Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Tangled Anchors and St Tropez ..... Sept 2010

Busy St Tropez waterfront
08 - 13 September 2010

After our stormy previous night at Cap d'Antibes, the anchorage at Theoule sur Mer was calm and peaceful. We had a catamaran anchor a little closer than we would have liked and we seemed to swing in strange directions but there was little wind and we kept far enough apart. The following morning we went ashore to the small attractive town for a walk, buy fresh bread and relax having our daily cafe au lait. It was a pleasant laidback place and an enjoyable short stopover. The seabreeze was filling in from the southeast making it a little choppy in the anchorage, so we decided to use the wind and keep heading west.

Sometimes however, this cruising life is not that easy. We could not lift our anchor, Mark had to snorkel down to see what the problem was. The catamarans anchor was wrapped around our chain and we needed them to raise their anchor and free it. Sounds easy enough but they were not onboard, they had already left their boat before we had gone ashore and Mark noticed they had put their anchor light on which suggestd they would not return until after dark. We were going nowhere in the foreseeable future. The seabreeze built to 20 knots, we bounced up and down, and kept waiting. Around 8pm and very close to dark we saw their dinghy coming back and called them over, thankfully they spoke enough English to understand us and lifted their anchor, freeing our chain at last. We stayed another night!
Where are we again???

We had an uneventful departure the following morning and headed west towards St Tropez. The winds were light so we motored waiting for the sea breeze to fill in. Then when it did arrive we got 20 knots from the south west, not south east. We motored the rest of the way, bashing into the short chop, covering the boat in saltwater - once again. We reached the shelter of the Bay of St Tropez and anchored just before St Tropez town in Anse des Canebiers. We had found Baracca again, so after anchoring we dropped the dinghy and joined them for a very well earned happy hour, we sat exchanging war stories from the past few days for several hours, always good therapy.

Next day we dinghied ashore and followed a reasonably well marked coastal path about 20 minutes around to St Tropez. I guess I was expecting somewhere very glitzy, but besides the marina which held several large power boats along the immediate waterfront it seemed a normal, well looked after, small French town. It was touristy, but that is to be expected, there were several artists set up along the waterfront selling their paintings, a great morning outdoor market set a couple of blocks inland from the marina - packing up as we arrived (sadly for me, happily for Mark!!) , and just loads of little alleyways and lanes with some very exclusive shops and some rather normal ones to. It had a laidback, end of season feel to it and we enjoyed several hours exploring.
St Tropez Bay, over the rooftops

After spending all day in town, we had dinner onboard with Baracca, we would part company here again but maybe catch up with them again in the Balearic Islands. Next day we were due another wind change, another infamous mistral was blowing and it might just clip us with northwesterly winds so we headed right up the end of the Bay of St Tropez and anchored off Plage de Grimaud, a long beach with a large camping ground at one end and some rather grim looking block buildings at the other.

Thankfully the wind didn't build too much and we had a peaceful night. Next morning we checked the weather, once again. There was a weather window on the back of the mistral to sail down to the Balearics so we decided to move further west along the coast to Anse de Gau which would be a convenient jumping off point to head south. We sailed most of the way in reasonably flat water and arrived in the anchorage early evening.
Cafe au lait in St Tropez
This was our 50th anchorage for this season and it was rather a lovely spot, just 3 other yachts, a handful of houses hidden in the trees and a lovely bay. I had my first and last swim in France, it was actually quite warm still. We had an early dinner, checked the weather, yet again, and decided to leave at 4am for our 220 mile passage down to Menorca.

We were expecting lumpy seas once away from land but were hoping to catch the last of the northwest winds as they calmed down to push us on our way south. We awoke at 2am, Balvenie rolling in the wake of a passing ship, so we got up, lifted anchor and headed south. It was time to say au revior to France, we had expected to stay longer and although we certainly enjoyed our stops the inclement weather was wearing us down, it was just so changeable and that makes life very tiring onboard. It was also getting colder, an extra duvet was coming out on occassion at night - time to head south!!

Cruising info for Theoule sur Mer, St Tropez and Anse de Gau:-
Anchorages -
Theoule sur Mer - 43 30.711N 06 56.412E 14m some weed. Escaped southerly swell, but choppy in afternoon southeast seabreeze
St Tropez: Anse des Canebiers - 43 16.187N 06 39.687E 13.5m sand, roll from passing boats heading into marina
St Tropez: Plage de Grimaud - 43 16.502N 06 35.375E 11.5m sand, again roll from boats going into the other marina!
Anse de Gau - 43 06.433N 06 21.855E 5.9m sand
Communications - GYMSIM and Malta Vodafone had signals everywhere. WIFI: The camping ground at Plage de Grimaud had a pay site but it wouldn't accept my credit card. Anse de Gau managed to pick up an unlocked site, not easy but got weather down. Rest of time chewed up many more dollars using NZ Vodafone dongle on roaming.
Ashore - Theoule sur Mer is a small town with everything you need. Free wifi at pizza cafe on roundabout (road going inland from beach), bakery there too. St Tropez had nothing at the anchorages but everything in town. Good supermarket behind western end of marina, great bakery and market looked very good. Two coffees were 8E, did see one cafe charged 7E each!!. Didnt go ashore in Anse de Gau but didnt look to have anything.
Formalities - None anywhere in France

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