Day 6, Crans-Genève
The varnish has dried, I remove the masking tape and put away some laundry I washed while at my brother’s place. The batteries for my devices are all charged, so I prepare my cameras for their recording tasks and hoist the sails to glide silently out of the port to a glorious day. I’ll be sailing solo from here, the hot sun and a light wind are present and ready and will be my shipmates today. A good thing as Geneva is going to be several hours away in these conditions. I lounge down the coast catching a glimpse of the super rich villas and properties when I get a text message from another cousin. He’s coming up from Geneva and suggest we have a drink at the next marina in Coppet. It is said that things come in threes, and plaisir oblige.
The harbor in Coppet is small and shallow with only four visitor buoys. Only one is available, and I kindly ask a couple on a small Zodiac boat to keep the spot free for my cousin Cedric. He’s an avid sailor and has participated in many of the regattas around the lake. One being a five day race where contestants compete to see how many times they can go around Lake Geneva in the five days, never leaving the boat to go ashore. He’s got a new girlfriend he’s been sailing around Lake Geneva with, and she had a Surprise. One of the most popular boats on the water – custom built for the lake. They’ve raised their spinnaker which balloons big and bright blue and white. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to fly my spinnaker also – if the Wind God allows. You can only use this sail going downwind, and it takes a bit of rigging time to get it up and full blown.
It didn’t take long for Cedric to get into the harbor under sail with the spinnaker. I help him dock, we hug and he introduces me to his girl Sarah. She’s a sporty fit girl and ready to sail the oceans if need be. An adventuress. There’s a snack shop next to the harbor with a big open space garnished with tables and umbrellas. We had not seen each other for a while and toast a couple of beers while comparing sailing stories.
We part ways in opposite directions, they’re heading to Lausanne and I to Geneva. He gave me a tip about the harbors in Geneva. There are three, Les Paquis, Les Eaux-Vives and La Nautique. The latter was home to the America’s Cup when we Swiss were champions of the most revered of all sailing races. Imagine that – a landlocked country with no ocean or sea coast – winning the grandest of all sea sailing events. We fresh water sailors have earned respect.
I decide to go Les Eaux-Vives as Cedric suggests, but it’s still a long way from Coppet. From here on the villas and properties get bigger and more exclusive as we near Geneva. This coast is home to Saudi sheiks, princes and princesses, retired race car drivers, actors and actresses and countless diplomats and exiled dictators. Versoix is the last big marina before Geneva, I should stop and go visit a UBS bank office branch there, as they have a a photo of mine exposed in their lobby which I’ve never seen.
In the winter of 2012, Lac Léman was was under a deep freeze which created a phenomenal ice storm. I went around the entire lake – on land – to photograph magnificent ice sculptures created by the spray of waves solidifying on everything within it’s grasp. Versoix was one of the towns most affected by the natural event, and helped create some of the most astonishing photos ever. It occurs to me what a contrast it is to be shirtless in 35° weather today in comparison to being in a below zero freeze wearing full weather gear trying to get a shot. The spray from the waves would stick to my parka and freeze instantly creating a icy coating like sugar icing coats a cinnamon roll. Click here to read the full story and see more pictures
I’m anxious to get to Geneva, and want to secure a spot before there are none left, so I past by Versoix and sail past Creux de Genthod. It’s a coastal creek harboring dozens of yachts protected by a natural barrier. I’d love to stop there too, by my sails are full blown in scissor formation, and the city is nearing. I regret now not to have flown my spinnaker and make a grand entrance into the bay of Geneva as I sail past the United Nations. Blame it on laziness and extra beers.
Geneva can be seen from as far as Nyon, thanks to it’s magnificent fountain. It’s called the Jet-d’eau-de-Geneve. It’s a beautiful concept as it’s simply a huge jet shooting water straight up in the air like an open fire hydrant on a hot New York afternoon. It’s been guiding my direction since Crans, starting as a tiny little white pimple in the distance, to now towering over me. I lowered the genoa for my approach to the harbor, and wanted to get as close to the jet as possible for a good shot. As a pass by the small lighthouse, I’m caught in the current heading into the Mont-Blanc bridge. It’s strong, and I realize I’m now sailing on the Rhone river and the current is stronger than the wind and my main sail… I’m drifting away! The bridge will crush me if I continue carried like a twig in a river. Time to get the motor running – please don’t fail – and zoom out of the current safely into port.
There’s plenty of space here. The visitor spots are at the very end of the jetty, so it’s easy to access. I dock next to a Surprise and have a vacant place starboard. Geneva is Switzerland’s third largest city. Home to nearly a million residents if you include the French suburbs. More than a third of the population is non-Swiss, consisting of a generous mix of nationalities due to it’s international historic importance. It’s not my favorite Swiss city, which is the opinion of many of my Swiss compatriots, due to its complex urban layout and Genevois attitude. They tend to come across as arrogant like most city folk – our version of Parisians.
A even smaller boat takes the mooring next to me and is dwarfed by its adjacent neighbor. The man is a fisherman and friends with his direct neighbor. He pulls out the days catch which consists of well over one hundred freshly caught perch and begins to fillet the little guys one fillet morsel after the other. Fresh lake caught perch are a rarity in coastal restaurants. It’s a wonder why most restaurants serve frozen perch coming from Poland or the Baltics when the lake is so massive. The fish are protected and there are strict fishing regulations, I ponder why no one has come up with a scheme to farm the delicious little guys for industrial commercial production. Then again, it’s nice that things are just the way they are.
I have a ringside seat to the comings and goings of an endless procession of yachts and party boats coming in and out of the harbor. So I sit with a beer in hand, cigarette in the other, but I’m hungry. I’ve had enough fish on this trip and crave a pizza and take the long walk on the jetty and into the city. Before that, I went to take a few shots of the Jet d’Eau just as the sun is setting behind it. Originally it was a release valve for the city’s waterworks. It became popular to the residents and was moved to its present location as a monument that shoots up to 140 meters. The fountain is like the Eiffel tower to tourists as I criss-cross visitors of every human race and language. It is a sight, and luckily the wind is downward therefore we’re not getting rained on. A little later I’m sitting outside waiting for my pizza and make sure to take advantage of the restroom facilities, as I was warned by my cousin Cedric that there are no public bathrooms at the marina. I could go to a bar and meet locals and internationals, but sailing around Lake Geneva takes the wind out of my sails and I wonder back to the my little floating bedroom which is calling me. I have one last look at the fountain gloriously lit up before it goes off at 23:15, by then I’ll be sleeping rocked to slumber in the gentle sway of Les Eaux Vives harbor.