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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 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 so you can access and contribute to one of the best sources of cruising information on the web.

Life on Roaring Girl
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
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
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
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
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
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
Elusive Elba
15/09/2009, Still on Capraia

Well, we made a start leaving, trying to get ahead of a south westerly. We failed, and the south-westerly had a lot of south-easterly in it. So we had a horrid swell and the wind on the nose. After an hour we had gone two miles and we both felt sick. So we turned round and went back. It's supposed to be fun.
We intended to anchor off the port, but got moved by the coast guard as we were exactly where the imminent ferry wanted to put his anchor to hold him off the quay in the now very blustery wind.
We returned into the Port and this time were allocated a place actually on the town quay. This was all very nice, except for the difficulties presented by a low quay and a high bow. When it then chucked down with rain, the problem got worse as Roaring Girl floated ever higher. We built a pyramid with a handy wood block and our trusty Lakeland folding step which basically worked, but boat movement made every morning's first descent a little hair-raising.
To be fair, the ferry did use our spot for the anchor. It then left again, leaving us a bit disgruntled, wondering why we hadn't just moved a short distance, and returned to our preferred spot. Then the thunderstorms came in, the wind swivelled around a lot and the sea got pretty rough, which made us quite glad to be firmly tied up after all. It wasn't a cheap decision though; until 15 September the price continued to be 60 euros a night; after 15th it dropped to 46 euros. Beware Isola Capraia with any sort of southerly forecast if your next stop is Elba or beyond!
On the Tuesday we hiked up into the hills north of the port. We carried all sorts of waterproofs with us, thereby ensuring a rain free afternoon for the island. From about 100m up we got this splendid view of Elba - which you couldn't see at all the day we tried to get away, proving how poor the visibility had been.

Life on Roaring Girl
Best of sailing
12/09/2009, Off the Tuscan coast

From Florence we got back to Roaring Girl mid-afternoon, to get ready for our next trip, destination Isola Capraia, 42nM south west, and just off the tip of Corsica. The forecast was a NE 3-4, which would put it aft.
In fact, we got an easterly F4 for the first four hours, then no wind to speak of for an hour, then a WNW F4 for three hours. Perfect for us. There is also a one knot south-going current all along this stretch of coast, which helped us out.
We had one of the best sails we've ever enjoyed in splendid weather, averaging over 5 knots. We shot past Livorno with a reefed main and mizzen and several turns in the genoa, at over 6.5knots through the water (ie before the effect of the current). For us, this is very fast sailing!
Roaring Girl was beautifully balanced, and our autohelm, Polly, took a lot of the strain. Even so we hand-steered quite a bit, just for the fun of it. Maybe it was the last hurrah of the Ligurian Sea; we've had poor sailing the whole way round the coast, and our friend Ruth from Mudskipper described the sailing in the area as 'awful'. (Admittedly, she said this while enjoying a good breeze 10 miles from Bora Bora, which isn't really a fair comparison.)
This is the Isola Gorgona, the northernmost of the Tuscan Archipelago. Yachts are not allowed to land, as it's a prison.

Life on Roaring Girl
Dancing – ashore and afloat
06/09/2009, Le Grazie

Saturday night showed both the ups and downs of Le Grazie, which has this pretty, understated waterfront. This week sees their festival, the Sagre del Pulpo - a celebration of octopus. There have been many events, including local art exhibitions and a special Mass. Saturday night's for dancing, and the Italians do love a dance. They flock out, many of them very expert, to cha-cha-cha, foxtrot and waltz to local bands singing all sorts of songs in Italian and English. The funniest dance of the night was a very enthusiastic YMCA, but the big crowds flocked the floor for My Way and a mix of Italian faves.
We motored ashore and enjoyed a dish of octopus and a couple of glasses of wine, in a lovely cool evening. About midnight we confessed ourselves beaten and returned to Roaring Girl.
Here the anchoring dance began: just off our stern two little motorboats (maybe 7m long) had anchored absolutely next to each other, and then tied themselves together. With the (well forecast) wind shift to the north east, they were right under our stern. We scrambled aboard and started our engine, getting ourselves away from them. We then had a complicated and noisy discussion. They argued that our 40m scope was too big (in 11m of water). We pointed out that reducing it to 33m, the minimum 3:1 with which we are comfortable, would not make any difference. We took in that 7m, and indeed we were right.
Oh well, they told us, we'd be perfectly safe with 25m of chain out. No way, we asserted, not in a 13ton boat, with the forecast F4 to F6. In fact, not ever! By now we had our engine running continuously as we manoeuvred to keep clear of them. They let out a little more chain, but would not even start their engines. Despite the fact we had been there for two days, and were well-ensconced when they showed up, these guys were not going anywhere.
In all our years of sailing we have never encountered such un-seamanlike rudeness from another boat in an anchorage.
But is was obviously unsafe to stay where we were, so we hoiked our anchor up (covered in thick mud) and moved out to the mouth of the little bay - only 15m deep but much less protected from the coming breeze. We got our anchor well dug in and sat in the cockpit (it now being about 0100) to unwind. Good thing we did.
A blue yacht had been anchored not far from us (just far enough not to be a serious problem, and certainly clear of our problematic neighbours). For no obvious reason he had upped sticks and come out here. He chose to re-drop his anchor not far away. Heigh ho: we sat and watched him for a long time, looking to see if we had similar swinging action in the increasing gusts, and whether he was going to drag. Pip went to bed. At 0300, Sarah decided this was probably ok and went below, finally turning out her light at 0330.
At 0335, she heard an engine close by and extra wave motion hitting the hull. She shot up on deck, and lo! The blue yacht had dragged and was about 2m away! Aiyai, yai, yai. Fortunately, her crew were all on deck and their engine on, but it was a high adrenaline moment!
He motored around in a small circle and then headed back into the bay, from whence he had come. Sarah, of course, was now wide awake again, and sat up another half hour, watching the large motor yacht to leeward gradually shift backwards. It's a big, crewed vessel, and eventually they woke up and moved themselves back into safety.
What a night! This is written the following morning, in a gusty F5. We're doing various jobs aboard, unwilling to leave the boat until the wind, as forecast, decreases this afternoon. Lunch-stop anchoring techniques are simply not enough in these conditions, though we are forced to note that the two tied-together motor-boats are still where they were, occupying our nice spot.

Life on Roaring Girl

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
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