Encore En France

August 25, 2012

Having spent several days in Cadaques, last Sunday we suddenly decided to move.  There were strong southerly winds forecast and we decided to go back to Cala Culip.   Cala Culip is the far side of Caba Creus and being north-facing is a good option in a southerly.  However, when we got there it was very crowded so we continued on round the coast to the Golfo de Ravener.  This turned out to be lovely.  We went into the first cala (bay) where there were a couple of other yachts and any number of small motor boats there just for the day.  We took long lines ashore and also put out the kedge to prevent us from swinging as there was not much room and we wanted to be well tucked up. 

“Rampage” in Cala Prona, Golfo de Ravener

By nightfall there were just the three yachts left – ourselves, a German boat and a French one and the peace and beauty were heavenly.   A few boats joined us again the next day but it was much less crowded, presumably because it was no longer the weekend and the following two nights we had the anchorage to ourselves overnight.  The whole of the Golfo de Ravener is very attractive; it is a large bay with lots of smaller bays and inlets all round, some with a little pebbly beaches.  On Tuesday we took the dinghy and went exploring a bit and decided there were lots of different places to anchor – all of them very beautiful.  The whole bay is surrounded by steep sided cliffs so the anchorages are mostly relatively deep (i.e. 15m or more) but the water is beautifully clean and clear and the snorkeling was excellent.  Not only was the underwater topography interesting and fun to explore, but there was lots of sea life – coral and so many varieties of fish – I discovered a very fine octopus on one of my swims.  On Monday we spotted divers in the water and having missed out on going for an organized dive in Cadaques because of our hasty departure, we suddenly decided to have a dive here. 

Cruising life doesn’t get much better than this.

This is the first time we have dived from “Rampage” other than to clean the hull of growth from time to time.  There are various reasons for this: 1) generally speaking places where it is good to anchor are not interesting dive sites, 2) it is sensible to dive as a pair and have someone else to provide surface cover and 3) we are always a bit wary of local rules and regulations and not wanting to fall foul of the authorities.  However, we decided to take a chance and had a really lovely dive in very benign conditions – flat calm water, not terribly deep, very good visibility and plenty to see.  I particularly loved it, not having dived since we were in Santa Ponsa, Majorca over two years ago.  D is a bit more jaded but he has probably made 800-900 to my 400 and besides, he really prefers wrecks to pretty plant and fish life.  Anyway, suffice to say, we had a lovely time there and left reluctantly on Wednesday only because we were out of fresh food and almost out of drinking water. 

We decided to head back to Port Vendres for a number of reasons, not least that we knew of a laundry facility there and had been unable to find one in Cadaques.  The trip north was notable because we encountered fog!  This was the first time we have had fog since we sailed down the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal three years ago and was a bit of a surprise.  The radar was once more called upon to earn its keep and we tracked other vessels on the screen until they suddenly emerged just a few hundred metres away.  Some of the very small boats used by local fishermen have no radar reflectors so we both kept a careful watch but arrived safely without incident. 

Surrounded by fog.

We thought we’d sit and have a beer on arrival while the water tanks filled and it was only after this that we found we had a small swimming pool in the forward bilges under our bed!  Those of you who are regular followers of this blog will know that this is not the first occasion – indeed the matter is becoming thoroughly tedious now.  We baled and sponged all the water out and then took ourselves off for a belated lunch at a little tapas restaurant across the road.  We had decided to spend 2 nights in Port Vendres, one day of admin and then have a day trip out somewhere.  Now however, it was clear we would need another day in order to try and sort our latest water leakage problem.

Thursday was a busy day.  While D pulled our bed apart and removed everything from the storage locker beneath in order to access the forward water tank, I did numerous trips up and down the hill to SuperU with laundry, shopping and several packs of drinking water.  I also attempted to have our dive cylinders refilled but having stumped round to the far side of the harbour basin with them strapped to the trolley I found that regulations regarding the safety testing of said cylinders varies from country to country.  In UK they must be tested every 2 ½ years, in Spain every 3 but here in France it is every 2.  Since ours were last done in March 2010, as far as the French are concerned they are out of test and could not be refilled.  Why has Brussels failed to address this important topic for goodness sake and issue an EU Directive on the matter?  D meanwhile and walked a considerable distance to an out-of-town bricolage to buy a glue gun.  He had found that the two splits in the top of the water tank which he had previously repaired had both reopened so this is his next idea (along with using the blow torch to ‘weld’ the glue to the tank – seems to have worked but it’s not pretty and only time will tell.)

By this time we were very hot and tired and decided to stop for a rest and some belated lunch but we were then hailed by an English couple from the quayside anxious to discuss the liveaboard lifestyle as they hope to do much the same in a few years’ time.  We invited them aboard for a drink and spent the next hour or so, discussing various considerations, thoughts and pitfalls before embarking on the project.  The boat could not have been more chaotic and I was rather embarrassed but I suppose it was a good thing to see the not-so-glamorous side of liveaboard life and they assured us that we had not put them off at all.  We wish Greta and Jon all the very best as and when they do set sail – it was good to meet you both.


Le Train Jaune


On one of my trips up the hill I had continued on to the railway station to find out about possible destinations for our day out.  Later that evening we decided we would take a trip on Le Petit Train Jaune which wends its way up into the Pyrenees.  This entailed what for us was a very early start and it was still dark as we walked up to the station yesterday.  The ticket office was closed but in due course the train to Perpignan arrived on schedule and we climbed aboard.  On arrival at Perpignan we found that the ticket office there was also still shut and by the time we had sorted out the automatic ticket machine we had an hour to wait before the next leg of the trip to Villefranche so we went and found a café and coffee and croissant for breakfast.

Along the route

We had planned to catch the 10:00 departure of Le Train Jaune from Villefranche but found that when we arrived that lots of other people had had the same idea and that train was fully booked; we would have to wait for the next.  It seems that they do not start selling tickets for one train until the departure of the previous one so we resigned ourselves to joining the queue and waiting patiently.  However, just before 10:00 a man suddenly announced that there were 10 seats available on the 10:00 train and we were delighted to get two of them.  

Fabulous scenery

The trip was great fun and the scenery was spectacular.  The train winds its way through incredibly narrow mountain gorges, over viaducts and bridges and through numerous tunnels, gradually climbing as it goes.  We took loads of photographs, most of which are not very good and eventually we emerged above the tree line to the high pastures and ski slopes of the Pyrenees. 

The church and auberge of Odeill

We had been advised to go as far as Font Romeu , just over halfway since the full trip is 3 ½ hours each way.  I’d assumed (always foolish) that the town of Font Romeu would be right by the station but we quickly learned that it was an hour’s walk away up hill.  It was midday by this time and very hot so we were relieved to discover the little village of Odeill just 15 minutes walk away where there was a splendid auberge that provided a very good lunch.  (The artichoke tart was particularly delicious!)  Afterwards we visited the village church originally built in about 1050 and photographed the extraordinary-looking solar furnace which is the main claim to fame of Font Romeu, before making our way back to the station for the return trip.  The train back was very crowded and extremely hot.  I wished very much we had elected to ride in the open carriage which, with hindsight, would have been much cooler but we survived and had a restorative drink in a little café in Villefranche before continuing our journey back to Port Vendres.  We were back here by just after 20:00, in time to catch the harbour office before it closed for the evening where we asked to stay for the coming weekend, as once again, strong winds are forecast – and possibly rain.  Being at anchor would not have been impossible but it seems to make sense to stay put.  Tomorrow we plan to go to Collioure so there may just be some photos of that very pretty little place after all, when we publish the next blog.

The solar furnace of Font Romeu



  1. very gald you put a pic of the furnace up as I was thinking of a little thing in the garden!! Hope the patch on the tank works or you may end up with a water bed XX

  2. Hi from Jon & Greta!

    Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions and for showing us around Rampage in Port Vendres. We wouldn’t have bothered you if we’d known how busy you were that day, but we’re glad we did!
    We’re back in the UK, working our way through your past blogs and enjoying them thoroughly. It makes for a great read and gives a real flavour of both the good and “interesting” bits of life aboard. Hasn’t put us off anyway! lol.
    We will be concentrating on getting our houses built for the next year or so but intend getting out to Corfu Sea school as soon as we can.

    We’ll keep following your blog with interest and hope to meet up you with at sea in the not to distant future.

    Bon Voyages!

    Jon & Greta

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