43deg/07min N 05deg/54min E
Toulon is France's primary navy base, home of the French Navy's Mediterranean fleet. Although its port is France's second largest, the city of Toulon is not all that big, especially when compared with the city surrounding France's largest port, Marseille, 40 miles to the west. In addition, Toulon is the hometown of the COMSIXTHFLT office manned by a US Navy Captain or Commander and Petty Officer assistant. They are responsible for a wide range of operational logistical and administrative COMSIXTHFLT retail activities throughout the southern France region. Like most navy towns, the majority of Toulon's 350,000 people are involved in some way with the French navy or shipbuilding. And it's been that way for many centuries.
Sixth Fleet ports of call are also located throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Ship visits ensure continued access to essential bases and infrastructure. Engagement capitalizes on naval strengths of mobility and sustainability, using the inherent prestige of U.S. flagged warships. Formative engagement is further enhanced by incorporating the full range of naval assets -- including Seabees, the chaplaincy, the Judge Advocate General corps, and civil affairs units -- during port visits.
Toulon is situated about 28 n mi east-southeast of Marseille near the eastern limit of the Gulf of Lion The port is well protected from winds and waves from all directions except east through southeast. The port is considered safe during Mistral winds and leaving the harbor to evade the Mistral winds is not recommended.
The port is positioned on the north and northeastern sides of a small body of water named Petite Rade (Small Roadstead) which is situated at the head of Grande Rade de Toulon (Large Roadstead of Toulon). A 3/4 n mi long breakwater forms the western side of Grande Rade de Toulon and separates it from Petite Rade. This protects the inner harbor from open ocean waves. Landmarks identifiable from seaward are limited, but Tour du Mourillon, a seven-storied square building located in the southern part of Toulon can be easily seen. The Port of Toulon is well protected by terrain on all sides except east-southeast.
The inner harbor at Toulon is well protected and considered safe during storm conditions from any direction. The outer harbor is exposed to the effects of southeasterly winds and waves but is only minimally affected by westerly Mistral winds.
With a few exceptions, the nearby terrain is mostly low-lying, so the port is exposed to winds from nearly all directions. However, strong winds usually emanate from only two primary sectors, west to northwest and east to southeast. Because of the surrounding terrain, fetch length is extremely limited for all directions except southeast.
The most significant problems at Toulon are created by east to southeasterly winds and resultant waves. Extreme wind velocities have reached force 9 (41-47 kt), with waves to 16 ft at the anchorage. Offshore in the open sea, waves can reach 40 ft.
Mistral conditions, with west to northwest winds as strong as force 11 (56-63 kt), are the strongest winds that typically occur at the port. The lack of fetch limits wave generation which allows most operations to continue within the harbor. The maximum Mistral wind speed at Toulon is typically about 60% of the wind speed over the open sea to the south of Marseille.
The outer harbor has a sand bottom with excellent holding properties. The bottom of the inner harbor is mud of unspecified holding quality.
First settled by the Phoenicians, Toulon became an important stronghold during the reign of Henry IV (1589-1610). During World War 11, it was the scene of dramatic events, particularly the scuttling of the fleet during the night of November 27/28, 1942. And the waterfront is not as picturesque as in many other French towns, owing to the fact it was bombed heavily in that war.
Although close in proximity to Marseille, Toulon is worlds apart. This is a friendly, small city where American sailors are welcome. The town center covers a square-shaped area, bounded by the Boulevard de Strasbourg and the Place de la Liberté to the north, by the Courts Lafayette to the east, the Place dormer on the west and the Avenue de la Republique and the port to the south. The square lies roughly between the train station and the shore and is a great place to walk, with lots of shops, restaurants and cafes.
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