The Excellent Adventures of Island Girl: Port Grimaud

I have learnt several things so far on this trip. Most of all is the importance of being prepared. James and I only had a week to learn the boat and understand all the challenges of our trip before we left Hayling Island. This was not long enough. Also you need to assess in advance the pros and cons of the use of marinas over anchoring. I think a mixture of both appears to be a good balance. Yes you need marinas to fuel and water to clean.

I admit to being a little OCD when it comes to the cleanliness of the boat. And it is also quite nice to shower in a bathroom that is not moving. Although after a few days at sea everything still moves. I think after this trip I could write a book on marina bathrooms. Then again there is nothing better than a quiet anchorage, a nice wine and a good book. Next time (did I hear my children groan) I will do more anchoring and less marina. This, of course, requires more planning for meals, but I think I am up for that challenge. After six weeks we both have a really good feel for the boat and are settling in to a routine.

After Pollenca, we said goodbye to the Stewart clan and it was just James and I all the way to Port Grimaud, which is just near St Tropez. This was about a 240-mile trip. Of course there was no wind, big swells, and current against us. I think we have motored way more than sailed in this trip. We left early Friday morning and rolled our way east/north east. Unpleasant is not a strong enough word for the seas. How on earth do those guys do the Volvo Race? We finally decided to pull in to an anchorage in the islands off Hyeres with about 26 miles to go as neither of us could handle the swell anymore. That was a good decision, as a good meal and a night’s sleep did wonders.

We finally arrived in Port Grimaud on Sunday. We are here for the first time in 13 years having brought the Swan 44 “Crescendo” here for the Swan Cup. Yes things have changed. Last time we stayed at Cogolin, which is the next marina over and that was totally where all the action was.

Now, however, we are in Port Grimaud, which is a truly amazing town. It was built in 1962 by Francois Spoerry who was an architect from the Alsace region. He found the swampland and after three long years managed to get approval to build his port. He excavated earth and rock, laid foundations, built bridges and canals and the sea flowed in. It is like a small, cleaner Venice.

There are 2000 houses and not one is the same. Right down to each shutter and façade.  In 2002 Port Grimaud was classified as a historical monument. We have a smaller house on one of the many canals with the boat parked at the back door. We almost needed road signs on the canals to find out house. It is truly unique. And to James’ delight, there was an ice cream store on every corner.

From Sunday we are racing in the Les Voiles de St Tropez regatta. This is a very large regatta with classic yachts as well as modern day. On Tuesday we took the ferry over to St Tropez and all the boats were in town. What a sight to see. Three J boats rafted together getting primped and primed for the regatta. Each J boat had it’s “tender” nearby. I am not sure tender is the right word. Oh how the other half live.

“Island Girl” had to be transformed from a cruising boat to a racer in a few short days. This meant someone going up the rig to mouse out some lines and re tape the halyard blocks. Of course I drew the short straw. James can’t even go up a ladder. Back when James was running the Swan 44 “Crescendo” I always got suspicious when he asked me to join him for lunch at the boatyard. “Oh Hon can you just do a run up the rig”. Some things never change. I do try to remind him that I am a grandmother but that seems to fall on deaf ears. I should have taken up my camera, as the view of the whole complex was amazing.

Now just waiting for the crew to arrive which is a mixture of nationalities. The boat has been chartered by CYCA past Commodore David Fuller so we proudly displayed the Aussie flag for his arrival. In total we have six Australians, three English and our one token Irishman.

– Marita Wilmot

JPK August 2023
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