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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Riviera de Flori (& comments on the weather)
28/08/2009, Off the coast


This part of Liguria is famous for its flowers, exported all over the world. You can see here the hothouses and polytunnels that create the industry, and the scars on the hillsides. Something to think about, along with the air miles, next time you buy Italian flowers.
We finally escaped on Thursday. The first couple of hours were a chug into the continuing north easterly which finally veered a little. We got - ooh - about 40 minutes sailing before the breeze died completely and we put the engine back on.
Weather forecasting is extremely complicated in the Ligurian Sea. A depression frequently hovers around the north of Corsica, heavily influenced by highs north east of the Alps, gradients in north Africa, and of course the mistral blowing from the Rhone. The mistral in turn is influenced by pressure patterns in northern Europe and the Bay of Biscay. The exact position of the depression is very important to local spot forecasting, for example whether it is far enough north to create a north easterly or has drifted enough to see a southerly at one's particular point on the coast.
Of course the weather here, as much of the Med, is also closely influenced by topographical features, with winds whistling through Alpine passes, or curving round headlands. Our stay in San Remo has been a useful reminder of the uncertainty of much local forecasting, and the importance of both patience and preparedness.

Life on Roaring Girl
Kettles
26/08/2009, San Remo


Over three years ago, just before our civil partnership, Sarah's brother Jonathan complained our kettle didn't whistle. Whistling was necessary, he said.
It's taken a while. Our old Alessi kettle was bought at least nine years ago, and has done us pretty well. But it's big, heavy, dented, and a pain, as the pull-back on the spout picks up the heat.
So, at long last, we have acquired a new kettle. It's a shameless piece of consumerism, and cost a ridiculous amount, but it's solid and attractive. And it whistles.

Life on Roaring Girl
The other side
23/08/2009, Porto Communale, San Remo

If you turn left, you're in our world. Here there are various finger pontoons and quays, and a lot more ordinary boats. On your immediate left, sticking out from the main breakwater are two smaller fingers. The first is only a breakwater, but also protects quite a few fishing boats. The next one is a bigger L-shaped pontoon, home to several small yachts. Beyond that is the quay, and you can see the arrow pointing to the line of boats moored bow or stern-to. (Yes it is RG on the end.)
The pontoon berths belong to the Yacht Club and are private; there seems to be no arrangement for visiting yachts to use them at all. Perhaps some serious chatting up of the YC would work, but that would require (at the least) better Italian than we are ever likely to manage.
According to Heikell, and to various other boaties we had met, this quay is free for up to three days. And, mirable dictu, this turns out to be true. Even with electricity and water. And in practice, especially with the wind so unhelpful, no-one seems to pay attention to obvious birds of passage who are wind-bound for a few days more.
What are the downsides? Well, it's not as secure and palatial as a marina. There is an ablutions block we haven't explored yet. For us, though, the biggest one was an unanticipated opportunity to test our stern anchoring arrangements. There are lines off the quay - but none were left when we arrived, although there were quite a few spaces.
For the uninitiated, in a lot of central and eastern Mediterranean ports, you moor by pointing one end of your boat at the quay, dropping an anchor some distance away and then using that anchor to hold you off the hard concrete, and your lines on to the quay to hold you straight, and enable you to get ashore. So far, we have not had to do this, always finding places where a line has been laid from the quay to a mooring out in the harbour; you haul this up on a boathook and attach it to an aft cleat, and it does the same job for you, with a lot less effort. We will always go in bows-to: with solar panel, self-steering, life-raft, dinghy and everything else, getting off our stern is a major challenge. This means we can't use our main bower anchor, which a lot of boats do, but must run one off the stern.
The time had come, rather unprepared, for us to try all this for ourselves. Pip had done it once, on her Greek day-skipper course four years ago. Sarah's never done it. The anchor was on the stern, with 10m of 10mm chain and 30m of (new) 15mm rope for precisely this moment. So, we decided to give it a go.
Well - we ended up tied on, but unable to get far enough back to keep off the quay: Sarah had dropped the anchor far too late and there wasn't enough cable in the water to hold us off. After a lot of faffing about we decided to get the anchor up and try again.
Ho hum! Could we get our 15kg Fortress anchor up? No, we couldn't. Even after we'd reversed out over it and were trying to haul it up while getting blown about in rather a confined space. In the end, we tied a fender to the end of the rope and threw the lot overboard, rather than further risk hitting other vessels. Then we reverse-parked onto the fuel dock (showing we do at least know how to drive the boat!) and collapsed to think a moment.
In all this we'd been given lots of help by the skippers of two French yachts. They'd taken our lines, come up with lots of ideas and generally talked a lot (in French). Jean then, to our amazement, calmly sculled over to our anchor and hoiked it out of the mud. Obviously we need to spend more time in the gym. He brought it over to us at the fuel dock and we stowed it again and thought some more.
Further conversation with Jean, his partner Francine and the next door skipper Andre, suggested another solution. We came in alongside Jean's boat, on the end of the row, and used his tailed line. We then tied his boat (which is 3m smaller and lot lighter than RG) to us, with elasticated lines. He can go whenever he likes, and we are all held safely off the concrete.
Hence the quest for a chandlery: today we have bought a stern roller to fit on the aft deck and take the chain, making the whole process easier to handle. It may not solve all the problems, but it's certainly a necessary step. Another one will be to mark the rope. And to get better at dropping the blasted thing much sooner.
The lovely Jean, Francine, Andre, and Josie then invited us aboard for drinks. They also have two dogs (Mingus and Chloe) who got a bonanza of treats from Pip. The two boats have sailed in company for years, and it was delightful to talk to them. They gave us lots of hints for the Italian coast to come, not least to bargain down the marina price in Genoa, and to go to St Marguerite de Ligure and visit Portofino from there.
In the meantime, the forecast remains persistently irritating. We will recover for another night or two here and then move on towards Genoa. Even no wind would be preferable to fighting this strong east-north-easterly, which slows us down and could blow up a nasty sea without much warning. But if we have to keep coastal and go against it, we will do shorter hops. A gentle exploration of the Italian Riviera isn't too hard.

Life on Roaring Girl
Entering San Remo
23/08/2009, San Remo

This is the entrance to San Remo taken from the southern breakwater looking nor-nor-east across the entrance. Just out of frame to the right is the lighthouse on Capo Berte. As Heikell says, the marina area is easiest to spot by the vertical lines of masts against the hills and colours of the town. The entrance is quite hard to see till you get close. We were extremely glad to see it after a rolly, wind-on-the-nose trek from Villefranche. Slow and annoying, and so much for not going to windward!
The entrance itself gathers quite a roll in an easterly or northeasterly - for those of you who know Dover or Brighton, it's a few nostalgic moments. Inside though, it's very calm.
You can turn right or left once inside the entrance. On your right there is Portosolo: you can just see the entrance, a boat length ahead of the blue-hulled superyacht. On the far side of the entrance to that marina is a small tower. As you approach it, you call on channel 9 and they direct you to a berth. It's all tailed lines, and allegedly very expensive. We saw the rates posted as '65 for a 12m yacht per day! It's very swish and clean, with a significant number of superyachts (power and sail) berthed there. We are not in Portosolo, but we did walk round there for a look this morning (Monday) and found a very helpful chandlers.

Life on Roaring Girl
Crossing the border
Hot but swell and wind against us
23/08/2009, Just north east of Menton


Roaring Girl has been in France for two years. Quite a lot of it ashore while we went to NZ, and when we were working, so it's very exciting to move on. Down came our tattered French courtesy ensign, stowed away till we get to Corsica, and up went our spiffy new Italian replacement.
It's one of the few times we have seen a land border in daylight from the sea. In 2006, Spain appeared from the high seas out of the fog late in the afternoon; we crossed into and out of Portugal overnight, and the second time, from a long way off shore. The next year, we crossed back into Portugal in the dark, and then transited international waters to reach Morocco. The Spanish/Gibraltar border we saw, of course; when we left though, there was quite a haze and we had the peculiar experience of crossing the 8 mile Gibraltar Strait unable to see both Europe and Africa at once.
From Morocco, we entered Melilla at night, and we crossed open sea to get back to Cartegena in Spain. France in turn loomed out of the mist of the Golfe de Lyons.
So you can see that a clear picture of the ravine that marks the current French/Italian border is an unusual event.
We say 'current' because this has been disputed land for centuries. Even Nice has been Italian, which shows in the lifestyle and the architecture. On the other side of the coin, San Remo was independent till a couple of hundred years ago. Italy itself, as a unified country, is even newer, being created in 1861. As Pip points out, that makes the state younger than New Zealand.

Life on Roaring Girl
Paradise? Hah!
22/08/2009, Rade de Villefranche


Which is more than can be said for Friday night. After two comfortable evenings in Antibes we meandered to our old spot, where we spent three weeks last year.
Well! We had forgotten the swell, which rolled in with a vengeance. That combined with the heat made for a very uncomfortable night. It is extremely hot here: at 0300, it was 28C in the main cabin. Everything creaked and groaned as we rocked and pitched. The worst of being on passage, without the satisfaction of actually going anywhere.
(For anyone who's feeling really picky, this photo was actually taken a couple of days ago at Antibes, but it is a nicer image of our last few days cruisng Southern France than the swell, and we haven't got a recent pic of Villefranche!)
The swell is predicted to persist so we are likely to move on tomorrow. (Finishing this on Saturday evening, it''s not nearly as bad, but we're going anyway!) The forecast for crossing the Gulf of Genoa is not fab: either no wind or 15 knots in the wrong direction for the next 6 days. As ladies try not to sail to windward, we are going round the edge after all, and expect our next stop to be San Remo. Italy at last.

Life on Roaring Girl
In the view
20/08/2009, Antibes


And in the midst of that glorious view, there was our girl!

Life on Roaring Girl
Cool hotels
19/08/2009, Cap d'Antibes


The UK lesbian glossy Diva remains an enjoyable treat sometimes, though we don't find it really reflects our lives. To our amusement, August's issue featured a picture of the tres posh Hotel du Cap. We're not sure the lesbian credentials stand up to much (F Scott Fitzgerald, Deitrich in straight mode, and Angeline Jolie aren't that convincing) - but the picture was fab.
And lo! We were sailing past it that afternoon. So here's Sarah, holding Diva, with the hotel in the background. We may not stay in such places but we took the pic from our own decks!
We meandered round the corner and dropped the hook in another old favourite, the Anse de la Salis. It's always a pretty spot, quite comfortable (though there's a little swell in this slight north easterly), the holding's good, and it's easy to visit Antibes. And the water is lovely - very silky.
We jumped in for a swim, to be accosted by a young seagull. She got between us and the bathing ladder, and meeped at us in a pathetic fashion. We were a bit pathetic too: she had a very sharp beak. She paddled around the boat after us, thoroughly investigating the through-hulls and diving to look at the loop in the anchor chain. Mum came overhead, flying very low over Sarah, so she swam away in terror. We've never seen gull behaviour like it before: the chick was either an Einstein of her species or incredibly stupid. We'll never know!


Life on Roaring Girl
Company
18/08/2009, Port Man


David was anchored there on his boat, Flying Rival; we'd not seen him since leaving Port Napoleon over a year ago, so it was cool to meet up. He came over to Roaring Girl and we had a convivial evening discussing boat mods, families and friends in common.
This is him waving us off the next day.

Life on Roaring Girl
On our way!
18/08/2009, Toulon

Because of all that, we actually left on Tuesday morning.
Over the winter, we've had some changes made to the anchor locker, so we didn't want the first use to be in the dark. So we chugged out on Tuesday. Sarah's showing off an international wardrobe: the hat is French (courtesy of Fiona and Melanie last year), the yachtie shirt is from Hong Kong, the shorts from NZ (courtesy of Pip's Mum) and the sandals are from Grenada in Spain. And the henna is Moroccan. A record of our wanderings.
We put the sails up, and sorted out the reefing lines. Unfortunately, there was damn all breeze and the only time the engine went off was for 15 minutes in the Petit Passe at the western end of the Ile Porquerolle. We went chugging on, though, to our old fave of Port Man.

Life on Roaring Girl
Recovering from up the mast!
Baking hot
17/08/2009, Toulon


The bruises are a result of spending several hours at the top of the mizzen mast rethreading the topping lift. This was completely self-inflicted: Sarah tried to replace it with a thicker line, and lost the mousing line in the process. (For you non-yachties, that's the thin piece of string that you use as a guide to get a bigger piece of rope down inside the mast.)
So she discovered that the arrangement at the top of the mizzen involves a very small gap and lots of effort to deal with it. And although the Petzl harness is actually very comfortable, it doesn't half leave some marks. They don't actually hurt the way they look, honest!
Doing the job made Sarah remember Rob and Kat. He's Australian and she's from the US, and they over-wintered the same year at Port Napoleon. Kat's a fiendish Scrabble player, and Rob incredibly competent in all sorts of ways. When all our mast top mousing proved to have been shredded by the mistral, he climbed both our masts, with no safety line, to thread something through so we could deal with the job.
Sadly Rob is pretty unwell right now, and they are back in Oz. It's been a hard year for serious illness amongst our friends and family, making gall-bladders and bruises pretty minor. We send all those we know who are fighting life-threatening problems, and those people caring for them, lots of love and positive vibes for their ability to fight and recover.


Life on Roaring Girl
Afloat at last
Extremely HOT!!
16/08/2009, Toulon Darse Veille

From Toulon station we took a cab to the ferry which runs across to Les Sablettes. It's a short walk from the navette to the boat yard, though long enough for two hot, tired women to do some bickering. But then we were home!
There was Roaring Girl on her cradle, waiting for us. Antoine (our very helpful agent here) had left one propped up for us, which was just as well as the Capitainerie shuts at 1800 and the ladders are locked away. That evening we cleared enough space to sleep, hoiked the sails into the cockpit, ate a bad meal in the port-based restaurant, and slept extremely well.
On the Wednesday we both worked hard, especially Pip. By the end of the day, Roaring Girl's hull was sanded, repainted, the anode was changed, and we were all ready to splash on Thursday morning. Some of the rigging was back on, the mizzen all sorted and some tidying done as well. That night we had an excellent meal at a small restaurant at the plage Pin Roland, the other side of the isthmus. Lots of very good food, and (we have to admit) excellent-looking waiting staff as well.
In general Pin Roland is a useful spot. It is in the pilot book, though Heikell is a bit dismissive. But if you need somewhere to haul out along this coast, you could do much worse. The prices are currently roughly comparable to Port Napoleon, and it's much easier to get to. You would still have to cycle to Les Sablettes for a supermarche, but there's a much wider choice of restaurants and bars. The yard is friendly, with lots of people about, many liveaboards, and no problems about working on your boat. They don't like people living aboard for too long on the hard but a week seems to be no problem.
There is little space for boats afloat, however, which is a shame. Within three hours, we motored over to Toulon, who welcomed us back in a friendly fashion. This (and indeed all the entries since the bathroom) are written on the Sunday, after three days hard work in the heat.
Most of the work is now done, though Sarah still has to climb both masts again, and Pip is working on improving the padding on the davits. But nearly everything is in place, the sails are all on, and RG is looking very swish in her new stak-a-pak. Some of you will remember that we bought a new mainsail last year, which we are very pleased with, but the stak-a-pak didn't fit. Lee sails sent us a new one, but it didn't catch up with us till too late, so this was the first time of putting it on. So smart.
Tomorrow we have a list of errands, not least a stock up on fresh food in Toulon's excellent market. Then it's off at last. The first day we intend a short shake-down to Ile Porquerolle, where we hope to meet up with our friend David from Port Napoleon. And then we're heading east.




Life on Roaring Girl

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