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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Capu Rossu
14/06/2010

From Girolata, we headed South again. First of all we had to round Capu Rossu, the western-most point of Corsica, and to do that we started off by beating back to Pte de Scandola in order to lay one straight tack sou-sou-west. That all went very nicely till the wind died completely. We even put the cruising chute up, for the first time this year, but were still only making 1kt. At that point, we gave up and turned the engine on.
The picture is the cape wearing a fetching cloud ring.

Life on Roaring Girl
Sunrise in Macinaggio
25/05/2010

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
Anchoring rant!
20/05/2010

OK - we've been in Portoferraio anchorage more than two weeks. We've moved a couple of times for various reasons, but last Saturday (today's Wednesday) we had our anchor firmly down in a nice bit of the anchorage, close-ish to San Giovanni but not too close. At that time there were half a dozen boats here and plenty of space.
Late yesterday afternoon, there were twenty boats in, but still loads of space. But one stupid little French motor cruiser, the Dae, sneaks in just beside us. What's the need to snuggle up, hein? But it's not too bad while the wind remains out of the south east.
Come this morning, that's where it's coming from and he's right under our stern. We call out to him and politely remind him we've been here since Saturday and that he should let out more chain, or (preferably) move. By this time several other boats have left and there's plenty of space. For the non-yachties - it is normal etiquette that the first boat gets to stay where she is: it's the later arrival that should hoik up his anchor and get somewhere safe.
But no. Our French friend argues that we should reduce our chain. We have about 35m out, in 8m of water. After a bit of toing and froing, he says that he thinks he is in only 4m of water so his 20m of chain is plenty. We retort that we are in 8m of water, and we're not taking in much. In the end, we do reduce our scope by 10m, and he lets out a very little more chain.
The rain sets in and the wind gets up. You can see from the picture that he's really close. Much less than a boat length. If our snubber had come off the chain (it can happen) and we'd bounced backwards the extra 5m or so, we'd could have hit him.
But he wasn't moving. In the end we got so twitchy we pulled up the anchor and moved elsewhere in the bay.
We don't get it. It's just such poor seamanship. We've got used to the Mediterranean habit of mooring much closer than the UK comfort zone - what with no tides and all. We are happy to use a chum at times. But what makes skippers think they can just put their boat and that of others in danger and then just refuse to move?
We should also report that our much-loved rocna has really been doing the biz. Every time we've pulled it in, it's been well in the mud. We certainly weren't going to drag anywhere.
It's only the second time such poor behaviour has happened to us - and the last time it was Italians here in Italy. But he's as much a foreigner here as us! So we are very grumpy and it's still pouring with rain. We had planned to sail to Marciana Marina today but have decided to stay given the heavy winds forecast by Italian Meteomar for tomorrow. If they don't materialise (and other sites are not forecasting them) we'll head off.
As a final word on this rant - we moved to a nice empty space, and three boats promptly came in and anchored in our vicinity. One of them was definitely too close, but after he'd finished his conversations on two separate mobile phones (he was Italian) he politely moved somewhere safer. Roaring Girl is obviously a magnet for other skippers!

Life on Roaring Girl
Power generation
19/05/2010

How to produce electricity, as well as having energy efficient appliances, is always a hot topic amongst cruisers. We've been asked to say a bit about our approach.
Many boats have a fossil-fuel based generator, but we got rid of the old petrol Suzuki we had and never replaced it. This is partly green snobbery, but also meanness. We'd love a diesel generator but they're very expensive. Petrol ones are noisy and unpleasant.
We have three solar panels, one large one on a pole across the davits and two flexibles. These live on the sprayhood normally, but when at anchor for long we move them around for the best sun.
The mizzen sports an elderly Rutland wind-generator, which is a good generator in low breeze but makes the mizzen mast shake and sounds like a low-flying helicopter in anything above a F4. At the moment we have 2 new blades to install but are wondering whether to take it off completely and instead buy two additional solar panels, to mount each side of the cockpit on our steel rails. And possibly even a mizzen staysail, which would not be safe to use with the generator where it is.
At anchor, we are also glad to use our ampair 100. This small generator can either be towed, or put up in the rigging. Hoisted on lines, it makes little vibration and produces power in 6knots plus of breeze. There are undoubtedly wind gennies with better output but they often make a dreadful hissing noise (we call them kinky as they sound like whips). We find the dual mode and flexibility of the ampair suits us fine. On a breezy, sunny day we easily charge at 10aH plus. Though the cruising community is split on the issue, we like having both forms of power available and today (windy and pouring with rain) we're generating well without relying on a generator or the engine.
The picture above shows the ampair hoisted. The picture gallery, in addition to the solars, tries to show how we hoist it. We put the inner forestay out, and then run a snatchblock up it, using a spinnaker halyard. The red line is the downhaul. The other spinnaker halyard runs through the snatchblock and attaches to the top of the wind genny. It is absolutely crucial that the blades are above head height, and also cannot reach other lines at all.
The lower arm of the genny has three lines acting as guys (two round the pulpit to forward cleats and one back to the mast). The blade at the back has a long, light piece of line attached which we can hold to pull the propeller away from the wind if we need to. The blue wire is the power cord which plugs in to a socket on deck.
To stow it, you take off the blades and the tail, and if you wish to the two legs top and bottom. Then it all fits in a shopping bag. The heaviest bit is the central generator itself, and the bulkiest is the ropes we use as guys. The blade itself is easy to deal with, being dead flat. It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to set it up, so we only bother if we will be in one place for several days, and otherwise we rely on the solars and the charge we will get from the engine while anchoring and getting the sails up.
It sounds very complicated but it's simple enough once you have it worked out.

Life on Roaring Girl
Police behaviour
19/05/2010

We have been boarded only twice in Roaring Girl (so far). Once by the UK Customs, in 2005, in the Thames Estuary, primarily as a training exercise for some newbie who'd never been on a blue-water yacht. They were very polite, but it was still four men with guns. The second time was in France, in the Ile Porquerolles, when they checked our registration papers.
Otherwise, we've shown papers at various ports and that's it.
This week the Cabinieri have been very busy in Elba. T'other day they boarded another boat in Portoferraio. That vessel doesn't carry a captain's licence of any sort: they're not required in their home country. The police told them that they should have such papers here in Italy and threatened them with a '3000 fine! Fortunately they decided the paperwork wasn't worth the hassle and left them alone, leaving the crew pondering their approach to such things.
We checked our papers and dug out our International Certificates of Competence, just in case.
We saw the same vessel visiting a yacht anchored off Biodola when we walked there. And yesterday they visited an Italian yacht right next to us in Portoferraio. He didn't have an anchor ball up, and was fined and made to hoist something. (He chose a black bin bag stuffed with something and tied up like a toffee.) The police ignored the several other non-Italian yachts flagrantly disregarding the rules around about and returned to harbour.
We'd got our paperwork ready and were happy to be visited, but obviously we weren't interesting.
So, if you're sailing to Italy be prepared with the documents and have an anchor ball to deploy.

Life on Roaring Girl
More comments on passarelles
Cold and windy
10/05/2010, Still in Portoferraio

Thanks for the comments. Rather than just reply we thought we'd add another post.
Here in the Med everybody carries a passarelle. Some people manage to get away with clambering off their bow or off their sugar scoop stern, but it can be well dodgy, especially as it risks having to have your boat too close to the dock. These aren't forgiving floating wood pontoons; they are solid concrete constructions, often with chains, rings and other damaging metal protrusions. So, if you are in this vicinity you need such a thing, and you need to work out a way to stow it. Ours gets lashed onto the pushpit when we're underway.
They vary from a simple plank with a couple of holes (to facilitate the lashing on board), to extraordinarily sophisticated, purpose made, folding contraptions of gridded teak and steel. Ours is about 1.8m long - the length you need depends on the fitting on your boat and whether you have to get over an obstruction such as a dinghy or a sugar scoop stern. We're sorry we don't have a pic of one of a catamaran but they're generally run off one of the hulls and need to be long enough to cover any scoop.
We (Pip) got an aluminium ladder from a hardware store and a light plank. Ours isn't plywood, but it was just cheap, light seasoned wood. It's screwed into the rungs and then painted, with a few bits of non-slip deck covering glued on top. That's the basic object. We like the ladder and light wood combo because it is much lighter than a single plank needs to be to take the weight: also two things have to break, and we have heard of simple planks snapping which would be a really bad moment!
The wheels come from a hardware store, and are held on with a long bolt through the bottom rung. This could be done with a bar and cotter pins: essentially it's just an axle. We take ours off for stowage. Some people don't bother with the wheels, and some put a fender or bit of bumpering under the end of the plank.
The lines holding it up have a bit of bungee in which really helps. They run to lifting eyes, which again are bolted through the ladder. We did try holes in the plank but that wasn't wide enough. We also tried a chafe-protected line through the ladder and that didn't work at all.
Some people decorate and carve their passarelles: we remember Bella of Lymington who had a simple plank, beautifully finished and with her name in flowing calligraphy along its length. We are not organised enough for that, but on the other hand if it did break or rot, it's cheap and easy to replace.

Life on Roaring Girl
Getting off the boat while tied up – the introduction to passarelles
09/05/2010

Any cruiser contemplating visiting this area has thought about Med mooring: coming in bows or stern-to and either picking up laid lines or using your own anchor to hold you off the dock. But once you've done that, how do you get off the boat?
The answer is - walk the plank!
These gangplanks are called passarelles in the fancy jargon, and they come in all shapes and sizes. The picture is of Roaring Girl in Ostia. (Note our fancy new netting and tightened guard rails while we're at it!) Our passarelle was made with help of Dave from Englander in Barcelona, who whisked Pip off for a plank and ladder, and helped the development of this sturdy tool. In Ostia we have also improved the system for raising the passarelle up - by the two lines leading up to a metal yoke which in turn is attached to the spinnaker halyard. We experimented with bits of wood and what have you, but in the end got the purpose made bit of kit, which has worked much better.
It is equally important to stop it waving from side to side, and that's where the red lines back to the pulpit come in. Lots of boats have pulley systems to help with this job, but we haven't achieved that refinement yet.
A key challenge for us is how the passarelle is attached to the boat. We have made a hole in the plank and that fits over the fitting to which we attach the foot of the cruising chute, a raised wedge of steel with a hole in attached to the bow roller. (One disadvantage of the Rocna anchor is that it has to be dropped as the shank is too big for the plank to sit smoothly over it.) This provides, essentially, a pivot point. Flashier boats, like Roysterer in the gallery) often have a purpose built fitting which attaches to their passarelle by a hinge arrangement. Other boats, particularly those with sugar scoop sterns, can just have a plank, like Morgana) which sits on the steps and across to the dock.
We found in Ostia that the water level rose and fell more than anywhere else we have been in the Med. We're not sure why but southerly and westerly winds depressed the water level significantly, even if they brought rain with them. This means that being able to adjust the passarelle is more important than usual. For some, like Aquila, the American flagged boat in the gallery, there's the added frisson of making sure the end will actually sit on the dock if the wind is blowing the boat away!
The most scary, we think, is Malaika's, the steep one which goes across their dinghy and has few hand holds, but Benji and Heather (who took their pic) are happy with it. Motorboats often have nifty electric extenders, and some classic boats have beautiful gridded teak passarelles that fully deserve the name. We like ours for being light, practical and cheap, but it needs care to cross, just the same.

Life on Roaring Girl
Portoferraio
04/05/2010

After anchoring deeper in the Rade of Porto Azzuro about which we wrote last yearzzuro, , including some pilotage notes we dinghied ashore. The little town is as sweet as ever, but fairly closed up still as the season doesn't really begin till the end of May. After lunch back aboard, the easterly breeze was picking up and the sun was shining, so we headed round to Portoferraio.
it was a very pleasant, if gentle sail, and made up for the rigours of the long day before. We arrived in the Rade of Portoferraio to find Aquila had got here before us. The forecast for the rest of the week is dire with rain and today, Tuesday, high winds. So far the forecast is accurate and we are glad our rocna appears to be very well dug in. We've not got a lot of power though, as the skies are overcast. Our main wind generator is still awaiting its new blades (they're here: we just have to install them), and it's been too windy to put up our additional wind genny that hovers over the foredeck when we're at anchor. So we're conserving electricity which restricts computer time. Hence no pix and not a complete update from Rome and leaving Ostia.
Although it's a very quiet day it's lovely to relax and be on board at anchor, playing cards, reading and doing a few small jobs.


Life on Roaring Girl
Back in Elba
03/05/2010

A long and unpleasant first trip of the season. Rain, swell, thunder, cold - oh and did we mention the swell? Our first stop was planned to be Anse Campese on the west coast of Giglio, but when we got there it was raining so hard that we couldn't see the shore - let alone avoid the shallow patches and the reef. We hung about for 20 minutes but then gave up and turned our bows for Elba. we're now on the edge of Porto Azzuro, and plan to move in there today and visit the sweet little town before swinging round to Portoferraio tomorrow.
We've updated the map to show where we are too.

Life on Roaring Girl
Games to drink with.
23/04/2010

For two days it rained and blew a hoolie. In the UK, we know from several gloating friends, it was a beautiful weekend. On the Friday we stayed on board, doing a few small jobs, and updating this blog. That night we went to visit Mike and Linda on Aquila. They have introduced us to several new games, not least Mexican Train Dominoes - a fiendish way of trying to ensure your nearest and dearest lose!
We will be buying a set.

Life on Roaring Girl
Dinghy attacked
21/04/2010, Afloat in Ostia

At last, the end of the job list was well in sight. Pip had done wonders in the gas locker. The engine had run sweetly. Stowage was complete. We started pondering an hour or so's outing on Wednesday, before the forecast gales, to test the engine under load and get the sails up. And some time for long-overdue sightseeing in Rome.
A blow-in neighbour put a crimp in all that. Our dinghy, Bridgit was hanging innocently in the davits, as she has, when not in use, for several days. Along comes this eejit who reversed fast into the space next door. Crunch. He caught Bridgit's bow cap in his stanchion, and in moments had torn the lifting eye out, leaving her cockeyed and damaged.
A lot of Italian shouting followed, both on deck and in the marina office. He was convinced that this was somehow our fault, while Sarah repeatedly told him that he should have used his eyes.
In the end, of course, Pip's great fibreglass skills can fix this. She has filled both that lifting eye, and the one on the other side. This is a chance to lower the eyes, which will help Bridgit sit more snugly against the davits in future. She has also ground out and refilled the cracked area inside the bow cap, which was the most worrying damage for the dinghy's integrity. The job isn't finished, but Bridgit will soon be back in action. It's a shame that today (Friday) it's blowing a hoolie and raining, so no more gel coating can be done.
The eejit has blown out again on his way to heaven knows where, and good riddance to him. It may cost us a day of fibreglass drying time, and it has meant more work for Pip. But if she didn't have those talents, this could have been an expensive and difficult delay. Hooray for Pip!


Life on Roaring Girl
Compass clean-up
18/04/2010

Our Sestrel binnacle compass is Roaring Girl's original, making a solid, beautiful object now 33 years old. When we had finished all our work in Ipswich, which included quite a lot of new electronics, we got the compass refurbished, and then swung. This is an arcane art, now practiced by a few specialists, and involves making sure that the magnets positioned around the compass are oriented in such a way that the magnet needle does indeed point due north, despite the nearby attractions of the engine block and other chunks of metal. We got ours done by the lovely Peter Garrod of Seath instruments in Lowestoft and a fine job he did.
But several years later, the compass had fogged up. A horrible brown yuck, reminiscent of fluffy ear wax, coated the compass card. The dome had become dulled and semi-opaque. Altogether an unpleasant and (more importantly) unusable object.
We were not prepared to pay for a new one. Anything resembling our splendid old one would be prohibitively expensive. Besides, we have this astounding teak mounting, made for us as a generous civil partnership present by Chris Dean in Ipswich, and we don't want to tamper with it. And getting it refurbished here in Rome would be, if possible, very costly. So we took a deep breath and decided to tackle it ourselves.
We now have a gallery on this blog, and if you look at the album 'Compass Clean-Up' you'll see pix of this process. We've written it up at length, to help any other cruisers with the same problem.
Before we started, we had Plans B and C. We have a small binnacle compass, which we keep for use in the dinghy (though we never have used it) which we could dig out and use for a while. Or a cheapy one from a dealer such as Plastimo, might be slotted into the stand for this summer, till we either find a compass refurbisher in Malta or take it back to the UK.
With this security in mind, we tackled the job. First of all, we polished the outside of the dome. That had no effect at all on the legibility of the card or the brown yuck in the oil inside. So secondly, we opened up the small screw on the side, which is where little quantities of oil can be added to top up if a bubble has formed. It was immediately obvious that the oil was badly contaminated and merely adding or exchanging small amounts would make no difference. Now we were moving outside our comfort zone of previously achieved tasks. After a deep breath, we removed the collar around the outside of the dome, which contains the screws attaching the compass to its base. That made no difference to anything.
There seemed little hope but to drain out all the oil, and see if we could do any cleaning up inside. With trepidation we unscrewed the brass ring around the compass base and then peeled away the thick plastic diaphragm that holds the oil sump.
Very carefully we drained it all out into various containers. A short note here on compass oil. Some cruisers report success with various more common oils, in particular Johnson's baby oil. We have always tried to stick to the manufacturers recommended oil, which is an extremely fine grade with a high level of transparency which should not cloud or discolour in response to changes in temperature, and not weight the card so that compass motion is overdamped. (Note that different compass manufacturers use marginally different oils.) We carry a bottle of the stuff especially for dealing with bubbles. The whole compass holds about 1.5 litres. After draining the compass, we therefore had over a litre of mucky oil which we would have to clean up somehow if it was going back into use.
Before tackling that problem, we needed to clean inside the compass. Pip liberated two brushes from her mug-painting kit. Very carefully we brushed inside the dome and across the card. Although some of the earwax lifted and resettled, our strokes had no effect on the grime caked on the inside of the dome. Time for even bigger risks. We broke out the meths as the least damaging degreaser we could think of. Acetone would be very damaging to the plastic and rubber elements. A little dab on the brush and hey presto! The grime came away. The glass began to clear, and the figures on the card began to show. With great precision, Pip brushed away with the meths, gradually dislodging and removing all the yuckiness. This left us with a clean looking dome and card but knowing a lot of stuff was still inside.
We pondered the possible damage of methylated spirits to sealants and diaphragms. In the end there was little choice. We put small amount of meths inside and swilled it around, gradually draining it out. Of course we didn't have that much meths on board so in the middle of this we had to go out and buy some, which meant discovering what meths is called in Italian. (Alcool denaturato, thanks to Google translate!)
This left us with a clean compass, empty of oil and unusuable. We certainly didn't have enough unused oil to refill it, so we had to work out how to clean (or 'polish') the oil. We set up a wee filtration factory on our table top, on a handy bit of oil cloth. Step 1: run the oil through a filter made out of a (purpose-bought) small strainer and a double piece of 10-denier mesh (aka a cut up piece of tights). This is where the coffee filter papers, unobtainable in Italy, would have come in handy. Repeat several times, replacing the mesh if necessary. Step 2: Put a plug (a wine bottle cork) in the bottom of a Racor diesel filter and suspend it on a skewer over a clean container. Pour the first-filtered oil through the diesel filter, giving it time to soak through the paper. Repeat.
For the least mucky stuff this worked well and quickly. For the really filthy stuff, Step 1 was modified by adding kitchen paper into the strainer. This was great at catching scummy bits, but a lot of oil was wasted by soaking into the paper, so we reserved this refinement for the dirtiest oil.
Now we had lots of lovely clear oil and a clean compass, and the challenge of reuniting them. Could we find our small funnel? Of course not. After two hours searching we went out and bought about ten assorted funnels. Back on the boat, none of them fit into the screw hole designed for the job. An hour later the small funnel decided to surface, and after all that, it didn't fit either. Life on boats! Eventually we found a 2ml syringe in our medicine chest, the nozzle of which fit in the hole.
We re-seated the diaphragm at the bottom of the compass, sealing it on with black sikaflex. We then replaced the brass ring that sits over it. Those screws are really soft metal and we broke one in situ, finally sealing the hole with a copious dab of the black goo. Then we left it overinight for the glue to go off.
Time to begin. We lined up the nozzle, stuck the small funnel in the top and slow, slowly, slowly started refilling the compass. Eventually it began to fill up, and resemble a normal compass with a large bubble. As it reduced, we guarded our precious oil stocks. Once the bubble was the size of a large washer, we sealed everything up, and put the compass in the fridge. This is standard because the colder oil creates a larger bubble for gradual replenishment. Then when the weather is hotter, the oil expands, making the bubble vanish.
Over the next few days we have gradually reduced the bubble, and at the time of writing its diameter is about 3mm. We even have about 50ml of polished oil and another 50ml of unused oil left to gradually eliminate even that. The photo above was taken a day or so through these final stages. You can see the oil is beautifully clear. So long as the diaphragm and seals don't leak, we think the compass will see us through to Malta and a professional refurb.
We know the professionals will throw their hands up in horror. And we wouldn't recommend this process as a general habit. If you do need to set about it, you will need the meths, funnels, filters and containers we've talked about. And enormous amounts of kitchen towel: we got through at least two whole rolls during this exercise.

Life on Roaring Girl

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