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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Afloat at last
Extremely HOT!!
16/08/2009, Toulon Darse Veille

From Toulon station we took a cab to the ferry which runs across to Les Sablettes. It's a short walk from the navette to the boat yard, though long enough for two hot, tired women to do some bickering. But then we were home!
There was Roaring Girl on her cradle, waiting for us. Antoine (our very helpful agent here) had left one propped up for us, which was just as well as the Capitainerie shuts at 1800 and the ladders are locked away. That evening we cleared enough space to sleep, hoiked the sails into the cockpit, ate a bad meal in the port-based restaurant, and slept extremely well.
On the Wednesday we both worked hard, especially Pip. By the end of the day, Roaring Girl's hull was sanded, repainted, the anode was changed, and we were all ready to splash on Thursday morning. Some of the rigging was back on, the mizzen all sorted and some tidying done as well. That night we had an excellent meal at a small restaurant at the plage Pin Roland, the other side of the isthmus. Lots of very good food, and (we have to admit) excellent-looking waiting staff as well.
In general Pin Roland is a useful spot. It is in the pilot book, though Heikell is a bit dismissive. But if you need somewhere to haul out along this coast, you could do much worse. The prices are currently roughly comparable to Port Napoleon, and it's much easier to get to. You would still have to cycle to Les Sablettes for a supermarche, but there's a much wider choice of restaurants and bars. The yard is friendly, with lots of people about, many liveaboards, and no problems about working on your boat. They don't like people living aboard for too long on the hard but a week seems to be no problem.
There is little space for boats afloat, however, which is a shame. Within three hours, we motored over to Toulon, who welcomed us back in a friendly fashion. This (and indeed all the entries since the bathroom) are written on the Sunday, after three days hard work in the heat.
Most of the work is now done, though Sarah still has to climb both masts again, and Pip is working on improving the padding on the davits. But nearly everything is in place, the sails are all on, and RG is looking very swish in her new stak-a-pak. Some of you will remember that we bought a new mainsail last year, which we are very pleased with, but the stak-a-pak didn't fit. Lee sails sent us a new one, but it didn't catch up with us till too late, so this was the first time of putting it on. So smart.
Tomorrow we have a list of errands, not least a stock up on fresh food in Toulon's excellent market. Then it's off at last. The first day we intend a short shake-down to Ile Porquerolle, where we hope to meet up with our friend David from Port Napoleon. And then we're heading east.

Life on Roaring Girl
Preparing for summer
12/04/2009, Still in Toulon

We are getting ready to go in July. The star attraction in this pic is our new summer cover, made for ease of putting up and getting down. (It won't replace our splendid Force 10 wedding present one when we're in port, but that takes a little while to manipulate so isn't very useful at anchor.) This is modelled on Pip's prototype she worked on last summer, and put together by our clever friend Jan in Ipswich. It's got a few modifications to come, not least putting the right length batten in the stern end so it's not on the wonk. But lots of brill ideas are incorporated, including the Velcro-removal side panels for shade, and the little tabs for tying on solar panels to get the most of the sun when at anchor. It will be very easy to roll up and put away when we want to get going, the wind gets up or we simply fancy the extra UV.
There are other hints of activity in this picture. The water filter is the last piece to re-stow after Pip's heroic struggles with our water system. The shower had faded to a dribble when we were here in February, and she spent a day and half dismantling everything. It now works a treat and we have retreated from crusty-dom! The filter itself is an idea we pinched from a boat on the pontoons at Valencia; it's a standard high-end permanent installation. We've put connectors either side of it, and put it between the dockside tap and our water inlet when we fill up. We often still filter it out of the tap but this is a real help to keeping the nasties away.
The red-lidded drum is the new home for the chain/rope rose for our stern anchor. We are told that this is the way to get cheap moorings in Italy (where marinas are notoriously exorbitant). Instead, get into fishing harbours with an anchor to keep you off the dock. We can't go in stern-to, as we can't get to the dock that way (dinghy, solar panels ....), so instead need to rig an effective way of running an anchor off the transom. Our very helpful guardien, Antoine, is organising a stern roller and fairlead to our requirements. This barrel will hold the rode. Lou Heikell gave us encouraging advice at the CA's Med Section seminar in February. Still - it will be nerve-wracking the first time. We'll let you know how it goes.
The big black object to port under the sprayhood (also being replaced this spring), is the new kayak. Long-promised, we finally bought it at the Earl's Court boat show, and aim to try it out as soon as we're in warmer water. Roll on, summer!

Life on Roaring Girl
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
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 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
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

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