The Golfe du Lyon (Barcelona-Marseille-Bandol)

Sun 11 May 2014 21:25
We cast off from Marina Olimpico in light hearted mood. The sun shone, the
breeze gentle, the engine virtually silent at 700 RPM as we gilded out of
the marina obeying the 3 knot speed limit into the open sea. Here too we
found the light winds forecast, too light for us to sail efficiently given
the mileage we had to cover before the next gale swept through the Golfe. So
motoring at 2000 RPM we made 8.5 knots, the crew of Pamarzi relaxing in a
sun bathed cockpit till around 16.00 when we found some breeze, unfurled
main and genoa revelling in our fast quiet progress.

Supper was taken in the cockpit and by 19.20 we had passed Palamos on the
Spanish coast and were a dozen or so miles into the Golfe. Our repast
complete, engaged in relaxed banter we noticed the wind rapidly veering to
the north west and rising to 25 knots. The sea state becoming confused and
agitated. Having decided that Rob and I would do three hour watches through
the night I went below around 20.30 for some rest by this time we had over
35 knots of wind and a heavy swell, making sleep impossible and most other
movements below difficult. At 23.00 I came on watch to relieve Rob dressed
in full foul weather gear, clipping on as Rob brought me up to date with the
situation. Under deeply reefed main and staysail we were making 9 knots, the
half-moon illuminating the steep, breaking seas, the occasional 'big one'
rolling Pamarzi onto her beam ends. The soft glow of the dimmed instruments
lighting our faces as they communicated their vital information in all its
multiplicity. The plotter showing on its chart our course and heading, the
AIS indicating the course speed and distance of half a dozen ships, all out
of sight but their presence needing to be tracked. Rob went below in the
hope of sleep leaving me scanning the horizon or at least that part of it
that was distinguishable from the sky as Pamarzi punched and heaved through
the moonlit maelstrom. Rob took the watch at 02.00, me again at 05.00. We
ploughed on as the first grey streaks of dawn lightened the darkness in the
eastern sky. By 10.15 both wind and sea were thankfully easing, the log
showing that we had sailed the Golfe du Lyon through the night with winds
between 35 and 50 knots.

By noon we had sailed into the Vieux Port of Marseille and were moored
alongside SNM Club visitors pontoon, little impressed with our surroundings
and reception. No one in any of the three marinas in the Vieux Port had done
me the courtesy of replying to my emails, taken the trouble to answer the
telephone or responded to my VHF calls! As there was no one to take our
lines we berthed ourselves and I walked down the pontoon to the floating
clubhouse. At whose reception desk I was met with a surly little witch who
when I enquire after berthing responded "Non!" and dared me to utter not
another word. Pretending not to understand her negativity I gave her our
boat length, beam and draft as is the custom with such enquiries. No smile
cracked her wizened countenance but on hearing we were 17.5 meters she
consulted a screen gave me a berth number, said she expected an extortionate
amount of money and we could stay two nights only. Inspecting our allotted
berth we found that we would be moored next to what looked like a 25 metre
garden shed. The pontoon itself situated but a few yards from a busy main
thoroughfare from which harbour bound lorries emitted their raucous racket
and belched diesel fumes. The other side of this inhospitable avenue was
festooned with tawdry high rise full of low life. We declined the witch's
offer and sailed away from Marseille pouring over our charts and pilot books
looking for suitable and safe berthing. We were not going to leave our
beautiful Pamarzi in a place such as that with people such as those.

The voyage to Marseille had been rollicking, rolling 217 nm through the
night. We were weary and disappointed, romantic notions of Marseille had
been quashed, particularly Lynn's as she had quite a strop and failed to
come up with any food at lunch time, (relenting a little around 16.00 when
she handed Rob and I a banana!) but back out to sea we went along the rugged
coast line of this part of Provence, around Cap Croisette and 28 nm further
on finding Bandol. A large 1600 berth marina set in a pleasant old town,
actually on the Cote D'Azure. Friendly , helpful, welcoming staff, a safe
and well sheltered harbour that we will feel comfortable leaving Pamarzi in
whilst we return home for a few days. We have had a relaxed day today (
Sunday)but cleaning and boat jobs start tomorrow preparing Pamarzi for the
two or three week stopover in this charming little town.