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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
A long winter
Pip
26/03/2010, Ipswich - and NZ


Like everyone in the UK it feels like it's been a hard winter. Snow, fogs, miserable, fetid politics. We have also had some particular challenges. The picture above is my Dad, Arthur Harris, who died suddenly on 15 December, at his lovely home in Hastings, New Zealand. He had a dicky heart for many years, though it never seemed to slow him down, and on his last day had been working outside, painting a fence.
Brother John and I flew out to NZ on 16 December for the funeral, where we met up with brother Dave and his partner Jo. Of course, we stayed for Xmas. Fortunately the snow allowed us to leave and let up long enough for us to come back before the New Year.
Dad is missed by all his children, and his long-time partner Joan.

Places and people
Huge amounts of sightseeing
11/10/2009, Rome

We spent four days just seeing the very top of the huge riches of Rome. The Vatican Museums, the Forum, Colosseum and Palatine Hill. An open topped bus tour. The Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. Various slices of pizza, several ice-creams, very (very) sore feet. 137 photographs. We're only posting the one picture, of us beside the Arch of Constatntine and the Colosseum, to stand for it all.
Rome requires a different way of seeing. Every building, every sight, every perspective is full of different layers and events, epochal changes over the last three thousand years. So many different forms of government, such an array of art and propaganda. Rome is full of reinvention: the Colosseum built as a demagogic gesture, over the top of Nero's extravagances, now at the end of Mussolini's own imperial gesture of the road that cuts the Forum in two. The Sistine Chapel, painted against the Pope's original commission but famous from the moment of completion. The beautiful statues in the Octagonal Garden of the Vatican, mostly collected in the Renaissance - classical-Roman copies of earlier Greek originals.
We feel we've seen so very little of it; we are already planning our next forays into a city which will become emptier over the next few weeks. In the meantime, we return to the UK for a while, as the coffers need filling. The weather is still splendid here, despite several torrential thunderstorms, and neither of us is looking forward to the short, wet days of the UK in winter.

Places and people
Getting to Rome from Ostia
02/10/2009, Ostia

From the Porto Touristico, it's about one hour into central Rome. Although it sounds complicated, it's actually very simple.
From the boat you leave the marina at the southern end; by bike or on foot, this takes you up a pedestrianised slope onto the long promenade that runs along the shore. Turn left, ie back away from the sea and follow the road round. Take the first road on your right, where you will see immediately ahead of you a bus stop. From here take the number 01 bus, which runs about every 10 minutes from early morning to midnight. You will not need a separate ticket - see the comment on tickets below.
The marina gave us a rough map of Ostia, with bus-stop and station marked, and also two good maps of Rome, which have been very useful.
The other end of the 01 circular route, about 15 minutes away, is the station at Lido Centrale; the bus drops you right outside the station. Almost everyone gets off, and the driver turns the engine off.
Here you buy a ticket. Rome has an excellent system throughout the city (which includes Ostia); you buy a pass which covers all metro, tram, suburban rail and bus. One euro gets you 75 minutes (enough to Termini station), and 4 euros gets you all day and is very good value. If you're coming back to the Lido buy one of these (unless you want a multi-day pass). The ticket machine is right outside the barriers and will give instructions in English.
Also in the station is a small office which sold us a map of Ostia for 50 cents, and on the doors of which is displayed the bus timetable for Fiumicino airport.
Through the barriers, stay on that platform for trains to Rome. All trains through this station go there. (Coming back you simply get off, follow the crowd and emerge outside the station by the 01 bus-stop.) The stop at Lido Centrale is very short: get on the train sharpish!
The station Porta St Paolo in Rome is the end of the line. From here you can catch buses or metro all over Rome. (Avoid our mistake: we decided to walk to the Colosseum, and a boring trudge along busy roads it was!) A bus map can be bought from tourist offices or tobacconists. We got a little one of central Rome but also a bigger one covering the whole suburban area which we've found helpful. There are only two metro lines in Rome (A and B) which cross at the main railway station of Termini, and in rush hour the trains are horrendously crowded. The bus network runs everywhere, and is also crowded but has good views.
To get back to Porta St Paolo, be aware that it has several possible names. On the metro map the connected station is Pyramide. This landmark (a 6th century tomb in the adjoining cemetery) is conspicuous from the buses and a useful marker. On the bus stops, looking to see if a bus is going to the station, the names Pta St Paolo, Pyramide, Ostiense or Ple dei Partigiani will all take you where you aim to be. Ostiense station is another suburban railway, connected to St Paolo via the Pyramide metro, and Partigiani is the square in front of it. From Ostiense you can get a train to Fiomicino, and in theory to Ciampino airports, though we haven't tested either. (See note on airports below.)
The main railway station in Rome is Termini, started in 1870 by the Popes when they still ran Rome, and completed by the new Republic in the early 1950's, after war, kingdoms, facism and the confinement of the Papacy to the Vatican. It's also the main (but far from the only) bus station.
Airports represent a particular challenge. The nearest and biggest is Fiumicino, just the other side of the Tiber from Ostia. You can get a bus direct from Ostia and it's on the train line. However, nobody flies from there to Stanstead (our preferred destination this time), so we are flying the dreaded Ryanair from Ciampino. There is a train station called that, but we are advised it is still some way from the airport. Alternatively, get a bus from Termini; we spent some time trying to find the appropriate bus stop but never did locate it; we'll update the info when and if we fly in that way and find where it drops us! So, taking marina advice, we are taxiing to the airport from the marina. It will still be a cheaper journey than flying to Gatwick or Heathrow and travelling to Ipswich, but it isn't a cheap ride. If you can arrange to go via Fiumicino, that would be preferable.
Coming back into Ostia, or for a first arrival by public transport, it's simply a matter of getting the 10 bus back from Lido Centrale. It heads north(ish) and you will see ahead of you a big block of flats still under construction. At night, you see nothing, because there aren't any lights or habitation! The bus stops, then turns left, and left again very soon after, essentially marking the U at the end of its run. You get off at the second of these stops, take the few steps back to the road you've just turned off, and turn left towards the sea. After about 20 paces, the slope down into the marina opens up on your right.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Porto Turistioo di Roma
01/10/2009, Ostia Lido

So we made some frantic phone calls. The wonderful Manuela at the Porto Turistico found us a berth for six months - actually at slightly less than Nautilus Marina. We motored back out of the river, round the corner and into this spiffing harbour. It has been built inside two breakwaters, and a lot of care has been taken to try and minimise swell. This matters a lot, as it has a poor reputation for swell, and we shall see how well the curved walls and large spending beach actually work. (Right now, it's very calm!)
It can't be as bad as our first winter aboard, on a pontoon right by the seawall in Brighton. Nor even Toulon, where you are constantly rocked by ferry wash.
It is a bit soulless, but it has all facilities, other liveaboards (even English-speaking ones!), excellent security, and easy public transport links into Rome. Our plan is to get Roaring Girl set up for the winter months (stow the kayak, get the bicycles out), and then start exploring the Eternal City.

Life on Roaring Girl
Carry on up the Tiber
29/09/2009, On the Tiber

As you go further up the river, both banks are lined with rafted boats. Thousands of them, up to four in each raft. This picture is taken at the eastern end of the isola which runs for about 1.5km in the centre of the river, and ends just before the main motorway bridge which closes the river to anything sporting a mast.
The isola itself has yachts rafted along it. We went up the north side of it, and chickened out of the south side when the depth got to 5m even before we entered the channel proper. Otherwise we carried at least 6m pretty much all the way to the bridge.
Most of the yards lining the banks are private, many of them clubs. You might wangle a berth for a while with fluent Italian and good connections, neither of which we have. We had booked ourselves into Nautilus Marina, about a third of the way up the island, on the north bank. We arrived just before dark and were told to raft to a boat and we'd sort out the paperwork in the morning. In the dark, the place was rather eerie. We found the toilets, but no shower. Only one other boat (a posh motoryacht on the hard) seemed to have anyone aboard. A peek outside found a busy road with no signs of shops, houses or any other life.
In the morning we met the helpful Oliva, with whom we had been exchanging emails. How do we get into Rome? Ah - you go the bridge, about 2km away, and get the bus. And to get to the bridge? Walk, or take the dinghy. Laundrette? No. Shower? No. Clearly this would not be an easy place to spend much time. It's not their business model: these marinas are really boat warehouses, where nobody expects to spend their leisure hours. Instead they untie their lines and go. It's a shame really as it's quiet, very sheltered and the island is pretty. No-one seemed to be anchored anywhere in the river, which isn't that wide; it would need a mooring to reduce your swing, and we don't know if it is permitted.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
The old lighthouse of the Tiber
28/09/2009, Approaching Rome

We had booked a place at one of the marinas on the Tiber itself. At its mouth, the river (Tevere in Italian) is called the Fiamare Grande. This distinguishes it from the Fiomicino canal which cuts through the back of this cape and joins the river further inland. We have read of many boats which have wintered in the canal, but we had not been able to get a place there. Also it is very close to Fiomicino Airport, and, although we had not seen it commented on, thought that would be unpleasant.
This lighthouse is now out of use, showing how little large shipping now uses ports on this coast. There is a big ship anchorage, and some offshore platforms, in the vicinity, but inshore it's only small fishing boats and pleasure craft.
Entering the river is very straightforward in calm weather. There was a red beacon marking the channel, and we saw least depth 6.3m. The banks are lined with substantial shacks and fishing gantries, but its not an impressive riparian entrance to such a great city, more its neglected back door. Rather like London's attitude to the Thames in that respect!

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Cabo Linaro
28/09/2009, South of Civitavecchia

Another two miles south is this headland, which is adorned by these splendid modernist houses.
We had a fantastic, gentle sail much of the 25nM south to the Tiber. Cruising chute up, a steady 4 knots, flat sea, warm sun. A great last passage of the season.

Life on Roaring Girl
Riva di Traiano
28/09/2009, Civitavecchia

We were going to go into Civitavecchia harbour and take our chances in the yacht basin. But the pilot book describes them as noisy, crowded and very hot. We couldn't raise anyone from the harbour on the VHF, and quailed at the port full of ferries, liners, container ships and the like. So we turned our tired bows the two miles further south into the modern marina at Traiano.
This was the first ordinary marina we'd entered since Genoa. Showers! Washing machines! Most of all, lots of attentive help with the berthing. We're not used to that, the usual British way being to let you get on with it. Of course, you must have some help here often, as there is no way to get your bow lines onto the rings on the quay without help. But here, they come and nudge your stern and help you haul the mooring line out of the water onto the aft cleat - as well as having someone on the quay. They were astonished in the morning when we simply let go our lines and left our slip without any help!
Still - it helps to justify the off-season charge of 50 euros!

Life on Roaring Girl
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

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