We set out this morning into flat calm, with a little haze hanging onto the horizon, but with the hills much clearer that before. Hoping this time the mist would clear we set out, reached the separation zone into Marseilles by half nine and were across it once more a quarter of an hour later. Nothing was moving in or out, but John spotted a French warship lurking near the entrance to Marseilles. The hills just after Marseilles are of limestone and reminded us of the northern Dalmatian coastline. Further along they become dramatic steep cliffs of red sandstone, with curious ruffled outcrops running along the strata lines. It would have been a crime to miss this stretch of coastline in the fog. The mist had cleared, John thought there would be enough wind from the right direction for us to sail when we turned at the next waypoint and all was going swimmingly.
Then came a Securite message in French. They keep putting them out on Channel 16 and we can make little of them. The Frenchman berthed alongside us in Sausset told us the radio had failed to warn of the fog, so understanding French would not have helped us there. The messages are not repeated in English or printed out on Navtext. We make an effort to listen for the figures, but then end up having no idea and ignoring the broadcasts. This one also passed us by, but then was important enough to be repeated in English a minute later, ten forty one. The English was heavily accented, all we could make out was that the boat sending the message would be setting off an underwater explosion within the hour and all ships should keep a kilometer off. By now we were passing between the rock with the lighthouse and the mainland, where we had turned back last time. We had no idea if we were approaching the danger zone or moving away from it. We passed a tense quarter hour, then the message was repeated and I scribbled down the grid reference in the log book. A reading of 32 degrees 41 minutes North, 5 degrees 17 minutes East in fifty minutes time. John was furious. I had misunderstood, 32 degrees would be miles away, clearly they would not have given out that message here. The number 41 was the degrees, what were the all important minutes? He also thought they said it would happen in fifteen minutes time, which made things much more urgent. He should have written it down himself. Silence descended, John had a think and thought it had been 41 degrees 19 minutes. He looked this up on the chart. There sat the warship he had spotted earlier, presumably ready to do the deed. Perhaps something was gumming up the approach to Marseilles and needed blasting, or they had discovered an old mine from the war. Either way they already were miles behind us, and falling back further with every minute. Standing down from Defcon One.
We passed the shear sided Ile Rion and the lumpy little Emperor rocks, which looked more like small Scottie dogs. Beyond them we turned to port to follow the coast and the wind gave us three knots on our quarter, so finally we were able to sail. The sails unfurled easily and we were able to make nearly five knots over the ground. To cream along with the engine off was bliss. We tacked to avoid an isolated danger (rock) and then were able to make six knots, John pinching us up to our waypoint as the wind veered. By quarter to three we were outside the harbour at Bandol taking the sails in and by quarter past we were coming into the marina. Unfortunately the wind was still blowing force four and the reception quay was full. One boat on it looked to be coming away, but then started moving his dinghy around from the stern. All manner of craft were threading in and out of the harbour mouth past us. John attempted to go to the fuel dock, but the wind would have blown us on too strongly and he backed off. Then a marinera came out calling to us and I shouted that we wanted one night. We had a reservation, but that seemed too complicated to go into in the circumstances. He was brilliant, jumping straight in a tender, pointing us to a berth opposite the arrivals pontoon and taking the tender over there ahead of us to take our lines. The French couple in the boat he was bringing us alongside stood up on their deck wielding fenders, but John brought us in perfectly and I managed to throw and retrieve the stern lines. The marinera passed me a fine chain attached to the pontoon and I took it as far as John, who threaded it carefully between the two boats to the bow. John could not reach far enough down the chain to thread our line through for a bridle, but our hero was back in his tender doing this for us. We thanked him most profusely. He offered John a lift across to reception, but John decided we would be safer walking. We have arrived at the Cote d’Azure.