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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Victualling
12/04/2010, Ostia and Fiumicino

Sometimes we get asked about provisioning. We're not preparing for long ocean trips, but we know from past experience that the islands of the western Med can get very pricey for basic foodstuffs - a combination of island overheads and tourist rip-off.
So we want to make sure we're stocked up, able to live well while at anchor for a week or three without having to rely on wildly expensive local shops. (Take note of this anyone planning to visit the Iles d'Hyere: beautiful, but all food stuffs are scandalously dear!) To this end, we returned to Fiumicino, to the big Auchun supermarket and made a major shop. On return we had our two shopping trolleys and two rucksacks full of provender. To stow it, we took everything out of our various food lockers and put it all together, so it could go away in a manageable and useful fashion.
Here it all is!
You can't really see it in this photo, but there is quite a lot of whisky involved, and Pip's Amaretto tipple. Rice, pasta and noodles, tins of meat, fish and veg, quantities of coffee and tea. Various household items, including cleaning kit. A large sack of flour, and lots of milk.
Some things are astonishingly hard to find here. Milk powder, paper coffee filters. And others are really hard to recognise: we've had huge problems tracking down yeast and in fact brought loads out from the UK. Lievito pane degli Angeli, with deceptive pix of baked goods, is everywhere. But it's baking powder and no help for pizza or bread.
We got most of the stuff on our list, but we still hunting the elusive dried milk and the avocado oil we like on salads. And an important Kiwi food symbol has a prominent place in this display, for those who can spot it.

Life on Roaring Girl
Guard rails
11/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Another big task has been improving the guard rails. Over the last six years, they've stretched a bit, and Pip likes them taut as she pulls on them getting in and out of the anchor locker. Also, the net we installed, to keep the cats on board, has got very tired and faded. We still need netting: Roaring Girl has absolutely no toe-rail so things fall overboard very easily, but it only need be half as high as the old arrangement.
Our guard rails are fastened to the pulpit (the steel frame surrounding the pointy end of the deck) with pelican hooks, to make it easy to undo them should we need to do so in a hurry. These in turn are attached to the wire by sta-lok fittings. The point of these is to attach fittings to wire without needing a complicated piece of kit called a swage-press. In effect, you unwind a bit of the wire, insert a cone over the central element, seat a small cog over the cone, replace the wire strands into the teeth of the cone, and slide the fitting over all that, so you can screw the end-attachment in.
The nice folks at the manufacturers (just down the road from us in Essex) had sent us new cones, so we spent two frustrating days ripping out fingers to shreds as we shortened the wire. It's definitely one of those jobs which is perfectly do-able by amateurs but is much easier when you do it all the time. When you only do it three or four times in a decade, it's rather more painful.
That job, too, is finally complete, and Roaring Girl looks very smart with tightened rails, newly tightened stanchions, new netting and even plastic covers on the top rail.

Life on Roaring Girl
Pizza (with trimmings)
10/04/2010, The cockpit

All this work needs fuel. Pip's got a really neat line in making dough, and is churning out foccaccio, home-baked bread and even pizza. Here's the latest, which lasted about 10 minutes after this picture was taken.
And the cif is an extra-yummy dressing.

Life on Roaring Girl
Gini and Albi
10/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Across the pontoon from us is Gini, a rather handsome 50' Gibsea. She has a strong pilot house, and all in all looks more like a Nauticat or some other northern motor-sailor than the stereotyped image of a yacht from Dufour. In fact, these boats have won awards as strong cruising boats, and you can see it in her lines.
Aboard her lives Albi, who is working hard on improvements with a view to selling her in the near future. He is all round clever at boat stuff, and has already cunningly improved our stern anchor roller, making it much stronger and more trustworthy for all those fishing quays ahead of us in southern Italy and Greece. He's also going to dive and scrub our hull. In theory, this is a job we could do, but in fact neither of us are divers. Mike talks longingly of a hookah (seethis site for one make), which is a way of making shallow dives without having to lug a scuba tank about, by having the compressed air tank on deck, or on a raft, and long flexible hose to the diver. This is probably still a bit out of our depth (boom, boom) but something we will explore. It's the sort of kit which would pay for itself pretty fast.
In the meantime, this is Albi, our friend and helper.

Places and people
Easter breakfast at the neighbours
10/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Last weekend was of course Easter and we were invited next door to Amorada for a typical Italian Easter breakfast of boiled egg, proscuttio and salami, which was a real privilege.
Amorada is owned by Alessandra, Fabrizzio and their daughter Veronica (she of the Indian Rope Trick). The boat's name comes from the Sardinian for lover, and also suggests the love (amore) of small bays (rada), which suits her owners who like to get away to small anchorages.

Places and people
Changing a lightbulb
10/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Q: How many cruisers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: 10. One to hold the bulb and nine to turn the boat. (© Pip)

That's not true of course. It takes at least nine. Two to watch and offer meaningless advice while you're up there. At least two to comment on the bulb you removed on the previous trip up the mast, purse their lips and say they don't have one like that. Plus the three others who ask you to come and do theirs as well. All these groups can be bigger, and indeed expand exponentially as soon as the job goes wrong.
Meanwhile, one of you actually has to go up there and change it, while the other one tends the safety lines on the deck.
Our deck light, which is about 10m up the main mast, doesn't see a lot of use, mostly just if it's a really dark night when we anchor, or to light us up really brightly if a fishing boat is paying too little attention to slow yachts in their vicinity. We installed it new in 2003, and it was checked when we had the masts out in 2005. This spring, it wasn't working, so it was time to take it to bits and see what could be done.
In the end it went very smoothly. The ferremente couldn't help, but sent us round the corner to the car suppliers, who took one look and sold us the exact bulb for EU5. Back up the mast, it went in smoothly, the keeper went back in place, the light worked. Woo-hoo. Bulb changed.

Life on Roaring Girl
Everyone's at it
10/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Of course it's not just us. The marina rings to the cries of deck crew and the person aloft asking for a change in height, an additional tool to be sent up on a halyard, or a piece of crucial information.
This is Mike up Aquila's mast. They've only got the one, but it's a lot higher than either of ours. And respect to Linda - they don't have mast-steps, so she has to winch Mike up there. Fortunately, they have electric winches, which takes some of the pain away.
Our six-year old neighbour Veronica, was fascinated by all this and spent some time trying to do the Indian Rope Trick up her boat's spinnaker halyard, very frustrated at her lack of success.

Life on Roaring Girl
Hanging around
10/04/2010, Ostia Lido

It's spring, we're about to go sailing. That means rigging checks. At least this year, we've haven't lost some errant halyard inside a mast. But checking every split pin, every weld and sheave, and washing two big masts still means a lot of time aloft.
Over three days, Sarah spent about eight hours clambering up and down Roaring Girl's two masts - one of the downsides of a ketch over a sloop is that it doubles the rigging checks. Here in Rome, the boat has become absolutely filthy, so every inch of both masts has also been washed down, and the track's lubricated with silicon. That's our trusty orange bucket dangling in the rigging, with soapy water in it.
Finally it's done - a big job crossed off the list.


Life on Roaring Girl
Chasing the ferret
08/04/2010, Fiumicino

Ex-pats with fixer-uppers in sunnier climes. Cruisers fixing their boats in exotic ports. A key word in the new language: find the DIY store. American friends look for the hardware shop. In Spain it's the ferreteria (universally known as the ferret by Brits building their illicit homes in the Andalusian hills), in France, the bricolage. And in Italy it's the ferremente.
Or in the way of the western world, your key destination is known by the global brand - B&Q (thanks, Ellen!), or Homebase. On our wanderings so far, the French chain Leroy Merlin has been pre-eminent. Want some clips for boathooks, sandpaper and paint brushes, inox washers or sanitary hose? Don't want to pay inflated chandlery prices? Find a ferremente, and the larger the better.
Here in Ostia there are a few small ferremente, mostly focused on the car-owner, but a good one near the Panorama supermarket. They're helpful and even have English speaking staff, but are inevitably limited in stock and charge slightly higher prices. So, where's the nearest biggie?
The answer is in Fiumicino, which has, besides a canal, a fishing port and an airport, a large collection of retail parks and shopping malls. A free bus runs three or four times a day from Ostia and back. You catch it outside the pharmacy four doors from the aforesaid ferret. (Timetable available from the marina office.) It drops you outside a large covered shopping centre, with all the usual names inside. This mall also include a huge supermarket, which dwarfs anything in Ostia, very useful for large scale victualling.
From the bus-stop, turn away from the mall and cross the railway on the covered bridge. On the far side, catch a bus for Maccarese. You will see Leroy Merlin and Decathlon appearing through the foliage of roads like a distant dream. Suddenly, the bus roars up alongside the retail park you need; ring the bell or it will sweep you off to some unknown flat-lands beyond our ken.
In this retail park, there's a huge Leroy Merlin, various sports shops, and a very satisfactory pizzeria. We made a successful trip with Linda and Mike, returning heavily laden with electrical tape, a new drill and all sorts of other goodies. A well-caught ferret.

Life on Roaring Girl
Working on the boat
07/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Well - we modified the settings on the Victron inverter/charger (that thing with all the superconductors in the last picture) and it seems to have had some positive effect. For the really interested - we found both the charging current and float voltage needed some amendment, and since then we have seen much less high voltage and not the same shocking power drain when high-demand appliances are switched on.
We are still seeing a high drain when we have two or more of our alepnglows on but Pip is about to put new bulbs in all of them and then we'll see. So - some progress and we've learnt a lot about our boat electrics. Still learning even after 7 years!
Sarah went up the mizzen in the morning - and found it was b---y cold once you are 10m up in the air. All the rigging was fine, but it was much too cold to go splashing water about to clean the sail track and other connectors. Which they badly need after sitting in the salty air of Ostia for several months, rain or no rain. So instead of attacking the main mast we faced up to the electrics. And of course by the time we'd finished the wind had died and it was a great day for rigging work.
But instead we opened a bottle of wine to celebrate our successful work on the demon charger.

Life on Roaring Girl
Electricity
06/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Electrics on boats are always challenging, and for us our biggest technical weak point. We have a sophisticated system which is wonderful when it works well, but is accompanied by some lousy manuals. (Come on Victron - it can't be that difficult to find good translators!)
We are trying to track down and cure the high voltage levels that have been causing us some problems with domestic appliances, and have possibly damaged our much loved alpenglow lights. The next stage, after numerous other checks, is to test all the settings on our extremely clever charger/inverter, shown here with the front off.
Yes, it's very intimidating. Our thanks to many friends at the wonderful cruisers forum who are helping us through this process. Things have already improved a bit by adjusting elements of the controls.
We'd still rather climb the mast/rebuild the skeg/paint the hull - almost anything rather than fiddle with electrics. But then - without it we wouldn't be writing and posting this blog from on board, so it has its uses!

Life on Roaring Girl
And Lucy came too
Extremely variable
06/04/2010, Ostia Lido

Just down the pontoon from us are our new friends Linda and Mike on their Hylas Aquila. You can read all about their adventures at their blog, www.svaquila.com, including their newest crew member, shown here making up to Pip. As Linda says, she's already made major sacrifices for Lucy, not least flying economy from California with her, while Mike (who's very tall) enjoyed business class up front!
It is fun to see another Bichon Frise, just like our friend Milou. Lucy's obviously settling into the boat life really well, so we hope she doesn't suffer from seasickness when they get away from here in a few weeks.
It has to be said that the last few days have had some challenging moments in terms of rolly boats, lurching planks and low temperatures. After beautiful weather on Friday and Saturday, Easter Sunday and the Bank Holiday were characterised by pouring rain, strong winds and heavy swell. Given the weather, the marina was not too uncomfortable (despite its reputation), but ti was extremely cold and nasty for two days. Roll on summer.

Life on Roaring Girl

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