(10:45) The beautiful weather and lack of wind saw the sea fill with a plethora of pleasure boats exploring the calanques (Mediterranean fjords) and islands to the south of Marseille, each vying for the best swimming spot. The calm weather allowed me to take the pass between the mainland and Ile Maire, and not to be outdone by the locals, I headed for Sormiou to claim my spot in the shallow protected waters of the calanque. A lazy day enjoying the good company, warm sun and crystal clear sea, perfect!
Well almost perfect, I did have a few embarrassing minutes of excitement as I climbed aboard rather promptly to reset the plow anchor before drifting against our neighbours yacht. I guess I should have used the Danforth!
By 15:00 it was time to weigh anchor and find a spot for the night. About 4 miles away was Port Miou. I was met by the friendly marina staff zipping about on their tender and quickly found a spot on the east side of the calanque. After paying for the night (12 Euros, water but no electricity) they provided me with the latest weather fax from Meteo France, a couple of waterproof pouches as souvenirs and directions to the nearby tennis club and restaurants. I’m glad I arrived fairly early as this is a popular spot during the day, but completely deserted at night (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calanque_de_Port-Miou).
(15:00) It was a late start to my sailing week, as I had to wait for the Capitanerie to reopen following the usual extended French lunch break. With a planned 25 NM trip to Port du Frioul just off the coast from Marseille my girlfriend and I were eager to get started even after driving more than 1200km on Friday night from Amsterdam and having had less than 4 hours sleep. We considered ourselves lucky as the weather forecast for the next few days was fine with the Mistral (which really howls through Port St. Louis and the rest of the Camargue for that matter); set to return no earlier than Tuesday.
There really isn’t much to Port St. Louis and it’s a bit isolated (If you don’t take your own car you’ll need to catch a train to Arles; worth the visit; and then take the infrequently run bus from there). Taxi fares from Marseille airport will set you back as much as the airfare. The port lacks character but is reasonably priced (at 72 Euro a week) and the facilities are good. It’s no surprise that the nearby Port Napoleon is so popular for wintering (see http://www.port-napoleon.com/) but you need to get quite a way out of the commercial port before the scenery improves.
It was just on sunset when we rounded Cape de Croix and saw the chateau fort of Ile d’lf (made famous by the Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo) and before long I had settled in by the visitors quay against the sea wall joining the islands of Ratonneau and Pomegues (at the far side of the marina and contrary to directions given by the pilot book). The buzz of quayside restaurants in the balmy evening set the holiday atmosphere and we toasted our successful first leg over a glass of port.