06/24/2008, La Golfe Giens, Southern France
Hello All: Finally...... we are away from the dock. It is a beautiful morning with clear skies as we pull away from La Ciotat. Our destination is Ile de Porquerolle, about 30 miles east of La Ciotat and very near Hyeres and Toulon. The wind is blowing about 18 knots apparent, right on the nose. As we pull into the bay, I count 25 sails on the horizon. Pretty amazing; Bonnie says it feels like fireworks night in Halifax harbour, except this is Tuesday at 10:00 in the morning! From a Nova Scotian's perspective , the number of boats here in southern France is almost unbelievable. The temp at the dock in La Ciotat has been in the low 30's since we arrived and it's been tough to acclimatize. On the water it is much more comfortable with the breeze. The shore is misty and bold with rolling hills and wind scored cliffs soaring every which way. Little villages and houses dot the landscape as we move east. It's beautiful. As we approach the Porquerolles the wind is building from the NE and will back to the NW. The anchorage is new to us and is exposed to the N and NW so we decide to pull into Gulf Giens which is a little more protected. It's an unusual bay in that its about 3 miles wide and about 1.5 miles deep and the water depth is only 20'. The holding is good in the sandy patches amongst the weed. It feels strange to be anchored nearly a mile from shore, but we enjoy the breeze as we settle down to supper in the cockpit. It is nice to be back at anchor.
All the best from Aisling I
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Rick wasn't feeling entirely comfortable about the berth we'd left Aisling in for the month, so he was quite relieved to arrive back in La Ciotat and find everything in order. It took only a quick glance for him to realize that she'd been through some heavy wind days- the fender board was worn down to about half its original size and the decks were coated with about a kilo of Sahara sand. Some additional fenders and lines had also mysteriously appeared. Later, we learned that only the interventions of our friends Paul and Jean Louis had kept her from being pushed against the dock by the three classic yachts moored to windward. Perhaps the Capitainerie would eventually have taken action- but Paul and Jean Louis decided they weren't betting on that and rowed their dinghies past the outer dock in the fierce wind to add lines to the other boats. Considering that we had barely made their acquaintance before we returned to Canada, this was very generous of them. The "kindness of strangers" in the cruising community can be remarkable. Over drinks on Paul's boat, and dinner on Jean Louis and Christine's, we heard that the wind had blown at Force 9-10 for three days while we were away.
We are still in La Ciotat, finishing up a few last preparations before we finally head to the Porquerolles. We have changed Aisling from a cutter to a sloop and raised the big genoa, hoping to move a little faster in the lighter winds of summer. We've also spent hours reorganizing, which seems to be a never-ending process.
We probably could have gotten away a bit sooner, but since we had a paid-up rental car for three days we decided to take one last road trip. It took a lot of persuading to convince Rick to make the two-hour drive to Les Gorges du Verdon (the French "Grand Canyon") but based on Katherine's pre-France research and a glimpse of the Gorges I had caught from the plane, I was sure it was worth a look. Easy for me to say- I wasn't at the wheel, on what is easily the most frightening road we've ever driven. (Well, perhaps the Icefields Parkway in mid-winter was scarier, but that was a very long time ago.) The scenery was as breathtaking as the vertigo- I've posted some pictures so you can see for yourself.
Yesterday we spent most of the day doing boat chores, but we took a break for a shorter drive, along la Route des Cretes, past Cap Canaille, which is Europe's highest maritime cliff at 390 meters. This road also provides some sensational views and the entire route is walkable from La Ciotat. Perhaps another time. It's way too hot for that right now. I've been swimming at La Ciotat beach twice, but unfortunately it's a twenty minute walk from the marina at Vieux Port and by the time I get back to the boat I'm in a sweat again. Time to get to an anchorage!