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La Rochelle to Rochefort:- fascinating

Part1 – getting out in a hurry

Rochefort 037

Scruffy’s boat

Our next door neighbour, who we shall call Monsieur Scruffy on account of the state of himself and boat, was a genial guy with large frame and beard. Comfortable with being a Mr Scruffy he tells us he is off due to forthcoming lack of water.

Now I’m always wary of boat crews “with all the right gear”. Conversely Scruffy’s well used appearance tells me he knew a thing or two and if he thought he was running out of water then it’s worth checking out.

Filibuster tells me that there is a comfy 1.4m under the keel: my calculations tell me tide had 1.6m to fall. Scruffy was right, time to move on.

A crash brekky and off we go, headed, as is Scruffy, to Rochefort. Ancient one time strategic port of the French Navy..

The tides were on springs (when the levels reach their highest and fall to their lowest). And in particular these were big springs.In fact the second largest of the year: high tide of 6.6m and a low tide of 0.6m above datum.

Why does this matter? Well on the approaches to La Rochelle there are areas where the charted depth is just 0.5m below datum. Add the low tide level of 0.6m gives us only 1.1m of water at low tide.

We left at 1038 with, in theory, 1.9m of water above datum + minimum charted depth of 0.5m = 2.4m. Comfortably above the 2m Filibusters requires.

But it was windy, we dithered getting the boat ready, the tide went out further and by the time we reached the shallow bits it was 1105 and the tide had fallen a further 0.4m

Do the maths: 2.4m – 0.4m = 2.0m Bang on our draught.

Man fishing. High tide mark 6m above him

Richeleu port mark on the way out: Man fishing. High tide mark 6m above him

 

The gods looked favourably on us: we didn’t bottom out but it was close….buttock clenchingly close…..especially when the depthometer read 0.00m under keel….

Moral of the story: heed Scruffy.

 

And the rest of the journey was a delight.

 

Heed Scruffy, read your charts for marked banks, don't wander of the fairway

Heed Scruffy, study your charts carefully, don’t wander off the fairway. This shot taken from Fouras on 14th August of a not so lucky skipper

Part 2 – Fort Boyard

This part of the world included strategic ports (including La Rochelle)and Naval Installations (Rochefort) and as such required significant and hugely expensive defences to stop those pesky Brits invading.

Said pesky Brits were at the same time building significant and hugely expensive defences to stop those pesky Frenchies doing the same.

All in all a bit of an arms race and all around the coast of France are to be found massive forts (citadelles) designed to blast to pieces any invading ships.

South of La Rochelle, in a bay protected by Ile D’Oleron to the West is Fort Boyard. Started in  1804 and finished in 1859 (yess 55 years!) it was designed to protect the waters between Ile Doleron to the West and Il D’Aix to the east.

Fort Boyard

Fort Boyard, Ile D’Oleron shores 1 mile away

These 2 islands, barely 3miles apart have significant defences of their own, but canon capability of the day meant that the centre of the straight was out of range and therefore a weakness.

Cue Fort Boyard. Built at enormous cost (including building the small town of Boyardville) it took 55 years to complete. Essentially it is an island fort with nearly all of its guns facing into the straights between the islands.

taking a good look at Boyard

taking a good look at Boyard

It was never fully commissioned. In the intervening years naval gunnery range and accuracy improved so much that its initial raison d’etre became obsolete.

Recently it has been used by TV crews from over 20 nations to films the TV game quiz Crystal Maze.

 

Part 3 up the Charente River to Rochefort

If you like your rivers to look like white coffee, then the Charente is for you – undoubtedly the muddiest river I’ve ever come across.

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river – flowing IN !

But if you like pootling up river and admiring the bankside flaura, fauna and things of interest then you won’t like the Charente.

With absolutSail 14 Rochelle - Rochefort 061e minimal sail we were sluiced up on the incoming tide at up to 7.4kn. But sail we did for all but a couple of hundred metres when the wind wouldn’t allow it.

 

 

 

One of the many fishing huts on stilts

Along the banks are many sheds on stilts built for the purpose of catching whatever is swimming around at high tide.

 

Rochefort charenteSail 14 Rochelle - Rochefort 075

 

 

 

 

The river winds, this way, then that way, then the other in an enormous loop… past the still fully operational transporter bidge

 

….with many leading marks to help navigate the twists and turns :leading lines D-D

leading lines D-D.

And finally to Rochefort itself, where the first impressive sights, out of many impressive sights, is the Hermione – fully restored ship of the line that will go to sea later this year

More to come from Rochefort in due course – it’s an absolute delight full of history, good food, fine markets and great ambience.

 

 

Hermione. Restored and soon to let out from dock.Naughty Sailors in the rigging

Hermione. Naughty Sailors sent up in the rigging

 

 

 

The holes in the sky above La Rochelle

 

Rain

There are holes in the sky

where the rain gets in

They’re ever so small

That’s why the rain is thin

(Spike Milligan)

 

Les Minimes pano

Remember this photo of a part of Les Minimes Marina from 5th August last year? Entitled “We’re in there somewhere” Well we were and we are. In about the same place.

Now the interesting thing about the photo is that it really did look like the heavens were about to open. They didn’t. At least not on us.

But this year, on August the 8th, we were not so lucky. The forecasts all had it bang on: – rain with thunderstorms and torrential frogs, complete with cats, dogs, stair rods and any other superlative you care to mention that would indicate you ought to be under cover in a marina that afternoon.

It rained:

 

Viewed from the rear towards the slip and capitainere

 

And then it rained some more…..

 

 

View from inside the cockpit cover which, being alert to the forecasts we had put up just beforehand so we could sit up on deck and be smug……

 

And then the sun came out 🙂

 

PS Between this and the last post we’ve been in Ile D’Yeu (as fantastic as ever), Les Sables D’Olonne and Bourgenary. More on these as time permits

La Rochelle Pt 2

La Rochelle, La Rochelle, La Rochelle ?

Through the Twin Towers – probably the most outstanding entry to any port:

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But I couldn’t work out if

a)      I loved La Rochelle and wanted to stay

b)      I hated La Rochelle and wanted to get away

So I’ll give you pros and cons

You will love La Rochelle:

  • If you are hungry:
    • The old port is absolutely surrounded by restaurants of every type from Tapas (yum) to fish (yum) to everyday French (yum)
    • If you like historic well preserved old ports
      • See some of the photos, but with its white stone buildings, historic towers and old port right in the centre it’s a beautiful place that is well preserved

    • If you like nice shopping:
      • Beyond the immediate port side there are streets and streets of shops with nice clothes, accessories and chic things for your house
    • Because of the climate: during our stay mainly mid twenties by day, full sun. Warm evenings. No dew
    • If you like quick airport transfers
      • By bus €1.30 each way, about 20 minutes from the centre. €15 by taxi.

Why not la Rochelle?

Can’t work out why we are in two minds? After all who wouldn’t love the above. And there’s the problem – everyone does love La Rochelle to the point that it is absolutely overrun with tourists (include the author).

 

Everywhere. A non stop process of walking from A to B and back, a conveyor belt of humanity nudging, bumping, shoving, nattering and chattering.

slipping out at dawn

slipping out at dawn

Allo, bonjour, bonsoir, au revoir, a bientot, a demain and on and on. Interrupted by the roar of the traffic and the seemingly endless supply of young French motorcyclists determined to let you and everyone else know how fast their machines accelerate.

After the peace and quiet of mega marina Les Minimes we stayed in the beautiful setting of the old port to await arrival of James. He arrived. We ate. We didn’t sleep much and set off as soon as we could the next morning vowing never to come back.

But we did come back!

A week later to despatch Zoe and James back home. This time we stayed in Bassin des Chalutiers. A quieter spot (well not so quiet due to the crew of a 60ft yacht having a good time late into the night just behind us). We left for the peace and quiet of Les Minimes as soon as we could…..

The Aquarium

If you do visit La Rochelle you must reserve 2 hours to visit the Aquarium: €14 a head and worth every penny to see just about everything the sea has to offer.

No smelly set of small tanks this affair. You have full view in dozens of different tanks of all sorts of creatures from all over the world. The largest tank is probably 10m deep and you get glimpses at all levels.

Very highly recommended.

Home » La Rochelle Pt 2 » Aquarium
Jelly Fish
Jelly Fish
Shiny Fish
Shiny Fish
Ugly Fish
Ugly Fish
Don't get in the water fish
Don't get in the water fish
Lotsa Fish
Lotsa Fish
Chi Chi Star Fish
Chi Chi Star Fish
Spiny Norman
Spiny Norman

As for La Rochelle

I’d love to go back outside of the height of the tourism season. For the time being it’s just one of those places that you have to imagine without all the other tourists

 

 

La Rochelle Pt 3 – not all coming home?

Missing pt2 ? watch this space for so much to say about beautiful La Rochelle.  (and plenty more for Ile de Re yet to come)

Pt3 is  a quickie, more an observation on one thing that is especially nice here: the climate.

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you really have got to have the right gear

It’s getting on for 9pm.Note the new nautical clock:

We’ve got about an hour of direct sunlight left.

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warm evening, sun shining, wind scoop on neighbours boat

 

We’ve just eaten Noix St Jaques up in the cockpit..mmm

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chubby hubby, or just relaxed?

I’m savouring a nice glass of Saumur White (French of course) you can see it there bottom right….

slurp…

Note polo shirt: it’s warm, I would guess low to mid twenties…

We’ve missed the last boat to Wales….

It’s the 13th August. The nearest equivalent to crow flying works out at 450 miles to base. that’s a long long haul when 60 miles a day is hard work and needing a rest day in every 2: not what we want really…

So we’ve decided to not bring the boat back to Wales…..Hang around here a bit longer…sail around here a bit longer ….stay in the sun a bit longer and enjoy the warm as long as poss…

But we are heading North

So that’s it for facing South. We’re heading North tomorrow (14th Aug), eventually to Arzal-Camouel where we might leave Filibuster. About 3 or 4 days away depending on what we find (Ile d’Yeu being one place we’d like to find again – anchor up, swim in 20deg C water etc….)

And then we just need to get back to home in England and car in Wales…

 

Les Minimes Marina, La Rochelle

Les Minimes pano

We’re in here somewhere

A quick post about what happens when man gets it wrong vs mother nature.

We are in Les Minimes, one of Europe’s largest marinas, if not the largest. It’s huge and the photo above doesn’t even show half of it.

 

The observant will notice that the top metre of the piles holding

Les Minimes 001

everything together appears to be new.

They are new.

On 28th Feb 2010 a storm devastated the marina, along with many boats still inside. A key cause was that on the storm surge atop a high tide the pontoons overtopped the original piles and they, and anything attached to them went their own way.

This post by Micheal Briant gives plenty of background and photos of the destruction.

 

 

 

 

La Grande Migration

I write from Bourgenay (pron Bor-jen-ay by the locals) on 19th August 2019

It’s warm (low20’s ) and with light following winds so we motored the whole 33 miles from Ile De Yeu.

But of the title “La Grande Migration”? This week is the last full week of the holidays. Schools go back on the 1st Sep and many French businesses resume normal operations next Monday.

Many tourist dependent restaurants & shops simply close down on the 31st August.

So, in short, boats that have been on holiday make their way home. With more than a dozen large marinas containing thousands of berths within a few days to the north the northward migration is well under way. To the south there are 1500 in Les Sables D’Olonne (1 day away) and Europe’s largest marina in La Rochelle with over 4500 berths and boats heading for these 2 ports tend to peak toward the end of the week.

And there are a few places that are so “en route” that they become natural watering holes for those on the Grande Migration.

Port Joinville on Ile D’Yeu is one. We’ve just done 4 nights there.

Each morning the marina empties.

Each morning the marina empties. Shot taken from the back of Filibuster toward the pile where the next shot was taken

And then fills again with transiting boats.

And by the evening the marina fills to full. Boats on the left rafted up to 6 deep.

The busiest migratory nights will be around Tuesday & Wednesday. Sometimes the marina is so full, later arrivals are denied access and parked on the fishing boat quays.

We had arrived on the 15th just before 3pm and went straight into an empty pontoon berth. Each day after that the marina filled completely and no pontoon berths were left empty.

Moral: if you want a place during La Grand Migration week, get there early.

Hasta la vista Spain. For now.

It’s not what it seems.

I finally publish this wrap up of Spain almost a year on (14 Aug 18): The journey back was demanding and we lost interest in blogging.

Right now we are in Piriac sur Mer heading south, slowly, toward La Rochelle.

Onward from Ribadesella

28 Aug 2017. We’re back in France. We speak the lingo, we know the supermarkets and we are in the comfortable but dull Les Minimes Mega Marina.

To cover the rest of N Spain from Ribadesella onward:

Santander (via St Vincente de la Barquera ) 75nm

On St Vincente the pilot guide basically says don’t bother. We did bother and went in the hope of breaking up an otherwise very long haul to Santander.

St Vincente de la Barquera. The only suitable anchorage for a 2m yacht is in the area to the right of centre.

The guide was right. There is only one place to anchor and it was already full. Press on, it’s going to be a long day.

So we arrive around midnight at Santander. Of the first marina the guide says “it will be fruitless hoping to charge in, hoping for the best” and is again right. At midnight there is a security guard armed with a whistle and he knows how to use it.

It’s more than his jobsworth to let you stay, even though there were spaces clearly available.

Marina Del Cantabrico was all he could say. So orft we went a further 20 minutes away from the town. Marina Del Cantabrico has no guard, plenty of space etc. Crash out at around 1230 after 75nm in about 14 hrs…..

We met Timothy Spall and Shane 2 boats up taking their new boat down to the med.

We noted that it was probably a longer walk inside Gatwick than it was from the marina to the Airport

We slept like a log, but otherwise didn’t do anything but recover.

Laredo (25/29nm)

A massive investment has created a large and empty marina.

From the port office looking South

From the port office looking north. If you count out the pontoons we are on the furthest out (6th) on the left!

The journey here was wind on the nose for most of the way, reaching F6. A lively arrival aided by neighbours to get Filibuster secured.

Bilbao (20nm)

A quick check of the forecast for Bilboa showed rain. Curious, from sunny Laredo that didn’t seem right, and our destination was less than 20nm away.

Until we got the spelling right….

Our chosen marina was full, so we ended up in the outrageously priced (€54 a night) Puerto Getxo. Taking advantage of the free laundry big time seemed to make things better.

Navigator of the Seas by Royal Caribbean. It left after dark and it was impressive to see a whole town on the move.

It don’t think its called Boaty McBoatface, but I could be wrong

Mojo Lost at Sea!

It’s fair to say that after yet another non sail, we were beginning to wonder about Mojo and where it had gone to.

Things were not helped by the Bilbaon B***stard fly. Smaller than a mozzie we woke up before during and after the night being bitten to death. The resulting blisters were “angry”, itchy and bloody….grrr

We didn’t venture into the city….

Next stop Bermeo

Charming and pretty and very much Basque Country. Suddenly we are in another country. The language of which is so alien to Anglo/Spanish/French we can’t understand a word of it.

The old port and old harbour.

4 new finger berths for up to 8 visitors

So the new finger berths look OK, and are OK: water and electricity as normal.

The pilot guide is again out of date and has no mention of the above. Fortunately we have local knowledge from Jerry & Aggie.

And the things we should add to anyone coming this way are:

a) the locals are fishing fanatics

b) at all hours many of the boats in the first photo above head out to fish. Most at a speed that creates a significant wash. And they come back..

c) they all pass by your bow (or stern depending on which way you moored).

A recommendation is to moor stern in. We didn’t and our mojo took another knock that night.

And so farewell to Spain

In Bermeo we looked at the options. Option A was to carry on around the coast then head North along the French coast. Reaching the Gironde in around 10 days. Option B was to regard Bermeo as the closest point to the Gironde and go for it.

B won. We left aiming for Royan well after low tide. Motoring the whole way we got a bit too early for Royan and ended up across the way in peaceful Port Medoc.

Two days later we are in La Rochelle. Familiar places beckon and unless something interesting happens, this will probably be the last post.

Les Minimes. Nice but dull. The end of the adventure

Back to normal. In Spain the bikes were hardly used as most supermarkets are close to the port. In La Rochelle this is the track coming back from the more distant Carrefour

The end of the adventure

By the time the boat is parked both of us will have covered more than 1000nm. Virtually all under motor.

Here’s a summary of what we liked and didn’t like in Spain.

We liked

  • The Spanish. Always friendly & helpful with a smile and good sense of humour
  • The temperature: generally mid 20s
  • Food – excellent seafood in Galica, great quality meats everywhere and never expensive.
  • The scenery
  • Cleanliness. Seems to be a passion
  • No problem with the language. Quite often they don’t do English or French and we don’t do much Spanish. But if you want to buy a loaf of bread they want to sell you a loaf of bread. No problem.
  • The scenery: often spectacular / mountainous. In more ways than one it’s like Ireland without the cold & rain.

We didn’t like

  • The wind: always in the wrong direction and often on the nose with resultant unpleasant conditions
  • Distances between stops can result in tiring days
  • The amount spent on diesel: in a good season we can get away with €150, sailing as much as possible. This year, with adverse conditions we spent just under €1000 🙁

Should you be following in our footsteps maybe it’s worth thinking about doing the trip the other way round to get more favourable winds and currents. However the traditional winds will nearly always be on your stern, again uncomfortable 🙁

And will we go back?

With all those pros of course we will. Perhaps not with Filibuster

Places

OK, this isn’t an almanac. it’s a collection of things humorous, odd events and a light hearted look at some of the people,places and events that made up our travels in Filibuster.

You can use the search box on the right or click one of the shortcuts below

Here’s a list by place, it’s not an exhaustive list of places visited, just the ones written about:

Scillies

Camaret

The Raz

Loctudy

Port Louis

Ile de Groix

Le Belle Isle / Le Palais / Sauzon

Vannes

Arzal and the lock

La Roche Bernard

Piriac sue Mer

Pornic

L’Herbaudiere

Ile D’Yeu

Bourgenay

St Martin / Ile de Re

La Rochelle

Rochefort

Spain

Viveirio

A Coruna

 

Gullible Guillame and the No Parking Sign

noparking

Writing from Port Joinville on Ile D’Yeu, its the 30th August. To mark bank holiday Sunday the weather has put on a typical show: a F5 thundery rainstorm just rattled through.

If there were one of those holiday type signposts here it would say 70 miles South East to La Rochelle, 280 North to Salisbury and 350 North West to Lawrenny.

Avid and not so avid readers will have already seen the sad episode regarding Forgetful Francois and the fate of Pierre the Peugeot.

Port Joinville, Ile D’Yeu is the next stop South from L’Herbaudiere,  One of our favourite places with its very sheltered (=quiet) marina, the fun attitude of the holidaymakers, the great bars for people watching around the the harbourside and so on.

What we didn’t know at the time of Francois is that he has a cousin on Ile D’Yeu. We’ll call him Gullible Guillame for the sake of alliterative allusion.

The harbourside in Port Joinville is a busy place, frequent ferries do what ferries do: namely disgorge then load up with holiday makers. The majority on foot for Ile D’Yeu is a place where cycling is very popular and bikes of all types can be hired around the port.

Around the ferry terminal it can get very busy, with people collecting and delivering holidaymakers. Parking is in short supply.

Guillame arrives in Jerry the Jeep

To drop off holidaymakers. No parking spaces immediately by the ferry terminal, but he sees his mate Antoine who waves him over.

Antoine tells Guilliame – don’t worry – I’ll park my car over there on the no parking zone and you can have my place here. I’m not staying long and there aren’t any no parking signs on your spot so you will be OK

Cars move. Antoine parks on the no parking zone. but then they decide to go off for a beer…or two…..

 

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The No Parking Zone. Signs clearly visible. Under the surface. Can you guess what’s happened to Jerry the Jeep?

 

Yep, you guessed it.

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For Sale.

And some time later. Guillame had not come back, or was too embarrassed to show himself in front of the large crowd of holidaymakers taking photos.

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And Jerry the Jeep had disappeared by the following morning.

 

 

‘eau tels for Liz

yes, it’s me again. Groan I hear, not again……

Back in Arzal ready for another session on Filibuster, heading down south to La Rochelle and environs.

Hotels for Liz

On our travels we occasionally come across superb hotels that, were it not for our own floating accommodation, we might well stay at.

I’ve started a collection on the new Hotels for Liz page. Feel free to contribute further ideas that have a maritime connection.

Liz, to whom the page is dedicated, is not a boaty type and has asked me to comment on the en suite facilities to be found on Filibuster, in the hope of confirming a hotel bedroom will always be superior.

IMG_3658

shower, looking forward

Here we go:

For a 40ft boat Filibuster is quite generous in the space allocated to most functions. Only sleeping 6 with single heads means there is more space for everything (compared to say a 40ft boat with 8 berths and 2 heads).

 

The heads consist of a generous shower area, hot & cold of course with thermostatic mixer. Measuring 4ft x 2ft 3″ door access at one end and shower curtain at the other. Nothing wrong there: I’ve certainly used smaller shower cubicles ashore.

In colder times, warm air can pumped in using the central heating system.

 

 

The heads themselves: IMG_36594ft x 3ft 4″ consisting of basin with mixer tap and the loo. Same curtain as in the shower area and another door rearward to the master cabin.

For landlubbers a word of explanation about the curious world of marine loos is in order.

They are a bit different to hotel loos.

The “deposit” part remains the same. Except when heeled over at 30 degrees under sail in a lumpy sea..

For males in particular it can be a game of true target practice: you are moving (in all 3 dimensions) …. likewise your target is moving, not always at the same rate, the challenge is to hit the centre. No wonder, contra to RNLI advice, so many men prefer to pee over the side. Downwind of course.

 

Flushing

Unlike landside loos, boats do not have cisterns of fresh water to flush – but they do have a lot of water outside.

Loo: note control know and pump

Loo: note control knob and pump

Business finished, this is the procedure:

  • open seawater seacock
  • turn the loo control knob to “extract”
  • pump the hand pump vigorously until extraction complete
  • turn the loo control knob to “fill”
  • repeat pumping, until loo fills with water
  • repeat the extract process
  • turn off the seawater seacock

On Filibuster all that pumping ends up in the “holding tank”. I need describe it no more. Opening its outlet valve at sea results in a distinctive & satisfying “whoosh” that confirms the process is complete.

Easy peasy. Wouldn’t put anyone off, would it?

And finally….

Perhaps you are thinking of buying a boat? Perhaps you wonder why we ended up with Filibuster, a Bavaria Ocean 40?

This pic of the master cabin might help. It certainly helped to convince Michele.

 

IMG_3677

Master Cabin. Full size double bed with easy access both sides. Complemented by 2 wardrobes, shelving cupboard, 2 side seats and 4 storage lockers. Access via 2 doors. Ventilated via 3 large portholes and 1 hatch. Comfy.