40° 7′ 26.2344” N 9° 40′ 35.346” E
Guest blogger: Lasse Folkersen, guest crew member
Ronja-round-the-world is about water and anything related to water. This blog post is about what happens under the sea. As guest-crew on Ronja, along the eastern coast of Sardinia, we had already experienced the majestic cliffs and fantastic beaches offered by the island. But a stay-over day in a harbour with a dive-shop gave the opportunity to expand this into scuba-diving. I have most of my dive-experience from the warm colourful waters of South East Asia and I was unsure what to expect from Mediterranean diving.
I was not disappointed; everything is different, and in some ways less ‘saturated’ – but not at all in a bad way. Of course there are colourful fish here as well, but what I find most attractive is the synergy between the odd-shaped rock formations and the pure white sand. The white beaches of Sardinia in fact continues below the waves, as sandy paths into a maze of underwater tunnels with colorful plants all set in the ever-present Mediterranean azure-blue light from above.
Bonus info for sailors: If you are sailing in the area north of Arbatax I recommend taking the time for one or more short visits at the beautiful but road-inaccessible beaches. They are not well suited for night-time anchoring, particularly not with strong winds. This is probably the reason why they are not shown in anchor-guide books. But for good reason the beaches are popular destinations for local land-based tourists, using chartered inflatable boats. So many people do this that the beaches are overcrowded in times between arrival and departure times. This, however, is the freedom of having your own boat – and so my best advice is to contact a local tour-agency and ask for their destinations and times; and then go to that place, at some other time than them. At Cala Mariolu, between 1pm and 2pm seemed fairly empty. On arrival, then anchor and swim or row in. That’ll give you pristine, beautiful, secluded and non-crowded beaches.
Bonus info for scuba divers: I can highly recommend “Diving Cala Mariolu”, which is a tiny diving-operation consisting mainly of three umbrellas, a solar power array, and a few diving guides with a stock of pre-filled air-tanks. All in a very ad-hoc and accessible manner set up directly on the beach. Very straightforward, and actually nicer than some of the larger operations seen elsewhere. I was particularly impressed by dive-instructor Andreas: he managed to be both guide and photographer at the same time, while seemingly also having the overview of the above-water operation. One dive, including all equipment and photos: 60 €. It’s a little colder than South East Asia. Already at 12 m, a short sleeve 3 mm wet suit definitely felt too cold. I also had a booking with Aquatica in Santa Maria Navarrese, but due to a miscommunication I went to a wrong boat from that company, and so I never had the opportunity to see if they were recommendable dive guides.`
43° 33′ 10.2492” N, 7° 1′ 2.5284” E
July 16, 2016
The air is filled with helicopters over Saint Tropez and Cannes. As industrious insects they are buzzing back and forth between the cities with occasional forays out to the large yachts, each having its own helicopter pad. It seems there is especially dense morning and after-work traffic of people going to and from the job from the villa or the yacht in Saint Tropez, Cannes or Nice.
But what do we know about it? Ronja has no helicopter platform on the aft deck. On reflection has Ronja not even an aft deck. The many helicopters give a sense of business activity, but they also underline the atmosphere of exclusivity and extravagance, we have approached as we close in to Saint Tropez and Cannes. The port of Saint Tropez gave us shelter during almost three days of summer storm with up to 8 Beaufort gusts, and now we have been three days in Cannes so far.
Of the two cities, we prefer Cannes. There are common features between the two cities. But Cannes by far wins in comparison. Why? Because there is a nicer atmosphere in Cannes. Cannes is not as outlandish as forlorn as hysterical as Saint Tropez. It is as if, Saint Tropez is nothing in itself, but is instead defines its own value in the things it pulls from the outside – the large yachts, the numerous brand stores, the famous and the rich.
It probably has been like this for many years. After World War II when people wanted to restore the war-damaged city, Saint Tropez was aimed at cultivate a special reputation as a playground for the famous. Errol Flynn came to town, Jean Cocteau, Anaïs Nin and in 1956 also Brigitte Bardot. Thus was the special image in place.
The image is still cultivated. The cruises sail round with tourists, pointing out the villas of the celebrities. The large luxury yachts gets the room innermost in the old harbor, so we all understand that this is the real attraction of Saint Tropez – a sneak peek into the incredibly rich people’s world; tourist fathers and –sons strolling also along the quay discussing how it would be just to work at one of the huge yachts.
Things are different in Cannes. Here the city is larger and can better accommodate all extremes. Here’s also luxury yachts, but they lie at the outer pier and is just one of many elements in the city’s port. Here are also tourists, but the city’s size ensures that it remains predominantly a French town. There are also international brand stores, but they do not overshadow the many local specialist shops with cheeses, pates, bread, hardware, fruit – not to mention antique markets and the daily, quite lavish, food market, Marché Forville.
Unless you just are missing a Gucci bag, shopping-conditions are also best in Cannes – among other things with a few good supermarkets close to the port. The best we saw in Saint Tropez, was a fabulously beautiful hike on a narrow cliff path around the peninsula of Saint Tropez and out to the great beaches Les Salins and Pampelonne. The trip is very long. It is possible to take small swims along the way. Take plenty of water from before going.
Fact: A port space for Ronja in Saint Tropez: 59 € per night. A space in Cannes: € 34 per night (with better facilities). A pizza calzone in Saint Tropez 18 €. A pizza calzone in Cannes: 15 €. Saint Tropez has a small but very interesting museum of modern art. It’s called l’Annonciade and admission is € 6.
43° 7′ 14.82″ N, 5° 48′ 15.79″ E
July 7, 2016
Frenchmen have difficulty with the name of our boat, “Ronja”. In Sanary-sur-mer, we have previously signed up via cell phone, but when we enter the harbour master’s office, there is no recognition, when I spell “Ronja”. The person who accepted our call on the phone, had written our name as “Oneyeah”.
Knowledge of Astrid Lindgren’s writing in general and “Ronja Røverdatter” specifically is not deep in southern France.
Sanary-sur-mer is a very fine acquaintance. It is the neighboring city to the more famous city, Bandol. But we fancy ourselves that it is a more interesting city. It’s beautiful in the Provence-way with beige, ocher, white, dusty buildings interspersed with harsh green or blue shutters on the windows. The city has fishing boats, daily fish market, beautiful scenery, very few brand-shops and an excellent beach. There is such a little “People and robbers in Cardamom Town” (norwegian story) over it. With the tower and all.
The city has soul. One senses that here is life, even when the tourists have gone home. The city has cultural, architectural, historical, commercial and landscape values, that do not cave in during periods when only the permanent residents are here.
This need – that a city should have an independent soul – is no given thing in these parts. Some days later we call Cavaliere sur-mer. Fine port, good facilities, everything is neat. But the Cavaliere-sur-mer is obviously a city, that lives and breathes with tourism and not so much else. Close to the port is build a brand new entertainment district consisting of 20-30 restaurants and nightclubs plus a single carousel. The party goes on late into the night, but it’s hard to imagine the city as more than a ghost town, when beach tourists have gone home.
Do we sound as if we are sour having moored Ronja in the middle of a flashing disco? Well, it may be right.
43 ° 12 ‘20.16 “N, 5 ° 30’ 55.01” E
July 5, 2016
Until this day we had no idea, what a calanque was. We know that now. And we are excited. A calanque is a bay or – in the most exciting form – a narrow and deep fjord that cuts into a rocky landscape, so the sides are almost vertical and can be up to 100 meters high.
When you’re inside such a calanque, it feels a bit like sailing in a cathedral. Devoutly we look up and on the steep rock faces, enjoying the scent of pine trees and listening to the cicadas anthem. We sailed into them all, right from the first appeared a few miles after Marseille.
After checking all of them, we chose to settle down in – we think – the very most charming: Calangue de Port-Miou. Some calanques are boring, not much more than a wide cove with a blunt beach at the bottom. But the closer we get to the town of Cassis, the calanques are deeper and more characterful. First Sormiou, then Morgiou and later Calanque d’En Vau and Calanque de Port Pin. They are in their own way exciting. But none can compare with Calanque de Port-Miou.
At first glance it seems, that Port-Miou is just larger than the others with more places for mooring boats – with an anchor bend at one end and a rope wrapped around a rocky outcrop or, at best, a ring at the other end. But it is only at first glance.
Pout-Miou has a kind of anteroom, where there is room for 20-30 boats, and where there is a daily cruises from major cities nearby, where guides tell tourists about the calanques. But the trick is to proceed. Even into the bottom of the front room, for here is revealed another room, much narrower, much longer, almost one kilometer long. On either side of this narrow space, there is built a “catwalk”, a slender wooden bridge, on both sides. And here hundreds of locals have their permanent mooring. As in a secret inner compartment.
When we call the harbour master on channel 09 and ask for a berth, he refers us to the anteroom. We have no desire to go there. “We can see that there are berths available along the wooden bridges,” we insist. An inflatable boat shows up and we get assigned a berth. A wonderful place.
It is a small paradise. The water in the narrow canyon’s cold and clean and perfect to cool the body under the relentless sun. It is quiet. Not a sound from the tour boats in the front room. Only the cicadas. Occasionally a few kayakers or a single French man working on his boat.
Fact: It is primitive. But Frenchmen has an understanding for the value of beauty, so the price for an overnight stay in Port-Miou is the same as in Marseille, just over 35 €. And this is without electricity, far to the water connection and a 10 minute walk to the bathroom on the other side of the divide. Shopping is a 25-minute walk from Port-Miou in the town of Cassis. However, there are both bus and mini train, for those who do not bother walking.
July 2, 2016
The name of our boat thunders down upon us.
A voice from heaven?
Or the voice of the harbour-master shouting through a loudspeaker?
We have just sailed in between the two impressive fortresses that mark the entrance to Marseille’s magnificent harbour, Vieux Port. We look anxiously skyward. The voice continues: “Ronja. Keep in the center of the basin. You will be picked up by an inflatable boat! “.
It has been a terrific sailing day. The first real sailing after Ronja for several summers have worked its way through the French rivers and canals using only engines and having no mast (the mast had gone ahead on a flatbed truck with a German haulier). Now Ronja is reunited with her mast, and with a dizzying amount of water under the keel. The Mistral gave us this morning a loving nudge in the back at Beaufort strength 6. Full sail from Port Saint Louis du Rhone. And now we are in Marseilles
… with the voice from on high. An inflatable boat comes rushing with a port captain and two mates aboard. “How long do you plan to be with us”, the port captain asks. When we say two or three days, he looks skeptical. His facial expression makes us understand, that it will be very difficult. An almost impossible mission.
“Follow us,” he says. And here comes the trouble.
Not one of the nearly 1000 boats in the Vieux Port is located with the bow toward the bridge, as we are used to in Denmark. All boats – and I really mean all – are facing aft end toward the dock. They back in! They are crazy, the French. This kind of stuff we do not do.
Intuitively, we are against. Our boat is relatively long keeled and maneuvering clearly worse backwards than forwards. And why should all absolutely be moored cockpit to cockpit in towards the docks, so everyone can follow each other’s dinner menu?
Some beautiful maneuver it is not either. Ronjas bathing platform wedges under the pontoon bridge, and one of the fixed lines, which we according to the same outlandish French tradition must pick up from the harbour bottom and attach the bow with, gets tangled. The port captain shouts, that we must back up, so his line can come free. His aides giggles. Ronjas skipper refuses to back further into the pontoon bridge in the interest of the pinched bathing platform.
It all resolves itself. It usually does.
But there really is something with the french and arrogance. They invent a foolish mooring technique and require all to use it – as if it were a government decree – and so they allow themselves to frown openly about the unfortunate foreigners who can not figure out how to dock at its port.
But what a place. What a view. What a city.
Everyone should try to be in the middle of Marseilles central harbour and enjoy the special light, the beautiful buildings, the amusement wheel, the beautiful church on the mountain, the relaxed atmosphere of cafes and restaurants that surround the entire harbour while enjoying the intense energy, that is being created through daily fish markets, other markets as well as an endless entry and exit from fishermen, excursion boats and yachts.
Marseille is an underrated city. It still has a reputation of mafia, drugs and other crimes over it. But the city has improved itself. There are renovated houses and new ones. It has created architectural masterpieces in the form of new museums and refurbished shopping centers in old warehouses. Norman Forster has created the covering to the metro station at the harbour. Fascinating.
The crime rate here may still be high, but then it is done in suits, and live a more discreet life than the one we know from Gene “Popeye” Hackmann’s troubles in the films “French Connection I and II”.
Marseille is a very exciting city. Large, magnificent, vibrant, charming and French – with a significant contribution of immigrants from North African countries. You meet very few tourists from Germany, the UK and Scandinavia. Marseille is a French city. So far prefered by the french themselves.
There is nothing but good to say about Marseille. … well, that would be the harbour master’s morbid insistence, that all boats must turn the same way at all the pontoons in the port. Either it’s insane aesthetics, or it is a fascist desire that we all must march equally and concurrently.
Fact: It cost € 37 per night to stay in the Vieux Port. Electricity and water just off the boat. Unique location but some noise at night. Toilets and bath almost inaccessible – they were on the other side of the harbour, a stroll of one and a half kilometer. Port captain said that we could just call, he would pick us up in his dinghy, when we had to use the bath. But to be honest: We came from the beginning a little crooked in to that harbour master.
43° 23′ 15″ N, 4° 48′ 15.84″ E
June 29, 2016
Our driver is agitated. Why do those women not move their car so he can get past?
Fools! He opens the car window, shouting to the two women, that they should turn into a parking lot, so he can get past.
He did not quite understand the situation.
The two women backed out of their parking space exactly at the same time as our driver and they prepare to drive one way while he prepares to drive the other way. Now it is bumper to bumper. One woman gets out of the car and explains that this road is one-way, and that he is heading in the wrong direction. Therefore he must leave room for them to continue.
He snorts. Women. “Oh, la, la“. With his hand, he shows that these very women are impossible to explain to. “Je suis importante,” he said in a last attempt to win the match. “I am important.” It makes no impression. Our driver drives cursing back into position, leaving the women to pass and drives out again, while he mumbles about amateurs, women, people with no respect for authority and rules of the road.
Kirsten and I are sitting in the passenger seats and we see how the large arrow in the roadway show that it were the two women who were right. Our driver is a fool.
And we are back in France. Ready to resume our “circumnavigation in stages” on the good ship Ronja. A Swedish-built Malö 36, beautiful and solid. The past 11 months she has been parked on land 50 km west of Marseille. At Navy Service in Port Saint Louis du Rhone.
Our fool of a driver has just fetched us in the arrivals hall at Marseille airport with a sign from Navy Service: “Mr. Jensen “. It’s us. He is certainly 80+, looks like an angry Santa Claus with a white beard and rimless glasses, speaks only French and has probably exceeded the expiration date on his driver licence. When we came out from the arrival hall of the airport’s parking lot, he could not remember where he had put his car. Wait right here, he said and circled aimlessly.
Sigh. Who are we going to entrust our life here? He finds the car, we throw our two soft bags into the back – and then comes the two women and insist on their right. It’s not his day, this driver.
Navy Service is a great place. They have 1,200 boats in winter storage on land. They have specialized in lifting the ships on shore, park them and later – after several months – to put them in the water again. Others cannot. They operate cranes – boom cranes and ship cranes. And they are good.
In the living area – like some parasites – a dozen small independent craft businesses are operating. Some of these may prepare your engine for the winter, other repair epoxy damage, others can sew your storm- and cold- resistant nordic cockpit tent into a light and airy, Mediterranean-bimini. It is expensive. But damn it, it’s great.
I think it is a French specialty: Port du sec. Dry ports. Large paved or gravel areas where French and globetrotters leave their boats winter storage with masts on. It protects the boat against fouling, let them dry out and perfectly suited to those who still have only a sailing season of a few months.
Even with help from local craft people we sailors often forget, how much work it takes to make a sail boat ready to sail. The mast must be cleaned. Shroud and stays needs to be adjusted. Electrical installations between the mast and the boat must be restored. Bulbs should be changed. The drain should to be cleaned. Sails has to be put on. Defective parts replaced. Everything must have cleaning and polishing. Water and food should be stored.
It takes days. More time than anyone just walk around and remember. We get it all done, even if the sun above the Rhone delta is relentless. We prefer to work early morning and late evening, and at night we struggle with mosquitoes.
While we work we sometimes get a glimpse of our driver from the airport. He seems to function also as a worker in Navy Service. Today he drives a truck, moving containers and large bins with a tight-lipped expression.
No need to get in his way. None.
43° 23′ 16.2492” N 4° 48′ 11.61” E
July 29, 2015
We pinch ourselves in the arms. What is with the French? All craftmen actually showed up at the agreed upon time. We explain what we want done, and they promise to submit estimates on tasks within a few days.
The motor man has a spontaneous laugh when he goes down to the engine room and sees the universal joint, as we have twice had it repaired in northern France. “What happened here”? he asks, as he had finished laughing. He does not believe, it is a viable repair that we had made. We doubt that ourselves, so we ask him to do an estimate on a new installation. New spare part. New installation.
When we receive his offer by mail later in the day, we must pinch ourselves in the arm again. New parts: 4,000 DKK. Wages: 2,000 DKK. Devil and Hell. At the garage mechanic in Epernay the cost of the spare part was 12,000 DKK and the total repair amounted to 23,000 DKK (approximately 3.000 €). Life is full of hard lessons. It is important to learn as much as possible along the way. So we do.
At 10 o’clock we say goodbye to Ronja, leave the keys to Florence at the port office, and put Jørgens car in gear bound for Denmark with a few nights spent in postcard-beautiful Eguisheim in Alsace, where we take two nights to savour the beautiful Alsace wines, to celebrate Hannes’s birthday and to gather strength for the last day’s drive to Denmark.
43° 23′ 16.2492” N 4° 48′ 11.61” E
July 28, 2015
Port Saint-Louis-du-Rhone: It is the day of reunification. After having sent Ronjas mast and boom from Rouen in northern France to the Mediterranean with a german lorry in 2013, today will show whether the mast will be found – or whether, in the two years has been lost or sold to a scrapyard.
It’s there! It is in the forefront of all masts, it has the port’s absolute lowest registration-number, and Florence at the port office looks a second time, when she sees, that it has been here for more than two years.
Navy Service turns out to be a super acquaintance. The company specializes in taking boats out and in the water, and taking masts of or putting them on again. Also, if you want help with inspections and repairs, then the site contains a number of smaller companies that offer their assistance.
We get at time for picking Ronja out of the water at four o’clock. Ronja are ready on time at Navy Service, and at 16:30 she is solid in a winter stand monitored by video cameras right beside the harbour office. Perfect.
We are contacting three companies and ask them to meet us at Ronja next morning between 8 and 9. One company we want to repair the bow thruster and give the engine an overhaul. The second company we want to sew a new spray hood and modify the cockpit tent, so that it works better in warm climates. The third company, we want to make an offer for fiberglass repair, cleaning, antifouling and polishing of the freeboard.
Ronja has marks of her trip through close to 200 locks. Enough marks that we will have to have something done about it. The freeboard has got a few scratches, which hopefully can be polished out. The keel is a more damaged. It has got some damage to the fibreglass at the front of the bottom- certainly from the part of the journey, where we scraped over the channel’s concrete base, because the water level was 40 centimetres below the normal water level.
43° 23′ 16.2492” N 4° 48′ 11.61” E
July 27, 2015
Port Saint-Louis-du-Rhone: Champagne cork pops when, after having sailed 83 kilometres we slip into a berth in the city of Port Saint-Louis-du-Rhone – 80 km west of Marseille – after just passing the absolute last gate.
The last lock was merely symbolic. We have to be lowered – according to the map – between zero and one meter. We wait an hour to get into the lock, and when the gate finally goes up, it turns out to be the most difficult lock to moor in. The wind has increased to 12 meters per second, and at the same time the power from the Rhone River gives us one last push. And this particular day the lock is neutral. As the gate on the Mediterranean opens, we have been lowered exactly zero meters.
It’s great that we finally are here. After four summers boating – together we have been under our way for 13 weeks – we have reached the Mediterranean, a milestone of our adventure.
Many kilometres before Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhone, we could sense the sea. The smell of salt and seaweed announced – together with an ever stronger light – that we approached a large river outlet into the sea.
Rhone has been an exciting but also difficult acquaintance. It is one of many stretches of beautiful rivers with views of mountains and vineyards, and on other parts a rather hideous river influenced by the French tradition of placing nuclear and chemical industries along the river. It is also a pleasure to use the river’s 12 huge locks. Especially when we are on the decline. Here the difference of water depth is not only three metres. No, here it is 12, 18 and even 23 metres in each gate. You feel like you are at the bottom of a cathedral in such a lock.
We had already been waiting to get a half knots of current flow in the river, but there was so much equicurrent we noticed first on the very last day when we had logged up to 9.3 knots. It is probably the many weeks without rain, which has reduced the flow.
The river is deceptive in the case of mooring for the night. The ports are few, and when the water level is low like this year, a big part of them are unsuitable for keelboats like ours. If we are on the Rhône another time, we will probably research a little wider and seek advice about anchorages especially on some of the river’s tributaries. On today’s trip we would have made a stop in Arles, but a storm surge flooded it a few years ago and the city pontoon flooded away, and it has not been restored.
Maybe the small amount of mooring-possibilities can explain, that we arrived at Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, at the exact same time as the other crews, that we have been sailing with on the canals and on the two rivers. In any case, we meet in the lock and on the quays with several of the Swedish and British crews, that we have been seeing earlier in the trip.
After the champagne we walk in the heat and search for the company, Navy Service. We yearn to see our mast. The office is closed, so we scan the even field, the big halls and the huge open areas, where 1,200 ships stand in racks waiting for their owners to put them into their element. But it is not this day that we will find the mast.
Log book: Today’s distance: 83 km, sailed time 8:00 to 16:00 = 8 hours, locks: 2. Weather: Continued hot. The wind increases and makes the temperature barely bearable.
43° 56′ 57.5412” N 4° 48′ 19.9008” E
July 26, 2015
Rest-day. We are in Avignon. Washing clothes, reading newspapers, eating lunch on Ronja and witnessing the Edit Piaf interpretation as part of the theatre festival. Great experience. Flapping around haphazardly. Looking at the people. The joy, the mood, expectations. We see another performance – a poetic, outdoor performance without words loaded with poetry about a line-dancer, who meets a man, lives with him and struggling with all the problems that can happen when two people from different worlds meet. Beautiful.
The theatre festival in Avignon takes much more time than we have. Next time we will come for longer, read the 400 page program and carefully pick out the things that do not require much French-language skills.