Sete and Frontignan are both good places to visit, along France’s Mediterranenan coast on the Canal Rhone a Sete. Sete, and also Frontignan, are feasible places to un-mast or re-mast if voyaging into or out of the western Mediterranean.
If you’re travelling on from Sete or Fronignan, then Jim Baerselman’s Mediterranean Cruising Guide is the marine equivalent of french-waterways.com, with fully detailed information about places, passages and practicalities.
[above left] The twin rail and road lift bridges (“X”) at the entrance to Sete port from the Etang de Thau (see dotted yellow line on the aerial photo above). Closed air-draft 2.2m. The bridges open at set times – once morning, midday and evening. There is some confusion in our printed information about these times – best to contact the capitainerie of the Port de Plaisance Fluvial (“PdP”) Port Saint-Clair Tel : 33 (0) 4 67 74 98 97, Fax : 33 (0) 4 67 74 15 57, Email : portstclair©sete,cci,fr (portstclair©sete,cci,fr) . The capitainerie also administers the harbour marina (see above right) where there is a mast-stepping crane (recommended to us from direct experience). Berthing in the harbour marina is even rockier and rollier than the port fluvial (see below) when the fishing fleet enters or leaves harbour at full tilt.
Sete is known as the Venice of Languedoc – and with good reason. There are broad canals, narrow canals, fishing boats, ships, commercial docks, shellfishermen and gaily painted jousting boats. An authentically lively place: ” . . One final point that’s well worth a mention. By pure coincidence, we were in Sete for their festival, which finales on the last Saturday of August every year, after a week of the most fabulous day and night entertainment we’ve EVER had and every bit of it free! The final evening ends with hundreds of little boats and dinghies rowing out to the big breakwater and forming a huge raft of boats by each holding onto the boats next to you. Then there is a truly stunning firework display all set to classical music. The whole thing’s called the Festival of (the name of the breakwater!) . . . “ Berthing is possible at the ‘Halte Fluviale Saint-Clair‘ PdP, just inside the port from the Etang. Basic services, although limited visitor pontoons and the showers are also a bit cramped. We have stayed there and we have also just tied ourselves up on one of the quaysides, by the Pont du Tivoli lift bridge. Either way, expect to be rocked and rolled by the small but very fast aluminium shellfish boats that zoom past to and from the oyster beds in the Etang de Thau. In the upper (wide) photograph of this group, the VNF office is on the right (east) bank facing – quai Regny.
Frontignan is a pleasant small town on the north side of the main Canal Rhone a Sete, to the east of Sete. As can been seen, there are moorings along the quaysides either side of the rail and lifting road bridges. Because the road bridge opens only at set times, twice a day (see below), there can be a long queue of boats moored up, waiting to pass through. The aerial photograph/map at the head of this page shows the spur Frontignan Canal that leads from the main canal east of the town (and bridges) to a fishing harbour and the sea. A very short distance further to the east along the coast lies Frontignan Port de Plaisance, with travelift and mast-stepping facilities (we have a recommedation). There is also a possibility (we are unsure) of using this canal to access Sete marina to the west and its mast stepping crane, by-passing the various road and rail bridges but passing through commercial harbours so to do (may be inadvisable).
The (new) lift bridge at Frontignan on the (main) Canal Rhone a Sete. Opens April to mid-November at 08:30 and 16:00. Outside this period opens at 16:00 only or by arrangement by calling the Conseil Général de l’Hérault on 04.67.01.06.40 from Monday to Friday and on 04.67.67.67.67 at weekends and on Bank Holidays. Sincere thanks to Jerryat and Rai for information about mast-stepping at Sete and Frontignan.