It was the weather last 'Summer', (I use the term loosely), coupled with an article by Peter Zurrer about the delights of cruising around Corsica, that finally decided me. I was going to tow Prime RIB, my 5.8 meter Ribcraft somewhere warm!
So it was one Friday afternoon in June last year that I and three of my friends set off on the 900 mile journey over Alp and through tunnel to the North West coast of Italy. The plan? to cross to Corsica!
The tow down and launch were uneventful and by Monday mid-morning we were off in flat calm warm seas heading the 65 miles from Italy to Bastia on Corsica. Since the crossing took us along the Southern coast of Elba, lunch was obtained in the fishing village of Marina Di Campo on this Island were Napoleon plotted his return to power.
Now I could spend the rest of this tale detailing what we ate at each meal because frankly, eating and drinking were probably our favourite pastimes. We certainly did a lot of it and boy was it good but perhaps I had better get more practical.
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Launching at Puntone
Take our launch point for example. During a brief recognisance mission earlier in the year, we had stumbled upon a perfect marina for the venture. It's in the village of Puntone on the Gulf of Falonica, about 40 miles south of Pisa, (42° 53.18'N 10° 47.09'E to be precise!) Perfect because it is a small port accepting boats to a maximum of 12 metres. The depth over the approach bar is only about 1.5 metres so the big boys with the money can't come in. As a result things are cheap. The slipway launch was free and they only charged me £2 per day to park the car and trailer in a safe lock-up. Another local marina full of Gin Palaces wanted 10 times that! There is a pizza restaurant and a good hotel all within walking distance from the dock, so that's where we spent our first night in Italy.
But now we were heading for Bastia on 'French' Corsica. We arrived at about 5pm, (it was a long lunch) and were soon directed to an overnight mooring. The charge about £7 for my 5.8 metres. There are two visitor harbours at Bastia; The 'Vieux Port', (Old Port) and the newer 'Port Toga', a little further out of town. Being a RIB of course we had no problem in squeezing into the smaller 'Vieux Port'. It's the place to be, bustling with people and surrounded by old buildings, and a plethora of quaint restaurants. Well we had to have dinner! And so to bed!
The next day, who turned out the sun? If you like watching thunderstorms, you would have loved Tuesday! Out in the direction of Elba, huge black clouds, thick streaks of lightening. It was just as well that we did not need to cross today! That afternoon though, after lunch, the storms were clear enough to head 65 miles south for our intended destination of Porto-Vecchio near the bottom of Corsica.
We refuelled at the dock, (petrol about 73p per litre) and set off. Well it started out calm but after about 25 miles or so it began to get rougher. Nothing serious by English Channel standards you understand but we did take-off a couple of times. So, since we could get bruised bottoms anytime at home, we opted out of our journey at the port of Solenzara, about 20 miles short of Porto-Vecchio. That turned out to be a great 'on the spot' decision and is what RIB cruising is all about. We found a magnificent hotel, several superb restaurants and a marina with all the facilities you could wish for. We stayed there for three nights, doing a 'day trip' to Porto-Vecchio and skinny dipping in an idyllic crystal clear water bay. Superb!
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Porto Vechio -- Prime RIB is there somewhere!
Perhaps one of the drawbacks to RIB cruising is that it must come to an end and if, as ours did, the end involves a 65 mile open sea crossing, its inevitable that thoughts of the weather are a preoccupation. As we headed back to Bastia on the Friday in flat calm seas, the running joke was that for our Saturday return to Italy, it would suddenly blow up a force 6 on the nose. It didn't, it was only force 5 - but it was on the nose! The two hour journey ended up taking three hours and fifty minutes.
I can say that a force 5 in the Med is very similar to a force 5 in the English Channel, with the notable exception that it is warm. I was only wearing shorts and tee shirt under my lifejacket and I was deluged, but warm! So wet, weary and salty we arrived back at Puntone, home a mere 900 miles away. I mentioned salty, but fortunately there is a very good freshwater washing place on the way home. It's called Lake Como! This was meant to be just a quick stopping off point to flush the engines but thanks to RIB International's Italian Correspondent, Emanuele Pastori, the visit made the holiday.
This is almost a story in itself. The Italian zest for RIBS. The Hundreds of Ribbers on the lake. The organisation of lifting boat after boat into the water. Yes no slipways here, everything was craned in. A real delight. We met up with Emanuele at the Bolis Marina in Vercurago, near Lecco at the bottom right hand leg of Lake Como. He showed us the lake, from 'Mr Fiat's' posh house to a 'special place' restaurant overlooking the lake with it's own dock. A magical experience to end a perfect RIB Cruise, (and tow).
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Lifting Prime RIB at Lake Como
All I have to do now is lose the stone in weight I put on! Many thanks to Peter Zurrer for his inspirational article and for his suggested towing route through Europe avoiding all the expensive French tolls. Much thanks also to Emanuele Pastori without who's help and guidance the Lake Como part of the adventure would not have happened!
Now, where to this year? I hear Tahiti is very nice!