Yacht Retreat - Passage Reports 2000
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Passage Report Number 1
Moored in Le Port de Plaisance, Saint-Mandrier, South of France
As I write, Retreat is bobbing happily as the breeze ruffles the surface of Saint-Mandrier harbour, Pat is sanding down one of the dinghy’s oars in the warm Spring sunshine and all is well with the world. What a joy it is to be afloat once more as we fit out Retreat for our third year of full-time cruising.
The prospect of sunshine seemed
very remote when we left
Our journey to Folkestone was
about as difficult as driving can get with heavy driving rain on the M25. However, we had allowed ourselves plenty of
time and the journey was completed without mishap. We crossed the channel in Le Shuttle arriving in
Our hire car turned out to be a
Renault Mégane Scenic. With its huge
boot, comfortable driving position and large windows it proved to be an ideal
vehicle for our long journey across
On Sunday 13th we drove across the vast open farmlands of Picardie down tree-lined roads that stretched in straight lines from horizon to horizon. This was an area that we knew only from our history books. As we ticked off the place names on our map we could almost see the battalions of tanks lined up against one another. How lucky we felt to have been born after that dark, dark period and to be able to enjoy the fullness of life that was denied to so many who came this way before us.
Our journey took us to two great
Our journey on Monday, our
longest of the week, took us through the
Tuesday brought us to what we had
planned as the ‘
On Wednesday we travelled east
through the Gorges du Tarn and along the spectacular ridge known as the
‘Corniche des Cévennes’ to Alès. Here we
left the mountains and began our descent towards the
We had expected to find a vast,
wide valley floor as we approached the Rhône but it was not so. The foothills of the
After a night just outside
On Friday and Saturday we made
use of our hire car to visit the supermarket, buy our antifouling paint and
visit the hills just behind
Sunday was spent unpacking our myriad of bags and boxes and somehow achieving the impossible by finding a place to stow everything. ‘Perhaps we should add an extra couple of centimetres of antifouling all round’ we thought to ourselves!
By Monday morning we had run out of excuses and the job of antifouling had to be started. For those of you who are strangers to this annual ritual, antifouling paint is a thick, vile concoction designed to prevent the growth of weed, slime and barnacles on the under-water surfaces of boats. The job involves scrubbing off the old growth (we did that last November with a high-pressure washer), and then using a combination of a roller and a paint brush to apply two coats of the new paint. By Wednesday it was done.
So it was that on the morning of Thursday 24th February, 2000 Retreat was launched and we were back afloat once more. If being back on board had felt good, this felt brilliant! We could not wait to get away. After a final check to make sure we had left nothing behind, we set off on our first passage of the new season. With clear blue skies and a warm sun we felt as if we could have carried on forever. Fortunately, sanity prevailed and two and three-quarter miles across La Petite Rade de Toulon we made fast at Le Port de Plaisance in Saint-Mandrier where we now lie.
We intend to stay in
Saint-Mandrier for three to four weeks completing the very many jobs necessary
to make Retreat ready for the new
season. These include fitting three new
windows which we have had made in
Passage Report Number 2
Moored in Le Port de Plaisance, Saint-Mandrier, South of France
STILL FITTING OUT
For ten of the fourteen days that have passed since our last Passage Report the list of jobs on our ‘Fitting Out’ list has seemed to grow longer rather than shorter. As so often happens, tackling one job has all-to-often revealed another two that we didn’t know about before we started. However, in the last few days we do seem to have managed to complete a few of our tasks and our list is, at last, reducing in length.
Since arriving back in
Rubbed down the under-water surface and applied two coats of antifouling.
Replaced one of the anodes.
Replaced twenty buckles on our Bimini (sun-awning) with stronger ones.
Made a new cover for our steering compass and two new storage bags.
Devised a means of fitting our passerelle to the stern for use when berthed stern-to.
Replaced the carpet lining to the bunk sides in the forecabin.
Re-varnished the woodwork in the forecabin.
Re-varnished the oars and the wash boards.
Re-varnished the companionway steps and fitted new anti-slip treads.
Re-bedded the port-side chain plates.
Fitted a new display head to our instrument system.
Serviced three winches and the anchor windlass.
Replaced the name ‘Retreat’ on the forward coachroof.
Fitted a new blocking diode in the charging system. (A blocking diode is an electrical one-way valve that divides the charge from the alternator between two separate battery banks.)
Unfortunately, the three
replacement windows that we have had made in the
As if to add a little variety to our lives, the final proof of our book arrived by International Data Post on Monday 6th March. With a deadline from the printer, we had only two days to check the entire manuscript, word by word. In doing so, we discovered the corrections made by the Adlard Coles proof-readers. It was like getting an essay back from a tutor! Most of the changes were minor and a matter of style (they removed half of my Capital Letters and three quarters of my exclamation marks!), but I felt that a few were not the place of proof-readers to make. For example, they changed ‘Mum’ to ‘my mother’ and they removed my description of our ‘workouts’ in Benalmádena as they claimed it was ‘too personal.’ I felt somewhat discouraged by this, but Pat (sensible as always) managed to persuade me that it was a normal part of having a book published and that there were actually very few changes considering the length of the text. By Tuesday evening the final corrections had been e-mailed to the publisher and the book was out of our hands. With luck, it should be available through bookshops by mid April with details as follows:
Published by Adlard Coles Nautical. ISBN 0-7136-5356-6. Price £8.99
If all goes to plan we could be under way by the end of next week, but if the windows do not arrive, we shall still be moored in Saint-Mandrier. Look out for our next Passage Report to find out.
Passage Report Number 3
Moored in Port-Cros, Les Îles
d’Hyères, South of
WINDOWS IN THE WEATHER
You will be pleased to hear that our windows arrived only two days after writing our last Passage Report. However, attempting to fit them turned out to be something of a nightmare. Although we had provided the company with accurate templates, all three of the windows turned out to be too small. Whilst they would fit into the holes in the coachroof they did not cover all the fixing holes left by the old windows, either inside or out. To add to our difficulties, on the day we removed the first of the old windows, the glorious weather that we had enjoyed for the first half of March broke down to be replaced by unsettled conditions which have continued ever since. Never-the-less, working between the showers, we eventually reached the point when all three of the new windows were bolted into place with ‘Duck Tape’ around their edges to make them waterproof. To complete the job we shall have to remove them again, build up the fibreglass with epoxy filler and then bed them in properly using the special mastic provided. However, as the Duck Tape seems to be keeping the water out it may be some time before we get around to that!
On Wednesday 29th
March we cast off from Saint-Mandrier and motored the couple of miles across La
Petite Rade to La Darse Vieille in
On Thursday 30th
March, fully victualled, we finally left La Petite Rade de Toulon, just one day
earlier than our departure from
Our first passage of the year was accomplished almost entirely under sail, 16½ miles in a westerly force 5 to Île de Porquerolles, the nearest of Les Îles d’Hyères. The buoys to which we had moored last autumn had been removed for the winter so we had to moor alongside a fairly elderly pontoon on the inner side of the harbour wall. As it turned out, this was very fortunate as, the following evening, a violent storm passed overhead with gusts to 35 knots. However, despite the storm, we very much enjoyed revisiting Île de Porquerolles, and were happy to be under way once more.
On Saturday morning we set sail once again, this time in a west-north-west force 5 under a clear blue sky to neighbouring Port-Cros where we made fast to a buoy. Port-Cros is fully protected from the east and south, partially protected from the north and west and completely exposed to the north-west. The weather forecast was predicting strong easterly winds for the next few days so Port-Cros seemed a good port to head for.
As so often happens, the wind died completely on Saturday night, but the forecast the next morning confirmed that an easterly gale or severe gale was imminent. We decided to move from our buoy to the quay where we made fast with our ‘storm ropes’ facing the expected wind. Once secure we felt confident enough to leave Retreat and go for a walk on this, our favourite of Les Îles d’Hyères. During the afternoon and evening the wind continued to build and by we had a steady force 7 with gusts to 33 knots. We have no doubt that any sailors still out on the open sea would be experiencing the full effect of the force 9 that had been forecast. How pleased we were to be securely moored with a 200-metre hillside between us and the worst of the weather.
During the course of this morning the wind gradually subsided and just before lunch we moved back to a buoy. We now find ourselves waiting for a window once again, this time a window in the weather that will allow us to progress further along the coast towards the French Riviera. To find out how long we had to wait, look out for our next Passage Report.
Passage Report Number 4
FAMILIAR NAMES, UNFAMILIAR PLACES
As I write I can hear the sound of the rain helpfully washing the salt from Retreat’s decks and of Italian being spoken by the passers-by on the quay. Although it is only a week since our last Passage Report, it has been a week in which we have visited three different countries, stayed in some well known cities and sailed by many more.
Tuesday 4th April dawned grey and showery but the wind had moderated to a southerly force 4. I rowed ashore to pay our dues and by 1000 we were under way. Our passage took us around the mighty Cap Camarat, the headland that marked the beginning of unknown waters for us this year. With variable winds the engine was turned on and off several times though we did manage to sail for about half the time. However, just before we started to cross the mouth of Le Golfe de Saint-Tropez a new wind filled in, 25 knots from the north-east, fine on our starboard bow. In rapidly building seas, discretion proved to be the better part of valour and, abandoning our plan to make for Saint-Raphaël, we eased sheets and headed for the marina at San-Peïre-sur-Mer, Les Issambres. Unfortunately, the only berth we were offered was by the entrance and completely exposed to the west. With the wind forecast to turn west overnight we had no choice but to put back to sea and continue to Saint-Raphaël. However, the journey was not as bad as we had feared and by 1715 we were securely moored in the fully-protected Port de Santa-Lucia, Saint-Raphaël.
With strong winds from the west Retreat remained firmly moored in Port
de Santa-Lucia all day on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, we enjoyed exploring Saint-Raphaël and the nearby Port
Fréjus, a tastefully-built marina and apartment complex. In the evening we walked along part of the
‘Sentier des Douaniers’, a coastal footpath that runs along most of the coast
On Thursday morning we motored
the 15 miles from Saint-Raphaël to ‘Le Second Port’ at
After a late lunch we walked into
the centre of
The next morning brought a light
wind from the north-east and a smooth to slight sea. With insufficient wind to sail we motored for
27 miles from
As we approached
As we took our photos of
As might be expected of a rich
principality, everywhere in
Yesterday, after a final visit to
the huge supermarket in
Though we had been impressed with
the scenery the day before, this passage gave us some of the most dramatic
scenery we have seen since leaving
Today is wet and windy and the
forecast for tomorrow is little better.
However, as soon as the weather improves we hope to make further
progress along the coast north-east towards Genova and then south-east towards
Passage Report Number 5
THE PATTER OF TINY FEET
“There goes our supper,” cried Pat as Retreat healed violently to starboard and a jug flew into the air and deposited its contents on the floor. “What on earth is the wind speed now?”
“Forty five knots” I shouted
back. “That’s the top end of severe gale
force 9, almost storm force 10.” Just
then there was a loud bang from the heads as Retreat lurched to starboard once more, this time throwing a
medicine bottle onto the floor. It was
our own fault, of course, as it had not been properly stowed for heavy
weather. However, in our defence, we
were still firmly tied to the quay in Beaulieu Marina where we might reasonably
have expected a quieter evening! How we
came to be moored back in
Shortly after sending our last Passage Report we received a message from Katy asking if she could fly out and spend a few days with us. A quick comparison of our charts with the route maps of the reasonably-priced airlines suggested that the most sensible plan was for us to retrace our wake towards Nice. So it was that on Tuesday 11th April we set sail from San Remo in Italy to Beaulieu in France, a delightfully picturesque marina in a small town less than 5 miles from the centre of Nice.
By Thursday our plans had changed
yet again. Although it was a secret at
the time, we are now able to reveal the reason why. Katy is expecting a baby. Unfortunately, on Thursday morning, she
suffered a complication to her pregnancy.
Whilst mother and baby were still well, it was clear that it was no
longer sensible for Katy to fly. We rang
Easy Jet and altered the flights to enable Pat and I to fly back to the
We landed at
On Easter Day we drove to
Tuesday 25th April was the big day. Katy had her routine 12-week scan at the local hospital. Pat and I sat nervously at home whilst Nick took Katy to the hospital. Less than an hour later we received the telephone call that we had hoped and prayed for – the baby was fit and well. Katy and Nick returned elated bearing a printout of the scan clearly showing the image of a baby, 5.7 cm long.
The next morning we drove back to
Our unexpected trip back to the
We spent our first full day back on board re-stocking Retreat and making her ready for sea once more. The wind increased steadily throughout the day peaking at 45 knots, as you have already heard, just before supper. Fortunately it moderated overnight and Friday dawned calm but wet. And when I say wet, I mean wet! It rained solidly all day confining us below without a break. It seemed as if Beaulieu had some sort of hold upon us and was determined not to let to go!
We need not have worried. Saturday greeted us with clear blue skies, a
calm sea and a forecast of several similar days to come. We wasted no time and by 0920 we were under
way, albeit under power. We motored for
46 miles, past
The Riviera Ponente, as this part
of the coast of
Passage Report Number 6
As I write we are moored bows to our anchor and stern to
the quay in Porto Capraia on Isola Capraia, a small mountainous island between
Before we left Porto Varazze on Mayday morning I pumped some fuel from the bottom of the tank and checked the filters to make sure that the system was free of sediment and water. The fuel was clean, but I had difficulty in bleeding all the air from the system when I had finished. However, the engine started without problem so we cast off our lines and motored out of the harbour. Less than 200 metres out the engine stopped, fortunately not until we were in clear water with no one nearby. We quickly anchored in order to avoid drifting onshore and I set about bleeding the fuel system, correctly this time!
Within half an hour we were under way once more and we
motored and sailed for 39 miles around the head of the
As we left
On Tuesday we motored for 32 miles from Chiavari to the Golfo di La Spezia, home of the Italian Navy. En route we spotted a school of dolphins for the first time this year and thousands upon thousands of young Portuguese Men o’ War, jelly fish that sail the seas by means of an inflated bladder that protrudes above the surface of the water. We also sailed through vast slicks of green and yellow pollen from the shrubs that cover the mountains.
Our route took us past the ‘Cinque Terre’, five once-isolated villages along a ten-mile stretch of particularly rugged coastline. The villages are now joined by a remarkable railway that covers most of the ten miles through a series of tunnels.
We took a short cut into the Golfo di La Spezia through what has to be the most spectacular passage we have yet encountered. At the southern end of the Cinque Terre there is a narrow channel between the mainland and Isola Palmaria, an offshore island. The channel cannot be seen until the very last minute so it seems as if you are heading straight into the side of the mountain. Finally, provided you have kept your nerve, the channel opens up and you turn between towering cliffs into Portovenere Passage that leads into the Gulfo di La Spezia itself.
We spent a peaceful night at anchor in Seno delle Grazie,
a large bay on the western side of the Gulf, our first night at anchor this
year. There was a definite feeling of
Deja Vu as we looked out across
On Wednesday we had a less energetic day motoring just 23
miles along the coast to
We booked into
Adjacent to the Tower is a Duomo or Cathedral built almost
entirely of marble, no doubt from the quarries at
On Friday we made the 56 mile passage from
We hope to stay in Porto Capraia for a few days and then
make the crossing to
Passage Report Number 7
Passage Report Number 8
Moored in Port de l’Amirauté,
Passage Report Number 9
Anchored in Baie de Stagnolu,
Golfe de Porto-Vecchio,
Passage Report Number 10
Passage Report Number 11
Anchored in Cala Garibaldi, Isola Caprera, Sardegna
After lunch we continued south as far as Porto Brandinchi and then returned to Porto della Taverna where we enjoyed a peaceful night at anchor. The next day we circumnavigated Isola Tavolara and then motored north, around Capo Figari and into Golfo di Cugnana. This almost land-locked bay is a popular anchorage for cruising boats although there are no facilities close by. We chose to walk a mile or so into Porto Rotundo where we were able to stock up on essential provisions.
On Wednesday morning we motored the short distance around the headland into Porto Rotundo where, we had learnt the day before, we could moor for a few hours without charge. We used the opportunity to wash down our decks and take on water for the first time in two weeks. It was hard work, but a real treat to have full tanks once again.
After our short stay in Porto Rotundo we enjoyed a superb sail across the bay to Cala Volpe, one of the gems in the crown of the Costa Smeralda. The landscape is of sculptured red granite with low-rise villas, many of them incorporating outcrops of rock into their walls. The contrast between the turquoise blue crystal clear water and the red granite is exquisite. What a shame, therefore, that the bay is so heavily polluted with small speedboats and wet bikes. Mercifully, as our Pilot Book so admirably expresses it, “like wasps and flies they go home at night!”
From Cala Volpe we sailed to Porto Cervo, the sailing capital of the Costa Smeralda. Harbour charges here are reputed to be £100 per night for a yacht our size but fortunately it is possible to anchor off without charge. We made a brief excursion ashore to the supermarket and to admire some of the huge motor yachts for which this harbour was really built. No sooner had we returned to Retreat than a wind shift created mayhem in the anchorage. One large yacht went aground and another swung very close to us. Having experienced quite enough excitement for one day we weighed anchor and motored around to Porto Palma where we enjoyed a peaceful night.
Yesterday, with a forecast of moderate winds we decided to go sailing for the day! Despite the high winds, or rather because of the high winds, we have sailed very little this year. We seem to have had either no wind or over 25 knots so the prospect of a good sailing day was not to be missed. We completed our circumnavigation of Isola La Maddalena almost entirely under sail including a run under our spinnaker, its first airing this year. We stopped for lunch in a beautiful bay, Cala Francese, and then continued to Cala Garibaldi where we now lie.
P.S. At 1945, just before I e-mailed this report, the wind dropped from 25 knots to 5 knots in less than 5 minutes giving us the prospect of a peaceful night – we hope!
Passage Report Number 12
Moored in the Port de Plaisance, Solenzara,
We remained in harbour for a further day and night using our time to re-varnish some of our bright work. On Wednesday afternoon we motored out of the harbour and anchored off hoping for a peaceful night. We were not disappointed. However, the lunch-time forecast the following day once again included those fateful words: “Menace de Tempête parage des Bouches de Bonifacio.” We decided to head north to Solenzara, away from the Straits and away from the strongest winds.
At 1520 on Thursday 13th
July we weighed anchor and set sail on what was to be our last passage before
We spent our first five days in
Solenzara completing our list of maintenance tasks on Retreat and making her ready for her month’s lay-up afloat. Then, on Wednesday, we travelled by bus to
Porto Vecchio to pick up a hire car that we had booked through an agency in
We made full use of the hire car
to explore some of the inland sights of
Tomorrow morning we shall drop
off our hire car at
Our totals for the first half of the year 2000 were as follows:
nautical miles in 105 days
Time spent at sea:
Time spent under sail:
Time spent under power:
Average distance travelled per week:
Proportion of time sailing:
On Passage from Amalfi towards
IN THE SHADOW OF VESUVIUS
VOLCANOES AND FLYING FISH
Moored in Lazzaretto Creek, Malta
Sunday 15th October, 2000
The bad weather kept us in Reggio di Calabria for a further two days. Indeed, the sea conditions were so bad that even the ferries bound for Malta stayed in port. With little to see in the immediate area we spent much of our time writing Port Reports for the Cruising Association. If they prove to be helpful to fellow members, at least someone will have benefited from our enforced stay in a rather drab harbour.
On Tuesday 3rd October we awoke to a flat calm but a forecast of a southerly force 7. Such contradictions always engender much heart-searching, especially when, as on this occasion, our intended destination was over 30 miles away with no intermediate harbours. However, although ‘good seamanship’ seemed to demand that we stayed on our mooring, we decided to set sail promising ourselves that if the conditions worsened we would turn back. In the event we need not have worried. We motored all the way to Riposto on the Sicilian coast with little or no wind except for a relatively brief period of force 7 whilst a thunderstorm passed over head. We retreated down below and kept watch through our large windows and emerged after the storm had passed to a stunning view of The Etna, snow-capped and smouldering on the skyline.