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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
On our way
26/03/2010, See map

If all this sounds like a litany of disaster, we are still cruisers! We head off for Rome this weekend, leaving the house in capable hands. Six months of cruising lie ahead, to revisit the Tuscan islands before exploring Corsica, Sardinia and points south on the way to over-wintering in Malta. The map above comes from worldatlas.com and shows most of where we intend to go.Watch this space for our adventures, and any relevant snippets of sailing info that updates the pilot books.
Speaking of info, we are members of the Cruising Association and we were really chuffed to be asked to contribute to the amazing new web-pages that the team has been putting together to provide up-to-date info about all sorts of cruising areas. If you cruisers of UK, Baltic and Mediterranean waters out there are not already members, then join up at www.cruising.org.uk/ so you can access and contribute to one of the best sources of cruising information on the web.


Life on Roaring Girl
And another thing
26/03/2010, Norfolk

In the middle of this, in late February, Celia fell over and broke her hip. Fortunately she was whisked to hospital and came through the surgery with flying colours. She spent a very difficult month in hospital. Another whole blog could be written on that experience, but for a start, let's beg Jamie Oliver to turn his attention from school dinners to hospital food. Starvation interspersed with nausea doesn't help anyone get well.
The only (narrow) silver lining is that she missed the last and most intrusive stage of the building works on her lovely new extension. Her local council, with some difficulty, had agreed to this addition to enable her to stay in her own beloved cottage, and it's been done nicely. She's now ensconced there, with good access to all she needs and a stunning view of the fields and horses. Now it's keeping up the exercises to get well enough to resume driving the ponies now that summer is on the way.
During this time, Sarah's been working in south London again and staying two or three nights a week with Fiona, who's been very generous. She and Melanie came out to Rome in February and had a great time rushing around the sights.

Places and people
Laproscopy: from the inside
26/03/2010, Theatre

Pip also started out with lots of training, but ran (literally) into serious trouble with her right knee. What had started out as a bit of a nuisance deteriorated during last summer, and any walking, like Roman sightseeing, was becoming impossible. She tried the recommended approach of rest, ice, compression and elevation, and took lots of anti-inflammatories, but as soon as she stopped, the pain and swelling returned.
After a lot of investigation, and the discovery that Suffolk NHS will do everything possible to avoid giving knee surgery, we took the plunge and at 24 hours notice she had keyhole surgery on 3 March. These pictures are the inside of her knee joint! The bottom right hand one shows the tear, which is what the surgery shaved to stop pain and any deterioration.
At the time of writing, it's healing well and we have bought some high-quality builder's knee-pads. The engine maintenance requires quite a lot of knee time (and that's before the praying starts), so they're essential.

Places and people
Fitness, health and the creaking of joints.
26/03/2010, Ipswich - and South Wimbledon

The picture is the personal trainer, the lovely Georgia, who took on Sarah's various flabby bits and did a good job of getting (lots of) them under control In particular, two bouts of stomach surgery in 3 years and a long history of shoulder trouble needed action. Georgia has been brilliant, and my shoulder in particular is stronger than it has been for years. Painful though it is to admit it, serious training is much more effective than short bouts of physiotherapy have ever been.
No - I can't do this move, though it's not for lack of trying. The piece of kit is a TRX, and is truly astounding. See http://www.zerotocruising.com/?page_id=1692 and watch the video clip for how the serious pros are using it on their catamaran. Awesome, if terrifying. Mike and Rebecca ran a martial arts gym for 20 years and are w-a-a-y out of our league.
For this summer we've decided we're not quite ready for this, but I can see another winter's training might get Roaring Girl fitted up with one for the future. They are flexible, effective and pack down really small. In the meantime, we have both worked hard on getting in trim, and hope to maintain some of that in the coming months. Lots of people say - well surely, living aboard keeps you fit. Our experience is that you get quite strong in the upper body, but not that much more. It's very easy to end doing very little cardio work and letting all sorts of muscles get pretty flabby.

Places and people
Birthdays as well
26/03/2010, Rural Norfolk

Meantime, Sarah's mother, Celia, was 80 shortly before Xmas. We - Sarah, brother James and indeed Pip too - organised a party for her with a lot of help from friends. Despite a picturesque but daunting foot of snow, about 45 people turned out, which was quite a tribute.

Places and people
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

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