St Cyprien to Roses

Once outside St Cyprien marina I went to haul up the mainsail only to have the connector on the end of the main halyard (bit of string that pulls the mainsail up the mast) part company with the sail and go flying halfway up the mast………expletives deleted!!

We then spent the next half an hour with me on top of the wheelhouse with an extended boathook trying to hook the halyard whilst Sara kept us head to wind to save excess rocking and rolling and aid my attempts – I do hope no one on the shore had a video camera running. Finally I managed to retrieve the halyard, and this time, connect it properly to the top of the sail. This is the first time I have done this and hopefully it will be my last, and was entirely my own fault as I obviously had not closed it properly the first time……. lesson learned.

There were two headlands we had to get around today, one being Cape Bear which according to local info has a good sheltered anchorage just to the south and one can shelter in safety from the Tramontana winds should it blow up quickly.

Photo of Cape Bear


We had winds gusting up to 20 knots and climbing rounding this headland when the bloody wind instrument failed again (it is becoming such a pain that I will simply leave it switched off) but as long as the winds stayed anywhere from the North it was fine by me.

Now as for the next headland, Cabo Crues, our friends from the pilot book state and I quote;

”….it is one of the most dangerous points on the whole of the west coast of Spain because it is in the centre of the path of the NW Tramontana”…….

Well that helps settle the mind then!!

Photo of Cabo Crues


We motored and then sailed until the speed dropped, and then motored again on and off during the day, as the both the wind direction and speed was changing at regular intervals. On the approach to Roses, there was a fair old posse of motor boats coming and going, and given we were close to the cliffs there was both the wash from the boats and the reflected wash from the cliffs causing a bit of turbulence. Also with the really big motor boats going so close to small boats (some with young children on board) it was looking a bit dodgy at times. Question is; why, when they must know they are creating a big wash, do they go so close to these small boats is beyond me.

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we arrived at Port Roses where I called the marina office on Channel 9, and they asked us to hover around the fuel pontoon and they would come and get us.

Out popped a dingy with three staff on board, two of which got off on the wall to take our bow lines, while the other stayed in the dinghy to help manoeuvre the boat if required. This was our first experience of mooring Med style and once we had our bow lines on, we were passed ropes which lead back out into the marina floor. With these ropes one takes in the slack and walks (in our case) to the stern of the boat, pull the boat tight against the bow lines thus keeping the boat from hitting the harbour wall and in position.

These guys were brilliant with us, and their expertise showed later in the afternoon when the wind had piped up. When other boats came in with these strong winds blowing, the same sequence took place, only this time the guy in the dinghy had a line with a snap hook, which he attached to the cleat of the boats going in to berth and ensuring this procedure was done in a controlled manner; acting pretty much like a mini tug.

How one would berth by themselves or shorthanded in a blow, could be rather “interesting”…………

Finally here is a photo of Sun Dog tied up in Rosas and flying the Spanish Courtesy Flag. I can say in all honesty there was more than a little frisson of excitment in us arriving in Spain, after meandering all the way from the West Coast of Scotland !!


Gruissan to St Cyprien

The trip to St Cyprien was pretty straightforward and basically it was a case of following the 20m contour line along all the beaches thronged with people enjoying the sunshine. It is a large Marina with an abundance of mechanical, electrical and all measure of boat services available.

We decided to have our wind instrument checked out, which is either showing incorrect wind direction or cutting out and showing nothing. This problem has been getting worse since we left Scotland, and is not related to having the mast stepped.

A chap from Puig & Files came down onto the boat and the bloody thing was working OK, he was very thorough and checked all the connections etc and reset the unit so it was reading a bit closer to the actual wind direction, and showing the correct wind speed. Bingo we thought and all he would accept was 20 euro’s – really nice helpful human being.


After having to expectantly fly home, we arrived back to the boat on Wednesday 27th and couldn’t find it on the pontoon where we had left it, so either it had been stolen or more likely moved by the marina to another berth. The latter was indeed the case, so we got back onboard feeling more than a little jaded. The marina were OK for us to stay until the 29th so we spent time relaxing and unwinding.

Grau d’ Agde to Gruissan

I finished off re setting the mast last night and ensuring all the wiring connection were OK and that everything was working properly. We then checked the weather forecast and saw that tomorrow (Sunday) the Tramontana NW wind was due to pick up strongly from mid morning with 30-40 kts gusts forecast.

We therefore decided to set the alarm and get an early start, which we did, and when we set off there was only about 8kts of breeze, but on the way down the coast the winds increased quite significantly.

I decided to head closer inshore where we would still have the wind, but not the waves. This meant avoiding a couple of areas where there is an interdict banning boats, but the trip and entrance to the marina complex was pretty straighforward.

However the wind then increased yet again, and as Sara was getting the bow line tied on a big slop of a wave soaked her………..ah well that’s sailing for you I heard her say under her breath!

At the reception pontoon the wind was steady around 30kts, and blowing off the reception pontoon, but neat ropework by Sara had as alongside safely. We then were given a designated berth in Bassin 2 of this huge complex, which is split into a number of different bassins.

Here we will stay until Wednesday as the winds are meant to increase yet again on Tuesday, so no point in considering going out in these conditions.

This afternoon with the grey skies and pretty strong winds, it was more like being home rather than in the Med…….but heigh ho, we musn’t grumble 🙂

Allamand Marine

National holiday today so cannot get mast up until tomorrow. Therefore I spent time and sorted the float switch and bilge pump which had been acting up and also refitted the light boxes on wheelhouse roof (glad I removed them for the canal) prepared the mast as much as possible. Bought charts & have been promised help from Allamand to turn the mast before lifting it back into position.

Their yard is about 1/2 mile from the exit/entrance to the Med – on the right hand side of this photo


Villenueve les Beziers to Agde

Good to know we will reach our last lock today – the round lock.

However before the lock we had to go under the Barrage at the Libron Crossing, which is closed when the Libron River is in spate.


This was really the first day when the wind has blown strongly, and I guess it was around F4 gusting F5 at times, and I was again concerened as the holiday boat in front of us was occasionally getting blown sideways in an alarming fashion.

As it was approaching the lockkeepers lunch time we tied up quickly and nipped up to see the layout of the lock, and asked the lockkeeper what the procedure was for boats going through. He explained where we needed to tie up once the lock was re – opened so that bit was fine.


When back on board another 15mtr holiday boat came in to tie up in front of us, the wind was blowing straight down the canal (from the back of us) and we nipped out to help them and take their lines. The chap at the helm was doing fine, and I was going to take their stern line as this was the key line to them not losing the back end of the boat, and Sara was going to take their bow line.

I asked, gesticulated, faced Mecca and prayed for the stern line – but o’ no they were insistent of the bow line first – and then the inevitable happened as the stern was quickly blown out (it was gusting strongly) and was beyond being sorted out. Sara done the right thing and threw the line back onto their boat, whilst I again gesticulated for them to turn and come back facing into the wind. This they did do, and we managed to get them tied up quickly and safely, for which they were very grateful and explained that they had just taken the boat this morning, and no one onboard had ever been out on a boat before…………

I had my concerns about going into the round lock with these holiday boats, and was mightily relieved when the lights changed to green and we went in that both of the otherboats had decided to stay tied up, and we were on our own in the lock -phew!!

You can see from this French waterways photo why its called the round lock.

Round Lock

You might think I am overdoing it about holiday boats, but it’s a serious concern when ones own investment is at risk, and it would be a sudden and dramatic end to our sabbatical if we were damaged/rammed by one of them……. Obviously there are some really proficient boat handlers on the canal, but from there the standard of can go downhill rapidly. End of ranting about holiday boats!!

Funnily enough as we were tied up the canal waiting on the designated time to exit to the Herault River a couple from Largs came over for a chat, and as it turns out he races regularly out of Largs Marina where Sun Dog is berthed….it really is a small world sometimes.

Our time came round and out of the lock we went, down the short link canal, quick turn right under the bridge, and down Herault River, breathing a sigh of relief that we were out of the canal system with the boat in one piece.


After a few miles we arrived at Allamand Marine who had been recommended to us by a lot of people, and as they have limited berthing we had phoned in advance to book for the mast being lifted.

In the following photo you can see the only floating pontoon they have, and they also have a couple of docks for boats to get lifted/lowered back into the water. Only one thing to watch out for (but you can do nothing about it) is wash, not only the big fishing boats, but almost all the boats going up and down the river create a fair old wash.


Winds are too strong for the mast to be lifted this afternoon, but there might be a chance tomorrow morning – fingers crossed.

What a really welcoming people the population of Grau de Agde proved to be as not only did they put on an evening display of “Boat Jousting” for us they also lit up the sky with a large firework display. Whilst this was very pleasing, we thought they should really have been focussed on on tomorrow, as after all, it will be Bastille Day.


Capestang to Villenueve les Beziers

When we left this morning we went through a lovely village called Poilhes, and I can only assume that the semaphore station had sent a signal that a British Boat flying the Red Ensign was coming through as they had their Canon ready as we went through as boldly as Cochrane or Nelson (OK I know they would have had a white ensign)


Today we also went through the Malpas Tunnel which was kind of neat as inside you can still see the marks where the stone was cut away by hand.



We arrived at the 6 locks at Fonseranes nice and early, and on our own, only to discover that they only allow boats down the locks at certain times of the day, which meant we had to wait a couple of hours. Going down the locks we came to what I consider to be the lowest and most awkward bridge in the whole canal network.

The following photo shows the locks from the bottom and was taken by R Collins and taken off the internet


There were ourselves and another two boats going down the locks – which are oval in shape – and if you can visualise a low bridge over the exit/entrance between two locks and manoeuvring boats into position in locks with curved walls – it was tricky. The chap sitting up in the flybridge of a holiday boat was almost seriously injured as when he turned his boat under the bridge he came within a whisker of being squashed in the curve of the footbridge………if doing these locks, you have been warned! The bridge, curved red brick can be seen in the middle of the above photo.


The locks when we reached Bezier really are deep but they have poles down the wall of the lock, so that one simply puts a line around the pole and back onto the boat, and as the boat descends the rope slides down the pole – pretty straightforward.

The way we set up Sun Dog was that on one side of the boat we had our long lines fitted, and on the other, our standard mooring lines. So that if it was a lock with poles we went to one side of the lock, and if not we went to the other so that we could use our longer lines. This proved to be a good set up for us on the way through and saved a lot of kerfuffle going through the locks.

When tied up at Villenueve we had a good old walk around to stretch out our legs, but as the skies darkened we headed back to the boat. We were then treated to Mother Nature giving us one of her firework displays as both sheet and forked lighting lit the skies and then the heavens opened and gave Sun Dog her first fresh water wash for a long time, as due to the water shortage washing boats is banned along the canal.

La Radorte to Capestang

We set off again with Angelique with the chap on the holiday boat taking time out to gather his thoughts as “ I can now see and understand all the risks, and don’t want any of my family to get injured” and he decided to stay put for today and ensure his family were absolutely sure of their tasks in the locks.

Barry and Kath decided to stop when we reached Hompes, so we waved our goodbyes and carried on.

En route we ended up going into the locks with a big steel barge and another large holiday boat, who were also struggling a bit in the locks. The skipper on the steel barge was single handed and would only put a stern line on and was using his bow thrusters to keep the bow tucked into the wall – with less than ideal results. This was all a bit to close and tight for my liking, as steel on one side and granite wall on the other our fibreglass hull was very vulnerable. At the next lock I parked up to let them through themselves and managed to get alongside some tree roots at a bit of the canal that had enough depth.

It was baking hot and thankfully where we parked (under a tree) we had some shade. Then along came a complete half wit gunning his boat out of the lock and creating a huge wash – despite my attempts to get him to slow down he was oblivious to the possible damage to our boat by this wash. To say I was not a happy bunny would be an understatement and my international language was easy for all to understand – there is simply no need for this behaviour – his, and I have to say mine!

We stayed parked up for lunch on instruction from Sara and she calmed me down somewhat until I became quite philosophical in that we had chosen to come through the canal system knowing we would no doubt have issues with some holiday boats at some point. After lunch we were lucky to be going through the locks ourselves much to my relief.

Now the “rules of the road” in the canals are, that traffic going downstream have right of way at narrow passages and under bridges, but this is only applicable if people read the rules and understand them.

Approaching a curve in the canal closely followed by a low bridge I was lined up to go through the bridge when I almost passed out at the speed of a holiday boat charging towards the bridge at high speed. In the act of self preservation I was trying to reverse Sun Dog back around the bend but this hire boat (believe it or not) actually increased its speed. I was left with no option other than to gun Sun Dog hard to avoid being rammed. This action also carried a risk of hitting the prop on the bottom of the canal as we were by now close to the canal bank (the stern of the boat dips under such a quick burst of power)……boy it was so close to a catastrophe!

At the helm was a young boy on his own with no adult supervision, so it was hard to apportion blame to him as all the adults had abrogated responsibility and were all inside the boat having a libation or two – but this situation did succeeed in my blood pressure being incredibly high!!

The busier the canal is becoming it is, in my opinon becoming not only frustrating at times, but the risk of our boat being damaged is now increasing by the day. One reason for the cavalier attitude adopted by many (not all)might be due to the fact that apparently holiday boaters pay Indemnity insurance which covers all and every eventuality, therefore, with nothing to lose who really cares??

On the way into Capestang we finally reached the lowest bridge on the canal network which was going to be a go/no go bridge for us when we were reviewing our options back in Royan. In truth it was wee bit tight, but because I had removed the navigation light boxes from the wheelhouse roof we were fine on height, and also somewhat relieved that Sun Dog was now clear of the last physical barrier.


Bridge at Capestang

This was a really long day in many many ways, and I was so glad to get safely tied up alongside in Capestang.

Trebes to La Redorte

Set off at the same time in the morning with Angelique, and we were making good progress through the locks until we caught up with a family on large hire boat who were having all sorts of issues controlling their boat into the lock, in the lock, and exiting the lock, which made progress really really slow. Chap said it was their first day and that they were complete novices. They came really close to losing control in one lock and both ourselves and Barry and Kath tried to give them some guidance, but I think it was all too much for them to take in, or they simply didn’t understand. There are times when the patience of a Saint is required.

This slowed our progress down considerably as normal locking through a lock would take say 5 mins – every lock was now taking around 25 mins. Multiply this by the number of locks in a day and time does get lost.

We eventually arrived at La Radorte and Angelique went into the alongside berthing just outside the town and we went to follow them in. Whenever going into the sides of the bank, I always go as slow as possible and nudge the bow in first. I was doing this and could feel her touch the bottom, but as Angelique (draft 1.1m) had made it in fine I thought it might just be a small hump if mud and gave a wee bit more throttle, only to become really stuck. No problem thought I. All I will simply reverse, but when I did so I could hear and feel something hitting the prop so I stopped not wanting to risk any possibility of damage, and asked Barry to come alongside and pull Sun Dog off the mud.

This they kindly did and instead of berthing here we carried on around the corner where there is a bit more depth.

In return for this we decided to treat them to a meal at the restaurant alongside the canal where we all had Pizza and chips – not very healthy but I have to say that we really enjoyed the meal and also their company.