Storm On The Cinto
Riding Mediterranean Pow via Sailboat
This story, written as a duet between Thomas and Jérôme, is to be read with a Corsican accent. If you’re unfamiliar, imagine a mix of French and Italian. We also recommend putting on an epic movie soundtrack. —Captain Jérôme
This trip begins in February, by the Mediteranean Sea, Bandol. Rain is pouring on this resort emptied in the winter. We pull our ton of stuff across the harbor’s docks: surf gear, snowboard gear, camping gear, food for two weeks. Liloo Des Mers, our 32-foot rented sailboat is quickly filled up to the roof. More rain. We look at each other wondering what the fuck we are doing here. Victor is all smiles. There is a vibe of a heavy mission—we’re gonna get worked—in the air and he seems to love it. Young Seb seems lost. He is far from his slopestyle contests. He just missed the qualification for the Olympics, so we kidnapped him from the FIS points lifestyle. Meanwhile, Captain Tanon prepares the boat for the crossing. He is stressing out, claiming we have to sail before noon or danger awaits.
We have to leave before noon! Tomorrow at 4 pm a storm is coming our way from the east, and if we get caught we will never reach the island! 35 to 45 knots in the nose, five to six meter swells. With this grandpa boat and a crew of novice sailors, it would be a nightmare. We have to land in Calvi before that happens. We will push the engine all night if we have to. No stress, boys. It will be fine. Crossing to Corsica Island in the winter as an introduction to sailing is uncommon. I hope they don’t get too scared. 2 pm, the mooring is left. Only two hours late. The sky is dark. Wrapped in our quarter jackets, eyes on the watch, stressed by the forecast, it is under a gloomy sky that we pass the island of Porquerolles, disapearing like a ghost in our track as the night sets in. That’s it, folks. Only water for 360 degrees. Speed: 6 knots. Bearing: 96 degrees. Nautical miles to go: 120.
It is all dark. Victor is with me on deck, while the others are taking a turn of sleep, or at least trying to. Waves are getting bigger. They are breaking now. The anemometer says 30 knots in the guts. Our batellu is shaken in all directions. “Thank god it’s all dark around us,” says Victor, or else we would shit our pants for real. The tiller is hard; I give my all to maintain the bearing, fighting the waves coming in our back. Liloo is surfing! Focused on the red light compass in front of me, its faint light is encrusted in my retina. All lamps are switched off to prevent dazzling. It feels like driving a truck on the highway with the lights off. We hang on despite tiredness. We are in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. We are living something crazy. Victor keeps watch for potential cargos or fishing vessels, but there is no-one. Crazy.
4 am. The wind quiets down and Liloo gets even more rocked by the swells. My sailors held well; I am proud of them. What a baptism! I get myself busy at the mast to hoist the mainsail, which keeps getting stuck. Pushed around, head looking up the mast like a cuglione, I get seasick. With the sail finally up, I rush to the side to puke a big one. I feel better. I immediately inherit the nickname Captain Puke. Fair game. Seb also threw up earlier. There is no more wind now. What the hell is this weather? Suddenly the gas tank alarm goes off. “What the fuck? Are we really out of gas, here in the middle of the crossing?” The renter assured me with his thick southern accent, “Don’t you worry, folks. You have enough gas for a round trip!” What a bufalu! Now is no time for panic, though. Let’s save the last bit of gas for the docking in the harbor. The forecast gave 15 knots of north in the morning, which should enable us sail to the island before the real gale kicks in.
The landing in Calvi is something magical. Sails are up and tight in the sun. While we play the game of standing up without holding onto something on the front deck with Victor, grey shapes come approaching the boat. Dolphins! They come to say hi. We are like kids. When they left, the fort holding the entrance the harbor appeared in the mist, with high mountains in the background. The old coastal city feels like we just went back in time a couple centuries. Jérôme aka Captain Puke is handling the boat nicely towards a dock. Seb is on port, Vic on starboard, and I am at the bow. Once she is moored in safely, we jump on-dock for a group hug. What a relief! We made it. But there is no time to lose, as last night’s swell brought surf potential. We run to the beach with our surfboards before it gets dark. Small waves, but what a feeling—surfing in Corsica. What else? A big smile sets on our faces. Monte Cinto, at 2706 meters, stands proud up there, like a protecting father. Tomorrow the only train toward the mountain range leaves at 6 am, better not miss it. The pumataj are coming to you, mighty peaks of Corsica!
Victor Daviet warms up his sea legs on Corsica’s coastline.
They call themselves the Laguna Gang.