Roaring Girl

The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.

12 August 2013 | Ipswich, England
17 July 2012
16 July 2012
10 July 2012
05 July 2012
03 July 2012
03 July 2012
03 July 2012
02 July 2012 | Shanghai (high up!)
02 July 2012 | Shanghai (high up!)
02 July 2012 | Shanghai (high up!)
02 July 2012
02 July 2012 | Shanghai
01 July 2012
01 July 2012 | Moganshan Lu, Shanghai

Roaring Girl is for sale

12 August 2013 | Ipswich, England
Roaring Girl is up for sale. We have brought her back to the UK from Malta, proving she is seaworthy and eats up the miles. If you want to know more details about the sale, go to our special website at If you came here looking to know more about our adventures, the cruising entries start from September 2010.

You can contact us either through this blog or on Look forward to hearing from you.

The Kapiti Coast airport

20 July 2012
Kiwis use planes like poms use trains. There are airports dotted all over the country and it’s the main way to travel between distant towns. Wellington airport sits on a narrow spit of land to the south of the city and is a busy hub. Two years ago the old airport at Paraparaumu on the Kapiti coast reopened and that’s where we flew to and from Auckland this trip.

Pip had never used it before, but Beryl had. For 11 years, when Wellington was being improved and weather strengthened, this was the busiest airport in NZ. And Beryl flew from here to start her nursing career in Dunedin, in 1952.

Now it is small but bustling, with an excellent on-site cafe. The service was simple and quick, and the plane (a 52 seater) comfortable. The flight was slightly longer than from WLG (because the plane is smaller) but the time is more than made up by the easy boarding and arrival processes. The airport is close (by taxi) to the local station with lines into Wellington, or there’s a shuttle service. We were lucky as the Mum’s taxi service took and collected us: otherwise from Upper Hutt it would mean a train into the city and out again.

First cousin twice removed

20 July 2012
Sarah’s grandfather’s cousin Peter has lived in NZ since the mid-fifties, much of the time in Auckland, but they had never met. After making contact via Linked In, they finally got together on Friday. Peter kindly picked us up from Remuera and drove to the airport where we chatted over coffee while waiting for our flight.

The conversation ranged through India, Pakistan, Turkey and London, and from carbon black (used in car tyres apparently) to earthquakes. (Mind you, everyone in New Zealand talks about earthquakes.) It was great to meet up at last, and hope to do so again before we head north.

Penguins and puffer fish

18 July 2012
Kelly Tarlton's is an aquatic centre, named after its founder. he was a larger than life figure: diver, salvage expert, Kiwi self-made engineer and early conservationist. Pip remembers the centre as an exciting visit of her childhood, especially the penguins.

We found somewhere rather sadder and more constrained. The penguins are in a small, enclosed space, surrounded by signs emphasising the temporary nature of their accommodation. Indeed there was quite a lot of rebuilding going on around us. The stingrays patrol up and down their tank. The big tank has a tunnel underneath it, so you can see fish over your head and alongside as you are carried on the walkway. Beyond are smaller tanks with more exotic fish, seahorses and these octopi.

The place was pioneering when it opened, both to educate the public about the Antarctic and supporting conservation efforts. They stress the big investment and facelift underway. We left, though, with the feeling that it has been overtaken by better places. It was interesting to see Emperor penguins upclose, but the display was a mile away from the Antarctic centre in Christchurch we visited last time we were in NZ. And the aquarium does not compete with the Lisbon centre. Many of these places are forms of zoos, with all the moral ambiguity attached to keep animals (particularly large nomadic species) in captivity. If it cannot be done in ways which protect the animals, promote education and support conservation, then it is questionable whether it should be done at all.

Taking the ferry

17 July 2012
Auckland is a city of ferries and water. For the new arrival it can be hard to orient yourself. The Sky Tower (Auckland’s bulbous predecessor to Shanghai’s TV tower) pops up in views in all sorts of unexpected ways, but that doesn’t always help you work out which bit of water you’re crossing.

We took the ferry to the suburb of Devonport. The area has a long history, being the site of three Maori pa (forts) on its volcanic cones. The white settlers built elegant colonial villas with balconies and fretted columns, now shaded by mature trees. The headland played a big role in NZ defence, and is scattered with gun emplacements, searchlight mountings, the last pillars of a chain across the harbour entrance and a small warren of tunnels. A period of decline has ended in a surge of gentrification and it is now uber-chic. Home to a splendid chocolatier, a coffee roaster, various exhibiting jewellers, and more nic cafes than you can shake a stick at.

The picture is Auckland’s CBD from the water, a cluster of towers and shapes that belies the sprawling, low-rise nature of the city.

Audrey Hepburn

16 July 2012
We had a busy few days catching up with friends and contacts in Wellington before grabaseat (Air New Zealand’s budget offers) took us up to Auckland. There we stayed with Merton friend Helen, her partner Tim and their splendid cat, Audrey Hepburn. Ms H is a rescue cat, who has survived the trip here from London and taken up residence post quarantine with great aplomb. She rules the household with a paw of iron and claws of steel, and delayed our departure for some time on Tuesday by honouring Pip’s lap with her presence.

Back to Rivendell

10 July 2012
In 2008 we visited the Kaitoki reserve jus up the road from Upper Hutt, where Pip’s mother lives. It was a our first revisit to NZ bush, and also the site of Rivendell in Lord of the Rings. We didn’t repeat the lovely guided bush walk, as Beryl’s knees are giving her grief, but did the short walk across the swing bridge and through a stretch of the forest. Big ferns, pohotukawa, lianas, the sounds of tui. Back in NZ!

Frost and fog

05 July 2012
Lucky us! We got an upgrade to Premium Economy on our ANZ airpoints. The luxury of better food, lots of legroom and metal cutlery. Obviously violent customers only fly in Economy, where the knives and forks are plastic!

New Zealand, which has just passed its midwinter, was enveloped in fog. Flights were being cancelled out of Auckland. For Wellington though, they kept the planes going, and we arrived only one hour late. Brrr! It’s cold here.

The picture is actually the international terminal (we came in to the domestic), designed by Studio Pacific Architecture and Warren and Mahoney was officially opened in late 2010 in the capital city. It’s been controverisal, but represents a major step forward in designing major transport hubs to be environmentally friendly. Of course, an eco-airport is somewhat of a contradiction in terms, but we’re hardly in a position to be picky about that.

Some practicalities before leaving (including advice to cruisers)

05 July 2012
Noonsite says there is ‘a berth for foreign yachts’ under the Oriental Pearl Tower. We couldn’t see any space there, but there are a few pontoons with motor cruisers in that vicinity. There aren’t any charts (that we found) available online, and the pace of change suggests that UKHO Admiralty Chart 1601 will need careful checking. Noonsite also points to a requirement for a pilot and advance warning to the Chinese authorities, but seems to dismiss Shanghai as only a provisioning stop en route to the offshore islands. That’s a bit like saying that Rome might be convenient on the way to Sicily! Despite all the challenges, in the extremely unlikely event that we cruise the China Sea we would definitely try to spend time in central Shanghai.

We reckon you could buy or get made almost anything in Shanghai that a boat could need. There is a fascinating conglomeration of small workshops, tool shops, sources for wires, cables, clips, pumps, ties, pipes and all sorts of other things. It runs from the corner of Fujian Lu and Beijing Lu, immediately south of the Suzhou creek. We spent a long, hot hour hunting through the piles, including examining a jewellers tool shop in great detail. Sadly (for the vendors) we didn’t buy anything this trip, but space will be required on our way back to Roaring Girl.

The currency is yuan or renminbi, currently running at a realistic conversion rate of about 9.2 to GBP1. (It looks better on the screen but that’s before conversion costs.) You can buy it outside the country if, like us, you like to arrive with a little cash. You will get a better rate from ATMs in the country, and they are everywhere.

We felt Shanghai was very safe. Of course it’s a huge city, and there are poor and desperate people here. Just like London, Paris or Auckland. But we came much closer to having our bags dipped in Pisa this June than anywhere in China.

Transport around Shanghai is easy. The main centre east of the river is roughly square, and the streets run north/south and east/west in a grid pattern. The older warrens would be easy to get lost in, but we only ventured into the touristy areas, rather than some of the side streets between the grids that you can still see in parts of the city. Every street has a clear sign on all edges of every junction in both Chinese and English. The Metro is simple, bilingual and covers a lot of the city.

Mind you, the buses (allegedly only RMB2 to go anywhere) were only signed in Chinese and we chickened out of them! Taxis in central Shanghai seemed to be standardised at about RMB15, except in the rain when the price was anything the driver thought he could get away with. Getting to or from the airport seems to be a given opportunity for taxis to try and rip you off, but should cost about RMB180 from the centre of town. The maglev train costs RMB100 each and is quite hard work with big cases; if you will still want a cab from the inner station, it is probably worth getting one straight from the airport itself. (The maglev is great fun though, and travels at 300km per hour!)

Air conditioning was essential in Shanghai in July. The residents were complaining about the heat (caused by a high that seems to have taken up residence over Southern China) and humidity. If you go there at this time of year, make sure your accommodation has air conditioning.

Food is an adventure. We had both good and bad, and found the famed street food limited, especially compared to Hong Kong. You can find food not only from all over China but across the world, from America to Turkey. We were happy to point to a menu in Chinese or Korean, and see what came. If you want to know a bit more about what you’re putting into your mouth, find a restaurant with good pictures or an English menu.

The general advice is not to drink the water. It is technically potable, but is said to contain heavy metals from the river. It certainly tastes disgusting. Every corner has a shop selling bottled water. Buy the Chinese water with a white label with red characters: it is a quarter the price of Evian.

Wonderful Shanghai Museum

04 July 2012
The major museum in the city is a huge collection of important treasures from all over China, housed in a relatively new building. Yes it was busy – this is still China – but it’s so well managed that you never feel crowded. And it is free!

A cong is a jade tube which is square on the outside, with a round hole. The juxtaposition of the square earth and the circle of heaven is common in Chinese symbology, and is reflected in the design of the museum itself. This one has pin sharp edges incised into the hard white jade, which is difficult to grind or cut even with modern metal blades. It was made in eastern China somewhere around 3000 BC, and nobody knows how it was done. It is exquisitely beautiful.

The museum has a great array of these jades plus extraordinary bronzes dating from 2000 to 0 BC. And furniture of the Ming and Qing dynasties, costumes and pieces from the many minority peoples of China, a detailed history of currency and much, much more. It needed far more time than we (or our feet) could manage.

A friend (thanks, Mike) had also said the Museum has a great shop. That’s true, and a lovely black silk jacket with a silver lining joined us for the next stage of our adventures.

On the river at last

03 July 2012
On the Tuesday night we finally made it on to the river cruise. Our batteries were poor so our pix were taken with Pip’s phone. This one was taken by a Russian couple. Another measure of the speed of change: a smartphone picture taken by a Russian couple travelling independently in China of us – a lesbian couple also travelling there without a State chaperone.

It was fun to do, but actually quite hard to manage. Shanghai badly needs some advice on catering to the non-group-organised traveller. The Bund, for example, is beautifully designed to enable freedom of movement that the authorities cannot support. Lots of signs point down escalators and stairs to the ticket hall, but are firmly closed off. It took us a good 20 minutes to find the one open door, which is actually down on the street and not signposted at all. We never thought we would miss the pavement touts of Valetta, Roma or Barcelona but they do at least give you a clue as to what is happening and how to access it!

Big boys toys

03 July 2012
The Urban Planning Exhibition showcases Shanghai’s extraordinary growth. Sarah will be writing more about this on her own blog at (not accessible in China) soon.

Even for the non-regeneration specialist it was fascinating. The picture is the enormous model of the city. It is taken looking (on the city’s axis) north east; you can see the sharp elbow of the Huangpu river under the Pearl, and the sharp tower of the World Finance Centre. The supporting material includes pictures from the 19th and 20th century. In 1984 – less than 30 years ago – there was almost nothing on that side of the river except marsh and paddy fields. All of that enormous city has gone up in the time since the UK’s miners’ strike.
Vessel Name: Roaring Girl
Vessel Make/Model: Maxi 120
Hailing Port: Ipswich
Crew: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
About: Captain Sarah and Chief Engineer/Mate Pip moved on board in 2003 and finally made the break in 2006. Roaring Girl, launched in 1977, has already been round the world once, and has a lot more seamiles than the two of us put together.
Extra: These pages aim to bring you our adventures as they happen, as well as Roaring Girl's sailing prowess. And to show off Pip's silverwork as well.

Who we are

Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich