Passage to Barcelona Sept 29 – Oct. 1
It’s now end of September. The sun is showing up lower and lower in the sky, and the days are getting shorter. The weather is still very mild in this southern part of Europe and the sailing season has not yet ended for many sailors, but we have been sailing for six months now and getting settled at a port is beginning to seem attractive. We’ve booked a berth at Port Vell Marina at Barcelona and are looking forward to completing this final passage of this sailing season.
Barcelona is about 300 miles from the French Riviera. The passage crosses the Gulf of Lyon, an area notorious for unpredictable weather and heavy seas. The high mountains of the Alps force high pressure systems to funnel through the valley of Lyon, where wind builds up strength and roars down the Gulf into the Med. The 7-day forecast is calling for a somewhat unusual light east wind, which will be favorably coming from between us as we sail west. This wind will be followed by a major blow in a few days. So the timing is right for us to do the crossing now, taking the chance of having a bit too-little wind rather than too much.
We set off from Saint Tropez on the morning of Sept. 29, leaving behind us the armada of sailboats anchored in the bay. A few hours later, as we sailed near the French
, we were approached by a patrol boat. We thought they wanted to check our papers, but no – they were warning us to stay away from the island as there’s a naval live fire exercise going on! We changed course to turn away, and half an hour later, we saw fighter jets screaming by at supersonic speed, followed by the ‘thud thud’ sound of cannon fire! That was an interesting send-off as we departed the French coast. island of Ile du Levant
French patrol boat, warning us of the live-shooting exercise
All morning the wind was light, and the sea breeze did not pick up until late afternoon. It was light and was coming from dead behind us, as forecasted. We set up the genoa pole and sailed wing-on-wing with the main sail, and were content to do close to 5 knots, until the wind died at near mid night. This pattern repeated the next day – no wind until late afternoon, and then light breezes showed up off and on through the night. We stayed 10 miles off shore to avoid fishing boats and worse, tuna nets (which can stop a small freighter!), and traffic was light all the way. The wind stayed with us on the last night, and after 50 hours we sailed into the busy harbor of Barcelona.
The busy Port Vell marina