More time in Costa Brava and Southwest Coast of France

We left off the previous post having just gotten to the ‘Costa Brava’ region along the southeast coast of Spain from Menorca Island. We had enjoyed our short time along this area on our way to the Balearic Islands so we were excited to see more.

We originally planned to cross directly from the Balearics to Corsica, the very large French island south of France and west of Northern Italy. However, we also needed to have a couple boat warranty items worked on and since we liked the work SAS had done originally, we decided to return to them. It was back to Canet-en-Roussillion for us! This would also work out well as a place we could leave the boat while we would be off it for a little over a week.

In the morning after we arrived in Tossa de Mar, Spain, we went ashore and walked all over this darling town. There is a large fortification that has been nicely maintained to include beautiful walking paths and easy connections between the high fortress and the curvy old narrow streets of the town.

We continued NE up the coast of Spain and stopped at another wonderful, if very busy, harbor – Aiguablava! I created a short video several weeks ago highlighting the snorkeling and the wonderful caves, cliffs and tiny bays scattered nearby so I’ll share that here as a highlight of our time in Aiguablava, Spain.

Our next anchorage was Cala Tabellera, just north of the Golf of Roses but still on the Spanish coastline. This place is amazing – between here and the boarder with France are a million places to tuck in and explore. We quickly came to appreciate that one could spend many days exploring the coves and bays in this part of Spain. Unfortunately, we only had the one day left since we would soon be on a flight back to the US for a quick visit and we had to get Sea Rose safely tucked in first!

 

Notice the very different landscape and vegetation in this part of the Spanish coast. While it was barren and somewhat stark, it was lovely in its ruggedness!

In the morning, we made the 25 mile trip back to Canet-en-Roussillion! We had been in Spanish waters for about five weeks and we were missing France and what we had begun to appreciate about the French people. Putting our French courtesy flag back up as we crossed the boarder brought smiles to both of our faces!

Raising the French Courtesy Flag!

From Canet, we flew home to see our sons and to attend a ceremony for our older son’s beginning of medical school. We have been living on board for almost six weeks. As I contemplate that, I have to ask myself ‘What is home, after all?’ Were we flying ‘home’ or were we leaving our ‘home’ here in France? The boat had certainly become comfortable and familiar to us. We had done several projects over the weeks to have it fit our needs and we were liking the life we could live from aboard her. So, was this boat now our ‘home’? I would have to say, ‘no … it is very lovely and a lot of fun but for me it is not “home” ’. Home is closer to where my sons are. Home is a place from which I can easily communicate with my aging parents. Home is having good friends nearby who are eager to go for frequent walks and have meaningful talks. Home has a yard that my sweet dog runs around in – probably wondering where the heck his parents are. (Thank you, Caleb, for taking good care of Journey this summer!!) Tom would have to answer this question from his own perspective and definition of what “home” is for him, but there you have my deep thoughts for this week!

When we got back on Sea Rose, we both realized we had missed her and we were excited for the explorations ahead of us! We brought three HUGE checked bags back with us, each pushing the 50 lb weight limit. Over the previous weeks, we had had a bunch of boat parts and other stuff we needed shipped to our home in New Hampshire, knowing we would be there to retrieve it all and bring it back! While home, I also made an awning to keep the afternoon sun off the deck, and thus prevent our downstairs living space from being overheated. Finding a storage place for all this new s#*$ took some work but it was stuff we needed so it had to find a home! For those interested in my handiwork, here’s some pix of the awning!

We quickly provisioned and checked on the work that had been done. Our new batteries seem to be doing the job, but time will be the judge here. We were thrilled to have a second water tank added to bring our on-board fresh water capacity up to 140 gallons (530 liters). The warranty repair work had also been completed.

We had a friend (Emmy) we were to meet in Toulon, France in 4 days time so we tossed off the dock lines to cross the Golf of Lyon with a hopeful destination southeast of Marseille — the Parc National des Calanques. This is essentially a national park highlighting the stunning limestone fjords (which the French call ‘Calanques’) that the area is famous for.  We know there is so much to explore along the French coastline and with more time we would have gone at a slower pace. It seems we are looking at this summer as a tasting or sampling of sorts to know the places we would love to spend more time in! Here’s a map of our journey covered in the rest of this blog post:

Our explorations along the southern coast of France.

Once we arrived in the Calanques, we were happy with our choice to jump here from Canet! We anchored in a calanque called Sormiou and took in the surrounding tall ridgelines as we relaxed for the first time since we left Boston on our way back to the boat four-and-a-half days ago! We took our dinghy into their tiny harbor the next morning and it seemed the whole town was here … in the water for their morning swim! What a cute place. We walked up onto the ridge and flew the drone to get a perspective of this great spot. Here is a collection of shots we took while in Sormiou.

We moved to the next calanque east — Calanque de Morgiou — for a lunch and snorkel stop. This place was also terrific and could be enjoyed for several days. There were crowds of people swimming and cliff jumping so clearly we found a popular spot!

We then found our night’s stop as we tied up to a steep cliff in Port Miou! What a terrific spot! As the pilot book warned, we had cliff jumpers making the terrifying leap from far above into the waters just off our stern!

The town of Cassis was supposed to be very nice, so in the evening we set off for the 30 minute walk into town. They like their hills around here! By the time we arrived, we were both sweaty and thirsty! We sat down at a Paris-style café to people watch and quench our thirst!

Back on the boat, we snuggled in for a good night’s sleep after our exercise and libations! We were awoken at 3 am by a thunder and lightening storm that was fascinating to watch. We could see flashes and bolts in the distance and the speed at which the storm approached was awesome. Of all places to be anchored, we were pretty safe where we were since the rock walls surrounding us were taller than our mast and we were with a bunch of other sailboats – comfort in numbers! This storm was a preview to a period of high winds that we would have to work with for the next couple days. With this knowledge in hand, we set off as soon as we could to get closer to where we would meet Emmy. We picked the island of Porquerolles since it was just off shore from Toulon and Hyeres-Plage, where the airport is located. This island had the added benefit of a couple anchorages that are oriented such that we will have good protection from the building winds.

As we dropped the lines and pulled away from the calanque, the winds picked up right away; we spent most of the day in 20-plus knots of wind. Luckily, both the wind and the seas were coming from behind us so, although it was quite rough, we were not really slamming into the waves as much as surfing along the tops of them. However, since the waves were big, we decided to jibe back and forth with the wind always about 30 degrees off our stern from first the port then the starboard side. Sailing at even this small angle off of a straight down-wind course makes more efficient use of the wind (since both sails can be filled versus one sail blanketing the other) and it is safer because you have less of a chance of an accidental jibe. A jibe is when the wind switches from coming from one side of your boat (say, the starboard side) to the other (port side) and occurs because the wind angle has gone past your stern (versus the wind crossing your bow which would be a ‘tack’). When this happens, your sails respond to the new wind direction and on a jibe your boom swings across your boat and people or things in the way can get injured/damaged if the jibe is not expected and properly managed. It is best to help the boom over more gently by bringing the mainsheet in so the boom doesn’t have as far to travel. When you are going directly downwind, just a tiny wind angle change can cause your boom to go crashing from one side of your boat to the other, often catching the skipper by surprise. And, when you are surfing down huge waves every few seconds and your boat is tossed about in the process, it is incredibly easy to accidentally jibe. I realize that was a long explanation but I know some of you may want to understand the reason we often sail just off from a straight down-wind course … especially when we have big seas.

We arrived at Porquerolles in the late afternoon and found the anchorage highly utilized – its seems lots of other people had the same goal of finding a protected anchorage! Once we settled in, Tom swam around the anchorage with the GoPro as he looked at our neighbor’s anchors and whether or not they were properly set. The winds were supposed to be very strong all night and it is much easier and safer to work these things out during daylight than to stumble about on deck in the middle of the night! Luckily, everyone near us had their anchors set and they had plenty of scope (length of chain as determined by a ratio to the depth of water you are anchored in).

The winds were predicted to be high for a second day so we stayed put off of Porquerolles. It was actually nice to relax prior to having a guest on board. In the evening, we opened some letters that our friends had sent with us to raise our spirits if they dipped during our summer adventure. Our dear friend Michelle has a history of organizing ‘Theme Nights’ when our crazy group of friends get together so she sent some stuff along to encourage fun in her absence!

In the morning, we raised anchor and headed over toward Hyeres-Plage (near Toulon) where we would do laundry, provision for food/beverages and clean our boat! Emmy was to land around 3 pm so we had to scramble to get our chores done and arrive at the airport to greet her on time. It is worth the effort to be able to welcome a friend on board a clean boat that is ready for entertaining guests!

Hope you enjoyed hearing about our time along the Spanish and French coastlines. Our next blog post will cover our final night along the French coast before we jump over to Corsica – or ‘Corse’ as the French call it. It IS their island after-all so I’m happy to call it Corse!

Thanks for reading!

Karen & Tom ~ LifeFourPointZero