With concerns hanging over us regarding the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, and its impact on the near future of yachting, those whisps of brown seagrass which wash up onto the east-facing Cote d’Azur beaches every winter seem unlikely candidates to create an extra headache for captains and charter brokers next summer season.
The issue is that this seagrass, or Posidonia, is the habitat for marine small fry which are at the bottom of the food chain. The steady growth in yacht traffic in recent years has resulted in more and more yachts seeking space close to shore in the popular anchorages, right amongst the Posidonia beds and causing significant damage to them.
The French authorities have decided to take protective action, with new anchoring restrictions coming into force as from October 2020, keeping yachts further back from the shoreline. From an environmental standpoint there is no case to argue. The sea itself, the livelihoods of the professional inshore fishermen, and marine species as a food source, all need to be preserved.
However, when considering the regulations’ impact on yacht operations, there are considerations which range from inconvenience to real difficulty. The restrictions apply to yachts of 20m or 24m loa, depending on the area. In terms of inconvenience, yachts in the lower loa range, with limited chain lengths, may find difficulty in finding a suitable anchoring depth close enough to the location desired by their guests.
Difficulty arises when one considers the nature of the bays and headlands of the coast between Cap Martin and the Golfe de St.-Tropez. In strong easterly winds, the options are the west sides of Cap Martin, or of Cap Ferat, or of Cap d’Antibes, or close in to the Rade de Cannes.
These areas are already subject to zoning limitations, and being pushed back even further from the shelter of the shore would create difficult conditions for small and medium sized yachts. For example, an easterly gale will turn the normally placid anchorage off Juan-les-Pins and the Pointe de l’Illette on Cap d’Antibes into a rathole of plunging yachts snatching at their chains and sometimes dragging their anchors across the poor holding ground there. These conditions are caused by swells wrapping around the Pointe de l’Ilette and rolling into the bay.
The further from the shore, the worse the effect, which can render the entire Rade effectively untenable except for the much larger yachts. (What is tenable for the yacht itself may not be tenable for the guests on board).
Similar considerations may obtain in Mistral conditions. Being too far distant from the weather shore off Theoule-sur-Mer, Cap d’Antibes, Cap Ferrat and Cap Martin may become too uncomfortable, or totally impracticable if limited chain lengths prevent anchors from holding.
On the chart the Rade de Villefranche looks like a wonderful shelter, but being confined to the deep centre of the bay in heavy weather would mean enduring miserable pitching and/or rolling at anchor there, due to the wrap-around effect of the headlands.
A worst-case scenario would be one of those summers with a series of prolonged gales, with marinas already full and the limited anchorages being crowded with all sizes of yachts struggling to maintain position, with no respite for worried captains and unhappy guests. The only options would be to endure the current misery, or make a long passage in open water to seek shelter elsewhere. The first option mat become impracticable, and the second too hazardous for smaller yachts to contemplate.
Captain Jacques Gonzalez, President of GEPY, informs us that the maritime authorities are aware that there are practical issues in observing the new anchorage regulations. At present there is no yacht traffic anyway due to the lockdown and restrictions on port movements, but in the event of pre-season traffic needing shelter which may only be sustainable within the proscribed anchorage zones, permission will be granted by making a call to the nearest semaphore station. Even in the season, similar permission will be granted to any vessel in extremis, as there is no intent for an environmental measure to cause a maritime accident.
Four years ago when the proposals about the new anchorage exclusion zones were being discussed in public forums, longer term solutions were mooted, along the lines of fixed moorings as in Cala di Volpe, Sardinia. The will exists to maintain the cachet of the Cote d’Azur by making yachting sustainable within the confines of one of the world’s most heavily trafficked shorelines for pleasure vessels. It will be a question of logistics, cost, installation challenges, maintenance, and a system for equitable fee collection.
Vive la Cote!
Captain Rod Hatch
With thanks to ECPY who provided this full translation of the New Anchorage Regulations.