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


On approaching Marsala, a man in a RIB came out to see if we were entering the harbour. We said we draw 2m which he declared was no problem. As we followed him in, another RIB came up to us with two youngsters in, also seeking our custom. They were quite harassing: buzzing the boat, looking as if they might try to climb aboard and so on, so we determinedly stuck with the guy who got to us first.
He took us to the very new marina/dock that has been established on the inside of the easternmost breakwater. It only opened in July and shows many signs of being a start-up venture. The very smart new wooden pontoon is criss-crossed by the lines, which lead back to rings on the old harbour wall, making it a marathon of hazards. Added to this, both the electric pods and water are on the inside of the pontoon. The water is unnervingly shallow: the least depth we saw was 2.4m, and at least one large motor cruiser decided it wasn't enough for them. There is no specific office, but rather a bunch of ormaggiatori, who take lines and talk a little English, but who send 'the girl from my office' to take the money and give you a receipt. There are no showers or other facilities. And it cost us EU60!! Incidentally, it is also the first Italian port which has requested to see a passport as well as the boat papers.
So, maybe we should have gone with the bumptious youths, who we think were touting for the older pontoons, known as marina Lillibeo, and operated by a local club. We'd tried ringing them to no avail, and couldn't find the comparable prices, but they certainly had an ablutions block.
From either quay it's about 25 minutes walk to town. We went in, glad to stretch our legs, and had a nice dinner. We even managed to get some Marsala. But, to be honest, we wouldn't bother to return. It's quite sweet, but the marina is way overpriced. It's also a very smelly harbour, between fish, rubbish, sewage and sulphur. Another time, with a calm night, we'd anchor off, if we wanted to stop at all.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Currents! Tides!

At the islands we decided to carry on to Marsala. We wanted to visit it because of the wine. Sarah remembers making zabaglione as a child, which uses it. It's about another 25 miles from I Marettimo, the westernmost of the archipelago.
Heikell says that there is a NE current in these islands, which turns SW in the winter. Hah! It was flowing hard towards the south west while we were there. To cross the stretch of water between I. Marrettemo and I. Favignana to Marsala is a straight line of about 110 degrees, or south east. To actually sail it, we had to aim the boat at about 80 degrees, or east north east, over 30 degrees of difference, and crab sideways to our objective. We tried to take a picture of our chart plotter showing the little boat image sliding sideways, but it really didn't work, so you'll just have to take our word for it.
What's more there's actually a 20cm tide in Marsala. Hardly earth-shattering, we know, but a salutary reminder after three years in non-tidal water.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
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)
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)
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)

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
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