10/11 August 2011
So now that the Mistral (high winds from the north end of the Gulf of Leon cause by a high pressure north of the gap between the Alps and Pyrenees) had passed it was time to decide do we further go along the coast of France or just bolt for Spain. France marinas get shallow as we would head west and they are not so nice, just large places jammed with boats. While Marseilles would be nice to see it is really just another big city. So with a determined stance we decided, or at I decided, to go west. We had an option to head for the Porquerolles (Pork Roll as I see it) Islands and anchor for the night to cut down on the trip. But judging by our recent experience in France and Italy the constant boat traffic would make the anchorage rough so we planned for a full run.
The distance was estimated to be 170+ miles and 22 hours. With that in mind I sent a email to the marina in Roses to make sure there was space. No problem so the die was cast. We left Grimaud at 10:30 am after getting a few supplies. Huge boat traffic at the entrance with everyone inside wanting to get out and those outside wanting to get in. Different than our arrival the tide was out, yes there is a small tide in the Med. Just enough that the 3.0 meters we had entering dropped now to 2.5 and we began to touch the muddy bottom. More power Scottie and we just blasted our way out, pushing a few of the many Zodiacs away at the sight of our bow wake.
Once we were in deeper water things were good and we settled into a long trip. Based on our weather forecasts there would be minimal winds so motoring all the way was expected. Good forecast this time. Once we made the Pork Rolls the anchorages were jammed and full of powerboat wakes as expected so we continued on. Just getting ready for open sea the French Customs cutter decided we were fair game and launched its tender to come over and board us. Nice guys as we have experienced in the past. As long as you have all the proper paperwork in place and nothing to hide they are fine, just doing their job. Formalities finished and a quick search of the boat to verify we were not transporting contraband they jumped back on their Zodiac and waved us a good trip. They were astonished we were going to Spain from where they boarded us. It seems they rarely board sailboats making what we would consider a common trip. I guess most boats are just local and travel only a few mile from home port.
Back underway we set course again and settled into the rhythm of a passage. I took the helm for the start and then Pat being the night owl took the next three hours till midnight. Full moon made things easier. Of course at this point the radar decided to stop working again. Annoyance but not an issue as the AIS still works to identify large ships and the good old eyeballs are the main source of observation anyway.
From Midnight till dawn I took watch. Nothing much going on. We had a slight chop in the water at first but as the night went on that died down to almost flat water. Once the full(nearly) moon set everything became really dark. With clear skies the Milky Way was at its best right down to the horizon. One of the best I have ever seen.
Our speed increase with a great favorable current so we were making nearly nine knots. Meteors also made the trip fun. It is the Perseids and they did their best to have a meteor every few minutes. Finally dawn began its slow appearance and the coastline of Spain began to come into view. It just seemed to take forever to finally reach the port. The last 20 miles are always the longest.
A call on the radio to the Port at 08:30 and they were ready for us. Nice berth on the north side of the visitor quay which provides better protection from incoming seas.
So the trip was 179 nautical miles and took 23 hours including the customs stop, not bad. Burned a lot of fuel but no choice. Always good to cross the Gulf of Leon without fierce winds for which the gulf is famous.