Bonjour tout le monde! Hello, everybody!
We are now in France. I'm trying hard to learn some of the
language, but it is really difficult! Spanish words keep popping out
of my mouth. Just when I got used to rolling my r's, now I'm
trying to gargle them. Impossible!
When we left Barcelona, we sailed all day to a pleasant marina in Sant
Feliu, Spain. It was fun to be sailing, but the sea was a bit
choppy and I felt a little 'off'. Need to get my sea legs.
Our next port of call was L'Estartit, Spain. We had to
motor the entire way because we had no wind at all. Then we
experienced a few minutes of near panic when we got there, tried to med
moor and lost our rudder control as we were backing in. It took a
few minutes to figure out that we had snagged one of the mooring lines on
our rudder. This is a shallow marina. But in those few minutes
we had no steering and that was very frightening! We spent
almost a week here. This location was our jump-off point from Spain
to cross the Gulf of Lion to France. We needed a good 24-hour
clear weather window to do our over-night sail to France. The Gulf
of Lion can be very dangerous when the frequent Mistral wind funnels
through it. We got a good weather report and set sail on May 6.
It took about 18 hours to get to Cassis, France, but we were turned
away because they had a regatta that weekend and the marina was
full. Bummer, we really wanted to go there. Oh well, on
to the next port. Uh-oh, no room at Bandol either. So we
motored 6 more hours to Toulon, a large port and military
base. The office was closed by the time we arrived, so we just
pulled into a berth and plugged in our electricity and water. We
were exhausted and dirty and salty. The next day was a holiday, and
the office was still closed. I supposed that someone would
eventually want some money from us, so we just continued to act like we
belonged there, and hoped that another boat wasn't going to show up
wanting to know what we were doing in his berth. Turns out we were
fine and on the third day we got all checked in at the office.
We met a fellow, Tom, who just arrived from Florida. His boat,
s/v Chérie, was to arrive via Dockwise Yacht Transport the next day.
We offered to help him with the launch as he was single-handing. It
was a half-day ordeal and quite an experience. Dockwise is a huge
freighter that ships big power yachts and sailboats across the oceans
around the world. The boats are floated into the freighter and
secured on stands and braces. Then the water is removed and the
boats are on dry dock for the transport. Once at the destination,
the freighter is flooded again and the boats sail out. The boats are
so close together that it is necessary for the Dockwise personnel to keep
adjusting the boats throughout the process as the boats begin to
float within the freighter. It was interesting to be on one of the
boats as all of this was happening, but I would have been freaking out if it
was my boat. That would have been just too, too stressful.
We rented a car for a few days and took a road trip inland to explore
the French countryside, staying at a different hotel each night. We
had a fantastic trip! It was such
fun to just be driving through the country, stopping at wineries along the
way. Avignon and Les Baux were both just incredible medieval
cities. We toured the palace and the castle and enjoyed eating out
every meal. We almost always eat on board, so it was fun to be a bit
extravagant and enjoy the cuisine on this trip.
Now it was time to get sailing again. We left Toulon and sailed
over to the islands of Porquerolles. We had light wind, sunny
skies and flat seas. After dropping the hook, we had drinks, snacks
and listened to music. Then while Mike napped in the cockpit, I
enjoyed the quiet late afternoon/early evening at anchor. Watching
and listening to the birds, seeing the sun cast shadows on the rocky
cliff, and hearing the water lapping against the rocks. This was a great
first night at anchor!
After several days exploring Porquerolles and its anchorages, we got
underway for St. Tropez. Motored all day on flat sea with no
wind. Shortly after anchoring near St. Tropez in Canoubiers,
we were boarded by two French Customs officials. They inspected our
documents, filled out a form, then decided it was necessary to search our
entire boat. We don't know what they were looking for, but they
opened every cabinet and went through everything inside, even turning up
our mattress. Then they smiled, thanked us, said we were fine, and
St. Tropez was our first port in France to show us the glamorous side
of the French Riviera. The incredible super yachts in the harbor,
lots of beautiful people dressed in white linen with deep tans, expensive
jewelry and little fluffy dogs. Add to that a gazillion tourists in
their vacation clothes with cameras around their necks, and you've got the
picture. St. Tropez has a fantastic open air market twice a week and
we bought all kinds of things there.
Our friends that we met in Barcelona last fall, Patrick and Christine
on the Nordhaven yacht Frog Kiss, met up with us in St.
Tropez. They invited all of us (Tom, Mike and me) over for
dinner. (Here comes my 'Bad Timing' story) I was in the
shower, getting ready for our dinner party, hair lathered in shampoo, body
all soaped up, and the water pump stopped working. Oh great!
Mike pulled up the floor board to check the pump. He had to dig out
his tool kit and start doing all sorts of tests to find the problem.
In the meantime, I'm just standing in the shower with soap drying all over
me. This was one of those times that I would have actually
considered going European and swim naked off the stern of the boat to
rinse off. BUT, our swim ladder still had a crimp in it from when we
bumped into the dock last winter during a windstorm, and couldn't be
lowered. So I would have no way of getting back on-board if I jumped
off. Anyway, Mike determined that he needed to install a new water
pump, so while he did that, I used a bottle of store-bought drinking water
to try to rinse off, or at least keep the soap wet! Eventually, the
repair job was completed and I finished my shower and had a good story to
tell at the dinner party. Patrick came over the next day with a
crowbar and fixed our swim ladder. Now I don't have any excuses for
not jumping off the boat naked.
the group over for dinner on our boat the next night, said our goodbyes to
Patrick and Christine (they are heading north in the morning), and Tom
cooked Thai food for us on his boat the following night. By the way,
we are getting very attached to his dog, a Jack Russell Terrier named
Calvin. We keep threatening to kidnap him.
In the middle of the night, the weather turned to crap. Howling
winds from 30-35 knots with large whitecaps came blasting into the
anchorage. We were rocking and swinging around and thought we might
be dragging toward shore. So in the pitch dark wind, we raised and
reset our anchor, then stayed up all night on anchor watch to make sure we
held as the wind continued to howl. We couldn't have slept anyway
with the way we were rocking. A few waves actually broke over the
In the morning we motored to a little town called Rade de Agay
and anchored just off the beach. It was a bit rolly the first
night, but was very calm and beautiful after that. We just hung out
there, did boat chores and laundry, and enjoyed the peace.
High winds were predicted to be on the way again, so we moved on to Cannes
and got a berth in the marina for a few days. We were amazed when a
big power boat squeezed in beside us. We were packed in so tight
that our inflatable fenders were flattened! This guy didn't speak
English (he was Italian), and when he left the next day, he scratched the
paint on the side of our boat. I was furious, but he just took
off. The marina didn't have any information on him that was helpful
to me, which is odd because I had to provide extensive information on us
when I checked in (USA vs. EU citizen?).
We walked around Cannes and looked at all the big yachts, expensive
stores, private beaches, beautiful people, rich people and, of course, all
the tourists. Money, money, money. It's a nice enough town and
I enjoyed seeing it, but my guidebook says it best. "Unless you
have the budget of a supermodel or Formula One driver, it can feel like a
party that you're not invited to."
Next we sailed to the island just off the coast of Cannes, called
Saint-Marguerite. We anchored near Fort Royal where Dumas' Man in
the Iron Mask was held in a prison cell at the end of the 17th
century. A terrific rain, lightning and thunder storm greeted us,
and passed before evening. At dusk the island was illuminated with
multi-colored lights which was absolutely beautiful! (see picture in
my Photo Album) After a couple of days exploring Saint-Marguerite,
we headed to Villefranche, which is where we are now. This will be
our home base for exploring the French Riviera. Our kids and
grandkids will all visit us here over the next month or so. We also
hope to connect with a few of our cruising friends who are planning to
sail here. We are scoping things out for the kids visit and
learning our way around. Right this moment we are tucked into the
marina in Villefranche riding out the latest windstorm, continually
repositioning the fenders to avoid damage as the boats rock into each
other. My goodness, I hope this isn't the norm for the summer!
We had planned on anchoring out in more settled weather for most of the
But I'm not complaining! Life is good and we are excited to be
here. I'm continuing to practice my French when we are out and
about. Eventually I'll be able to understand what is being said back
Au revoir! Bonne journée! (Goodbye! Have a Nice
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