Bookmark and Share
Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Why here?

This view looks north west across the Golfe de Napoule, with Cannes on the right. (Roaring Girl is the boat to the left, just visible under the tree.)
It is not immediately obvious why the powers that be wanted a fort on this side of the island, looking at the mainland, rather than protecting the approaches from the open sea. But there have been fortifications here for thousands of years, as the many Roman remains testify, illustrating settlement as early as the sixth century BC.
The answer lies in the anchorage, the only secure one in the vicinity of Cannes. For much of Mediterranean history, maritime trade has been relatively short haul and coastal, relying on finding sanctuary easily in the sudden storms and steep seas that haunt the basin.
It seems possible that the few longer-haul ships, carrying diverse cargo from places like Gades (Cadiz) to Ostia (the port of Rome) may have also hugged the coast, and used this as a safe stop. Not always safe however: a 1st century Roman wreck has been found on the rocks to the eastern end of the islands, as well as a 10th century Saracen wreck.
So in addition to be an important prison, the Fort protected the anchorage and His Majesy's trade. This might make us sleep easier at night, but only so long as there is no strong easterly wind!

Places and people
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!

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

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

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!

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
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.

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
Beach and Buoys

Cavalaire does have this enormous beach, which stretches around the south east facing bay for about two miles. Now it's all bit up, but (in memory) only the western tip was developed 40 years ago, the rest being pretty deserted.
There are lots of these white buoys; the note in our second hand pilot book says, rather indignantly, 'NOT cheaper than the marina'. I'm sure some at least would take the weight of a cruising boat. They're certainly watched; while we were fossicking about taking pictures, out came the marina boat, offering to assist.
We politely declined and set off south-east to round Cap Lardier. Our original intention had been to possible dinghy ashore in Cavalaire, and then anchor to the east of Cap Lardier. In fact, it was only 1330, a beautiful day, and well: we sailed all round Cap Camarat and up to the Golfe de St Tropez. There were a few interesting moments when we reefed: turning into the Gulf coincided with a wind increase to about 24 knots, and putting us on a close reach. And despite our best efforts, the reefing lines weren't exactly right. Ah well! Early in the season and all that, and no harm done.
We came to rest in the Baie de Canabiers, just east of San Tropez (and free), which has reasonably good shelter from everything except gale force northerlies.

Places and people
Port de Cavalaire-sur-mer

In 1967, the family Tanburn took the unprecedented step of a camping holiday. In the South of France! Exotic beyond belief and the source of many foundation myths. Helicopters landing on the beach. Meeting rich people. Riding Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (found filming in a tiny hill village).
Sarah doesn't remember that much of Cavalaire itself, but it was surely tiny then; just the campground, some hotels maybe, a small town. Not this marina, that's for sure. This is the entrance, which has a clearly buoyed dredged channel to it. We didn't go in: it would be ?'?38 a night for us and sentiment isn't that strong.
You can anchor off, but only someway out, and (see above) we don't have an outboard at the moment.

Places and people

Newer ]  |  [ Older ]


Who we are
Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
View Complete Profile »
SailBlogs Friends
Reg Wild Alliance 

Powered by SailBlogs