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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Flowers and lizards
06/07/2010

The paths on the uninhabited island wind between scrub maquis and flicker with lizards. Flowers bloom, even as the hot salty wind blows. This wonderful thistle, under a rock, was its own tiny star.

Places and people
Ashore on Lavezzi
06/07/2010

The worst loss of lives to shipwreck in the Mediterranean happened here on Lavezzi, when troop ship La Semillante went down carrying soldiers to the Crimean War in 1855. 773 lives were lost, and the bodies were so badly mauled that only the captain was recognisable. There is a pyramid monument to them on the south-western headland, and two cemeteries. The graves are, of necessity, unnamed, and presided over by silent chapels within low stone walls.
Roaring Girl's masts are just visible beyond the grasses. At night it is very dark here, with only the lights on the next island visible, and the anchor lights of nearby vessels. It would be quiet, but there is a colony of birds who shriek like tortured children, a demented wailing enough to give rise to legends of hauntings and worse.

Life on Roaring Girl
Rocky islands and tiny anchorages
05/07/2010

Come Monday, we slipped our lines and departed Bonifacio. A couple of extra words: that disco is LOUD. And if you go there and take a tripper boat, don't use the Thalassa company. Not only were they rude and ran their engines for hours, but they're disruptive in other ways too, as you will see.
Bonifacio cost us EU53 a night, including power and water but showers were EU2 for five minutes. The calanque de la Catina, the second on the left as you enter, we discovered, does have chains on the seabed and on the cliffs, so you can pick up a buoy and tie your stern to the cliff. This is free, but there are no facilities and you must dinghy into town. If we had known this, we might have spent one night there. But it has been great to get the salt off our decks, get everything clean and provision very easily.
Our destination was Ile Lavazzi, and specifically the tiny Cala Lazzarina. This is the largest of a group of tiny islands, all covered by marine protection, at the eastern end of the Bouches de Bonifacio. Two years ago, yacht Peregrine told us of Lazzarina, but warned that it gets full. And indeed it was. Too full! We looked at the boats and turned away.
Instead we came round to the eastern side of the island and have anchored in the Cala di u Grecu (or rather the nameless bay just north of it) in 6.9m of clear water. The anchorage here was fairly full, but many boats have left. We will go in the morning as it is main through route for the trippers dropping people off to saunter the beaches. Some are considerate, but a few, notably the villainous Thalassa, are not. They came rocketing through recently, with no passengers aboard and set us all tilting as if a squall had hit. Completely unnecessary.
The administration of the National Park also came calling. In mid-July a new regime will be introduced here. In the various calas, they will mark off areas with bouys. You will be required to drop your anchor within these areas, and nowhere else. They did not have a chart of the new areas, but were scooting around warning mariners of the changes.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
White cliffs of Corsica
05/07/2010

Move over, Dover. These amazing cliffs stretch south east from Bonifacio to Pte Pertusato, the southernmost point on the island.

Places and people
Aboard in harbour
05/07/2010


Our neighbours in Bonifacio were Juli and Maurazzo, on their sloop Ninan. They are Italian but keep the boat in St Florent, northern Corsica. That's not surprising: they live in La Spezia and, as we know from visiting there, the sailing's not great, certainly not compared to these islands. They also say it's much cheaper to run the boat in France. Juli spoke exquisite French and was both chatty and kind. She gave us a special bottle of olive oil as a memory of Italy, for which we send many thanks.
She also took this pic of us against the busy harbour backdrop.

Life on Roaring Girl
Castles and sieges
04/07/2010

The great citadel of Bonifacio was first built by the eponymous Tuscan Count, who built a castle here in 828. The Genoese won the town in1187. The native inhabitants were massacred or expelled, replaced by loyal Ligurians, and a form of Ligurian dialect is still the language of Bonifacio, rather than Corsican.
There have been all sorts of wars here, but two sieges stand out for romantic bravery. In 1420 Alphonso V of Aragon wanted the place. He led a crack army, who isolated the port in August. The defenders were reduced to starvation but fought with everything they had, from boiling water to pitch. Astonishingly, they held on, even though the army carried the newly invented musket. Their leader was the valiant Margeurite Bobbia, whose ingenuity saved the day. Eventually the townspeople built a boat inside the walls which managed to break the blockade and call on the Genoese for help. The fleet was slow arriving; in order to keep Alfonso fooled, the remaining survivors dressed up in armour and paraded the ramparts, convincing him the soldiers had come. By this time Xmas had come and gone, and the Aragonese were so demoralised that they decamped. One of the greatest armies in the Mediterranean had been held off by civilians, mostly women and children: the kingdom of Aragon never really recovered.
In 1554, over 60% of the population was wiped out by plague. While Bonifacio was still recovering, Henri II of France turned up, helped by the notorious corsair Dragut. (We last met him at Girolata, which he sacked in 1541 as revenge for having been captured there by Andrea Doria.) Bonfiacio resisted 18 nights and days of cannon attack. They managed to smuggle out an envoy to Genoa, but he was captured by the Turks, who made him carry a forged letter refusing help. This made Bonifacio surrender to avoid worse damage, and for a short while the town was French. Genoa got it back, though, in 1559.
Under the Genoese, who gave the town various tax breaks and commercial advantages, Bonifacio then prospered. Once the French took over Corsica, though, it joined the general malaise of Parisian neglect and many traders left, despite its advantageous position on the strait and the lovely harbour. It is really tourism that now gives it what prosperity it has.
And indeed this is very much another tourist town. Like Calvi, the quay is lined with overpriced bars, and the haut-ville is full of souvenir shops of varying authenticity. Unlike Calvi, it contains at least one very LOUD club, which goes on till about two in the morning. It also has an endless succession of tripper boats, staffed by a range of arrogant jerks. One of them insisted on running his engine for hours last night, filling the cockpits of all the stern-to boats on our side of the quay with fumes. Needless to say, if we do find time to do the tour of the grottoes, we won't be going with that company.
We are taking two nights here to do a bunch of stuff we have had little opportunity to do for a while. We left Calvi marina four weeks ago, and apart from the flying visit to Castlesardo have not been on mains electricity since. We needed to use the printer/scanner, and, much more important, to give Roaring Girl a really good wash in fresh water. The salt builds up and damages the gear.
Plus, we can catch up with ourselves on this blog ... don't' forget that where we mention an album in the post, we've made an associated set of pictures which you can see by clicking on the 'photo gallery' tab to the right of the main blog text. The album will have the same title as the post it illustrates. You can also see where we are by clicking on the map to the right. And if you feel moved to comment, you can do so by clicking on the 'comment' tag at the end of each post - or simply send us an email.
Very last comment this time is to say Happy Independence Day to our US friends, particularly Mike and Linda who are now battling the new anchoring ban in Mahon and, for yesterday, Happy 50th birthday to Dave, Pip's older brother, down there in Christchurch NZ, and hope the puppy gets well really soon.

Places and people
Safe harbour
03/07/2010

Bonifacio is an "excellent harbour, closed in on all sides by an unbroken ring of precipitous cliffs, with two bold headlands facing each at the mouth so as to leave only a narrow channel in between." Thus Homer describes the home of the Laistrygonians, where Odysseus went with his fleet early in the Odyssey. The inhabitants fell upon the fleet and burnt it, killing many of his men, and leaving Odysseus with small support for the rest of his wanderings.
Two women of this tribe are described, the daughter and wife of the chief Antiphates. The former is a 'strong girl', while the latter is of 'mountainous proportions'. This extends to their menfolk, who are 'more like Giants than ordinary men'. Scholarly disquisitions point out that the 'bad' women of the Odyssey are usually described via their unfortunate effects on the hero and his allies, while the 'good' women get their own narrative. What's more, those who oppose him and bring chaos to his journey, are the agents of Poseidon, warring with Athena's ambition to create civilisation and order. The Laistrygonians are important examples of Poseidon's actors.
The description also prompts comparison to Magellan's and Drake's stories of giants in Patagonia, allegedly fierce, 9ft high occupants of this remote area at the edge of the world as known by Europeans. Could it be that, as the people of Mediterranean and North Atlantic explore, their first encounters become enhanced in the re-telling, so the yarns are all the better when they get home?
Another way to look at this story is to consider the timing. Could these have been the prehistoric occupants of Corsica, the people who built the statue-menhirs of Filitosa and who were already beginning to feel the incursions of those tribes who became the Toreen conquerors? If so, perhaps their fierce reaction is less surprising. Maybe they had already learnt that strangers brought death, and had decided to get their retaliation in first.

Places and people
Bonifacio calanque
03/07/2010

The entrance to the harbour is a tiny slit in the cliff wall of south Corsica, barely visible until close in. The easiest way to spot it is the constant traffic of pleasure craft, tripper boats and ferries. There is big red light to port and a large cemetery on the high headland to starboard.
Entering the calanque is reminiscent of a Sussex twitten, a tiny alley between high walls, with a strip of blue sky above. Remember to drive on the right! We met the ferry coming out, which we found unnerving, but the pilot was obviously used to fretting helmspeople and was slow and careful.
To port there are two smaller inlet calanques. Of these the first looks too small ever to anchor in, though it's not prohibited. Our French chart shows the second as prohibited for anchoring, and there is a pontoon with laid lines there. Allegedly this is charged for, though we know someone who overnighted there last week, for free.
Inside the harbour, which is about half a mile long, the walls are lined with pontoons. We were met by the lads (and these are young!) from the capitainerie swanning about in aluminium boats with big grey fenders on the bows. They led us to a spot, but offered zero assistance. Later we saw them helping various yachts tie up, including large motor-yachts with dual engines, bow thrusters and paid crew. Obviously, despite our significantly lower manoueverability, we didn't qualify. Generally, we are not impressed by these guys, who generate a good 80% of the wash in here and seem d - n all use to most yachts.
As the pontoon lines are led to rings below the walkway, they're not easy to get to. We were very grateful to the boat next to our berth, who gave us a lot of help to arrive safely. We very quickly lowered Bridgit and removed her bow-cap, making her very short and much safer. We haven't forgotten our problems in Ostia!

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Baie de S Reparata
03/07/2010

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)
Capo Testa
02/07/2010

The wind faded until we got to Capo Testa, the extraordinary weathered promontory that marks the narrowing into the Bonifacio Strait. Our first thought had been to anchor in Baie Colba to the south of the headland, but found it much more open to the west than the chart suggests. The northwesterly was also curving around the rocks, creating a strong breeze into the bay.
So we jibed round and stood well off to clear the rocks. Of course, once we were more than half a mile out, the wind died again. The picture is actually from Baie s reparata looking west back to Capo Testa.

Life on Roaring Girl
The travelling bear
02/07/2010

It was a very Mediterranean passage. No wind at all. Then we reached the point where the small northwesterly breeze cleared the point of Isola Asinara and kicked up a fetch across the bay. After ploughing into that a bit, we came past Capa Vignola and were able to sail for a while.
Sometime ago Pip acquired Gullivette, a fluffy white mascot who lives in our cockpit. Here she is, helping with the helm, andin the album you can see her participating in several activities aboard ship.

Life on Roaring Girl
Heading north again
02/07/2010

From Castelsardo we turned north. The coast is not particularly exciting, but for this rather undistinguished small range with the suggestive name of Sarra Tamburra. The Sardinian version of the skippers name?

Life on Roaring Girl

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