July 23, 2010
Today Emma found a shoe shop in the marina. She bought two pairs of brand new shoes. She has not stopped caressing them and even takes them to bed with her. How lucky they must feel.
July 22, 2010
Having checked the weather again it seemed that the strong winds were not going to arrive until late afternoon and so we delayed our departure until 4am.
It was dead calm when we left Port Camargue in the dark. However, by mid-morning the winds had increased to Force 4. Being rather tired initially I was not that keen on putting the sails up but as the wind increased I could see that it would have been a good sail. Unfortunately by then no-one else seemed interested in sailing and so we ended up motoring the whole way.
By the time we arrived at Port Leucate it was Force 5 and I was becoming very nervous of the docking. Because of the Tramontane, in the marinas in this part of the Med you tend of have to reverse into your berth between two large rusty metal posts, slightly wider than your boat, which you then have to lasso with a line as you pass by. You then secure the front of your boat to the posts and the back to the pontoon. We had never attempted this before and with the strong wind there was every risk of accidently hitting a post.
Greg was sent ashore to take the lines on the pontoon, Emma was responsible for lassoing the posts and Sue for fending off and throwing the stern lines. Max was also forced to put down his iPod and assist with fendering. It all went reasonable well except that I turned the boat a little early and some fending off was required – a job performed admirably by Sue and Emma. In the end we managed to get the boat secure without any damage, thanks to the excellent work done by all the crew, including Max. Unlike the end of past summer trips in Barcelona and Genoa where the final docking resulted in costly repair work, this one ended unscathed.
The wind did indeed pick up in the afternoon and when we went to one of the restaurants in the marina development for dinner we had to move indoors when glasses were starting to get blown off the tables. Towards the end of the evening the heavens opened and I was forced to run back to the boat in the torrential rain to close the hatches.
Emma then showed her devotion to her skipper as she followed a few minutes later to check that I was alright (Sue also came but by then she had returned to the same merry state as the first evening and was no-longer behaving rationally).
So another summer trip comes to an end. Emma just about managed to put up with me and was wonderful on the boat. The Greg and Co. were also a pleasure to have on board; Emma and I just feel a bit bad that their sailing holiday was cut short (Force 8 gales are still forecast for the rest of the rest of the week).
Generally there were also less “Gregisms” than last year, although he did manage to lose his mobile phone in a restaurant. It was only recovered later by calling the phone and finding that he had left it on another table neatly wrapped in a serviette.
July 21, 2010
We were keeping an eye on the weather and were aware that something could be brewing by the end of the week. The Languedoc, in particular around Port Leucate where we were due to finish, is prone to the north westerly Tramontane wind. It frequently reaches gale force at anytime of year and the danger is not only its fury but the fact that it can arrive very quickly; building up from nothing to a gale in less than an hour.
We were still on the east side of the Gulf de Lion and had planned to sail around the Gulf during the next four days, arriving in Port Leucate on Sunday morning. But when we awoke in the morning the various forecasts we used were all predicting gale force winds in the Gulf de Lion by the end of the week, with some forecasting the winds to arrive as early as the afternoon of the following day.
To be on the safe side we decided to head to Leucate sooner rather than later. No-one wanted to attempt the 110 mile sail straight across the Gulf in one go, particularly as the winds were likely to be stronger offshore. So instead we planned to do 50 miles that day up to Saintes Maries de le Mer in the Camargue and then leave in the early hours of the following morning to cover the fibal 70 miles to Leucate by lunchtime.
It was a good sail with winds of Force 4-5, although the sea was quite rough. Ben enjoyed himself and proved to be a very accomplished helmsman for most of the day. As we approached Saintes Maries de le Mer we dropped the sails and started to motor. It was at this point that Neal and Emma had a bit of a disagreement and, if Emma had her way, Neal would have been set adrift in the dinghy.
The sea was still quite choppy and as any anchorage looked at best uncomfortable and possibly untenable, we decided to continue further west to Port Camargue, which would leave only 60 miles the following day.
The anchorage at Port Camargue was very sheltered and we were able to anchor in just 3 metres. Greg & Co. went ashore in the dinghy for dinner leaving Neal and Emma on board. Fortunately, by the time they returned all was well again and we all got the boat ready for an early departure.
July 20, 2010
Dawn broke to the sound of Greg clumping around on deck above the sleeping heads of Emma and Neal. He had decided to try a spot of fishing.
In the last few years there have been an assortment of people on Bali Hai who have claimed to be fishermen. In fact some have bought rods and other fishing tackle for the boat so it is reasonably well equipped. However, all attempts to catch the evening’s meal have ended in failure without a single fish being caught. So it was quite a surprise and a champagne moment when Greg landed his catch. Unfortunately, as the photograph shows, this fish was not going to be large enough to feed the whole crew.
Before leaving the calanque everyone wanted to go for a swim but this proved to be no more than a quick dip as, unlike everywhere we had swam to date, the water in the calanque was extremely cold.
Cassis was only a short three mile motor away. It is a beautiful small town with buff and rose coloured houses crammed onto the waterfront overlooked by a restored castle. The girls were keen to go to Cassis as it is a good place to shop; unfortunately they found the presence of four less than enthusiastic males prevented them from achieving very much. Greg, however, did manage to buy Sue a birthday present (although I gather it did take him sometime to catch on to what Sue was hinting about).
July 19, 2010
Having failed to visit a calanque earlier in the week as a result of the engine problems, we decided to go back the way we came and visit the Calanque de Morgiou with Greg and Sue.
Before we left we had to get ready and the family went off to the local Spar to purchase provisions. They returned a few hours later with so much shopping that the owner of the shop volunteered to drive them and their purchases back to the boat in his own car.
When we unpacked the shopping bags, Emma and I looked on in horror as they seemed to contain large volumes of frozen hamburgers and pizzas. It did not look like we were going to eat as well as we did with Pete and Tina.
However, we need not have feared as before we left Greg prepared an excellent salad nicoise for lunch.
After stopping for fuel we found that there was sufficient wind to sail the first part of the short ten miles to the calanque. Ben helmed most of the way and did an excellent job. When we arrived I was keen to anchor right up in the calanque but fortunately the eagle-eyed Max spotted the no-anchoring signs. However, even slightly further out we were able to spend the night in a fabulous spot.
July 18, 2010
The night before the arrival of the new crew I cooked spaghetti carbonara for Emma. Unfortunately the meal was rather spoilt when Emma found that her computer screen was now displaying everything sideways. There were lots of words spoken that I did not think such an innocent girl as Emma would know and most of the boats in the next marina realised that Emma was not very happy. It was not until late at night, shortly after Emma had almost thrown her computer overboard, that she discovered that it was not actually the computer that was faulty; she had caused the display to change herself by some mistyping.
We spent Sunday, cleaning the boat in anticipation of the new crew arrival. Something which turned out to be a fruitless exercise as within an hour or their arrival wine had already been spilt in the cockpit.
The spilt wine turned out to be only a small percentage of the total alcohol that was to be consumed this day and Emma and I would eventually retire to bed worrying what the rest of the week would be like.
Greg, Sue, Ben and Max had arrived bearing another two bottles of Pimms (apparently all UK airports seem to have a 2 for twenty pounds offer). Within five minutes of arrival Greg had a beer in hand and Sue a glass of rosé, these were then followed by two more bottles of wine before we left the boat for dinner.
Emma and I had not eaten out since arriving in Marseille in anticipation of a nice meal when Greg and Sue arrived. Greg too was looking forward to sampling some French cuisine and the local bouillabaisse. Unfortunately, the now rather merry Sue was feeling guilty for having starved her youngest son all day, not allowing him to eat anything more than a muffin since leaving the house at four in the morning. She insisted that we eat in the first restaurant we came across, without even bothering to look at the menu. As a result, Greg found himself on his first night in France, eating in an Italian restaurant and Emma and I were forced to eat pasta two nights in a row.
July 17, 2010
A little nervously I turned the key and to great relief the engine started normally. We were leaving early to get to Marseille as we had further to go than planned and wanted to arrive before the wind strengthened too much.
Emma and I are now much more familiar with what needs to be done and the preparation for docking in Marseille went very smoothly. It was a good job too as the yacht club is in the middle of the old port, which is incredibly busy with ferries, tourist boats and pleasure boats coming and going.
Our docking was a little strange as the marina staff sent to help us insisted on coming on board and so we still had no-one on the dock to take our lines. Fortunately we had to come alongside another boat that helped us and we were able to secure to them so that the marina chap could then make his way on to the dock.
We had a lovely spot, on the end of the pontoon with a great unobstructed view of the port. In theory there was a place next to us for another boat and we were concerned that the owner of that berth would return and find us occupying half of his place but the yacht club said that that boat would not be coming back for several days.
Unfortunately, just as we were showered and sitting out on deck with a pre-dinner drink our neighbour did in fact return. We were worried that we would have to move but the chap was extremely friendly and with some shuffling of lines he was happy squeezing on the end with only half his boat on the pontoon.
So our marvellous view is now slightly restricted by having a boat next to us but it is still a great place to await with trepidation for the arrival of Greg & Co)
July 16, 2010
Our plan on 16th was to spend the night at anchor in a calanque (one of the steep sided fjord-like inlets along the coast of Provence) on the way to Marseille. We were motor sailing as the wind was quite light but after about 20 miles the engine suddenly died.
Despite having a father who trained as a mechanical engineer with a car manufacturer and growing up in a house with a pit dug in the garage floor so that he could go under the family car and fiddle with the camshaft-carburettor-belt or some other such oily thing, none of these skills ever rubbed off on me. Both Emma and I had attended the RYA Diesel Engine course but the engine used in that course is more akin to a single cylinder lawn mower engine. By comparison the 100hp Yanmar monster on Bali Hai looks more like something you might find in a nuclear submarine.
Having ascertained that none of the warning lights had come on and checked that the water filter was clear I was at a loss, until I noticed bubbles of air rising up from what appeared to be a crack in the fuel pre-filter. Even I realised that this was probably not a good thing.
Fortunately we were only six miles or so from La Ciotat which we knew had good repair facilities (having been there last year when the mast nearly fell down during the crossing from Barcelona).
The wind had increased a bit and we were able to sail directly to La Ciotat and I called ahead to the marina. Typically, they said that they did not have anyone who could come and give us a tow and instead offered the unhelpful suggestion that the two of us could sail Bali Hai on to a narrow berth in the marina.
We instead opted for the option of anchoring off the local beach. This was still a little risky as, if the anchor did not dig in first time, without an engine, we risked being washed on to the beach if we were unable to sail away in the light winds. However, all went well and we were soon securely anchored.
We took the dinghy ashore and the marina did manage to put us in touch with Thierry, a local engineer and his sidekick. No-one spoke any English but with my trusty “French for Cruisers – the Boater’s Complete language guide for French waters” I was able to explain that “Il y a de l’air dans les tuyaux de carburant.”
Thierry confirmed that my diagnosis of a cracked “pré-filtre à gasoil” was the problem and that we could get a replacement in the local chandlers. One hour later, all was fixed and we had a working engine again.
What had started out as a bad day suddenly felt a lot better. It improved even more when I called one of the yacht clubs in Marseille and was able to reserve a berth for Saturday. This was great news as it was important that we got in to Marseille to meet Greg and Sue on Sunday and strong winds were forecast for late on Saturday and through Sunday.
Not feeling like cooking after all that had happened Emma and I took the dinghy in to La Ciotat old port for something to eat that night. The town was lovely, much more lively and attractive than when we had been there last year, earlier in the season. The only hiccup was that when we eventually got back to Bali Hai in pitch darkness, having spent three hours trying to find it without a torch, Emma realised that she had left her sunglasses in the restaurant. They may not have been pretentious designer sunglasses but she has grown very much attached to them and so we turned the dinghy around and went back to retrieve them.
July 15, 2010
It was over 40 miles to the island of Porquerolles, one of the Iles d’Hyéres off the coast near Toulon. The islands are a nature reserve whose attractions are the many walks through pine trees overlooking bays of turquoise waters and we planned to spend two nights anchored in one of the bays.
After so many days of little wind it was good to have a nice breeze and we were able to sail almost all the way there. The anchorages are beautiful, the only problem being that they are packed and as we arrived on Bastille Day were even more crowded than usual. However, as most French boats actually seem to think they are sheep and so were huddled close together in a narrow band off the beach, we were able to find a nice spot just a bit further out.
Emma was very keen to go marching ashore. I surprised her by remembering to fill a bottle of water as it was very hot and we did not expect there to be anything on the island until we reached the small village five kilometres away. We took the dinghy and left it on the stony beach – unfortunately all my good intentions of filling the water bottle were wasted as I had forgotten to bring it. Whatever, the risk of death by dehydration was not going to stop Emma and off we marched – 5k to the village and 5k back. We managed it, reinforced half way by an excellent ice-cream in the village. The only casualty was, naturally, Emma’s footwear which, despite being highly practical, suffered an injury as we entered the home straight.
ps. On the subject of shoes, Emma has received certain recommendations from Irena and Sue. While Emma seems very enthusiastic about these I am afraid that I fail to see why shopping is any better than the application of screws and a strong glue.
July 13, 2010
We decided to stay in San Raphael for another couple of nights. The marina was very comfortable, Emma had some work to get done and she was also feeling a little under the weather.
While Emma was repairing herself and working, I cleaned the boat and made some repairs required as a consequence of some people’s approach that if something does not move easily brute force should be applied.
On the Monday evening we did another one of Emma’s marathon marches and walked in to town and then on to the neighbouring town of Fréjus. We found it to be a very lively place with lots of holidaymakers, shops, cafes and a street market stretching all the way from San Raphael to Fréjus. On the Tuesday we did laundry and shopping in the marina and then ate in one of the marina restaurants.