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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Elusive Elba
15/09/2009, Still on Capraia

Well, we made a start leaving, trying to get ahead of a south westerly. We failed, and the south-westerly had a lot of south-easterly in it. So we had a horrid swell and the wind on the nose. After an hour we had gone two miles and we both felt sick. So we turned round and went back. It's supposed to be fun.
We intended to anchor off the port, but got moved by the coast guard as we were exactly where the imminent ferry wanted to put his anchor to hold him off the quay in the now very blustery wind.
We returned into the Port and this time were allocated a place actually on the town quay. This was all very nice, except for the difficulties presented by a low quay and a high bow. When it then chucked down with rain, the problem got worse as Roaring Girl floated ever higher. We built a pyramid with a handy wood block and our trusty Lakeland folding step which basically worked, but boat movement made every morning's first descent a little hair-raising.
To be fair, the ferry did use our spot for the anchor. It then left again, leaving us a bit disgruntled, wondering why we hadn't just moved a short distance, and returned to our preferred spot. Then the thunderstorms came in, the wind swivelled around a lot and the sea got pretty rough, which made us quite glad to be firmly tied up after all. It wasn't a cheap decision though; until 15 September the price continued to be 60 euros a night; after 15th it dropped to 46 euros. Beware Isola Capraia with any sort of southerly forecast if your next stop is Elba or beyond!
On the Tuesday we hiked up into the hills north of the port. We carried all sorts of waterproofs with us, thereby ensuring a rain free afternoon for the island. From about 100m up we got this splendid view of Elba - which you couldn't see at all the day we tried to get away, proving how poor the visibility had been.

Life on Roaring Girl
Best of sailing
12/09/2009, Off the Tuscan coast

From Florence we got back to Roaring Girl mid-afternoon, to get ready for our next trip, destination Isola Capraia, 42nM south west, and just off the tip of Corsica. The forecast was a NE 3-4, which would put it aft.
In fact, we got an easterly F4 for the first four hours, then no wind to speak of for an hour, then a WNW F4 for three hours. Perfect for us. There is also a one knot south-going current all along this stretch of coast, which helped us out.
We had one of the best sails we've ever enjoyed in splendid weather, averaging over 5 knots. We shot past Livorno with a reefed main and mizzen and several turns in the genoa, at over 6.5knots through the water (ie before the effect of the current). For us, this is very fast sailing!
Roaring Girl was beautifully balanced, and our autohelm, Polly, took a lot of the strain. Even so we hand-steered quite a bit, just for the fun of it. Maybe it was the last hurrah of the Ligurian Sea; we've had poor sailing the whole way round the coast, and our friend Ruth from Mudskipper described the sailing in the area as 'awful'. (Admittedly, she said this while enjoying a good breeze 10 miles from Bora Bora, which isn't really a fair comparison.)
This is the Isola Gorgona, the northernmost of the Tuscan Archipelago. Yachts are not allowed to land, as it's a prison.

Life on Roaring Girl
Dancing – ashore and afloat
06/09/2009, Le Grazie

Saturday night showed both the ups and downs of Le Grazie, which has this pretty, understated waterfront. This week sees their festival, the Sagre del Pulpo - a celebration of octopus. There have been many events, including local art exhibitions and a special Mass. Saturday night's for dancing, and the Italians do love a dance. They flock out, many of them very expert, to cha-cha-cha, foxtrot and waltz to local bands singing all sorts of songs in Italian and English. The funniest dance of the night was a very enthusiastic YMCA, but the big crowds flocked the floor for My Way and a mix of Italian faves.
We motored ashore and enjoyed a dish of octopus and a couple of glasses of wine, in a lovely cool evening. About midnight we confessed ourselves beaten and returned to Roaring Girl.
Here the anchoring dance began: just off our stern two little motorboats (maybe 7m long) had anchored absolutely next to each other, and then tied themselves together. With the (well forecast) wind shift to the north east, they were right under our stern. We scrambled aboard and started our engine, getting ourselves away from them. We then had a complicated and noisy discussion. They argued that our 40m scope was too big (in 11m of water). We pointed out that reducing it to 33m, the minimum 3:1 with which we are comfortable, would not make any difference. We took in that 7m, and indeed we were right.
Oh well, they told us, we'd be perfectly safe with 25m of chain out. No way, we asserted, not in a 13ton boat, with the forecast F4 to F6. In fact, not ever! By now we had our engine running continuously as we manoeuvred to keep clear of them. They let out a little more chain, but would not even start their engines. Despite the fact we had been there for two days, and were well-ensconced when they showed up, these guys were not going anywhere.
In all our years of sailing we have never encountered such un-seamanlike rudeness from another boat in an anchorage.
But is was obviously unsafe to stay where we were, so we hoiked our anchor up (covered in thick mud) and moved out to the mouth of the little bay - only 15m deep but much less protected from the coming breeze. We got our anchor well dug in and sat in the cockpit (it now being about 0100) to unwind. Good thing we did.
A blue yacht had been anchored not far from us (just far enough not to be a serious problem, and certainly clear of our problematic neighbours). For no obvious reason he had upped sticks and come out here. He chose to re-drop his anchor not far away. Heigh ho: we sat and watched him for a long time, looking to see if we had similar swinging action in the increasing gusts, and whether he was going to drag. Pip went to bed. At 0300, Sarah decided this was probably ok and went below, finally turning out her light at 0330.
At 0335, she heard an engine close by and extra wave motion hitting the hull. She shot up on deck, and lo! The blue yacht had dragged and was about 2m away! Aiyai, yai, yai. Fortunately, her crew were all on deck and their engine on, but it was a high adrenaline moment!
He motored around in a small circle and then headed back into the bay, from whence he had come. Sarah, of course, was now wide awake again, and sat up another half hour, watching the large motor yacht to leeward gradually shift backwards. It's a big, crewed vessel, and eventually they woke up and moved themselves back into safety.
What a night! This is written the following morning, in a gusty F5. We're doing various jobs aboard, unwilling to leave the boat until the wind, as forecast, decreases this afternoon. Lunch-stop anchoring techniques are simply not enough in these conditions, though we are forced to note that the two tied-together motor-boats are still where they were, occupying our nice spot.

Life on Roaring Girl
Here's the proof!
02/09/2009, Elba

Liz had declined various colder, British offers of swimming, but had promised she would brave the Med. And here's the evidence: she swam nearly every day she stayed, as well as a little sail on Bridget, lots of helming on Roaring Girl, and kayaking.

Life on Roaring Girl
Passing Portofino
31/08/2009, Sailing south again

We left Genoa on the Monday, the strong northerlies having finally blown themselves out. We coasted south for several hours with the cruising chute and mizzen in beautiful weather. On the way we passed the fabled Cinque Terri, a truly lovely area. We decided not to stop at Portofino, (or the nearby and cheaper Santa Margherita Ligure) because we wanted to get south ahead of some more forecast nasty wind. This picture is the entrance to San Fruttuoso, the only anchorage on the headland sheltering Portofino.
Our original plan was to travel overnight to the Golfo dei Poeti, the bay leading to La Spezia, but the forecast softened a bit, so rather than arrive in the dark we decided to find an anchorage and push on in the morning.

Life on Roaring Girl
A special welcome
28/08/2009, Genoa

Genoa Port is enormous. The entire frontage is protected by a breakwater some 4.5 nautical miles (nM) long. Some 2.5 to 3 nM are the container port. There is a marina in there, and it's probably cheaper but it's very industrial. Along the front of the breakwater is an airport especially for water planes.
The other end is where leisure craft and ferries operate. It's not that easy to see on arrival, and the pilotage waypoints are useful to keep you on track. There is a peculiar curved structure, like a large white caterpillar, which is highly visible. It is actually the complex underneath the Bigo tourist attraction; the entrance is about 0.5 nM east.
Once you've found it, it's a wide channel. Leisure craft keep well to the sides: we encountered no ferries but they would surely need most of the space. You pass two marinas on your right, then the route curves right. There is large basin full of ferries (not shown on the two non-overlapping chartlets in Heikell), and a narrow gap, leaving the distinctive Port Authority building to starboard. This opens into a fair size basin. Keep right and you will see a bunch of superyachts, beyond which the distinctive Bigo and the Biosphere appear. If you want the Porto Antico, it is the further on of the two long moles of yachts. Porto Antico has a number of concrete moles sticking out at right angles to the main one.
We had rung ahead and been told to go to space L7. Hah! L7 was well occupied, and in any case did not look big enough for us. A frantic radio call later, we were redirected to E34. 'E34?' we queried. That put us deep into the harbour into really small boat territory. Yikes. We turned round, saying that we were coming to E34 immediately, hoping fervently someone would be there.
Indeed he was, waiting to take our lines. On I34 - a perfectly accessible and manageable spot. What a relief.
Here you get two lines to hold you off, power and water. It's all very smart with good ablutions (though no recycling). It's the first place for which we've paid since Toulon. '50 per night for us, and we forgot to bargain. Ah well - it's cheaper than a hotel would ever be.
And the best thing of all was that our neighbour was celebrating her birthday with a pontoon party. Elizabeta had a great meal and kindly asked us to join them. Her daughter, Serena, spoke good English and told us about her training in circus skills. Elizabeta's partner, Eugenio, owned the motor boat across from us, and is just doing it up. He gave us a loving tour. He and several friends, many of whom are engineers, also became very interested in our stern roller problem and have suggested several clever remedies.
We were interested to discover that at least two Italian boats there flew a red ensign. It is a popular thing to do here, apparently, because there is much less regulation of UK flagged yachts than most other countries. We knew this; for instance, a UK boat need not carry a liferaft, a radio or have annual surveys. Such requirements are placed by many other countries. But in most places, a boat must be registered in the country of nationality of its owner. Obviously Italy is not too bothered about such a rule. So, we won't assume that all those red ensigns belong to British cruisers. (It also says something about English assumptions about how the UK is more regulated than other European countries; in the world of small, non-commercial pleasure craft, that is simply not true.)
So far Italy has been very kind to us, with friendly cruisers and a free place in San Remo, and now a great welcome party in Genoa.

Life on Roaring Girl
Another rolly night
28/08/2009, Finale Ligure

The night forecast was for more northerlies and northeasterlies, with southerlies on Friday. Heading straight to Genoa would see us arrive in the dark (major city, bright lights, complicated port, lots of shipping, Italian), after probably motoring against a head wind much of the way. We decided to stop.
Finale Liguria is a small, tourist-oriented resort tucked under Capo Noli, about eight miles south of Savona. We couldn't get into the marina as it was full so we anchored off the beach in 8.5m of water on sand. The breeze did get up a little, but we didn't feel it as the spot is well protected from the north and west. It is completely open to the south and east, and the easterly swell kept us rolling all night. There was no noise ashore though, despite the evident tourism; not a clubby place.
At 0900 the lifeguard kayaked out and told us we had to move on; the swimming day was about to begin. We sorted ourselves out, hoiked the anchor up and left.
This is written under sail en route to Genoa. It's very hot but we have at most 8kts of breeze and are meandering along at about 2.5kts. If we had more energy we might put the cruising chute up, but we have hope that the forecast WSW F3 will appear to shove us along. So far it's a southerly F2. It is lovely to be actually sailing though, and we're not in any hurry after all.
PS - added the next day in Genoa - we did in the end put the chute up and got another .5 to 1kt of speed for it - evidence, as if it were needed - of the Pardey dictum that being able to keep your boat moving in light airs is as important to a cruiser as the kit to survive heavy weather.

Life on Roaring Girl
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
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

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