Covid 19 upset our spring sailing plans this year but by October there was an inter lockdown opportunity for us to get afloat. We drove from Chamonix to Saint Mandrier-sur-Mer about six hours and slept on board in the marina on 3rd October. We needed to do the usual checks and provisioning so decided to depart on Monday 5th October. However we woke to a fierce wind from the north west which made leaving the marina, where we were very tightly wedged in stern -to Mediterranean style, rather uninviting. After all we are used to empty bays not full marinas. After much soul searching we decided to wait until Tuesday to depart.
The day dawned fair and windless so we left with ease but even so the spatial constraints of the other boats around us required an exit in reverse but we entered the bay unscathed and were on our way to lunch in Anse du Rabat which we had to ourselves. In the afternoon we headed toward Les Porquerolles the well renowned group of islands in the Mediterranean but until today unknown to us. We had booked the marina there as the wind was forecast to be strong again but as we approached we saw a few boats anchored in a beautiful bay, sheltered from the forecast strong wind, so we joined them and tested the anchoring mechanism for the first time .The windlass worked perfectly and the anchor a Kobra (spade type) which we have not used before fell to the sandy bottom through crystal clear water. We had bought our snubbers of which we are so fond although they are rarely used as far as we could see in the Mediterranean, but old habits die hard.
We successfully sat out the next day on 40 knots so it was a good test and we did not drag. We discovered that we could not get the outboard off its stand so it was paddling ashore the next morning when the wind had died. The Baie de Pont Renard is fringed by the Plage d’Argent which is not mis-named as the long beach is of fine silver sand. We found the island more than lived up to our expectations, no high-rise buildings, no private cars, spotlessly clean and lots of bicycles to hire and a small chandlery as well. We planned with eager anticipation to explore more the following day. We had resumed the Baringo cocktail tradition with consummate ease and enjoyed the sunset as usual that evening eagerly contemplating our exploration the next day. We rose with enthusiasm but it may have been an excess of this that caused John to fall into the water fully clad while getting into the dinghy. This proved to be the end of a perfectly planned day but gave us literally the push we needed to swim in the cold water which we continued to do for the rest of the trip. It was wonderfully refreshing and exhilarating and once out of the what to us seemed like ice water the sun was warm enough to dry comfortably.
The weather forecast was again strong winds for the next two days and without a usable outboard we would not be able to get ashore so we decided rather than wait at anchor we would go into the marina to be able to explore the island. There was plenty of space in the morning but over the course of the day because of the weather all the spaces disappeared. The first day we oriented ourselves and checked the chandlery, local cafes and shops. After using ablution facilities I returned to Baringo to find John bailing out an under floor compartment next to the heads which was full of water! This was rather alarming at first sight and we had certainly been carrying a lot of extra weight but we soon deduced that it was a leak from the shower pump which we proved easily after taking a shower! Luckily there are two heads on board. We hired bicycles and explored on the quite rough and sometimes steep tracks that go around and across the island. Initially we thought we must be very unfit as several cyclists seemed to pass us with ease on the slopes until we saw their electric motors! The bays are a delight and quite empty despite the numbers of cyclists on the tracks. We passed the vineyards and farms and enjoyed the amazing sea views. We stopped in the main square for a delicious cake at teatime feeling justified after our day cycling. We decided to have supper out that evening and just as that thought sprang to mind we noticed a pleasant looking restaurant in the square so without further delay we booked. It was Sunday evening so we were not sure how many others would be open. We enjoyed an excellent meal but discovered at the end that it must have been the most expensive restaurant in Les Porquerolles !
The next day we sailed a little further east to Ile de Port-Cros another Porquerolle but with very few inhabitants and no cars. We anchored in Port Man another sheltered picturesque anchorage and that evening we christened Baringo with a bottle of red wine spilt over the bow and paid homage to Poseiden /Neptune to ensure trouble free sailing . We enjoyed hiking and swimming and the usual sport of watching boats entering and leaving the bay anchoring and positioning themselves.
On October 14th we moved north to Baie de Cavaliere on the mainland, a huge bay which we had to ourselves .The golden sandy beach ran the length of it and was almost deserted .Luckily a few bars and cafes and the supermarket were open so we did not run short of anything. We walked to Pramousquier along the coast on the old coast road which has been turned into a rather good cycle path as well as a route avoiding the cars for pedestrians .We were in search of the Hotel Beau Site which I had visited as a medical student to visit two school friends who were working there . I had driven overnight with two friends using D roads which was quite a marathon but we arrived safely. We were delighted to find the Hotel still functioning although closed. We took a break from our return hike and enjoyed a delicious pizza accompanied by excellent local wine.
The next day was a first for us as we anchored off a small nudist beach at the western extreme of the bay. I hid the binoculars in case John succumbed to temptation but in October it was hardly crowded. Later in the afternoon we moved to Anse de Gau slightly further south around the bay in an attempt to find less swell but this did not prove to be the case. However remembering some of the anchorages we had used during the circumnavigation we could not complain. We returned to the marina in Saint Mandrier on Sunday 18th October luckily in calm conditions as reversing in is the method of choice. We felt it had been an enjoyable inaugural voyage and our confidence in the boat had increased with better acquaintance and we felt happy we had made the right decision in getting afloat again.