Our original Plan had been to take a leisurely 3 day trip from Barcelona via Blanes and L’Estartit to Port Vendres and if necessary wait there for a chance to cross the Gulf of Lyon – they have some pretty strong winds, the Tramontane, from the north on occasions and we wanted to avoid them.
All seemed fine for this plan until we got the weather forecast just before we left Barcelona. Saturday, our day of departure was to be mildly moist with light winds and although the rain cleared on Sunday by Wednesday the Gulf of Lyon would have rain and 30 knot north westerly winds until the weekend – the Tramontane.
We decided to do an over night sail to Port Vendres from Barcelona arriving there on Sunday morning, rest and then push on for Marseilles on Sunday evening when the winds were more reasonable, up to 20 knots from the south, known as the Marin, and arrive in Marseille on Monday afternoon or evening. En route for Port Vendres we decided on Plan C.
Instead of completing two sides of a triangle and spending two nights sailing we decided to head directly for Marseille, only a 36 hour passage all in. We’d arrive the following evening, well before the winds arrived. The problem with such last minute alterations is that we did not have time to book a berth in Marseille and trying to do so on Saturday evening and again on Sunday morning, in France, was never really going to work. We arrived off Marseille to be told ‘Non’. We tried a nearby marina but contrary to the impression given by the Pilot Book
it was far too small and shallow even for us, so we headed back towards Marseille and anchored outside Vieux Port. Although the wind was meant to be light overnight I decided we should keep anchor watches just in case things changed; we’d encountered 20+ knot winds the previous evening when only 10 to 15 were predicted.
There are a number of Watch Keeping routines around involving 3 or 4 hour shifts, but we seem to have a better one for us. Valeria seldom goes to sleep before 1 or 2 in the morning and I am an early riser so she does the first half of the night and I do the remainder.
Predictably, as we stood watches, the wind was non existant over night. Come Monday morning and a look at the weather forecast I found that by Wednesday we would have 20+ knot winds from the south east, called the
Marin, and by the weekend we would have a proper Mistral blowing from the west, 30 + knots. If we got into Marseille we might be there for the entire week. We decided to skip Marseille completely and just push on for Toulon avoid both Marin and Mistral and then, once the Mistral subsided we could take a leisurely sail east, rather than being pushed for time if we stayed in Marseille. I rang Darse Vieille in Toulon and they gave me directions to the berth they would keep for us; we would be there by about 6 or 7 that evening. And so by mid morning we were off again.
We arrived as planned after an easy day’s motor sailing. We’ll be here until the wind dies down, hopefully Monday, having a look around Toulon, shopping and visiting Marseille by train!