Bienvenue à Marseille

Leaving St Tropez and the glitter of the Cote-d’Azur behind we puffed on south bound for Marseille. From a little distance the coast does not seem impressive, but we knew we were passing some very special places like Les d’Heurs. We stayed overnight in Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer (near Toulon), which was not very special at all – the Toulon basin is a marine base and the rusting corpses of marine vessels anchored within the basin is not an inviting sight.

The next morning we made an early departure and sailed off-and-on, the wind direction too high for us to fully make use of it. Later in the day, passing the impressive rocks and scenery along the Parc national des Calanques, we considered anchoring in one of the ‘calanques’. However, we did not quite have the will or spirit to inflate the dinghy, launch it – as it is required to go ashore – and secure mooring by anchor and tying off to shore.

Instead we headed up along the coast and arrived to the impressive view of Marseilles just before sunset with 20-25 kts of wind and doing 8+ kts. We kept sailing to the very entrance of the city centre harbour, taking down the main and genoa as we reached Pharo.

We had attempted to reserve a space the day before over phone, but the guy being French, spoke no english. Apparently Andreas’ French skills is not completely mature yet. As we entered the shelter of the harbour we realised there were no marineros to show us to a berth and more than handful of different marinas, all of which seemed to be full – and closed for the evening. We finally found a spot at Viuex port with some help from a helpful sailor and literally squeezed in backwards.

Heading to shore looking for a place to have dinner somewhat late, we decided to go with a somewhat pricy option – Les Arcenaulx. We were not disappointed! Rossana had a pasta of seafood and Andreas had Filet de baeuf “Rossini” (230gr)
with foie gras and truffle sauce – divine experience with excellent french wines.

The next day we explored the city centre, which by the way surrounds the harbour. Being on a boat in Marseille gives you very easy access to the city. The downside is that there is very little space available in the harbour and we met one resident who regularly had to move his boat around on a biweekly basis.
Along the harbour we found a very nice printing and framing store where we had some photos printed and framed in order to decorate our saloon.

We walked around the bohemian quarters, the Fort Saint-Jean, Mucem and the Cathédrale and found the atmosphere quite pleasant. Although we did not see all the sights and areas, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit and appreciated the fact that we were staying right in the centre of town.

Unfortunately, due to yet another regatta, we had to vacate our berth and headed on towards Spain and Barcelona… crossing the Golfe du Lion in gale winds.

Les Voiles de Saint Tropez

We drifted silently out the marina of Mandelieu-de-Napoule at midday, leaving Cannes and the Riviera behind us. Making our way down the Côte-de-Azur coast to Saint Tropez we noticed all the boats heading for the same destination and it turned out we had serendiptously arrived at the start of “Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez”. We anchored west of the town along with dusins and later hundreds of boats.

Normally a destination for the rich and famous, this little fishing village contains stark contrasts of modernised houses with plenty of picturesque scenes and deteriorating sheds with the odour to go with it. In the harbour we gleaned at the Wallys, Swans and refurbished wooden yachts as they moored along the key, while enjoying an ice cream from Barbarec.

While strolling the streets window shopping we also looked for a doctor with specialisation in back pains (osteopathic doctor). Rossana had been several days with intense back pains, partially paralysing her leg. We found a very kind doctor who accepted us after closing hours on Friday evening. He confirmed she had a severely inflamed spine joint and required medicinal treatment to relieve the situation. After a day she was already quite a bit better.

One evening we enjoyed live music in a back alley with a bottle of champagne, purchased in a street shop, La Cave du Golf, late one night, and served with two plastic glasses.

One night heading back to the boat in the dinghy among, by now hundreds of yachts lit up by their various lights, this enormous anchoring post, looked like a floating city on the sea, plus a sky full of stars – it all made St. Tropez a destination full of beautiful details.

The glamours Riviera

We started early in the morning from the Anse de Chiuni headed for Nice. The forecast was good with 20-25 kts from NE making for a close reach on a starboard tack. The forecast was spot on and we made 8-9 kts during the peak at midday.

The day was relatively dull and uneventful, apart from an encounter with a French coast guard helicopter that circled us at no more then 20-30 meters distance. The pilot finally waived goodbye and within minutes they were no longer visible.

We had called the day before to Nice marina to book a berth and expected to have a confirmation before loosing the mobile connection upon leaving Corsica. Not so. As we reached the coast of France we got word that Nice was fully booked – and so began a calling spree to every marina between Monaco and Théoule-sur-Mer. We found space in Mandelieu-de-Napoule and stayed three nights. We learned September is not quite so uneventful as we had expected.

Monaco super yacht show, Cannes royal regatta for wooden sailboats and much more. Luckily it is a short train ride to Cannes from Mandelieu and that is were we spent the following day, exploring the streets, alleys, harbour, beach and the glamours Rue du Suquet connecting the harbour with the old town.

On day 2 we had an invitation to the Monaco super yacht show to view the first Swan 95. After the early morning train ride to Monaco we found ourselves among humming super cars and a stream of people headed for the harbour and the super yacht show. We made a stroll around the super sailboats circuit, before heading over to Nautor Swans stand and the new 95 foot (which actually seemed to be among the smaller boats on display). We had a pretty detailed tour of the boat with the Swan representative and the details of all the customisations. A real beauty!

Welcome to Corsica!

On the morning of Sept 21 we left Budelli island, the Maddalena archipelago and Sardinia, heading towards Corsic. Our first destination was Bonifiacio. None of us had ever been to Sardinia nor Corsica before, and Sardinia had been pleasant, so we were hoping for a positive experience! We had read that the approach to Bonifacio was spectacular with its chalk-white limestones and its unique entry by sea way at the end of a fjord-like bay with steep rocks on all sides.

We turned on the GoPro in time-lapse mode and attached it to the bow as we made our way into the bay. The old town is impressively situated at the rim of the cliffs enclosed by the citadel walls. We were shown to our berth in the heart of the port town, with its numerous restaurants and shops.

Later we made our way up the steps to the citadel and walked among its narrow alleys among restaurants and small shops, impressed by the charm of the place. In the old days the inhabitants collected rain water from the roofs and the aqueducts that led the water to an underground reservoir are still visible today (often mistaken as adornments). This place as so much to enjoy and was very pleasant – we decided to stay another night.

That evening we tried the local cuisine which was delicious and the next morning decided to walk along the cliffs. During the day we ran in to fellow rescuers and rescuees, so it is a popular and natural stop for most sailors. The place has a peacefulness and uniqueness to it that is hard to relay. When we did leave on day three it was with a sadness and a promise to return one day. It had been the most impressive place we visited so far on the Med-cruise!

In the evening we reached Cala de Roccapina and decided to anchor there for the night. There were not many boats, but a few dozen people on the beach in the end of the Cala. Instead of inflating the dinghy and lower the outboard, we decided to take the paddleboard in and explored the beach on foot. We bbq´d onboard in the evening.

Next morning we continued north along the coast to Ajaccio. There was no problem to get a space in the marina, although we had not reserved a space, but we were surprised when arriving as the marina was a combined fishing and leisure marina, with the smell to go with that. Next to the marina were cruise ships loaded with curious tourists who had no doubt come for the legacy of the place, being the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte (the general himself did not seemingly like this town, because his family left when he was 9 and he himself only returned once in his lifetime).

It is evident that the town exploits this fact to the fullest, because it had no charm and was not attractive to us in any way. In addition the fish market by the harbour seemed to be a poorly construed tourist attraction. To top the disappointment the marina had the highest fees we had yet paid anywhere, although it was close to the end of the season. We left the next morning to look for an anchorage from which we could start our crossing to the French Riviera.

The Emerald coast

We arrived to the marina of Stintino as it was getting dark and made our way along a deep bay and eventually arrived into town to have dinner. Next morning we filled up the water tanks and headed off towards the Emerald coast to Capo Testa, the northern most tip of Sardina. We anchored for the night and enjoyed a meal inside as it was a little windy.

Next day we had nice winds on the aft beam and we made our way to the Archipelago di la Maddalena and to the island of Maddalena, the largest island in the archipelago. The prevailing north easterly winds make their way around just about any island and we had gusts of wind up to 35 kts as we approached the Marina del Ponte. After docking without marina support and reaching the marina attendant by phone (thanks to a local couple) we could do the check-in.

First evening we went to the local supermarket a 15 min walk from the boat. Next morning we made the longer walk to town (30 min). Most of the place appears to be an abandoned military town with plenty of buildings in a state of decay. The town center is genuine and compact, with many nice restaurants. We had a great meal and a long walk back to the marina.

Next night we spent anchored in the southern bay of the neighbouring island Caprera, watching a dusin dinghy (Laser) sailboats and a Waszp tackling the gusty winds in the bay. We made a swim for a rocky beach on the shore and the water temperature was still enjoyable. The emerald green colour of these shores is truly impressive. The rocky islands themselves reminded me of the Swedish west coast, which I consider a tad more beautiful.

A short sail to Porto Cervo, where we were seeking shelter for the forecasted strong winds the next day, turned out to also be a very short stay. The marinero indicated us to moor by anchor in the old harbour, which is completely exposed to the northern winds that were forecasted. The main harbour had plenty of free spaces so we were puzzled by the instruction to stay in the poorly sheltered entry part of the port. We decided to drop the check-in and leave.

We head for a friendlier harbour. An hour later we were in Canningione, well protected at the end of a larger bay surrounded by mountains. The town itself was not much to write about, but the marina was good with friendly staff. We spent two nights until the strong winds had calmed.

After a nice sail of a few hours through the archipelago we arrived to Budelli island. This is probably the highlight of the archipelago, with its translucent blue and green waters. After a slight struggle hassling for anchor space and holding we decided to grab an available bouy.

The anchorage is full of daytime opportunists (who occupy the bouys and leave a few hours before sunset, before the archipelago park assistants come to collect the inflated mooring fees). By 6 o´clock we had the beaches to ourselves and only a dusin boats left in the mooring field.

The waters between the islands and the beach is rocky and shallow and clearly marked as such on maps. By dinghy it is, however, no problem to traverse the waters to reach hidden beaches. From one of the beaches we noticed a 36 foot sailboat which seemed to be grounded in the shallow waters.

We headed over in the dinghy to ask if they needed assistance and so started a 2-3 hour rescue mission of a french couple spiced with french-english-spanish language barriers, repeated groundings and getting assistance from neighbouring boats. We used the dinghy to pull them off the rocks, only to ground moments later. We succeeded at last, just before dawn, and headed back to our boat to regain our warmth. It was the last night in Sardinia and the next day we headed off to Corsica!

 

Waiting it out in Menorca

Like Mallorca, Menorca is full of tiny bays (calas), more or less suitable for anchoring. Most of them are exposed to wind and sea from certain directions and you better pick the right one according to the forecasted winds or you will have an unpleasant night – or worse, a surprise wake up call. The benefit is waking up to a beautiful bay with sunlight and impressively transparent waters.

We soon headed to Mahon to arrange for some shipments of spare parts. Mahon, or Maô, is the main town of Menorca and one of the largest natural harbours in the world. The town was surprisingly pleasant and situated some 50-60m above sea level. To our luck we arrived just a head of a major ´fiesta´ and we had ample amounts of the local ´pomada´.

As we were getting ready to cross to Sardinia (a 30 hour sailing trip), the forecast announced strong winds in the following days (the mistral). We decided to wait it out, arranging to have the packages sent to the marina. We anchored in an bay close to the entrance of the Mahon bay. For 1-1,5 days we had 25-35kts winds, two anchors out and experience heavy rain and hail. We visited ´La Mola´, an old military fortress which now is a museum. It covers more than a square kilometer and consists of an impressive collection of buildings and fortified dungens.

We returned to Mahon marina to collect the packages after the worst of the storm had passed, although our spare for the dripping kitchen tap did no arrive in time. We could wait no longer. In the morning of our departure we woke up to a depressive suprise, vandals had broken of our 2,3m teak flag pole and stolen the pole and Norwegian flag on it. We were in for a three hour race to the airport to report the incident and convince the local police to investigate the video surveillance from the numerous cameras in the marina. With that back drop, we departed Mahon in the afternoon on Sep 13 and had a spectacular sail to Sardinia with some of the most impressive views of the night sky either of us can remember – seeing literally thousands of stars and the Andromeda galaxy (naked eye and with binoculars). We arrived to north Sardinia the next day in the evening.

 

Heading towards Menorca

After spending close to two weeks on Mallorca, we headed east for Menorca – stopping only in a small “Cala” (bay) overnight at the North-East tip of Mallorca. The water was impressively clear and there was no problem to see details on the sand bottom 10m below and the full extent of the anchor and chain. On the way there we had just passed the infamous S/Y A, a russian-owned mega yacht inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean.

Crossing to Menorca is a short (3-4 hrs, 25nm) journey from the Mallorca NE tip and we arrived early to the Cala Galdana in the SW coast of Menorca. We anchored in the relatively well protected bay outside an extensive reserved beach area with an accompanying resort. More boats arrived during the afternoon and when we arrived back to Libertad after a few hours ashore we discovered several more boats had arrived, several of which were anchored much to close to us or other boats.

Menorca is clearly a popular island for chartering sailboats and it was inexperienced sailors who had anchored so close to us. One of them was in the process of laying down anchor between and below our boat, so I explained it was much too close and suggested they better anchor on the opposite side with a clearance of at least 3 boat lengths. The skipper appreciated the advice and redeployed their anchor at a safe distance. However, they found the swell too unpleasant and with another accompanying chartered boat proceeded to move their anchors closer and dive for inspection during the rest of the evening.

It was quite an entertaining evening, but also a necessary monitoring of the neighbouring boats that were much too close to us. On our opposite side the closest boat to us crashed into a neighbouring boat as they both turned with the wind. We decided to move, out of harms way, being surrounded by a number of incompetent boaters. We had a peaceful sleep.

 

Spares and repairs

Mallorca is one of the most densely populated sailing areas in the Mediterranean, not to mention a popular tourist destination for families and teenagers! It is also claimed to be one of the best places to have boat repairs done and to get spares. So while Rossana was away I rented a car and started chasing down spares and making orders for items that were needed onboard. Over the course of 8-9 days I visited half a dozen shops, mostly in Palma. Common items can be found in most shops, but items such as a 24v solar panel regulator for instance needed to be ordered. Most shops sell from the same suppliers, so prices are more or less the same and you get used to hearing “we can order it for you”. I was not very impressed.

On a positive note, we did get the washing machine we had planned to buy ordered and swiftly delivered within a few days. It took a few extra runs to the shop for connectors to get it installed, but now we have a small but very nice washing machine installed onboard!

Joshua also arrived on Aug 26 for a weeks visit. Although it turned out to be a few extra days of work we did appreciate his skilful help. We left Santa Ponca (our chosen anchorage bay not too far from Palma) and headed south motor sailing. Anchoring in Cala Pi (very nice) and Cala d´Or. A great week with several of the todo´s checked and enjoying the weather and breeze in good company.

 

Racing up the Spanish coast…

… from Almerimar for Rossana to catch a flight to Norway from Mallorca was a “little” too rushed and left us both somewhat stressed and exhausted. This is what happens when you live by appointments and time schedules that keep your shoulders tense and mind in a constant state of alert – exactly what we had intended to escape from!

Despite 5 days of motor-sailing (with a working autopilot) to various anchorages along the way, we did make it and landed in Andratx, Mallorca.

The permanent crew…

Arrived to Almerimar a few days ago (11 Aug) in the early morning after a days solo sail from Marine del Este. A few hours later Rossana returned to LIBERTAD from Barcelona with a very different look! Spectacular…!

The days are hot and with a more or less constant 20kts wind from east. So we are waiting it out for calmer days and preferably some favourable winds too. In the meantime we have been busy organising our belongings trying to “settle in” and repairing the autopilot (the new pump arrived).

As of today we are officially the permanent crew only on LIBERTAD and we hope to be able to head North-East in a few days to the Baleares.

Finally alone