Carl Far­rell sets an­chor in a tran­quil spot off the Côte d'Azur that also of­fers won­der­ful walks ashore

Yachting Monthly - - VIEW FROM THE HELM -

Beau­ti­ful bays to an­chor up for the night, from Herm in the Chan­nel Is­lands to Ile de Port-Cros on France’s Côte d’Azur

That feel­ing of re­mote­ness in an an­chor­age is hard to find in south­ern France. How­ever, we found our tran­quil spot in Port Man Bay on the Ile de PortCros, lo­cated be­tween Por­querolles and Le­vant is­lands, which all form part of the Îles d’Hyères ar­chi­pel­ago.

Sail­ing from the west, we chose to sail be­tween Ba­gaud Is­land and Port-Cros, which was more to do with tak­ing in the views than prac­ti­cal­ity as the Port Man Bay an­chor­age can be ap­proached from the north or south just as eas­ily.

The bay faces north-east and can be found at the east­ern end of the is­land op­po­site Le­vant Is­land. Depths in the mid­dle of the an­chor­age reach 15 me­tres, drop­ping to just five or six me­tres on the south­ern side of the bay.

Around the edge of the bay a long length of rope at­tached to a se­ries of buoys has been set up to stop yachts from an­chor­ing closer in to the beach. The bot­tom here is mostly weed, which is dif­fi­cult to get through and it took us four at­tempts to get in the right spot with good hold­ing and enough swing­ing room among the other yachts. Vis­it­ing crews should note that Port-Cros is a Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve and Marine Re­serve and there are re­stric­tions on an­chor­ing, black wa­ter dis­charge and waste.

We spent a cou­ple of nights at this an­chor­age, which emp­tied in the evening, giv­ing us tran­quil­lity and that feel­ing of re­mote­ness. With a short row ashore to the small pier we set off for some fan­tas­tic walks around the is­land, which has no cars or bi­cy­cles. There are 22 miles of walk­ing trails around Port-Cros, which is cov­ered in sub-trop­i­cal veg­e­ta­tion hum­ming with ci­cadas. At night we were awo­ken by what we thought was a boat alarm, laugh­ing about it af­ter­wards as it turned out to be a scops owl.

In the af­ter­noon of the third day we no­ticed other yachts leav­ing en masse and at first we thought they were rush­ing off to the port to grab a restau­rant ta­ble. But then we looked into the sky and saw the clouds be­gin­ning to muster and felt a strong north­east­erly wind en­ter­ing the bay. We de­cided it was time to up an­chor too be­cause the lo­cals were leav­ing for a good rea­son – the bay faces north-east and would be un­ten­able in strong winds from that quar­ter.

We headed into Port-Cros har­bour in good time. The small har­bour has thirty moor­ing buoys in­ter­est­ingly set up with snub­bing de­vices of their own which, dur­ing the near gale and mas­sive thun­der­storm, proved to work re­ally well. The har­bour has a hand­ful of restau­rants and bars, and a small gro­cery store.

There are five forts on the is­land in­clud­ing Fort de l’Estis­sac, 15 min­utes’ walk away, which is the only one open to the pub­lic. Sit­ting in a har­bour­side bar, you would be for­given for think­ing you were on a re­mote is­land in the Pa­cific re­lax­ing over a cool beer.

Port Man Bay an­chor­age at dusk. The tran­quil­lity was bro­ken only by the hoot­ing of an owl

The small har­bour of Port-Cros has 30 moor­ing buoys

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