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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Passage to Ile Porquerolle
Fine
28/06/2008

28/6/08


We waited in La Ciotat till Saturday 28 June; we'd meant to leave on Friday but a mistral was forecast so we hung around. In end it didn't get above force 4 or 5, and would have blown us straight downwind to our destination, so we could have gone. But it's not a wind to trifle with.
We left shortly after 0800 and ended up motor sailing all the way. Our destination, the Iles d'Hyeres had been strongly recommended by lots of cruisers as a beautiful place, if a bit crowded at times. We rounded Cap Sicie, apparently a place of considerable dread hereabouts as it kicks up a nasty sea in a mistral. There is a west-going current hereabouts, which fights the mistral wind, so it makes sense, but at least there aren't any tidal races to add to the mix.
The Iles d'Hyeres are often called the Porquerolle, after the biggest island. The archipelago lies just east of a hammerhead shaped headland called Presqu'ile (peninsula) de Giens. This is nearly an island, as the 'shaft' of the hammer is itself eplit in to by a large etang, and indeed the sandbars around it have been flooded in big storms.
The (very simple) passage past the peninsula and its outlying rocks takes you south of the Ile de Grand Ribeau; this is its lighthouse on our port bow.

Life on Roaring Girl
Not only Auckland but Hollywood (or at least Hove).
26/06/2008

In addition to making superyachts and running space for leisure craft, La Ciotat's main claim to fame is as the place where the earliest moving pictures were made. They were first shown in Paris in 1895, and were treated with awe and astonishment there as well as London and New York. On 21 March 1899, at the Eden theatre, an audience of 250 people were amazed by a short film of a train arriving at the La Ciotat freight station. The story goes that people were so startled, they ran out of the cinema, thinking the train would come through the wall.
The Lumiere brothers, who invented the cinematograph, came from this area, and were inspired by photography and the light of the locality. The Eden is the oldest moving picture house in the world, and is now undergoing renovation as a museum.
We plan to stay here tomorrow given the forecast and leave for the Iles d'Hyere on Saturday. Classic Med: either too much wind or none at all!.

Places and people
Entrance to La Ciotat
26/06/2008

Ciotat used to be a centre of industrial shipbuilding, and the gantries and so on are all still there. When the yards closed down, local shipworkers organised a sit-in to prevent the land being taken over for seaside real estate. Their fath and hard work have paid off; Ciotat has become a major centre for building and renovating superyachts, mostly but not only motorboats. A real success for everyone involved and it shows that there are real regeneration opportunities in the leisure marine sector.
So, the gantries and so on are still there. Just north is the entrance to the Vieux Port; despite what Heikell says, you can go in there and tie up on the quay (far port edge of the basin). This puts you under the yacht club, and in the centre of town. It is however very noisy at night (lots of clubs), and they will move you constantly if a superyacht needs a space on the quay. As the man from the Capitainerie said, this is a commercial harbour, not a marina. It is roughly the same price as the Port de Plaisance. (?'?26-29 per night for a 12m boat, including a 50 centime tax per person and including electricity and water.)
This marina consists of two basins, protected from the gulf by large breakwaters. The visitors pontoon (and nearly all visitors) is in the southern of the two, and that is the entrance in the picture. Very simple. The visitors' berths are along the quay inside the breakwater, immediately to starboard of the entry. Most people come in stern to; as you can see (if you have cannily recognised Roaring Girl on the end of the line of yachts), we prefer to be bows to. We have yet to sort out our stern anchoring techniques or indeed how to get off our crowded transom and on to the land.
The Capitainerie for the marina is at the inner end of the visitors' pontoon, open long hours in the summer. English is a bit limited, and Sarah ended up translating for an incoming yachtsman who rang ahead only to find his French wasn't up to the task. Will this mean a discount on our berth? We very much doubt it!
The hardest part of berthing here is that they use chains for the lines that keep you off the quay. These are extremely heavy. When we arrived it took us a big struggle to get the right chain and get it on. And today (Thursday), there is a mistral forecast for tomorrow, so we decided to move along the three empty berths to port. Rather than drive out and in again we moved ourselves, step by argumentative step. In the process we hauled up about four chains and nearly killed ourselves. At one point the nice monsieur on the next boat came on board and hauled chain for us. No point in completely unnecessary lesbian pride in 30 degrees. Did we mention that these chains are really, really heavy?
Anyway, we are now settled, properly off the quay, in control of all our lines and able to amend them if the mistral gives us a hard tim

Life on Roaring Girl
Ah! There she flies.
25/06/2008

Round the eastern side of the promontory, in the quarter-mile wide passage between the mainland and the teeny Isle Vert, you can see the point.

Life on Roaring Girl
That rhino again
25/06/2008

This big headland, which marks the end of the calanques, is called Bec d'Aigle, or Eagle's Beak. We think that, coming close in from the West, it looks more like a rhino.

Life on Roaring Girl
Eating in the cockpit
23/06/2008

We had a splendid dinner of sausages and fresh veg, including the peas being shelled here. It has been extra special to eat dinner in the cockpit because it's usually impossible at Port Napoleon because of the mosquitoes. Although Paul took one particularly viscous bite, by and large they're not a problem here, and it's a delightful change.

Life on Roaring Girl
Beautiful waters
23/06/2008

We finally managed it. Two years getting south and we actually swam off Roaring Girl. And the water really is that blue!

Life on Roaring Girl
Entrance to Port Miou
23/06/2008

Port Miou is particularly difficult to see. You turn actually into the Baie de Cassis, and the derelict quarry dock is conspicuous to port. Just beyond this, is the entrance to the calanque, but we went past it and had to double back, guided by the sudden appearance of other boats.

Life on Roaring Girl
The Calanques
23/06/2008

Calanque is French for creek; these fjord like inlets in the limestone are the result of creeks and rivers eroding narrow channels. These reach deep into the massif, becoming narrower and narrower. Some are just bays, nascent gaps which in a few millennia will provide further harbours for the ever-growing pleasure boating population of the northern Mediterranean. In the meantime, they provide a lunchtime anchorage on a calm day.
Others stretch back for a mile or two, becoming maybe 15m wide before reaching a beach the size of a giant's little finger nail on which to land an exploring dinghy or a day-tripping kayak.
The entrances to these ravines can be very difficult to spot against the high cliffs: yachts or tripper boats pop in and out as if a wardrobe door had spat them back into the reality of the blue sea and relentless sun.

Life on Roaring Girl
Spectacular walls very close
23/06/2008, Morgiou

We anchored for the night in Morgiou. This is a narrow inlet between steep limestone walls. It took us four goes to get the anchor to hold; there's some thick weed down there.
That wasn't the real problem. We tried to use our chum and got the blasted thing well and truly stuck on the chain. It took the three of us over two hours to get the thing off, including getting the dinghy in the water to be able to put enough torque on the shackle to undo it. A saddle shackle is definitely on our shopping list!
This is the view from the cockpit in the morning. Although we were well bedded in and there's no tide, it is still unnerving to anchor in 16m of water quite so close to such a cliff.
Incidentally, Kat had told us of a nudist beach in the vicinity characterised by particularly raunchy behaviour, but we saw nothing so exciting.

Life on Roaring Girl
No sailing this time
Sarah and Pip
22/06/2008

The wind had come round to the east-south-east, obstinately on the nose. We turned east again and wove our way through the islands that lie south of Marseilles, at the beginning of the coast of the Calanques. Even without sails, Paul enjoyed being back on the helm.

Life on Roaring Girl
Church of sailors
Sarah
22/06/2008

Inside, the church has undergone a lot of restoration. It is very lovely, though with rather more gold than Anglican-raised eyes are used to! But much more restrained than the dripping gilt and blood of Spain...
This is very much a sailors' church, filled with images of boats. This caravel mosaic is above the altar, in pride of place surmounting another statue of Mary and child.
From the ceiling hang what in any other context would be called mobiles: model sailing ships made in great detail which are motionless in the still air of the basilica. More models are displayed in glass cases in other rooms of the complex, showing ships from the founding of the city to the present day.

Places and people

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