A diving cruise between Corsica and Capraia, from Thursday to Sunday. Four unforgettable days aboard the Frala, lulled by the sea. Eight dives on the wild shoals of northern Corsica and in the cobalt blue waters of Capraia
It was seven o’clock in the evening of Wednesday 11 May when Andrea Di Vaira finally arrived in Chiavari aboard his flaming car. To pass by me and to accompany the poor narrator, he chose to challenge the sprawling traffic of Genoa and the disastrous Ligurian motorways.
I loaded my equipment and we left for the Calata de ‘Medici port of Rosignano Solvay. Four fantastic days of diving cruise on the Frala awaited us.
But, first of all, our travel companions were waiting for us who were faster than us and are already in port and have even booked a table for dinner. They were the guys from the Atlantis Club Underwater. Or rather, they were a small representation of that group.
My buddy’s heavy foot lead us to Rosignano in less than two hours and if any friend belonging to the police read this story, he should know that “I’m kidding …”
Dinner was pleasant, finally relaxing and allowed me to immediately get in tune with the rest of the guys who would be with me on the boat.
It was almost 7 when, from the bunk of my cabin, which began to be illuminated by the rising sun, I heared the engines of the Frala turn on. I was still groggy, I went to bed late and the first night at sea was not very restful. I decided to turn away and try to fall asleep again, lulled by the waves and the noise of the engines in the background.
When I woke up Capraia was in front of us and it was getting closer and closer. Its amber rocks, covered with Mediterranean vegetation, stood out in a cobalt blue sea. But I did not have much time to admire it, I began to hear the metallic noise of the anchor chain that slowly descended to the seabed.
We were moored on the Scoglione, almost in front of the Baia dei Porcili, where an isolated rock, which to tell the truth was not large, detached from the coast rose towards the surface.
Below I found many rocky ridges, separated by large cracks that gently glided over tongues of light sand. The damselfish danced to the rhythm of the low current, forming colored clouds that swing in the blue. Among the cracks some small grouper watched us cautiously and then disappeared in a flash inside some safe den. Here you fish and these beasts are well aware of the danger. It is easier, and even more fun, to look for some moray eels or spider crabs among the rocks that move lazily among the small boulders in search of the ephemeral security that only Posidonia can guarantee them.
The sky was clear but a light and fresh breeze advised us to leave and reach Corsica before the sea began to make our journey annoying. The anchor rose with its sinister noise, the engines restarted and our bow headed west where the famous “finger of Corsica” goes out in the Tyrrhenian Sea, right in front of the Giraglia islet.
In the meantime, it was time for lunch and Sara began to make herself known to the group by presenting her delights at the table. She also joined us Paolo, our commander, for a welcome toast. The other two of the crew, Lisa and Andrea, we have already known them widely. Lisa was everywhere and coordinates everything, Andrea is the one who takes care of all the logistics of the boat dedicated to diving.
An hour later, we were rounding the Cap Corse and we began to descend towards the south. We stop in front of Centuri, a charming village of Roman origin which finds its fulcrum in a colorful marina frequented by local fishermen. Centuri lobster fishing is famous throughout the Mediterranean.
The shoal of Centuri
They call it dry but in reality it is a huge mountain that had not emerged. A beautiful mountain with its base in the abyss, a thousand meters deep, and with the top at -13. It is Centuri’s reef and we are moored on it. It was so vast that underwater it is really hard to understand that you are on a shoal.
We tried to orient ourselves among pinnacles that descended steeply on a plateau covered with posidonia and imposing rock walls covered with colored sponges and the yellow octopus of sea daisies. Here, today the fish latita. A few ravens buzz around us and the damselfish moved nervously in the blue. I did not know if they were about to predict an attack by some predator or if they were afraid of us too, noisy divers.
We brought to the surface some photographic shots of a beautiful moray eel and some colorful nudibranch.
I have not found any trace of the very famous lobsters. Did they take them all?
The first night at anchor
It was late in the afternoon when we rose to the surface, in no particular order. And while, slowly, according to the rhythms dictated by a holiday, we took off our equipment and changde our captain had already restarted the engines to take us south, towards Calvi, in search of a harbor, where to rest and pass the our first night at sea.
The wave motion was totally absent and even the weakest of stomachs can finally relax in the sun on the deck. But the real pleasure was the aperitif that we found ready on the table. A couple of spritzes made the morale of the troops skyrocket as they prepare for dinner and the next steps: limoncello and cot.
With a cup of coffee in my hand, I was gazing from the windows of the dinette at the Corsican coast to my left. The lighthouse, located at the tip of Calvi, was slowly moving away while the Frala is heading towards the open sea, in search of the exact point, where, at a depth of 24 meters, the wreck of an airplane lies.
The B17 of Calvi
Each wreck has its own history and, often, its own drama. Dismissing it quickly, within this story, is not like me.Wait a few days, I will tell you in detail and I will try to honor this flying fortress.
Here I’ll just tell you that my buddy was special. His name is Christian, he is 14 years old and has a sly face, one of those who, despite his age, already knows a lot. Everyone here calls him the Dwarf. He goes into the water with a dry suit and watertight gloves, has a more than perfect trim and demonstrates the tranquility of a veteran.
Here, I am not complaining about my life but if I could go back forty years I would choose to be the Dwarf. Only and simply because I would have discovered diving even earlier than I did.
A small peninsula seemed to detach itself from Corsica by pushing towards the north. Its tip, illuminated by a lantern, stood out on the water on our horizon. We were moored on this shoal, which is full of canyons, peaks, corridors, terraces and vertiginous gradients underwater.
As soon as I put my nose under the water, I realized that I am finally immersed in a wild place in the Mediterranean. The vastness of the environment was populated by fish attentive to detail, accustomed to fishing and therefore wary of everything and everyone. Beauty must be sought, with patience, attention to detail, experience and a little lucky. And above all, in the middle of the current.
The groupers cane out of their burrows curiously, they waited motionless but were ready to flee at the first sign of danger. The damselfish were in fibrillation, they swim in large shoals, moving wildly. Here were the snappers, two, three. They swam powerfully and slip into the cloud of small fish.
A little further on, one of the many canyons. I crossed it, flying over the posidonia. I met a hollow, where everything was placid and peaceful. There was no current here and you can swim at a slow pace. Between small and large boulders, blackbeards and white bream swim. Unaware of what was happening a few meters away. Or maybe they were aware of all this and have simply chosen to live in a calmer sea.
There was still a lot to tell. There was still a lot to admire. We still have to go underwater. We expect another two fantastic days aboard Frala. Four more dives await us. Stay tuned. You’ll find them here next Tuesday.