Month: August 2013
Ok -so what’s Father Ted go to do with it?
Well it appears he is alive and well making cheese:
Well worth getting – he’s doing a good job of it….
End of Season?
You wouldn’t believe it – or maybe you would. In the UK the August bank holiday traditionally marks the end of the summer season. I can tell you that here, after Sunday 25th the difference is phenomenal….
We are enjoying our last night at La Roche Bernard. As I write this at 2310 it’s a dry heat 24 degrees.
Boats movements have dropped markedly, there are spaces that wait to be filled for hours (but they do get filled in hours, rather than minutes as per day before). The harbour master busies himself with moving boats that will over winter here away from the visitors pontoons in the hope he will get move guests. He didn’t care so much yesterday.
The local restaurants welcome you, I mean really welcome you: want your custom…they know if you move on they might not fill the table. Last night it was the opposite: they knew they would fill every table and didn’t care too much about your money.
So that’s it then?
Well pretty much so . We are 4nm away from the winter mooring and will be there by the time you read this. There’s a couple of posts that I would like to finish (St Martin, Pornic to be specific) and you might get those after we get back to the UK because they are great places and need some justice doing to them)
So for 2013-14
The boat is in Arzal-Camoul for the foreseeable future. We might visit alongside arrangements to take it out for annual underwater maintenance. It could be a base if you fancy a holiday? – let me know.
Thanks for reading – if there is any aspect of our travels that you would like to know more about just let me know
La Roche Bernard
What sort of relief is that, I hear you ask?
And before your mind wanders off into it’s innermost interesting compartment that minds can sometime wander off into, let me tell you that the relief that I’m feeling, in particular today, is that a plan has come together and has been made real.
Now those of you that, like me, like to plan, execute and deliver said plan will know that there is indeed some kind of satisfaction that, unlike mere mortals who can’t, delivering on the plan is a superior feeling.
The plan that became essential was finding a home for the boat for the winter. It has been delivered.
(we are bottom right on the last pontoon, east side, halfway up.)
It’s a bit like the relief of moving home and being in your own place again.
And the sums work out well: to keep the boat in this marina doesn’t just cost less than our previous system of West Wales, it costs a heck of a lot less: from end of season to end of season about £2100 including away stops. The Lawrenny/East Llanion/paid stops solution of last year would come to around £3600. Take out say £500 for to-ing and fro-ing Franceward and you’ve got £1000 additional fun money to spend on something other than boat parking.
Like maybe another holiday on a boat?
Not to mention the extra month not travelling to and fro Lawrenny. Or the benefit of chilling out in the sun rather than slogging up the channel (English & Bristol) I’ll let you know next year if I’m still keen on the solution.
La Roche Bernard
Up river is La Roche Bernard (LRB) – 4miles away. Unbelievably beautiful historic town with great bars and restaurants, unbelievably not overrun, La Rochelle-esque. And beyond that some really interesting places yet to be visited.
Un Blag, ou un moment d’humour: 2 years ago we visited LRB: in desperate need of of a haircut we both went to a local coiffure.
(a further digression: LRB has an interesting assortment of shops, including the essential glass blower, wood turner and a complete set of boulangerie, charcuterie, possionere as well as a good bunch of restaurants, all of which exude normal French town rather than tourist destination)
But back to cutting hair, which should you ever try to do in France, beware:
My cut is simple: no 8 on top and no 4 on the side. Easy, you would have thought, what could possibly go wrong? Metrication my friend, that’s what went wrong. . Mon coiffeuresse translated my request to 8mm on top and 4mm on the side….
…Liberating….I didn’t need another cut for 2 months……
And you will be pleased to know the coiffuresse is still in business….and I need a haircut. Am I brave enough?
Solitary sort of thing, sailing. You spend all of your time avoiding things: other boats, quays, marks, running out of water, running out of beer and so on.
But sometimes, in just a few places, sailing folk congregate in vast numbers and close proximity. Usually en route from A to B and where A and B are at different levels. I’m talking about a lock, AKA boat scrum. AKA stress.
Vannes is one. St Martin another. Our final scrum this year is the Arzal Barrage. A huge marina and the flat navigable Villaine river on one side, tidal estuary on the other. Migrating yachts, including Filibuster head up river to the open lock (to find it is already full) and hang around for the next session 2 hours later.
Then it’s everyone in, like the arc – 2 by 2 attached with outer boat loosely tied to the lock wall. Every 2 hours the road bridge opens and boats move forward to fill the now vacant space under and allow more in at the back. When it’s really full (see photos) the lock gates open.
And like some enormous boat catapult, pwtang, boats get out as fast as they can, before any inferior idiot sailor does some damage, out to be free and in clear water and safe.
Back to being solitary until the next time you moor up, which is either 5 minutes or 30 minutes depending on your destination.
For us we chose the peace and quiet of a sunset cruise up river to La Roche Bernard.
Sadly, this marks the end of salty sea dog sailing. We’re now muddy river rats and Filibuster will stay in the river until next summer 🙁
it’s 11 at night, we are still in Pornic (we like it here), too warm to go sleep so I thought I’d bore you with a bit of tech.
Avid readers will have noticed that I use a few panoramas to make more interesting pics….
If you are interested in making some of your own panoramas check out this link
Download the windows version (free) and install on your PC.
Use it to create panoramas from 2 to loads of photos – it’s so easy – take loads of photos of your subject, upload to a PC, start the program, tell it which photos to use and it does everything else.
After the hurly burly of La Rochelle we headed to St Martin-en-Re, Ile D’Re.
Arrival and departure fun:
Access is High water +/- 3 hours- plenty of time after we left La Rochelle at dawn just 12 miles away.
St Martin was a heavily fortified town whose sea access is narrow: just about enough for one boat in either direction. Access to the marina is controlled by a lock and overhead gate.
You arrive at the right sort of time to find:
a) all the boats who are leaving on that tide do so in a long procession – so it’s dodge the outgoing stream of boats as best you can: They have nowhere to go but out and that’s where they are going.
b) after passing through the narrow entrance into the avant (outer) port you find all your new mates hanging around waiting to go in – in our case about 6 or so other boats waiting for the green light.
c) the green light comes on: boats are directed to come in one at a time, unless you are Filibuster and not knowing the process – we decided to make it happen and went in first.
d) you are told where to raft, because raft you will as there is little space left for any other form of parking. You will be put alongside something of around the same size.
And so the place starts to fill. And from nowhere another dozen boats appear. All wanting in.
But the Harbourmaster (AKA Master of Ceremonies) has seen it all before.
One at a time: you over there, next boat over here and so on. Everything neat and tidy until there’s no more room.
In our case we ended up 3rd out on raft v2. By the time it all finished we had another 3 boats attached.
4 new arrivals, 3 existing.About the same behind, about the same in front. So all in all say 20 boats in a space about 20 boats big.
Getting Out Fun
So, the boats on our inside have clearly been in St Martin longer than we, and in all probability will depart soon than we do. And that’s just what happens on the next session.
With so many trog watchers (this is after all a spectator sport) no one wants to get it wrong. We all talk: English/English, French/French, Franglais/Franglais. And the Brits have a pre-match huddle: after all we are superior sailors and can’t let the side down on an away game.
We all work out the who’s who: who on the outside is going, who is staying. Who on the inside needs surrounding neighbours to move to enable their exit. By the time the lock gate opens everyone has a sort of game plan, temporary shore lines are made, Electricity disconnected. Exit ways primed.
And then it starts: boats peel off and leave, boats head townward and lurk until their space is re-created, boats go sideways to enter exit ways that have just appeared. It’s solitaire on a big scale.
Those with bow thrusters use them and superior sailors don’t.
And one by one the melee expands, inner boats leave, boats on the outside move inward to fill the space. Stayers settle back and await the new arrivals.
All done with the most convivial attitude: everyone helps to make space, tug, push and manoevure in the friendliest and most helpful way possible. A nudge here, rev of engine there.
A perfect place?
Can’t be far off: very high on our rate-a-marina scale for:
– nice location, near town, interesting, good ambiance, peaceful at night
– good hospitality
– good facilities and not too expensive
– great food (both at restaurants and markets)
A must see place to go to and go back again too.
Enough of boaty stuff: you all want to know about St Martin don’t you? and that will indeed be the next installment.
La Rochelle, La Rochelle, La Rochelle ?
Through the Twin Towers – probably the most outstanding entry to any port:
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.
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…..
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.
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
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.
It’s getting on for 9pm.Note the new nautical clock:
We’ve got about an hour of direct sunlight left.
We’ve just eaten Noix St Jaques up in the cockpit..mmm
I’m savouring a nice glass of Saumur White (French of course) you can see it there bottom right….
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…
What do most people do on holiday?
- eat too much
- drink too much
- eye up the local talent
- hire a scooter
Well it seems that on Le Belle Isle all of the above. It’s stuffed full of bars and eateries that are just right for people watching.
And when you get bored of that then why not hark back to your youth and do something you haven’t done for years?
Yes – hire a scooter. OK I have to admit to never having ridden a scooter in my life, being an ex member of the loud, proud and oily British Motorcycle Owners Club.
Belle Isle is about 17km long and 3km wide: too much to walk but grease the palm of the local hire place (right on the quay) with about fifty squids and you have a trusty Honda 110cc scooter for the day.
The last time I rode a motorcycle was in 1984 – a different epoch. Perhaps my reactions were faster in those days but wobbling along with trusty wife on trusty steed was a whole new experience. 30mph has never seemed so scary….
…at one stage we even reached 50mph! But trusty wife on the back of trusty steed bottled out at this pace and requested something a bit slower. We settled on island buzzing at around 40mph…..
We buzzed to the South – the tiny beach at Locmaria overlooked by ancient manor house:
We buzzed to the West: Le Phare Goulpar: one of France’s premier league lighthouses
We roared to the north – don’t park your boat here:
But here is supposedly safe – not far away at Ster Wenn on the NW cost. Apparently exposed to a NW swell, which was indeed running that day and the boats at anchor looked very uncomfortable.
Via Sara Bernhardt’s castle:
(she got so tee’d of with hangers-on visiting her that she had a new place built for them, the roof of which happened to be a great place to take this photo)
We would really like to get back to Sauzon: although just a few miles away from Le Palaise the pace of life was just so completely relaxed it could have been a different planet.
So there you have Le belle Isle
In less than a few words. it can be summed up as frenetic. It never stops, it’s noisy, it’s fun, the port is busy 24 hours a day, people buzz around on scooters and all sorts on small hire cars. It’s that kind of active holiday place.
Having completed this post after visiting Ile D’Yeu and chi chi St Martin on Ile de Re it’s worth waiting for the completed posts from those places as they are all very different kinds of islands.
One of the nice things about cruising is that you often have no idea what’s going on in a port until you get there.
Les Minimes in La Rochelle is no different: We find ourselves right in the thick of the World 470 Championships.
This means that there’s a lot of 470’s around and at this early stage GBR is well placed in both mens and womens events – more if you read this post from the 470 people.
It also provides a few opportunities for nice photos to pass on:
but was subsequently disqualified for a) not being a 470 and b) having too many crew on board
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
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.