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G + 14 : Limiting Mistral Exposure

Sa Calobra Bay is the Pathway to a 4 kilometre long Canyon through the Tramontana

Change of boat today. To avoid more exposure to the Mistral, we skip the 16 hour cruise to the Baleares and take a plane instead. Flight to Mallorca is booked. So is the boat for week 3. We will be on Tomi - a motor yacht of the same class as Manatea. Time to say goodbye to the sailing crew of week 2 who returns to Australia, Germany and the US. The last week passed so fast. Seems the Mistral accelerated time. We also have to bid farewell to Manatea's crew of Captain Richard who looked after us, kept us safe during the storm and spoiled us with excellent food! They return to Saint-Tropez for another cruise.

Last Coffee in Marseille's Old Greek Port

Bags packed, phone numbers and invitations exchanged, it was time to get into the waiting taxi. Traffic to Marseille airport was light – most people are still in bed at 9.30 am. There were fewer tourists on the road than expected. Marseille airport was said to be a zoo but was remarkably quiet. The flight departed on time. By 13.15 pm we were in Palma. An hour later on Tomi, the boat for the last week. Time to go with our new captain, Urtzi de Lera, over this week's travel plan and check final details. The next team of sailors from the US and Germany will arrive in an hour. They are already on Mallorca.

The Tomi Motor Boat we are going to be on until we reach Ibiza

It is too early to write an epilogue on this trip yet. The Balearic are still to come. But a few things became obvious over the last two weeks.

The Formidable Priamar Fortress guards over Savona's Port and Old Town

We chose this summer’s itinerary knowing that the Kingdom of Spain shipped a lot of silver to Genoa in the 16th and 17th century. The Genovese bankers had the skills to handle the payments necessary to sustain Spain’s war efforts against Turkey, France and the Protestant States of Northern Europe. The sea route along the Ligurian coast seemed to be a good guess. The route through the Channel to Antwerp was too dangerous But our guess was incorrect. With the exception of Savona where we started on 15 July, the citadels are too small or too far away to protect the harbours. They were built to keep an eye on the local people. Only the one in Savona showed the sophistication we had seen with Venetian Forts in Dalmatia, Greece and Cyprus.

The Genovese Fort of Finale Ligure is too far in the Hills to defend the Port

There is another factor which I overlooked when planning the trip. The Provence became French in 1481 through heritage. Important ports such as Antibes, Saint-Tropez, Toulon and Marseille were now in the hand of Spain’s arch rival. In 1524, Spain made an effort to win the Provence back and occupied Antibes, Toulon, Cassis but failed to take Marseille. In the following peace treaty Spain had to return the Provence though. It was not until 1550 that silver shipping from Seville to Genoa reached sizable volumes. France had consolidated its position by then. Not only Provencal ports, but the entire French Riviera became a no-go zone for Genovese galleys.

Galleys could use the route via the Baleares - Sardinia - Corsica to get to Genoa

There was an alternative route for the galleys, albeit one that requires crossing of open seas. They could travel from Genoa to Calvi, follow the western coast of Corsica down to Ajaccio and Bonifacio. Crossing over to Sardinia was a half day trip. Then follow the island’s west coast to Alghero, a town which still speaks Catalan. We travelled along this route in 2020 on the AFAET. It took us 2 weeks to get from Genoa to Alghero. From there to Mallorca and Valencia was sailing straight west. When the Mistral is not blowing, this passage is safe. At every stop, the galleys would have been protected in fortified ports.

Towns founded by Greek Settlers on the French Riviera

Another thing we noticed was the accuracy of Greek planning when selecting harbour sites. A strong Mistral, as the one we experienced, reaches San Remo and Imperia. Wind speeds of 30 knots and waves higher than 1 meter are too much for an antique sailboat. They had to seek shelter. The Greek ports were thus well spaced. Marseille – Cassis – Toulon - Olbia (Hyères) – Antibes – Nice – Monaco. It was indeed the Mistral which crated these cities - the backbone of today’s tourism on the French Riviera.

Replica of the Kyrenia Boat, an antique 30 to freighter from 400 BC

So one hypothesis dismissed and one confirmed. More to come in the days ahead.

45 minutes after Sunset - we had Paella in the Port of Soller where we stayed for the Night

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