THE FRENCH MED
The French Mediterranean is unknown territory for me, but many names are familiar from years of reading windsurfing magazines: Leucate, Gruissan, Saint-Marie-de-la-Mer. Keen to avoid being pinned by the Tramontana and Mistral winds I take my opportunity to push eastward, reaching Marseille on a moderately lively day. The French are endearing in how they will take in a sailor. Like the Norwegians, they have adventure in their blood. Here I have existing contacts, but don’t meet these until day two, when the Mistral is blowing too hard to sail, and I begin to write this article.
The coastline east becomes rather spectacular. Les Calanques National Park, Les Falaises Soubeyranes – the highest sea cliffs in France. I find myself pleasingly stunned by the scenery. Moving toward Saint Tropez the coastline is ridiculously pretty, and the water colour astonishing, but the plastic pollution returns to sobering levels. Most likely the absence of any appreciable Mistral wind means that the top layer of water is not blown offshore. Just past Cannes I meet with contact Pablo and friends, decide to take a break and organise myself, for there is still a long haul ahead into the Black Sea winter, and whilst the sailing here is easier than the Atlantic, it still takes its toll on body and equipment. After some attention to board and daggerboard, and a rest for the tendonitis-inflamed fingers, I push on to Monaco, which Captain Pablo has made a viable port of call. An interesting stop, if not exactly windsurf friendly. Next day, after a painful 7 miles in 7 hours, I’m in Italy.