We’ve arrived in La Ciotat, Provence – via L’Escala, Port Vendres & Gulf of Lions
12 December 2007 | La Ciotat
The last week has been a bit of a blur but Plan B worked and we have arrived at our winter destination, thank goodness!
We only spent one night in Palamos and carried on up the coast to L'Escala, where we were met by really helpful and friendly staff at the marina. It was also the first marina that we had visited that had heated shower rooms. That might sound insignificant to you but you have to believe us that this is an important consideration at this time of year! L'Escala town was a short walk around the beach away and was just lovely with interesting buildings, a warm, community atmosphere and the best bottle shop in the whole world. We found drinks in there that we didn't even know existed. Chris wanted to stop right here and go no further!
From there, we continued around the coast and crossed the border into France to arrive at Port Vendres which was a picture postcard French harbour. Checked the weather, once we had done the usual tracking down of an internet connection that, this time, turned out to be sitting under a tree outside a cafe. We realised that we had a small weather window on Saturday to get to La Ciotat and decided to go for it.
We left around midday and wondered whether we had done the right thing with an overnight passage a head of us. It was a bit tricky even getting out of the harbour as we had 35 knots of wind coming right at us but we knew that the first couple of hours were going to be the worst. After 30 minutes we had to get changed because we were soaked by the waves that had broken over the boat and had landed on us. We were using the engine to help us power through the seas, when it just stopped. Chris then spent the next two hours below, with his head in the engine room, covered in diesel, sorting it all out. We think we must have picked up some contaminated fuel in Ibiza, as the filters, which had only been changed in Menorca, were blocked with muck. Not deterred, we continued. Dinner was a tin of Irish Stew mixed with a tin of peas and carrots and was surprisingly good. The crossing of Gulf of Lions, which has a formidable reputation due to the strength and direction of the wind at this time of the year, was completed without incident and, as we approached the French coast at Marseilles, whilst I was resting below, Chris found himself doing 10 knots which was a bit too fast for the conditions, so he reefed the sails a bit more to slow us down but still kept up a respectable speed. The final part of the journey was in big seas and strong winds and, as it was still dark, we kept seeing the silhouette of the land disappear behind another set of big waves. We were quite glad that it was dark, so that we couldn't see just how big the waves were! As we arrived at Ben's boatyard the heavens opened and, in the dark, we got soaked mooring up. We didn't really say much to each other because we were too cold and wet but there was a silent relief and contentment at our achievement.
It is amazing how much better you feel after sleep and a bacon sandwich but we did. We spent a couple of days at Ben's yard and have today moved just around the corner to the Old Port of La Ciotat, that Ben very kindly arranged for us. We have a lovely location right outside the Capitainerie and a restaurant that is sharing its wifi connection with us (hope they don't mind). We have a view of the marina and town in front of us and it is just perfect.
We are now getting ready to return to the UK this weekend and are looking forward to seeing as many of you as we can before returning on 5th January when we will start some maintenance work on the boat before setting off for more Mediterranean adventures sometime in March.
Deep Blue has looked after us so well these last few months. We are very proud of her. We feel a bit reluctant to leave her this weekend but she is probably looking forward to the rest just as much as we are.
Check out the gallery for the last photos from Mahon, L'Escala (Spain album) and Port Vendres and La Ciotat (France album), we hope you enjoy them.