Category Archives: 2017 – France

France – the Final Chapter

6th to 15th July 2017

We left Royan at 5am on Thursday 6th July heading down through the North firing ranges on the West Coast of France. It was a long trip of 11.5 hours. We had to slow down a little as we could only enter Cap Ferrat one hour before high tide as there is a sandbar at the entrance and there can be quite a lot of swell. It wasn’t too bad, coming out three days later was a different story! There is a very large sand dune here called the Dune de Pilat on the way into the bay.

We left Cap Ferrat on Sunday 9th July at 6am, there was no firing as it was a weekend. We spoke to the port who advised that the swell was 1.5m however, with wind over tide (ie going in opposite directions) it was choppy and the swell at the bar was 2m (wave height) so it wasn’t particularly nice, in fact it was horrible (it’s not all great). The trip was just over 10 hours to Anglet, which was about three miles from Bayonne and the wind was gusting quite hard at times. It was only about an hour or so from our destination that the wind dropped and the sun came out.
Our first full day and we had to go in search of an opticians who could provide some glasses for Ian. (I mentioned in my last blog how he managed to knock them off his head and they dropped into the water with no chance of retrieving them). So déjà vu as we had this same issue in Thailand. Just one of the challenges we have to overcome. It rained quite a lot here too, so off we went to Bayonne (which is quite a big town) in our identical pac a macs, identical bikes, both in jeans and sailing shoes, we did look like Howard and Hilda although I didn’t wear the sunglasses.

Luckily Ian has prescription sunglasses and the third optician could produce glasses from the sunglasses in two days. We spent the rest of the time here doing chores. On Tuesday 11th July we had a stowaway Julia. The following day we sailed about 12 miles down the coast to a lovely bay which had St Jean De Luz to port, Ciboure ahead and Socoa to starboard. The bay was a hive of activity with various watersports – dinghies, paddle boarders, surf boards, areas for swimming and anchorages with beaches all around the bay.


C1. Cemetery at Socoa 12.7.17.On arriving in the bay, what stood out was the cemetery in Socoa on the hillside. Now Julia is a Taphophile, “what?” I hear you cry, it is a fascination with cemeteries. I can actually understand this! So we had a wander up to it, it was quite something else. Most of it was made up of family tombs.

There are three breakwaters here. As the tide gets higher the waves crash against this. Some people walk along them hoping they won’t get wet as some of the waves crash over the wall. Someone had to give it a go!


We had night on a buoy in the bay and then moved into the marina. We had to moor up stern to (which means the back of the boat is against the jetty). This meant that we could use our pasarelle (gang plank) for the first time but before we could do that Ian had to drill a hole in the engine room hatch door so it would fix into it so it didn’t slide about when you stood on it and also make up a pulley so it didn’t bang on the jetty. It is quite amazing how quickly things get done when it involves a boat!

That evening we went into St Jean de Luz for a nice meal and the place was buzzing. Walking back to the boat a large bar caught our eye, it was bar and street food all in one. So we popped in for a drink.

 

Bastille Day 14th July 2017

This is a big celebration in France so we had made sure we were still in France for this. It started at 9.30am with swimming across the bay from Socoa beach to St Jean de Luz beach. It’s quite difficult to see how many people were taking part from the photo. There was a memorial ceremony and then a group playing big band music in the market place. In the market place artists set up their stalls with easels and were painting and displaying their work. This was done each day.


Sadly we had to say goodbye to Julia at lunchtime as she had a train and plane to catch so wasn’t able to stay for the celebrations that evening. So we waved her off on the train.
In the evening there was a band playing by the Renauld bar we’d been into the night before that attracted a large audience. We decided to go back to near where the marina was to watch the fireworks on the beach, which was crowded.


Our time in France has come to a close.  So on Saturday 15th July we headed south for the border. We’ve had a great time in France and are now looking forward to our time in Spain.

16th July 2017

Au revior to our Cruising Companions

6th July 2017

Two months ago in May we set sail on an overcast day from the Island Yacht Club.  Bob and Gillian on Morning star were planning on a trip which took them in the same direction.  So we set off together with no fixed plan as to where we would go or even if we wanted to go to the same places.  Well we’ve been cruising companions for 90% of the time and we’ve had a lot of fun along the way.

We finally reached that time when we had the parting of the ways.  Royan on the Gironde was to be our last port of call with Bob and Gillian.

We arrived in Royan on Tuesday afternoon (4th July) and were planning on staying for just two nights (even though it was three nights for the price of two – we had to move on).  So we thought it would be best that we had our “last supper” together that evening rather than the night before we leave, as we’d played that game a couple of times before when we were off the following day with an early start and it’s not good when you have “one more and no more” and you lose count of how many times that is said, I’m not sure who led who astray.  So we had dinner and then went back to Cuffysark for a few glasses of wine on the penultimate evening.  It was a very warm evening so we sat in the cockpit listening to music (very sophisticated this time – we were randomly choosing classical, then theme tunes – I started this as I don’t know that many classical tunes although my theme tune was classical!) It was also on this same evening that Ian, who likes to wear his glasses on his head when he doesn’t need them, managed to knock them off, which then promptly bounced on the deck and plopped into the water.  So here we go again, for those of you who have been following us, yes it’s deja vue, as we had this challenge in Thailand, when he lost the last his glasses in Myanmar.

We’ve had a lot of fun over the last two months and we are going to really miss our cruising companions.  They even got up and saw us off at 5am on Thursday 6th July (their mooring was a few minutes’ walk from us – we were on the reception pontoon again as they couldn’t fit us anywhere else – great advantage for the Wi-Fi as it’s normally better by the Capitainiere’s office), just to be sure we went!

We have sailed nearly 900 miles together and been to so many places, it’s hard to remember them all but this is a little reminder.  It has been a great start to our new way life.  Thanks guys!

 

10th July 2017

La Rochelle, Rochefort and RAIN!

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.

IMG_3772We 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.

IMG_3751To 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

 

The Bridge, 23-25th June 2017

Ian had said from the start that we don’t want to be tied down to being in any one place at any particular time.  Ian likes to break the rules, even his own, so we planned to be in St Nazaire for “The Bridge”.  This was a race between the Queen Mary 2 and four trimarans, Macif (and yes it was massive), Sodebo, Actual and Indec, racing across to New York.  It is anticipated this it will take around 5/6 days so will let you know who won on the next  blog.   The race was part of the celebration of the centenary of the arrival of the first troop of 14,750 American soldiers who landed in Saint-Nazaire on 26th June 1917.  As allies, 2 million American soldiers fought alongside the French.

So we arrived in Pornichet on Friday morning (23rd June) as Saint-Nazaire doesn’t accept yachts in the port which is about 6 miles away. The Bridge Village opened on this day so we took the bus (two in fact) into Saint-Nazaire.  You buy a ticket for an hour’s duration rather than a fare for an A to B journey.  Ian spent quite a lot of time drawling over the trimarans.  We then had a look at some French naval ships, it was now Bob’s turn for drawling.  There were also four smaller trimarans, only 50ft long, that were competing in a 24 hour race which we watched the start of on the Friday.

Arrival of the Queen Mary 2 – Saturday 24th June 2017

Saturday morning and we went back into Saint-Nazaire to watch amongst other things the arrival of the Queen Mary which was due to arrive at 5pm.  She was escorted in by a French Destroyer.  She came into the river, was turned around by the tugs and then reversed into the Joburt dock where she would stay until her departure the following day at 6pm ready for the start of the race at 7pm.  We took our spot at 4pm to ensure we got a good view. Which we did.

The Race – Sunday 25th June 2017

The race started at 7pm so we decided to watch it from the boat, along with a lot of other boats who had the same idea.  We left the marina just before 4pm as it was about eight miles away. We turned into the Loire River, wondering what the yellow buoys were.  We soon found out when we were told that there was an exclusion zone and we had to go the long way round if we wanted to go on the other side of the river.  Ian did try to argue the point, as he would but they weren’t having it.  We went along the west side of the river and then were told we could only go part way down.  So 180 degrees back the other way, the long way round and over to the other side which a lot of other boats were also doing so we got a better view.

A 21 gun salute from the destroyer, followed by the firing of coloured flares above the Queen Mary and then they were off.

D1. And they're off 25.6.17.

The trimarans took off very quickly and so the boats watching, including us, followed them for as long as we could before they were specs in the distance.  The wash off so many power boats made the sea look like it was rough, which it wasn’t.

The Queen Mary 2 slowly moved off but my money is on her winning the race.

 

Once all the excitement was over we headed for L’Herbaudiere on the Ile De Noirmoutier for a quick stopover.  We didn’t arrive here until 9.30pm and we were off just after 8 the following morning.

 

As of this evening Wednesday 28th June 2017 the Queen Mary is nearly 500 nautical miles ahead of the first Trimaran, Macif.

Houat, Heodic and Piriac

18th to 22nd June 2017

We left the Golfe du Morbihan and took a very leisurely sail to the Port du Crouesty, a marina at the entrance to the Golfe du Morbihan, which is huge.   The tide stream is really strong here and we were going faster than the wind at 7.8 knots so we had a flappy genoa. We arrived at the marina at 5.30pm on Sunday 18th June and it was very busy with everyone returning after a glorious day.

The yacht club here was buzzing so we took in some refreshment and enjoyed the view across the bay.


We only stayed one night here basically to stock up before heading off the following day to one of two small islands. The first being Ile de Houat, which is just 3.3 km long and 1.5 km at the broadest part. We moored in the harbour here which cost us just €10 for the night. Ian has discovered that our boat is actually 10.98metres long and not 11m. Now you may well think it’s only 2cms, well no every centimetre counts as that 2cms brings us into a lower pricing bracket which when we sometimes get charged more being a multihull makes a difference. A very happy Ian. Bob wasn’t so pleased as he had to pay €15! A lovely quaint island which was surprisingly busy.


We then visited an even smaller island , Ile de Hoedic, which is  800 m wide by 2,500 long and situated just under 6 miles from Houat.  Gillian and I went ashore in the dinghy and sat on the beach for a while and had a dip. The water is very cold and there were large brown jellyfish, which don’t sting, Gilllian can vouch for this as one wrapped it’s tentacle around her leg.  We were going ashore for dinner at 7pm.  At 6.45pm a fog started to descend on us and by 7.00pm it was thick. Once we got ashore we couldn’t see the boats, luckily we were moored very closely to the shore.

The following day, Wednesday 21st  June, was overcast and we headed off to Piriac where we stayed for a couple of nights, which is another very picturesque village.


Friday 23rd June and we left for St Nazaire to go and see The Bridge.

Eco friendly

Living on a boat focuses you on the amount of water and electric you have. At home we take it for granted that water is on tap and electric is a flick of a switch. We have bought a solar shower which is basically a bag which when left in the sun the water heats up. So with 5 gallons (20 litres) sufficiently warmed we used our little washing machine. The solar panels (2 x 200 watts) gave us enough power, so no drain on the batteries, for the washing machine, so we were using totally renewable energy.  We are also recycling what rubbish we can as the marinas all have segregated waste.   We are trying to be as environmentally friendly as we possibly can.

28th June 2017

 

 

 

La Trinite Sur Mer – Golfe Du Morbihan

12th – 17th June 2017

Our next hop to La Trinite Sur Mer (Monday 12th June 2017) was only about six miles but we decided to go around the edge of Quiberon Bay rather than across it.  We passed Carnac, which some of you will be familiar with as this is the venue for a big dinghy catamaran regatta held every year.

La Trinite Sur Mer is almost like the “Cowes” of France, so it’s popular.  Here Ian was like a kid in a sweet shop as here we found a number of very big Trimarans including Spindrift, Sodebo, IDEC amongst others.  The latter two are competing in the transatlantic race against the Queen Mary, which I referred to in my previous blog.  Visit www.thebridge2017.com

We were close to Carnac where the Megaliths sites are.  These are similar to Stonehenge but the stones are not so big but there are lots more of them over a number of sites.  We took the road train which stopped at three different places along the way, the Megaliths, Carnac and the port at Trinite Sur Mer.

B3. Carnac by land 12.6.17.

We had a walk to the Carnac Yacht Club as we had passed it by sea and then had a very nice lunch over the road in the lovely sunshine before we caught the train back.

 

Golfe du Morbihan – 13th to 17th June 2017

Our next stop was the Golfe du Morbihan which is a large inland sea with two main rivers, the Auray and the Vannes together with many islands, some of which are inhabited and lots of anchorages.  The tides here are very strong and the stream can be up to 8knots.  Putting this in perspective for the non yatchies, most boats work on average of 6knts an hour so this is pretty fast!  So just before the anchorage we were whizzing along.  We watched Morning Star fly in.  Just a few meters from here we found a really sheltered anchorage Ile Longue, so calm and still.  We spent two nights here, as we didn’t arrive until 7pm the first night.  The first day we spent doing various jobs around the boat.  I cleaned one half of the decks, the disadvantages of a catamaran such a lot of deck, so plan to do the other side when we anchor up again.

We set off at 9.15am on Thursday 15th June 2017 for Vannes, which is a historical town at the end of the (yes you’ve guessed it) Vannes river. The journey here can only be made at certain times as there is a lock and bridge which have to be opened.  On the way down there were lots of children in rowing boats.  The channel is very narrow as you can see below.

Our stay in Vannes was rather short as when we visited the Capitainere we were told the mooring fee was €47 for one night and this was for the privilege of rafting up alongside another boat.  Another marina charging the 50% extra fee for being a multihull.  Anyway we decided that we would go back out and anchor.  It is such a lovely area so it was no hardship.  I think we have to expect this more and more the further we get into France and further into the season.

There are lots of little islands here so on Friday 16th June we took a short hop to the Ile D’arz and picked up a buoy.  We went ashore by dinghy and found four small restaurants which were really busy which was quite a surprise for a small place.  It is very much a holiday destination and the weather was hot so it brings people out.  Bob and Gillian joined us on Saturday so we spent a further night here along with seven other British boats that were moored here.

Ian changed the oil on the engines and thought his working environment had vastly improved.  We saw a couple of these water pumps around the island.

The Sunset and sunrise at Ile D’arz

 

We had a lovely five nights here as it was so nice and a big area to cover.  We left here for Port du Crouesty which is at the entrance to the Golfe du Morhiban, a pit stop, to catch up with shopping (we have to take advantage when there is a large supermarket) and wifi (it’s only when you don’t have internet access you realise how much you normally use it in your everyday life – bars and restaurants that have it draw us in lol) where we would stay overnight before leaving on Monday for a couple of small islands Ile de Hoedic and Ile de Houat.

 

18th June 2017

Belon to Lorient

Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th June 2017

We left Loctudy on Thursday 8th June for the Belon River just 18 miles along the coast. Another beautiful river but the Boats were packed in. There are lots of mooring buoys where you pick up a buoy for stern (back) and bow (front), these are four and half moorings. It was Election Day and we had no Wi-Fi but we managed to get Radio 4 and listened to this for a couple of hours. We gave up at 2am, (1am UK time) and decided to wait for morning for the result.

We left Belon for Lorient late afternoon and had a leisurely three hour sail with quite light winds and sunshine. They like catamarans in Lorient, there was a very long pontoon for catamarans to moor up. We had a wander up through the town and found the Societe Natique de Larmour-Plage. Well it’s Friday night and as I’ve said before you have to visit a yacht club. Ian and Bob went to the bar. Gillian and I went to sit down, barely had our bums on our seats when two ladies came bounding across and sat down.  They wanted to practice their English. Gillian has pretty good French (she doesn’t think she has but she has!) so she helped translate when we got stuck on words. We were made to feel so welcome.

Port Ludy, Ile de Groix

Saturday 10th June 2017

We only spent the one night in Lorient and then headed off to Port Ludy on the Ile de Groix which was just six miles away. It’s a popular place for people to take their boats and there were lots of boats about. We went into the marina, Morning Star was already there (I hasten to add they did leave before us and we had to go further up the river before making our way across to Port Tudy as we (I mean Ian of course) had to look at the boats. He was hoping some of the trimarans would be there ahead of the race starting in St Nazaire, later in June, who were racing the Queen Mary across the Atlantic. Check out https://www.thebridge2017.com/en/. And yes we are going to St Nazaire or nearby as there’s no marina there, it’s a large port but no facilities for yachts.

C1. Port Tudy, 9.45pm, 10.6.17.Anyway, I digressed! Morning Star was in the outer harbour not the marina, as the marina was full up.  We rafted up alongside then took the dinghy with the bikes ashore.

It was quite hot today and we had a lovely ride (very hilly – again so thankful for electrically assisted bikes) up to the Coastguard Station at Beg Melan which was a couple of miles along the coast. The view was fabulous and reminded us of the Solent with all the boats out on the water.   On our way back going through the village we bumped into Bob and Gillian soaking up the sun with a little glass of something, so we obviously joined them.

There are two ferries that come in and out of the harbour, quite scary when the larger one is coming towards you and when it turns round to go out. There’s not much space in the harbour. When we got back to the boat we were amazed at how many boats had packed into the outer harbour and even more arrived as the evening went on. The picture below is before all boats had arrived, more arrived as the evening went on.  If you were anywhere but the front line you would have to wait for others to go, it was rammed. It was a lovely atmosphere with all the boats together and in the background was the dulcet tones of the local rugby team in the shore bar who we assumed had won as they were definitely in good spirits.   We were glad we went into the outer harbour as a mooring in the marina was €58. We are finding the smaller marinas (with the exception of Loctudy) tend to be more expensive for us, some want to charge x 1.5 the standard rate, whereas the larger marinas don’t. Although we did get a good price in Port Tudy, I think it was the chorus of “how much?” From both of us that did it!

Bound for the Bai de Quiberon

We left Port Tudy just after midday (Sunday 11th June 2017) leaving Morning Star there for another day. When we left the blue sky was just starting to come through.  A 60ft trimaran appeared behind us and very very soon it was a speck in the distance. They did give us a wave as they sped past.

We passed La Teignouse, which even in calm weather the waves crash quite high against it.  We had our first night on the anchor (previously we’ve picked up a buoy) outside Port Haliguen harbour wall. A bit rolly to start with but settled down eventually.  This is a view of the bay with some gulls which only arrived when I threw some old bread in the water, much to Ian’s disgust as it encouraged one to sit on the boat and leave a deposit.  We set off the following morning to La Trinite Sur Mer which is on the Crac’h River.

 

12th June 2017