Back to Bandol and Onwards

Sun 1 Jun 2014 13:58
Leaving the little, sit up and beg, menopause blue Fiat Panda panting at the
hire car station after its run from Cheshire to Stansted we hurried into the
airport terminal to find that our flight had been delayed. Fortunately not
for too long and soon we were alighting in Marseille airport and joining the
queue to collect our next hire car - please, please not another Panda, it
made us feel like a pair of old dodderers on a Sunday afternoon's cautious
jaunt. When finally all in front of me had been attended to (including the
fellow directly ahead of me with appalling body odour, requiring me to make
occasional forays back to the doorway to gasp for air like an asthmatic,
Woodbine smoking miner who had just completed a marathon) the charming young
lady clad in a rather becoming green uniform, after enquiring my details,
informed me that we had been upgraded. My French not being fluent I had
initially misunderstood and was under the impression that I had been awarded
the Legion d'Honneur! She dispelled that misapprehension and assured me that
was not going to happen now or at any time in the future no matter how many
times we patronised Europ Car. Shame but I consoled myself with the thought
of sweeping through the lavender and vine bordered byways of Provence in
some top of the range convertible to the theme tune from Un Homme et Une
Femme." Vous avez une Clio" she declared. No Maserati, no Mercedes, not even
an Alfa Romeo? "Non, nous n'avons pas ces". I had been an old dodderer in
the U.K. and now I was to be a homosexual en France!
We minced, I mean drove through the back streets of Marseille in our Clio.
We stopped asking for directions after twice being offered illegal
substances, finally arriving in Bandol around 20.20. The Mistral's cold
northerly breath still blowing hard and it continued to do so despite the
clear, bright blue skies and sun lit days until last Wednesday. Pleasant but
cool evenings, just as well the local craftsmen were not displaying their
pieces on the promenade in the moonlight - there would not have been much to
One does have to admire this little town for its promenade efforts. The
weekend we arrived half a mile of motor cars were displayed along it. On the
Monday dozens of craft and object d'aft stalls lined both sides of its
length, Tuesday the weekly market, although they packed up at noon at least
those that had not been blown away did! Thursday the start of a four day
event in celebration of the traditional, local lateen rigged boats called
'sharps', which involved a charming little regatta for them all hooped tops
and red neckerchiefs, dozens of stalls from antiquities to anything
connected to the sea hot, cold or decorative, the local model boat club
erected a huge plastic lined pool and once filled by the fire brigade,
displayed and sailed the products of their winter's cutting, sawing, gluing
and painting of balsa. Some of them were truly works of art and fully a
metre long. A local drum and bagpipe (for there is a tradition of the pipes
here) band marched and paraded puffing and blowing there stirring tunes
alternating with the excellent jazz pianist who position his instrument at
the end of our passerelle. All great fun in the sunshine and light spring

Our Clio took us into the mountains to medieval Castellet, a wonderfully
preserved mountain top village, to Saint-Cyr-Sur-Mer, Riboux, Forcalqueiret
and many others in the mountains and lower on the vine filled slopes of Le
Var. A notable lunch stop in La Celle (definitely no tourists here) the tiny
village did have its Hotel de Ville but only one shop/restaurant that
spilled out onto the Plane tree shaded streets. The viande de cheval
delicious, Lynn though did balk rather when she found that the toilette was
of the 'place your feet and squat kind' but needs must!
Meetings with Olivier, Philippe and Loic, all of whom were attending to
little jobs for us went well and their work was first rate. All have been
recommended to Oyster for the benefit of owners passing this way. Friday a
boat prep day for tomorrow we sail. In the evening a final meal at Bistrot
de Pauline, the food as wonderful as ever, the soupe des pouisson of
particular note.
Saturday morning an early start, Lynn's nerves a jangle as we make final
preparation for our departure, removing 'springs', setting lines to slip,
stowing passerelle and hoisting dinghy onto davits. Finally in front of an
early morning crowd waiting for the ferry to Ile de Bendor Pamarzi glides
from her mooring, engine inaudible, not one single word needed to be spoken
by the crew - very cool. Out of the harbour, fenders stowed into 25 knots of
southerly breeze. Conservative sailing on a close reach under lightly reefed
main and staysail we still make six knots on our short voyage to the Iles
d'Hyeres, looking forward to visiting Iles de Porquerolles and Port- Cros
recommended to us by Nick of 'Bubblitex' fame. Closing on the islands a
relatively narrow gap opens up to expose a broad swathe of water two or
three times the acreage of the Solent between the mainland and Ile de
Porquerolles, we were treated to the wonderful site of quite literally
hundreds of coloured and patterned spinnakers and gennakers bursting into
bloom as racing yacht after racing yacht rounded the windward mark, their
crews of a dozen or more hauling and winching their sail changes. There must
have been at least four races going on in this expanse of water. A wonderful
site indeed but it is tradition that one gives way to boats racing so
crossing the two or three miles of this frantic activity without baulking
any yacht's progress required careful timing and some pretty smart tacking
on our part too.
And here we are at anchor off Plage de la Courtade, hook in a patch of sand
and 40 metres of chain veered out. The afternoon breeze easing down we sit
in the cockpit admiring the sandy beaches and thickly wooded slopes, this
place has an almost Caribbean feel to it. By early evening just a soft,
gentle breeze wafting across the anchorage, dark blue water where the
posidonia grass grows, vivid azure where the bottom is sandy for we have
just three metres of water under our keel. The faint sound of voices from
other boats at anchor as crews prepare to dine out or eat aboard, the
reddening sun seeming to move faster towards the point on the mainland where
it will dip behind its allotted hill. I could go on but madam is calling for
a glass of bubbles - ah, she who must be obeyed.

Roger & Lynn
The Crew of Pamarzi