Back to Sailing the French Riviera

Sailing Northeast up the French Riviera Coast from the mouth of the Rhône to the Porquerolles

On June 9th we were finally on our way.  What a joy to have the boat “ship-shape” and to get back to sailing.  It was a bright, sunny day in the mid 70s.

View from my window

For most of the day we had nice winds (10-14 knots) from the southwest – perfect for our trip northeast towards Nice.  As the winds lightened, George got a chance to try out his new gennaker (code 0 asymmetric spinnaker) – he is always his happiest when he is engaged with something new and this beast is new to us.

On our way we saw two more mola mola (ocean sunfish).  These two were tiny compared to the one we saw last summer with our children and grandchildren.  George drew our attention to it and we all tried to figure out what we were looking at.  Resembling a dolphin of enormous proportions that lost the back third of its body – I recall saying quite sadly that it was a dolphin that had been horribly injured.  At that moment George and Marilla simultaneously recognized it as a mola mola.  The rest of us were astonished that they both knew what it was and a bit about its behavior.  Mola mola are the largest bony fish in existence and can grow to over 2 tons.  In the following National Geographic description ocean-sunfish it is referred to as both a floating blob and a swimming head.  You will most likely first see them as one of their fins sticks up out of the water,  They typically live at great depths, but come up to the surface where cleaner fish and seagulls pick parasites off of them.  A real oddity and exciting to see in the seemingly barren waters along the coast of the Riviera.
Mola mola (Ocean Sunfish) borrowed from
Another first for us – we were hailed by a French Customs vessel and questioned about where we had come from, where we were headed, the history of our sailboat – just routine.  They took us at our word and did not request documentation.
One of the most exciting events of the day was that after sailing for 6 hours, our batteries remained fully charged.  George was able to observe the electrical input and change dramatically as a wisp of cloud passed over the sun.  Having solar power to replenish the batteries without running the engine, or staying in a marina to recharge, is going to give us tremendous independence when we sail in the Caribbean.  The solar power also gives us the ability to have a small chest freezer.  This will predominantly be used to keep us in ice (what a luxury) and to freeze fish when we get back to waters that actually have some.  Our fishing gear will remain under our bed for the duration of our time in the Mediterranean.

Fishing isn’t always about catching

We can say for certain that the French are the most optimistic fishermen we have ever met.  We have seen hundreds and hundreds of people fishing along the banks of the French canals, rivers, beaches, et al.  We have only seen one, approximately 4 inch fish, reeled in.

We are uncertain if this gentleman walked out here or was dropped off.  There is no boat in sight.

 While the fish may be scarce for those who want to fish themselves, there is no shortage in the markets and grocery stores.  There is always a wide assortment of both fresh and frozen seafood and meats.  We keep our provisions stocked with several of the cured sausages and hams that do not require refrigeration. And the cheeses – such variety and so wonderful.  We are very fond of freshly cooked rotisserie chickens and occasionally purchase fresh meats or fish for near-term consumption.  The fruit and produce is almost exclusively local and in season.  Local generally equates to France or Spain and the origin of produce is always specified.  We are already enjoying fresh apricots, peaches, and strawberries – Yum.
Donut peaches (our name for them)

We were never quite certain about these “donut” peaches when we saw them on supermarket shelves in the US.  This entire box, including the empty spaces was for sale at 2.70 Euro so we decided to take a try.  They are absolutely delicious.  The next best thing to that is, you can bite off a mouthful without peach juice dribbling down your chin.  This morning we had peach pancakes.  We are sold!!  Whoever conceived of and/or developed these is a genius in our book.

We anchored out in a lovely calanque (a fiord-like cleft in rock cliff), Calanque de Morigue),and enjoyed a bottle of a local, slightly sweet sparkling wine, made from muscat grapes.  At the right season, you can sample many varieties of grapes that we have never seen in the US.  The muscat grape is a delicious, aromatic white grape which we imagine is used principally for winemaking.  Dinner was pork chops, potatoes, and zucchini.  There was a gentle swell of waves and we fell asleep to the rhythmic rocking of the boat.

Approach to our evening anchorage in Calanque de Morgiou
June 9th – George had us on our way bright and early with the wind now out of the north and tempered to single digit knots.  We motored half the day but in the afternoon the winds shifted favorably and gave George a perfect opportunity to see his gennaker perform.  The jib that we purchased with ICE FLOE was great for sailing into the wind, but was inefficient otherwise.  The gennaker is just what we needed to optimize our sailing versus motoring time.
Toulon water treatment plant

As we made our way to our evening destination to anchor near the Porquerolles, we sailed by a building tucked into the mountain.  When we first saw this enormous, modern, building last summer, we pondered what it was and how it was accessed – we thought surely, by someone with great wealth seeking privacy.  Perhaps some evil nemesis of James Bond.  We were intrigued to learn it is a wastewater treatment facility for the city of Toulon and surrounding areas.

Our anchorage Saturday evening was not as private or quiet as the evening before but we found a beautiful spot.  There were many people enjoying the start of their weekend, with boat parties and music.  Quite a few stalwart people were swimming and just hanging out in the water that was 75o degrees (a little too chilly for me unless the air temperature is 90o or hotter).  We fell asleep long before things quieted down entirely – at the end of a day sailing there is little that will deter our sleep.
Anchorage in Porquerolles

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