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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Gentle anchorages
30/06/2008, Ile Porquerolle

The mistral had left behind several baking hot, calm days. We had meant to anchor in the appropriately named Plage d'Argent (silver), but it looked very full and so for a couple of days we found a nice spot of Plage de la Courtade. This is quite open, but even on a Saturday we found a good spot and got the anchor to stick pretty thoroughly.
This beach is just beside the village of Porquerolle (which also hosts an expensive marina: the anchorage is free). This is a very chic resort, with some expensive hotels, though also host to hordes of day trippers. It has some extremely expensive grocery shops. We spent ?'?20 on some fruit and cheese! Our main consolation is that that is the only money we spent in 10 days.

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Passage to Ile Porquerolle


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.

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Entrance to La Ciotat

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

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Ah! There she flies.

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.

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That rhino again

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.

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Eating in the cockpit

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.

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Beautiful waters

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

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Entrance to Port Miou

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.

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The Calanques

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.

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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.

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No sailing this time
Sarah and Pip

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.

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Vieux Port
20/06/2008, Marseille

We entered into Marseille, the last mile or so as always taking longer than you think. The pilot book mentions the church high on the hill south of the port; this is Notre Dame de la Garde, which for centuries has been a marker for mariners coming into the city. As you get closer the cathedral on the waterfront, with its huge onion domes, is a great marker. The entrance is just to its south, and the tower marking the entrance to the Vieux Port becomes clear as you close the breakwater.
It is a very easy entrance, going through the breakwaters and then gently right into the big basin. The biggest challenges are the huge numbers of leisure vessels, ferry boats and others zipping about, and the number of buildings to gawp at. To port is the Fort St Jean, and on the right the imposing Palais de Pharo.
The Vieux Port is enormous. The huge basin is chock-a-block with yachts, mobo's, small fishing boats, ferries and trippers, kayaks, sculls. You name it. There are over 3000 moorings in here. And 40 berths for visitors!
The moorings are run by a huge variety of private clubs, only two of which accept visitors. These are SNM and CNTL. We had rung ahead, so we had a place reserved at SNM. (CNTL is cheaper but was full because of a regatta.) Including electricity and (rudimentary) facilities, this was ?'?25.50 a day; dear in one way but in the most fantastic position in the heart of a major city.
It is very difficult for our skills and small camera to capture the scale and bustle of the Port; this picture was taken at about 0100 from the top of Fort St Jean.

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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