Cruising the Rivieras. Iles Frioul 43:16.70N, 05:18.70E.

Saro's Gyda
Derrick Thorrington
Mon 18 Apr 2011 17:07
    We waited in Genoa for a few more days as our friends from CSC, John and Val, were joining us for the first part of our Med cruise. Despite the favourable turn of the weather up to then, our first excursion into Mediterranean waters brought wind on the nose and cold, heavy rain! We hoped that this was not the herald of things to come!
    The loose plan was to make good progress westward and to end up as near to Marseille as we could by the time John and Val left. However we also wanted to see as many places as possible in the process, which although seemed like a tall order, worked very well with hops of between 12 and 30 miles at a time.
We made two landfalls in Italy, exploring thoroughly the towns of Loano and San Remo with it's amazing hilltop old town with tiny corridors and passageways climbing up the steep hill. Ice creams were bought in each town in the pretence of research and all were proclaimed to be equally delicious!
    From the border of Italy there are approximately 5 miles of France before the coastal waters of Monaco, so no sooner has the Italian courtesy flag been lowered and the French raised, the French has to be lowered again as to fly this in Monaco is frowned upon. We could not resist taking our own Yacht into Monaco so we braced ourselves for the expense and planned for a one night stay. After a quick lunch we were off on our sightseeing tour which included the old town, cathedral, palace, superyacht marina and of course, the casino. John thought to try his hand at gambling on a one-armed bandit. Unfortunately his bid of one euro wasn't good enough as the machines demanded 5 Euros minimum. Val made the most of the Casino by visiting the very posh loos and telling us all about them! We kept a good lookout for smart cars and were surprised to see that the most popular cars were Rolls Royces and Bentleys with only a smattering of Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris. The weather was lovely and the "beautiful people" on the huge superyachts were busy making the correct impression on the many ordinary folk passing by.
Port Monaco in the middle of Monaco
Spot Green Flash (nearest pontoon, 4th boat along) in the less showy marina beneath the old city.
    We continued westwards in comfortable hops, in beautiful weather, wall to wall sunshine and not a breath of wind! The coastline gradually changed from hilly with a backdrop of snow covered mountains to rocky with small bays and islands. We anchored at Ile St Marguerite, the scene of an English Naval action in 1793, St Raphael with its red volcanic rocks and islands were the mate had her first Med swim, much to the astonishment of  some locals (it was a little bit fresh), and the beautiful island of Porquerolles (pronounced "Pork Rolls") offshore from Toulon. The weather has become hotter and hotter which, according to the locals is very unusual for this time of year, and swimming in the beautiful clear water has become a daily event. The other frequent event in France is (of course) the enjoyment of French food most notably the cheeses, pates, seafood, croissants and pastries.
Perfect anchorage off Porquerolles
Looking towards Toulon from Porquerolles
    Our last port of call with John and Val was the delightful little town on Bandol with its accompanying small island of Bendor where on our final evening together, we enjoyed a typically French meal at a friendly little restaurant.The following morning, after their last croissants, John and Val were waved off to catch their flight from Toulon. It was lovely to have had their company for almost two weeks.
    The area to the west of Toulon is white limestone, carved into fantastic shapes and intersected by deep, sheer gorges. Some of these gorges lead out into the sea and are known as the "Calanques". After 12 miles of motoring along this beautiful coast we decided to stay for the night at Port Miou situated deep in a very sheer calanque. The pilot book warned that it would be difficult to make out from the sea and as we headed straight for the sheer coast we were relieved to suddenly see a right angled turn disappearing behind the cliff. We followed the bend and entered the most beautiful gorge with white cliffs, pine trees and clear blue water. As we ate lunch in the cockpit we were entertained by local men highdiving from the cliffs 60 feet above the water. (The spectacle did not help the digestion).
Calanque de Port Miou
Entrance to the calanque
    We are now tucked into a marina between the two main islands of Les Iles de Frioul, just off the city of Marseilles, having at last had a good wind. Unfortunately this was straight on the nose and had whipped up a bit of a sea in the narrow channels between the islands so motorsailing had to be the order of the day. The islands are of very rugged, white limestone and are covered with ruined forts. The small offlying Ile d'Ife with it's dramatic chateau was the setting for the book, "The Count of Monte Christo".
Ile d'Ife from Ile de Frioul with Marseille in the background.
    The "meteo" gave out a mistral warning three days ago so we decided to wait here until it had passed, being unsure of the likihood of getting into one of the very small local marinas on the next stretch of coast. The local forecast was for winds of 40knots with stronger gusts from the NW. As predicted, the wind began to gust at midnight, just after we had gone to bed. The rest of the night was spent cringing at the incredible gusts and getting up regularly in a bid to stop the boat rebounding from the gusts and hitting the quay hard with the bow. (The mooring was the type where the boat is secured with a buoy to the bow or stern and the other end to the quay, so lying perpendicular to the quay). After several unsuccessful attemps of preventing this with extra ropes and a bow fender, we resigned ourselves to launching the dinghy and employing two more spare mooring buoys and reinforcing the bow lines. As the next day progressed the wind and gusts continued to strengthen. We began to be able to recognise the strength of the gusts by how many fenders landed on the deck and the amount of spray that was being lifted off the flat water of the harbour!
(two fenders = 50knots)!
    It is now the day after. The wind has calmed down to a F5 with the occasional small gust and is predicted to drop further this afternoon. The weather is still lovely and sunny but has turned cold after the mistral. Hopefully we shall move on later on our way to Sete and the beginning of the Canal du Midi.