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

The swell was less here, but still present, so on Sunday we headed south towards Marsascala, portrayed in the pilot book as an attractive inlet anchorage. In fact it is tiny and shallow and we could find no acceptable space for us. We moved next door to Bay St Thomas, and kicked back.
This Qala is fairly open but we found good holding. Over four days we've barely seen another yacht, and ashore we've had some nice drinks and food. Mostly, we've begun sorting Roaring Girl out for the winter, and discussed our plans for future adventures. Actually, that's not completely correct: it's so hot that we lie around panting and occasionally flopping in and out of the sea!
Tomorrow, we will head for Valetta and our final destination. Friends are coming out to see us, staying ashore, over the weekend, and then we will haul Roaring Girl onto dry standing.
Ironically, we've spent six nights in Malta and so far less than 3 hours ashore!

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Qala Dwejra

We had a gentle sail north from St Marku to this extraordinary cliff-ringed cove on the north western tip of Gozo. Gozo is the second island in the archipelago and its northwestern end is characterised by cliffs rising as much as 300 feet above the sea and cut by caves of geometric precision. The north and south corners of this outcrop are angular, so that you literally turn a corner. Of course, the wind often turns with you, and we spent a lot of time close-hauled.
The Bay of Dwejra is a semi-circular cove, reminiscent of Lulworth Cove in Dorset. The water is dark, reflecting the walls around it, and silky, but only about 12m deep. The bottom is rock and sand, so really make sure the anchor is set.
The entrance to the cove is almost entirely closed by the huge and dramatic Fungus Rock. (The picture is Fungus Rock looking west from inside the cove; attempts to show the dramatic cliff walls don't work with our small camera, but have a good look on Google earth using the lat and long link from this post.) There is a narrow entrance on the north side; it is wide enough for a yacht but from the outside it doesn't look it. We took the wider entrance on the south side. The best shelter from the prevailing north-westerlies is as close under Fungus Rock as you can get.
Incidentally, it's called Fungus Rock after a lichen that grew here, highly prized by the Knights of St John (who ran Malta for over 200 years) for its supposed medicinal qualities. This Rock was tightly guarded with fearsome penalties for anyone caught trying to climb it.
We spent one night here, with the slap of swell on the rock and the cries of cliff birds for company, and just three other yachts. Unfortunately, said swell really made it uncomfortable and about midday the next day we left. Turning the corner at the south-western edge of Gozo we had a splendid, fast sail along the coast, sailing full-and-by and jibing about every 45 minutes. We investigated the tiny inlet at Mgarrix-Xini, but found that these days all the space relies on taking a line to rings on the rock and that it was packed. (By now, of course, it was Saturday.) We had intended to then sail down the western side of Malta, but the swell made it very unpleasant, and we would either have had to jibe a long way off and then in again, or jibe many times around headlands and rocks of a lee shore.
Instead we sailed through the narrow channel between Comino Island and Malta. This has its moments: the winds alter direction erratically, bouncing off headlands and heights, the ferries charge to and fro, there's a large fish-farm in the channel and innumerable tripper boats crowd the southern end.
We anchored in Mellilha Bay, near the head. Surprisingly the charts all showed us as in shallow water, about 5m, but we actually found about 12m, over quite a large area.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Qala St Marku

From St Julian's Bay we went five miles up the coast of Malta to Qala St Marku. By dusk we had this little bay all to ourselves, despite hectic water traffic between other anchorages all around us. The main disadvantage of this spot is that it has the busy coast road running right around it making for a lot of traffic noise, although there is are no houses, clubs or shops at all.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Entry to Malta

By Thursday we were hot and had seen enough so we decided to get ahead of some predicted unhelpful winds and head to Malta. In fact we got no wind at all and motored nearly the whole d-n way, covering the 82 miles in about 19 hours.
It's a very simple journey, though there are huge numbers of large ships travelling very fast along the south coast of Sicily, far enough off not to have troubled our previous trip, but certainly making the passage south more interesting. It was a very bright night, and we have radar, but it kept us on our toes.
Entry formalities into Malta are enormously annoying in their mystery. Everything we read - pilots, almanacs, marina and government websites, cruiser websites - emphasised the importance of arriving off Valetta during office hours (or risking overtime charges), of radioing in on entering Maltese waters at 12nm off, and then again when 1nm off. (This is why we were in busy shipping areas in the dark!) This is emphasised even today when Malta is in the EU and a signatory to the Schengen treaty; this means we should be able to just turn up and anchor with no formalities at all.
So at 12nM, at 0800, we start calling on 12 and 16 and get absolutely no response. We hoist our Q flag and check the radio is working. At 1nM we finally get a response and say we'd like to go straight to anchor at St Julien's Bay. We confirm we haven't come direct from Tunisia. No problem, we're told. Anchored in the unpleasant little bay under the Hilton, we call the yard where we will be hauling Roaring Girl out for the winter. Do we need to do anything else to clear in? No, is the answer.
So for EU yachts, with only EU nationals aboard, coming from a Schengen country - it seems you can choose your timing a bit better, and go straight to a nice anchorage. We wish that all the various sources would now update their websites; after we have confirmed this situation in Valetta we will be strongly encouraging them to do so.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Practical points about Siracuse

The anchorage and quay here holds lot of attractions (not least the price). Our pilot book shows the dinghy landing west of the Customs quay but that's now a building site. Like other boats, we dinghied into the small inlet that separates the island of Oritiga from the mainland. If you go under the first bridge, immediately to port there is a corner of the dock and flight of steps, where no-one seems to mind you tying up. There's enough room and chain to lock your dinghy securely.
If you climb up the steps and turn right across the next bridge you are on the island. About 100m ahead is the temple of Apollo, and the daily market is to the left of it.
If you turn left, you are on the main road Corso Umberto. About 50m on your left is the excellent laundrette run by the American Maria and her Sicilian husband Davide. A great source of information and also very good value for your washing.
We found one very expensive chandlery on Oritiga itself and various hardware stores and chandleries around the mainland side of Porto Piccolo. As we didn't actually need anything (!) we didn't do an exhaustive survey.
There is a tourist information centre on Oritiga but the one on the archaeological park is better. It's worth investigating as Siracuse has a great programme of free events, particularly music, at various atmospheric venues.
Much of the city is small enough to walk (if very hot), but there is also a go-bike hire service and a good bus system. We found it difficult to actually buy tickets for the bus, either in tabbachi or on the bus itself, but no-one seemed to care.
The biggest drawback to the main anchorage is that the water is off-puttingly brown. We moved over to just beneath the fort to swim, but the Coast Guard seems to discourage overnight anchoring there, so you have to move back again.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Choosing the anchorage

The Porto Grande offers a huge and excellent anchorage. We first went over to the east side, and anchored in 8m. This was gooey, soft mud, and it took the rocna a surprisingly long time to bite. We looked around at the industrial landscape and the mucky brown water and decided to up sticks and be close to harbour front.
So we meandered back through the 20 or so boats (Czech, French, American) and ended up the nearest to the front. It's a stunning view, and not too disrupted by passing wake. The water is cleaner here too.
You can tie up, stern/bows to using your own anchor, for free on the Grand Harbour. We decided not to bother. It's much hotter, there's the risk of cousins of Maurice of course, and there is less security. But if one wanted to be alongside for any reason, this would be an acceptable free spot. There are also two marinas, one each side or Orytega.sp
Update, 2 days later: Just as we were writing this, the Coast Guard turned up and made us move, indicating that we should move west beyond the commercial dock. So after two days enjoying the view, we are back nearly where we started. We aren't wholly surprised as we were quite close, but then, they didn't move us for all the celebrations. Still, the water is now cleaner, and there isn't any water-borne industrial traffic and the shelter from the forecast northerlies is better here.
Update, yet another day later: we found why they'd moved us when two huge cruise liners turned up: we would have been right in the way.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Where did we get to?

This is the church under which we anchored. It is so Greek. And indeed in the little bits of Sicily we've visited so far, you can see everywhere that this was Magna Graecia - the greater Greece of Hellenistic times, when this island and southern Italy were as much part of the Greek world as the Peloponnese.
We anchored on the 10m contour line here in Porto Palo di Capo Passero, whih is about three miles north of Correnti and behind the little island of C O Passero. During the day there were some smaller boats inshore of us, but everyone left by 1800 and for two nights we had the anchorage to ourselves. In high season, in Italy. Nice swimming, good shelter from the south and west, scenic island east of us, and this church and the lighthouse.
Negatives? This was another party town, with a big stage and, what's more, dancing lessons in the mornings at astonishing volume. But we were far enough away that it wasn't too disruptive, and it finished by about 0100 anyway.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Party town

Wind's died. It's getting dark. We anchored.
We stopped at the eastern edge of a little resort town called Marina di Rugosa. There is a big porto turistico, but we are comfortable in 5m of water with the anchor well dug in to the mud. Not a place to stay though as there are quazillion people on jetskis and all sorts of RIBs, pedaloes and so on. Most of all, there's a huge group of RIBs tied around a catamaran anchored off the beach which is party central. The music is thumping away, which is ironic as the dancing space must be pretty limited. Ah well, it's not as loud as Bonifacio.
Our current plan is to leave early tomorrow for Siracuse, another 50 miles away, with, we hope, a little more breeze.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)


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)

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
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