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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Questions, questions
03/06/2012

John took us the sandstone quarry in use for hundred, maybe thousands of years. The sign, saying Ancient Querry, is its own attraction.

Behind the photographer is a tiny strait to another small island, notorious for shipwrecks. it is deep but a fast current runs through it, and there are little chapels in the querry and on the facing island.

Skyros may have a tiny population but they've been there a long time, so the bones of the dead mount up. It's also very rocky and land suitable for digging is too precious to use for large grave yards. Until quite recently, the solution was to exhume the old bones but instead of an ossuary, to throw them into this narrow strait. Presumably the bones get swept away in the current as the water hasn't got shallower.

Places and people
Threshing
03/06/2012, Skyros

Skyros is home to a native breed of tough and muscular diminutive pony standing about 1m, or 10 hands high. They're struggling back from the brink, partly helped by tourist interest. In the old days, before mechanisation, the early harvest was threshed by laying the corn out in a circle, rounding up some ponies and driving them round in a line of three of four.

John took us on a trip around the island, and by luck we found a display of the technique. Several of the participants were wearing traditional dress. The driving is a skilled job, as the ponies roam wild across the hills and see little of humans the rest of the year. They're too small for anyone but children to ride, but you do see other ponies being trekked. That would be fun in the cooler months of the year.

The trip also took us to Rupert Brookes' grave, away to the south. The simple marble is enclosed by an low iron palisade, and the base is engraved with lines from 'If I die, think only this of me'. The grave sits in an grove, under trees, with a trickle of admiring visitors but otherwise presides over a setting of romantic nostalgia befitting the man's poetry and beliefs.

Places and people
Belated blogging (all will become clear!)
Hot, sunny, yummy!
29/05/2012, Skyros island

On 29 May we flew to Greece. This journey, compared to our Malta experiences, went very smoothly. Aegean Airlines did us proud and even took our baggage straight through to Skyros. Our only excitement was self-inflicted, when we forgot to make sure that our Heathrow duty free champagne was secured for transit and had an emergency and heated discussion with security at Athens domestic departure gate.

Why the champagne? Come this September Pip's twin brother has a big 50 birthday. We won't be getting together then, so this trip was partly an early celebration. What was as important was our chance to spend some real time with John and Zoe's three month son, Felix. Pip was ecstatic with her first chance to feed him. Thanks to J & Z for being such generous and loving parents with their gorgeous boy.


Places and people
The sea eats away at the rocks
Cool, breezy, beautiful
15/05/2012, Skrinkle, the far west of Wales

Our dear friends Wendy and Graham moved off their boat Vencedor for a new adventure in a house. They bought a project in Pembroke Dock and have turned it into a comfortable home complete with hibernaculum for slow worms.
Today, they've begun showing us round this remote and lovely corner of the country. Pembrokeshire is a home for Celtic Christianity, with rounded crosses and rock-bound hermitages to be found. We walked a short distance of the Pembrokeshire coastal path (apparently 186 miles long) at Skrinkle. The very edge of the Atlantic meets the fierce limestone here, carving archways and clefts to inspire speculation.

Places and people
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 www.sarahtanburn.wordpress.com. 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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPyl2tOaKxM 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
03/05/2012

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)
Wet
29/04/2012

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.

Musings
Stranded
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.

Musings
Pampering
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
05/09/2010

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

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