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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Different Bays
Sunny, calm, but cool
13/05/2012, Penarth, South Wales

This spectacular view is across Cardiff Bay to the new developments around the Millennium Centre. The centre itself is the big copper curve in the middle, with the hotels and shopping area to the left, various other official buildings to the right, and the hills behind.
We are staying with our old friends Jenny and Liz in their splendid new house, with this spectacle from all the north facing windows, including our bedroom. It's a never changing panorama, with boats, ferries, the wind playing with the water and clouds passing overhead. On a clear day you can see the Severn Bridge some 25 miles away. The English coast of Somerset is 7 miles across the grey water.
It's lovely to see our friends, and remember what a friendly, bustling city is Cardiff. Penarth is full of cultural life and yet has the calm pace of a small town.
After a previous blog and email we realised that lots of friends are at different places in knowing our plans. For those who don't know, Sarah fell and dislocated a finger in February. Trivial though this sounds it has turned out to be major problem, as she cannot hold a rope securely. Originally we hoped it would be good to go by now, but it isn't, being still swollen and painful (some of the time) and weak. The doctors say it may be ok by July.
Our plans are therefore still changing, but we are not back to our sailing life, more's the pity. The silver lining is the chance to visit friends and support the UK economy with all that domestic tourism we are exhorted to enjoy. This is travelling - hence blogging.
For those of you who don't know, Sarah also keeps another blog at That's more about writing, art, and the opportunity to have an occasional policy rant. Today's post will be about a photo exhibition we went to here in Penarth.

Places and people
Cruising is ... moving stuff about
Hot, sunny (not like England)
05/05/2012, Manoel Island Yacht Yard

We're not even afloat and yet we spend a lot of time just moving things around. We bought a load of stuff out from the UK - of which more in a moment - and then took stuff from Roaring Girl to our little apartment to work on. The load included the sewing machine and canvas to make hatch covers. Plus, of course, one accumulates more stuff, such as window screens, to keep the sun out of the cockpit. (Not very nautical, but at only EU1 each, what's not to like?)
This is us bringing lots of it to the yard, for hoisting on board. Note our trusty shopping trolleys, our hard-working pack-mules whenever our feet touch the land.
Travelling out to Malta was a comedy of errors, not that we were amused at the time. Our coach from Ipswich was carefully timed to get us to Stansted with 55 minutes in hand before the gate closed. It didn't, thanks to a broken windscreen wiper and the appalling weather that drought-struck East Anglia is experiencing. We got to the airport with 10 minutes to spare before check-in closed.
No problem, we thought. But no! The demon of cheap flights hit us. If you want to check hold baggage you need to be there 40 minutes before! Gate closed, says the woman on the desk, but if you take that case through security you can pay at the gate for it to go in the hold. Off we run.
Of course, this is a cruisers case, not packed for cabin security, It's got a trailing log, a vegetable chopper, baking yeast. All sorts of crap to frighten the searchers. And search us they did. That case went through the x-ray three times, while we hopped from foot to foot with impatience. Eventually they let us go and we legged it through the airport, trousers falling down. It's a long way to gate 49. At the gate, the charming folks sweetly relieved us of another GBP50 (on top of the £30 they'd already had for the case) for the privilege of taking it on to the tarmac where they loaded it on the plane. Phew!
Sarah asked if she had to buy the in-flight magazine. The Ryanair stewardess thought that was funny.
We're hoping to get that £50 back off the coach company. Wish us luck.

Life on Roaring Girl
The Ladies of Valetta
Still hot and sunny

Today was a day off from boat work. We took the water ferry across Marsamxett harbour to Valetta. (Oh, the joy of even five minutes actually afloat and the clear horizon glimpsed through the crabclaw points where the capital nearly touches Sliema.)
The tiny, fortified city is austere and controlled, as befits its foundation by warrior monks. Behind the strict façade and trompe d'oeile ceilings of a knightly auberge are the treasures of different eras in Malta's rich Museum of Archeology. The oldest stone buildings in the world are found on these tiny islands, and within them some of the oldest human figurines. They are women.
These are women who have given birth, with rich hips and nipples which point proudly to the floor. Many are headless, for the heads were made separately and got lost. Or maybe the heads were destroyed in some unknown funerary rite. After 6,000 years it's impossible to know the behaviour of a cult which had no writing. This sleeper, who may of course be dead, still bears marks of red ochre, and so we can imagine she was rich in colour as well as form and dignity.
Afterwards, we had a rather good lunch of pizza and spare ribs. In the afternoon sunshine, we watched a small girl playing grandmother's footsteps with the fountains outside the President's Palace. Valetta is not yet too hot or too crowded so early May is a good time to be here.

Places and people
Horses, diamonds and day shapes
Hot, sunny (not like England)
01/05/2012, Manoel Island Yacht Yard

We have spent the last two days cleaning the Sahara off our decks. Everything is dusty. It's very obvious that south is to starboard as lines, bags, paint, canvas on that side has taken much more of a beating from the sun.
Off our stern, as we recorded last time we were here, is a slipway where they exercise some of the island's many trotting ponies and give their legs a restorative soak. This pony was towed around Sliema harbour for a while. We did wonder what day shapes the entire arrangement should have been showing to keep everybody safe. Is it tug and a tow, under fifty feet long? Or a diver? We think we should be told.

Life on Roaring Girl
back to Malta (briefly)

we're off to Malta this morning, and we'll be updating this blog more regularly on our travels. But they may not be what you expect.

A lot colder than Malta
24/07/2011, Ipswich

We've been very silent this summer. Mostly, that's because we're not cruising, and this blog is about our travels. Sometimes the exigencies of earning a living overtake sailors for a while, and that happened to us in 2011.
A regular question to liveaboards is how you acquire the money. There are roughly three modes. Lots of people have a pension - essentially income they don't need to earn any more. A subset of this group are living off property they've acquired, a method which allows a few people to leave sooner. A few people have the skills and savvy to earn a living as they go. Writers (who get paid for it), dentists, carpenters. This can work well, but we know several boats who've come to a stop in a congenial and profitable harbour and find it very difficult to leave. Much like home really, but with better weather.
Then there's the people, who return to a specific base (without the boat) for a period to top up the coffers. This has worked very well for us for eight years. Last Autumn, in the UK, was particularly hard. It felt as if the whole country had stopped spending money. Our clients are predominantly public sector, but everyone we talk to, from divorce lawyers to gardeners, has said the same.
We've had plenty of work since Xmas. Plenty! Self employment is, in the cliché, feast or famine, and after a period of enhanced belt tightening, the marketing effort has kept us hard at work. The key contract Sarah has worked on in London was up for a short extension, but one that would make it impossible to sail this summer. After a lot of heart-searching, we decided to get ahead of the game financially, and leave Roaring Girl to drowse in the fierce Malta sun till next spring.
Some sailing has come our way. Thanks to Vandal and Nethunuus we've explored the upper reaches of the Colne, and the corners of St Just. Sarah helped Fiona move Nethunuus to Cornwall, and once again braved the inside passage at Portland Bill. (It was very calm. We saw gannets.) We had a frenzy of boat hunting, wanting a small craft to creek-crawl here in Suffolk over the winter, but pulled back from the brink. Pip has spent a month in New Zealand looking after her mum, and a week in Malta, looking after Roaring Girl.
As we write this, we're heading for France to stay with friends in the Lot. It'll be a week of eating, sleeping, writing (Sarah) and walking dogs (Pip), and very good for both of us.
So, unless something changes (and things do) we expect to resume sailblogging for real next spring. In the meantime, Sarah is keeping another blog here and Pip is working on her jewellery. We're also both on Facebook, so it's very easy to contact us.
The picture is Roaring Girl, and it was taken by our friends Pete and Ruth of Mudskipper. G'day guys. Hope life's beaut there in Sydney. It may look somewhere exotic, but we were off Brightlingsea, in Essex, in October 2005.

07/09/2010, Sliema

While Jenny and Liz were still here, we discovered the spa! Pip had her feet manicured by Dr Fish (Garra Rufa to give them their full name) as an early birthday pressie! (Liz did video this, but the youtube clip isn't Pip's actual feet.) These amazing little fish eat at the dead skin presented to them, swarming around over toes and heels. It feels like a TENS machine as they chomp away, mini-piranhas that they are.
So, with the boat tucked up, we returned to the hotel one last time. Pip had a back massage and Aurvedic leg rub, while Sarah had her hands chewed by the fish, and then a full body massage.
Blissed out we went to our newly discovered fave bar, the Jubilee Caf in Gzira, for a great brunch. We hugged the boat goodbye and set off on the weary trek away from the sun and the sea towards the rain and chill of the east of England. As we won't be travelling for a while, we won't be blogging much either. We're hoping for an easier winter than last year and plan to be cruising again in April or May.

Places and people
Cooling the legs

Roaring Girl has been placed quite close to the high brick wall around the Yard. Beyond the wall is a small slipway. Fishing and sports boats use it, but the main occupants are horses.
Trotting and sulky racing is very popular in Malta. It's hard on the legs, so everyday there is a stream of horses brought down here to stand in the cooling seawater.

Places and people
Manoel Island Yacht Yard

Valetta, the capital of Malta, occupies a heavily fortified peninsula that has two deep harbours running down each side of it. To the east is Grand Harbour, now home to an upmarket marina (we were quoted EU70 a night plus power and water for August), and the extensive dockyards still operating. To the east is Marsamxett, itself divided by Manoel Island, which is attached to the mainland by a small bridge crossing the tiny strait. All around this harbour are bouys, quays and marinas. To the eastern side, under Valetta, is the fuel dock, where we filled up with the cheapest fuel we've seen since Mellila, at EU1.03 a litre. On the western side, on the edge of the suburb of Gzira, and facing the next town of Sliema, is the well-known Yacht Yard, primarily a haul-out yard, where we booked in for the winter.
The Yard was privatised in July, and you can see that there has been little investment for a long time. Work is just beginning under the new ownership, particularly with a major clean-up of the apparent years of stuff that's hanging around. There are about 14 staff now, but there used to be 175 people working here we were told.
They have a few spots for boats afloat, pre-hauling out, but very few ways to contact them as you arrive. We took a buoy and rang them, which worked. Then we ended up tied off to a buoy, with a web of ropes around us to the pontoons, to cope with near-gales. This winter, they are charging (for Roaring Girl) EU30 a night afloat (exc services) and EU60 a week ashore (inc services). There were no problems staying on the boat on the hard. They insist on doing all work under the water, and are not particularly cheap. For all other work there seems to be no problem with doing it yourself or bringing in other labout. Other contractors, however, must be approved by the Yard first.
The facilities ashore are ok, though the yard is very dusty. The loos and showers are clean and serviceable and the security is excellent. There are still many workshops, and it is possible to get wood cut to shape, or welding done on the site. Besides the hoist shown here, there are five big slipways. Joanne in the office is very helpful, and many buses run right past the bridge into Valetta or towards Sliema. The lift was competently done, though it's always scary seeing our home dangling around.
We spent five hard-working days sorting out our girl. All the sails have been taken off, for a long over-due valeting. Almost all the running rigging is down and we have scrubbed and cleaned all over. Our insurance company (GJW, who have been good to us over the years) insisted on a new survey, thanks to the boat's age, which was done by the lovely John Ross of Malta Yacht Surveys. All in all, we got a lot done.
It is early in the season to have hauled out, but for various family reasons, we decided to get back to the UK two or three weeks earlier than otherwise. It also means we can have good scout at the Southampton Boat Show. We need some new instruments, and want to get in ahead of the UK VAT hike, so that's going to be interesting.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Lovely friends
27/08/2010, Sliema

Months ago we arranged to meet various friends in Valetta over the UK August Bank Holiday, to celebrate Sarah's birthday. Due to various misfortunes and competing arrangements only the lovely Jenny and Liz could make it. They stayed at the Hotel Fortina, with a spectacular view across Marsamxett harbour towards Valetta itself.
The hotel has numerous facilities - restaurants, spa, pools, air-conditioning and showers . They were both exhausted from various emotional maulings over the last year and a half, while we were both hot and in need of chilling. It also became really windy that week, so in the end the four of us spent most of the five days lying around the hotel pools and drinking pretty cocktails. And lovely it was! We're not sure exactly what Jenny's doing in the photo, though: she's not usually a palmreader!
We'll sightsee properly when we are here in the spring. It'll be much more comfortable then.

Places and people
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)

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
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