13 June 2019
Written by Cate & Dave Williams aboard their Fountaine Pajot Saba 50
We arrived back in Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône midnight Sunday 19th May – rainy, windy and barren, the mistral roars through here… a small town on the banks of the Rhone and home to the Greater Flamingo, white Camargue horse, one the oldest breeds in the world and black Camargue bulls, used in bullfighting, all living wild in the marshes and wetlands of the Rhone Delta. On the way to Arles, we were surprised to see rice paddies – originally this red rice had grown wild in the marshes of the Camargue, after WW2 many salt marshes were desalinated and previous salt production replaced by agriculture.
We spent two weeks up on the hard, a week more than planned due to David getting shingles, high winds and then needing both Volvo controllers replaced. Our trip to Arles was to visit a healer recommended to us by the local doctor, yes David really was desperate, so we met the delightful Antoine Januaria, he heals by magnetics, without having a control it is difficult to say whether he helped, but now 3 weeks later, David is better, but still with some nerve pain.
Living in a boatyard, a friendly multinational community, sounds of sanding, hammering, water blasting and getting ready for the summer season, it is always very special when you meet up with fellow kiwis – Connan and Lauren James have a Lucia 40, Tigger, and we shared many laughs, drinks and dinners with them, it is wonderful to be able to hang out with people who speak the same language (and I’m not talking English here).
We had a rental car for the first week which meant we could go further afield to Vitrolles to provision, all the usual suspects- Decathalon, Castorama and Carrefour. Second week, being carless was an incentive for us to finally get our super-duper Rich Bit electric bikes out, we didn’t last season as they are hard to manage into the tender to go onshore and we stayed in very few marinas, will see how we go this year – anyway they are superb, 30K without breaking a sweat…
Having an extra week meant we could really get NOETA ready for her second season – our antifouling needed a lot of work so many days were spent under NOETA, scraping, cleaning, replacing – it was windy and boatyard dust is not very tasty.
The day of launch arrived and with it the discovery that both of our turbos needed to be replaced, our oil leakages last year were not caused by driving the motors incorrectly, David felt vindicated. We had the choice to wait for new turbos in PSLDR or link up with another Volvo dealer further along the coast, not a difficult decision at all – we were out of there 0915, Tuesday June 4, adieu Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, hello two days of on-the-nose easterlies.
Back to cruising the French Riviera, it was enjoyable seeing familiar territory and in different weather conditions. Having spent time last year walking the streets of St Tropez, Cannes and Nice, we had no desire to repeat this, however a visit back to Antibes was on the cards as was Monaco. Compared to last autumn – more people onshore and way more superyachts at anchor (20+), however we had no trouble finding sheltered, quiet anchorages in Cassis, Baie de Cavalaire, Theoule-Sur-Mer, Juan-Les Pins and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. The weather definitely warming up, I went for a couple of 21 degree swims, one involuntarily – got to build up that core strength!
We anchored off Theoule-Sur-Mer twice as we had appointments with the local Volvo dealer to confirm then replace our faulty turbos, a quiet, pretty little village that looked eastwards across the Golfe De La Napoule to busy Cannes. While the Volvo boys were having their lunch we walked around to Château de la Napoule / Musee Henry Clews – fascinating.. quick summary – wealthy Americans Henry and Marie Clews bought and renovated the 14th Château in 1918, filling it with their whimsical and slightly disturbing art – Henry painter turned sculptor seemed to hold a lifelong hatred of art critics, powerful men and women and democracy, and love of his wife, he died before WWII and when the Germans took over the Château, Marie stayed on as servant to be close to Henry and the house. They are interred in a symmetrical crypt with some stones left slightly open so their spirits can escape and meet upstairs in a sealed room.
Anchored in Juan-Les Pins for a couple of nights we put our provisioning legs on and walked 3 km over the hill to Antibes and next day 8 km to inland shopping centre, at least it’s not too hot, yet.
Yesterday was our final stop along the French Riviera – Monaco to visit the Musée Océanographique, a promise made last year, a promise kept this year – stunning building on the side of a cliff filled with beautiful marine life, strong environmental messages and a history of oceanography – three generations of Grimaldis. My favourites – jellyfish and the word’s largest cabinet of marine curiosities, I really do love cool stuff in display boxes.
Then it was off to Italy, crossing the border just after Menton, ciao Italia!!