Bandol then Costa Brava
13 September 2019 | Costa Brava, Spain
Ros Brice | Strong wind, heavy seas
The wind was picking up and there was quite some distance to be made, in order to get Trilogy to Sant Carles de la Ràpita, 100 kms south of Barcelona by the end of the season. As much as cruising is about 'wandering' wherever you choose, the weather and certain deadlines actually direct decision making more than we would like sometimes.
It was a combination of the two that was starting to impact on the sail planning for the remainder of the season. The following morning Trilogy departed Nikki Beach and motor sailed for 34 NMs with the wind swinging from the east at 10 knots in the morning to the west at 10 knots by the time Trilogy anchored in Anse de Fabre Gas. The following day a further 12 NMs was covered, this time the wind building from the west at 10 knots and the seas were short and sharp. It was hard work getting around the peninsula and quite early on, the tender got hit by a big wave and the sides deflated. The skipper decided to return to Anse de Fabre Gas to pump up the tender and ensure that it was lashed firmly to minimise any swing action on the davits. Trilogy set off again and it was a battle with wind on the nose at 20-25 knots, but finally Trilogy arrived at Port de Bandol. Trilogy was allocated an outer finger marina berth and with the consistent building of the wind strength there was a lot of attention given to adjustment of the mooring lines.
Once snugged away to the skipper's satisfaction, there was time to explore the township of Bandol, a busy town for local, rather than international tourists. Bandol is a gentle seaside resort, cradled by hills and protected from the worst of the Mediterranean wind. Amelia chose La Chipote Restaurant for the evening meal. This was a lovely experience as it was located across a small isthmus on the beautiful Anse de Renécros. Palm trees lined the harbour front, along with the usual string of restaurants and cafes behind which is the old town. In the hinterland around Bandol, there are many vineyards producing some of the best known rosés and reds of the Côtes de Provence.
Colin and Amelia departed early next morning and I had arrived back on board late the night before. There followed a day of shopping and washing and the next morning we departed at 06:00 from the marina, in order to leave in calm conditions, with only 6 knots blowing from the south. The storm sails were set with the third reef and it wasn't long before we were in high wind and heavy seas. We went into one hour watches because the helm work was hard and it was very, very cold. The helming required steering across the back of the wave, turning on the top and sliding down the front before the next wave arrived, to repeat it all again. Fortunately none of us got seasick and we were able to wedge ourselves into the seats or bunks below so that we could remain stable. The heavy weather eased by around 14:00 and we could put up a bit more sail to keep Trilogy powering along. We had a brief visit from some dolphins, but alas, they didn't want to play. We all had dinner in the cockpit (a one bowl version of curried tuna with rice with some greens) and we continued the sail until around midnight, when we dropped the sails and nudged our way into a small bay called Cala Guillola. This was a late change of plans because the 21:00 weather report indicated we were in for a significant weather event, starting in the early hours of the morning. We were now making landfall on the Costa Brava Spanish Coast, at the base of the Pyrenees and known for its very unpredictable wind strengths, that rocket off the mountains in intense gusts. In the dark as we slowly made our way into the Cala we could make out cliffs ahead, an outline of a small box shape building and a mast to one side of the bay. The first attempt at anchoring failed to get a hold on the bottom, which meant it was either weed or a rocky bottom. The second attempt a little further over was successful and we could finally settle for the night, but not before the skipper shouted us all a Baileys!
We slept very well but awoke to an updated weather report that sounded even more concerning. On deck, everything was double tied down and as the morning progressed and the wind strength increased, the skipper asked us all to assist with collapsing the Bimini, before it got shredded. Just as we were getting ready, the skipper noticed we were drifting rapidly down onto a small yacht on a mooring that had joined us in the cala during the morning. There was a flurry of activity, turning instruments on, starting the engine, lifting the anchor, all seemingly simultaneously. The 'anchor watch' app had not gone off, which was mystifying. The anchor was extremely slow to lift as we had 60 metres of chain out and Trilogy had circled many times during the night. The wind was blowing Trilogy sideways but bit by bit the anchor, which was laden with weed, was lifted back on board. The skipper headed Trilogy for open water and the next challenge was to find another spot to shelter.
This was a rough ride! The skipper saw the true wind dial hit 50 knots, the wind was howling and the sea was spuming. The guys were tied on in full foul weather gear and the girls stayed below, pinned to the seats. Trilogy didn't need sails to make 9 knots of speed. Several bays were passed that had looked promising on the chart, but the force of the wind and the state of the sea made it impossible to make an attempt at entry. It was amazing to us that we were unable to find decent protection in the lee of a very large headland. It took 2.5 hours to cover 7 NMs to reach Cala de Canyellas Petites, a bay with high sloping hills on all sides and lots of white houses and apartment complexes stacked around the bay. We only stayed an hour as the skipper was concerned that we did not have good enough protection. The weather forecast was still woeful for the next few days and we needed to anchor securely in sand.
After much consideration, the skipper moved Trilogy a further 2NMs to a much wider open bay called Bahia de Roses and anchored in 7 metres on a sandy bottom. The winds were consistently gusting to 40+knots, but we felt safe and Trilogy had certainly proven herself yet again to be a very sea worthy vessel. In this anchorage Trilogy had plenty of room to swing and the 'anchor watch' app was set to alert us of any movement and we huddled below, while the winds whistled through the rigging!
Bahia de Roses harbour is a very old fishing port and has been in use since the earliest of times, it's origins being connected with Emporion. Greek and Roman records refer to Rhodes, which was probably Roses. In the Middle Ages it was a naval port and the fort built at this time was blown up by Suchet in 1814.
Next morning we got underway early enough to set off in relatively calm conditions. Before we got too far out of the harbour we hoisted a full main and unfurled the headsail. We turned around to see the Pyrenees covered in snow. No wonder we had been feeling cold! The wind and seas picked up as we rounded the headland and again Trilogy had to weather the storm. The winds were from the north east at 25 knots, gusting at times to 30 knots. We motored 25 NMs and would have liked to go further but the skipper was concerned there may be no suitable anchorages between Playa de Palamos and Barcelona. This playa had a long sandy beach and had some rather ugly high-rise apartments in the seaside town that backed the beach. We anchored as close to the beach as the buoys would allow and fortunately had the protection of a long seawall, which stopped the swell from getting to us.
A little bit about the wind conditions we have experienced! It is known as the mistral in France and the tramontana in Spain. It is a strong dry wind and is caused by a secondary depression forming in the Golfe de Lion on the cold front of a major depression that is crossing France. The northwesterly airflow generated is compressed between the Alps and the Pyrenees and flows into the Mediterranean basin. In Spain it chiefly affects the coast to the north of Barcelona, the Islas Baleares, and is strongest at the northern end of the Costa Brava...right where we were! It is said that the tramontana can arrive and reach gale force in as little as fifteen minutes on a calm sunny day with virtually no warning...that was our experience precisely! The weather forecast just suddenly changed dramatically. It normally lasts for at least 3 days but may last for a week or longer. We knew something was seriously up when we could see 6 big fishing trawlers all heading at top speed into port, right behind us!
Thanks to Mediterranean Spain by John Marchand 6th Ed for the wind diagram.
Îles de Lérins and St-Tropez
10 September 2019 | Golfe de St-Tropez
Ros Brice | Hot and sunny
Back on board after our lovely Coastal Walk on Cap d’Antibes, we were soon underway, heading for a place to anchor between the two islands known as Îles de Lerins, situated off the coast of France between Antibes and Cannes. With a westerly wind predicted, we anchored in the passage between the two islands, along with a lot of other yachts.
The smaller island, Île St-Honorat has been occupied since at least the 4th C when a founding father of French monasticism decided to settle on the tiny island for some peace and solitude. His followers soon found him and he decided to establish a monastery, which with time became one of the most powerful and influential in the land. There is a conspicuous fortified tower that was built in 1073 by the Abbot of Lérins as a defence against the increasing raids by the Saracens. The monastery declined through the Middle Ages from attacks by Saracen pirates and Genoese adventurers. After the French Revolution the island was privately owned but in 1859, it was reconsecrated and after another 10 years, it was taken over by the Cistercian order, who are still occupying the monastery, albeit with only 20 monks.
Apart from the fortified tower, most of the original buildings have been absorbed into the 19th C rebuilding undertaken by the Cistercians. We took the tender ashore the following morning and had a wander past the vineyards (10 acres of different grapes under cultivation) to visit the fortified tower. Fortunately the tower now has a flight of steps up to the door, as it had originally been a rope ladder that was then drawn up. It was a beautiful stone building, with archways and inner courtyards and winding staircases that lead up through the various levels and eventually to the top for great views both out to sea and the across to the coast, but also across the top of the island and the large and impressive Abbey. We spent a bit of time in the Abbey shop, that sold a large selection of wines at exaggerated prices produced entirely on the island, using modern methods of production but attested to be organic. There was also monk honey, monk chocolate, monk jewellery, monk soap etc, and we began to be suspicious about how many skills these monks had, in addition to their hefty prayer time. We entered the Abbaye de Lérins after the morning mass and there was signage that this be done in silence. The Abbey was very simply in design and furnishings, with a Christ on the Cross figure above the altar, being the only adornment. It was a place where you couldn’t help but feel the ‘the peace that passes all understanding’.
We further explored the tiny island by walking around the northern tip, passing a few small chapels, boarded up unfortunately. It was at this stage that we learnt that the monks officially pray seven times a day and attend mass twice. At no time did we see a monk, but a meeting was available by prior arrangement. Once part of the the Cistercian order, the monks do not initiate connection with their birth family, but they can have family visitation.
Heading back around the island from the Abbaye de Lérins, in the direction of the tender, we decided to have lunch under the trees and umbrellas at a beautiful relaxed restaurant, called La Tonnelle, that had been recommended. There were Australian eucalypts all around us and with a pretty sea scape to look out on, we felt very much at ease. The meals were fresh French cuisine and a glass or bottle of island wine was on offer, along with champagne, liqueurs, cocktails. We began to wonder if the monks ever manage to wine and dine here!
On the Île Ste-Marguerite, the bigger island of the Lérins, which we did not visit, there is Fort Royal. It’s claim to fame is that not long after it was built in the 17th C, the fort accommodated it’s most famous prisoner the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’. The mask was made not of iron but velvet and there is intriguing mystery surrounding who he was. The identity of this person has never been established for sure, and there are numerous theories, which are too many to mention. The ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ ended his life in the Bastille. This was because the governor of Fort Royal didn’t find life on the island very entertaining and when he managed to get the job as Governor of the Bastille in 1698, his special charge went with him.
At 17:00 we motored back to the mainland and anchored in Pointe de Maubois, on the north side of Cap Roux. This is a ragged rock headland, that runs down from the spectacular peaks of Pic du Cap Rouz inland. We enjoyed a swim here but the skipper was uneasy about the easterly swell that was running into the bay and therefore risking an uncomfortable night. By 20:00 Trilogy was anchored 4 NMs further southwest along the coast in Rade d’Agay, which offered protection from the swell and was a deep, wide bay.
Next stop, St Tropez! We motored 13 NMs to enter Golfe de St-Tropez and tied up at St Tropez Vieux Port. St-Tropez is one of the best known destinations on the Côte d’Azur, with a reputation that the rich and famous can often be seen wandering the streets. We were on ‘star watch’ and the best we could do was Jennifer Lopez with her bronzed hunk, plus minders, in tow! St-Tropez is a compact town, set on wooded bluff that has retained its charm and character, much to our surprise. The harbour is surrounded by old houses, although we learnt that many of these buildings are reconstructions as the Germans blew up the harbour and waterfront before surrendering at the end of WW2!
We ate a salad and fresh baguette lunch on board and then set off to explore the charming town. The Citadel on top of the bluff was closed, but we climbed up the bluff and skirted around to the sea side, to take in the beautiful sight across the gulf. We also visited the Musée de L’Annonciade, a deconsecrated chapel, which had an exceptional collection belonging to the pointillist, nabi and fauvist periods. St-Tropez was one of the most active centres of the avant-garde artists at the beginning of the 20th C. Paul Signac landed in St-Tropez aboard his yacht L’Olympia in 1892 and was so charmed by the beauty of sea, that he settled in St-Tropez and invited many other painters like Henri-Edmond Cross, Henri Matisse, André Derain and Albert Marquette to visit. Today, around the harbour painters display their works for sale, while the rich display their yachts for approval...would Signac approve?? Colin chose La Sardine restaurant for us to have a lovely outdoor dining experience that night before we all retired for the night.
I departed Trilogy very early next morning for a short break to spend time with our daughter In Metz, north-east France. Meanwhile Trilogy departed St-Tropez around midday and anchored 5 NMs away across the other side of the headland at Nikki Beach, the go-to spot for the international jet-set and global celebrities. It was a wide sweeping bay with a feeling of spaciousness between the various beach clubs. No celebs were spotted but that was of no great moment. The pilot suggests that the rich and famous prefer the seclusion of the villas that are scattered behind the famous beach, and only emerge to party in the cover of darkness!
Monaco, Eze, Entrevaux, Cap Antibes
05 September 2019 | Cap Antibes
Ros Brice | Hot and sunny
While we were in ritzy Monaco we made time for a trip to the charming hill top town of Eze, a 9km taxi ride from Monaco, in the direction of Nice. It is a fascinating medieval village, perched like an eagle’s nest on a rocky outcrop, which allows views all along the Côte d’Azur. From the access road there is the inevitable set of stone steps that winds through the narrow streets of centuries old stonework, with beautiful wrought iron street lamps hanging everywhere. There are no cars which adds to the tranquility and if we hadn’t struck a bus load of Chinese tourists, we’d have had it all to ourselves. After a morning coffee at Salon de Thé, we continued all the way to the top, passing through an extensive cactus and succulent garden that was rather spectacular. We soaked in the view and then wandered down along different winding paths, passing some lovely art galleries and shops promoting the products of Provence. At the bottom of the village there is a Fragonard Perfume factory, which we had the pleasure of visiting but unfortunately we did not have time to wait for the next English tour and besides, the Chinese were swarming there too!
Next day we were off to explore the hinterland region of Nice. We took a taxi to Nice to the Gare des Chemins de Fer de Provence, only to find we had just missed a train and that we would have to wait until 13:00 for the next. One of the biggest issues in Monaco is that our ‘all of Europe’ SIM cards did not work and we were reliant on WiFi. We therefore had found it difficult to adequately research how best to use our time in Monaco. It seems that Monaco has their own internet provider and no other providers are allowed.
To take advantage of the few hours before our train ride, we caught a tram down Avenue Médecin and got off close to the beach area. We were less than impressed with the beach itself, as there was no sand, just smooth small rocks. Nonetheless there were a lot of people lying on thin mats or just beach towels. We couldn’t help but think about the Islamic extremism attack that took place on Promenade Des Anglais in July 2016. Satisfied that Nice beach was not very nice, we took ourselves back into the old town for a morning cuppa and then walked through the large market area, which was full of delicious fresh produce.
Once on the Train des Pignes (Pine Cone Train) we settled back to enjoy what was described as one of France’s most picturesque train rides. The train climbs up to 1000 metres and the 151 kms of narrow gauge track journey’s to Digne-les-Bain’s. As we had only a half day available, we decided to get off at Entrevaux, a medieval hill town, about 60 kms from Nice. The track follows a very scenic route, criss-crossing the river Var and following the deep gorges ever higher. In bygone days the train was pulled by steam locomotives but mostly the train now runs with two engines, at either end of the two carriage train. As we got higher we entered pine forested areas and the train many times at the small villages along the way. It was quite a breathtaking journey!
We had a good amount of time to wander Entrevaux, a medieval village that guarded a narrow pass. There is a draw bridge entrance and a walled walkway which zig zags through 20 fortified doorways to a 17 C citadel, perched high above the township. The village streets are dark and narrow between the high buildings. The Gothic Notre-Dame-de-Assumption Church was built in the 17C, and it was built set down and incorporated into the walls. It had a large ornate facade and was very beautiful inside, with the dominant colours being deep blue and maroon, which is quite unusual. The whole village was quite beautiful, with clever restoration work done to restore the former glory. The village underwent many attacks and at various times the fortifications were increased, with guardhouses and watchtowers and well as extra drawbridges and cannons.
Saturday arrived again and it was clean up, washing and shopping day. While the boys worked on Trilogy (very diligently, from some self reporting) the girls task was to conquer yet another supermarché and this time it was a mega Carrefour. The mistake was to go at 09:30 on a Saturday! The French tendency of ‘me first’ was to the fore, and dare I say it, the men were the worst. The trolleys were used as battering rams and their was no mercy when it came to taking your turn with the weighing machines. Did you know in France that all fruit and vegetables are weighed by the purchaser to be priced before getting to the cashier. You can now imagine the flurry at the scales with everyone thinking they are more important and in a greater hurry than the next person! When we were eventually satisfied we had got all that we needed, we were channeled to a register that could arrange delivery to Trilogy. We waited one hour just to get through the cash register, but the guy in charge was very nice and his good humour helped the situation ... just one cashier, a queue of 6 people, each with at least two trolleys. For €15 it was thankfully all delivered to Trilogy a few hours later.
Our British friends Colin and Amelia arrived at 18:00 from Nice airport and it wasn’t long before they were settled in and we were off to dinner at the nearby Italian restaurant. Colin is a motor car journalist and so the meal was punctuated with his descriptions of the classy, ridiculously expensive cars that continued their nightly parading past the restaurants.
Next morning, now 1 September after everyone had satisfied their exercise needs, we departed Porto Fontvieille marina and motored past Nice to Anse de la Garoupe, just beyond the city of Antibes. This is one of several bays around the Cap d’Antibes and the stretch of coast from Nice to St Tropez is known as the East Côte d’Azur. We enjoyed our salad platter lunch with fresh baguette and after a short siesta it was time to hit the refreshing water and swim 500 metres to shore, with some scary moments when a yacht moved through the bay and did not give us any clearance. The girl on bow watch yelled at us to get out of the way, with no attempt to tell the skipper to slow down! The beach was packed with sun lovers, many reposing all day on their private club lounges and drink waiters meeting their every need. There were two concrete jetties that were also packed with more sun lounges and umbrellas, so it was quite a scene. Back on board, we were all ready for showers, GNTs and an evening meal, which was a frittata with fresh salad leaves and sweet, sweet tomatoes.
As it turned out, Colin and Amelia quite recently had visited Cap d’Antibes to catch up with Amelia’s cousin. They knew about a newly developed walk around the Cap d’Antibes headland and we all decided we would like to do it too. The skipper dropped us at the dinghy dock in the corner of the bay and we began the Coastal Walk, also known as the ‘Tire-Poll’ path (literally ‘pull hair’)! The name is said to be the sea wind that always blows on the peninsula, ruffling the hair of those venturing forth. At the start of the 20th C this coastline was partly privatised by wealthy residents living in villas. The French Coastal Protection Agency (as in Corsica) purchased the land in 2015 and its management has been entrusted to Antibes. The walk took over an hour and was quite rough under foot, as the rocks were sharp and angled. The views were special, the sea at times a deep turquoise blue and the few swimming areas looked most inviting. We even walked past ‘millionaires beach’ which was a very pretty cove. Towards the end of the walk we cut across the peninsula, passing many of the neatly hedged villas, that no doubt were and still are owned by the millionaires.
01 September 2019 | Monaco
Ros Brice | Hot and sunny
We swam ashore next morning, all 490 metres one way! The beach was packed with the last of the holidaymakers, all sunning themselves on their designated deck chairs. It was a very long beach and we enjoyed our walk, stopping for a coffee on the return. The street behind the beach had a number of attractive buildings and between the road and the beach there were attractive gardens and lots of children's play equipment areas.
The Italian Riviera Coast has very few anchorages. It seems that to anchor off some lovely beach and spend some enjoyable time is not something that the Italian Maritime Authorities encourage. We therefore motored for 23 NMs, passing the Italy/France Mediterranean border to enter the French Riviera. Here the rules seem to be more inviting for the cruising yachtsmen and our next overnight anchorage was at Plage du Carnoles, just under Cap Martin. This looked like a nice sweep of beach and it offered good protection from the prevailing Westerlies. More swimming was in order, Peter and Sue choosing to swim ashore but finding a rather inhospitable rocky shore line which was somewhat mystifying as they had been swimming over a very sandy bottom all the way from Trilogy. Garth and I chose to swim closer to Trilogy, but clocking up quite some distance around the buoys. We had a good appetite for the tasty Lamb Navarin dinner cooked by Peter and Sue.
Next morning the wind came up earlier than expected and there was a forecast of 30 knot winds around lunchtime. We had our résérvation for 12:00 in Port Fontvieille, the new port for the Principality of Monaco. We only had 3 NMs to motor and with the strong wind predicted, the skipper was keen that we get into the marina as soon as possible. As we came around Cap Martin headland, we were totally amazed to suddenly see the tiny but highly developed semi-autonomous state of Principality of Monaco.
Monaco's total area is just under one square mile in area! It extends from a point immediately east of Cap d'Ail to just before Pte de la Vieille under Cap Martin. There is a wall of high rise apartments that spreads to either end of the borders of Monaco, but the concentration of modern skyscrapers around the harbour at Monte Carlo, makes no mistake of what you are seeing. The most important thing to remember is that it is not France, it is a sovereign state, but has no border controls. It has its own flag (equal bands of horizontal red and white, with red on top), French is the official language and the Euro is the official currency, but Monaco does not belong to the EU. Once you get your head around all that, it is a beguiling place.
We stood off the cliffs on which the famed Oceanographic Museum is set, which clings tenaciously to the rocks almost to sea level, and requested entry to Porto de Fontvieille. We were pleased that they were ready for us and once through the narrow space between the port and starboard markers we were greeted by lofty limestone cliffs, that formed a solid wall to one side of the marina. We were impressed by the efficiency of the marina staff who assisted us and we were very pleased with our berth, among a long line of motor cruisers. We felt that Trilogy would be safe in any blow, no matter how strong.
On top of these limestone cliffs, the old city of Monaco is built, including the Palais du Prince, where the current Prince Albert 11 and his wife Charlene reside.
Peter set off to buy fresh bread for lunch and after what seemed a very long time, he appeared in a state of agitation, but with 2 baguettes and some pastries in his clutches. He hadn't had a very good experience in Carrefour, lining up in the wrong place twice, no credit card accepted and then very careful examination of the cash notes he presented. He really meant it when he said 'I am never going shopping there again....ever!' and we all smiled knowingly. After lunch and the heat of the afternoon had passed, we set off to explore the old city area, which sits loftily on a pistol shaped rock. This strategic location became the stronghold of the Grimaldi dynasty and is where the Monaco Palace is located. We decided not to join the queue for the tour of the Palais du Prince but did enjoy seeing the guard striding up and down at the entrance and then retreating to his guardhouse, like a toy soldier. Next stop was the Cathédrale de Monaco, where we expected to see the graves of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, but that section of the Cathedral was cordoned off. The interior is very elegant. We then headed just a bit further down the cliff line to the Musée Oceanographique, where we did get to see the wonderful aquarium with excellent displays of fish species from far and wide and live coral. Prince Albert 1 (1848-1922) was a keen oceanographer and promoted preservation of the seas to the world. Prince Rainier 111 and Prince Albert 11 have been/are also actively supporting this important work, including a special focus on saving turtles from extinction. We had a cool drink on top of this beautiful building before walking back through the cliff top gardens and back to Trilogy.
There is a dress code of long pants and shoes for men and slacks or dresses for women to enter the Monaco Casino up until 8pm, after which time it is coat and tie. We just wanted to have a glimpse of the famed James Bond casino but unfortunately we did not realise that passports or driver's licences were required to enter the gaming area. We tried in vain to find something digital for my proof of ID but it had to be original documents in the end! It is a very beautiful building, full of granite floors and marble pillars, chandeliers and statues. We headed to the Hotel de Paris across the square, but having got into the foyer for 5 seconds, we were asked to leave, as we were not guests. Talk about feeling like a mere mortal! There was an endless stream of Bentley's, Roll Royce, Ferrari's, McLaren's and Mercedes to name a few outside in the Casino Square, which had an Anish Kapoor sculpture 'Mirror of the World' centred in the beautiful gardens. We were mesmerised for a while just gazing at the scene before us, nothing like our idea of 'normal', but for some this is the norm!
Passage making and departing Corsica
26 August 2019 | East coast of Corsica
Ros Brice | Sunny and hot
Departure was planned for 11:00 next morning, with a brief shopping expedition using the rental car before it needed to be returned. The supermarket was called Electric and it was huge! The biggest problem we had was where to find the trolleys! Once that was sorted we did some speed shopping so that the car deadline of 10:00 wasn't breached.
The shopping stowed, the girls found time for a coffee ashore, which was a treat we hadn't managed before. The first cafe refused to serve us coffee because we didn't want food (!) but the second cafe was more welcoming and we settled in for a short relax. The men had been busy with various jobs but Trilogy departed smoothly at 11:00. We have made a practice of calling the marina on the VHF radio soon after departure to thank them for their hospitality, which seems to be appreciated.
Our destination was Baie de San Ciprianu, a large bay immediately north of the entry to Porto-Vecchio. This is a popular place with several hotels and a camping ground. The water was very clear and we found ourselves anchored among the waterskiing brigade. There were also paragliders swooping overhead and the usual donut and banana boat riders screaming their heads off! It was a bit dangerous to swim too far from Trilogy, but the water and swim was most enjoyable.
We could see the mountain range that we had visited the day before and for most of the afternoon a storm was brewing. The mountains cloud cover looked ominous and we didn't find it hard to imagine what was happening up there. We fully expected that the storm would come in Trilogy's direction and we were entertained for quite some time, expecting the thunder and lightning to arrive, but it didn't! The paragliders kept flying until there was no more light and the skidoos kept churning along, at breakneck speed.
The cruising plan goal was to circumnavigate Corsica, which meant we were now committed to motor/cruising up the east coast which had very few anchorages that afforded protection from the prevailing easterly winds. We departed at 07:30 next morning and turned north, travelling close enough to the coast to enjoy the beauty of the mountains coming down to the sea, the almost continuous golden sandy beaches and the small townships that hugged the coast, the biggest being Solenzara. There have been a few marinas built, but mostly to accommodate small local craft. We had not enjoyed the marina in Bastia when we first made landfall after the sail from Isola d'Elba, mostly because it was very hot, yet this marina was the only one that could have accommodated Trilogy. Our choice was to push on, avoid Bastia altogether, and by 21:10 we were anchored at Portoicciolo, a small bay that would give us good protection overnight and minimise the swell that had been running all day. It had been a fairly stress free day, with only a bit of sail hoisting and a current that had set us back one knot. The amazing thing was that it was Portoicciola that Trilogy had anchored in 8 years earlier and we had strong memories of very strange people and tin cow cutouts on the headland. The cows had gone and we didn't venture ashore to test the locals! The anchor was barely bedded in when we all jumped into the clear refreshing water to cool off. We had freshly made frittata for dinner and then it was lights out, but not before toasting the circumnavigation of Corsica!
A rest day followed the marathon day. We awoke to another beautiful morning and a good swim for exercise was what we wanted. After morning tea it was time to move on a little and 6NMs further north we anchored in Baie de Tamarone, just north of the little fishing village of Macinaggio, three quarters of the way up Cap Corse, the 'finger' of Corsica. Nearby were rocky islets known as Iles Finocchiarola, which gave us the opportunity to take the tender over for some snorkelling in the incredibly clear water. The outermost islet had a conspicuous Genoese tower on it and there was the wreck of a coastal trader on the northern side, which made for interesting snorkelling. There were more fish around these islets and beautiful rock formations, due to it being a Nature Reserve.....the fish know these things!
In the 16C, the Genoese were anxious to develop agriculture in Corsica, though it was their own needs and not the Corsicans that they had in mind. They encouraged the cultivation of wheat and olives on the northeast plains of Corsica to export to Genoa and they needed a substitute for the Corsican's own consumption. The solution was chestnuts! The chestnuts grew readily on the steep mountain slopes where wheat could not be grown and the flour made from the chestnuts replaced flour made from wheat. It gave rise to a whole cuisine based around chestnuts and pork from the pigs that foraged for chestnuts. Today, chestnut flour is hardly used at all though domestic and wild pigs still feature prominently in Corsican cuisine.
Trilogy was to leave the Corsican waters and journey across the Ligurian Sea to the Italian Riviera, some 70 NMs. Visiting Corsica has been a beautiful experience. To quote from a book by Dorothy Carrington about this granite island: 'The mountains surged into the sky, behind, beyond and above one another, ending in rows of cones and spikes and square topped knobs like gigantic teeth. Their lower slopes, smothered in vegetation, look uninhabited and impenetrable.' This poetic description is how the mountains affected us. We were often spellbound, just gazing at their majesty, the crispness of the ridge lines and the colours they reflected back to us. In our close up inspections of the natural landform, the granite has been moulded and contoured into some most intriguing and beautiful shapes. There were many seemingly impossible balancing rocks, holding firm through time and weather events, yet looking like their balancing act could be over at any moment! Maybe this is a metaphor for Corsica, a land that has historically endured a tug of war for sovereignty, and yet the balance is being maintained, with both the Italian and French influences strongly evident and finely balanced. Corsica is financially very dependent on France but they are a proudly independent people and no doubt are determined to stay that way.
At 05:30 on 26 August we departed our anchorage, just as the first light of dawn was visible. We have been researching the descriptions of dawn to determine how early we could leave, with enough light to assist our departure. There is an astronomical dawn (when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon) a nautical dawn (when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon) and a civil dawn (when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon).
We had a beautiful sunrise, very calm seas and very little wind, the most wind at 7 knots being in the first couple of hours. We had a brief visitation by some dolphins and multiple visitations from dragonflies! It took us 12 hours to cover the distance, anchoring under Capo Berta, off the township of Diano around 17:30. The church bells were ringing and there is no mistaking that Trilogy was in Italian waters once more.
Porto-Vecchio and our mountain exploration
24 August 2019 | Porto-Vecchio
Ros Brice | Hot, stormy then steamy
Our plan for the next day was to have a morning tea stop at a bay we could have a swim and then head into Porto-Vecchio marina, for which we had made our résérvation! By 11:30, just a further 2 NMs further east, we dropped anchor in Golfe de Porto Novo, where we found the water to be absolutely crystal clear. Maybe the pilot had swapped descriptions of the two bays and that ‘exquisite’ was more applicable to Porto Novo. It was completely unspoilt, no buildings or structures and only a long walking trail into the beach, so very few visitors as well. We swam ashore, walked the beach, swam around to the point and then across the bay to Trilogy. It was a lovely swim as the water was very clear, there were a few schools of fish and there were no crazy drivers to be avoided.
As we were keen to get into the marina before siesta time, we motored a further 9 NMs around into the Golfe de Porto Vecchio and headed for a series of marker buoys. Like all our Corsica anchorages, there are hidden hazards beneath and in this Golfe it is Banc de Benedetto, with shoal water and a reef that partially obstructs the north of the Golfe. The marina sat at the head of the Golfe and we had to take particular care crossing a narrow, shallow section just before the marina, with depths less than 3 metres. Once requested to enter the marina, we had a tight turn to spin Trilogy around and then squeeze into a tight berth, that was barely long enough. As Trilogy has the tender mounted on davets beyond the stern, she needs a good length of marina mooring line to allow Trilogy to come forward that bit extra. While everything from Trilogy’s point of view was going well for this exercise, we had a couple of episodes that scared the sox off us! In the process of turning Trilogy around, another yacht was coming directly towards our beam at a fair old clip. There was a red shirted marina guy in a tender escorting this yacht but he had obscured vision and if it wasn’t for some yelling (and expletives) from Trilogy, they would have hit us mid ships! No sooner had we recovered from that then we had a less than helpful red shirted marina girl, supposedly there on the dock to assist us with the lines. One would think she had no idea what she was there for, as it became clear that we had to prompt her, and that she did not like! She took 4 goes to throw a stern line, let alone be asked to pick up and pass the mooring line for us to quickly tie off at the bow. While the skipper had been clear in the requests, she was blatantly rude and yelled a parting comment ‘next time be polite’ .....more French attitude!
We enjoyed a late lunch and then some free time for everyone to do as they pleased. Sue and Peter walked up to the old town, which sits atop a small but yet steep hill above the marina. The marina itself was mainly for smaller craft but on the outer wall, there were several large super yachts. The township behind the marina, consisting mainly of restaurants with taller sixties type three storey apartments behind, was not nearly as attractive as Bonifacio. In the evening, Peter had chosen a nice restaurant for our evening meal, Casa Corsa. it was a balmy night and we sat out on a deck with lovely polished timber tables, smartly set with black table mats and white serviettes. The wild boar was popular with the men, a specialty dish in Corsica. Sue chose a delicious rolled veal fillet with olives and tomatoes and I went for a St Pierre fish meal, served with mashed pumpkin and a coriander cream. Peter had befriended the maître Benjamin and as we lefties and thanked him he said enchanté, which we later translated ‘nice to have met you’! Some French can be so charming!
Porto Vecchio’s old walled town has been the site of human settlement for thousands of years. The Toreens, the invaders who took over from the megalithic culture around 1500 BC, are thought to have based themselves at Porto-Vecchio, before spreading westward across the island. The Romans used Porto-Vecchio as one of their east coast ports and when the Genoese arrived, they too exploited the natural shelter of the Golfe. The Genoese built the old walled town on the easily defended bluff. They also built numerous towers around the adjacent coast to defend and warn the town against enemy attacks....those were the days! Up until more recent times the town itself was rundown and had become unattractive, with only the hinterland offering its wonderful natural beauty. Today, tourism has brought an improved appearance and vibrancy to the town itself.
Next day, Thursday, we had arranged for a rental car to do a road trip up into the mountain region. Our route took us north-west to the picturesque town of L’Ospedale and above the town there was a panoramic view back down to the coast. By now we were 900 metres in altitude and were driving through pine forests on twisting roads. The granite boulders of which Corsica seems to be mainly composed, were starting to make their beauty apparent. The road continued past the ‘Barrage de l’Ospedale’ (dam) and we climbed even higher to a walkers mecca known as Cascade de Piscia di Ghjaddu. We had morning tea (a small truly delicious lemon meringue pie was divided up!) and then we set off on the trail. We knew it took 45 minutes walk to see the waterfall, but we did not expect that the terrain was rough and quite rocky. It was hot, so the sweat poured out of us but it was so good to be experiencing the natural landscape. However, I have revisited my desire to come back one day to walk in Corsica! It was hard underfoot and every step had to be well placed. We were amazed at the number of young children who were managing the walk well with their parents, without complaint.....except for Max, who kept sitting down, much to his father’s exasperation! Perhaps the early introduction to difficult terrain makes it the norm, if you live in Corsica. There certainly wasn’t any ice cream shop when they got to the waterfall! What was there was a beautiful gorge with the most fantastic granite cliffs, with forest trees coming up from the valley floor and the roar of mountain water, which was piped from the Barrage de l’Ospedal. The view of the falls was from the side at the upper level - it was a further descent to the depths of the valley for a front on aspect and that and we didn’t have the time to do!
Our car journey continued on along the ridge line and then a descent into the next valley, to reach the pretty village of Zonza. This is a centre for mountain cyclists, many of whom we passed winding their way up the road. There were several restaurants to chose from but they were all full and we settled for a panini for lunch. The grey clouds that had hovered above decided to deliver a storm with lightening, thunder and steady rain, which sent people scurrying. Once the rain had eased, we walked to the nearby Musée de la Resistance, a museum dedicated to recounting the history of the resistance in the region, Italian and German occupation, and the liberation of Corsica in September/October 1943. Although Corsica had been in Italian hands until it was purchased by France in 1768, the Corsicans fiercely protested to Italy that their loyalty lay with France in the 1930s, under the Mussolini Fascist regime. The Musée functions as a memorial to the Corsica resistance and a reminder of how for Corsica WW2 became a battle to resist Italy as much as Germany, and to redefine Corsica’s relationship with mainland France.
It was still raining when we emerged from the Musée, so we needed to revise our plan for the remainder of the day. We had hoped to visit Le Plateau du Cuscionu in the National Regional Park of Corsica, at 1500 metres, but the young girl at the Tourist Office was adamant that as it was bad weather in Zonza, it was going to be far worse higher up. The road was badly potholed but in good weather it promised to be a spectacular area to visit. It has a hilly terrain, lush green valleys and wild boar, horses and cattle that graze freely around the numerous springs and pozzines, a short soft grass meadow, found in the mountain regions of Corsica.
The revised plan was to descend to the pretty little town of Ste Lucie de Tallano, where there was un moulin à huile d’olive.This mill dates from the 18C and we were able to see the various means of pressing the olives were carried out. A huge stone mill wheel was turned by a water stream to press and grind, while another method was cast iron presses, with a hand woven sack containing the fruit. We struggled with our lack of French to understand the explanation given by the old man who looked after the mill and he seemed to delight in making jokes to the French speakers about us! I guess when you get into the back blocks of any country, you can’t expect much consideration, especially with language.
We had no time to visit an important archeological site called Cucuruzzu, which is one of about twenty casteddu or hill forts discovered mostly in southern Corsica. Occupying a rocky granite spur overlooking the northern slopes of a plateau, the ensemble dates from the Bronze Age (2nd-1st millennium BC). The village, arising from a number of natural terraces and stone huts is enclosed by a protective wall. These stronghold headquarters served both as protective havens and communal granaries.
From Ste Lucie de Tallano it was time to head back to Trilogy, following a well made mountain road all the way down into the valley. Along the way we stopped at a lookout to take in another spectacular view all the way down to Porto-Vecchio. Nearby was a memorial to the Resistance fighters we had learnt about at the Musée and there was no doubt that it had been a tough stand by the local men to withstand the threat of invasion. It was also recognised that the women had played a vital role in the Resistance...bravo! A road tunnel that we had just passed through must have been an important position for defence; it all seemed so much more real when you looked at the memorial to the bravery of the men and women, the lives lost and the tunnel they had defended!