|Cruising the Mediterranean
two Wayfarers spend two weeks sailing east from Hyères in Sept. 2006
a Log by Ralph Roberts W9885 Spree Lady
Our next planned destination was a couple of small islands off Cannes. Progress proved slow in the light winds, and we needed to use the motor at times. We eventually reached the picturesque port of Théoule-sur-Mer, situated at the start of the long bay that sweeps round to Cannes. It seemed a good place to stop and enjoy a late lunch-time snack at a beachside café before completing the remainder of the trip in much stronger winds to the islands of Ile Sainte-Marguerite and Ile Saint-Honorat. This was a very popular area for boats to visit, and there were a considerable number moored anywhere there was any type of shelter – or not, in many cases.
Théoule-sur-Mer. It is important when stopping on a beach to roll the boats up high enough to
clear the centreboard case, in order to prevent small stones from jamming the centreboard.
Ile Sainte-Marguerite. This was by far the most ideal spot we had yet found to stop for the night
- quiet, secluded, sheltered, and with a perfect, panoramic view of the coastline.
It’s usually relatively easy to find a spot to land in a Wayfarer, but we sailed all round the smaller outer island of Saint-Honorat without any success. This was somewhat disappointing, since Jacques had informed us that the monks residing in the prominent Cistercian Monastery on the island are well known for their expertise at wine making – wine which we were not able to taste unfortunately! We started to wonder whether we might have to resort to using one of the two marinas in Cannes, when the most perfect spot appeared as we rounded the western point of Ile Sainte-Marguerite, and we pulled our boats up onto a beautifully shaded beach. It seemed almost too idyllic a place – and so it was to prove!
Cedric and I were lying awake next morning, thinking it was about time we stirred ourselves into getting up, when Jacques tapped on the foredeck to say that we had been given 15 minutes to get the boats in the water. Camping on the beach was strictly forbidden on the islands and failure to move very fast would result in a 1500 Euro fine – each. Needless to say, it was by far the quickest time we ever achieved in getting packed up and ready to go!
The view of the beach and bay, with a magnificent castle in the far distance, from our idyllic landing spot on the Ile Sainte Marguerite.
We will know enough in future to anchor the boats just off the shore!
Cannes proved one of the less easy places to visit. No stopping places were available at the first marina we tried,
and we nearly got crushed by a barge pushing a floating pontoon when trying the other marina.
Just as with St Tropez, we couldn’t pass Cannes by without sampling the seafront promenade made so famous by the film stars. We therefore made our way to one of the nearby marinas for a few hours of sightseeing. Having just missed the most recent festival, we had the seafront virtually to ourselves, and with the ornamental gardens and tree-lined avenues in perfect condition, it was probably much the best time to see it. Our intended stay of a few days on our idyllic beach had been cut rather abruptly short, so we made Antibes our next destination.
Xavier at the helm of Merlin Grey, soon after passing the Cap d’Antibes. The winds were much calmer
once we were past Cavalaire, and beyond the reach of the Mistral winds of the Marseille - Toulon region.
Passing the ancient castle and fortification which guards the old natural harbour of Antibes -
though this has now been considerably enlarged to accommodate the present massive marina!
No decision needed to be made about dropping the sails to enter the harbour at Antibes, as we had needed to motor the last few miles in the dying breeze anyway. Antibes is an old, natural harbour, capable of taking the biggest and deepest draught yachts. This included Roman Abramovich’s enormous Octopus, where at least one or more members of its considerable permanent crew could always be seen carrying out some maintenance activity. It did seem that most of these very extravagant yachts spent much of their time tied up at their berths, judging by the number occupying the same positions, and never seemed to move very much.
We stopped and registered our boat details at the marina office. It proved essential to have the boat listed with the Small Ships Register, as this certificate was always required. Antibes however, was the only place I was also asked for my boat insurance certificate. Just to make sure I had every possible certificate that might be required, I also had with me the receipt for the purchase of the boat (in case the VAT was queried), my RYA International Certificate of Competence, and my VHF Operators Licence, but none of these were ever asked for – though they could possibly have proved necessary had we been involved in any incident.
We were delegated spaces for the night and motored to our pontoon position, much to the disgust of the wife in the neighbouring yacht. Not being multi-lingual, I had no idea what the pair were arguing about soon after we arrived, but as a heated discourse has much the same tones in any language, it was more than obvious that something was amiss. It transpired that we might well be the cause, after she had stormed into the cabin to cover the portholes of her somewhat plain small sailing yacht. She obviously didn’t want to have to look out on the riff-raff of the sailing world with their boat tents – who she no doubt felt were lowering the whole tone of the place! It was an interesting and amusing contrast to the luxury cruisers we had previously been invited aboard.
It was always helpful to be moored alongside an empty yacht, which could be handily used for the storing of gear, and in this case, a breakfast bar as well! Xavier is in the foreground preparing their morning snack. The occupants of the yacht alongside them would no doubt have quickly repelled any attempts to board!!
The historical importance of the port of Antibes, with its grand and impressive fortifications, was obvious. It would have been an interesting place to stop and explore more thoroughly, rather than just wandering down the main tourist streets in the evening to find a suitable restaurant. Unfortunately modern Antibes is just off the main flight path into nearby Nice airport, and planes were regularly coming in to land until late in the evening. The aircraft noise however, proved less of a disturbance than people warming up their boat engines and talking loudly to each other before 5:00 the next morning, having no regard for the time of day whatsoever. It was by far the noisiest of the marinas we had stopped at, and certainly put us off staying for a longer period of time....
With not a breath of wind the next morning, we decided to bring our cruise to a premature end at our next intended stop, St Laurent-du-Var. The decision wasn’t difficult to make. There appeared little likelihood of any breeze for the next few days, and the coastline was becoming ever more built up and less interesting. Xavier needed to leave us to get back for a funeral, and Jacques was dealing with business matters by phone, which would be better dealt with in person. So we set off on the five-mile trip to St Laurent under motor, passing the most hideous, huge block of flats I have ever seen scarring the skyline. It was presumably meant to look like some form of ship from a distance at sea, but was so out of keeping with the rest of the landscape that it was more like a massive carbuncle on the shoreline. It was enough to put anybody off going any further along the coast!
Jacques’ boat didn’t have a bracket for his outboard to be readily available for use, so it was
always easier to give him a tow. The tow line is a thick piece of shockcord, which gives a smoother pull,
and the small fender tied in the middle keeps any slack line away from the prop.
St Laurent is virtually next door to Nice airport, but almost surprisingly, the aircraft noise was far less of a disturbance than at Antibes. We said our goodbyes to Xavier, whose English was only a little better than Cedric’s or my French, but he had been great company and we had got on really well. While Jacques and Cedric set off for the station to catch the train back to Hyères to get the cars and trailers, I stayed at the marina to keep an eye on the boats, though I doubt if there would have been any problem if I hadn’t been there.
This trip was as interesting a cruise as any I have done along the coasts of Europe and Canada. The shoreline had been developed wherever there was an opportunity to build, but there were also many stretches of rugged, natural coast, the parts that always make sailing close to shore so special. Each coastline has different characteristics that make it memorable in a special way, and this one certainly had many features that made trailing the boat the considerable distance to the South of France so worthwhile.
This photo was taken on the first few days of our cruise, while we were sailing out from La Capte and exploring the islands
and headlands of the Corniche de L’Estérel. It is very typical of the magnificent landscape along this part of the coast.
The priority for our overnight stops was always to find a quiet, sheltered cove or beach, but a stay in a marina was also welcome for the opportunity to have a shower, freshen up, and feel more human again. The marinas were bigger, more plentiful, and with a greater density of luxury yachts than anything I have ever previously experienced, but the owners were more than welcome to their hugely expensive yachts as far as we were concerned. For them, there was the virtual certainty that in a specified time they would be mooring in the marina of their destination. For us, each day was an adventure, never knowing quite where we would be at the end of the day, or what surprises the day might have in store for us. There was never even a moment of wanting to swap places with any of the luxury yacht owners – well, perhaps just one moment – when I hadn’t closed the self-bailer properly, and Cedric had woken me up to tell me that water was coming in!
Ralph Roberts, Sept 2006
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