20/June/2011, Saint Raphael
A forecast (correct as it turned out) of torrential rain and thunderstorms convinced the crew that a visit to a decent caff in Arles might be a better idea than going off sailing from Port Napoleon on the intended day.
Twenty four hours later few excuses remained so we left in sunshine and a light northerly, bound for La Ciotat. The thunderstorms were still around however and we spent a nervy few hours wandering about the ocean with a big metal stick held aloft - eventually all this cleared away and we enjoyed a gentle sail along the coast East of Marseille to find our intended anchorage where the more intrepid (foolhardy?) member of the crew decided to try swimming on the grounds that the water was nice and clear (and well below the recommended temperature of 22.2). He survived the experience and the crew dined well on board whilst applying themselves to the task of road-testing the local wine.
A bit of motoring in flat calm conditions gave way to a fairly brisk reach to our next anchorage under the lee of the castle at Cap de Bregancon. This castle is the summer residence of the President of the Republic and whilst we knew that M. Sarkozy was away trying to stitch up the Greeks with some dodgy refinancing deal, the crew were hopeful of an invitation to dinner from the first lady - it was not to be and her efforts as a chanteuse have been wiped from iPods in protest !
Thence to Cavalaire to await the owner and other representatives of senior management. We received a warm welcome and a convenient berth at reasonable rates and starting taking an interest in the weather forecast as the plan now called for a return to the West.
Needless to say, in the best traditions of cruising, the wind now swung into the west and promised to stay there at some strength for days and days. Being made of sterner stuff we, of course, elected to go downwind and ended up in Saint Raphael where the boat now rests.
Saint R is a jolly fancy spot with an air of the real Riviera about it. It also has good communications with a direct train and bus link to NIce and, indeed, to Marseille.
Cruising efforts will be resumed in early July.
20/June/2011, Port Napoleon
The past year has seen XII Bar Blues refitted to bring her fully up-to-date and ready for the next decade of sailing.
To make life a bit easier we've fitted a retractable bow thruster (a Sleipner "side power") and an electrification kit to the port halyard winch. The work was carried out by Osmotech of the Hamble who flew one of their technical guys to the South of France to do the installations.
The bow thruster makes all that business of reversing into stern-to moorings in the Mediterranean an altogether less taxing experience and the Andersen electric winch makes easy work of hoisting the mainsail, furling the jib, pulling down reefs and taking the skipper to the top of the mast.
An air conditioning unit in the aft cabin makes for a better night's sleep in the warmth of the Med or tropics and overcomes the limitations of ventilation that these boats otherwise "enjoy".
We've replaced the generator with a new Fischer Panda 5000i and had a bunch of maintenance things done on the main engine. Whilst on the topic of motive power we've also replaced all the standing rigging and the boat now has shiny new rods everywhere.
The most obvious change, however, is that XII Bar Blues is no longer a blue boat and is now resplendent in new white Awlgrip. That with the watermaker overhaul and various pump replacements means that we now have a practically new boat - Oh! and we have a new Rocna anchor to replace the Delta that we've used for years. The Rocna really does seem to set immediately as claimed by its makers but more on this in later postings.
23/October/2009, Port Napoleon
The weather having presented the necessary window we left the Costa Brava for our final crossing back to France. An afternoon departure was chosen to give an arrival in the Golf de Fos at first light. The thunderstorms that have been wandering across this part of the Mediterranean were still in evidence but fortunately stayed well east of our track and provided an occasional light show to enliven the night. We're all used to seeing dolphins leaping about near yachts but on this trip we saw hundreds of tuna doing much the same thing. This went on for several hours so may be some kind of migration or perhaps these fishy chaps just like to move around a bit.
The refinery in the Golf de Fos provides a useful visual homing beacon - its flares can be seen twenty miles away at night. Some good sailing in a lightish north-westerly and a bit of motoring brought us to XII Bar Blues's base camp at first light as planned. We dropped anchor behind the long spit of sand that protects the southern end of the golf and after breakfast we motored into the marina at Port Napoleon to start the business of putting the boat to bed for the winter.
The watermaker tale ended happily with the needed parts arriving from California in a few days and fitted in good time by Northshore who are the Spectra agents in Mallorca. Similarly the outboard motor returned to full time duty without further intervention and has worked without hesitation since we left Corsica.
After many days of polishing and fettling we eventually left France to return north by aeroplane at the end of September having logged some 1600 miles since setting out at the beginning of July - a decent trip round the bay and the boat still looks shiny !
Cadaques is white painted and charming. It's just around the headland from Roses, which, incidentally, sounds pretty unattractive in the pilot book but in fact turns out to provide a pleasant and mostly sheltered anchorage with good holding, no charges and no crowding - we thought it was just fine!
On arrival in the harbour in Cadaques we were approached by a young man in a RIB asking, in very good English, whether we wanted a buoy for the night. The local authorities have laid a number of mooring buoys just off the town and these seem to be operated by two contractors. We were guided to our buoy which was equipped with port and starboard lines themselves attached to a comfortingly large lump of concrete on the seabed.
We were waiting for a suitable window in the weather for the trip across the Golf de Lion and so ended up staying for three nights.
The architecture is very attractive and we had good meals and drinks ashore at very reasonable prices.
The main attraction, about which we knew nothing in advance, is however, over the hill in the adjoining bay of Portlligat which is a very small fishing village where Salvadore Dali used to live and his house is open, by appointment, for viewing. It's just as though he and Gala have popped out for a few moments. If you're in the area it's well worth a detour for a look
11/September/2009, Cala Castell
From Portopetro we ,moved just up the coast to Portocolom where we anchored and then took a buoy in the harbour. Having seen much of the coast of the island we decided that the interior was worthy of inspection and hired a car for four days to achieve that. The first day we took in San Salvador perched at a bit over 500 m a few miles from Portocolom and followed that with Arta and an excellent lunch at the Torre at Canymel where the local speciality is suckling pig - delicious !
The Torre itself has now been restored by its private owners and is well worth a visit. It was used as a refuge tower to protect the local inhabitants from marauding pirates. All around the island there are watchtowers to give early warning of raids and communicate the arrival of undesirables by lighting fires on the tops of the towers. This raiding business is said to be the reason that all the principal towns in Mallorca are inland with their ports some distance away on the coast. The last tourist act of the day was a visit to the Caves of Drach - they're huge and quite magnificent.
On day two we covered the northern coast taking in Valdemossa and Port Soller before driving over the mountains to the Torrent de Pareis. All of this is wild country and as far from the popular image of an island dedicated to all-day-breakfasts as you can imagine.
Finally we visited Alcudia, where we would later anchor on our way north, Port de Pollenca for another good lunch and finally Pollenca itself.
Having achieved safe delivery of the owner to the airport at Palma we set off the following day bound for the Costa Brava. An overnight stop anchored off Alcudia and at last a good long sail to the Spanish mainland (the Spanish Main being outside the scope of this particular jaunt). A north-easter of between eight and fourteen knots enabled a brisk fetch for most of the hundred or so miles to Blanes where we arrived to anchor off the harbour at first light. Refreshed by a spot of kip we decided to move on to try and get out of the easterly swell and eventually spent the night in Cala de Sant Pol, a pleasant bay just north of Sant Feliu de Guixols.
As I write this we're in what must be the most crowded anchorage I've ever been in - there's much entertainment in the form of near collisions and dragging anchors and the like but we think most of the motor boats and small craft will go with the sun and are looking forward to a quieter evening.
2/September/2009, Porto Colom
The largest of the Balearic group, Mallorca has the usual island history of being over-run by invaders of one political and religious persuasion or another for the last few thousand years. The most recent invasion is, of course, by tourists who provide much of the island's not inconsiderable prosperity but, sensibly, the bulk of the tourist impact is contained in a few limited areas around Palma. Most of the rest of the island continues to provide wonderful anchorages; the calas along the eastern coast being notable.
Our first port from Mahon was Porto Colom which has a large, natural, albeit fairly shallow harbour and a proper town with all the usual amenities. Here we met fellow OCC members Ian and Susan Grant on Rebel X who are cruising the Mediterranean a long way from their native Victoria in British Columbia.
From Porto Colom we've trippered around the eastern and southern coasts of the island, executed some crew changes (it seems that executing the crew is frowned on by the local law-makers) and had a good run ashore in Palma. The Real Club Nautico de Palma makes most British yacht clubs look decidedly pokey and shabby. As well as an 850 berth marina they sport a beautiful swimming pool and vast terraces; the interior has consumed hundreds of tons of marble and the whole thing is very stylish.
Our trusty Spectra watermaker has, over the past week, become markedly less trustworthy and has been receiving attention from the local agent for the brand. This project is still work-in-progress but bits are, we believe, in the air from California; the challenge, apparently, is getting the said bits through the Spanish customs processes.
We're currently on a mooring buoy in Porto Petro which is part of a scheme to, it is claimed, protect the Posidonia Oceanica (grass) which is being ploughed up by boats anchoring. The buoys are free and there's a booking system via a website (www.balearslifeposidonia.eu) or call centre. We haven't tried the booking system preferring instead to turn up and see what's available but the arrangement seems to work well enough and gets more boats into small spaces and relieves any anxiety about anchors dragging in dodgy holding ground. We're told that it's an EU funded project so the term "free", above, needs to be interpreted as "included in the taxes you pay".