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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
A wee bop
17/08/2008, Theoule

Queen and Abba booming on deck gave us a good time. After a meal we went ashore to sample to bars of Theoule. A slight petrol oversight meant we rowed back, giggly in the dark to where Roaring Girl lay in absolute calm under the sheltering hills.

Life on Roaring Girl
Back to Theoule
17/08/2008, Theoule

After lunch the wind had freshened and we only used the engine to power the windlass, sailing neatly down the rest of the channel to the west. Our original intention was to go to Rade d'Agay, at the foot of the Esterel Massif. However, the wind was hard on the nose and kicking up a little swell. As both our visitors, unused to the cradling touch of the Middle Sea, had felt a touch of discomfort from earlier swell, we turned away and headed back to our old anchorage of Theoule. Even so, on a close reach, we tucked in a reef (that new sail giving significant extra drive) and a few furls in the genoa, for a comfortable, and fast hour west-north-west across the Golfe de la Napoule.
Here our visitors had a thorough chill-out.


Life on Roaring Girl
Ile de la Tradeliere
17/08/2008, Iles Lerin

From Antibes, with very little wind, we motorsailed round Cap d'Antibes to the Iles Lerin. From the eastern end, we sought the passage between Ile St Marguerite and Ile St Honorat. Off the end of Ile St Marguerite is the Ile de la Tradeliere, site of notable Roman wrecks. You can see why: this low-lying saw-toothed rack of rocks barely deserves the name of island. It's not well marked: unless we knew the waters =we wouldn't come this way in the dark.
Once past it, however, the narrow channel between the islands is well marked (though we didn't see any lights on the buoys.) The channel at one point is only 6m deep. Many yachts are anchored outside, it, especially to the north side, and we ourselves found a spot in 11m of water. It was very full, being the Sunday lunchtime of a bank holiday weekend, and there was quite a bit of wash, but we all swam and enjoyed a great quiche Pip had made the night before.

Life on Roaring Girl
New experiences for Liz
12/08/2008, On passage to Menton

Liz had had a night on Roaring Girl while we were anchored in the Gualdaquivir at Gelves, outside Seville, and an exciting 'taster day' in a 30-footer out of Penarth. That sounded rather exciting, with a strong breeze against them as they sailed back from an anchorage in the Bristol Channel. It did remind us of the drawbacks of British sailing, as she told of the rain and the cold and the wind strength.
So here she is, all tense concentration, on the wheel as the limitless horizon (next land south: Africa) as we sailed quietly north east towards Menton.
We got two nights in the marina at Menton-Garavan (the Vieux Port being full). We'd originally planned for one night but a nasty little blow was forecast so we decided to take life easy for a moment. Menton is the last French town before the border, and has a complicated history of being Italian, Savoyard, part of Monaco and even independent. Now it is firmly French but very Italian in character; the accent has the rhythmic brio of Italian and everyone in the shops and restaurants seems to be tri-lingual. The main shopping street is lined with restaurants and smart boutiques, but beyond the old port there's a splendid morning market, for excellent provisioning. Right by the marina there's also a sizeable supermarket.
We looked hard at wintering in Menton, which is a lovely spot, but it would be very expensive. Turning back west, to our high hopes of a berth in Toulon, will cost us half the price.


Life on Roaring Girl
The new sail
12/08/2008, On passage to Menton

On 12 August, joined by Liz from Cardiff for a few days, we set off for the 10 mile cruise to Menton on the Italian border. It was a lovely, gentle day and we pootled along under full plain sail.
This is the long promised picture of our new main sail, made by Lee Sails of Hong Kong. It is a nice piece of work, and really showed how baggy and full of pin-holes the old one had become; the new one certainly increases our speed. (The old one, made by Gowen of Mersea, was first hoisted in 1994, has crossed the Atlantic and worked hard all it's life; it owed us nothing and is now neatly stowed in the forepeak in case we ever need a spare. The very old one, which we think was the one used when the boat was first commissioned and hence sailed around the world, has finally been cut up and, amongst other things, is supplying UV protection covers for the jerry cans stowed on deck.)
The new one did need us to slightly shorten the battens, but otherwise fits very well. We had supplied the measurements, with help from Gowens themselves, who gave us what they had on file. It is well stitched, triply reinforced at all crucial points, with a strong headboard. The reef points are triple stitched super strong webbing, but if we had asked from rings, Lee would have supplied them.
We reinstalled the old cars and battens, so the first thing we did was make holes in it for the batten ends; which was a bit unnerving. The sail has had a reasonable work out this season, though nothing very strenuous, and has done us well.
Lee did send a poor stack-a-pak, but have replaced it. This has to go to our UK address so we haven't installed it yet, but expect to look very smart when that is finally aboard.
Why a Chinese sail? Basically cost. We had seen the Lee workmanship on a boat in Portimao and thought it was good. We asked the local sailmaker in Port St Louis, and Gowens themselves for quotes. There was only about 100 between them, and we would have probably gone with the local guy for ease of amending any problems. But the Lee quote was over 1000 less, and about half the price, including freight. VAT and import duty put about 200 back onto that, but it was still much cheaper than the alternatives.
The scary bit of course is in getting the measurements right and we put a lot of effort into it. The local guy in Port St Louis measured up, but despite knowing we might want to pay for his time and have the figures, refused to give them to us. Gowens however, were extremely helpful, and Lee Sails themselves made very sure they had the right numbers.
They get paid in US dollars; we did this through our account with NZForex, a currency exchange dealer, which we use for big non-sterling payments, such as over-winter marina fees, as it's the cheapest way we've found. All in all, the only hassle factor (apart from the sail cover) has been the delivery to France, requiring contacting with French customs to pay taxes, while we were in NZ.

Life on Roaring Girl
Bronze goddesses
02/08/2008, Villefranche-sur-Mer

The old castle of Villefranche-sur-Mer now houses the Mairie, a theatre and several museums. One of these houses a great deal of work by the sculptor Volti. He spent much of his life making voluptuous, votary statues of women, interspersed sometimes by tortured Christs, and anguished men drooping on uncomfortable chairs. The exhibition included a very graphic, near-lifesize lesbian couple engaged in intimate activities: enough to make us blush!
Mentioning the Mairie reminds us that corruption is still a live issue on this coast, over a decade after the Mayor of Nice received a long sentence for fraud. The small permanent residency of Villefranche (about 8000 people) are up in arms over the behaviour of their local town hall; over a quarter of them have signed a petition to the departement, asking for the dissolution of the Council for 'bringing the town into disrepute'!
We stayed in the Rade till 12 August. Every few days we motored about three miles offshore and flushed out the holding tank. One Thursday afternoon, the weather decided we were being a bit soft, and with astonishing speed the south-south-westerly blew up a vicious sea that set out bows pitching up and down and quickly snatched up our anchor. We had no joy getting it down again and after two tries made a dash for it round Cap Ferrat to the little bay outside St Jean. Getting out of the Rade put more water across the decks than any time since Biscay, as we climbed up the steep waves that were breaking through the narrow entrance, very close together. We blessed our reliable engine that day!
The Anse de la Scaletta of St Jean-Cap-Ferrat was well-sheltered, but very crowded. We had another struggle with weed but finally got the anchor to set and started clearing up the mess created below. Just as we established some control, the wind changed again, sending a sharp north-easterly onto us, and putting us quite close to the breakwater. So we hauled it all up again and went back to Villefranche. Just goes to show that even in that sheltered spot, you must keep a sharp eye on the weather and be ready to move; coastal anchoring is not like rivers or creeks.

Life on Roaring Girl
Messing about in boats
01/08/2008, 43.41.89N 007.19.34E

One of the pleasant surprises about this coast is that actually it is possible to live quite cheaply. The marinas as so expensive that you avoid them like the plague, the bars and restaurants are terrifying. So you find the anchorages (of which there are zillions), keep a sharp eye on the weather, shop sparingly and in fact spend remarkably little. (Unless you go the Jazz Festival!) And it is obvious why it is so popular with yachties, as it's beautiful, the weather is very gentle, and there are lots of places to go.
On Sunday we decamped to the bay just east of Nice, called the Rade de Villefranche. The eastern headland is Cap Ferrat, and the bay is overlooked by the little town of Villefranche-sur-Mer.
This is essentially the cruise-liner port for Nice, with some very large liners anchoring in here. That still leaves lots of room for yachts, however. There is a swell which comes in every now and then. We are going to stay for a couple of weeks, for Sarah to write and Pip to do some design work. Plus a bit of enjoying Bridget, and jumping into a delightful clear, cool sea when it all gets too hot.


Life on Roaring Girl
Harbour and anchorage
01/08/2008, Rade de Villefranche

The Rade would not be a bad place if looking for a wintering spot on the hook. It is open to the south and you'd want to create a pretty firm quasi-mooring. But it's obvious that a number of boats have done just that, and are liveaboards. You've got Nice just over the hill, the comforts of Villefranche, and wonderful weather. (Pretty tempting, but we wouldn't want to leave Roaring Girl unattended at anchor. At the moment Toulon looks like a good opportunity if they can confirm a space.)
This picture is taken looking south east from the northern end of the old town. The boats in the foreground are on moorings; we don't know what permissions might be required for this. You would need to anchor fore and aft here if you squeezed into a space here, as there is no swinging room. They are obviously the closest to the town.
Most visiting yachts (save the super variety) anchor over on the east side. (This is where we are; magnifying this picture a lot reveals Roaring Girl at the back, almost in the middle.) You are a little more exposed to the prevailing south westerly swell here, though actually the biggest rolls tend to come from the liners coming and going, and maybe the ferries going past the headland into Nice. This the Anse de l'Espalmador. The area most tucked into shelter on the east is now buoyed off, preventing anchorage.
The holding is good. There is weed, but quite a lot of sandy patches too. We have had much less trouble here than elsewhere, and between two trips out to sea to empty our holding tanks, and our determination to edge over to the east, we have anchored at least six times this week. It does get very crowded; we haven't used a chum as there is so little wind, but plan to put one down once fully settled. Almost all the boats vanish again in the evening; as on most of this coast, everything is very quiet from about 2000 to 0700, but there's loads of activity during the day.
You can dinghy ashore in the town. We have tied up to the quay, where there are lots of rings and bollards, without any problem. On the wee pontoon that serves the tripper boats (about 100m north of Port de la Sante, or North Harbour, the small fishing port), there are water taps. The liners send their lifeboats to and fro as tenders, and there are tripper boats and small ferries zipping around, as well as the fishermen, but we have found most of them pretty courteous to small dinghies. The least considerate are the large RIBs used as tenders by the superyachts. All these go in and out of the tiny Port de la Sante.
South of the old quay, and also south of the conspicuous citadelle, is the marina of Villefranche-sur-Mer. We would be at the top end of its size range, assuming we could get a berth. Unsurprisingly, this is an extremely popular harbour, with a 15 year waiting list for long term berths.

Life on Roaring Girl
Bassin Lympia
21/07/2008, Pontoon G4

From our final resting place we have nice views, both of the formal building at the end of the harbour, and of the wooded hill of the Citadel. (The fort itself is long gone.) It's all lit up well at night, and, given we're in the middle of the 5th largest city in France, it's not too noisy.


Life on Roaring Girl
Shoehorned in
21/07/2008, Nice

For the first time since La Ciotat, we came into a marina. Nice, after extensive phone research, is the cheapest marina on the Cote d'Azur. We wanted a few days to plug into shore power (use tools, printers etc), do a little boat work and hire a car for some explorations and a major grocery stock-up. It helped that this is the week of the Nice Jazz Festival.
We'd phoned ahead, with all our details, but when we arrived we were directed to H4. Be warned! This is really a small boat spot.
It wasn't actually our first stop. We tried G4, but were told that we needed to move. So we headed to H4, which was down a dead end, between small power boats and spectacular superyachts. On the way, we stopped briefly on H24 to avoid a huge superyacht that was coming in; GJW (our insurers) might not cope with tangling our anchors with several million pounds worth of fancy toy.
The pontoons are quite low here, giving Pip the willies about jumping off the anchor. So she took the helm as we nosed in and stopped us beautifully. We needed to cool off afterwards, with a hosedown on the deck.
Along came the man from the Capitainerie, to tell us we had the line from the quay on the wrong side. So we moved it. Then, along came the lass from the Capitainerie, the one Sarah'd spoken to while we were ensconced on G4.
If you want to stay till Sunday, she said, you need to move.
Where to? Sarah asked politiely.
Back where started, Pip muttered gruffly.
G4, she said. Pip was right.
We took a deep breath and discussed it. Then very slowly, we backed off the quay and turned (about 15 forwards and backs on the gear lever) till we could come straight out again. Pip was on the helm, while Sarah managed lines, called distances and hovered with a roving fender. Every boat in the vicinity was watching us, including the crew of the superyacht behind us. People were standing on the bows of their power boats and yachts, boathooks in hand, to fend us off.
Never a hitch! Roaring Girl and crew managed it beautifully, nobody shouted, nothing touched anything it shouldn't touch. Just as well there wasn't any wind.
When we finally took our papers into the Capitainerie there was the familiar questions about being two women.
Just the two of you? Just two women?
Yes.
We got a round of applause!

Life on Roaring Girl
Antibes
18/07/2008, Anchored in the Anse de la Salis

Antibes, although as everywhere on the coast, fearfully expensive, is a great spot. No wonder Graham Greene lived here for 20 years.
We anchored in the southern end of the Anse de Salis, looking about 1km north to the old town. This is a good spot; once through the weed there's good holding and it's well sheltered. It does get very busy on a sunny summer weekend, but nearly all the little boats disappear at night. At the other end of the spectrum is the parade of superyachts, which mostly anchor right outside the marina.
Pip did a clever bodge job on the outboard which was enough to get us into that marina. They were astounded at being asked if we could tie up, but let us tuck Bridget into a corner. We then walked to the Honda dealer in town, which turned out to be about 3km away in the blazing heat up a main road! We have a history of route marches and this continued the fine tradition. At least we did manage to order the parts, to be picked up next week.
Our second day there we went into the tiny Port de Salis, as the southern end. This is too small and too shallow for Roaring Girl but they let us tie up the dinghy. There is a free bus into town: it runs from the little turning circle on the far side of the road at the very sharp corner at the edge of the port, right into the bus station in the centre of Antibes. In general the buses round here are excellent, but not to be charged is even better.
A great spot for swimming to, in warm, soft water. They light up the fort and the cathedral at night and it's really pretty. Altogether a very enjoyable stop.


Life on Roaring Girl
Flying the Flag
14/07/2008, Theoule

By far the biggest tricoleur we've ever seen on a boat, flown on this rather nice catamaran. Their dinghy was particularly interesting. It was a walker bay 8 (an 8 foot plastic dinghy, often very popular with boats that can carry something that size). They had put on an electric motor, plus three small solar panels. Two were on the thwart, and one on top of a specially built battery box which also contained the regulator. All three were obviously used to being sat on and still worked.
It was a very neat set up, and the owner said he never used fossil fuels for his dinghy these days.

Life on Roaring Girl

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