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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Passage to Calvi and the Danger

We were up very early in the morning given a forecast of stronger winds later in the day. After rounding the big red rock which gives Ile Rousse its name, we headed west. It's only about six miles from the rock to Punta de Spagna, where you turn into the Gulf of Calvi, but in between lies the Danger de Algajola. (There's a picture of it in the album about Ile Rousse). This terrifyingly named reef is only 0.8m below the surface and about a mile off shore. It kicks up a wicked froth so can be hard to see. It is unpleasant enough that the charts call it a Danger, rather than the much more common 'rock' or even 'roches'. We were very keen to get past it before the wind increased.
In the event, as we passed the lonely cardinal mark that indicates the offshore edge of the Danger, the sea was calm. But half an hour later, as we reached Spagna, the promised south westerly had arrived and indeed there were white caps everywhere and Roaring Girl pitching hard. It was a relief to round the finger of rocks pointing at the next headland and turn south into the protected waters off Calvi. Once deep in the bay, protected by the encircling mountains, the water was calm. We dropped anchor at 0800 with the whole day left to explore.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
A long march

The area west of the gulf of St Florent is called the Desert des Agriates. The name means bread basket, and this region was so rich in wheat that the Genoese imposed a punitive fiscal regime to make sure extra cash wasn't financing insurrection. But too much farming and soil erosion, and many fires, have laid waste, and now this is a huge area of scrub maquis. Beautiful for walking, swimming and wildlife, and a loss of productive land.
We decided to explore by walking along the coast path. Not planning on a huge hike, we rowed ashore and left Bridget neatly anchored. Or we were arranging this when we saw a RIB full of blokes investigating Roaring Girl. Pip did some womanful rowing back for us to be greeted by the douanes (customs) wanting to inspect our papers. Usual drill: we're politely separated and asked the same questions (as far as language allows) and one man looks casually into all cabins. They check papers and then go. It's all polite but it's still men with guns tromping around our decks!.
So off we go again, and use a washed up buoy with 3m of chain as our base and a dual anchor onto the beach, leaving the dinghy comfortably afloat but out of easy temptation's reach.
After a while, we decided to keep going to Plage de la Lotu, which we had seen a ferry for from St Florent (and felt its wake) many times. There'll be a water source there, we thought, maybe even a café shack. Hundreds of folk go there every day.
We had a beautiful walk. The unique smell of Corsican maquis enveloped us, with giant fennel, the rich wild rosemary, creeping thyme all playing their part. There are several small streams to ford, many leading from small salt etangs, along the shores of which cattle graze, the long horned heads nodding for siesta. Astonishing white beaches, from big half-moons to tiny scraps of space, some deserted. Steep climbs with the shrubs above head-height, offering brief patches of shade. Glittering turquoise water in the beach shallows, ringed by deeper, darker sea where the weed and rocks flourish on the seabed.
In the photo album there are pictures of this hike, including the tiny Fornali Creek. This is shown as an anchorage but the boat permanently moored beneath the private residence on the headland severely diminishes the space
There is an old Genoese tower on this route (of course) at Baie de la Mortella. The Genoese successfully held it against Lord Hood when the British weighed in to support the independence struggle of Pasquale Paoli. Hood was so impressed that he ordered towers of similar design all over British territory, giving rise to the familiar round Martello towers of which so many were built on the British coast to defend against ... the Corsican Napoleon!
This one has very thick walls and a useful, flat stopping place. What it lacks is clear signage. If you ever do this walk, you go up from the tower - not down! We went down and had an exciting 40 minute scramble across the rocks. Neither of us are used to pushing our fingers into crannies and not breathing in case it spoils your balance. 40 minutes was enough, and then we gratefully rejoined the path.
It's still a little further to the plage, which is completely devoid of anything resembling fresh water or kiosks. By then we'd been walking for about 4.5 hours with a litre of water between us and were gasping. We took the first swim of the season off the beach: the cold snow run-off was just what we needed.
Fortunately, the ferry took us back to St Florent (despite our ticketless state: we did have money!). There we got a much needed bottle, and then hiked the last hour back to patient Bridget.
All in all we probably walked over 10 miles. Despite the water (and food) shortage we had an excellent time. We'd recommend the walk if you're in the area. There are also many good anchorages along here, though all more exposed than where we based ourselves. Lots of pictures in a new album about this hike.

Places and people
St Florent

This is another touristy town. The Nebbio region is well known for wine and charcuterie, and the gulf is famous for its fish. But to eat ashore is scandalously expensive, or very poor quality - or both. We have managed to find a laundry, and enjoyed reacquainting ourselves with French boulangeries. Pip has put her baking away until we return to Italy.
Dinghy parking isn't simple in the marina. We went up the river Aliso a little distance, to find it packed with small power boats, and a new basin for them is being built. However, every spot is spoken for. We finally parked Bridgit under the bows of an elderly, pretty gaff rigged boat sporting a huge pirates flag and alobster pot hanging off the port bow. Nobody seemed to care.
The town has always made itself a bit flash. The name derives from the Bishop Florent who served as Bishop of Nebium following his exile to Corsica from North Africa by King Huneric of the Vandals in the 5th century. Florent's remains were taken to Treviso, and in 1770 the Bishop of the Nebbio asked the pope for a skeleton. He took what he was given, and on it he built up some features in wax and dressed the body, which now lies in a glass casket, as a Roman soldier.
Today the town has two poles (about 200m apart). One is the glitzy seafront with its cafes and strollers. The other is the 15th century Genoese citadel which you can visit and where they put on various events during the year.
At the time of writing, we are still at anchor across the Golfe: the picture shows the wee beach which is part of the coastal path. The weather forecast was a libecchio - the western Mediterranean south-westerly - driven both by a diminishing depression traveling north of us to the Ligurian Sea, and another depression south of the Balearics. Despite the forecast and pressure charts, the reality has given us a nifty north easterly, gusting up to about 20knots and blowing straight into the bay. We are perfectly comfortable, and it's very hot in the cockpit. We're generating enough energy to keep the laptop powered and get this blog up to date. But it's very strange, given the data, and so we're staying on board till the wind dies

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Arriving at the Golfe de St Florent

All of these headlands and buildings are useful landmarks on the way to St Florent. The gulf, about half a mile wide, is fronted to the east by the little resort town, and to the west by the hills that begin the Desert des Agriates. The pilot book makes it clear that you must leave the red beacon Tignosa to port, but it can be difficult to pick out. Keep your heading well westerly until you have it firmly in your sights.
You can anchor pretty much anywhere in the bay, as it is less than 10m from a long way out. From the 5m contour, it shallows sharply though, so make sure that you have enough depth for any swinging room.
We have anchored on the western side, off the tiny beaches that run towards the headland on which perches the green beacon of Cap Fornali. Good holding in mud and weed and reasonable shelter from south and west. Easterlies are okay, although you might want to move across the bay, and the whole area is open to the north.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Rounding Cap Corse – the ruminations

A striking feature of the Cap is the fortifications. The island, of course, sits strategically across the seaways of the northern half of the western Mediterranean. It has been inhabited for at least 3000 years; in the first 2000 it changed hands a few times - Toreens, Greeks, Romans and so on. But after the fall of the Western Empire, life got very warlike. Vandals, Byzantines, Lombards, Saracens, Pisans all took a turn, until the Genoese finally established control in 1284.
Their sovereignty was heavily contested - by Pisa, Aragon, France, Florence, and most of all by the Corsicans themselves. The Genoese hung on (although at times only by the tips of their fingers within a few coastal towns) until the mid-eighteenth century. At that point, the Corsicans achieved a short-lived self-rule under their hero, Pasquale Paoli, but he was beaten by the French. After the Revolution, he regained control, until he fell out with the National Assembly. The British backed him, creating a short-lived independent kingdom which fell apart when the British abandoned the island to its fate after just two years. The French retook Corsica, but did not allow Corsicans citizenship till 1815 - and of course even today there is significant independent sentiment across the island.
All these battles leave their mark on the landscape, most of all the towers that parade along the coast. At the same time, high on the hills above, wind towers march, producing power from the free abundance of moving air. In today's Europe, energy security is at the heart of safety and prosperity, and here, again, Corsica is in a vital position.
The Cap also carries several lighthouses and the radar station. The danger of the sea hasn't changed, although our ability to mitigate and avoid the risks has improved a lot. Coming into Corsica we had had to alter course to avoid a fast moving cargo vessel. Diminishing fuel suggests that before long maybe such a vessel will use a parasail (see this article) to reduce costs.
It's not a long stretch of water, but it contains a lot to ponder, even on a calm and beautiful day.

Rounding Cap Corse – the pilotage

After all that, the actual cape is stunningly beautiful and, in settled weather, could offer several days delightful cruising along its five mile breadth. It is very reminiscent of Scotland with one key difference: at 0800 it was 23 centigrade in the cockpit. Not imaginable in the Western Isles on 23rd May! We took over 70 photos - you'll be glad to know they're not all in the album in the gallery.
From Macinaggio, you go northeast past the pretty Baie de Tamarone. This is a popular lunchtime anchorage, but no-one seemed to have spent the night there. The first milestone is rounding Ile Finocchiarola, which has a distinctive Genoese ruined tower on it. There is plenty of room between it and the Sante Marie Beacon which marks a dangerous reef some 400m eastwards.
From here your turn just west of north and cruise past some beautiful bays, where the grass slopes across the hills to rocks that are smoothed and folded till they resemble an elephant's skin. The pilot warns of rocks and reefs across the entrances, so you would not want to enter at night. There was an intrepid yacht anchored in there though, and the shelter looked excellent.
After about three miles, you must decide whether to go between Pta d'Agnello and Isle de la Garaglia, or outside; the pass between the two is the photo above. The island has a very distinctive white tower on it. The headland on the south side of the channel is also crowned with a Genoese ruin. Heikell suggests least depths of 10m, and the chart showed 11m. Mid-channel, we never saw less than 17.8m. Looking back through that channel, we could just see Isola Capraia underneath the rising sun.
Directly beneath the pointed rocks west of Pta d'Agnello, we saw a boat nose into the tiny cove beneath the tower - so it's obviously deep enough and would be a fantastic spot in settled weather; definitely one for local knowledge or a reconnaissance in the dinghy! Further along there are several excellent bays and anchorages, plus two tiny fishing villages.
At the western end of the Cap is Capo Grosso, which has a very prominent white radar tower on it. It's not mentioned in any of the pilotage notes, but is a great landmark. Just as we were coming past it (but had stopped taking photos) a coast guard vessel roared up and took a good look at us. Without saying a word they then buzzed off again: we obviously don't look like drug-runners, and we even had our motoring cone hoisted!
The eastern side of the Cape is dramatic. Ile de Centuri sticks out clearly, sheltering the tiny port and anchorage. The steep ravine of Marine de Giottani sits behind the Roche de Magliarese, and the bays at Albo and Nonza are also possible stopping points. On this side of the Cape, the cliffs are steep and often bare rock: a completely different landscape from the softer east. The quarry and factory at Albo show that, in addition to the fertile farmlands of the Nebbio sub-region, there have been other sources of prosperity in this remote area.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Sunrise in Macinaggio

On Sunday morning, there was hardly a breath of air on the north-eastern tip fo Corsica. A stunning sunrise greeted us, on what will be our last east facing anchorage till we return through the Straits of Bonifacio.
This was the weather we wanted for our passage around Cap Corse. This jutting finger has a formidable reputation. The waters are shallow, filled with rocks, and the headlands whip the wind to frenzy which in turn creates mountainous seas very fast.
The reputation of the cape had had us watching the weather carefully for days, and it was a great relief to see the day dawn as calm as predicted. It meant motorsailing, but we prefer that to fighting such a headland under sail in bigger winds.

Life on Roaring Girl
Goodbye to Elba

On Saturday morning, we waved our goodbyes to the island. We have enjoyed both our visits to Elba - a beautiful, historic and hospitable island. The local tourist board has never really marketed beyond the domestic and German markets, so it is relatively unknown by the Brits, but we would recommend it to anyone.

Places and people
The walk to La Cala: our last Elba hike, and the last dinner

Marciana Marina itself is a touristy town. We had an splendid last-night-in-Elba meal at the Trattoria Secco in the main square - and couldn't decide between there and the Quattro Rioni in Capoliveri as the best eatery we visited. You will just have to visit both and make your own minds up.
We earned the meal by a longish hike across the hills to the tiny hamlet of La Cala. This appears to be only accessible on foot (or donkey), though the maps show a road winding higher up in the foothills of La Capanne. The picture above shows the village from the sea (taken the next day) amidst the thick greenery We trekked through beautiful woodland, reminiscent of New Zealand (and, inevitably, Middle Earth), hearing doves and cuckoos and filling our water bottle from a fresh stream of mountain water.
It was about 90 minutes each way. La Cala is half way to the small settlement of San Andrea, but we couldn't see any easy way to fit with the bus timetable, so retraced our steps. It was as well we had taken a packed lunch as the footpath is very isolated and apart from one exclusive hotel there are no facilities along the way.

Places and people
Marciana Marina – notes on the harbour

bAs noted before, there are now no free quays in this port. A lot of money has been spent on new pontoons, power and water all the way along the breakwater. It's run by a very competitive sailing club, not a marina company, and the showers are dire. However, electricity and water are included in the price (36EU up to 12m for one night in May).
The picture above is taken from the western end, looking east at the entrance. There is an album in the gallery, showing some details of the port, including the conspicuous tower at the western end. To get from the outer breakwater, where we were moored, you walk the whole way round the harbour to the office of the club, where you pay.
A small catamaran anchored the night in the middle of the harbour, apparently without interference or charge, so that is still possible. There is not a lot of room though and you would only want to do this in calm weather.
Entrance is extremely simple, during office hours an ormaggiatori comes to help you and there are trailed lines from all moorings.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Back in France
22/05/2010, Macinaggio, Corsica

We sadly waved goodbye to Elba this morning, and will post some final piccies shortly. After a motorsail WNW, with little breeze most of the way, we have dropped anchor in the Baie de Macinaggio on the north-eastern tip of Corsica. We're probably not going to both to untie Bridgit and go ashore, as tomorrow we are heading off round the pointed finger of the island, given the predicted calm.
It's a lovely bay though, and beautifully sheltered from the north-westerly that has been blowing in our faces all day.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
A short passage
20/05/2010, 42 48.514'N 010 11.872'E

We have moved to Marciana Marina today, nestling at the foot of Mt Capanne. It's a touristy little town but there's a nice walk to do tomorrow, and we desperately needed to fill our water tanks.
The pilot book suggests it is possible to moor for free on the quay, using your own anchor. Not any more! We''d reconciled ourselves to paying (for the access to water) but otherwise the 36 euroes a night would have been a nasty shock. At least we also have mains power, giving us enough to time to upload all the latest posts on this blog.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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