Monday, June 29, 2009

Ports and marinas in Roussillon

One of the joys of living on this part of France's Mediterranean coast is ready access to no fewer than seven attractive seaside towns, all of them offering a marina or leisure port -between Perpignan and the Spanish border, against the backdrop of the Pyrenean foothills.

Starting with Canet in the north, this is a busy town of 12,000 and just ten minutes from Perpignan, making it popular with residents living all year round and weekend and summer visitors. It has a 9 km long seafront, with fine sandy beaches, and a leisure port with over 1,000 berths. Some people choose to live on their boats all year round, in the inner harboar close to a recently opened technical lycée devoted to preparing students for future careers connected with boating and the sea. The Port area features some of the most attractive property developments including modern apartments.

Canet is joined to its southern neighbour St Cyprien (10,000) by a spectacular coast road that runs along a narrow strip of land between the beach, popular with wind surfers, and an inland lake and nature reserve, home to many species of bird including pink flamingoes. The marina offers 2,200 berths and a further 128 moorings on the lagoon, making it the second largest marina on France's Mediterranean coast. St Cyprine South has some of the most recent and most expensive properties in the area, though studios and small apartments are still available at around 100,000 euros.

Port-Argelès is a comparatively recent development over the last 20 years, with a marina of around 750 berths, and small groups of apartment buildings, no more than four stories high, along the style of St Maxime or Port Grimaud on the Cote d'Azur. The Port is lively in summer and famous for the variety of its restaurants and upmarket boutiques. There are twice-weekly markets in the high season. Studios and small apartments at around 100,000 euros.

Collioure (see below) has few facilities for leisure craft, but some moorings are available around the bay. There is a landing stage for ferries from Port-Argelès and bringing passengers ashore from huge cruise ships moored out at sea.

Next to Collioure and continuing south, Port Vendres is a busy commercial and passenger port, with berths up to 155 metres length, including facilities for roll-on/roll-off ferries, and a leisure port offering 270 berths. The two remaining resorts are Banyuls-sur-mer which has a small leisure port of 120 berths, and Cerbère on the Spanish border, which offers 150 berths during summer, on floating pontoons.

The pincipal marinas are managed by a capitainerie proving services such as secure moorings with water and electricity, fuel and washing facilities. The marinas also offer a range of technical services for boat care and maintenance, ship chandlers, shipbrokers and schools providing instruction in boat handling (to secure a permit), and deep sea diving. There is a perennial shortage of berths, with most of the ports in course of expansion. Mooring fees are from 1200 euros annually (5 metres) to over 5,000 euros (18 metres), with daily rates from 12.50 to 70 euros depending on the length of the craft and time of year.