43° 35′ 2.1804” N 7° 7′ 41.7288” E
Antibes: The woman behind the counter shakes her head: “You must understand, that what you are asking can not be considered. We do not hire out berths on monthly contracts in July and August. We only hire out one day at a time, eventually two days and then you can come and ask, if you can hire one more day. Those are the rules. ”
The woman behind the counter has an expression that lets us understand, that our request takes the prize as the month most foolish.
“It’s not the port’s berths. It is the individual owners. We can not know, when the owner comes back and want to use the berth himself. ”
The woman is sitting behind the counter at the port office in Port Vauban, Antibes’ giant port, who reportedly is Europe’s largest marina with over 1700 berths, including a billionaire pier for those boat-owners, who can not settle for two or six employees but has 40 or – in one case – even 60 crew members.
We had asked the woman, if we could rent a berth for our sailing boat Ronja for a month or more, while we were back home in Denmark. Obviously we could not. There are rules. And where we were we all, if rules are not followed?
We leave the harbour office crestfallen. We think, again we have met that French arrogance, where at least some officials have a greater need to show who is the boss, than they have an interest in finding a possible solution with the customer.
Nevertheless: We MUST be in Denmark on August 2. or 3., and we CAN at the earliest be back in the south of France on September 12 . The problem has to be solved.
We take place in Café Felix, who has an acceptable wifi and a decent white wine, and we send a flurry of e-mails to ports and shipyards along the Riviera – from Cannes in the west to Menton in the east.
We would like to have Ronja to lie in the water from August 2 to September 12. But we are desperate enough to make a comprehensive agreement for the entire winter, including getting the boat taken out of the water, if the other ports also rejects having her in the water for more than a month.
We get the fastest responses from those, that we seek out personally. Three yards/boat repair shops in Antibes each have a crane large enough to lift Ronja out of the water. All three are sincerely accommodating to our problem. One says, however, straight out that he can make more money utilising his port area to prepare and repair boats than to have our Ronja standing in hibernation. Fair enough.
Another oat repair shop offers to take Ronja on land and store her in a corner of their port area until April, eight months for the price of 7.500 €. A shipyard offering to hive Ronja on land, take the mast of her and carry her into the country, where they have a storage space. Price: 8.200 €.
Thanks. But no thanks. On these terms we will not take Ronja out of the water.
So begins the answers ticking in via the mail. The most professional ports, the four ports that are part of the organisation Riviera Ports – Cannes, Nice, Golfe-Juan and Villefranche – acknowledge immediately with a standard mail, that they have received my mail, and that they will answer the question within 48 hours.
Three of them actually do this. Nice offers to cover part of the period. Cannes and Villefrance says no but they will put us on the waiting list. We do not hear from Golfe-Juan. The same applies to six or seven other marinas. No responce at all. Not a single line.
And yet. One port answers. The most surprising of them all.
We basically had received oral refusals from Port Vauban, but when we sat down and wrote mails, we also sent Port Vauban an email.
And, big surprice! Port Vauban answers yes, they have a place to Ronja from August 2 till September 12.
Hooray for Port Vauban! The port of Antibes is back in the lead. We acknowledge with a yes to the conditions and promise to be there on August 2.
And what did we just learn here? We learned that one hand in a port office do not necessarily know what the other hand is doing. A refusal from one employee can become a happy acceptance from another. Never take no for an answer – when it comes berths.
Reflection: In the four years we’ve been sailing out into the world with Ronja, many have asked whether it is not hard to set aside our boat when we are at home in Denmark and work many months. On the contrary. It has been easy. Easy in Holland. Easy in northern France. Easy west of Marseilles. The French Riviera proved to be a little more difficult and more expensive. But anyway: Again a solution could be created in a short time.
You pay for it. In our case, we pay € 1,082 for 40 days in high season. But as I said: We just had to go back to Denmark on August 2.