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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Baie de S Reparata

North of Capo Testa, the chart and pilot book suggest a couple of possible anchorages. The actual series of rock-strewn tiny indentations are more than a little intimidating. In the end we rounded Pte Acuta and came to this excellent little anchorage just north of the narrow isthmus. There were two other boats anchored there and we were very comfortable in 5m of water.
The forecast suggested a F6 westerly in the straits of Bonifacio this afternoon, so we got up very early to cross. In fact there was virtually no wind at all and after doing two of the eight and a half nautical miles in about 90 minutes, we gave in and switched the engine on.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)

The town here is very easy to recognise from the extraordinary castle and belfry atop a great wall cascading down the steep promontory. This picture is taken looking sou-sou-west from the castle walls. The marina is actually slightly southwest of the headland and the entrance is difficult to see till you are quite close. As you can see, there are lots of rocks under the headland so although the entrance is very straightforward once you have it clear, do not close the shore to less than 20m depth till you are sure of your position.
Incidentally, one suggestion for getting into town is to take your dinghy to the town beach, at the bottom left of the picture, and walk from there. We wouldn't advise this. The beach is a crowded place to leave your dinghy unattended. And you still have a fantastically steep walk. Instead, take the 70 cent bus from the port to the castle. The capitainerie will give you the timetable.
The marina is simple, and ormeggiatori were on the dock to call us in, although we had got no answer on the VHF. Tailed lines lead from the quay and there was certainly plenty of space for us. On 1 July we paid EU40 for the night, including water and power.
There are reasonable showers as well, which were a great luxury. This is the first time Pip has had unrationed water (not fees, not buttons to push, no Navy showers) since leaving Ostia two months ago.
Although the marina staff were friendly, we were sadly taken aback by the unabashed snootiness of the blue-ensigned UK yacht berthed next-door but one. We have never been cut so dead before. They lived up to any and every comment we (and others) have ever made about yachties who feel such a sign of prestige makes them senior to rest of us. No wonder so many other countries think pommies are so stuck-up!

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
The moorings themselves

Once round the beacon the mooring field is clear. There are about 20 yellow buoys, all of which (except possibly number 9) have 3-10m of water all around them. They have long trailing lines, which are easy to pick up but have rather a small loop on the end. Too small for our samson post or cleats, anyway. That's what all our other ropes are for.
The mooring field lies inside a large jetty, to which a twice daily ferry to Porto Torres ties up. It's also the base for the very active diving business. Alongside this jetty is a small pontoon which does have electric and water points., We saw a catamaran lie alongside briefly, but it would be challenging to make sure a yacht of Roaring Girl's size and draught got in there safely.
It is a reasonable dinghy dock, however. We motored ashore, as we have seen many others do, only to be told off very sternly by the Parks police. Our timing was poor, and with the threats of fines, we have quietly rowed ever since.
The picture is of Roaring Girl in the crystalline water, taken from the small nature trail that runs along the edge of the low cliffs. The orange beside her is the Wala Wahini, our inflatable kayak, on her first outing of the summer.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Past the reef

To get into the Realle mooring field, you must then round the Neri Reef, the western (inland) end of which is marked by this big beacon. It may be possible to go between he reef and Pte di Trabuccatto, but if so it will be in 5m or less. We saw one yacht arrive by this route. We went round the outside.
The beacon should be bearing not less than 305 degrees, and on that heading you will see at least 13m of water along the fringe of the rocks.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Pte di Trabuccatto

We started in Cala della Reale, not least because it's the only mooring field, of five on the island, where you are officially allowed to motor onto the mooring buoy. Anchoring is strictly prohibited everywhere. Approaching from the North, you must found round the low headland of Pte di Trabuccatto with its tower. There is a mooring field close in under the northern edge of the headland, which looked quite full the day we came in.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Changes afoot

Our elderly version of the pilot book was obviously written when you could anchor close to the beach. Today this is all heavily roped off and a lot of work is going on. Ashore there are plentiful planning type notices announcing a new mooring field, but we couldn't tell when this will be ready, whether it will cater for larger yachts, and what sort of charges will be levied. The picture is the map attached, which is oriented so west is up.
There will also apparently be a ban on anchoring at the eastern side of the bay. It's not clear when this comes into effect (the notices refer to a decision of July 2009) as we saw a couple of boats over there overnight.
There are two channels for motorised vessels (including outboarded dinghies) through the moorings. At the western end of the very fine beach there is a tiny jetty. Obviously used by the local fishing boats, to which people had tied some tenders. We used anchors to moor Bridgit off the beach, and later saw some local boats doing the same thing.
There are excellent waste and recycling facilities ashore and a number of cafes and so on. The village is covered in admonitory signs and is extremely clean. This may be necessary with so many visitors to a small place at the end of the road, but it felt very unfriendly compared to the laid-back friendliness of Porto Pollo, or the amiable stewardship of Girolata.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
To Campomoro

It is only about four miles across the bay. After returning from Filitosa we slipped our lines. We'd hoped to sail away, but Roaring Girl paid off in the wrong direction and we used about two minutes of engine power to get us safely out of the mooring field.
We then bowled across the bay. Our chatty taxi driver had told us to look out for dolphins, but none came to play with us. The lunchtime westerlies filled our sails and it only took us 45 minutes.
The bay at Campomoro is beautifully sheltered under a headland with an inevitable tower on it. There is a reef of rocks running east-nor-east from the headland. The rocks do show above the water line.
It is, though, quite deep, at least in the area of best shelter at the western edge of the bay, outside the mooring buoys. We anchored in nearly 18m of water, and have seen several boats come in and move elsewhere, disappointed. The water nearer the reef is obviously shallower, but is slightly more exposed to the prevailing westerlies.
You can see in the photo that this area is very crowded, and that's after some boats had left first thing in the morning.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Onwards at last

On Thursday morning we brought the anchor up again, and all went smoothly. We headed off to Porto Pollo. It was a pleasant passage, and we sailed most of it. We stopped short of sailing onto the mooring buoy (though we want to practice), but only just.
The whole anchorage within the 20m contour is now covered in mooring buoys. We completely failed to find anyone to pay, or indeed to check the holding weight of the buoys. However, there were bigger boats than us tied up. In the end we left without paying at all, but we would not like to say they were in principle free moorings. Aquila used them last year and advised they were 'cheap', but we do not know the 2010 prices.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Staying put

On Monday we upped our anchor. Or tried to. Attached was this ghastly tangle of wire wrapped through and around the chain. In the end with bolt cutters, two pieces of rope, a boathook (now interestingly kinky) and a lot of swearing, we got it off. It took 30 minutes.
After a long wait we then filled up with fuel (EU1.28 a litre), and went to the laughingly named welcome pontoon in the port of Charles Onanosp. It's a joke, because it's actually very difficult to use. In any swell, which there was, there's a rocking surge onto the dock, which sits high enough that Aquila's sugar scoop could slide beneath it! To hold yourself off there are buoys, to which you hitch a line as you pass (or fail to in our case, necessitating several goes). We were very glad Mike and Linda were still there, also filling up with water, so that Mike could take our lines to help us in.
But we filled up with water, for free, and that can't be bad.
Both Roaring Girl and Aquila then headed south-west across the Golfe d'Ajaccio towards Porto Pollo. After an hour or so, once out of the lee of the Iles Sanguinaire, we found a 2m swell and bitingly cold southwesterly, making for an unpleasant trip. Aquila has a schedule, but after half an hour or so we decided that Porto Pollo would probably be uncomfortable, and we do not have any deadlines - so we returned to the comfort of the Ajaccio anchorage.
Over the next couple of days we talked to several boats coming north from Porto Pollo, Bonifacio and elsewhere. All had tales of howling winds (115km per hourreported in Bonifacio) and rough nights. We were grateful for the shelter of Ajaccio, despite the fouled anchor chain.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
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)
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)

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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