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.
43° 25′ 8.8328” N 6° 51′ 29.1552” E
15th of July
Barely have we anchored Ronja at a vacant anchor buoy in a beautiful, beautiful bay, Rade d’Agay, midway between St. Tropez and Cannes, before a dinghy comes rushing.
“It will be 19 Euro, please,” says the young guy in the boat.
“19 Euro? For what,” asks skippers wife. “What facilities do we get for the money?”
Well, answers the young guy; there’s shops ashore, toilets, and also showers ashore.
But we do not have any inflatable boat. We are not going ashore. We can not, since we are out here in the middle of the bay by a buoy.
“No problem. I’ll come and get you for 3 € per time” the port captain’s enterprising apprentice answers.
It is a wonderful bay. It was used as anchorage already when the Romans ruled the Mediterranean. And in August 1944, the Americans landed 20,000 soldiers in Agay Bay as part of the offensive to liberate France from the Germans. Today the bay is characterized by the beach and sailor life.
Later we read that it is the authorities who have established 123 mooring buoys around the bay to protect a particular species seagrass in the bay (in English called the Posidonia Grass). The grass is vital to maintain balance and animal life in the sea, and by establishing firmly anchored buoys, the authorities prevents that the sailing boats destroys with the sea floor with their anchors.
Oh well. So 19 € maybe is not that wrong.
As we get ready to depart the next morning, we hail a port guard who passes in his dinghy, waving a black garbage bag and asks if waste disposal is part of the port charges of 19 €.
He points further into the bay, where we did indeed wonder about a shapeless thing, moored, almost an oversized teacup from a Disneyland-carousel. We sail there and discover: It is a floating garbage container.
Having deposited the last days of waste and with a clear conscience in relation to the important sea grass, we find that this is what you get for 19 € in the Agay Bay.
Facts: the 123 buoys are built in three different zones in the bay. Those who are more economical than us can anchors outside the zones with their own anchor. It costs nothing. But then there’s of cause the conscience thing.