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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
To Cagliari

From here we headed towards Cap Carbonara, the south-eastern tip of Sardinia. The picture is the lighthouse on the island off the cape. These waters are shallow and filled with rocks. The Seccia di Berni has its double ball back on its beacon, but we saw other, unmarked reefs, mostly very close to the cliffs. An area to be sailed in calm weather and daylight.
The twenty miles across the Golfe de Cagliari gave us another good workout, starting with an energetic, fast six miles under cruising chute and mizzen. Then the wind got up and shifted south so we hoisted the main and genoa and made good time to Cap St Elia
We are now tied up in Marine del Sole. This small marina is fairly laissez-faire, and basic, but is extremely good value by the standards as of Italy in August (EU38 a night for us, including water and power). It's very friendly and we've already made new friends, including another woman singlehander, Lyn of Knight in Gale (not her choice of name!). All these years, and we've not met any, and now two come along in a month.
We desperately need the water: Olbia was great, being free and useful, but pretty grubby and our decks are filthy. Cagliari is also good stop to see the museum which contains many statuettes from the ancient history of the island.
Sardinia has not been particularly kind to us. Since leaving the Maddalena archipelego which was great we've had infestations, evictions, three mistral storms and headwinds. To cap it all off, one of our AGM house batteries died suddenly. On Tuesday night, we realised it was getting very hot and had a rather frightening half-hour while we disconnected all our electrical systems.
It now seems that it has just expired of old age, being over seven years in use. For the first three years we were plugged into the mains a lot, but the repetitive discharge cycles of months on the hook have taken their toll. They're only warrantied for five years. So we took a very deep breath and have bought two new house batteries. They might be delivered on Friday, but it may be early next week. In the meantime, the other battery is working gallantly so we are nearly back to normal.

Life on Roaring Girl
Tack, tack, tacking

As we'd feared, the afternoon breeze filled in from the south east, and we were forced to beat our way south. This is Pip helming. Sarah sweated on the lines, as a substitute for any more structured exercise.
In the end, off Capo Ferrato we gave in and decided we'd like to anchor in daylight this time, so turned the engine on for the last four miles. This took us to the bottom of the cliffs on the north side of Pt di Cappucini. It's not marked as an anchorage on the charts - wahoo! Wild anchoring. In high season we shared it with one other (French) boat. We anchored in five meters on sand, and again could see the anchor and had reasonable protection from the swell.
In the morning we were, for the first time in a while, able to swim off the boat. This revealed the appalling state of the hull after our ten days in Olbia so we spent an hour scrubbing at the barnacles and weeds, and made some difference.

Life on Roaring Girl
St Maria de Navarrese

We came round Capu di Monte Santu quite late, in fact in our first night arrival for a long while. The cap itself is fantastically sheer cliffs with no lights. There was one very bright little set of lights, which for ages we assumed was a shrimp fishing boat. Then it suddenly vanished, apparently into a hole in the cliff, leaving a faint glow behind. Careful examination leaves us thinking it was some kind of road crew, who'd gone into a tunnel. If so, the road wasn't being used at all, as we saw no headlights - or indeed any sign of habitation.
So spotting St Maria seemed quite odd: we kept expecting there to be a little headland behind which there would be the harbour. Instead, the cliffs end abruptly, and the lights you see are the town. It has a little marina and there is room for a boat to anchor outside the breakwater, opposite this Genoese tower with its fringing reef. We had six metres of water, so clear we could see the anchor on the bottom with our spotlight.
There was a bit of swell but we were fine here and got under way early the next morning for the next leg.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Seriously going south


After our days touring around, and using the car to do a massive pile of washing and a very serious trip to the huge hypermarket beyond the airport, we were still delayed by a mistral with 30kts westerlies and big seas forecast. It finally went down about 1800, by which time evening languor had overtaken us. Plus a friendly drop of wine with Marina (who'd joined us to pick up her crew in Olbia), and new friends Reinhardt and Crystal of Seatrac. They have been cruising these waters for many years and were full of helpful tips. They also endeared themselves to us by recognising Roaring Girl from seeing her at the anchorage in Portoferraio last September.
So on Saturday morning we finally extricated ourselves and set off for Arbatax. Our original intention had been to anchor under this extraordinary behomoth, the granite island of Tavolara. This is largely dominated by the military, but there is an anchorage at the south western tip which is reputed to be very beautiful. When we went past it was filled with the usual motor-yachts and day-anchorers, and we were happy to keep going.
Eastern Sardinia is a notoriously bleak coast, with few easy stopping points. There are reputedly glorious beaches, and it's probably a great area for a land-holiday, with splendid hiking in cooler months. From a cruising point of view, though, it's an area to get through.

Life on Roaring Girl
Ancient Sardinia
26/07/2010, Nuraghe Santu Antine

There are an astonishing 7000 nuraghi and other pre-historic structures dotting the Sardinian landscape. These constructions, including menhirs, complex graves, sanctuaries and the famous towers form part of the view as much as the towers of mediaeval churches punctuating the flat lands of East Anglia. A nuraghe is basically a round tower, but as the centuries went by, they became increasingly complex, often with additional, smaller towers around the central one, connected by curtain walls, containing wells. Essentially they are castles, built thousands of years before feudal Europe discovered the need for such things.
One of the best preserved is Santu Antine near Torralba; there are some more pictures in the album. The complex sits in the middle of pasture and hay fields, the next tower in clear sight a few miles away. In the picture above we are on the top of the central tower, which was originally about 80 feet and three storeys high. The separate floors are still obvious inside, with various mysterious niches, slitted windows and high stairs. There are then three two-storey towers connected by thick walls. Tunnels run inside the walls, which with light and plaster would be high, narrow corridors. Around the main nuraghe were about ten huts.
These complex constructions started to be built in the early Bronze Age, in 1800-1500BC, and continued through to the early Iron Age, in 900-500BC, Santu Antine's main central tower going up in around 1600BC. This makes the heavy, dressed stones that make the upper layers all the more remarkable.
Nuraghi were obviously defensive in nature, in a society which has seen millennia of local warfare and vendetta. Their spiritual and social context is much less well understood. Such buildings obviously required organisation and direction, but whether the builders worked in any sense co-operatively, or were serfs driven by overlords, isn't known. They left buildings and statues and bronze pieces, but not writing.
It s clear that there was trading and cross-cultural fertilisation between Sardinia and other cultures, for example the similarity of Santu Antinu to Mycenean Tiryns, or bronze grave gifts that are very similar to work from Minos and Cyprus.
The nuraghe is a strange place, filled with wind and time. They are so old, so much mirror and maker of the landscape, have seen so much and yet held their secrets. We scrambled around, nattering about history, memory and imagination, finding it almost impossible to see what life had been like in this stone pile, surrounded by rich farmland and constant enmity.
This was the highlight of a couple of days car-touring. We made ourselves car-sick on the beautiful twisty roads of the centre of Sardinia, but enjoyed visiting some of the smaller centres. Nouro is particularly nice, with a sweet old town. It is the birthplace of Nobel laureate, novelist Grazia Deledda. It now prides itself as a home to makers, artists and writers and we saw some good, original work, particularly in ceramics.

Places and people

The war on Maurice has been nearly all-consuming, but we should note that Olbia is an excellent cruiser stop. You are alongside Molo di Brin, for free. You are charged EU5 a day for refuse disposal; we were told this is a scam but we're now satisfied it's legit, and we're happy to pay it. After nowhere to deposit rubbish since Villamarina, we had a lot of waste by the time we got here! And why should Olbia's tax payers bear the cost of our refuse! You can buy water at the fuel dock, which is good for cooking, but not for drinking, at 5c per litre. No electricity. The quay is very close to the centre of town and all its amenities, which includes hardware shops selling all sorts of rodent-killing options, and two very good chandleries.
Shelter here is good. We have seen 20kt easterlies which put some chop into the bay but nothing to be concerned about. The holding in the anchorage seems good. Then yesterday bought 30kt westerlies whistling down the river and off the mountains. All the boats rigged additional chafe protection on their lines, but otherwise we were all very snug and safe. Three boats sat out the wind at anchor with no apparent problems.
We plan to stay another three or four days. Our shopping in Ostia has done us well, but except for Ajaccio and Bonifacio, we have bought few provisions in the last two months, and our stocks of basics are running low. Also we hope to hire a car and make a couple of day trips into the exciting interior of Sardinia. Then we will make tracks further south to Caligari and Sicily.
This picture is the lovely St Simplicio, the main church of Olbia. It is an elegant, spare granite building, unusual in that the apse faces west, built around the 11th and 12th centuries. Olbia is mostly famous for having little architecture to reflect its long history. It was founded by the Greeks in about 400BC. What we notice is a lot of very spare Italian Art Deco, shown in curved balconies and severe window surrounds. If you are ever in Olbia, look upwards, above the shop windows and street markets, and you will see it in building after building.

Places and people
Mothers look away now: the story of Maurice
25/07/2010, Olbia

This entry should not be read by close family members and anyone of a sensitive disposition. It deals with a cruiser problem that we have heard about but had so far been lucky enough to avoid.
Sitting in Golfe Pero, we acknowledged that we had been boarded - we had a mouse. The short version of this story is that we caught it, it's now dead and the boat is extremely clean. And that the mouse was actually a rat.
The long version was a week of very hard work and several important lessons.
Rodents on board are very bad news. Quite apart from their inherent horridness, especially so close up, they eat electric cable. This can destroy your kit, and most frightening of all, cause fires. We started scrubbing in the food areas and gradually worked our way through the boat everywhere we saw droppings and - yes - chewed cable. We scrubbed with bleach and detergent, followed up with ammonia. Some experts seem to say that the ammonia deterrent is a myth, but it cheered us up. Over the next few days we dramatically reduced the scope of activity but it was still there. By now, though, we reckoned it was one animal, which was some comfort given the breeding rates of mice.
We christened our invader the alliterative Maurice, not least because we could think of several unpleasant people we've met by that name. At this point, we were chasing a mouse, remember. That idea was breaking our sleep and making us very unhappy, so we didn't get into worse scenarios.
On Tuesday, once the weather was good, we took off for Olbia, a real town where we could buy poison and traps. By Friday night we had scrubbed everywhere we had seen droppings and had laid 14 traps. That night we got him, in the humane trap, which was the only one big enough to hold him. He'd enjoyed the cheese and peanut butter offerings on the mouse traps, and let one off to our consternation. But the humane cage on top of the diesel tank had worked.
We drowned him, very thoroughly. (Put the trap, with rat in, in a weighted bucket and put it over the side. Do not try and let a live rat out of the trap!)
Now, we are still cleaning, monitoring very closely and setting five traps. But we hope that we're clear.
Lessons learned: (1) Act immediately on any signs of droppings or chewing. We both blamed Ross (most unfair!) and decided to spare each other our worst suspicions. We lost two or three days that way. (2) however unpleasant, assume the worst. Our mouse traps were laughably undersized for the actual animal. (3) keep traps aboard and fresh. We had some rat glue, which didn't work at all. (4) find the cabling it's munching on, and do everything you can to make it unattractive to eat. Monitor those areas particularly closely. (5) It's really important to do the cleaning. We've heard the argument that you're only moving the problem, but it's not only hygienic - you also learn where the b----r is moving and nesting. (6) We had a cat visit us (Spook of Margeurite) three times, but she didn't help. Maybe a rat was too big, or Maurice claimed eminent domain. (7) Kill it. We know of one cruising yacht who released a rat over a mile away, and it got back to their boat before they did.
And persistence eventually pays off.
Just after we realised our problem, Sarah's brother Jim postedthis ad on Facebook. We are glad to say the Corsican cheese is obviously stronger than cheddar.

Life on Roaring Girl
Leaving Costa Smeralda (with pleasure)

We were told off by the rent-a-cop security as we left Volpe: apparently sailing in the mooring field is not allowed, even if no other boat is moving and half the bouys are empty! Zooming around on PWCs, tenders and other powered water toys seems to be fine. Hah! That's twice we were escorted out of the territory by the police. Bye-bye Costa Smeralda, and good riddance!
Getting to Olbia is a nice sail south, round the dramatic Capo Figari, where we saw dolphins. Unfortunately the wind died and we had to motor the second half of the trip as we were keen to arrive into the harbour before dark. You cross the Golfo di Olbia (noting the pretty but unmarked anchorage behind Isola de Figarolo), towards the conspicuous lighthouse which marks the start of the dredged entrance way. This channel, into the mouth of the river Fossa is well buoyed. After about three quarters of a mile, you can see the masts of the very new Marina di Olbia ( to port. We haven't gone there, but Jim and Barbara of Margeurite wintered there and said it was very good value. We think this would be an excellent winter stop over, as Olbia's connections are very good, together with being a real town. The marina needs to put an access chartlet on its web site, though, as it's not obvious how a keel boat reaches the port.
Staying with the channel, continue on about 265 degrees, and the harbour opens up to the south of the old commercial quay. (There's a huge new commercial quay in the northern part of the port.) To starboard are the pontoons of the local yacht club, which does apparently accept visitors. You can also anchor to south of the quay; there are shallow patches, but it's quite easy to find a spot. We spent our first night in Olbia anchored there, and it was fine. You are close to the pilot quay, but we felt no disturbance from them (in marked contrast, we must say, to the antisocial behaviour of the pilots of Gravesend in the Thames. They seem to take pleasure in seeing yachts on the visitors bouys there rock in their substantial wash.)
In the morning boats left the quay, called Molo di Brin, and we pulled alongside, in 4.7m depth. There are plenty of tying up places. Yachts do raft, but there's a tendency for the national ensigns to clump together: Germans to Germans and so on. As we're the only British flag here (except the very large superyacht at the eastern end of the quay!) we are alone. By and large this is a relatively undiscovered cruising stop; there's a lot of 'real' cruising boats here, and a few French and German skippered charters. But it's a good place for all sorts of cruisers' needs.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
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)
Fat cats in fat boats!

We are still in Golfo Pero, experiencing 25kt winds at deck level (our mast head anemometer isn't working), with lots of white caps. At the moment it's a westerly, from which we are quite sheltered, but if the forecast veer to a northerly comes in, we will have to be moving!
In the meantime, we are spying on other boats. This is the place you anchor if your boat is too big for Porto Cervo (which takes some doing - 72ft looks very small in there!) Also for that strange breed, the yacht support vessel. This is the large boat on which you keep your toys - the helicopter pad, and so on. You park that conveniently close to the fleshpots and take your main boat in to port for swanking about.
This is the biggest one we've ever seen. You can see the yacht on the side deck: it is about 38 or 40 feet long, and is some kind of racer. Last night, they put her in the water for an hour or so's sailing, and then brought her in again. As casually as we handle our 3m dinghy.
Pip took the pic through our monocular; hence the anachronistic black rim!

Life on Roaring Girl
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)
Honourable win on points

Out the far side, there was no breeze at all. We hunted about, tacking off the coast, but even a bit further out, our maximum speed was 0.8 of a knot. We battled on, determined not to lower sail first. This is the competition, stuck in a wind hole but still gallantly sailing.
About an hour later, they furled the genoa and started the engine. We hung on for about 3 minutes - for honour's sake - and then did the same. Our rival went on to Golfo Pero, and we turned into Porto Cervo, playground of the rich and famous, the yachting hub of the Costa Smeralda.

Life on Roaring Girl

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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