When John phoned up St Tropez they told him they did not take bookings, but if we arrived early there should not be a problem. This meant either arriving just before lunch at around eleven thirty or just after it at two o’clock. Two o’clock seemed the more civilized option allowing us to leave Bormes after nine. John also thought it would give more time for those who were leaving St Tropez that day to have gone. He said we could have a leisurely breakfast out. This turned out to be a mixed blessing. It was the lightest, most delicious omelette I have ever tasted, but then I was terribly seasick even though I had taken my tablet and the sea was fairly slight. I lay miserably on deck while John did all the work. Fortunately the wind was on our nose all the way, so I was not denying John the chance of a sail. The sea grew smoother as the day wore on and John slowed so we did not arrive too soon, which made the motion gentler. By the time we arrived in the bay outside St Tropez I had been sitting up a while and I was fit enough to go out and sort out the ropes and fenders. John radioed in. He was answered promptly, but we were turned away. She was very sorry but there were no more spaces for a boat of our size. She suggested the nearby marina of Port Grimauld. Our German neibours from Bormes had been heading there, it involves a series of lagoons, a labyrinth they described as a little Venice where one needed to take the Zodiac to the boulangerie. Being young and lithe this was an exciting prospect for them, John thought it would be too exciting for us. Climbing in and out of our tender is a challenge best indulged when it does not matter if one gets wet in the process. He thought we would be better off making across the bay to the smaller Ste Maxime, if they would take us. As we set out we could hear the girl in St Tropez on Channel 9 turning others away and she was ‘desolet’ all across the bay. I thought I had left it thirty years too late to visit St Tropez, but as it turns out I was just a couple of hours.
John had me just lift the fenders onto the deck as he plotted a course across the bay, then I phoned Ste Maxime and vented my French on them until they found an English speaker. Yes there was room for us, when would we arrive? About twenty minutes, very good, call on Channel 9 when you arrive. We arrived twenty minutes later and called. A man answered and he and I muddled through all our details again, before he spotted us hovering outside his window and said he would come out. He gestured to us to come in beside the reception building. John turned in the harbour mouth and started to reverse round. We could not see the space and we crept along until finally I thought our space was going to be on the ferry pier, but no, it was an incredibly narrow gap between two big motor yachts. The man was there with a girl in a bright yellow vest top. How John backed into that space without touching either boat was a pure magic. As though Lyra was the night bus from Harry Potter and had sucked herself in to make the gap. The man let the girl take one rope and he took the other. He was clearly training her and we must have made an excellent opportunity as he could tell her what she was doing wrong and indeed what we might have been doing wrong in French without upsetting anyone. As it was it all went smoothly. She had a winning personality and such a warm smile it made the sun come out. I think she had taken my initial phone call and when we went into register she processed us with the help of two more girls, who looked to be on work experience from school. We saw her out in the town with one of them a bit later on as we headed in to explore and she insisted on taking our photo together, coaching us as to how to pose, ‘Lurve, Lurve Lurve’. Our exploration was cut short as John’s had twisted is knee sailing over and it was beginning to complain. Ste Maxime was such a lovely spot we decided to try to stay another night, so he could rest up and headed back to the marina. Our girl was out, but the lady in charge who spoke English was there and explained we could not stay where we were, but could move along the quay, but that would be a more exposed spot. We should have a look and decide. On looking John decided we should try to move on as planned as a big blow was forecast for Saturday and the spot was indeed exposed. We headed back to Lyra to phone round.
Our next port of call was planned to be Juan les Pins, which has a couple of marinas. One was not taking bookings, which after today’s experience was not great news and the other was currently full, they may have spaces if we call back at four. We looked at the map. John said we could try Cannes. This did not seem a bright hope, but he gave it a go. The first number in our book was no longer recognized, but a girl who answered John’s ‘Do you speak English’ with a yes picked up the second number. It then turned out that she was the number for the airport, but it turns out the old Harnett magic does work out here, if he held the line she would contact the harbour master at Cannes for him and make a reservation. She took down the details of our boat name and size and came back on the line with a yes, we had a space reserved for two nights, and John should make contact on Channel 16 when we arrived. In our planning we never even considered trying to book in to Cannes and it is an exciting prospect. Relieved we set out again to make the most of our time here. We bought tickets for the waterbus to St Tropez, it seemed silly not to take a trip across given we had come so close and the journey would give John’s knee time to rest. I let the marinera know we would be moving on in the morning after all. As we were sitting waiting for the boat the girl from the marina office came out looking for us and came across to tell us where the nice restaurants were for the evening, as we had not had time to fully explore. I hope her enthusiasm carries her a long way in her job.