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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Isola del Giglio
25/09/2009, Elba

It's a wee step, about 30nM, to Isola Giglio, the next accessible island in the archipelego. Both Montecristo and Pianosa lie temptingly to the south, but neither can be visited in your own boat, as they are protected marine reserves.
There are a couple of suggested anchorages on the island, both just south of the harbour. We nosed into them, to find them deep, over 25m of water until you are very close in. One yacht appeared to be using one of them, but possibly only as a lunch stop. So we turned into the harbour, which was its own adventure.
Definitely a stern anchor stop. This was the first test of our new set up. Mostly it worked absolutely fine, although we discovered that the shackle connecting the 10m of chain to the warp will need to be changed, as it didn't fit through the roller. Ho hum: some minutes spent getting the split pin off whilst tethered off the stern in the centre of the port. A very interested audience gathered!
In the end, however, we made it all work, dropped it in good time and, for our first time, spent the night with our own stern anchor holding us off the quay. And it even came up again in the morning, which was a relief! Still some fine-tuning to do, but the basic principle works.
You can see here that you come through the entrance, and the quay is to port. The pilot book suggests a visitors pontoon ahead of you: the pontoon is still there but was stuffed full of what looked like permanent boats. The quay itself does get busy with lots of fishing boats, and we can imagine the place is packed in the high season.
Several ferries come in here, presumably from Porto San Stefano. One, a small Torremar, does a three point turn in this harbour, a spectacular sight. It would be something of a deterrent to a boat much bigger than Roaring Girl, especially with a long line out astern,

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
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)
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)
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)
San Giovanni
18/09/2009, The south side of the Rade

We are just off this small breakwater protecting the harbour. We went ashore here with no problems at all. There is a little beach to ground the dinghy on, or even the Scuolo Nautico pontoon. A bus runs hourly from here to Portoferraio, so if you anchored here for a long period, this might turn out to be easier and less hassle.
San Giovanni itself is a tiny place. It may be busier in season, but now there's just one bar and two dusty streets. Curiously, there's a substantial domestic appliance repair business, with several vans, which presumably serves at least this half of the island.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Of Darsenas and dinghies
18/09/2009, Portoferraio

Despite its beauty, the port has some drawbacks, particularly in terms of trying to park a dinghy. On Friday we went ashore for some shopping and a look around. A kindly Italian cruiser, also dinghying in, suggested we leave our dinghy next to his on the hammerhead in the centre. No problem, except that when we returned we were shouted at by an ormeggiatore, one of the men in charge of mooring, who said tenders should be 'over there'.
The next day (Saturday), we went 'over there' to find no tenders. Sarah went to the capitainerie, who were very smart in white uniforms, but politely bewildered, and then referred us to the people in charge of berthing. Huh?
We hid Bridget in amongst a load of small fishing boats, tucked into an unused corner, and went to look around. On the way, we finally found the centre for moorings, which is in a first floor office on the western side of the dock, almost exactly opposite the capitainerie. A very helpful English speaking woman explained the rules for dinghies. These seem to be that you should call in on channel 9 before coming in (just as for a big yacht), and you will be allocated a space. If you are there before 0800 or after 2000 you will be expected to pay. (So no long drunken evenings in town, then!), although she implied that as it is now off season, they would probably turn a blind eye. If you come in for a couple of hours during the day, they will allocate a space but not charge you.
The smallest official boat charge applies to anything up to 6m long (bridgit is just over 3m); this month it's 18 euros a day, and 30 in season. But if one anchored here for a while, it might be worth negotiating a monthly dinghy berth (135 euros in April), to ensure access, refill jerry cans, collect one's friends and so on.
For a casual visitor, it's all a bit of a pain, and makes the usual relaxed business of coming ashore and doing your shopping or sightseeing rather more complicated than usual - if only because you have to lug a VHF around with you. The call sign is Portoferraio; they don't seem to answer anything else.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Elba at last
17/09/2009, Off Portoferraio

On Thursday the relentless southerly thunderstorms finally let up. We escaped about 0830. There was a strong swell still running out of the south west, which gradually flattened over the morning allowing the sea pushed up by the quartering northerly to surf us along. It was a bright and gusty morning, and we could clearly see Elba from the moment we cleared the headland outside the harbour. The wind being so far aft, in such a rolly sea, we took the easy course and motorsailed the 24 miles.
The GPS completely failed to find a fix. We have three sets on board and for much of the way none of them could get enough satellite info. In the end one of the handhelds managed to coax enough information out of the sky, even before our antenna-assisted nav table set.
On this occasion it didn't matter very much, but it could have been more annoying. Sarah's sextant navigation is not so much rusty as a crumbling (and rarely-used) heap, and in any case not terribly practical on such a passage. On a dark night, we would have been absolutely back to the old skills of dead reckoning and eyeball pilotage. As it was, life was pretty simple, and in particular we could stay north of the shoal off Capo Enfola. We don't know if this is a general anomaly or a one-off, but be aware of the risk of losing GPS in these waters.
Entering the Rade di Portoferraio really is very simple. Once past the Scoglietto lighthouse, the entrance is clear. Your biggest challenge is staying clear of the ferries, and any other yachts that are fannying about in the changeable winds off the headland.
Inside the Rade , there are tons of anchorages. We are outside the San Giovanni harbour, which is tiny and not suitable for a boat our size. Directly opposite us, maybe half a mile away, is the entrance to the beautiful Darsena Mediciana, built by Cosimo I of Florence. The buildings are buttery, biscuit, ochre and cream, glowing in the light, beneath the grim fortress that reminds the town of its history of war.
There are endless ferries to Corsica, Piombino, Livorno and Sardinia. They do put out some wash, which we might avoid if we went a little further west, but there are other boats already there. It's not really a problem though, and does keep the water moving rather more than it otherwise might. As you can see, Portoferraio is on the cruise liner circuit.
We included this picture with the liner in to demonstrate a point. The symbol marks a spot shown as an anchorage in the pilot book, with a reference to be careful of ferries. We had been told of a boat that anchored there, went ashore and left the boat unattended, only to have it moved by the coast guard. Even without the cruise ship there, we are not surprised. It seems a very silly place to anchor, and uncomfortable too. Just where most boats are anchored, where we are, is out of the way, safe and still within easy reach of the town.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Very pretty – but very dear
12/09/2009, Isola and Porto Capraia

The next island is Capraia. Most of it is a national park, and it has one port and one small settlement. This is the entrance to it. You can see that there are two apparent entrances, and you want the one on the right. (This is very obvious when you are actually there). Inside swing to the right, and you see the town quay, plus a couple of pontoons.
We had rung ahead, and were glad of it, as the harbour filled up completely overnight. This is the last weekend of the season, and there were what seemed to be several cruises in company. They put us behind one of the pontoons, requiring deft turning small spaces. Pip did some excellent boat handling and we came in very neatly.
Italian marinas seem to think we are all in modern boats with bow thrusters and easy management in reverse. Hah! Not us. But we managed anyway, and then watching the rather less dextrous performances by lighter boats with big crews on board was very entertaining.
It is well protected, though a strong north easterly blew in the night. We are not sure whether this often happens here in a northerly (when it would blow across the bay like the top of a bottle) or was a genuine, un-forecast, easterly belter. Either way, it was undoubtedly rolly for anyone anchored outside the harbour.
The pilot book says it is rolly out there. We found a reference to mooring buoys, but there aren't any now, as they are all being scrubbed off in the port!
There's lots of help coming in, with marina staff taking lines and even coming aboard to pick up the tails if you want them to. At least one spoke good English. Water and electricity on all the berths.
But - it's the most expensive place we've ever stopped, at ‚'¨60 for the night for 11.95m. Wow! Double wow, as you then also pay ‚'¨1 for the loo and a whopping ‚'¨4 for a shower! We're using our on-board facilities, and making sure everything is getting fully charged up.
Even so, the birthday girl (Pip) exercised her rights to choose, and we are staying two nights, leaving for Elba on Monday.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Berthing in the river
08/09/2009, Arnovecchio

We didn't see any larger boats anchored in the river, but we were assured that you can. Mudskipper had reported good holding. Lots of small boats were fishing, If you were going to be here for long, and leave your boat, a fore and aft mooring would probably be a sensible precaution. The river can run very fast here, especially in the winter.
Air draft has been seen as a big blocker to the Arno, because there were cables suspended across the river with more nets. These have been removed, and there is no air draft problem for at least 2.5nM into the river, making it much more accessible for cruising yachts.
The south bank is lined with small yards and private marinas. The pontoons are often pretty rickety, and some obviously wouldn't take a boat the size of Roaring Girl. We had rung Lega Navale, who had turned us away. Another yard waved us away too.
We had prebooked a space with Arnovecchio, and Sgr Orsini, who speaks good English put us in his travel hoist bay for four nights. We were alongside, for the first time since Port St Louis! Arnovecchio is primarily a yard, and the facilities are fairly basic but functional. Not very cheap at ‚'¨40 a night for us. The bus-stop for Pisa is directly outside the gates, and the small town of Marina di Pisa is 20 minutes walk the other way.
We also came across another yard which would have been able to give us a space for wintering afloat, at ‚'¨35 per metre per month. This is run by a German, Robert, who speaks excellent English and details can be found at or (Italy) 327150 9609. They were very helpful in finding somewhere to get a small steel plate made (part of our ongoing arrangements for a stern anchor). We could not have wintered afloat at Arnovecchio, but Sgr Orsini quoted for storage ashore at ‚'¨1560 for a 12m boat, plus liftout costs and tax. Arnovecchio can be reached on +39 -44 6260 0489 (you leave the 0 in for Italy) or via [email protected]
If you were spending much time here, it would be worth finding out where to get the work done; clearly there are lots of small yards doing all sorts of boat work, but it's a fairly opaque network to non-Italian speakers from the outside. But if you could get in, this would not be a bad place to choose, given the enormity of Italian prices everywhere you go. If you were going to be aboard very much, you would need some form of transport. For short visits, the buses are good, and there are supermarkets in Pisa and little ones (and a laundry) in Marina di Pisa.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Entering the Arno
08/09/2009, Arno River

The Arno is the river which runs up to Pisa and Florence. We've always been curious to go there as a base to visit those cities, but were nervous given reports that it can be very shallow. The only boat we found that had been there was Mudskipper, but even they had advised caution. Mudskipper anchored in the river, but we had phoned ahead for a berth, concerned about possible overnight stays away and whether we would find enough depth for anchoring.
As it turns out, changes here have made this an excellent destination, which deserves more cruiser attention.
The entrance, shown here is between two breakwaters; the northern one has several breaks in it which small boats do use. These would appear high risk for a keel boat, so don't just follow any local RIB you see. The north breakwater in particular has a lot of gantries with fishing nets that fish shallow water, presumably for whitebait type fish. Further up-river, there are many more such nets, highly reminiscent of the fishing nets of Cochin, but operated by machinery rather than muscle.
On the south side, the pilot book shows a factory building. This has been razed, and huge development is going on here. Right now it's flat, but obviously won't be for long. The next cruisers who pass this way should post updated pix. From a distance, the campanile in Marina di Pisa is the most obvious conspicuous marker.
More important is the depth. The pilot book suggests 3 to 4m on the north side at the best. We saw least depth 6.1m going in, and 5.4m coming out. We stuck well to the north side; the outer edge of the gantry nets are marked with small buoys.
We may have benefited from the long periods of north easterlies which have cleared the silt away, but we did wonder if they have started dredging here as we saw a dredger moored in the river.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
The other face of the passage
04/09/2009, Portovénere

The day we walked across, it was blowing a strong south-westerly on the Ligurian Sea; the forecast was a F9, and we reckoned that at lunchtime it was blowing at least a F7 off the point.
It turned the narrow passage into a nasty surfing cauldron. If you run for here, seeking shelter in such weather, go round all the islands and come in that way.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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