[Kensblog] Lazy days on the French Riviera

Greetings everyone!

In my prior blog entry I mentioned that, even though Roberta and I are on the boat, I wouldn’t be doing much blogging until later in the season. There really isn’t much to say about where we are cruising now, and with a little luck it will stay that way. We’re basically hopping along the French Riveria (the Cote D’Azur) moving a few miles at a time just enjoying the anchorages. It makes for boring blogs, but we’re not complaining!

So, with that preamble, and only because I sense that some percentage of my readers are curious what we are up to, following is a photo gallery showing what we’ve been doing. 

But first….

I have a drone here on Sans Souci, and have been afraid to use it. Some countries are imposing rules on drones, and I had heard that France was one of the first to regulate them. Also, we’re in a very busy anchorage with lots of other boats zipping by us. Every time a boat goes by we get bounced. Would I be able to land the drone on a moving deck?

Anyway, after lots of googling of regulations, and waiting until dusk so that the seas would be calm, here is the result:

Click here to see the video


Enjoy! (Lots of photos below)

Ken (and Roberta) Williams

MV Sans Souci

This map shows the locations covered in this blog entry.

(a)Portosole Marina
(c)Cap D’Ail Marina
(d)Our current anchorage at Cap Ferrat

Departure From San Remo

Ken and Roberta enjoying an early dinner in San Remo. This was our last dinner in Italy. The next morning we would be up early for our big voyage to France (almost an hour away.) Typically, we are early eaters and like to be at restaurants by around 6:30pm. That is impossible in Europe. Most restaurants in this area don’t open until 8pm. As we work our way west to Spain the dinners will get even later. In Spain, dining at 10pm is very normal.

Sans Souci, departing the Portosole marina in Italy for the short ride to Cap D’Ail in France.

Cap D’Ail and Monaco

Most people think of cruising as all “sunshine and drinks with umbrellas in them.” Well, it can be a little more complicated than that …

Here’s a brief description of our first day at sea (our run from San Remo Italy to Cap D’Ail in France:)

07:30 Get the boat ready for departure from San Remo Italy, headed to Cap D’Ail France (adjacent to Monaco)
– Engine room checks
– Get all the electronics going (Radar, Chart Plotter, AIS, etc)
– Unhook us from shorepower, start the generator
– We were chained to the dock (literally) – use wrench to unchain us
– Start engines
– Drop ropes and go!

08:30 Departure, and smooth run 20 miles west to Cap D’Ail

10:00 Need to enter marina but there is a 200 foot sailboat between me and where I want to be. I call him on the radio with no response. I stop to let him pass. He also stops. We are apparently both going to the same marina. He enters first and blocks entrance for about 30 minutes maneuvering.

10:30 Call Marina on radio to announce arrival. Response is 100% in French explaining where to go. My french not great, but understood him. What would have happened if I was english-only?

11:00 We were put onto the guest dock. It is just inside the entrance to the marina. I was worried about whether or not there would be much surge (waves rocking us inside the marina).
– Tying up the boat was a one-hour challenge (I was helped by Ed, from Navimarine. Ed and his partner Bart took care of our prior boat, an N62, when it was in France over a decade ago.)
– Although we are side tied, there are mooring lines forward and aft. By this I mean that I had to pick up lines covered with gross brown material and pull them off the bottom to attach to all four corners of the boat. I tried not to think about what the brown was that I was being covered with.
– The port bow mooring line came  out of the water. It had been cut. The office says they’ll send a diver, but didn’t say when.

12:00 Walk to the marina to check in. Although the Capitainerie (Harbormaster office) was only 50′ in front of my bow, the only way to get there was a half-mile walk around the entire marina. Hot!

1pm – Paperwork given to the marina. They handed me an adapter to connect to the power. I asked if an electrician would be available to assist and the response was, “No. You have to do the work, but we will confirm you have it right.” They said someone would be by at 3pm.

1:30pm Stopped at very charming restaurant on the waterfront, with the dogs and asked about lunch. Had an excellent meal: Shrimp wrapped in pastry followed by a truffle risotto. Everyone else was having wine, but we opted for water (not being accustomed to wine at lunch). The bill came to $120 USD for the two of us.

2:30pm Back at the boat. Need to start wiring the cable!
– Tried to remove the end (adapter) from my shore power cable and hit one stupid hex screw that just refused to budge. I tried everything!

3pm My wrist-band congratulated me with flashing lights to celebrate me for hitting my 3 miles of steps. I rarely hit my goal back at home, but on the boat I have hit it every day so far.

3:30pm Still working on the stupid hex screw. Used WD-40 (a spray) and cussed like a sailor. That worked. The hex screw gave way. No one from the marina had showed up, so I went ahead and wired up their adapter: red to L1, black to L2, green to ground, white to neutral. After screwing it all together I realized I had put the wrong adapter cover onto the wire. Took it all apart, put on the correct cover, and sealed it all back up. No one from the marina had appeared so I decided to try turning on the power. The power pedestal wouldn’t let me. There was apparently some sort of lockout. Argh. I needed someone from the marina.

4:30pm Still no one from the marina. Called on radio and they said they’d send someone immediately. A gentleman appeared and immediately took apart the adapter I had just wired, to verify I did it correctly. He explained that I had forgotten the Pilote. I thought I had heard him incorrectly. I had never heard of such a thing. It’s apparently a tiny wire that goes from the center of the adapter to neutral. He added the wire and plugged me in.

5pm Power on Sans Souci! Yay!
– Put away tools
– Check email
– Google to try to find two things badly needed: A rental car, and a 3g internet connection (need a mobile sim card) Those will be tomorrow’s project.

7:30pm Was tired, so decided to try the other restaurant in the marina. The Trip Advisor (a website) reviews said the service was very French (code for not so good) but food was good. Had good service but poor food. Oh well. Decided to pass on wine. We were wiped out from the long day and just wanted to crash. It was fun people watching though. Our dock has thirteen boats over 50 meters (around 160 feet) plus us. One of the diners was showing off his yellow Ferrari, while another of the big yachts (Roberta and I debated what is a megayacht and what is a superyacht) had a stream of people arriving in chauffeured black limos for some party. We didn’t order much, and ate less. Another $120 USD gone.

8:30pm Watch an hour of tv

9:30pm Sleep! A swell has started into the marina. All of the boats, even the big ones are rocking.

02:15am The boat is crashing into the dock with scraping noises. We get up to take a look. The rocking and rolling has popped some of our fenders out from between the boat and the dock. I set them to be floating a couple of inches above the water. My new idea is to move the boat away from the dock, and give the fenders enough line that they lay in the water.
– Start engines
– Have Roberta run the thrusters
– She moves the boat away from the dock
– I lower fenders to lie on the water

3am Back to sleep! Still rolling, but much better!

We thought we’d have it easy when we were assigned to a side tie at the marina in Cap D’Ail. However, winds in the Med can come up quickly and ferociously. To keep the boat in place, in addition to the lines on my side tied to the dock, I needed to put thick lines attached to the bottom at the four corners of the boat. These mooring lines are attached to the dock at one end via a small light rope which the gentleman on the dock is passing to me. In this picture I’m grabbing it with the boat hook. I then pass the line through a hawse hole and start pulling as hard as I can to hoist the much heavier line off the bottom of the marina basin. Given the weight of the thick rope, and the brown crud encasing it – this exercise is not nearly as fun as it looks.

Those buildings behind us are in Monaco, the smallest country in the world (and, one of the wealthiest.) [Note: Technically speaking the Vatican is the smallest country]

We were surrounded by megayachts, triggering a debate between Roberta and me as to, “Which is larger? A Superyacht, or a Megayacht?” Roberta says Megayachts are the biggest, and I say Superyachts. Often the big boats are put into charter when the owner isn’t using them. These big boats cost 10s to 100s of millions of dollars and costs many more millions per year to operate. When I asked around, many of them around us are not chartered, even though lightly used. I can’t imagine having pockets deep enough to be able to leave an asset this expensive sitting unused most of the year.

Our marina is in an amazing location. Our bow is in France, and our stern is in Monaco (which is a different country than France.) That’s an exaggeration, but only slightly. The buildings at the back of our boat are only about 200 feet away and they are in Monaco.

Some of you may not be familiar with Monaco, so I’ll do a very brief description…

Monaco is a tiny country, in fact it is so tiny that it is officially the smallest country in the world, other than the Vatican. Monaco is only 484 acres, roughly the size of Central Park in the US. Monaco is highly linked with France, but is truly an independent country with its own UN representation, its own government, and its own ruler – Prince Albert II.

By coincidence, our previous boat  – our Nordhavn 62, also named Sans Souci — was originally commissioned by Prince Albert’s father, Prince Rainier. Nordhavn didn’t make boats in all white, but our Sans Souci was custom made all white on special request by the Prince, a tradition we’ve carried on to our current Sans Souci.

Monaco is an interesting place with a fascinating history. That said, I’m not really interested in ancient history. I probably should be, but… I’m not. What fascinates me about Monaco is the modern history. With virtually no land, and no products to export, the Grimaldi family (Prince Albert II and his ancestors) have turned Monaco into one of the wealthiest and safest countries on earth, in under 100 years.

Monaco got its start in gambling, with the famous Monte Carlo casino. It is also known for the Monaco Grand Prix. But ..these things are only a part of Monaco’s economic success. I read one article about Monaco saying that even though Monaco has only 33,000 residents, over 40,000 people enter Monaco on a daily basis to go to work!

In Seattle, Roberta and I live downtown. We love Seattle, but there are elements there that we don’t love. In particular, there are a lot of homeless people, druggies and beggars on the street. Most of them are harmless, but some are mentally unstable. Walking the streets of Seattle requires a certain amount of “street smarts” and I’m always nervous when Roberta takes her daily walk through downtown with the dogs.

Monaco is more densely populated than Seattle (or, New York) yet one feels 100% safe wandering the streets. The city is clean and well organized. And, whereas Seattle’s recent efforts to build a single under-city tunnel have spanned many years and many billions, Monaco is traversed by a series of underground tunnels which make movement easy and fast.

Seattle has been aggressively trying to solve its crime problems. Thus, I got curious about why Monaco feels so safe, and stumbled onto this article regarding security in Monaco:

(copied/pasted from http://www.monte-carlo.mc/en/information/safety/)

“…A climate of security reigns in Monaco Monte-Carlo making this prestigious setting even more appreciable. Security specialists are unanimous, it would be difficult to live in a place safer than Monaco. One policeman for every 100 residents, a system of 24-hour video surveillance spanning the entire surface area of the Principality, including the majority of residence halls, a transmitting system worthy of the best armies in the world, the possibility of blocking all access in and out of the Principality in several minutes. And we mustn’t forget the surveillance teams inside of the Casino and in all of the gambling establishments and hotels.

The Monaco police department is managed by a highly placed member of the French police force and the police department is amongst the most modern and efficient in Europe. The rule imposed by the Prince Rainier is simple : “Monaco must have total security”. As would follow, the orders given to the 519 police officers, who must go through a 2-year intensive training program, are extremely strict : anything detrimental to the harmonious atmosphere in Monaco is forbidden, begging is non-existent, indecent clothing is prohibited and traffic laws are rigorously enforced. The court system in Monaco almost always pronounces maximum sentences. The result is an incredibly low rate of delinquency, a dream for any Minister of the Interior…”

By comparison, Seattle spent millions on installing video surveillance downtown, but then removed all the cameras after complaints of invasion of privacy. Obviously, there are lots of “Big Brother” concerns with Monaco’s tight security. This isn’t a political blog, so I shall refrain from comment. But… I must confess that economic prosperity and complete security are certainly on my list of things I’d consider as “good goals to have.” And.. .I pondered for a while over that line: “…. Anything detrimental to the harmonious atmosphere in Monaco is forbidden..” We could put that on a ballot in Seattle, but I’d put a lot of money it wouldn’t pass.

Anyway… enough of all that.

Given that I have no cruising glory of my own to report. I’ll share some things from other cruisers who are out there having fun…

Steven Argosy on Seabird, a Nordhavn 62, sent me this short video which visualizes what I was talking about in my last blog entry – the DREAM, that is the reason why we cruise. This is some drone footage of Seabird taken from an anchorage on Mallorca:


I wrote to ask Steven for more info on the anchorage, as I hope to be there within the next few weeks and he responded thusly: “It is a white sandy bottom and my anchor is completely buried. The water is so clear that you can see the red white and blue tiny chain markers from the surface with a diving mask! We are the only boat here so I cannot imagine even in peak season that it would be too full. Plus, you can anchor fairly far out and still be in under 50 feet of water. “

Starbucks in Monaco! Roberta and I are from Seattle where there are at least six Starbucks within three blocks of our home. Here’s Roberta with Toundra. Keeley is hiding behind Toundra.

Dinner in Monaco at the Quai Des Artistes, on the Grand Prix race track, adjacent to the Monaco marina (with one of the pups – Keeley — in this picture, but slouching in her chair, so you can’t see her.)

Looking back at the Cap D’Ail marina from the adjacent beach.

Looking back at the Cap D’Ail marina from the adjacent beach.

“I Nova” a 50 meter megayacht passing close enough to Sans Souci that Roberta could reach across and touch her.

Our “Adventure Du Jour” from yesterday..

As Roberta and I and the dogs were walking back from lunch with the dogs, we passed by the 50 meter superyacht (named “I Nova”) parked behind us. I knew we had her boxed in, but it was where the marina placed us.

A member of the crew flagged us down and said we’d have to move because they were departing. I explained that it was just Roberta and I, and it would be very difficult for us to move the boat without marina assistance. I was side-tied …and had four HUGE mooring lines at the four corners of Sans Souci. Because we were on the big-boat dock the lines that were holding us in place had to be dragged from the bottom of the marina and were over an inch thick and super-heavy. I asked if there was anyway they could squeeze their way around us. “No” was the answer. They then said that if I could move forward 20 feet they could get out. Unfortunately, the work for me to move 20 feet or a mile was roughly the same.

It didn’t matter what I said. We needed to move Sans Souci immediately, and I knew it. It had just caught me at a bad time.. I wasn’t in the mood for all the work associated with moving the boat, and doubted I could get all the lines off, and then back on, without help from the marina.

Anyway… I radio’d the Capitainerie for assistance (one guy showed up who didn’t offer much help and refused to get onboard the boat). I fired engines, started the generator, Roberta and brought in shore power, and we dropped the mooring lines (dropping them into the water is easy. It’s getting them back up that is a challenge.) As I was in the final stages of untying the boat, I suddenly saw the superyacht start to move, and it maneuvered around us easily. Apparently I was taking too long and the Captain got impatient and decided to just go for it.

That began the hard part — putting everything back, and pulling those giant mooring lines from the bottom alone. Roberta is a petite woman, and although she tries, she can’t pull up on those big lines; therefor it’s left for me to do.

An hour later .. I was exhausted, but we were back to being tied up, and Roberta, who never does this, said: “Would you like a nice cold beer?” .. Would I!!! It was the best beer I’ve ever tasted!

The first time I saw a “Smart Car” we were in Monaco – years ago — and I had rented a large van not understanding how difficult parking and navigating the tight parking garages would be. Apparently, now, the Smart Car isn’t even small enough. This trip we saw several of these little cars running around Monaco. They seat two passengers, but one rides behind the other. They are called Mobees.

Parking a little car in Monaco

France’s best feature is their laid back attitude about dogs. Here we see Keeley and Roberta at lunch at a beachside café.

“Just another” truffle risotto. One fact: As good as the food looks, and well as we eat, I always lose weight on the boat. Last year I dropped nearly 30 pounds, and hopefully this year a similar miracle will occur. Part of the reason is that we’re constantly in motion when on the boat, but I also suspect there is something different about the food. My suspicion is that the American diet is less overall healthy than the European diet.

I wouldn’t call myself by any definition a “hiker,” but in France Roberta and I have done a lot of hiking.  There are a series of paths which span long stretches of the southern coast of France. Roberta and I have hiked virtually all of them. The dogs can sometimes be a challenge. It is usually hot and sweaty, but the worst is that the paths themselves can get so hot they burn little dog’s feet. In the afternoons, hiking can consist of each of us carrying a dog unless there is shade.

Looking back at the Cap D’Ail marina from the hiking path

Obtaining Internet access has been more of a challenge than expected. For instance, I bought a couple of Sim Cards from one French telephone company (Bouygues) but then discovered I couldn’t buy internet access for the sim cards without having a French credit card. I bought a british sim card, and a bunch of data for use with it, but then discovered the sim card wouldn’t work except in a telephone. As soon as I tried putting the sim card into my router, to spread internet throughout the boat I was caught and a message came up asking that I immediately put the sim card back into a telephone. Finally, I found the solution we’ll probably use until we get to Spain – sim cards from “Orange Telecom”. I have to buy the data as “recharges” and they cost about $12 USD per gigabyte. I have not found a solution that would provide unlimited internet. We also have VSAT (satellite internet) available, but it is slow, and limited to a total of 25 gigabytes per month. I use it as my internet-of-last-resort.

When we first came to the South of France twenty-three years ago we stayed at a hotel called “The Grand Hotel” on Cap Ferrat. We decided to head there for dinner as a wonderful remembrance.

Cap Ferrat is the peninsula you see protruding out in this picture. It is a wonderful place and we’ve hiked the perimeter of the peninsula several times. It’s a popular anchorage, because there are opportunities on both sides of the peninsula to hide from high winds. We rode out one of the worst nights of our boating career here, though, in high winds (in our Nordavn 62) anchored too close to an also-anchored large yacht that kept threatening to swing into us. We were anchored too close to each other (inside each other’s swing circle) and because of the yacht’s broad beam the wind was turning us at different rates. There was too much wind and swell for either of us to consider pulling anchor, plus – we were pretty sure our anchors had tangled with each other. It made for a very long night. The next morning, the wind died and we were all able to figure it out.

Walking to dinner in a 400 year old Chateau (Le Chateau de la Chevre D’or). Dinner was expensive, portions were tiny, but…what an experience!

Another of our favorite restaurants (Anjuna Bay), on the beach in Eze-Sur-Mer, France. Best of all they have tender service to bring in people, and their dogs, from visiting boats.

Cap Ferrat, France

The French Riviera has an inter-city fireworks competition during the summer. I’m not sure if the show last night (July 3) was part of the fireworks competition – or not. But, it was among the longest fireworks exhibition we have seen. There is nothing like kicking back in the hot tub watching fireworks after a good taco dinner onboard the boat! (Mexican food being among our favorites!)

Full moon at anchor off of Cap Ferrat.

The view from Sans Souci looking at the small town of St Jean Cap Ferrat at twilight.

The “Sentier Litteral” – the path along the beach.

8 Responses

  1. Response to a post by Ken Williams who said:

    Yap – what’s the plan with the boat? From your website it looks like it is still on land in Italy. When do you start the big journey?

    Ken san, well in fact SHOGUN is floating happily in Italy (at least that was 2 weeks ago..). Next week she’s gonna go for a Scrub & Paint and in April we’re heading for Spain & Portugal. Then in Autumn south and across the Atlantic: Carieb here we come.

  2. SUBJECT: Find your joy

    WhatsApp Wêb

    You havè a new message
    Daté: July 19, 2015, 1:35 am 53
    Lënght: 45sec

    111 Play
    *If you cant open thîs, move it to your “Inbox” folder. q

    I began to teach him that he was focusing on what he did not

  3. SUBJECT: Re: [Kensblog] Lazy days on the French Riviera

    Hi Ken,
    Glad to see that you’re back on the boat, allowing us all to once again, live vicariously through your travels!

    I liked your drone video… incredibly stable! Nice…. and the water clarity in Steven’s video was amazing to say the least!
    I also got a kick out of the following:
    3:30pm Still working on the stupid hex screw. Used WD-40 (a spray) and cussed like a sailor. That worked.
    Was it the cussing, or the WD-40, that got it to work???  Lol!
    Anyway….Thanks again for letting us tag along….looking forward to your next post….
    John S….a long time reader of Ken’s blog!

  4. SUBJECT: Re: [Kensblog] Lazy days on the French Riviera

    One of our most favourite places in the world. Loved your post. We have visited this area many times and hope to cruise Sockeye Blue there in a few years. What is the cost to stay a night in those marina’s?We just arrived in New York. Loved entering the New York HARBOR and then running up the east river right through the Center of the city. Looking forward to your next post. CheersJohn & TinaSockeye BlueCurrently laying in New York City

    Sent from my iPad

    On Jul 5, 2015, at 10:42 AM, Passagemaking with a Nordhavn wrote:

  5. SUBJECT: Re: [Kensblog] Lazy days on the French Riviera
    Ken and Roberta,Get to see an update. Very inspirational! Hope everything is well and uneventful.
    Your friend from Okinawa,
    Dan O

  6. SUBJECT: Re: [Kensblog] Lazy days on the French Riviera

    Hi Ken,
    I am docked in Port Townsend for a month and am exploring the area…… as well as your Seattle area.
    I enjoyed your blog entry.
    Take care!
    -FrankNavigator N46-77

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