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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Dolphins and shooting stars

We left Cagliari around midday on Sunday, heading for Sicily. We'd havered about going to Tunisia, as a change from Italy, but in end stayed with the easterly heading. Unusually for us we do have a requirement to be in Malta the last weekend of August, and we hope to meet a friend to sail in to Valetta with us. Sicily will be quicker and much easier for a meeting.
So that gave us about 160 miles to the Isoli Egadi, off the western end of Sicily. We like to arrive at new places in daylight, and the pilot book specifically advises doing so for these islands which have shallow waters and strong currents. It would take at least 36 hours, so off we went.
The first stretch, across the Gulf of Cagliari was ok, though the wind dropped completely off Cap Carbonara, and to get round in daylight we motored a short while. But by dusk the breeze had returned and we had a magical night's sailing. The sea was flat despite the breeze, and we saw only three other vessels all night, so it was a dream-like ride. The following night had different compensations. There was very little wind so we turned the engine on. Shrimp swarmed up to our steaming light, and attracted dolphins. For the hour till midnight, they fed around our bows, blowing and grunting, darting in and out of the light, very serious at the business of the hunt. After they had gone, the moonless sky was covered in stars, so bright that the Milky Way had its own reflection striping the water. There were shooting stars streaking across the constellations, a small shower that went on for ages.
There wasn't a lot of wind though, and on Monday we poled out the jib, which is what this picture shows. We haven't done this very often - the pole is quite heavy and we're not sure about manipulating it in a swell, but this was an excellent opportunity to practise. There's a track on the mast which enables the pole to slide up and down, using an endless loop. An uphaul also leads back to the mast, and the sheets themselves steady the pole, keeping it away from the shrouds (important bits of wire which help keep the mast up.) The aim is to hold the jib open so it can catch the maximum amount of wind, and also to push the boat's centre of effort forward which helps reduce rolling in a swell. It works, but you still need some wind if you're going to sail.

Life on Roaring Girl
Powerful women

These wonderful images belong to pre-nuraghic Sardinia and are several thousand years old. They are described as the 'divine feminine', believed to be goddesses. Their importance is inferred from their positioning and the huge numbers and range of them in significant sites.
Of course there's lots of academic controversy about matriarchy and matrifocal societies, here as elsewhere. In particular, surely someone has written about the changing representations of women in this archaeological record. From these majestic, passive figures, there seems an abrupt transition to the energy of the bronze statuettes. But there's also a change from these powerful images to pictures of women that are either mundane (the breast displaying camp-follower) or passive in another way. One of the most famous statuettes is a beautiful tiny figure of a woman with her dead son across her knees, as if in a pieta brought about by war or vendetta. Despite their vigour and impact, these women do not have the sense of control offered by their predecessors. Later came the Carthaginians, and then the Romans; sculpture becomes more representational and women take their place amongst more familiar images of home, deity and imperial power.
We loved these ancient women, their stature and solidity. Some are big, maybe 60cm high, but others are tiny. The three dimensional Buddha-figures are detailed and charismatic. By contrast the angular, proto-cubist statues are like alien representations of power.

Places and people
Bronzes and more
08/08/2010, National Archaelogical museum, Cagliari

The famous bit of the archaeology here is the nuraghic bronzes, the many wonderful statuettes made in bronze found in nuraghic sites all over the island. They are full of verve, archers and soldiers, animals of all kinds, hieratic figures armed and praying, while others wear mysterious hats as if walking the dusty roads of inland China.

Places and people
What over a thousand euros looks like

The new batteries arrived on Friday, and Pip installed them.
This simple sentence covers quite a lot of work. We finally found an electrician who looked over our wiring and pronounced it ok (after Maurice) except for one bit of fridge wiring we have reinsulated and will replace when we can find the right grade wire. Grazie Davide. We also spoke at length to the friend of a friend, Ozzie electrician Mark in Port Napoleon, who was very helpful. Ta, Mark.
Buying the batteries was expedited by the wonderful Walter at the nautical store, who spoke English, understood our problems and desire to get moving, and really pulled things together. So thanks to him.
The hard labour was getting the two old batteries (each weighing 70kg) off the boat, and the two new ones(each weighing 73 kg) on the boat. Each time, the battery was strapped with webbing and then a rope bridle lashed on. We used a spinnaker halyard to haul them up through the forehatch. With people on guys - three ropes steering the battery - we moved it carefully over the water and onto the dock. With a lot of effort we got batteries on and off the dock (thanks to Marine del Sole for renting cars at a cheap hourly rate, in which we got the batteries from the shop), and the dead one got lugged away to the battery dump. Thanks to lots of people on the boats around us for handling ropes, helping with winching and providing muscle power.
The new batteries (Mastervolt this time; that's what's available here) are still AGM, as that's what our battery box is now designed and managed to accommodate. In case you're wondering, the top half of the saloon table then fits over the top of them.
They are each a whopping 270 amp-hours (the old ones were 255) and fit beautifully. Incidentally, we did look at what we might buy in Tunisia, but were not comforted by very limited dealer networks. Alternatively we could have gone on with one battery to Malta, and bought there, but couldn't see this would be cheaper or easier. So 48 hours after installation, all is going well, and we will be leaving Cagliari with battery confidence, but a substantial dent in the bank account.

Life on Roaring Girl
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)

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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