We spent a couple of nights (Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th June) in Les Sables d’Olonne which is where the Vendee Globe starts and finishes. It is a typical seaside resort. We didn’t do much here but caught up with chores.
La Rochelle- 28th to 30th June 2017
Our journey of just over five hours to La Rochelle included grey skies, thunder, lightning and rain. We began with very light winds of just five knots eventually gusting up to 20knots. We stayed in La Rochelle for three nights as there were strong winds coming through. La Rochelle is somewhere we have visited previously on a few occasions and where “Cuffysark” was built. The Fountaine Pajot factory is here. It’s unlikely that you will see so many catamarans in one place other than at the marina here.
Unfortunately it did nothing but rain in La Rochelle. We had to go to the Capitainerie to allocate us a berth which was a few minutes’ walk along the quay. He wanted to show us where to go so off we followed him, just a minute in and the heavens opened and we were saturated and that pretty much set the scene for our three days.
We decided to visit (another) the Maritime Museum which consisted of a metrological ship called the France, a tug plus various other boats which could be viewed from the quay including the Joshua which belonged to Bernard Moitessier who was taking part in the Golden Globe race in 1968 and was also in the lead and should have won the race and become the first person to circumnavigate non stop single handedly round the world but when he got back to the south Atlantic he decided that he liked it so much he carried on going and went round again. This meant that Robin Knox Johnson finished first and was awarded the title of first man to go round the world single handed non stop.
Bob and Ian particularly liked the model of “The France’s” engine room.
In another section of the museum was a model of a Mahe 36, which is what our boat is. Ian really wanted to take this home.
We also visited the bunker that is situated in the middle of La Rochelle which tells the story of the German occupation of La Rochelle. Worth a visit.
To keep ourselves amused we decided to have a music evening and each of us (Bob and Gillian too) had to pick our top ten list of music. Ian cooked his renowned Paella (I know we aren’t in Spain yet!) This was a really enjoyable evening and quite a mix of music. A bit of a late night which wasn’t the smartest move as we were leaving for Rochefort the following morning at 8.30.
La Charente River and Rochefort – 1st to 4th July 2017
It was another overcast day as we left La Rochelle at 8.30am. Rochefort is on the La Charente River and is approx. 12 miles from the river entrance. There are lock gates to Rochefort marina which are only open for a short time, depending on tides it’s about an hour, so it’s important to get the timing right. Along each side of the river are “carreletts”, which are big square nets that are for trapping fish. These are in all states of repair.
On the river there are two bridges, the road bridge (which at high tide is 32metres above the water) and a Transporter Bridge (which is only used for tourists now). The Transponder (as the transporter bridge is known) was one of the worlds’ first when it opened in 1900. Cables are suspended from a trolley 50metres above the water pulling a gondola for pedestrians and cyclists across the river. When going under bridges it always appears as though you will hit it. As you can see from the photo of Morning Star, there was lots of space but it doesn’t look like that looking up.
Rochefort is where France built its Navy so there is, yes you’ve guessed it, another maritime museum and more boats and also La Corderie (where they made rope) and is the longest building in Europe. It is now mainly offices with a small museum, so if you want to see rope being made in the traditional way then Chatham Dockyard is the place to go. Gillian and I decided that we’d seen enough maritime museums so took ourselves off to the Musee des Commerces d’autrefois, which translates as a Museum of small trades from the beginning of the 20th century.
We left Rochefort after spending two nights there and made our way down La Charente River and anchored up near the entrance, as this would save us time the following morning for our passage to Royan. The Charente River sits opposite Ile D’Oleron, which is joined to the mainland by a bridge which at high tide is 18metres and our air draft is just over 17. This passage, “Pertuis de Maumusson” is not recommended because of the sandbar at the entrance to the open sea which can create big swells. The alternative is to go to the north end of the Ile D’Oleron which was another 25 miles added to the already 35 miles we had to sail. Yes we took the shortcut. However, we only did because of the conditions, we wouldn’t have taken any chances, you have to respect the sea. It was neap tides, 5 knots of wind and half a metre of swell which is unusual for this coast and this was the only reason for going this way.
The result of “The Bridge” Race
By the way the Queen Mary 2 made it to New York in 5 days
10th July 2017