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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
More travels with bear
30/06/2012, Shanghai

Some of you will know that we often travel accompanied by Gullivette, our bear. She makes occasional appearances here.

When we got back to the hotel, our room had been freshly made up, and Gullivette given her own luxurious spot. Aah! Bless!

By the way, this blog should go to FB via networked blogs. We can't access that site from our hotel internet, so apologies to anyone responding via that route. We probably won't see it till we reach New Zealand next week. Instead, write to us on sailblogs, or directly on our emails.

Places and people
Dinner (always very important)
30/06/2012, Shanghai

From here we meandered back in search of dinner. Two of the Rough Guide ones did not exist (shame!) so we ended up in a Korean restaurant six floors above the busy Nanjing Dong Lu. (Lu means Road in Chinese. This road, one block up from the hotel, is roughly equivalent to London's Oxford Street.)

It was great fun to barbecue the enormous amounts of meat and fish on the little pot and dip them in a variety of little bowls with mysterious spices. We really must get to grips with Korean cooking.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we're going to find one of the famous Shanghainese spas. In the last few weeks, we've had some lovely trips (Malta,Wales, Greece, Italy, Norfolk) and packed up our house. The new tenants moved in yesterday. So a proper massage and luxuriating seems a good idea, in amongst the explorations.

Places and people
Arrival in China
30/06/2012, Shanghai

Here we are. Wow!

Our hotel is about 0.5km from the world-famous Bund, the riverside road created by the colonial powers. Their palaces and godowns (warehouses) were built along here. Today many are still there, though a large highway seperates them from the raised walkway and the river itself. On the other side is Pudong, where modern Shanghai scrambles upwards in ever more futuristic skyscrapers.

We were exhausted after the long trip. Four hours sleep had made it possible to face the city but wasn't enough for the full onslaught. We walked from the hotel to the Bund as dusk grew. Not that you could tell for sure: a strikingly important feature of Shanghai is the air pollution. It makes the views hazy and burns your throat. Air conditioning is welcome for the cool (it's 34 degrees) and relief from 70% humidity) but most of all to escape the smog.

Enough with the grumpiness! The Bund was thronged with tourists (mostly Chinese) and promenaders. We walked as far as the pier where you can get a ferry across, and then turned back. It was getting dark and the extravagant lights were coming on across the river. It's a bit like the light display of Hong Kong; not (yet) as spectacular but much, much longer. This cruise ship, her masts outlined, came by. In the background you can see the gaudy bauble which is the Oriental Pearl Tower - Shainghai's own TV and telecoms tower completed in 1994.

Places and people
Up up and away
Changing!
29/06/2012, London

Today we fly to Shanghai. Next Friday we arrive in New Zealand.

This year's adventure will not be cruising, thanks to Sarah's finger. So instead we're going to Pip's home country for a while. This gives us a chance to spend time with Pip's mother Beryl and explore NZ a bit. We'll be back, though, with a boat, a business and a house in the northern hemisphere.

We'll be blogging about it all, so keep an eye on the site.

Places and people
Kiwi coffee - simply the best.
26/06/2012, London

One of the features of Kiwi cuisine is bringing together food ideas from those overseas experiences to create something amazing. Some New Zealanders then take pity on benighted places and bring their high standards to bear in their chosen home.

Oh! And the coffee. Those guys really care about good coffee. They don't try and sell it somewhere that already does it well (there are few Kiwi coffee bars in Italy), but London is an obvious target.

Hence OzYour text to link...one, the wonderful new cafe bar attached to the eponymous roastery. It's at 11 Leonard Street, just by Old Street station in London. We have just had the smoothest coffee. With it Pip enjoyed an ace eggs benedict with perfect, fresh hash browns. Sarah's baked eggs were a revelation. Made with a tomato base, including lentils and chickpeas, halloumi floating on top, every mouthful bursting with subtle flavour. This is bunch taken to a whole new level. Plus one of the best cheese scones this side of the Equator. (And good choices for vegetarians too!).

Their home base is in Taraniki, but that may be a long way to go. So if you're in this part of town, looking for good coffee, free wifi and ace food, come by here.

Places and people
Suffolk Pride
Cold and windy
16/06/2012, Ipswich

Pip spent the day scooping ice-cream with our friends of Galley Slaves. It was Pride in Christchurch Park.

The weather sadly kept people away but friends were there and it didn't actually rain. Here's the stand, under the trees. Look out for them next time you're at an outdoor event in this part of the world.

Places and people
Leaving the joys of Elba behind.
14/06/2012, Portoferraio and back to UK

On Thursday afternoon we sadly said goodbye to Ange and Deborah. They were all set for the rigger to come and fix the topping lift, as well as put up the radar reflector and a couple of other jobs.

It has been fantastic few days, with lots of learning for us about sailing cats, making the most of Navionics on iPhone and iPad, and how great a queen size berth can be. The food and hospitality on Murihiku is amazing: fair winds to all who sail in her.

We got the ferry to Piombino, train to Pisa, plane to Stanstead and coach to Ipswich. It all went pretty smoothly save for two elements. Finding the bus-stop at Piombino ferry is interesting. On leaving the ferry, do not leave the port. The stop is directly inshore of the area where vehicles queue for the ferries, right by the taxi rank. At Stanstead, the immigration queues were stunning too; it took us about an hour to get through, which is the worst we've ever known there. (Mind you, Sarah's arrival into Aukland on New Year's Eve 2007 involved 3.5 hours to get through passport control, so we can't really complain.)

We've been very lucky. The start of summer in Malta, then in Greece, and now in italy. Such a shame it's really cold and blowing a hooley in Suffolk.

Other people's boats
Portoferraio again
Breezy and warm
12/06/2012, Elba

Deborah and Ange have a bit of a schedule, which relies on night sails at various points en route to Greece. They didn't have a lot of experience with sailing in the dark, so we suggested heading straight for Elba from Le Grazie, leaving on Monday evening. We studied weather maps carefully, showing there would be a calm period around the middle of the night, bracketed by decent westerlies, before the arrival of a stronger wind midday Tuesday. A little rain could be expected, and zero swell. In considering the passage, remember that though Sarah loves night sailing, Pip does not enjoy it!

We found Porto Mirabello, in La Spezia, had a good fuel dock for diesel and petrol, and a chandler for the necessary new bulb for the bow lights. About 1430 we set off. Allowing time for sorting out the mainsail, we left from Isla Palmeria about 1530, having a great starting sail on a close reach in sun shine.

Overall it was a great ride, though Sarah had acute (acute!) sea sickness and was hors de combat for several hours. The zero swell forecast was inaccurate, as there was about 1m running from the westerly storm blowing on the far side of Corsica. Pip was heroic, spending hours on deck, especially crossing the busy shipping channels off Livorno with lots of busy lighted shipping testing her memory of the col regs and everyone's night sight. Picking our red or green lights in the blazing decks of cruise liners is always such fun, we find.

The weather did exactly as predicted, even to the short period of rain, save for the optimism about the swell. Passageweather did us proud. Ange, exploring the site found it now has a good mobile app which is really handy. Now, sitting in snug Portoferraio bay, there clearly is something of a hooley blowing out there.

Of course (this is cruising) we had some gear moments. Most annoying of all, at about 2300 the topping lift snapped with a great bang. There was no immediate harm as we had full sail up. The lazy jacks snapped in sympathy making reefing and handing the sail harder than it might have been, especially as it was a cloudy, dark night. Dawn came (slowly and late!) as we closed Elba and we made a neat arrival, dodging the ferries and finding an excellent anchorage in 10m of water.

A good shake down sail, and our first long sail on a catamaran in rough waters. Sarah is unlikely to fall in love with the motion but it is lovely to have so much space, and Pip didn't miss heeling. They're fast too: we were easily making 7.5 knots plus for much of the way.

After good snoozing, we're getting up slowly, preparing to hit the Portoferraio chandlers and hardware stores this afternoon. Really, the Medici Darsena here is one of the most beautiful anywhere.

Life afloat (containing pilotage notes)
Visiting and revisiting
Cool, breezy
10/06/2012, Le Grazie

Our plan for June included a few days sailing off Essex with friends on their 36' catamaran, Vandal. Then we got an invitation from other friends to visit them on their 38' Lagoon catamaran Murihiku in Italy. Um! Essex? Tuscany? Sorry, Vandal. Italy it is.

So we are now aboard the smart Murikhiku, revisiting Le Grazie. Kiwi dykes Ange and Deborah have made us very welcome and it's amazing to be with other cruising women.

This little bay is Le Grazie, at the southern end of the Cinque Terre. It's an excellent anchorage for holding and weather protection. (We've been here before, back in 2009, when this pic was taken.) The other boats, especially large groups of loved up charterers partying through the night, are a much bigger risk. But they shut up relatively early, at about midnight.

It's a breezy day so we're chilling out afloat. Tomorrow, after filling up at La Spezia, we're planning to use the forecast westerly for the leg back to our favourite anchorage at Portoferraio. Woohoo!

Other people's boats
Athens at last
06/06/2012, Athens

Sarah had never, to her own dismay, visited Athens. This despite a childhood obsession with the classics and a lifelong interest in the practice of democracy. On the way back from Skyros, we had ten hours in Athens. Thanks to Aegean again checking our luggage through we scarpered for the Acropolis.

Even in June heat and cruise liner crowds, it was a fantastic feeling to walk on the marble of the processional way, to see the curving columns that fool the eye into perceiving straight symmetry, to admire the splendid views and imagine Theseus sailing home to hear his own black sails had betrayed his father to a suicidal leap.

This is the front of the Parthenon as it is today, still in the huge project of conservation and restoration. We then visited the splendid Acropolis Museum, where there are reconstructions of the friezes that would have graced the higher pediments. This end would have shown the great context between Poseidon and Athene for the patronage of the emerging city, flanked by assorted gods and heroes.

The museum is definitely worth a visit. It has lovely views of the temples, and an excellent cafe too.

Places and people
A sailing day
Perfect
05/06/2012, Skyros

John's colleague, Julian, had family visitors and had arranged a day's skippered charter. They asked us if we'd like to go. Pope and Catholic. Bears and woods. Hell, yeah.

On a glorious morning we joined the Bavaria 50 Always Summer at the port of Achille. (The name commemorates the hero Achilles, who was hidden here by his mother Thetis, in a fruitless attempt to keep him our of the Trojan War. Odysseus found him, took him off to Troy where, as prophesised, he died a hero.) The skipper has the boat really well set up and we didn't do anything except play at being deck candy interspersed with gentle swims.

We anchored three times on our passage down the east coast to the southern tip of Skyros. (It's not very big: that's about 11 nautical miles.) The first stop was a tunnel in the rock which we swam through, feeling brave. The second stop was this beautiful cave. Our skipper brought his boat so close at anchor that we were craning our necks to see the top of the cliff above us. Local knowledge is a wonderful thing. The cave was enhanced by an impromptu performance by Susie Self, aboard for a day off from working on her next symphony. We decided that keeping an opera singer in your luggage is an exciting addition for any cruiser.

The third stop was a tiny beach below marble cliffs. The Romans had a quarry here, but no-one is mining it now. The beach is littered with piece of glorious shiny rock, from tiny, sea-polished pebbles to huge chunks waiting for a chisel to release the figures within.

From here, we had a lovely sail back north, bounding along while we lay about in the sunshine digesting our packed lunch. (Goat chops. Yum!) What an unexpected treat.

Other people's boats
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

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