Captains Blog 35 – You, Me and the Mepewete

After a short snooze at anchor, the bacon was on and we pondered our surroundings. Menton Garavan looked okay from out here. We’d booked into the marina and after a short wait were allocated a berth. We got there and waited for someone to give us a hand with mooring lines. It was a long wait. So long that we reversed in and sorted ourselves, tutting and shaking our heads as we did.

The marina was a good base to explore from and even had a cycle way into the town, which was a good mixture of old and new. Buildings not people, though it was probably a similar split. First Mate had her mop cropped while I took a wander up the hill to take in the views. It was a good introduction to the French Mediterranean coast.

We left after a few days, in the direction of Monaco, but as we were sailing spotted Sailing Yacht A. We realised that if they saw us, they’d probably be badgering us about getting together. Best if we snuck by and headed to Beaulieu instead.

Once settled in the lovely marina at Beaulieu, we jumped on the bus for Monaco, arriving in style outside Monte Carlo Casino, the French supermarket. I asked the First Mate if she’d prefer some takeaway nosh from there or Café du Paris as she’d intimated at some earlier point. She scowled at me, not bothering to respond. “How rude! Sandwich it is then,” I said in my head as we walked towards the Café du Paris.

Wandering around made you realise how small the principality is. So much is crammed into such a small area though there are some great parks and public spaces to saunter through. The fancy cars, the buildings, the big boats, I suspected my retirement budget wouldn’t cover living in Monaco.

After a full day we arrived back at the boat exhausted and full of anticipation for our next sail. There are so many iconic places along the French Mediterranean coast that you’d spend all season here if you visited them all. Our next stop was an anchorage just outside Antibes.

Antibes was buzzing and really busy compared with what we’d encountered so far. Again, there was a good mixture of old and new to explore. Buildings!! The small bay we’d anchored at had a busy beach with bars and restaurants. Jet skis, water skier’s and novelty tow along inflatable mattresses ridden by large giggling women, dominated during the day. At night, all went quiet and you could enjoy a good night’s kip.

We did wake one morning to find Sailing Yacht A anchored behind us, obviously trying to gain kudos by being close by. “Just don’t look over” I told the first mate; “they’ll soon lose interest.” And after a couple of days they did and moved on, but by now we also needed to move. Around the corner were the Iles de Lerin where we anchored between the islands for a catch up with Vic and Chris on Champagne. Chris had not long returned from the Netherlands and was keen not to get too close, though this didn’t stop us enjoying a fine BBQ and a drink or two aboard Gianti.

By now things were getting really busy. An unfeasibly large number of super yachts, speed boats and gin palaces hurtled around at full tilt, creating constant wake. It made for an uncomfortable passage, particularly in light winds when the sail boom would slam from side to side.

Thankfully there was sufficient wind to sail comfortably as we set off towards St Tropez, roughly 34 nautical miles away. Winds of 10-12 knots had been predicted, but this was an evil lie! We’d sailed around 5 miles before tacking away from land. The wind was building as a huge sail boat raced in front of us with full sails set, coping majestically with conditions, just before our canvas front hatch cover flew into the air and disappeared.

We continued out until we thought we’d be able to tack and maintain course to our destination. Winds were now touching 30 knots and sails had been fully reefed. Trying to beat into the wind (we were sailing at about 45°- 55° to it at this time) can be hard work, putting a strain on crew as well as the rig. Winds continued building towards 35 knots and a tack was required, even if only to ease the pressure.

The tack helped but we were now heading away from our destination. Winds eventually eased to between 28 to 30 knots and enabled us to tack again and pull back on course, aided by a slight change in wind direction. Eventually we could see the entrance to the Golfe de St Tropez and winds dropped considerably. Our relief was short lived. Foolishly I took out the reefs in the mainsail just before the winds switched through 180° and a huge gust filled the sail, popping the lazy jacks on the starboard side. Lines whipped and flailed across the cockpit as we desperately tried to regain control. The remainder of the journey was simply a battle against big winds and an angry sea before eventually reaching the sanctuary of the protected anchorage on a weather beaten Gianti. Champagne were already anchored and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Proper salty seadogs.

St Tropez, home of the most expensive single scoops of ice cream in the world and the busiest place in France. We still enjoyed checking out the old artisan area, the fort and seeing The Man Who Measures the Clouds, a fab sculpture by Jan Fabre.

We headed further into the bay anchoring just outside Port Grimaud, together with Vic and Chris. I thought I’d take a dip so swam to the beach and discovered the largest aquatic mammal I’ve ever seen. I named it the megla pelted web footed rat thing or Mepewete rat for short! On further investigation I discovered that it already had a name, Coypu. There were two happily living alongside the ducks in a pond, just of the beach. They must be good swimmers to make it all the way here from South America!

We “ducked” into Port Grimaud marina for a couple of nights to clean down the boat and replenish water. The following day I wandered over to where I could see Champagne, but they’d gone. Vic, the frustrated Brit had obviously had enough and cleared off. Oh well, we knew we’d catch up at some point and it had been great to see them again. We took the opportunity to make full use of the cycleway leading to St Maxime and get some much-needed exercise.

Before long we were heading out again towards Ile de Porquerolles. We visited three potential anchorages before we found a reasonable spot in a bay on the north of the island. We were nicely settled when a small sail boat anchored nearby.

“He’s a bit close” said the First Mate and she was right. The following morning the occupants decided to go ashore. We watched their boat bob closer and closer until we were touching their pulpit trying to prevent the bow striking our stern. We had no choice but to re anchor a bit further away, which is annoying considering we hadn’t created the problem.

“Ah, they’ll realise when they see we’ve had to move and probably come over and apologise.” They remained completely oblivious. An hour or so after their return I saw a dinghy being towed from boat to boat and realised they were searching for its owner. Well, you’d never have guessed who it belonged to? Yes, that’s right, the very same couple who’d anchored too close. “Bye,” I said thirty minutes later as they left and under my breath “hope to never see you again”.

As the stress eased and the “concerns” drifted away, we headed over to pay a visit to Porquerolles. Car’s aren’t allowed on the island so everyone either walks or bikes, which is great (my Dad would be a big fan). There were a surprising number of people about and so many not wearing masks. We sat and had a couple of beers at a nice bar and enjoyed a bit of people and petanque watching, before heading back to Gianti.

Talking of Petanque, it’s time for me to wrap this up till next time.


Captain Mac

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