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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Easter at Home
12/04/2009, Toulon

Home for Easter! A long overdue week off, loving life afloat, sorting out various jobs and getting that shower working again.
We are hauling RG out of the water on Tuesday. It's getting expensive to be afloat now, so rather than keep her in the water for a possible long weekend in May, we're heading across the Petit Rade to a boatyard where she can be in (relatively) cheaper dry dock for the three remaining months we expect to be earning.
Today we went up Mount Faron, one of the several hills surrounding Toulon. We walked to the bottom of the cable car, to be honest. Then we had a nice ramble around the heavily managed park/classified site at the top, enjoying what we could see. As you can tell, it's been a pretty murky, rainy sort of Easter even here in Provence. (Good Friday was magnificent and it may get better tomorrow).
This is the view across the Petit Rade. The straight line breakwater to your left marks the barrier from the Grand Rade, which is then open to the sea. You can access the Petit Rade at either end. The maze of docks directly below us is only a small part of the wharfage; another huge area is out of shot to the right, all of it belonging to the Navy as well as half of what you can see.
It's not at all surprising that Toulon is the second biggest naval base in France. It is very defensible (as both the French and English have found out at various times) from sea and land, with good fresh water. Its hinterland is arid scrub, however, which makes it less safe under siege than Portsmouth or even Cartegena.
One way or another we'll have spent quite a bit of time here (though not as much as Roaring Girl herself!) But because it's been very bitty we haven't really made friends or got a lot of connections with the town, which is a shame


Places and people
Very sad news
30/03/2009, Wales

Our dear friend Polly Kitzinger was badly injured in a car crash, not far from her home in Brecon, on 30 March. At the time of writing (12 April) she is still in a deep coma but her condition is stable. If any readers who know Polly want to keep up with her news, you can find out more on www.welove.polly.org. That's also the place to send any messages of support, photos and memories.
Polly sailed with us for a long time, particularly introducing Sarah to many adventures in the early days with Hushwing. Most recently, she sailed across Biscay with us in July 2006 - her third time across, but the first for us. The picture shows the four Roaring Girl crew (including Fiona who was with us too) at our excited arrival in A Coruna.
Getting there was made more interesting than it might have been by our lack of an engine. The propeller headed for the seabed about 120 miles from Spain. When we got to the Coruna entrance, Polly helmed magnificently as we picked our way through to safety. That champagne was well deserved.
We hope for the very best for Polly and remember her company, skill and humour with such love and respect. Our thoughts and love are with her partner Lizzie, her sister Jenny and many other friends and family.


Places and people
And the lion!
01/02/2009, London

She was followed by this lion - the two men jumped from pole to pole, stood on it's hind legs and performed amazing acrobatics for about 10 minutes.
We spent Xmas in Toulon, at home on Roaring Girl. We did take pix, but due to various lash-ups, haven't got them now. Mother Xmas abseiled off the town hall and distributed chocolates to the crowds watching tumblers and buskers around the Navigator's statue on the waterfront.
Much of the time, we have been based in London, with a long-running contract with one borough and several other pieces of work going on. This is keeping us shore-based far longer than usual, but it makes sense to earn the money while we can in these difficult times. Since last September, when we started work again, the job of a regeneration consultant has changed dramatically!
We expect to continue working to July, then take off for the west coast of Italy and associated islands. We won't get long, as Sarah has to have some medical treatment in October. So we'll get back to the UK, base ourselves in Ipswich and work through the duller months, but we're set on a March start to cruising in 2010.


Places and people
New Year in central London
01/02/2009, London

Well, it's been a while. This is written in April but starts on 1 February, when we celebrated Chinese New Year in Trafalgar Square. This dragon was stunning.


Places and people
Back home!
02/11/2008, Toulon

We are both back for a long weekend, which is great. Despite a strong easterly and overcast skies, occasionally opening for a sharp downpour, it's lovely to be home for a while. Roaring Girl is in good shape, with what we need aboard, and quite safe.
We were so busy when we came in before that this is an opportunity to explore the city and get to know it a bit better, which is fun too. And, although the people of Toulon are complaining (it even snowed on the hills north of town last week!), it is much warmer than London.
Several friends have commented we're out of date on the blog. It's hard keeping it up to date when the key events are - went to office, came home! We've had a few excitements - taking Sarah's mother on the London Eye for example. Hence this spectacular view up the Thames. And Sarah has been sailing twice on Nethunuus, out of Gosport.
Keep in touch anyway, folks, and we'll try to be better at staying current with our adventures.

Life on Roaring Girl
Aliens!
13/09/2008, Southampton Boat Show

For Pip's birthday, we went to the Boat Show. This entry is actually written on 1 November, back in Toulon, and looking back at SIBS feels like a different world; the economy looked rough then, and the euro very strong. Now, of course, everything is in meltdown. We are very glad we are not in debt anywhere, and lucky enough to be able to find work. Last summer was excellent practice for living very cheaply even when everything around us was astronomically expensive - a skill we will all need to hone over the coming years.
In the meantime, some things we needed were cheaper bought at the Boat Show, in sterling. Spare oil filters, new anode, some flat fenders. And some great rope for replacing our spinnaker halyards.
A Kiwi company was using these aliens to promote their product. We can't remember what they're selling , but they have a map of NZ on the back. They were everywhere, adding a certain peculiar frisson to the event!

Places and people
The last anchorage
25/08/2008, Iles Porquerolles

We anchored here again after a very quiet few days in Port Man waiting out a mistral. In this bay, the RIB comes round selling expensive ice-creams; we allowed ourselves the ?'?8; the only money we spent between St Tropez on 20 August and arriving in Toulon on 26 August.
It was a glorious sunset for our last anchorage of the year.
From here, we went into Toulon and found a snug berth on the biggest pontoon in the Darse Vieille. It's all bows or stern to, with good stout lines (two per boat) to keep you off the quay. The Petit Rade (the inner end of the big bay that makes Toulon such a superb harbour) is still very naval, with both big grey boats and zippy black RIBs, full of men with guns. We arrived flying (as usual and amongst other things) an NZ flag and a big rainbow flag, which here is often used as a peace sign. Remember the Rainbow Warrior, mes amis!
For several days, we were watched closely, the RIB-fulls coming close under our stern and looking at us for minutes at a time. Then we took the flags down, as part of the winter prep, and they lost interest.
So Roaring Girl is securely wrapped up, with guardiennage for when we're not here. Pip is going to and fro, in between working on her silversmithing, while Sarah makes a temporary return to office-life.


Life on Roaring Girl
Thar she blows!
21/08/2008, On passage to Port Man

The excitement! We saw sperm whales in Kaikoura (see the blog pages for 9 January this year), but now we saw another one. Of our own, so to speak - of course such a majestic creature belongs to no one.
She was cruising gently on the surface off the Bay of Cavalaire, not far from the shore. We hastily veered away; she was longer than Roaring Girl, but watched in awe until she dived, showing the classic fluke against the Provencal blue sky as she vanished.
We had not realised such big whales came through the Straits and into the Med, but apparently there are quite a few about, especially in a big pelagic sanctuary that stretches from hereabouts to Italy and south of Corsica.

Life on Roaring Girl
A rather larger vessel
19/08/2008, Passage to St Raphael

We all took the 1230 ferry across to St Raphael. This is very simple: it leaves from the quay outside the 'new port' (the marina for ordinary sized boats), and you pay on board. (?'?13 one way, ?'?22 return). It wasn't particularly crowded, although the jetty itself is rather a scrum.
In St Raphael, you get a bus to Nice airport. The maps of the town, including the one displayed outside the TIC, show the Gare Routiere (bus station) outside the Gare SNCF. Hah! That's been demolished and is still being rebuilt. The bus station is back down at the Vieux Port, on the opposite side from the ferry.
Even with that diversion Fiona and Melanie caught the 1400 airport express with ease, and we got a text confirming their safe arrival in London. They managed to collect the full set: boat (x3), bus, plane, train (DLR) and tube.
We caught the ferry back, brought a few provisions in the local little supermarket and treated ourselves to drinks in the Hotel Sube. The first floor bar is bang in the middle of the Vieux Port quayside, but remarkably quiet, and has fabulous yacht photos all around the walls. Definitely the best place for a drink in the tawdry vulgarity that marks most of the town.
Our plan now is to wait out the south-westerly (blowing as we write this on Wednesday afternoon), which would give us a beat to the Lies adhere. If the forecasts are right, we will head back to Port Man tomorrow for a last weekend at anchor. From there, on Monday we will sidle round to Plage de la Courtade, where we will ring the port in Toulon to see if our high hopes of a berth there are confirmed. If they are, we will tie up next week in our winter berth, before returning to the UK for Sarah to start her temporary job in South London on 2 September. That will mark the end of 18 months in which we have spent all but three travelling, and allow us to replenish our depleted coffers.

Places and people
The high life
19/08/2008, St Tropez

We finally found a spot in this busy anchorage, about a kilometre east of the entrance to the port of St Tropez. The anchorage is full of super yachts, and quite deep. So far it's been very comfortable, save for wash, though it is quite open to the north east.
Fiona and Melanie invited us out for dinner, to celebrate Sarah's birthday. We went to a good Provencal restaurant called Table du Marche in Rue Georges Clemenceau, and can thoroughly recommend it! We were very full, as well as enjoying cocktails and two excellent bottles of wine. Unaccustomed luxury: thanks to the two of them.
We also discovered that there is a water taxi in St Tropez (not mentioned in the Pilot book, possibly because it's ?'?40 every trip, though the boat can take about 8 people.) Ring on 06 12 40 28 05. Pretty good English spoken. This took the worry out of a potential trip home in Bridget in the dark, and gave us unaccustomed rides in very fast ribs, which were great fun.
On Tuesday morning, there were candles in the fresh baguettes to accompany a very nice bottle of champagne - a great way to start the day!

Places and people
A fab sail
18/08/2008, Across the Golfe de Frejus

From Theoule, we needed a landfall from which Fiona and Melanie could get back to Nice airport for their flight on Tuesday afternoon. A call to the Office de Tourisme confirmed this was possible from St Tropez, taking the ferry to St Raphael and the bus from there. Cap Dramont, just west of the Rade d'Agay was the decision point.
When we got to that point, the cruising chute was up, pulling beautifully, the wind was on the beam, and we couldn't get any answer out of the marinas at St Raphael. Pip made some very good sandwiches and an excellent champagne cocktail, and we headed across the Golfe. It was a splendid sail; only about 12 miles, but we went like the clappers with the cruising chute set well, making a steady six knots. Pip and Melanie took the opportunity to snooze, while Sarah & Fiona tweaked sails, talked navigation and had a fab time.
The champagne cocktail, incidentally, was a variation on our Port St Louis favourite, and has been christened Soupe de Champagne Chinoise. It uses fizzy lychee liqueur in place of the more usual Cointreau.

Life on Roaring Girl
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

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