One of the enduring fascinations of owning a yacht is, for me, transformation. The same living space can be transported to an entirely different part of the world and, in the process, remain both familiar and also entirely alien. Never was this more true than during lockdown, which I rashly opted to spend on my boat, Black Joke, a 28’ Morecambe Bay Prawner, in Sete in the south of France. My boat was transformed into a very small floating prison. When lockdown lifted, I promptly rented a flat and anchored my boat within sight of the apartment. There she lay, very pretty and gently plucking at her anchor cable – inviting me to go off on another adventure.
With restrictions lifted my friend Tom, in a bout of post lockdown insanity opted to cycle down from London to visit. All things considered, I thought that we couldn’t do better than head down to Marseille and explore the calanques just to the east. These are a selection of narrow, steep walled inlets cut into the limestone making for a string of very striking and tempting anchorages in the midst of the wilderness. I also fancied a trip to Marseille as I’d spent lockdown reading the Count of Monte Cristo – the early section of which is set around Marseille – it therefore seemed fitting to pay homage to the Count as part of our great escape.
Iles du Frioul
We spent two days getting there from Sete and our first stop was Iles du Frioul, these are two islands connected by a causeway plus the small island of If to the west facing directly on to the port of Marseille. We anchored at Harvre de Morgiret on the western side which has plenty of space. The water was warm and crystal clear. We both swam before heading to Port du Frioul to find some cold beer. One of the big problems my boat had was a lack of a fridge and, although we kept stocking up with ice, warm beer was a constant concern. Port du Frioul is probably hell during the day thanks to endless tripping boats dumping fleshy cargoes on its shores. By evening though, it’s just the yachts leftand the bars were sleepy and offering suitably desultory service that made you 100% certain you were in France. Tom needed cigarettes and managed to buy some at a vastly inflated rate. He duly smoked one and felt like he wanted to die. I think a few nights sleeping on the cockpit bench and being flayed alive by the sun each day were taking their toll. He looked like he was part some kind of government health campaign extolling the evils of smoking.
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