Port St Louis sees hundreds of pleasure boats each year, passing between the lower reaches of the River Rhone and the Mediterranean, as well as large ships, barges and other commercial vessels. It is the main southern route in and out of inland France, including Lyon (France’s second city) and beyond to the Rhine, Germany and Holland. The are two substantial marinas and the well-known boatyard Navy Services, with an enormous hardstanding area. The surrounding Camargue geography is flat and marshy – so anticipate problems associated with Mistral winds and mosquitos.
[above left] Peniches and ships moor to the quayside on the Rhone’s east bank by the town, just above the large ship-sized lock that connects the river with the Canal St Louis. The mouth of the Rhone itself is not navigable due to silting.
[above right] A ship leaves the canal, exiting into the Golfe de Fos and the Mediterranean; the long Digue St-Louis on her starboard side.
Port St Louis – Town and Marina
The small town is fairly featureless, created on the canal that was dug in 1871 and the substantial industrial areas and dockyards that border it and the Golfe de Fos. Port St Louis marina, immediately to the south, is modern. This 300 berth marina is owned by the community and is close to the main street with easy access to shops. Water and electricity on the pontoons and a shower block. There is a fuel berth and two chandleries.
Navy Service has a comprehensive array of all necessary boatyard facilities – mast stepping, mast transport, travelifts and cranes, a huge hardstanding area, as well as mechanical, engineering and other specialist marine services.
Tel : +33 (0)44 211 0055, Fax : +33 (0)44 248 4506, Email : info©navyservice,com (info©navyservice,com)
Port Napoleon marina is large and modern (commenced in 1995 and Dutch owned), with a strong community and a full complement of services. It is located some 3km distance south of the town, adjacent the lower non-navigable Rhone and is reached from the Golfe de Fos. Shuttle service to Port St Louis and Marseille airport. Chandlery and comprehensive range of boatyard services, internet access, mini market, taxi and car hire. Approach is well buoyed and has leading lights. Rather exposed to the ‘Mistral’. Mosquitoes can be a problem morning and evenings – good netting protection needed.
Port de Bouc – Martigues
On the other (east) side of the Golfe de Fos, a fairly straightforward passage, Port de Bouc marina (not a good website . . ) is also large and modern and has been consistently recommended as being located in a nicer place (town) and cheaper than the marinas at Port-St-Louis. It is closely convenient for both Marseilles airport and Martigues railway station. It does, however, get filled – especially for over-wintering – so booking ahead is advised: contact©portdebouc,com (contact©portdebouc,com) Tél 04 42 06 38 50 – Fax 04 42 06 42 11. As with Port-St-Louis, mistral winds and mosquitoes are factors to be considered.
If you’re travelling on from Port St Louis, then Jim Baerselman’s Mediterranean Cruising Guide is the marine equivalent of french-waterways.com, with fully detailed information about places, passages and practicalities.