St Cyprien Plage was the first stop in France. The Gulf de Lion has more gale force winds than any other area of the Mediterranean, and my first sail into France proved that the winds here are crazy! From St Cyprien Plage I had a great sail up to Cap d’Agde, and when I moored up in the marina I noticed I had a fishing pot on my keel! I met a German couple who knew Tony (the taxi driver) who moored his boat four down from me in Hull marina…small world! From Cap d’Agde I sailed in sunshine and good wind, but not in the forecast direction. So I went to Port Camargue, and not to Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, as planned. Port Camargue is one of many purpose built holiday home-marina complexes which in April lack character….and especially when it rained one day! The sail to Marseille was long, eventful, good fun and tiring. I arrived at the Port Vieux just as the sun was setting. Next day, friend Joanne flew in to Marseille as a last minute arrangement. Over a few days we saw, and tasted, the best of Marseille and sailed to the Calanques, staying one night in Port Miou.
I stayed in Marseille for a few more days and went to watch Olympic de Marseille, celebrated my birthday and endured the Mistral and its 50knot winds!
The sail to Toulon was tough and I wandered through the next day. But I hadn’t realised that Toulon were playing in the rugby (Union) European Cup at Twickenham the following day. I bought a ticket to watch the match at the Toulon stadium on the big screen. Toulon won, and the city went crazy!
I left Toulon expecting a gentle sail, but got tough day in strong winds and a choppy sea! I arrived in Le Lavandou tired, and with a wind generator that wasn’t charging the batteries….someone once said that long distance cruising is “mending boats in exotic places!” How true, today.
After a telephone call back to the UK it was agreed that the problem wasn’t the wind generator, but the control panel. While organising to send the control panel back to the UK for repair, a guy in a motor yacht lost control in the marina and hit the Wildbeast causing damage to the pushpit. I realised something was wrong when the fenders were hanging in the water and the guard rail was dangling….the pushpit was bent forward. So I organised for the boat to be lifted out of the water in Bormes les Mimosas and did the annual antifoul, greased the propeller, replace anodes and polished the hull while the repair was done…..and a fabulous job too! The insurance company were great, and the control panel came back for me to refit at the same time. Voila! I stayed in Bormes marina for another week waiting for the ship registration document, which needs renewing every five years, and while all this was going on I met a wonderful group of Dutch, French, American and anyone else who wanted to join us at La Cave du Port at six every evening.
I sailed out of Bormes les Mimosas exactly one month after arriving at Le Lavandou, and went to St Tropez….about 35 years since I last went there! It’s still a wonderful place. Every day super yachts leave the port and new ones moor up for the evening…an amazing amount of money in such a small village.
Then I sailed to Cannes, and stopped for a week. There I met Volker and Cornelia, the German couple I first met in Cap d’Agde. Then it was the shortest passage yet as I completed a 10nm sail to Juan-les-Pins, and in very strong winds…about double the forecast! Juan-les-Pins also won the prize for the most expensive marina yet! Another short sail to Nice where I met Ben and Danielle, a young English couple, mooring near to me….they took time out of that work thing, bought a boat in Corfu, sailed around the Greek islands and are now sailing back to Falmouth to start a family…a lovely couple and a lovely story! Amazingly, soon after Ben and Danielle left another young couple Paul and Charlie (Jersey and New Zealand) moored in the same spot! After a weekend of music concerts I sailed to Beaulieu-sur-Mer for two days, and then to Monaco, where I met Paul and Charlie again. Then it was au devoir to France…..