Bonjour Mes Amis!

August 7, 2012

Duncan raises the French courtesy flag

That’s French you know for ‘hello friends’.  I can almost hear the sharp intake of breath from many of our readers as you realise that this blog comes to you from France.  It had to happen in the end and we entered French waters 3 days ago, bringing Maggie and Colin to Port Vendres so that they could carry on with the second half of their holiday and we could meet up with Polly and Tommy who are staying just north of here.  Now, to fill you in on the detail of how we got here.


When we last posted a blog, we were in Pollenca, having made our way there from Portocolom.  On 21 July, whilst we were there at anchor, we had some fairly high winds from the north which caused us to drag our anchor.   It took a couple of goes to get the thing to set again but eventually both the lower wind speed and our efforts got the thing to hold properly.  This latest incident has finally destroyed what little faith I had in the CQR anchor so we resolved to buy a new one of more modern design (the CQR apparently dates back to the 1930s).  The one I craved is a New Zealand design called a Rocna but it is expensive and not easy to come by.

The new rocna anchor


Having trawled through the local chandleries it became obvious that there were no suitable anchors in Pollenca, so on 25 July I dragged myself out of bed early and caught the bus into Palma along with our trusty folding trolley to see what could be found.  I hiked along the sea front for miles, visiting various chandleries and in the furthest one from the bus station found a 20kg Rocna.  Result!  Then the agony of hauling the thing back through the streets of Palma on the trolley to the bus station.  I was so knackered by the process, I had to stop and have a whopper at Burger King….


Changing over the anchor went well, with no damage to self or boat and we re-anchored in pretty much the same position as we had been in before the wind arrived.  The new anchor set first time and in a very positive way, digging itself into the mud, as opposed to the half hearted lopsided set that the CQR often adopted.  We have not had any high winds since but the variable winds in Pollenca often popped the CQR out in a moderate blow – nothing seems to upset the Rocna.


The new anchor in situ.


As if to celebrate the solving of this particular problem, J promptly went down a nasty bug.  She’d been feeling below par for a few days but suddenly developed a temperature in excess of 40c and so was sent to bed.  She stayed there for the next 4 days feeling proper poorly; high temperature, headache and listless.  I was on the point of taking the boat into the adjacent marina and summoning the medics when she began to improve and by Sunday morning she was feeling quite a lot better. 

Maggie sets out the minimal dinghy for the start of their trip aboard “Rampage”


It was a good job she was, as Maggie and Colin, our next visitors, arrived that afternoon.  They used public transport to make their way from Palma airport and we met them on the quayside.  Unfortunately, the wind had got up a bit and the trip out to “Rampage” was a bit on the damp side.  With the smaller dinghy, I had to do 3 trips; one each for the passengers and one for their baggage.  They were to stay with us for a week and then go on camping in southern France for a week, so they had all their camping gear with them, hence the very large rucksacks.


Maggie and Colin aboard “Rampage”


As they had had a very early start to their day, Maggie and Colin had a siesta (as did I) whilst J made up for sleeping for most of the previous 4 days by sitting in the cockpit, reading.  She was hailed by a bloke in a dinghy who turned out to be Patrick from the catamaran “Shecat”, who had spent the winter with us in Messilonghi.  J and I left the others snoozing whilst we went across to join Sheila and Patrick for a drink or two.  On returning to “Rampage”, I made my version of paella for supper and peered at the weather files before deciding we could safely set off the mainland the following day.


Sunrise on the passage from Pollenca, Majorca to Badalona on the Spanish mainland.


The following day we shopped in the morning, filled up with water and in the early afternoon set off for Badalona, a marina just to the north of Barcelona.  It is just over 100 miles and we had a great sail out of Pollenca bay before having to motor the rest of the trip as the wind disappeared in the early evening.  We arrived just before midday and after lunch we all took a siesta to recover from the long night watches – one of which was taken by Colin, who has done a fair bit of sailing before.  It was great to have someone on board who knew what to do and could join in with the running of the boat.


Colin at the helm.


Badalona is not a bad marina if a bit soul-less and isolated from the town.  We walked into the centre of town looking for a supermarket and finally found one then faced the long walk back with the shopping but were obliged to stop for a drink en route at one of the many beach bars as Mags was having problems with the ground which just wouldn’t stay still for her!  We’d promised ourselves a meal out but although there are a number of restaurants and bars round the marina, most of the turned out not to be functioning so we wandered back along the beach and eventually found a tapas bar where we managed to get something to eat.  As we walked back, we spotted a large supermarket on the other side of the railway line about 100 metres from the entrance to the marina….  Ah well, at least we know it’s there for next time.


“Rampage” in Badalona marina – note shade tent, wind scope on front hatch and additional shade panels on bimini – it was HOT!


The following day the wind was from the south and so we headed north aiming for the port of Blanes about 20 miles up the coast.  We had a good day sailing but when we got to the port we found that there was no space for us in the marina, so we carried on up the coast, looking at the various anchorages mentioned in the pilot book.  Some were untenable with the waves the wind had kicked off, whilst others were bung full of permanent moorings but eventually we found a nice little place, tucked in behind a little spur of rock.  There were a number of other boats there but most had gone by the time dusk fell leaving us to share the anchorage with a single Dutch yacht.  Maggie and Colin were delighted with the idea of swimming off the back of the boat in the beautiful, clear water of a remote little anchorage without any signs of habitation anywhere; they also had a happy time discussing the geology of the bay, both having studied geology at university.


Our first anchorage on the mainland: Cala de Pentiner


By the next morning, the wind had swung round to the north and was building nicely, so once again we got a good day’s sailing, covering 40 miles through the water to make 20 miles up the coast.  Once again, we found the anchorages mentioned in the book to have been, for the most part, filled with permanent moorings.  Eventually we were able to anchor off the beach in a cala sheltered from the north wind.  Unfortunately, the swell worked its way into the cala and gave us a fairly   uncomfortable night, as what little wind got down to sea level held us across the direction of the swell.




Our next destination was Cadeques, a delightful deep cala just south of Cap Creus.  The town is next to Port Llobregat, where Dali spent much of his time.  I was worried that the cala would once again turn out to be crowded with moorings and that we would not be able to anchor there.  But first we had to get there!  The wind was from the north again and as we tacked away from our anchorage, we were not making much ground to the north.  I was on the point of suggesting we spent the night in l’Estartit when the wind started to shift to the east and suddenly we were making ground fast.  Yet another great day’s sailing followed and we sailed right into the cala at Cadeques, dropping the sails only as we entered.  Although there are lots of moorings, most of them labelled ‘For Rent’ we found an area off one of the little coves where we could drop the hook.  Maggie and Colin swam ashore to look for a geo cache in the vicinity whilst I took 3 days worth of rubbish ashore for disposal (why do I get all the good jobs?).


The anchorage at Cadaques


The last stage of the trip was from Cadeques to Port Vendres in France.  Just for a change, there was no wind worth waving a sail at so we motored all the way there, arriving in the early afternoon.  In contrast to many places, the port answered our radio call and instructed us to proceed to the second basin.  The port is quite tight, with not much room to manoeuvre into the berths.  I half hoped that we would get one of the finger berths facing us as we entered but no, we were directed into a berth on the quayside.  I wanted to do the simple thing and go in bow first but that was vetoed by the mate so I had a tricky job getting “Rampage” to behave herself and squeeze into the allocated berth, (which he did with consummate skill, impressing not only Maggie and Colin but also the marinero!  J)


Port Vendres is a nice little port, essentially a fishing harbour now mostly given over to the marina, although there are still fishing boats operating out of here.  The port provides free wifi, which is how we are able to post this from France without the hassle of getting hold of a dongle. 


Port Vendres. “Rampage” is to the left as you look at the picture, again with lots of shade protection.


After booking in, J and Maggie found the laundry which turned out to be a couple of automatic washing machines in a kind of bus shelter affair next to the supermarket fuel station.  We have the impression they have not been there long as a member of staff at SuperU was very excited and keen to show them where it was, and also the dryer has yet to be installed.  As a result “Rampage” was once again the object of curiosity, hung about with copious amounts of washing and generally lowering the tone of the neighbourhood!


Maggie and Colin left us on Sunday 5 August after we helped them move their enormously heavy rucksacks to the railway station.  That evening Polly and Tommy came over from Collioure where they are staying in Tommy’s Dad’s flat.  They took us back over to Collioure for dinner.  Although Port Vendres is a nice enough place, Collioure has it knocked into a cocked hat.  It is a delightful little town huddled round the fortress which protects the little harbour; we can’t fit in there as they can only take boats up to 6.5m long.  There are some mooring buoys but looking at the way boats were rolling, I think we’ll stick with the comfortable if marginally less picturesque Port Vendres.


Walking to Cape Bear


Yesterday, after a stormy night and morning, J and I dug out our walking boots and hiked round Cap Bear, just to the south of the town.  We had a lovely walk but were well tired afterwards and had to have a nap before facing the rigours of cooking supper.


Today has been dedicated to doing some bits of maintenance and writing this blog.  We plan on taking Polly and Tommy sailing tomorrow before we start making a slow progress back south to meet up with my sister Susie in mid September in Barcelona, (‘though we may venture a bit further into France first! J)



  1. Hi you 2,

    Julia, did you make sure he bought a non-bendy Rocna?

    Nicky & Paul

  2. Looks pretty solid to me!

  3. Glad Maggie & Colin had such a great time with you xx

  4. looks fab. Terri x

  5. Julia did you make the wind scoop? info would be great.We are at home in Plymouth until 28th Aug .Glad to see life is good with you.

  6. You can now sleep at night Dinky, new Rocna looks very beefy! Glad you got so much sailing in sounds fab, wish it was me XX

  7. As I expect all can see from the blog we had a fantastic time on board – thank you so much Julia, Duncan and Rampage. – We’ll be back!

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