Mediterranean France

The old Dirk,

… and his story.

Our Cape Town friend, Ernst Hartwig, emailed me these photos taken in the Maritime Museum of Amsterdam. Evidently a Dutch Dirk Muller (1758 – 1834) reached the rank of sailing captain (ship’s master) in the Dutch East India Company. The Australian Dirk Muller (1947 – ) isn’t a commissioned officer, but nevertheless enjoy his sailing .

The Australian Dirk Muller was shocked looking into a mirror this morning.

WTF! I have slept my hair into a Donald Trump last night.

Back to sailing: Our crossing from Calvi in Corsica to Cap Ferrat in France started well on the 1st October. At 4:30 in the morning, with no moon, we were ticking over nicely with a fully reefed main and full jib in 18 knots of wind on the beam for the first 5 hours. Then the wind started veering and gradually headed us, forcing us further east. The result was that we tied up to the transit berth in San Remo, on the Italian Riviera, 25 nm to the east of Cap Ferrat at sunset, having sailed 91 nm in 14 hours.

Western Med route from Corsica.

Before the second world war San Remo was the haunt of the rich, renowned for its fine hotels and restaurants, offering service in the “grand manner” and for its casino, where large sums could be lost or won. The vestiges of that era remain and the elegant villas and hotels confer the charm of a once-exclusive resort on the town.

San Remo – walking up to the Madonna Della Costa cathedral.

After our morning walk through town and up to the cathedral, we stopped at a harbourside cafe for coffee and croissants and were intrigued by the passing parade. A large number of rich elderly people seems to have retired here and botoxed men and women with brilliant white teeth and orangey-brown spray tans, draped with jewellery and with fashionable french bulldogs in tow, were passing by.

Nearly there.

Don Orione from the monastery at the top of the hill, will assist you for your last few steps.

Very ornate Baroque interior.

View down to San Remo.

The nearby Conad supermarket provided us with the opportunity to replenish our supplies, before we set off for Menton on the French Riviera, 12 nm to the west and just across the French border. We tied up in the Port de Garavan marina for EU 29/day to stay out of the wicked north wester that was coming down the  Golfe du Lion, hitting Marseille and St. Tropez where our friends Grant and Lesley Thompson on Cattiva were tied up.

Menton.

Tina and Jonny Patrick from NZ on Paikea also tied up in Menton, so the following morning after coffees, we took the train to Monaco, where we explored the town and visited the Grimaldi Palace and the Oceanographic museum. The latter has the best aquarium we have ever visited. After a long lunch we caught the train back to Menton, footsore and for a good night’s sleep.

Annie, Jonny and Tina walking up to the Grimaldi palace.

View down to Monaco harbour.

Photos of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace in the Palace precinct.

The impressive Oceanographic Institute Museum.

Jellyfish.

Clown fish.

On the way back to the station – admiring a small electric car.

We explored Menton which has a beautiful old town, the following day.

Menton old town.

View down to Menton harbour.

On Friday, we decided to pull down the jib sail as it appeared the leech stitching was parting ways. We were shocked to see that the UV protective strip on the leech of the sail was starting to delaminate and the bolt rope on the luff was parting with the sail. After 12,000 miles, we expected that this was bound to happen. No problem, a call to Pascale Boulocher (a lady) at Amure Nautique sailmakers, got the jib and our asymmetric spinnaker re-stitched over the weekend.

On the train to Nice – a French busker.

With the wind still raging, we caught the train to Nice on the Monday. Nice is quite a large city with wide boulevards in the Paris style and a very cosmopolitan population. We covered quite a distance walking from the train station to the old town and up to the citadel and remarkable cemetery. This was followed by lunch at a sidewalk cafe before we walked through quite a big outdoor market, back to the station and then a train back to Menton.

Nice station.

Nice – beautiful park with water features.

Kid’s playground.

Nice beachfront.

This wall is painted! (faux windows, shutters, doors and balustrading)

Nice town square.

The wind abated sufficiently on the 8th October for us to leave Menton and sail to Cap Ferrat (our original destination).The following day we motor sailed past Monaco and Antibes and when rounding Cap d’Antibes sailed past Juan les Pins on our way to Cannes.

Monaco from the sea.

The Oceanographic Museum on the cliff face above the water.

Those of us old enough to remember, will think back to Peter Sarstedt’s 1969 hit “Where do you go to my Lovely” and his lyrics “When you go on your summer vacation, you go to Juan les Pins. With your carefully designed topless swimsuit, you get an even suntan on your back, and on your legs..”

I wondered then, before Google Maps, where Juan les Pins was – and here it was, between Antibes and Cannes. The list of regulars in Juan les Pins in the 1920s and 30s reads like a roll call of the greatest American creative talent of the period: Archibald MacLeish, Gertrude Stein, Alice B Toklas, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald, adding to the wild reputation of the place.

We anchored in the deep sheltered bay of Rade d’Agay on the Cote d’Azur, where a 25 knot northwesterly still tested our anchor holding during the night. The following morning, it seemed like the wind had abated, so we set off for St-Tropez. Big mistake – the northwesterly came up again, gusting 35 knots in a big sea. Sails furled, harnesses clipped in, after an hour we turned around and ran with the wind, back to Rade d’Agay. A hearty bacon and egg omelette with coffees soothed our battered ego’s.

Sailing past St-Tropez to Port Grimaud.

Not content to err on the side of caution, Ms Schady decided to set sail again three hours later, as the three weather apps she consulted, indicated that the wind had now abated. The wind was still blowing 20 knots, but at least the swell had decreased. so after a brisk sail we anchored off Port Grimaud at the top of the gulf of St-Tropez at 5pm. A quiet night with very little wind followed.

Classic yachts tied up in St-Tropez.

The following morning at 9am we anchored off St-Tropez harbour and went ashore to explore this quite attractive town, made famous by Brigitte Bardot, who settled here. Today, the rich and famous frequent the town which has a surfeit of art galleries and premium brand shops. We enjoyed the most expensive coffees and croissants we have come across to date – just to say we did!

The old town.

Someone will have the money to buy this exclusive Emilio Pucci creation.

How considerate – free 30 minute only parking at selected bays!

The coffee and croissants were good.

After St-Tropez, we anchored off Cap de Bregancon near a little island with old stone buildings, when Jonny and Tina on Paikea turned up, to anchor next to us for drinks. The following morning we headed off for Toulon and Marseille, while they carried on west to cross the Gulf of Lion.

Cap de Bregancon.

Jonny and Tina steaming past on Paikea under spinnaker.

After 35 nm, we anchored in the lee of La Madrague, between Toulon and Marseille, to leave the Cote d’Azur behind and enter the Provence region. I must say that we were most impressed with the Riviera and Cote d’Azur scenery, the food and their wines – thank goodness the summer high season was coming to an end and life for the locals and visitors was more relaxed.

Leaving La Madrague.

Our next stop was Marseille, where we had to pick up two parcels that were forwarded to us at a local marina. We tucked into a sheltered cove outside the marina as there was no staff working on a Sunday! We collected it on the Monday morning, as well as pick up some provisions at a nearby Carrefour before setting off to cross the Gulf of Lion to the border of Spain. This leg of 110 nm will be an overnight sail – let’s hope the Mistral blowing down the Gulf won’t be too strong.

Sailing into Marseille.

Fortifications on the island opposite the town.

No less than four passenger liners in the harbour.

Next up – Spain!

5 Comments

  1. Marty

    A great read as usual Dirk!
    So you are out of the Schengen issue now, where will you store the yacht?
    Marty.

    • Hi Marty

      We arrived in Spain this morning after an 18 hour sail from Marseille. The Schengen caper has worn us out – we are now travelling under the radar along the Spanish and Balearic coasts to reach Gibraltar by the 18th November. We are having a Hydrovane back-up self steering system installed there and will then spend December cruising down the Moroccan coast, before crossing the Atlantic in January.
      Cheers, Dirk.

  2. Dot Thomson

    Just love reading your posts. You both are having a wonderful time exploring so many places.
    We do so enjoy each post, some places I have been to but so many wonderful little villages you have visited.
    Keep me posted.
    Love, Dot

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