Summer Cruise Week 15 – Barcelona to Sete

We took over Quartette (Qvartetta in Spanish!) in Puerto Olimpico – the marina built for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona – after a couple of days touring Barcelona’s amazing architecture (see photo).

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia (see photo below) is the headline piece but he seems to have influenced all subsequent Barcelona architects such that there are very few straight square public buildings in town.  

With a forecast of 8 knot Southerlies we were looking forward to a gentle week’s sailing up to France, but the Southerlies were postponed till the following week and we had Northerlies pretty much all week.  With a tight schedule this sadly meant motor sailing for much of the time.  First stop was Blanes where a brand new marina was under- construction which gave us half price mooring fees.  Sunday evening was market night on the sea front and we were soon walking through a bewildering array of stalls selling breads, meats and sweets in bright colours. 

Next day we planned to make for Estartit, a small offshore island and Nature Reserve with a sheltered day time only anchorage.  However shortly after lunch the wind got up and so we put into Palamos to the south.  The old/main harbour was full so we were directed round the corner to a large newish marina.  Here we first noticed the dual Spanish concerns of wasting electricity and people showering with their dogs.  The automatic lights were often set to go out after a few seconds and often one could identify the shower block by the very large and bold “No Gossos” signs which rather dwarfed the normal signage.  Clearly the nightmare scenario would be a dog in the shower with the light on!  The pets we did meet were all very well groomed!

The following day we finally made Estartit at lunch time only to find all the buoys taken in the well policed anchorage.  So after cruising about hopefully for a bit we set off for Roses and had our first chance of a good sail across the Bay of Roses.  The Pyrenees were now clearly in view stretching away to the Atlantic (see photo Roses lighthouse).

Roses once again offered a newish and very large marina and we were moored bow too in a strong wind with stern lines to anchors provided by the marina.  Just as well as the wind got up overnight and the following day we had to stay put as the marina filled up with French waiting to round the end of the Pyrenees and so home.  We were now getting the knack of finding good restaurants and located a very Spanish, or should I say Catallan, Taparia in a back street of Roses.  This part of Spain is certainly Catallan first and Spanish second with a referendum coming up later this year.  Written Spanish looks vaguely familiar I suppose due to our exposure to it via South America, Mexico, Texas and the movies whereas Catallan looks very odd until you realise that it is a sort of half way to French.

Still 90 miles from Sete and with only two days to go we set off the next day in idyllic conditions to round the forbidding Cap de Creus at the end of the Pyrenees.  The pilot helpfully pointed out that a number of fake lighthouse had been left on the headland from when it was used as the set for a film.  Out of the lee of the headland and with still a northerly blowing we quickly found ourselves in force 6 apparent wind and large overfalls of uncharted extent off the headland as both the wind and the current funnelled round the end of the mountains.  However we persevered and eventually the wind moderated and backed as forecast and we got some lee from the French coast as we approached Gruissan some twelve hours later.  Gruissan is one of five new towns and marinas built by the French government along this coast to make the Gulf du Lyons less of an obstacle for sailors between Spain and France. But apart from being huge and with plenty of space it had little to recommend it – not even a baker with fresh morning croissants.

But our final day made up for this.  At last were not heading into the wind and so enjoyed a great day sailing a broad reach reefing in and out all day and getting up to 7.7 knots out of Quartette.  We arrived in Frontignan (just along from Sete) to find Andy and his trusty assistant, Carla, waiting with fenders and bikes and check lists.  Almost immediately we started preparations for demasting the following morning with only a short break for supper.  Next morning the lightest member of the crew, Hamish, was duly hoisted up the mast to hook on the crane strop (see photo) following the gesticulations of the crane operator whose English was as non-existent as Hamish ‘s French.  Hamish found this a somewhat stretching experience as we had the bosun’s chair on the smaller cabin top winch and the safety harness on the more powerful jib winch, but he survived.

— Jonathan Gillams

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