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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Stormy fingers

The forecast for Saturday and Sunday in the western Med has been absolutely appalling. Rough, force 8 and higher, swells of 3m. So we've stayed firmly put.
Actually our very first arrival wasn't so firm. It was raining so we had the cockpit cover up with the Velcro sides on. A black cloud swelled over the headland and then bam! A strong down draft, over 35kt, took us on the beam. For the frist time, the rocna shifted. It very quickly caught again and reset, as it's designed to, but we were then a bit too close to the harbour wall for comfort. So we moved out a bit, and became glad of it. Over Friday evening and Saturday morning this wee anchorage filled right up, but we kept enough clear water around us to be comfortable.
Late in the afternoon, the black clouds reached over the western hills, and we settled back on our chain. The forecast had been so emphatic you could sense the apprehension on all the boats. But then we were let off lightly and the wind didn't go over 20 kts all night, and we slept well.
This has given us a chance to catch up on this blog. We know people prefer a daily load, but it is a challenge what with power demands and a string of poor internet connections! If you don't already, then use the RSS feed on the blog, which will alert you when we make new posts, without you having to come back and check!
Tonight is still predicting strong southerlies (to which we are more exposed here) so we will stay another day, fill up with fuel and water in the morning and then see if the predicted nice northerly will take us to our next destination.

Life on Roaring Girl

The headland of Parata is marked by another tower; this one says it is one of 90 on the island. We feel like we've seen more than that already and we've only cruised about one-third of the coastline! It is easy to take the No. 5 bus from Place de Gaulle and get off at the end of the line to climb up to the tower and clamber around the headland. Poor Lucy drank half a bottle of water when she got to the top, and we were all glad of a drink in the café afterwards.
In settled weather, there's a glorious anchorage underneath this point, with clear water down to sand. It is, however, very open to the south.
The album for this post has a few more pictures of the archipelago. Note that the pass is right under the tower, inside the Ile de Porri, no between the first two islands out. Amazing alliums grow here and there are some wonderful rock striations too, caused by the interfolding of the two different, non-mixing magmas. The darker grey is diorite, while the white is a form of granite.

Places and people
Un cadeau pour Ajaccio

We came into Ajaccio anchorage primarily for shelter, and the forecast kept us here longer than we expected. Ajaccio itself is just another town (and the largest we've seen since leaving Ostia), though it has a sweet old centre. From a cruiser perspective it has several strong points: good holding and shelter, a huge Carrefour five minutes from where you tie up the dinghy plus several excellent hardware shops and chandleries. All much more interesting to us, we have to admit, than the cult of Napoleon.
The main anchorage on the chart is actually pretty small. It is bounded to the west by yellow buoys which appear to mark the commercial jetty, and almost certainly now show very foul ground. To the west of this is now full of mooring bouys. On the other side of this anchorage, there are four large white buoys, joined by ropes and ominously marked 'GAZ'. You can however anchor east of these four buoys, which is further from town, but perfectly ok. Alternatively, anchor north of the ferry quays but south of the mooring field: the water here is deeper and you will feel more wash from the ships.
The main dinghy dock is a hard stone quay beside a campervan park at the northern end of the bay. It has a couple of metal rings in the wall. (You can ignore the pile of fishing net - it's obviously been dumped and now has plants growing on it!) We put down a grapnel anchor to hold us off, but then completely failed to get it up again. Even Mike, two other blokes and a 15hp engine failed to shift it. So we have buoyed it and left it as a hold-off marker for dinghies: our present to cruisers visiting Ajaccio.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Iles Sanguinaire

These 'bloodthirsty islands' are like dinosaur's teeth chewing at the water off Pte de Parata. There is a pass, just beneath the point which is well marked on the charts and easy to see in calm weather. Note it is right under the tower on the headland, not between the next two islands. See the photo album about the headlands defencest for some further pictures. We wouldn't go anywhere near this headland in a strong wind!

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)

We got into Cargese as it was getting dark, and anchored close to Aquila. Too close as it turned out, when the boats swung to a southerly breeze. We hauled up the hook and reanchored - enjoying a spectacular thunderstorm which got going whilst we were fossicking about finding the right spot. There's quite a lot rocks thereabouts and even our trusty rocna took a while to be well dug-in.
We then had a rocky, swelly night and were both stiff and bad-tempered in the morning. We decided not to go ashore but head for Ajaccio ahead of a nasty forecast.
In a way that's a shame. Cargese, as you can see from the photo, has two huge churches, one Roman Catholic and the other Greek Orthodox. There is a long history of an orthodox presence and Greek community here. At times there has been tension between them and the Corsicans, but this is all now resolved (at least according to guide books), and Cargese is home to a devout congregation and an important annual festival for St Spiridion.

Life on Roaring Girl
Capu Rossu

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
While we're on the subject

Actually the subject is waste. (This is unusual for cruisers, any three of whom can spend hours discussing the heads, but that's for another time.)
Girolata is a tiny village, but in the high season, we were told, some 2000 people a day walk along or visit its beach. That's an enormous impact from hikers and sailors, which the village is working hard to manage. Part of their approach is to strongly encourage recycling and management of waste, including supplying all visiting boats with a compostable bag for their food waste! Presumably they also make money from the rubbish, and all power to them.
At the eastern end of the beach is a small rubbish area (pictured here) which has containers for oil (food only), compost (all other food remains), plastic, tins, paper and then whatever is left over. The site is superbly clean, and barely whiffy, even on a hot day. We've certainly smelt plenty worse. There is a big can crusher, and the bales of tins are already being squared away for removal and sale.
We were impressed by this waste site, one of the best we've seen. And with so much travelling, and Sarah's professional responsibilities for waste management, we've seen a few! Other rural areas with a big visitor footfall could learn from the approach here, for example in some of the NZ sites we camped in two years ago. It does need some labour to keep it so well, but a good arrangement for treatment and sale would help with the financial impact, if not actually make money.
If they can manage this in a village unreachable save by boat or foot and such a huge transient population, then there's not much excuse for the rest of us.

Places and people
How to s**t in the woods

Yes, this is a book - we even have it on board. Judging from the disgusting proliferation of used toilet paper beside the track out of Girolata (and in the Desert, and even in Elba) a few people could do with the lesson.
It's not even high season yet. If it's like this now, by mid-August these tracks will be white with used bog-paper. So, listen up, hikers!
Take with you a bit of loo paper and couple of bags. The sort you use to clear up after your dog, or to put your loo paper in on board. The ones your veggies came in will do! If you have one, a small fibreglass trowel or even a spoon (not for reuse.) Put these small things into their own 'facilities bag,' which might be a dry bag.
When nature calls, step off the path. Well off the path! It's not that hard. Make a small hole. If you can't, find a couple of good stones or branches (very easy in the maquis.) Do your business. Wipe your bottom and put the used loo paper in the small bag. Tie the bag up tightly. Pop it into your facilities bag.
Cover the mess you've made - either by shovelling earth over it, or using the stones. All of this applies even if all you are doing is having a pee, but still using the toilet paper. Take it with you!
Return to the path and continue your walk, fortified by the knowledge that you have not littered the environment nor left traces of your bodily needs for other people to enjoy.
When you find a litter bin, put the small bags of paper into the bin.
There - that wasn't difficult. Just do it.

The postman's lot

The shortest route out of Girolata on foot is to the south, where an old track joins the road at the pass known as Brocca A Croix. The lower road is known as the Sentier de Guy le Facteur, the path of Guy, the postman. He was an ex-legionary who for many years delivered the post to the village, travelling this route on foot or by mule in all weathers. He became quite a celebrity in France, with a couple of documentaries made about him.
The path is a lovely trail, winding through mature maquis of holm oak and other trees which meet around you, occasionally opening up to show the sparkling water below. Or at least it was sparkling when we started. After about two hours it clouded over, started raining, and went on raining for the rest of the day. This at least kept us cool, not least as we had foolishly believed a 'sans precipitation' forecast, and had no waterproofs with us.
The route goes via the Anse de Tuara, which would be a possible anchorage in calm weather. The beach is pebbly sand, cut by a stream bed of sharp rocks awaiting the last of the snow melt. It meanders back into the hills amongst sheets of euphorbia and marsh grass (in the picture above). There is also an unpleasant amount of litter brought in by the prevailing winds, making this not the most inviting spot for a swim. We passed on.
There were pigs grazing as we went across the beach, who eyed us balefully and made sure Mum was always between us and the youngsters. Not that they were true wild boar of course; we'd not have crossed their path. We took the piglets' pictures anyway. It is common on Corsica to turn the pigs out to graze on the maquis. Because there are tax breaks for ownership but not for good husbandry this has the perverse effect of encouraging fire setting, to release grazing, which is a major contributor to the forest fires which plague Corsica every year.
This time we didn't encounter cattle grazing free, but the little spring, with its accompanying water trough, in the woods that lead up to the pass was an obvious favourite spot, judging by the droppings. We did see some of the traditional long horned beasts in the field near the beach.
The pass itself was a disappointment, being shrouded in clouds. It has one little café run by a very grumpy man who refuses to serve café au lait! We had some café and then ate our packed lunch as we walked back down to the Anse de Tuara.
On the way back we took the alternative route from the beach going over the top of the hill. This led us past some amazing red rocks and black cliffs, which left us relieved about the unlikelihood of earthquakes as we walked underneath. It also led us by the tiny cemetery of Ghjirolatu (the Corsican name). There were only three or four names on the gravestones, testimony to the tiny community It's well kept, with a lovely view. We took lots of pictures on this hike, and a few are in the relevant photo album.
We enjoyed the walk but found it to take 3.75 hours out and 3.15 hours back - a lot of walking. Our book suggested over three hours, but the man in the Capitainerie had assured me that it wasn't too far, just about an hour and a half. Yeah, right! Of course it stopped raining when we returned, and we had a lovely swim off the back of the boat.

Places and people
Gulf of Girolata/Ghjirolatu

At the southern edge of Scandola lies the Golfe de Girolata. This wide mouthed bay hides at its eastern end a splendid little harbour. The eponymous fishing village is only reachable by boat or foot and remains very isolated.
Entering the Gulf you just have to believe there is a harbour at the end. From the Pte de Scandola it just looks like a series of small coves and reefs which, even in calm weather, show white with surf. Aim just south of the tower standing proud on its rock. You will begin to see boats popping in and out. When you call, on channel 9, a reassuring voice tells you to come towards the harbour, where you will be met. (The voice speaks excellent English: almost all the staff here do!) You may have to wait a while, especially if you are just behind a tour boat, but they take new arrivals in strict rotation and they will get to you.
Girolata is no longer an anchorage but an extremely well organised operation where yachts are placed on buoys. The outer line are swinging to one buoy, but further in, there are fore and aft moorings. The efficient young men in their RiBs tell you where to put your ropes (fore and aft, port or starboard) and then lead you to your assigned spot, taking the route that suits the conditions and other boats in place, as well as your draft. He takes your bow rope, threads it through and tosses it back before heading to nudge your stern into place to repeat the operation. It really is very easy. But do not try this at night: this is a very dark harbour and there are no lights. There are some pilotage type pictures inthe album. The one above is taken from the top of the hill 150m east of the harbour: the tower is hiding behind the bush on the left. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain that day!
The moorings are not free. At just under 12m we are paying 26EU a night, which will increase to 32EU at the end of June. If you spend 6 nights, the 7th is free.
Wintering here would be extremely cheap, but demanding. In the winter there are 12 to 15 permanent inhabitants in the village. Almost all food comes in by boat, and it would be dark under the surrounding cliffs. The wifi is flakey and phone signals (for data) are poor. But it could be rewarding for those with projects which did not rely on extensive infrastructure.
Right now, though, it is a lovely spot to relax. Not least, there is no swell, a blessed relief after a few bad nights sleep. When the sun comes out, the water (5m where we are moored) is pellucid down to the sand.
Incidentally, this harbour was founded by Andrea Doria - the man who salvaged Genoa's fortunes by creating a mercenary fleet. He needed somewhere on this coast as a haven for his shallow-draft fighting galleys, and Girolata served the purpose very well. Before it was just a small fishing village, and, out of season, that's what it has become again.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Pointe Palazzo and Ile Gargalu

The headland just west of Elbu is the famous Pointe Palazzo, so called because the huge formations are said to resemble palaces. They are twisted and worn into fantastic shapes, which change their appearance as the light and shadows shift, and you also move to different perspectives. Around them wheel gulls and eagles, and, we're told, seals and dolphins play. (We didn't see dolphins, but Aquila did.)
Just beyond Palazzo is the tiny island of Gargalu. (The place marker which will take you to our location is 0.5m west of the island.) This is blessed with both a lighthouse and a tower. Soldiers and light keepers alike must have found this a remote and lonely outpost, vulnerable to forces far outside their control.
Gargalu has its tiny ilot cousin, just to the South. There is a narrow channel between these islands and the coast, and we saw a tripper boat come through it, but we wouldn't dream of taking a keel boat down there, Instead we went round the outside and south down the exposed western flank of Scandola, taking many pictures for the album referring to this post. The rocks are twisted and sharpened by water and wind, and bask in reds, bronze, greys and greens, changing continuously with the clouds and the sun.

Places and people
Coast of Scandola

South of Galeria is the start of the UNESCO listed Scandola Nature Reserve. This magnificent area is largely closed to visitors, really only visitable by boat. And even that is limited, both by the very rocky coastline and increasing prohibitions on mooring, diving or fishing. The area is home to a very wide range of unique and endangered flora and fauna, and it has never been thickly inhabited, so all the prohibitions make sense.
Rather than take a direct line across the bay, we scouted out some of the extraordinary coves and rocks. Above is Baie d'Elbu in which anchoring is now only allowed in daylight hours. The pilot shows it as a possible spot, but as you can see, the entrance is formidable.

Places and people

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Who we are
Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
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