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Adventures in the South of France

We arrived on the Côte d’Azur by plane, train, and car, some just off red eye flights, and others coming from various points in Europe. Arriving at mid-day in Golfe Juan, trip leaders Eleanor and Mia, along with Mary Ann, quickly learned that the French custom of closing for lunch meant we weren’t getting onto any boats for a while. Eventually lunch time ended, we found our boats, and we boarded.

Bob Rainey had pre-ordered provisions from a large grocery that had to be picked up at a semi-automated warehouse. Mia chauffeured Mary Ann and Eleanor on this adventure in their rental car. Later Mia and Steve’s crews walked to the local supermarket, which turned out to be well stocked and willing to deliver their purchases directly to their boats. Mais oui, s’il vous plait!

After stowing gear and all those provisions, and checking out the boats, everyone made their way to one of the charming outdoor restaurants, Le Cabanon, along the water-side promenade. The trials of the day quickly dissolved with a French dinner and delicious wine.

Sunday morning, members of all three crews went to the marché provincial—the outdoor market—in nearby Antibes. They purchased French bread, freshly caught fish, hummus, cheese, salad fixings, and other delectables. Mia and John had fun tasting cheeses and sausages and selecting goodies at the boulangerie. Now completely stocked with food and drink, all three boats found their way out of the marina and set sail on the Med. We anchored at St. Marguerite Island between Golfe Juan and Cannes. The plan was to go ashore, but sun, wine, bread, cheese, and hummus threw those plans to the wind and we chilled out on board and enjoyed being in France.

Aboard Iranja, the crew bonded while preparing a memorable risotto and fish dinner, while aboard Cala d’Orzu, Eleanor served up the fresh fish she’d bought in Antibes and everyone enjoyed more French wine.

On Monday we took up anchor and sailed to Bay D’Agai, a.k.a. the beautiful cove, arriving to learn that restaurants are closed on Mondays, so an unplanned dinner on board was needed. More wine, bread, cheese, and hummus, and for those so inclined, pizza. Mia and John’s impulsive purchase at the bou-langerie came to the rescue aboard Iranja—their crew enjoyed quiche and salad.

The following day brought us glorious sailing into Cannes, where the monohulls found space in the marina. Upon being directed to back into an impossibly narrow space between two hulking motor cruisers, Mia pointed Iranja’s stern and put her in reverse. Iranja’s crew fended off the big boats on both sides as they inched into the slot. Watching those videos of how to Med moor paid off. Soon they had the mooring secured on the bow, the stern lines tight, the swim platform down to serve as a step to the dock, and the cocktails served. Cambarada took a couple of tries to get secure in their appointed slot, but also reported victory when the skippers met up at the marina office.

Cala d’Orzu’s crew learned only then that marinas don’t have guest berths for catamarans, so they had to console themselves at anchor with wine, bread, cheese, mussels, salmon, and pastry—some of it acquired by an enterprising shore party. Iranja’s crew found a seafood restaurant next to a park where locals were playing petanque. Cambarada’s crew went further afield to a cozy French restaurant.

Goodbye to Cannes and off for the fifteen mile sail to Cap St. Jean. Again, there was no marina space for Cala d’Orzu, so she anchored in Villefranche. During this maneuver, first mate Rudy noticed a lack of power from the port engine, causing the boat to go in circles. Once they managed to set the hook, Skipper Bob went for a swim and found out why: the port propeller was missing.

Unbeknownst to the beleaguered crew, they had anchored next to another disabled boat, and the two boats found each other in the middle of the night. The two boats were attached to one another, neither able to reverse, and the two crews yelling in different languages. It was great material for a comedy skit. Fortunately for all involved, skipper extraordinaire, Bob Rainey got the boats separated, allowing the crew to get a few more minutes of sleep. 

The following morning, after discussion with the charter company, Bob and crew decided to take their disabled catamaran back to base one day early. Going in the forward direction was not a problem. How-ever, since only the starboard engine could provide power, the boat would do almost a 90° turn to port before there was enough speed to allow the rudders to steer the boat on the desired course. Once moving, there wasn’t much of an issue. Fortunately, the trip back to base was mostly a close reach and it was a very enjoyable sail. The last five miles were a beat, but the catamaran could do a respectable job of pointing to weather. The starboard engine served well enough coming into the fuel dock.

Once fueled, the base manager arrived and confidently stepped up to the helm. It was impressive how very calm and confident he appeared. Then he whispered to Bob, “Just how difficult is it to maneuver in tight quarters with only one engine”? After Bob described the experience, he said he would practice for a while in the fairway before attempting the Med mooring. He drove around for ten minutes and then did an impressive job of getting the boat up to the dock and secured.

The crews of Iranja and Cambarada spent their day relaxing at Cap St. Jean and exploring the Villa Kerylos, a reproduction Greek estate, and the Rothschild estate and gardens.

That evening the crews from the three boats finally got together for dinner at Le Pacha du Sloop in St. Jean Cap Ferrat, where we had an exquisite dinner outside along the waterfront. The Iranja and Cambarada crews walked, bussed, and taxied from the marina while the Cala d’Orzu crew arrived by car service from Golf Juan. But none of it mattered when we all got together for a delicious French dinner and perfect evening.

 The next day, while Cala d’Orzu’s crew explored Golfe Juan and beyond, Iranja and Cambarada enjoyed a great sail back to the base. Upon arriving around 1:00 p.m., Iranja found the fuel dock closed. Bien sûr, l'heure du déjeuner. By the time the attendant finished lunch, two more boats had come in as well. Then it was time for the final Med mooring experience on the charter base’s dock, but both Iranja and Cambarada’s crews were old hands at it by then.

Cote d’Azur provided perfect weather, good sailing, and fabulous shore adventures. Our eighteen sailors provided the friendship and good company to make it a perfect week.

For more, visit Joel Mack’s photo story here and Rudy Vallejo’s video here.


Photos by Joel Mack and Mia McCroskey