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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Moving to Cala di Volpe

The forecast showed a projected wind shift bringing 30knots from the north, making Golfo Pero untenable. Fortunately, there was a lull around 1600 and we moved around to Cala di Volpe. This is an inlet to the south of Isola Nibani, with a very posh hotel at the head. (EU10 for an iced coffee!) It shallows a lot, but we anchored comfortably in 6m outside the water-ski lane.
Good things about the Cala? It's very pretty, well sheltered, and there's free water on the superyachts' tender provisioning pontoon just east of the hotel. Less attractive points? The endless traffic of tenders to and fro the small town of mega-yachts anchored off in deeper water. Some are considerate and go slowly through the yachts. Others, less so. There is nothing ashore for the likes of the ordinary yachtie. The nearest supermarket is about 8km away and a return taxi is charged at EU70. You can hitch there if so inclined, and we did meet someone who had bought bread rolls, for EU5, from the back of the hotel. We could find nowhere to dispose of rubbish.
The nicest thing about the cala was that we were still in company with the Norwegian yacht Lila and her Dutch singlehanding captain, Marina. Or rather, she has one crew, the extremely charming minature huskie Ross (named for the Ross ice shelf). Marina rows everywhere, and Ross loves the dinghy.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Eviction! Anchoring banned at Porto Cervo

At Porto Cervo, the pilot books (even new ones) show a decent anchoring field on the north side of the calanque. This is now taken up with buoys, leaving a small area at the western end where you can anchor, taking care of shoal patches.
We found our friend Marina there, and maximised space by anchoring next to her and rafting our boats together. We had a quiet night and in the morning wandered ashore. This picture is taken from the inner end of the harbour and you can see Roaring Girl, with Lila on the far side.
Porto Cervo was built by the consortium founded by the Aga Khan in the late '50's to develop this coast for very high-end tourism. Strangely, despite the quality of this harbour, there seems to have been very little here before. The town is therefore a sort of picture-plate idea of a fishing village, with quaint corners and exposed brickwork amongst artfully faded plaster walls and manicured shrubbery. The boats in the marina are astonishing in their size and variety. Many are very serious motor cruisers, but the PC yacht club is also a keen racing base so you see a lot of fast sailing boats too.
We had some expensive ice-cream and didn't see anyone rich and famous. We didn't fill jerry-cans, make our needed trip to the supermarket or dispose of our recycling. We planned all that for later. We rowed back to the boats, us in Bridgit, and Marina with her dog Ross in her dinghy, commenting that it was great that so many disparate water craft shared this small area, apparently in harmony.
About 1530 we were on Roaring Girl, while Marina filled a jerry-can ashore. A port boat went over to the smart French motor yacht anchored nearby, and a long conversation ensued. We thought the French might be being told they were too close to the bouys, and prepared ourselves to be told we were too close to one of them, now the wind was in the north-west.
Oh no! Up zooms the launch, with one very stiff and angry young man in a white polo-shirt and a more laid back individual in a red one. Who's your commander? white-shirt barks, in Italian. Sarah (lacking authority in her swimming costume) identifies herself, adding she doesn't speak Italian, but French and English. This doesn't stop white-shirt backing at her in Italian while red-shirt translates into French.
We're being kicked out of the anchorage, with immediate effect. Why? Because he's the police, the authority here and he says so. Since when? Now. White-shirt gets very agitated at being questioned and starts demanding our papers. We refuse to get them, saying we're not giving anyone our papers, though he can see them. If he takes our boat registration, we are hostages till they are released, at whatever rate the port chooses to impose. Red-shirt is amazed at our resistance, insisting that this is the authority here and we must do as he says.
We point out that the captain of the boat to which we are rafted is not aboard, so we can't leave. This makes them even crosser, and they shout that we must leave in ten minutes. Not more. We start making obvious, though slow preparations and they zoom off to the next boat. Clearly, this is clean up the anchorage time and kick-out the riff-raff.
We put everything away safely, washed up the lunch dishes and got sorted. It took about another 20 minutes just to get both anchors up; our chain was on top of Lila's, so we dropped extra chain and then motored forward slowly, allowing us to swing round her bows and into clear water on the other side of her.
As we did so, our racing friends from yesterday came in, and their skipper, on realising who we were, doffed his hat to us - for sheer persistence we suspect! It was sad to be going as they turned out to be British and we would have liked a chat!
We moved around to Golfo Pero, the large bay just south of Porto Cervo, where we anchored. This was Marina's first time anchoring Lila totally single-handed, and we were ready to be a pontoon, if she needed us. But she did it like a pro. Overnight (this is written on Sunday morning, 18th) the northwesterly blew strongly and we put out 45m of chain for our 7.9m anchoring spot. But we have stayed very solidly where we want to be (as has Lila), and now we're staying here while this blows out (so long as it doesn't swing north) and hope to see a little less wind to get towards Olbia tomorrow. There we can find a sheltered anchorage for Lila where Marina can wait for her friend to join her, and we will keep on down the east coast.
Either way, Costa Smeralda has lost any attractions for us! Pip now calls this Costa Smell-da, and puts a big finger up to the port police and fat cats in fat boats - they don't follow even decent seamanship as they kicked 5 smallish yachts out into this unpleasant weather. (No mention was made of taking a mooring buoy!) Everywhere else we've met lovely Italian folks, and we hope the books which say Costa Smeralda is a fiefdom apart will prove to be true.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Cala Villamarina

That afternoon we made the two mile passage to the small inlet on the south side of Isole di San Stefano, known as Cala Villamarina. This anchorage was a delight. It is open to the south, though otherwise well sheltered, with the risk of some down blasts off the steep hills around. It shallows gently to about 3m at the end, with some fringing underwater rocks. Although the weed has survived well here, at the edges there is clear sand both for anchoring and to supply that beautiful turquoise colour.
We first anchored a little way out, knowing that would not do for the night, and scouted around in the dinghy. As day boats cleared out, we nudged Roaring Girl into the corner, and anchored in 5m of water. It would be easy to put out a stern anchor here, but we avoided that as we had the room to swing and there were three other yachts with us overnight.
The little quay (to the right of Roaring Girl in the photo, which is taken looking west) is still in use, with a ro-ro ferry bringing in supplies for the holiday resort over the hill. (Don't bother to walk there - an upscale version of The Prisoner and you cannot get a cup of coffee.) There is also a supply boat for the same complex. However, if you're prepared to move off when they arrive, it's perfectly possible to come alongside. It has old rings, and the sides are straight, and give at least 3m depth. Alternatively, you could get to the northern end and anchor in about 2m and take a line onto the quay. You'd need some nerve but it would be perfectly achievable. There are no facilities here, but it would probably make a very quiet and relatively cheap long-stay spot off-season, but you would need to get to Palau or La Maddalena for supplies.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Cala Garibaldi

Come Saturday we slipped our lines from our bouy - now a more discreet one - and headed for the small bay on the west coast of Isola Caprera named after the hero of the unification of Itlay. The breeze was in our faces, so we motored some of it but fitted in a nice sail down the Gulf of Moneta, which cuts southwards between Isola Giardinelli and Caprera. This gulf shallows quickly with rocks to both sides, so a course of 170 degrees that heads you towards the green bouy about half way down is a good one. This leaves behind you the bays of Spalmatore and Porto Lunga. Although they're pretty, Blue Bayou had warned us that the buoys here are not administered by the National Park, and are charged for - at EU50 a night!
From the green bouy continue on 170 to 180, until the gap between the rocks bears at 90 degrees. The chart shows that the first 'rock' is two outcrops, and indeed it is, but it is extremely hard to make this out from either direction. But do not try and go between the final outcrop and the beach, as it gets shallow. The picture is the pass through the rocks from inside the Cala, and the outcrop to the right (north) is actually two separate tiny islets.
In the channel, we saw least depths of 9.5m. Inside, there is plenty of room to anchor in anything between 4 and 10m of water, mostly on sand. There used to be a big Club Med centre in this cala, but it is all closed down and boarded up. The little huts stand open on the hillside, forlorn reminders of a lost lifestyle. It must be quite a blow for local employment.
For us, though, it's a boon. The cala is not very busy during the day. One tripper boat comes in to put people on the beach, and another one anchors for a while to let people swim. You can reach the main beach by car and a few people find it. Otherwise it's not very full, and by nightfall there is just a handful of boats, and the birds are by far the noisiest company. On Saturday night we could just hear the club music from Spalmatore, but that was all. On Sunday, profound hush enveloped us.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
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)
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)
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)
Bonifacio calanque

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

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)

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
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