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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Anchored under armour
16/07/2008, Ile St Marguerite, Iles Lerin

Five miles away from Thèoule, just south west of Canne lies the small archipelago known as the Iles Lerins. Overlooking the strait between the mainland and the biggest island, Ile St Marguerite, is this enormous fort, designed by Vauban during his 53 years building fortifications for the Sun King. It's greatest claim to fame is as home, for eleven years, to the Man in the Iron Mask, the unknown prisoner whose life was dramatised so famously by Dumas.
We anchored just under the fort in 8.5m of water. (This is positively shallow after 15m in Thèoule, over 12m at Port Man and 10.5m in the Baie de Canoubiers.) At 1100 on a Wednesday morning, it's not very crowded. There is weed on the bottom but we managed to stick fast the first time, and we are well out of the path of the many ferries which bring day-trippers to and from early morning till dusk.

Places and people
More lunch!
15/07/2008

We treated ourselves to lunch in the 'Tea Room', the rather smart little café on the terrace in the castle. (The terrace itself, with fifteen arches onto the rocks below, was created by the Clews, quite a engineering challenge at the time for which a special monorail had to be installed.) You can see the fab view, though Roaring Girl herself is not quite visible behind the masts of Port de la Rague.
The pink hat is a splendid acquisition from Thèoule, though it won't always get worn with matching tee-shirt.

Places and people
The Conductor
15/07/2008

We think that neither the fine conductor nor the abseiling figure actually Henry Clews (though it is not always clear as some of the labels get lost.) But this tall conductor has a certain windmill-tiliting quality about him, which is very appropriate. All his life Henry Clews identified with Don Quixote, and his sone was called Mancha in his honour.

Places and people
American Romantics
15/07/2008, La Napoule

American romantics
15/7/08

We took the dingy into Port de la Rague, who sweetly let us leave her tied up under the Capitanerie, with no complaints and no charge. There's nothing in this area except an upmarket hotel, two restaurants, a chi-chi clothes shop and a dive school. The big advantage is the coastal path to La Napoule, about half an hour away. We had two missions: to find cooking gas, and a Honda dealer.
Our outboard is still broken from the injury inflicted off Ile Porquerolle. According to Honda UK, the specific part we need for the accelerator handle cannot be confirmed except by a dealer actually looking at the bits. We have given them the serial number but they still can't tell us exactly which of two part numbers we should order. They can't even tell us the difference between the two! (Not that impressive for a company which shouts so much about its customer service.) According to their website, there's a Honda dealer in La Napoule and part of our reason for staying in the anchorage so long, is to visit the place after the bank holiday.
To add insult to injury, it's not that kind of Honda dealer. In La Napoule, it's just a very upmarket boat broker, who would of course sell us an engine if required, though no stocks are kept there. The actual mechanics are in Antibes! Once we're sorted, there will be a stiff email to Honda!
It was also a struggle to find gas, but eventually the small fuel station on the main road above the marina confessed to having some. Neither of the chandleries sold anything so mundane.
After all that, it was a pleasure to visit the castle of Henry and Maria Clews. The site, which has commanding views across the bay, was originally occupied by the Romans. For a while the Saracens ruled here, but their fortress was largely left in ruins except for a couple of towers. In the 13th century the Villeneuve family, who owned the area, built a castle on the remains. (Incidentally, their name in Italian was neo poule, which is probably the source of the name, Golfe de Napoule.) In turn the Villeneuve family, too, came to dust.
In 1918, Henry and Marie Clews, who both had large private fortunes, fell in love with the site and built their fantasy mediaeval castle around the house and towers. Around the building Marie designed and created lovely gardens, particularly as a showcase for Henry's sculpture.
The building was used as a base for the French, with Marie living in the gatehouse, during the early years of the War. They managed to hide all the artworks before the Italian occupation. The Italians took a dim view of Marie's support to the French, but she managed to survive the war, living in Cannes. Afterwards she came back and lived until the mid-fifties. In 1951 she established a charitable Foundation which continues to manage the house and gardens, promote exhibitions of modern art and provide residencies for successful practitioners.
After she died, she was buried next to Henry in the tomb they designed in one of the Saracen towers.

Places and people
Whizz! Bang!
14/07/2008

Being Bastille Day there were of course fireworks everywhere. In the streets, people were letting off crackers and fireworks, but every town had displays all around the Golfe de Napoule. Cannes of course was the biggest and most extravagant, and we could see it clearly from our decks four miles away. We were closest to the breakwater at Thèoule, with a good display. This is the fireworks from La Napoule.
We heard from friends in Port St Louis that their Bastille Day jamboree had been deferred due to a strong mistral. We could only gloat. Indeed, there are so many fireworks in this particular area, you can become quite blasé. Cannes seems to have displays planned at least once a week all through July and August.

Places and people
Flying the Flag
14/07/2008, Theoule

By far the biggest tricoleur we've ever seen on a boat, flown on this rather nice catamaran. Their dinghy was particularly interesting. It was a walker bay 8 (an 8 foot plastic dinghy, often very popular with boats that can carry something that size). They had put on an electric motor, plus three small solar panels. Two were on the thwart, and one on top of a specially built battery box which also contained the regulator. All three were obviously used to being sat on and still worked.
It was a very neat set up, and the owner said he never used fossil fuels for his dinghy these days.

Life on Roaring Girl
Thèoule and the Port de la Rague
12/07/2008, At anchor

This picture, from the hill of Thèoule, shows Roaring Girl situated halfway between the port of Thèoule and the marina at Port de la Rague. At the back of the latter you can see the distinctive viaduct that carries the coastal train between St Raphael and Nice.
Thèoule port is itself a marina, but it has very few boats above 10m in it. It's advertising says it can take boats up to 12m, but I doubt the laid lines are really long enough. There is a small welcome pontoon, and one day we did tie Bridget to it, but then got told off for leaving her there as it's really for arriving boats booking into the marina. They didn't mind us using the quay and their taps to fill up with water, which was handy. The only other solution is to go to the beach, which is steeply graded but perfectly usable.
The little town does have a laundrette! A good big machine for ?'?5 a go. We did two big loads and dried them in minutes on lines slung about the boat. It does not, however, have boat size gas bottles, of any make. We trudged all over looking for some and failed completely.
This was a good harbour, and very sheltered during a strong south-westerly. We only saw about 25 knots of wind, but the navtex and meteo-france were forecasting and reporting winds up to 40 knots elsewhere. We spent quite a lot of time bobbing up and down over night but our trust anchor had got itself well bedded in.
In fact, far more alarming was the enormous number of tiny pleasure boats around us during the day. We had 45m of chain out, giving us a big swing in the gusts and we kept a sharp eye on any boats too nearby. That's in addition to wondering if any of them would take our anchor chain up with them when they left. Being Bastille Day weekend the anchorage was packed during the day, though it cleared out about 1900, and we came to no harm.

Life on Roaring Girl
The Esterel Massif
11/07/2008, En route to the Golfe de Napoule

This huge outcrop of rock (along with the Maures Massif which is cut into by the Golfe of St Tropez) is some of the oldest stone in France. It is red volcanic proyphry, which turns beautiful colours in different angles of sunlight, pushed up before the Alps were created and worn away over millennia into amazing shapes.
Until 1964 the forest here was pine and cork oak, but that year there was a disastrous fire. Reforestation has been very difficult, and now the area is covered in characteristic Provencal maquis, a tangle of thorn and herbs
This is the Ile d'Or in the foreground, with a conspicuous tower on it. Behind is the eastern edge of Cap de Drammont, with a signal station on top. Although we saw small local boats going between the two, we wouldn't attempt it.
Just beyond the Cap is the large bay known as Rade d'Agay. Several friends had praised this anchorage; Gus and Joan of Celebration had kindly emailed us to say the summer's paid-for buoys weren't in place when they passed through, and we couldn't see any. We might have stopped, but a strong south-westerly is forecast, and the Rade is not safe in that sort of wind.

Places and people
The other end of the spectrum
11/07/2008, Just exiting the Golfe de St Tropez

This appeared to be a private motor yacht, though followed by two separately driven tenders (both quite substantial vessels.) It did seem to have an ordinary (UK) red ensign on the back.
Wow!

Places and people
A few ordinary boats
10/07/2008, St Tropez

On the main port quay there are lines of enormous motorboats (and a very few sailing yachts), their professional crew washing, or stowing, or simply making sure nobody lays a finger on the gleaming woodwork.
The Rough Guide comments that a lot of these monuments to spending huge amounts of cash have 'union jacks', or rather red ensigns. It seems so at first, but as you look closer you see that many are from the Cayman Islands. Their ensign is defaced with a shield, and many flaunt Georgetown as their port of registry. We don't know the exact political status of the Islands (known at one time as the Tortugas for the many turtles that nested there) but their economic situation is vastly different from the UK. But we wonder how many bemused tourists think that UK plc must be coining it, to judge by the boats.
There are a few small ordinary sailing boats, tucked away amongst the grandeur at the eastern end of the quay, looking defiant and ready to go. (There's also a bigger area of marina for the hoi polloi, just around the corner, but it's still going to be mega-expensive. We didn't ask.)
We spent a hot day in the town, mostly running errands. We needed supplies, and found a monoprix that wasn't too outrageously inflated. The chandlery isn't too bad either; we acquired some good goggles (much needed for checking the anchor is set properly) and a chart of the coast towards Nice. We've got them electronically but for the sort of anchoring we're doing it can be very comforting to have the paper as well. Plus we treated ourselves to a nice lunch out (our first since Les Baux).
In theory you can call a taxi to the supermarket. In practice we made a hot and sweaty walk there. Even the cabbies in St Tropez are dressed up, with big neo-Romantic open shirt cuffs edged with lace, designer dark glasses and a lot of gold.
The Baie de Canoubiers is a useful shelter, though the holding is a bit variable. You can walk to St Tropez, though we declined the heatstroke and took the bus. In the Baie itself there is very little, save a good recycling dump and an extremely expensive shop. Most importantly, it is free, the water's clean for swimming and you are well protected from the mistral.

Places and people
Pirate treasure
10/07/2008, St Tropez

It looks like the piled spices, dried fruit and mysterious unguents of the Moroccan markets. But, no. Much more prosaic, it's sweets. Jelly babies of every size and description, piled high for the biggest pick&mix you ever saw on St Tropez waterfront.

Places and people
Ashore!
10/07/2008

10/7
St Tropez

Today we have finally made it into town, after staying on board during three windy days. The holding isn't brilliant in the Baie, and it's been blowing up to F7. We'll add pix later.
After today, we aim to visit Port Grimaud and then head straight for the Ile Lerin, off Cannes. A few days there and we are going to Nice. This is the cheapest marina on the coast! We can get our post, including, we hope, the part we need for our wind generator, and hire a car to visit Grasse. Then we will decide between the Golfe di Genoa, the Ligurian coast down towards Florence, or western Corsica towards Rome. This is partly a decision about where to winter, and so not that simple. We're already researching prices and availability, but in the meantime enjoying the sun and gentle sailing.

Life on Roaring Girl

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