Four days on a sailboat around Capo Corso, Corsica, chasing the winds and some beautiful fish, in a more splendid natural setting than ever. And with an almost summer-like weather...
by Alberto Martignani
Our annual summer sailboat cruise, now an almost twenty-year tradition, didn't take place this year due to the impossibility of reconciling the professional and family needs of a sufficient number of participants. However, in September, after the summer holidays and fulfilling our respective family obligations, a quick and conspiratorial exchange of messages on our WhatsApp chat laid the groundwork for an almost "carbonara" initiative! We would partially recover it in mid-October, escaping from our commitments for at least a few days.
Once the period was agreed upon, there was only one problem to solve: adding a fourth participant to the core group composed of me, Paolo, and Fabrizio, to have a numerically adequate crew for Mina, the sleek Bavaria 47 that we've been renting for a few years. Paolo found the solution, recruiting a friend from Milan, also named Paolo, who is a skilled sailor and passionate swimmer.
And so, on the agreed-upon day, we converge from Bologna, Florence, and Milan to the Elban capital of Portoferraio. The meeting point is always the same, the Buechi Yachting boat rental, where Mina awaits us, ready for departure.
Our almost spontaneous initiative will be rewarded by the weather conditions, which, despite some transient instability, will be characterized by calm seas and clear skies for all four days we will spend in Corsica. The crossing takes about 5 hours of navigation. We depart on Sunday morning, before dawn, to arrive in time to organize mooring and fishing.
The morning is cool and humid; although we see worrying clouds and rain showers in the distance, the sky above us remains mostly clear, and we complete the journey without any issues.
Arriving in the late morning at the peak of "Dito," we make a couple of trips around Giraglia in search of an anchorage. For those who don't know, Giraglia and the other two islands in this part of Corsica, Finocchiarola and Centuri, have been included since 2017 in the newly established Marine Natural Park of Capo Corso and Agriate, where anchoring, swimming, and fishing within 10 meters of the islands are prohibited (although, to avoid any disputes, I recommend keeping at least fifty meters for anchoring and 20-30 meters for fishing).
As a result of a moderate southerly wind that has risen in the meantime and the impossibility, due to the imposed restrictions, of anchoring close to the island, we give up and continue the navigation.
Under the falcon's nest
The next stop is the stretch of high rocky coast that rises after Capo Grosso (where the lighthouse of Capo Corso is located), culminating in the striking white spur of Punta Bianca. Almost in the middle of the route, the small Corno di Becco, easily recognizable by a rock pinnacle known for hosting a nest of the rare and highly protected osprey.
Both these points continue underwater with beautiful landslides that we have often seen teeming with life in the past, especially because the current breaks on the tips, creating nutrient movement and activating the food chain. We anchor nearby, and while the two Paolos engage in swimming and apnea training along the buoy's cable, Fabrizio and I head armed and with ambitious intentions towards the areas we consider most interesting. However, despite some promising sightings (a decent sea bream and some good-sized salemas) in the first dives, the rest of the outing is an absolute desert. Particularly notable is the absence of large bream, in an area that, until a few years ago, had always been rich in sparids. Even the small specimens present show an attitude of extreme wariness, sometimes evident fear, towards the diver. I am convinced that this situation is largely due to the rampant practice of trolling by local fishermen, with the breams being the main victims.
To corroborate this belief, we encounter a black inflatable boat a few days later, going back and forth just a few meters from the coast. We would see the boat again shortly before sunset, returning towards Macinaggio, after presumably spending the whole day terrorizing the coastal residents...
The shortage of dentex, for which October is not a good month, is more predictable. In fact, we encounter almost always small and uninterested specimens, a situation aggravated by the unfavorable full moon phase. The day will be partially saved by a school of saddled breams, on which I manage to optimize the catch: after landing the first one, I let it float on a string. After quickly reloading, I manage to catch a second fish among those lingering and swirling, as usual, around the distressed companion. Fabrizio will also catch a saddled bream after a long and unsuccessful attempt to attract a group of dentex found at a depth of about 20 meters.
The Surprises of Centuri
Having spent the night near the not-so-distant islet of Centuri, the next morning, we continue sailing south. The day is splendid, warm, and sunny, and the sea is almost entirely at our disposal.
We spend the morning tacking along the coast, reserving the inevitable dive for the afternoon. Three of us will go armed, while the "Milanese" Paolo will take advantage of the still relatively comfortable sea temperature (21 degrees) for his daily swim training. We anchor between Pino and Marina di Giottani, reserving the southernmost stretch of the coast for the "Bolognese" Paolo, while Fabrizio and I head north, towards Punta Stininu. We agree that Fabrizio, being more experienced in deep-sea fishing, will station farther offshore, while I will explore the coastline, not going beyond a depth of 15 meters.
Unfortunately, the situation will resemble that of the previous day, with a lack of breams and very few sightings of interesting catches. I attempt a downward shot on a salemas that, aware of my approach, starts sinking slowly, as is typical of the species, without any hasty escape. The shot, fired at the limit of the range, misses the target.
Resigned to my luck, I encounter two saddled breams that shoot up from the depths to chase some smaller fish. As soon as they notice my presence, they rush towards me, forcing me to quickly aim and shoot at the larger of the two. Fabrizio returns with a kilogram-sized dentex and a mullet. Paolo catches nothing.
After spending the night in Centuri, we decide to make the most of the decidedly summer day. Fabrizio and I take the tender and head to the extensive sandbank that stretches offshore from the islet, while the two Paolos take a canoe to visit the village of Centuri, with its colorful fishermen's houses and small restaurants gathered around the marina.
Anchoring the small inflatable boat at the northernmost point of the sandbank, we position ourselves on a depth of 14-16 meters, with Fabrizio being slightly deeper. After some exploratory dives, I finally find an area that seems to have fish. It's an extensive plateau with rocks and slabs scattered on the seagrass, with schools of various fish (soldierfish, bogue, and comber) that bode well for a successful fishing session. I manage to catch a school of bogue.
I also start spotting dentex, not large and seemingly uninterested, but their presence is enough to raise the adrenaline level and excitement of the fishing! A few specimens come within shooting range, and then some larger ones appear, perhaps around 2 kilograms. One comes into my shooting range, and I almost get it, but I hesitate for a moment, and the whole school suddenly takes off, disappearing.
I try again: some smaller dentex appear, but none come close enough. Then, near the seagrass, a dark head charges directly at me. This time, I don't give the prey any chance. I immediately shoot and hit the mullet, a few kilograms in size, in the middle of its body. The beautiful fish stays on the spear, but its double spike provides sufficient guarantees, and I calmly work it from the surface until it gives up the resistance. A great catch, undoubtedly, but upon returning to the tender, I discover that Fabrizio did even better! Diving between 20 and 22 meters, he managed to catch two breams (among the very few shootable ones spotted during the vacation), then a barracuda, and finally, a substantial dentex weighing at least 5 kilograms, hit from a considerable distance with his new powerful pneumatic gun.
Back on the boat, we celebrate with friends and a "cruditè" of freshly caught mullet, accompanied by a fine Sauvignon Blanc from the Tenuta Villa Rovere, brought on board by the "Milanese" Paolo and kept on ice just for an occasion like this.
Encouraged by the morning's success, we also organize another dive, still on the extensive sandbank offshore from the islet of Centuri. However, the magic moment has passed, and this time, the result is decidedly poorer: a one-kilogram dentex for Fabrizio and another mullet, the umpteenth, for me.
Epilogue at Giraglia
The short vacation is coming to an end, and the next morning, early in the morning, we weigh anchor from Centuri to begin the return journey. But we stop at Giraglia for one last fishing session. No problem today, as there is a substantial calm wind, allowing us to anchor at a safe distance from the western side of the island, on a depth of 14 meters.
This time, Paolo and I dive, with me leaving a note about the underwater sandbank located a couple of hundred meters northwest of the island. I head towards the southern tip, always maintaining a safe distance of at least 20-30 meters from the walls, well aware of the surveillance camera at the top of Giraglia. In case of a violation, the fast patrol boat of the park rangers from Macinaggio would arrive immediately.
During one of the first dives, I encounter several small breams mixed with larger ones, irresistibly attracted by a high presence of "pelagia noctiluca" jellyfish, which they find appetizing. Suddenly, an orata swims decisively toward me. I stay still and low to the ground and only shoot when I see the moment of hesitation that usually precedes its reversal and escape. However, I hit it too high, towards the tail, and the beautiful fish breaks free, sustaining a non-vital wound that will undoubtedly heal.
During the next dive, I encounter a considerable amount of marine life. Alongside breams and mullets, I spot some cautious dentex. I enjoy the spectacle in the incredibly clear water when, in the distance, flying slowly over a rock formation, a barracuda appears. It is followed by three or four other specimens, all of a considerable size. While the lead barracuda keeps its distance, the second one closes the gap significantly, allowing me to get a relatively easy shot despite the evasive shape of the animal.
I am now near the southern tip of the island, where I know that the seafloor flattens out, and about twenty meters from the wall, there is only seagrass. I decide to make a couple more dives before calling it a day and heading back to the boat. At a depth of 13-14 meters, I position myself facing the island, where I continue to see schools of breams and mullets. As I look around, I notice something behind me: a mullet, just as big as the one I caught the day before in Centuri, swims curiously. Trying to remain calm and fluid in my movements, I execute a 120-degree rotation, and the mullet not only doesn't flee but even points toward me. As soon as it turns, I pull the trigger, and this time, the fish is on the spear. It's done, I think to myself. Serious mistake as the amberjack, which retained its strength and which I didn't detach promptly from the bottom, takes refuge inside a crevice, as if it were a dentex, causing me some anxiety.
Given the impossibility of recovering it from the surface, I am forced to make an additional dive to reach it inside the crack, stick my hand into its gills, and finally bring it to the surface. I don't even reload. With the fish still firmly in my hand, I swim quickly towards our anchorage.
The return journey to Elba awaits us, under the warm sun of this incredible month of October.