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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Flushing rocks

We got very languid in Cala Nord and stayed three nights. We made friends with fellow CA members June and John on Blue Bayou, and shared wine and anchorage tips.
To avoid the hordes during the day we went for an explore around the tiny islets of Barrettini and Cocelli The east coast of Isola Barrettini suggested a possible anchorage but when we got there it was deep with some fierce toothy rocks. We were 40m from their fangs while still in 20m of water, so we went on to the pass between Corcelli and Piana, where we could see another boat. They were snugged in with a line ashore, which was holding them bows to the easterly swell. That's the way to manage this lovely spot, but we were a bit uncomfortable so after a short look around, we moved on. The rocks of Corcelli include this beautiful pink flush, as bright as we've seen anywhere, and you get a good view of the lighthouse.

Life on Roaring Girl
Banned beach

As it cooled in the evening we went ashore and visited the famous Spiagga Rosa, the Pink Beach at the eastern end of Budelli. This is now off limits to all water activity and the beach is fenced off. There is a small, crusty settlement behind it, which we think is connected to, or at the very least condoned by, the park management, obviously keeping guard. The beach itself is pristine and exquisite, the sand, which stretches back through the dunes, as soft as fine, expensive talc with a delicate rosy flush like the very last hint of dawn in a clear sky. It must have been mauled while still open to the public but now it is this tiny jewel, much written about and barely seen.

Places and people
Lessons from Cala Nord

Our first destination was Cala Nord, on the east side of Isola Budelli.
Isola Budelli is one of the three larger northern islands, the others being Razzoli and Santa Maria. The big bay between the other two, and the tiny passage where the three meet are all no-go areas. The latter is called Dead Man's passage, and with good reasons for the shallow water over treacherous, sharp rocks.
Cala Nord lies south east of this passage. It has mooring buoys, which implies anchoring is banned (except for local residents), but we did see boats at anchor. Some, but not all left at sundown. First of all we took a bouy very close to (but far enough from) some rocks at the eastern edge of the bay. We weren't sure that it wasn't a park buoy though and we moved to another one after the teatime rush had ended.
Mistake! Never take the buoy nearest the beach! (In this case the most northerly buoy in the cala.)
If you ever come here, know two things about this buoy. To reach it from the east, you must cross a plateau of rock that gets as shallow as 2.2m. It's the first time we've heard our depth alarm for a long time, and at least we know it still works! More importantly, it's club central at lunch time.
We went off to explore this wonderful area in Bridgit and had a fantastic snorkel in a tiny, empty cove. When we came back, a large tripper boat was sharing our bouy! At least he had lots of fenders out. And behind us were two chartered ribs, anchored very badly and unaccustomed to the fact that boats swing as the breeze shifts, putting them very close to us.
Ah, well! We had lunch and sought to be stoical about the loss of peace, whilst eyeing our first, uncrowded bouy nostalgically. Till all the other boats around us left, it was impossible to move Roaring Girl safely!
Having said all that, it's a magical spot once the hordes have left. At night there are no lights save the distant loom of the La Maddalena town, and the sparkles of lighthouses fringing the peripheral rocks. There are no howling birds, loud clubs or swell.
Note that once you have your permit, the Park-administered buoys are free. Wardens come round every day and check the validity (by date) of your paperwork. There are about 120 buoys in the archipelego, and if there is one available you should always use it.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Adieu to France (perhaps)

From Cavallo, we had a splendid, fast sail south east to the archipelago La Maddelana, famous as a playground for its beautiful beaches, clear seas and myriad coves. It is all national park, with a permit required for navigation (available online), and different zones where activities are regulated.
En route, of course, we passed from France to Italy, leaving French waters for the last time in the planned future. (All plans can change.) This meant handing our French courtesy ensign. As you can see it has done sterling service. Yes, the French ensign should have a red vertical stripe as well! If we do go back to France, we'll need a new one.

Life on Roaring Girl
To Cavallo

Our anchor was caught under a rock and it took a little effort to free it. But soon enough we had made good on our early start. We were only going three miles but wanted a shot at a good anchoring position. Our destination was the Cala Zeri, on the north-eastern tip of Ile Cavallo.
Sure enough, when we got there, others were preparing to leave, and we inched into a nice place by 0930. The water is clear, the sand dazzling white, and around the rocky bay are the discreet homes of the tribe known as celebrities. This islet is home to the rich and famous: apparently Princess Caroline of Monaco has a home here. We're so disconnected from such things that we wouldn't recognise most of them. We figured that Tom Cruise or Tony Blair might be faces we knew, but otherwise we'd just say a polite bonjour!
But it's beautifully quiet. Boats do anchor close but there's so little movement in the water that there is no real problem. Tripper boats don't visit.
To get into Cala Zeri position yourself at a point 41:22.2N by 009:16.35E. Then come in on a bearing of 240 degrees true. This will keep you safe of the many rocks, though a good lookout forward will help and be comforting to the helm. You can edge in close to where the water turns dark again, as the rocks begin off the beach. There is still 4m of water here, even over the rocks themselves. Do not go east of the line of rocks: we explored in Bridgit and even where there's enough water, the bottom is hard, unforgiving rocks which no anchor could love.
The picture is taken from the road behind the small dinghy dock, looking north across the cala. Roaring Girl is hidden behind the white catamaran.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Flowers and lizards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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