Day 1, Montreux-Cully
We met at my mooring in Clarens. Stephane and his girlfriend Jelena joined me with a selection of food goods – the boat cool box had been stocked with plenty of liquid sustenance – and off we went sailing around Lake Geneva Day 1. A western head wind was gentle and steady for us to set the course across the lake to St.Gingolph, where Swiss and French borders meet. Then back towards the Swiss coast to make our way west to Vevey for lunch.
We were under sail to a light western breeze. Just enough to get into the sway of sailing. We past in front of an impressive flotilla of yachts heading in directly toward us like a fleet of Viking warrior ships. I was to later learn that these boats are part of the Croisiere Reinhart, a group of thirty odd boats getting together yearly to cruise the lake. They reserve spots all along marinas to party and supply the local restaurants with business. Hopefully they will not be going to Cully as there would probably be no room to stay in the harbor.
It was already near 30° and sunny. The cool waters were calling us, so we stopped for a swim. I cast out a line attached to a buoy so the boat was on a leash since the sails were still up – don’t want to be left out in the water. Jelena had yet to swim in the lake, which is traditional to swim yearly for lake shore dwellers. She was chilled at first and quickly succumbed to the cool embrace of the clear waters.
Mid-way to Vevey the wind died and we began roasting like free range humans in the blaze of a clear August day. That’s also part of sailing around Lake Geneva Day 1. It was time to start the engine and zip towards the coast. Vevey has a small marina with four visitors buoys. Free of charge for two nights and close to town and across from Restaurant du Port and it’s long shaded terrace. You can also tie up near the Place du Marché, but it’s not recommended for the night as it is near the commercial tourist docks and not well protected. Further west, past Nestlé global headquarters is Port de la Pichette. A private marina where sailors can purchase moorings at a premium. But just behind the big marina is the original port. A small little enclave with just two visitor spots and a sweet little buvette serving good food under the shade of a big old tree.
We didn’t stop a la Pichette as it was past lunchtime and time for another plunge in the the lake. We peddled slowly near the coast admiring lakefront villas and Chateau de Glerolle at the foot of Lavaux vineyards.
Lavaux region stretches from Vevey to Lutry. Steep terraced vineyards that have been here for nearly a thousand years dating back to the Roman occupation. Except for a few casles, small villages and villas, the land has been unchanged and uniquely populated by grape species. There’s a museum near Riva on the main road near the water. We could have stopped for a tasting of local wines if we were prepared to swim to shore since there is no docking facilities. Stephane and Jelena were not keen on tasting the local wines only dressed in dripping bathing suits and we continued along the coast.
The railroad tracks are perched above the lake giving train passengers the impression of gliding on water. From the lake, trains crisscross each other like a miniature train set. Just below the tracks are a few nudists dotting the nooks and crannies of the rock lined shore. They tend to stare at the passing boat letting it all hang out with a what-the-fuck-you-looking-at attitude.
We spot a white buoy near the shore and tie up the boat for another swim. It must be about 35° now under deepening blue skies. Stephane and I dive to swim to shore, the water is a glacial cold for some reason, and walk onto a slippery stone beach and into a vineyard. Someone has made a make-shift awning to shelter three towels. No one is here in the little hideaway, so we’re not confronted by bare-assed natives.
There’s a light breeze pushing us towards Cully in the late afternoon. At the port all the visitor spots are taken by much bigger and impressive boats than ours, yet we manage to tie up next to a fellow traveling sailor. He’s from Geneva and a bit of a grump – as most Genevois people are – but warms up to a conversation about his thirty years of sailing on the lake as well as many recommendation about ports and restaurants. He remarked that my main halyard – the rope used to hoist the main sail – was shredded halfway up the mast. I was aware, it’s been fine for the past several years, so never worried much about it. Stephane and Jelena have checked in to a small motel for the night and we meet up at the restaurant overlooking the marina. It’s like being on some foreign coastal town. The terrace is packed with jabbering patrons eating, drinking and smoking in the glow of golden hour.
We could still feel the swaying even though our full stomach acted as ballasts. All we wanted now was the comforting embrace of bed. We said goodnight, I climbed on my boat and was met by a Cyclops neighbor wearing a headlamp complaining about his less than satisfying dinner and its cost. I slipped into the arrow shaped bed in the bow for my first night to be rocked to sleep.
First business in the morning is to locate a bathroom venue. The port of Cully cost CHF10 per night and offers electric hook-ups, bathroom and one franc two-minute hot showers. I did my business, brushed my teeth and opted to swim later to wash. It was still early and crawled back into my little lair to sleep. The Genevois left noisily and I was forced to reattach myself to the dock and buoy. It being out of reach, I had my first morning swim to reattach my mooring then a quick hello to my new neighbors. My little boat felt like a statue next to a monument. They offered me bread out of the oven which I kindly refused as I was going to have coffee on the restaurant terrace. My crew-mates joined me and we listened to the restaurant owner telling us how the notoriously aggressive Pike fish comes up to the surface to swallow ducklings whole with their dragon-like mouth.