We are in France for the first time on our trip! I think we may have been in French waters for a while when we crossed the channel on our way into the Bay of Biscay but we haven’t touched French soil. Until now!!
Marseille was a complete revelation. I don’t know what I expected to see, oil slicks and floating debris perhaps, a few abandoned tankers, rusting outside of the harbour maybe! I don’t know why but all that I have read and heard about this city gave me the impression that Marseille was dirty, a bit seedy, rundown but no. The approaches to the city were magnificent. The sun was just rising as we rounded the Frioul archipelago, a small island group about a mile off shore, as we cleared them we could see the sun glinting off the gold statue of ‘Mary’ atop the Notre-dame de la Garde high on the hill overlooking the city.
It was great to see Karen and Peter’s expression. By sea really is the best way to approach a coastal city. You can imagine sailors back in time navigating these waters, looking at the same rocky headlands we were taking pictures of now. It can’t of changed that much.
I was knackered, I didn’t sleep at all really during the crossing, maybe two 10 - 20 minute naps. I thought I would be able to relax with more people onboard, after all Karen and Peter are sailors but it sought of had the reverse effect on me. I felt I had more responsibility somehow. We did split up into watches, with Claire and Karen looking after things until midnight then Peter and I took over. We did it like this for two reasons, both girls were better during the day, while Peter and I were OK during the night. We were also under motor with no wind and only the main up so no real risk other than keeping a good lookout. Peter, now retired but coming from a career that involved regular shift work had no trouble sleeping during our off watch period but I just couldn’t. By the time the girls were ready to take over from us at around 0400 we were in the approaches to the city. I helmed for a bit in the hours just before sunrise as we were coming into the traffic separation zones around the city with larger ships moving in and out of their berths. I was so tired I started seeing things, big road bridges, large structures that I thought we may hit!! I even asked Peter to shine our powerful lamp on one of them as I thought they were that close even though there was nothing on the chart!! I must try to learn to relax enough to sleep on the longer passages.
We were going into CNTL marina as recommended by Phillipe and Christine a very nice couple we had met in Mahon who reside in Marseille. We were a bit early for the office so we tied up at the visitor’s pontoon and waited. Karen and Peter were happy to have arrived. Karen really enjoyed the experience and now wants to do a few longer trips in their own boat when they get back home to Australia. Anyway, the office opened and we booked in for two nights. After a shower and a coffee we all felt good enough to have a wander into the city. Our marina was right in the center of the old town. It was great, very busy with a diverse population, narrow streets leading off who knows where. Marseille was colonised by the Greeks in 600BC so there was a lot of history surrounding us. After a few hours of sightseeing we felt hungry so we looked for a restaurant. All four of us agreed on one thing when we are looking for a place to eat, to try to find somewhere the locals use, somewhere off of the tourist trail. Well we found the perfect place in an alleyway between two roads the ‘Le Globule’ looked perfect. The menu was interesting and the staff fantastic. Pete said ‘it’s like a group of truckers got together and decided to open a restaurant’ don’t get me wrong the tables had cloths on them, we had serviettes, clean knives and forks with bread and a bottle of water on the table. It’s just that the owners\staff were a bit rough and ready but boy could they cook! The food was delicious and very reasonably priced. The food and drink along with the lack of sleep started to take its toll on all of us and we were soon back on RR readying ourselves for a well-earned sleep.
Friday 2nd September, (My younger sister Julie’s birthday) saw us walking around the harbour to visit the new MuCEM. I love marinas there is always something interesting to look at even if you don’t like boats. There were quite a few classic yachts in one area, their varnished woodwork glowing in the sun. Fishermen were selling their mornings catch on the wharf as they had always done. We had seen pictures of this scene captured almost 100 years ago. Now though they were accompanied by ‘The Ombriére’ a polished steel structure from the design team of the celebrated British architect Norman Foster that looks amazing as well as providing much needed shelter from the relentless sun.
You enter the MuCEM through the 17th century fort of St Jean before crossing a narrow bridge high above the water to a very modern structure that is covered by an interesting web of concrete. We sat enjoying a drink looking at the views out to sea all feeling proud of ourselves as we had crossed those same waters from Spain not 24 hours ago. It is a fantastic building. I personally love the way very old and very new buildings can work together.
On then to the number 60 bus which stops a short walk from the MuCEM. We took this all the way to the highest point in Marseille to the Notre-dame de la Garde. What a view, again we looked out over the sea towards the Frioul islands getting a better view of the Chateaux d’If. This was originally a fortress but changed into a prison during the 17th century. Its most famous inmate was ‘The count of Monte-Cristo’ who Alexandre Dumas immortalized in his novel.
The Notre-dame de la Garde started life as a fort built in 1524. Later a church was built on the site, slowly developing into a center of devotion for sailors. The inside, like all of these very old churches was magnificent. This one though had many models of different ships and boats hanging from the ceiling.
We boarded the bus for the trip back down to the city, getting off in search of food. We sat at one Thai restaurant only to be told that it was closing!! It was lunchtime? So we walked a few yards to sit at another. We looked at the menu with three of us opting for buck wheat crepes with a savory filling. The waiter came back a few minutes later to inform us that they had no buckwheat left!! So we got up again and I suggested that we went back to ‘Le Globule’ it wasn’t far and when we got there we sat at the same table receiving a welcoming smile from the owners. I just love this place. I had a wonderful chicken cooked in a wok with other stuff and rice dish, I didn’t want to know what the other stuff was but it tasted absolutely gorgeous. After the meal the owner\ chef came out to chat with us. I clicked with this bloke immediately. It’s great when that happens. We were given shot glasses of something I couldn’t drink. Peter quite liked it though then, when it was time to leave he wanted pictures with us all. What a great place.
We made our way back to the boat via a ’cave’ that Peter had found during one of his early morning walks. This place was nothing like the one he discovered in Porto Roses. It was sort of creepy, I can’t explain why really. It was like being in someone’s house that likes wine. There were bottles everywhere but mixed in with other stuff, like boxes of pictures and glass cabinets filled with all sorts of things from can openers to little china figurines. Nothing had a price tag on so you wasn’t sure if it was for sale or not! Then this woman came in and asked if we would like to see the cellars? Peter and I said yes, she took us down some very old steep wooden steps. It smelled damp and musty down there and I remember looking back up at the doorway wondering if I would ever see the light of day again. The woman was a bit odd, she didn’t say much she just gestured for us to enter all of these different rooms that had full wine racks along one wall and a single light hanging from the vaulted ceiling. I was concentrating on remembering the way out but it was like a labyrinth, I wish I had a torch because if the lights went out………..
Finally back upstairs we said our goodbyes and left. Very strange. Back in the bright sunshine we walked back to the marina via a Lidl to the marina, Peter stopped to buy some ‘Olive soap’ don’t ask.
We were leaving in the morning and I wanted some diesel. I decanted what I had in my trusty 30L plastic containers, the same ones I had found in the skip in Falmouth into the boats tank. I borrowed a plastic wheel barrow from the marina and walked with Peter and Karen to the petrol station about 10 minutes away. I like to get diesel from a petrol station as often it’s a lot cheaper and we have found in large, busy marinas you can wait for ages as other boats fill up in front of you at the fuel pontoon. Karen and Peter wanted to look at a park we passed and I said I would go on and fill the cans.
As I approached the fuel station I couldn’t see an office or shop. As I watched I realized that it was completely automated. You put your credit card in the pump, entered your PIN then started to fill. The only problem was I only had the ‘Kitty’ purse (as soon as Karen and Peter had arrived we started a Kitty. We all put in equal amounts of Euros and paid for everything out of the kitty) I sat for a few minutes hoping Karen and Peter would return but I couldn’t remember if Karen had her handbag with her. A young girl pulled up and started filling her car. I went over and asked if she could speak English, of course she could! I explained my problem and without a moment’s hesitation she asked if I would like her to use her card with me giving her the cash! I couldn’t believe how trusting this girl was and I hope my girls would try to be as helpful. I was in the middle of filling the second can when Karen and Peter arrived. They too were pleased to hear how nice people can be. I had 70 Euros of fuel and paid the young lady in cash. Shaking her hand in thanks. We walked back to the boat and made her ready for the trip to Cassis the following morning.
Karen took us out of the marina, it was very busy and we joined the queue of boats heading out to open sea. We passed in between Frioul islands and the two very large cardinal markers heading towards ‘The Calanques Massive’ I know it sounds like a very serious rash you’d need ointment for but it is in fact the most beautiful stretch of coastline. The discovery of the Cosquer underwater cave with wall paintings dating back 27,000 years helped turn The Calanques Massive into a National park in 2012. The wind was very light and we turned into all of the steep sided ‘Calanques’ for a look as we made our way to the bay of Cassis anchoring by the beach for lunch and a swim. Mmmmmm.
We stayed for a few hours before heading for our overnight stopover in Port d’Aon. This was a beautiful spot we were anchored with four other boats and enjoyed a pleasant meal and a few glasses of wine as we watched the sun go down.
Karen and Peter had been with us for over a week now and Claire and I couldn’t believe how well we all got on. It is not just ‘getting on’ when four adults are living in such a small space you need to consider and be considerate to those around you. Claire and I had been living on RR for 18months and I didn’t feel like we had changed our routines at all to accommodate Karen and Peter. It really was easy and enjoyable having them onboard. We did fit in very well with each other.
Sunday 4th September. After breakfast we launched the RIB and rowed to shore (No outboards allowed) we had a pleasant walk around the headland, circling back through the pine trees to the small bar\restaurant on the beach where we had a nice drink before heading back for lunch on RR. We were leaving after we had eaten for a marina called Sanery-sur-Mer which was only a couple of hours away. The day trippers had started to arrive with one of them anchoring so close they had to fend off their boat from hitting RR for ten minutes before we were ready to leave.
We had a nice sail to the marina and saw our friend Al Long’s boat ‘Astara’ in the distance. Remember he came to visit us when we were in Las Illetas Majorca.
When we were close to the marina we called on channel 9 and two marinaros came to meet us in a RIB directing and helping us into a nice berth. We were glad to be in as I had downloaded a forecast that showed strong winds, possibly developing into a mistral arriving in the area on Monday.
We showered and had a walk around the marina, it really was beautiful. There were many traditional fishing boats moored around the edges. Their colourful paint work gleaming in the sun. The main road was blocked off to traffic during the summer months making it a pleasure to walk and a safe area for those with children and pets. There were many café’s and restaurant’s to choose from, Peter wanted a crepe so we stopped at one that specialised in them. Finally we had our savoury buckwheat pancakes followed by some sweet ones too. The French do make very good crepes.
The following morning we spent some time cleaning RR. While Karen and Peter took the washing to a local ‘Laverie’ Claire cleaned below decks and I scrubbed above. Another Etap ‘Argo’ came into the marina and berthed a few places down from us. I cheered as they came in and they cheered back. You don’t see too many Etaps together. Both Peter and I spoke to the Frenchmen on the Etap when we met them on the pontoon and I invited them on-board later that day to have a look around RR.
When we were all done with the cleaning we had some lunch before walking into town to try and find a bigger supermarket as we needed to restock the boat. The wind was really blowing now and we saw the space ship shaped clouds (try saying that fast after a few G&T’s) that were a clear indication of a Mistral, apparently. We eventually found a ‘Casino’ supermarket and proceeded to fill a large trolley. After our experience in Mahon I first checked that we could get a cab back to the marina!! We could and the cab dropped us right outside our pontoon. We left Claire to pack everything away, there’s no point trying to help her. When we were all tidy the people from ‘Argo’ came on –board. There was Jean-Luc, Gerard, Anne Marie and Rosine. Rosine was quick to explain that they were all friends, not husbands and wives as is usually the case. I was more interested to hear that they, well Jean-Luc and Gerard live on the island of Porquerolles which was to be our next destination. Every French sailor we had met when hearing of our plan to sail around the Mediterranean French coast insisted that we should stop at Porquerolles. Jean-Luc and Gerard were very helpful. Pointing out all of the best places to anchor with the Easterlies that were forecast in mind. Jean-Luc gave us his phone number asking us to call him if we had any problems. We had a very pleasant hour or so with them before agreeing to meet up when we got there. We were both leaving around the same time in the morning so we may even see each other on the water.
We decided to walk up the hill that was behind the marina office, there was some beautiful houses en route some of which had plaques on explaining that a German intellectual and his wife lived here in the early thirties after fleeing their homeland in the face of rising Nazism. There were quite a few of these plaques and it appears this was a safe haven for many of them until war was declared and the French government declared them alien exiles.
We finally reached the end of the cliff road and looked out at a very rough sea with white water everywhere. We all agreed that Sanary-sur-Mer was a safe haven for us too at the moment.
On the morning of the 6th September I had an urgent task to perform before we left. I had to, without fail get Claire a Birthday present. It was her Birthday on the 7th September. I had the card but no gift. Peter and I had walked around the town the evening before but all the shops were closed so I was now scurrying from shop to shop looking for something both I and she would like. I found a very nice lemon top in the right size that I liked and I was sure she would as long as it fitted. Oh well, back to the boat.
As I arrived I could see ‘Argo’ at the fuel pontoon. We were ready to go so after checking the engine, oil and water levels etc. we made our way out of the marina with Peter at the helm. It was still a bit gusty and we could expect 15-20 knots of wind as we rounded the headland. I pulled the main up with Karen’s help and set the genoa. We were sailing well on a close reach or fetch (the wind was coming from the left and front of the boat) We now had a choice, to go around a small island called Ile Du Grand-Rouveau or go through a very narrow shallow gap between it and the mainland. I was sure that I could see ’Argo’ up ahead going through so I decided to follow her. Claire, standing beside Peter asked me several times if I was sure as it was ’ bloody tight’ I looked again, admittedly there were a few rocks poking up above the water line but it looked OK. The wind was very gusty here and I could see a smaller boat in front struggling to hold its course. I asked Peter to start the engine and use it if he felt the need whilst I held onto the traveller control lines ready to dump the main should the wind try to round us up. Peter was very quiet he was concentrating hard on the plotter and keeping us on course. Karen kept looking over the side saying ‘it does look quite shallow’
We were gaining fast on a smaller yacht and I didn’t want both of us to reach the narrow part together so I used the engine to get past him. I put it back into neutral and we glided along under sail. Looking over the side you could clearly see the bottom but that’s no real indication of the depth as the water is so clear around here. As we came to the narrow part I could almost feel Peter and Claire breath in, ‘Blimey’ Claire said ‘that was very tight’ Peter started to smile again and we were through. I turned the engine off and within a few minutes we had cleared the headland and the Easterly wind showed its full strength. At 15 – 18 knots RR likes to have one reef in her main. I talked through with everyone how we do it on RR. Claire feathers the boat into wind using the headsail alone. (Feathers means to sail the boat almost straight into the wind moving the helm back and forwards just enough to keep the boat moving but without actually tacking) I ease the main sheet and pull up on the topping lift to depower the sail and lift the boom slightly. I then lower the main enough to allow me to put the Dyneema loop on reef 1 into the spring clip on the boom. I retention the main halyard before pulling in on the No 1 reefing line ensuring that I don’t catch any of the sail between the line, brass eye and the boom as it could tear it. I then ease the topping lift and sheet in the main. Claire can then bare away. It sounds complicated but we can do this in two – three minutes. Well with four of us on-board it was easy. Soon we were sailing very comfortably with one reef in the main and one in the genoa, Peter was still at the helm grinning like Australia had just won the rugby world cup. We were flying, we weren’t going in the right direction but we nearly were and on a day when you had 15 – 20 knots of breeze blowing across a blue sea flecked with white and the sun beating down it didn’t really matter. We were sailing………….
After 4 or 5 hours of this with long legs heading out to sea before tacking back into shore we found ourselves just off Cap Cepet at the beginning of the wide entrance into Toulon. As we sailed across we looked down and back to see a few warships as well as a couple of large cruise liners tucked into this famous natural harbour. It was tempting to go in for a closer look but it was getting late and we wanted time to make sure we found a good spot to drop our anchor in Porquerolles. Our ideal course saw us, yes your way ahead of me, heading straight into wind so reluctantly I pulled in the genoa and started the engine. The wind had dropped to about 10 knots and we made good time. As we were approaching Ile Du Grand Ribaud I saw another Etap! As we got closer I realised that it was ‘Argo’ we waved as we passed each other, they were going inside again while I opted to go around the long way this time, not because of the narrow gap but because we would have clean wind on the far side of the island. We took some pictures of them sailing, it's always nice to see pictures of your own boat under full sail before making our way to the anchorage Jean-Luc told us to use off Point de la Tufiere. Claire started smiling saying that she could see ‘Scarlett’ on the AIS anchored in the bay we intended to use. Great news. We had been keeping in touch but it's always nice to see these two.
It took two attempts before we were happy with the anchor, both Claire and Peter had a swim to check it was set OK. As we were sorting the boat out two swimmers with snorkelling gear on swam over to us from a boat anchored about 50 meters away. They both stopped and looked up at me waving?? It's was only when they removed their masks that I recognised Phillipe and Christine the couple who live in Marseille that we had met in Mahon, Try to keep up!! They were leaving soon and just wanted to say hi.
Before long we had Graeme and Jayne on board with introductions to Karen and Peter made we soon had wine glasses full toasting ourselves and everyone else. Ahh what a way to end an absolutely splendid day.
The 7th September, Claire’s birthday. Peter cooked us all a very nice breakfast of smoked salmon and poached eggs. Claire opened her cards and presents. She had a surprising amount seeing that we were anchored off of a small island in the south of France. Wendy and Alan, her Mum and dad had given her a card, Denise, a present, Karen and Peter gave her a card and two presents, also a card from my mum and dad and I also gave her a card and a present. Didn’t she do well. When she opened the cards both sets of parents had slid in some Euros for her to spend. And, And to cap it all off nicely she liked the top that I had bought her and it fitted. Result.
Peter and I sorted the tender and outboard out and we went ashore via Scarlett, they were coming too but a bit later, it was quite a long way in the RIB as we had to round the marina wall before finding a safe spot to leave it. It was quite busy there. All tourists I suspect coming in from the mainland on passenger ferries. We looked in a few chandlers before walking to a restaurant to look at the menu. Today’s task was to find somewhere nice to eat for Claire’s birthday later that evening. I asked Claire if she had Jean-Luc’s phone number on her. I was thinking of calling him to ask about restaurants on the island. As we were standing there discussing what to do Peter recognised Jean-Luc walking towards us!! How spooky was that. We said our hello’s then asked him about the best place to eat. He asked us to wait a minute while bought a new impellor for his boat. He then walked with us through the town to the main square stopping outside of a very nice looking restaurant. He talked to the maître d for us and we booked a table. I asked if he would like to join us explaining that it was Claire’s Birthday. He said he would think about it but he invited us to his home for a drink before we ate. We were to meet him at the tourist information booth at 1830. What a nice man. We said our goodbyes deciding to walk up to the fort on the hill overlooking the harbour. The views were spectacular, it really is a special place.
We bumped into Jayne and Graeme explaining that we had booked a table for all of us knowing that they would like to come along to celebrate Claire’s Birthday. Later we stopped for a bite to eat with Karen and Peter choosing Moules-frites, I had the ribs while Claire had a tuna and prawn salad. We only really wanted a light lunch but the portions were massive. Oh well it was Claire’s big day.
We made our way back to RR for a bit of R&R. We noticed a small beach where we could leave the RIB when we returned later that evening which was a lot closer for us.
In no time at all we were dressed in our finest heading back into town. My job was to try and keep us all dry as we motored across the bay to the little beach. Graeme and Jayne were following close behind. We carried the RIBS up way above the waterline chaining them together just in case. We met Jean-Luc and followed him to his lovely home where we met some very nice people. So there was Jean-Luc, Anne Marie. Gerard was also there with his lovely wife Béatrice, and her friend (sorry I can’t remember her name but she made me laugh and she had a very naughty twinkle in her eye) We sat and talked for a while swapping contact details. I talked to Jean-Luc and Gerard about leaving Sanary-sur-Mer, how I followed them through the gap between the islands. They said they didn’t go through, they went around!!! Haha they went through on the way in though. I didn’t dare tell Peter and Claire!!
Jean-Luc let us know that they were all coming to the restaurant he had changed the booking now there was 11 of us. Brilliant. Claire was having a great day.
The food and the company were excellent, we had an A and B team so we could keep the bill under control. Jean-Luc insisted on paying for the drink which was very gracious of him. Thanks again Jean-Luc. We had such a great time and I was really pleased that Karen and Peter were here to experience this. After we had finished we walked back to the RIBs saying fond farewells to everyone. Once again we had met some fantastic people and we will be sorry to leave. Good old Etap’s.
We were off in the morning, unbelievably we had the boat ready to leave by 10.00!! We were heading for St Tropez and Scarlett was coming too. The wind was meant to be light but there was just enough to sail. It slowly moved around to dead astern and we were sailing nicely goose winging (this means the genoa was poled out on one side of the boat while the main was on the other) Soon the wind changed direction again allowing us to set our asymmetric kite. I can’t believe how lucky Karen and Peter have been with the wind. We have had some great sails while they have been on-board. We carried it for hours sailing around Cap Lardier where we saw a very nice yacht washed up on the beach. We don’t know the circumstances but I hope nobody was hurt. By the time we reached Cap Camarat the wind was pushing 15 knots and looking behind us it seemed as if there was more to come. Scarlett was back with us, they had sailed further out to sea from Porquerolles and they looked great catching us up with their red kite billowing in the strengthening wind. I was starting to think about dropping the kite when a bigger gust hit us, I hung on as RR accelerated away, it was exciting but using the old sailing adage ‘if you think about it. Do it’ I decided that the spinnaker needed to come down. Peter and I went onto the foredeck. I let Peter do all the work, pulling the snuffer down over the sail as it's the best way for him to learn, honest! Karen was on the wheel while Claire controlled the spinnaker halyard. Soon it was back in its bag with all the lines safely stowed. I looked across at Scarlett Graeme was on the foredeck dropping his kite too. I wished I could help him as it's a bit of a struggle with just two. But he managed just fine. I didn’t bother pulling the genoa out, we were doing well over 5 knots as we passed the group of rocks called Teste-De-Can heading for the cardinal before we turned into the Golf of St Tropez. Our destination was an anchorage Jean-Luc told us about. It was perfectly calm as we headed into Les Canebiers. Dropping the hook a few minutes before Scarlett did the same. And relax.
It was our turn to visit Scarlett for drinks, we sorted the RIB out rowing over for a nice few hours of general chit chat. We were going to leave in the morning for Nice as Karen and Peter were due to fly back to London in a few days whilst Graeme and Jayne were going to have a look around St Tropez before meeting their friends in Antibes. We said our goodbyes before going back to RR for food and sleep.
In the morning 9th September we left Scarlett and motored in to have a look at St Tropez from the sea, it did look like a very nice place. However we still had a long way to go and there was very little wind. In fact we motored all the way to Nice. The highlight of this leg was the pancakes that Peter cooked for us, he really is putting me to shame with his culinary skills. Karen called ahead to confirm we had a berth. When we were close we called the marina up on the VHF. Ch 9 and was given G-18. There was a mixture of fishing boats, superyachts, traditional boats and a huge cargo ship wedged in this small place. Claire bought us in stern to without a problem. Nice is nice which was handy as we were planning to be here for a while.
Once we had the boat sorted Claire and Karen walked to the office to get us signed in. I was a bit nervous as we were unsure what the cost per night would be but as I have mentioned we wanted to stop here for a while so it needed to be sub 40 Euros to make it feasible. I could see by the look on Claire’s face as she walked back along the pontoon with Karen that it was going to be good news, 36 Euros a night, what a result for the centre of Nice. Ramsgate in May over a year ago was £35.
We took a stroll around the harbour, nowhere far just a walk to stretch our legs and to get a feel for the place. Peter found a patisserie where he could buy the morning baguette and there was also a small, well stocked mini market close by. We bought some wine and fizz as Claire calls cava making our way back to RR for our evening meal as we had some steak that needed eating. Over the meal we decided to get the bus into Monaco in the morning. I suppose we should take the Lamborghini, or turn up in a superyacht but we preferred the bus, 1.5 Euros each for the brilliant trip along the coast road from Nice.
Monaco. I haven’t got too much to say about it really. I saw some nice shiny cars and even more shiny power boats. We had a drink in the sunshine looking out at the marina. It was great to see a sailing school RIB towing a line of sailing dinghy’s out of the harbour. All the kids were laughing with none of them apparently aware of how out of place they looked surrounded by superyachts worth many millions of pounds. I suppose they grew up with them being there and it was the norm for them. There was also a rowing club with youngsters mucking around, pushing each other in after a rowing session. I was pleased to see that ‘normal’ people still had access to the water in this haven for the mega rich.
I also enjoyed seeing an American sports car, I think it was a V8 Mustang as we walked through the tunnel section of the grand prix circuit. He floored it as he entered and the noise was fantastic. We kept seeing him, well hearing him all over Monaco.
We were looking for the casino, you can’t visit Monaco without seeing this iconic building. We passed an Irish bar, they are everywhere aren’t they and thank whoever you believe in for that. We were all gasping so we went in for a drink, as luck would have it Australia was on the TV playing Rugby against South Africa so we sat and watched that while knocking back a few. I was on bottled London Pride mmmm it was good. Australia won too which made Peter and Karen happy.
We eventually found the Casino. We went in, well we went into the lobby of the casino to be more accurate. I always feel uncomfortable in places like this. It's as if the security guards instinctively know that you haven’t got two half penny’s to rub together although, to be fair my flip flops and board shorts could have done with a polish and a quick going over with an iron!!
Back to RR on the bus, we had an hour or two relaxing before we got ready for a nice meal in a great Italian restaurant close to the marina. Karen and Peter had booked it when they went to get the morning baguette.
11th September - We decided to have a walk into the old town of Nice. We caught the free river taxi across the harbour entrance then walked around the promenade to the beach and the old town. There was a market selling all sorts of stuff, mainly fruit, cheese and flowers but also gifts etc. it was very good. We made our way onto the beach to enjoy an hour or two of swimming and sun bathing. Claire got stung on the arm by a jelly fish and I took her to see the life guard’s \ first aid post. It really looked painful with three angry red welts across the back of her arm. They put some cream on which seemed to help (two weeks later and the marks from the sting are still clearly visible!!) after a bit we walked to see the remains of the castle that sit high on the hill above Nice. Fortunately we stumbled upon the lift which takes you to the top. The views were really very good with the grassy open spaces dotted with groups of people enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the sun. We made our way back to RR where we enjoyed a nice meal cooked by Karen and Peter.
The 12th was a sad day as Karen and Peter had to leave us to fly back to England for a few days before returning to Australia. After they had packed we went into town, catching the tram to the modern part of Nice. Claire bought a pair of Sketchers shoes with some of her birthday money, she bought a pair the same as Karen’s as hers had been so comfortable during the trip with us. We made our way back to RR to collect Karen and Peter’s bags. Peter gave me a head torch as a gift it’s great and a lot better than the one I had.
We walked to the bus stop and waited and waited some more? Another English couple, obviously going to the airport were also waiting. We struck up a conversation and suggested all four of them get a cab and split the cost as the bus just wasn’t going to get them there on time. So that’s what happened. We gave everyone a hug goodbye, just Karen and Peter you understand, not the other couple! And waved as the taxi headed into the traffic. Ah. Claire and I walked back to RR, we were a bit quiet and I think we were both missing Karen and Peter already.
The next few days were taken up with jobs, we had all the bedding to wash as well as quite a few clothes, Claire had her hair cut, I didn’t bother. I washed the boat down. We had a thunder storm on the night of the 14th \ 15th with heavy rain. I had decided to try and go to Guya’s 60th birthday party. This meant flying out on Saturday afternoon and flying back Sunday morning to try and keep the cost down. I wanted to find out where I could get a bus to the airport, one that actually turned up so we went to a tourist information centre and discovered that the bus stop where we waited with Karen and Peter was only used up until 8am you then had to wait somewhere completely different after that!! It was due to the rush hour traffic apparently. Anyway we found the right place which happened to be next to a very nice bagel shop. I don’t think I have ever had a bagel so in we went and I enjoyed my one very much.
We had been envious of our friends who had an opening window in their sprayhood, the sprayhood is the canvas type cover that sits over and around the hatch leading below decks, or downstairs as Claire calls it!! Anyway we found a very nice man in Nice who could alter ours to let in a zip which we could then use to ‘open’ the window thus letting in the much needed breeze.
Saturday arrived and I needed to be on the bus to the airport by 12.00 I had contacted Grace and Joy to let them know I was making a flying visit back to England. Grace was already doing something but Joy said she would be able to collect me from Luton airport and drop me to the party in Welwyn Garden City. I waved goodbye to Claire promising that I would be back in under 24 hours!! It was a bit mad but my idea was to fly into London around 6 in the evening, Joy would pick me up, we would have a bite to eat and a catch up before going to the party. Joy would then head off after a few hours and I would get a cab back to the airport where I would stay until my return flight which was due to leave at 07.00. Well it all worked like a charm, Thanks Joy you really helped me out. The party was very good and the look on my old mates face when he saw me was worth all of the hassle and expense. It was also great to catch up with David and Margaret, Tad, his beautiful wife and lovely daughter and so many other old friends. The only change to the plan came when Nads, Guya’s sister insisted on me going back to her house with her husband to sleep at theirs before getting a cab to the airport. I didn’t argue too much. The shower and bed for a few hours was most welcome, thanks Nads. So the cab picked me up at 05.00 and my journey back to Nice had begun, the flight landed on time, I caught the bus back to the port and I was sitting on RR 23 hours after I left.
Monday 19th and it was Claire Wood´s turn to spend some time with us on board RR. The last week had been a bit hectic but it was OK. Claire is one of Claire’s oldest friends and it was great for her to be able to spend some time with us. After she had settled in on the boat both Claire’s went for a swim while I modified the wiring on the solar panels. Well, all I did was to increase the size of the cables from the controller to the batteries for no other reason than I happened to read it in the controller manual. When I bought it all, the panels and the MPPT (maximum power point tracking) controller the rep said that 6mm2 would be fine but the manual said 10mm2 as a minimum so I changed them. I know that they have been in and working for almost two years but it was bothering me. I had looked at the manual to try and find out about what happened when the solar panels were working and I was plugged into shore power? Or when the engine was running and I was charging via the alternator? Anyway it seems that these things are very clever and they figure it all out for themselves!! I had tried to look up some more information about it on the internet using my ipad but it had run out of battery and was completely flat. After it had charged for an hour or so it was still only showing the Apple logo…..Strange, anyway.
The two Claire’s returned after their swim and a sit in the sun. Claire W did some work before we got cleaned up and went for a meal in Nice. It was good to see them chatting away. It was obvious that they still had a lot of gossip to catch up on even after spending all day together!!
We had decided between courses to go to Antibes the following day. The quickly established routine was for Claire W to get up early, make herself a cup of tea then sit and work on her laptop until we got up an hour or so later. After a bit of breakfast with me still trying to reboot my ipad we made our way to Nice railway station using the tram. Get this the return fair to Antibes for all three of us was only 27 Euro’s. The train was on time, clean and air-conditioned. Antibes was great, small enough to be quaint in parts but big enough to warrant a decent look around. We had a very good lunch and a wander through the myriad of small streets stopping for a Ferrer Rocha’s ice cream. Claire Wood had spent some time here in the past and she enjoyed visiting some of her old haunts. She took us to an English supermarket where we bought a jar of Branston pickle. We had run out quite a while ago and I was missing it in my sandwiches. There are some things I can’t live without and it seems that Branston pickle is one of them.
When we returned to the boat I was still keen to try and fix the ipad but our wifi from the marina was too slow, timing out before it could download the backup and restore file itunes needed so I managed to persuade the girls to visit Ma Nolans, the Irish bar whose wifi was excellent. It was happy hour when we got there so they got stuck into the cocktails while I enjoyed the Guinness. After a couple of hours we finally fixed the ipad by rebooting it via itunes. You can’t believe how happy we all were when we saw the little white line under the Apple logo growing longer and longer as the pad slowly rebooted. Don’t ask me why it happened or how we fixed it but it's fixed and I was so relieved as it has a copy of the Navionics charts we use for our navigation and it's one of the backup devices I would use if our on-board chart plotter failed.
It was Claire Wood´s last day with us and she fancied a swim in the sea before she left. She also needed to get her kids Beatrice and Angus a little something from France so the girls left me to my own devices again. Our mosquito screens on the opening windows were not very effective because the glue on the Velcro went soft in the heat of the sun and fell out so I removed it all, cleaned off the old glue with Claire’s nail varnish remover and re glued new Velcro to all of the windows using a 2 pack 3M adhesive. I am not sure what the adhesive was meant to be used for as it was all in Spanish but 3M is a very good brand and judging by how hard it was to get off my hands I think it's going to be just fine. Claire had also asked me to put the bedding and some clothes through the washing machines in town. This I did and when I returned the girls were back itching to have lunch in a restaurant before Claire caught the bus to the airport. I had put the sheets through the tumble drier as ordered but they were still a bit damp, the clothes were still very wet. The sky looked dark with low cloud coming in over the hills and Claire was sure it was going to rain so we strung a washing line up below decks and hung up the sheets while the clothes stayed in their bag.
Claire W fancied Moules and frites and we found a sea food restaurant a short distance from the boat. We all had a very good meal before we walked to the bus stop. I think Claire was sad to leave but I also know that she was looking forward to seeing her husband, Al and her kids again. We waved as the bus pulled away and we walked slowly back to RR as the rain started to fall.
We had had a very busy month what with Karen and Peter sailing with us for over two weeks, me flying back to England and Claire W coming to stay for a few days. It was great to have been able to spend time with everyone and I wouldn’t change a single thing but I was also looking forward to getting back to normal life, if you can call what Claire and I are doing as normal. That evening the rain just fell from the sky, thunder rolled around the hills and lightning flashed across the water. We were ok though tucked up in RR with our washing hanging down everywhere. It looked more like a Chinese laundry than a boat. Oh well we were on the move again in the morning to San Remo in ITALY!!!!
There was no sign of the rain when I went up on deck the following morning, it was clear and the sun was shining. Claire went to settle up with the office, £400 all-inclusive for two weeks in the centre of Nice. Not bad really. I washed the boat down, topped off the water tanks and checked over the engine. We were good to go. We motored out of the harbour and round into Rade de Villefranche where we were hoping to see Scarlett. There they were tucked nicely into a corner behind a Thompson cruise liner. They were spending time at anchor in this beautiful bay before finding a marina where they could leave Scarlett whilst they flew back to England to attend Graeme’s son’s wedding at the end of the month. We stopped alongside and chatted for a while. They were fine. We were all hoping that they would catch us up before we crossed to Corsica but who knows. We waved our goodbyes before heading on around Cap – Ferrat and on past the principality of Monaco where we saw a wonderful sight as we were entering Italian waters for the first time. A square rigged ship under full sail, she was sailing well close hauled. I think she was the French sail training ship ‘Belem’.
Time to change the courtesy flag again Claire!! Yes it´s the Green, white and red one.