[Clan Sinclair]
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7 Roses
   & Zolo
Elba to
Tim about
   Zolo in

Elba to Marseilles and Languedoc

Publish 2/26/2000
Having left Elba, Project Zeno made a brief 48 hour stop at Bastia, near Corsica. The stop was required because it was on this nearby island that 7 Roses saw her dream of great oceans reborn. Several years ago, in fact, 7 Roses was almost a wreck as it approached the little port of Campoloro (30 kilometers to the south of Bastia). After undergoing exhausting slices into her sheet metal and soldering, 7 Roses finally regained the pride of her commander. But that is not ancient history, whereas the period of time more relevant to our Project Zeno is the birth of this Corsican city, founded in 1380 on a bastion whose name it inherited. Like a large part of Corsica, Bastia remained under Genoese domain for centuries. In the intricate maze of alleys and narrow streets that converge at the old port, the imprint of Genoa is still very much present today. At the foot of the port's property, chasms that connect to the sea can still be found. It is said that they were used as a rapid escape route, sometimes to discretely avoid inopportune guests or intrusive friends. Because of its geographic location, Corsica maintained strategic importance in Mediterranean maritime history. Between the 12th and 14th centuries, the Tuscans and Genoese occupied most of the island. The passage of Venetian ships was rare since they maintained a more eastern route toward the French coast.

Capo Corso and the lighthouse of Giraglia disappear into the night and aboard 7 Roses we find once again the rhythm of sailing, regulated by turns on watch. The trysail and jib are toward the shore, pulled taut by a siroccan wind. This crossing is one of the fastest for 7 Roses, under the starry sky we race across the waves at almost 6 knots for the whole night. Dawn presents itself with soft colors and a change in wind direction: unlike the pleasant crossing we now find ourselves sailing close-hauled, a task more suited to Luna Rossa than 7 Roses. During the day the wind continues to blow toward the west and in order to stay on course we must tack. A visit from a lively group of dolphins cheers things up on board. As always it is Stella and Sultan who spot them first. They can often hear the dolphins even in the cabin and make us aware of their presence by dashing up to the prow to see the show.

Within 2 hours, another delightful guest from the depths pays homage to 7 Roses, emerging just meters from the deck. It is a common rorqual whale (Balenopthera Phisalus), easily recognized by the position of the concave dorsal fin, located near the posterior of the body. It is immense and marvelous; even though they are not rare cetaceans, I have only had occasion for such sightings a few times in these seas and it is very moving. Contact with marine life is always a source of enormous pleasure, without which sailing itself would lose that harmonious fusion with nature and the constantly renewed feeling of being a part of it.

The joy of this new meeting makes up for the impending bad weather which is, in a way, also part of the harmony of the elements. The last 50 miles that separate us from Marseilles pass slowly; the wind picks up, the waves are getting taller and steeper, slowing our speed to just over three knots. In present times we complain about making such slow progress, but how did sailors of the past manage to go against the wind? Certainly with square sails it wasn't possible to sail close-hauled and the ships were forced to stop or even retreat for days on end, awaiting favorable winds.

A great change was brought about by ships with lateen sails whose shape permitted sailing against the wind with greater ease. Another great help to sailing, brought from the north by the mediterranean people, was the single (axial) rudder installed on the transom. This type of control, besides allowing greater agility in maneuvering, also had the drawback of limiting the leeward drift. Surely the exchange of technology and the evolution of seafaring was not unidirectional from the south to the north, but a great deal of the navigation instruments, cartography, portolanos and other more refined techniques of naval construction were for centuries the privileged material of the mediterranean population.

Mile by mile 7 Roses reached Marseilles and is now exploring the coast of Provence and the Languedoc, cradle of maritime and river commerce. Venetians, Genoese, Pisans and Catalans divided the areas of these interesting coasts, of which we will have more detailed information at the next stop.

Last changed: 00/06/10 07:50:17 [Clan Sinclair]