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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Isola di Giannutri
26/09/2009, Giannutri

This is the smallest visitable island, and the furthest south. The picture shows the northern tip, where there is a small anchorage. We went round it, trying to keep outside the protected Zone 1 area, where navigation is prohibited. Our target was Cala Spalmatoi, shown as a well-protected inlet in the eastern coast.
The Cala is indeed well protected, but has not only mooring buoys but a ferry dock. Not much room for bigger boats, though a small yacht could pick up one of the buoys. Outside the inlet itself, the water is very deep, almost all over 25m and in many areas over 30m. Although quite a few boats were there when we arrived, many left, presumably with only enough scope for a lunchtime stopover. Despite our 80m of chain, we struggled to find a good spot where it was shallow enough to anchor but we felt far enough off the rocks, particularly given a forecast north easterly. In the end the best place was in the south of the bay, at a spot marked in the pilot book at Cala Volo di Motte. Here we found a ridge of less depth, about 20m, which was much more manageable. Along with six other yachts we had a pleasant, still evening in a gentle north westerly.
Shortly after dark, the wind came round towards the east. So long as it stayed far enough north that our bows pointed not more than 035 degrees, we were comfortable. Any further and the swell came round the point, and the boat started pitching. With memories of our CQR dragging very quickly in pitching waves at Villefranche last year, we were both a bit nervous as the bows rocked up and down. But the new anchor held absolutely solid although the night. The wind never got above a force four (about 18knots), but the pitching swell made everything less than relaxing.
When the dawn came, we saw the three of our companions had gone: the big superyacht had left about 2300. The two smaller boats (both less than 27 foot, who had been our neighbours in Giglio) had wisely retreated into the Cala itself. By 0900 everyone was yawning on deck, pulling up anchors and scattering to look for more restful places.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Line astern
26/09/2009, Porto Giglio

This is the stern line. The water is so clear, it's hard to tell how deep it has become - an additional frightener when the ferry is looming above the decks!
The town itself is very sweet but very touristy. Lots of over-priced restaurants. Above the port is a walled village, dating back to when this island was ruled from Aragon. Unfortunately we didn't get there. On Saturday morning, we were told we had to leave, as a big fishing festival and competition was being held that day and the harbour was full. What's more, we had to be gone by 1100, as yet another ferry would be using the quay. That cut our time short, but we hope to go back another time and see more of the island.
We had been pronouncing Giglio with two hard 'g's - a laughing island. In fact, both are soft, making it more like Jeelio, which is Italian for lily. We left the island of the laughing flowers for Isola Giannuttri, just 12 miles south.

Life on Roaring Girl
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)
Porto Azzurro
24/09/2009, Elba

The town itself is very sweet, if well-touristed. It is slightly reminiscent of Cornwall: steep slopes, pretty buildings and loads of little craft shops with jewellery, ceramics, painting and tapestry.
The central square is elegant, with cafes around it. This town used to be famous for housing one of the most hard-time prisons in Italy, in the large fort that looms on a ridge over the bay, known as Longone. Some while back they rechristened the place as part of cleaning it up for tourism, a regeneration effort which appears to have worked very well.

Places and people
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)
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

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