For some weeks we couldn't make up our minds, if we were going to stop in Italy for the summer or continue on for Greece. We scribbled down a list of pro's & cons...Greece came out on top....with just 2 things on the list for Italy....less time to arrive and easier to get home via train! We arrived in Isola D'Elba having spent 1 month in the canal and 1 month on the sea continually moving and we were knackered! Elba is a beautiful island and the weather when we arrived was gorgeous and has been ever since, so we have decided to stay and cruise around Corsica and Sardinia this year. Italy is known for expensive marina's, however we are anchoring unless we cant, so this really isn't an issue! Greece I'm sure is beautiful too, but maybe that's one for summer 2014! We spent 9 days in Portoferraio and really now feel like we are living the dream...chilling out...enjoying the weather. The Italians are incredibly friendly and helpful which is a bonus on France...HA HA.....Sorry to any French friends out there, but the Italians really are much friendlier. Ooh and Italy is less expensive than France in general.....we like Italy lots....
We have experience true white water rafting which is pretty scary, falling off a cliff with 6 strangers....your life in each other's hands........but white water in a 10m cat is even more scary....my life in Stu's hands!!!!!!!
The picture looks like a nice big hole between the mainland & an island, the book show's its around 150m....we are just over 4m wide, so no probs Stu, don't worry about it I said - your boat handling skills are great.....well.....what can I say, Stu did an amazing job, however I was actually pooping myself, I even put on my life jacket and mitsi's....then went to help stu put his on....he screamed at me.....DONT TOUCH ME......clearly he was also pooping himself. Another "challenge" done....would we do it next time rather than go around the island, which would add around 1-2 hours? YES, I think we would, but lets hope the wind was like it was in the attached pics(in Le Grazie folder), rather than right behind us, causing the water to boil and throw Tarian around like a ping pong ball in a washing machine! What was amazing, the sea went from a boiling caldron of terror to a crystal blue mill pond in the space of 200m. Once inside the harbour it was a short distance around to meet our so called friend's who had decided not to tell us how bad it can be, as they didn't want us to have a sleepless night! Friend's indeed, as with hindsight and a sleepless night, we would maybe have chosen the longer way round. Once at anchor it was a lovely location, next to a monastery that played arvei maria on its bells at 06.45 the next morning!
So armed with our new anchor we set sail to catch up with our new ( OK second hand anchor ) we set sail to catch up with our surrogate parents, Ron and Julie who had decided to brave the sea that we chickened out on... This gave us a bit of a longish sail to a very swish marina at Varazze, but the day was warm the wind was kind, life is good... and much to Stella's delight the Italians send out very handsome, ( apparently according to Stella "hunks" is the better description)... They tucked us up nicely next to Ron and Julie, and we had a pleasant, but expensive night... Italy is a VERY VERY beautiful place, but the marinas are the most expensive we have come across so far.... Between 35 and 50ish Euros a night... the only good thing is that the half boats don't get any discount, and they pay the same as us "proper " Two hullers".... ( FYI in the UK and some of France Cats pay a 50% extra charge cos we are a bit fatter the half boats )
Next day we decided to move, the plan was to get to Santa Margaritta unfortunately the wind didn't work for Tarian, we can't get into the wind as well as Ron's long keel, ( or maybe he is just a better sailor....no, no maybe about it he IS a better sailor than us )... so whilst Ron and Julie crashed their way to windward, we went for the comfy option and diverted in Genoa...according to our almanac we were on target for another expensive night in a marina, but as we came in I spied a load of masts tucked away behind a large container port... "let's see if we can find a berth there" I said.... "will there be any hunks to take our lines" Stella asked... "I don't know but it might be less than 50 euros"..... Well for the first time in the trip Stella gave in, and we made our way over to the Yachts... found an empty berth and managed to get tied up hunk free! ... this clearly was not a swanky marina, but any port in a storm... (did u see what I did there?)... we made our way to see if we could find the Captianaira ... we found instead Angello.... He told us it wasn't a marina but a yacht club, and it would fine to stay..."How much?" I asked...."Nothing"...... I assumed this was a mistake, my Italian is not yet quite as honed as my French.... "Sorry Angello..... HOW MUCH PER NIGHT.... " I asked in my best waving arms about and gestating lots... Italian ( OK OK English spoken slow and loud ) " I know what you said " replied Angello in his very good English...." Lets go and see the boss to check... oh and by the way, plug in to the Electric and water.... No charge )... He took us to the boss, and he said it was fine to stay for a few days, and confirmed no charge.
As is our normal routine we took Mitsi for a stroll... when we came back to the boat there was a man standing outside Tarian.... Ah I thought it was too good to be true.... "are you Mr Stuart" he asked... " Yes that's me... we will be on our way first thing tomorrow... Angello said that would be OK".... " NO NO NO " says Antonio... ( who it turns out is one of the senior guys in the club)..."you must stay and come to lunch with me tomorrow at the club." We were a bit shocked, but true to his word Antonio brought lunch for Stella and me at the club, a lovely Pasta and Pesto starter, followed by a Steak and chips!!! "Have you been to Genoa before" asked Antonio... "No if its OK to stay for an extra day we plan to get the buss in"..... "NO NO NO I will take you in my car to show you the sites!" he says, and true to his word he takes all three of us in his brand new car with 600K's on the clock for a tour... I only mention the fact that it was a new car because he let Mitisi sit in the back with Stella, and we both felt bad at the amount of hair she left on he brand new seats....
Anyhow we stayed for a total of 3 days, we did go into town ourselves and had a good look around... it's a splendid city, and well worth a visit.... We left not wanting to out stay our welcome, but I think the guys would have let us stay longer.... We will defiantly go back on our return trip....
Not only did Antonio send us a couple of pictures of us in Genoa, but sent us the cartoon clip of himself singing us a tune for our next visit!
I have to say we were both really touched by the kindness these guys showed us... This trip has shown us time and time again that people are really nice, it is sometimes quite humbling when strangers go out of there way to help us out.... Especially Angello and Antonio are two of the nicest people we have met so far!!!
After leaving Ile St Honorat (the monks island - pics are now uploaded) we headed for Villifranche, which is a very sheltered bay with lots of beautiful villa's on steep hills and a lovely old town. There is another lovely town on the other side of the headland just a walk away - Beaulieu Sur Mur - so plenty to keep us occupied for a few days. Its also a destination for the cruise ships, they anchor just in the bay, almost every day there is either 1 or 2 massive ships helping the bay to be even more sheltered when the wind blows from the south. We headed here as the forecast was predicting easterlies, which would have made the monks island very uncomfortable, otherwise we would have stayed longer. After a few days, the wind came around to the south, making it a little uncomfortable, so we headed for another anchorage within the bay, but more sheltered. We went to bed in the knowledge that the anchor had been settled for the whole day, so should be ok.......not having done much anchoring, we tend to leave the bedroom curtain up, so that anytime in the night, we can peep outside just to make sure we haven't dragged. This night, I had checked many times upto around 1am, we were lined up with other boats, so went back to sleep. At 3am we were both awoken with an almighty crash, sitting bolt upright, we both leaped out of bed, totally naked to see what was up. Another boat had crashed into us!!!!! Within a couple of seconds, we had realised the wind had changed we were pointing north and we had actually dragged 300-400 meters south crashing into another yacht. You can imagine, it was all hands on deck to get fenders in place(think we will put fenders on from now on!), engine on, anchor up and re position. We spent a while trying to decided what to do....go into the marina, pick up a bouy which I didn't like the look of, as it didn't look man enough for the job, anchor somewhere else in the bay or just anchor back where we were. We finally made the decision to go back to where we were, and have hourly anchor watches to make sure we didn't move again. Stu covered the 1st hour. I didn't mention that at 3am, there was the sound of thunder in the distance. I took the 4.30am watch slot and planned to read my book.....however the biggest and best thunderstorm was happening out to sea, we had sheet & fork lighting to the east and the west and finally right outside the bay where we had pink fork lighting, it was so amazing at 5.30 I told stu I would do the next hour as I was wired on the light show outside, it was fantastic! The anchor did hold, the sea bed shelved off quiet steeply, so with the sudden change in wind, we think this is what caused the dragging, since then, we have put out much more chain! Mits had her 1st swim off the back of the boat(pic in gallery), she really wasn't happy at being lowered into the water - but she will have to get used to it, as we hope this will help keep her cool, as the weather gets hotter.
Next stop was Italy, passing Monoco. We decided not to go to Monoco or Nice, as cities, are not really our thing, but we got close enough to take a couple of snaps! Just as we passed Monoco we were approached by an official navy looking boat. The came very close to us, then very close to another boat we are cruising with, then went away several hundred meters away. A few minutes later they launched a rib with 6 people on board and sped over to us. They arrived saying "customs, we want to board your vessel" - we slowed down and allowed them on board - although I did say to Stu really we should have asked for their ID....but I think their guns & mini war ship where ID enough! They had a good look around, ask us if we had anything to declare for customs, we said no, they replied ....so no guns on board? Ha ha ha......Stu laughed out loud.....but still they wanted to have another look around, check our papers, passports. It wasn't until we showed them our log that they realised we really where just 2 old farts on tour! The mountain views in that 1st part of Italy are spectacular - see pics in Gallery. San Remo is a big town, however it has a fab feel, very energetic but chilled out. We stayed 3 nights to get stocked up and catch up with the massive pile of laundry. The last day we walked up the hill to what I guess is the old town, it was full of tunnels and little streets, houses all joined together with the tunnels and flying buttresses, a must see if ever you go to San Remo. Weather was fantastic, had the summer set in? I wondered and hoped. We left after the 3rd night(as it was 3 nights free on the quay) decided to go 30 miles up the coast. There wasn't much wind, however there was a swell. It wasn't big, but wasn't comfortable at all, so after an hour we stopped at a bolt hole just 7 miles away in a marina. Popping our heads into the chandlers, we stumbled across a used anchor the same as ours but the next size up which we bought - so we think that fete bought us here to improve our sleep when anchored up at night. We popped our noses out this morning, but the swell was worse than the day before, as we had wind over swell and the swell was breaking, so we decided to head straight back into the marina - a good decision, as the wind increased and it has been raining, we again heard faint thunder in the distance.....maybe summer hasn't set in just yet.......
Long Long ago in a galaxy far far away, when I was just barely out of nappies, I came to the south of France with the first prototype wife v1.0 ( Stell is the final and best version ...v3.LAST ! )... we drove down in our Humber Sceptre ...( what a car, they don't make em like that any more), and camped in a tent near San Tropez... who would have thought I would ever be back, sailing under our own steam ( Well a combo of wind and Diesel actually but u get the idea )....
It has to be said the med is bloody brilliant.... I thought the Atlantic coast of France was the best.... Well let me tell u the Med is in a different league.... Crystal blue seas, no tide to speak of, loads of anchorages, that are sheltered, free and you can actually see your anchor in three meters of water... We have really benefited from tagging along behind Ron and Julie, who have been cruising the med for the last 15 or so years... every spot we get to seems to be nicer than the last..
Highlights for me so far have been blagging our way into San Tropez marina for free, and parking next to a super yacht, whose skipper was a very nice man, who even let us have a couple of hundred litres of his water.... Stell got very personal with him and once she found out how much he earned... yes really she asked him how much and he told her.... Think he was to busy looking down the top of Stells dress, which I think she put on just for him, to worry about simple things like cash.... Once Stell found out she nearly jumped ship, but fortunately for me he was married... After San Tropez was Anchoring in between a couple of Islands just off Cannes... one of which housed a monastery.... It was very very tranquil, the monks have a vow of silence, and they ask visitors to respect this and not make too much noise... It was lovely to walk around I think Stella found it so pleasant she was thinking of joing up, till I told her she would fail the medical to become a monk ..
We are now almost at the end of France... Italy next!!!! Looking forward to Italian pizza.... Not looking forward to the 18 hour crossing to Corisca.....
Just a few highlights of where we have been and what we have been up too.
Since leaving our winter home, we have stayed in 17 different locations over 326km's of inland waterways and a mere 67nm in the med! We are currently anchored up in amazingly clear water in the Cote D'Azur with only 90nm to the Italian border. I am still pinching myself as its still unreal that we are doing this amazing trip together.
We stopped at Carcassonne to visit the very impressive Citadel, ooh and to dry out, as it had been raining for 2 days solid. Citadel pics - in Carcassone gallery folder.
In Beziers there is a flight of 6 locks, which was a beautifully sunny day, thank goodness, as it took around 50 min's to get through them all.
Next we spent a few days in Vias, we knew there was a great beach here, as our friends' on Barge Bees-knees had taken us there earlier in the year, Vias is a typical holiday resort, with many casual clothes shops, café's and restaurants'...and of course a sandy beach 20 min walk from the canal.
The end of the canal Du Midi joins the Etang de Thau (which means pond in French) this was the 1st open bit of water we had been in since the Atlantic coast, where we saw our 1st Flamingos. The other end of the Etang is the start of the Canal Du Rhone a Sete, which has no locks!
The last day in the inland waterways...... we moored just 10 mins from the lock the takes you from the canal Rhone a sete to the Petit Rhone. We moored "bankside", it was so peaceful, all you could here was the birds in the trees.....Fab location expect for the killer mosquitoes'! See St Gillies folder for pics. We started nice and early, for the journey up river for 2 & ½ hours and into the fast flowing Rhone and headed downstream to the last lock at Port St Louis which took 3 & ½ hours. The size of the commercial boats on the Rhone are massive - see pics in Arles folder
Getting the mast up was a little stressful, as it was raining cats and dogs all day....but looking back now, it wasn't so bad, the 2 guys in control of the crane and our mast knew what they were doing, even if Stu & I where a little clueless.
We left Port St Louis at 8am, we past a "this is not how to do it" reck,(pics in Port st loius folder) as we approached the channel to enter the med, then 10 minutes' later a thunder storm came right over us, so we were like drowned rats AGAIN!!!!
Now its our turn for some sun! Happy days! Already we have anchored at 2 amazing places with-in the new Parc national des Calanques and are now on an island called Porquerolles and today we are heading off to the next island, then St-Tropez.
Nearly forgot, Stu had a treat one day, as there was a topless women right by the side of the canal riding her push bike - pics are in the gallery!