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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
The anchorage at Porto Azzuro
24/09/2009, Elba


We had a very pleasant sail down the eastern coast till the wind dropped completely about three miles from the headland north of Porto Azzuro. Entrance is very easy, and, as the chart suggests, you simply keep going into the bay till you reach the top. There are various anchorages scattered around the indented coast, but it was noticeable that most boats had used those as a lunchtime stop, coming into the head of the rade for the night.
We got there ahead of most and secured a decent place in about 9m of water, just before the mooring buoys proliferated. As you can see, it's a dramatic and beautiful spot. On the south side is a big boat yard; off one of its moles, two wooden masts stick up from the water! A barge was moored next to them, and buoys marked them out, so we must hope that whatever elegant hull lies beneath them will soon be rescued.
Our night was very peaceful; even when the wind changed from a south westerly to a northerly, we felt no swell. However, in an easterly, we can imagine there is significant swell in here. Judging from the very heavy chains on boats permanently moored in the little harbour, they need some serious protection from the waves and surge.
Dinghying ashore here was very easy, with lots of places on the pontoons, and nobody seeming to take much notice. (There is a beach, but it has a very steep drop-off and quite a bit of surf in the swell.) This might be different in the high season, but certainly gave us a relaxed change from the exigencies of Portoferraio.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Unexpected islands
24/09/2009, Elba


As you come round Capo Vita heading east, there are several islands scattered across the sea between Elba and the mainland. In the wonderful clear air of Tuscany, they all look very close. A frantic search of the chart reveals the previously unnoticed dot of Isola dei Topi, which is really close. There is a narrow channel between it and the mainland, which we saw boats use, but we noted the rocks on its south-eastern flank and went round the outside.
Beyond that, some distance away is Isola del Palmaiola, with its lighthouse, hidden behind our genoa on this picture. And away in the distance, just to the left of Palmaiola, another one of no interest to us at all. And even further away is the hazy mainland.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
The old man of Nisportino
24/09/2009, Elba

On Thursday morning, Liz was on her way. She had organised a clever itinerary to get to Narbonne. Unfortunately the Italian trains did not run to time, and she missed her flight from Pisa. In the end, she had an exciting trip by train, with a short overnight stop in Nice, and was only 24 hours late to Bages. Where, we gather, there was some more sailing, but also major gastronomic explorations of the nearby restaurants.
Meanwhile, we set off towards Rome. Our first stop was due to be Porto Azzuro, only 4 miles away by land but 16 by sea. As you sail north to round the Capo Vita, you pass a series of little bays which would be nice anchorages in the right weather. Also this splendid coppery rock formation, in which lurks the bulbous nose and round eye of an old man waiting impatiently for his next glass.
The colour reminds you that Elba was mined for a very long time (the last one only closing in the 1980's), giving mineral wealth to its rulers from the Romans to Napoleon.

Places and people
Shades of grey
22/09/2009, Elba

Ever-steepening hills fold together. Sailing west into the setting sun, slopes overlap and caress each other, subtly changing colour and line.
It is easy to believe that the island is uninhabited, and project romances onto the slopes and forest. Romans, pirates, Napoleon, dinosaurs: anything could be waiting up there.

Places and people
Here's the proof!
22/09/2009, 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
Anchoring at the eastern end of Rade di Portoferraio
22/09/2009, Elba

The next couple of days we played in the sizeable Rade di Portferraio. At the eastern end are a couple of bays where you can anchor, notably Ottone, which has the little strip of beach and a hotel bar where you can buy a drink and admire your boat gracing the scene. Dense vegetation circles the bay: pines, bamboos, cane and palms.
Just north of this is Cala Bagnaia. This is marked in the pilot book as an anchorage, but is no longer accessible. The Port Authority guidance clearly excludes it, and there are no boats anchored there. Close in there are some small mooring buoys, and there are lots of dinghies, but anchoring is now off limits. This is understandable as it is small and would get incredibly crowded in summer, but a shame as a lifeguard told us that it is always calm in there.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Biodola
21/09/2009, Elba

This is the bay at Biodola, which is as you can see very pretty with a big curve of white sand. You might also have noticed the colour of the sky, particularly looking west over the headland. As we settled our anchor (sand, 8m depth) a swell came in and our visitor began to look green. So we pulled it up again, and decided to head back to Portoferraio.
The heavens opened on the way, treating us to a spectacular equinoctal thunderstorm. Streaks of lightening bright enough to illuminate the hills of Corsica, and cracks of thunder to make us jump. Fortunately, it only hung around in our vicinity for a short while, and then travelled away, leaving us to enjoy the light show from our very wet cockpit.

Life on Roaring Girl
Cabo d'Enfola
21/09/2009, Elba

We made a plan. Sail the three miles west, round the cape which is the biggest headland on the north of Elba, and anchor off Biodola, which gets nice write-ups for a sparkly silver beach. There was very little wind but we meandered slowly up to Cabo d'Enfola, which straggles northward towards the shallows and fishing grounds.
Elba is a very popular diving area, and the two little dots you can see on the right are diving boats, for people looking at the marine life off these rocks.

Life on Roaring Girl
Very, very wet!
20/09/2009, In the Darsena

Tonight our friend Liz is coming for a few days, which is exciting. We've hardly spoken to any native English speakers (except each other) since leaving Port Man, over a month ago!
It is pouring with rain, and looks set to do so all day, enlivened by occasional thunderstorms. We have come into the harbour; at least we can collect Liz from the ferry without any problems later.
Rates here double in the high season: a 10-12m yacht would pay 80 euros a day here in July or August. On the other hand, the same boat would pay 110 euros a month between 1 November and the end of March, which is very reasonable indeed. These prices do not include electricity or water, which are metered on the quay, nor do they cover showers, which are privately run in some separate establishment.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
More watersports
19/09/2009, Afloat

The kayak is launched. Pip did a fine karakia, naming her the Waka Wahini, or Woman of the Waka (the name for the Maori canoes). It's taken a while, as we bought her at Earls Court late last year, but she is properly wet at last.
She is an Advanced Frame Expedition kayak, a hybrid folding frame and inflatable. There are nine separate air compartments, but she comes almost entirely assembled. Once Sarah had overcome her incompetence with air pumps (or rather Pip had come to the rescue), the whole boat was very simple to make launch-ready. She has an aluminium frame in bow and stern, and a small skeg to help with directional tracking. Lots of bits are adjustable around the seat and foot positions. The vendor had thrown in a paddle, so we tied on various bits of string, and away we went.
Aaah! So quiet and easy. Up close to the grebes. Into inches of water. It must be admitted that the water is really flat, and still pretty warm, but that's what a beginner needs. Along with some pretty serious muscle work on the forearms.
In the background you can see some energetic manoeuvring going on between the cruise liner and the ferries. The liner left minutes before two ferries; why they didn't keep it back for quarter of an hour is a mystery to us, as it left these three large boats working around each other in a small space.

Life on Roaring Girl
A shag? Or great crested grebes
19/09/2009, San Giovanni

The rocks here are much beloved by the local water birds. We paddled Bridget up close to a flock of them sunning themselves and watching the world go by. We're not quite sure if they're immature grebes or young shags - or even a mixture of both: bird-identification has never been one of our strong points.
They dive all over the Rade , popping up inquisitively if you come by quietly swimming, sailing or paddling.
Beyond this lovely lady is the opening to the Rade , with the southern Tuscan mainland in the background.

Places and people
Walking inland
19/09/2009, San Giovanni

This would be a place to start a hike inland. We just went a short way, getting a view of the pine-covered hillsides and steep slopes.

Places and people

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