forecast, you can call on channel 10 the semaphore of Capo Pertusato. It’s a very reliable traffic control tower and a weather station overlooking the cliff, 4 km east of Bonifacio.

Their reply was immediate and they informed us that, at that moment, wind was blowing f5 from North-West. So, we sailed off!

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Between Budelli and Spargi, we realized how, in Sardinia, mistral tends to blow along the coastal line and become a westerly. So, we prepared to sail upwind and come onto port tack.

In this phase, it’s important to pay attention to the rocks of Punta Lodi and, in general, the risk to make leeway towards the islands. 

Those days, mistral was blowing even over 30 knots, so we were surprised to find an only one-metre-wave in this first step. However, it was sufficient to force us to bear away and pinch (not more than 50 degrees).

Valeria is a Cyclades 50.5, a very comfortable boat bu with fore sections similar to those of a submarine. Its draught (only 2 metres) didn’t help us and, by reefing and furling the jib by one-third, we sailed at over 6 knots but with a certain leeway.

 

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We tacked when we had the red and black danger signal south of Lavezzi athwart our transom and the lighthouse of Razzoli Island abaft.

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From this moment on, you can choose whether to tack towards Sardinia and then Corsica again or tack more frequenlty close to islands. We opted for the second solution but when after Lavezzi, as it often happens, wind started to blow northwards, we came onto starboard track.

We were finally close enough to start our landing manouevres. The entrance of the fjord is not immediately visible. So, we started to collect all the necessary information from the pilot book and the known points.

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First of all, the lighthouse of Capo Pertusato overlooking the high white cliffs. Then, unless you are too downwind, you can see the houses of the old Bonifacio and, on the left, the old Foreign Legion barracks. The entrance, still not visible, is on the left

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We proceeded until we saw the red light of La Madonnetta. We were rather close to furl the jib and lower the mainsail. We knew the entrance and we kept the red light on the left. If you are a novice in this area, we suggest to keep a distance.

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There aren’t any particular dangers so you can sail until, between the red light anfd the big cave you’ll se starboard, the fjord of Bonifacio opens.

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