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