Month: August 2014

Bourgenay (Dullsville)

Step forward anyone who remembers the cult drama “The Prisoner”. The one from the late 60s, so step back anyone younger than about 50.Bourgenay (1)

For those younger than 50 let me set the scene:  The series follows a British former secret agent who is abducted and held prisoner in a mysterious but pretty coastal village resort where his captors try to find out why he abruptly resigned from his job (Wikipedia)

I think he just wanted to go sailing (Martin).

The Prisoner doesn’t have a name but instead is called No 6. Why they should name him after a particularly small and rough cigarette available at the time is still a mystery.

Also a mystery is why hold him in a nice coastal village when a smelly prison would do?

And how, even with the aid of large 6ft diameter self aware and self propelled white balloons, they could stop him escaping?

As noted above, this was the late 60s, an era well known for fanciful imagery and one can only assume the producers were “on something”.

So, Martin, I hear you ask: what has this got to do with Bourgenay? A mysterious but pretty coastal village resort.

Probably nothing.But indulge me and read on as you’ve got this far.

Bourgenay is an odd place.

IMG_1134As far as I can tell, in days yonder, there was nothing here except the HQ of SSST. A secret order of silent French Nuns.

Bourgenay 002


Holed up in their castle and not interfering much, Bourgenay was a very quiet place.

Well it would be wouldn’t it, with the only residents living a quite solitary quiet life.



And then some developer had the great idea to create a modern version of the very same holiday resort that was the unintended home to the Prisoner.

The Planning application was a doddle: no objections – not even from the resident nuns (well they couldn’t really object much, being quiet and solitary, could they?)

And so, all around them a whole new resort, golf complex, port and marina sprang up where before there was nothing. Except the silent nuns who as far as can be be found out are still there, doing their thing.

A Perfect place for prisoners


perfect apartments

It’s perfect: residents arrive, are processed, spend their money in one of several anonymous bars/restaurants and are subsequently allowed to leave all the poorer and none the wiser having enjoyed an “ooh that’s nice” sort of holiday..


more perfect apartments



an absolutely perfect lighthouse

But Bourgenay is dull

It’s all there, it all works. But it lacks any of the charm that the two nearest ports on our route have (Les Sables D’Olonne and St Martin de Re).

I can’t think why we stopped on the way back except that, just possibly, it was free to stay.


And I leave you with this observation about the almost perfect marina:


We escaped and Les Sables D’Olonne is where this post comes from. A full 6.6nm from Bourgenay but a world away (and also free to stay 🙂 )

An architect and an airline pilot on a boat with a camera on a stick

What do you do?

You’ve got an architect (James), an airline pilot (Laurie) and a new toy: Go Pro 3 HD wifi camera.

Simples: tie it on to the boat hook and fruit around taking pictures and making videos


click photo for video


St Martin later that day


Filibuster as you’ve never seen her before:


Both videos taken en-route between La Rochelle and St Martin de Re on a sunny and windless day.

For those interested the Go Pro 3 camera is a little larger than a match box and can take full HD video (1080p at 60fps).

Dead easy to use, followed by hours of fun faffing around try to edit, reduce bit rate and get onto the internet.

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.

Sail 14 Rochelle - Rochefort 043

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



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

L’Herbaudiere and Francois the Forgetful fisherman


Well here we are (or were) in L’Herbaudiere on the tip of a small island to the South of Nantes. It’s our first stop after escaping Arzal.

Note whitewashed houses and clay roof tiles signalling warm and sunny, which is exactly what it is.

Francois 007

very med. what’s not to like?

Now we don’t really like this place too much and Michele would have me spend 3 more hours travelling to avoid it, but it is bang on our route and anywhere else isn’t.

So why don’t we like it I hear you ask in unison. Is it the local facilities? Non. The services du port? Non. Then what?

It is the fact that 1) it is a bit popular (also on everyone else’s route) 2) you end up rafted out into the main fairway and 3) worst of all the local fishermen are a bit anti people enjoying holidays in yachts.

They take particular delight in fishing into the night and passing very fast and very close to rafted boats and their sleeping content. The resultant crash-bang-slap of the associated wake wakes everyone up and there is a joint low mutter of bastardo, or the French equivalent, as we all curse passing fishing boat.

Which leads me to the story of Francois the Forgetful:

Francois had being having a hard time – he had been courteous to sleeping yachtspeople by passing carefully and slowly, especially at night.

Sadly Francois’s boss was a bit anti yacht and warned him “if you don’t give them a hard time I’m going to give you a hard time and the sack. Let’s see you in action tomorrow 8am prompt”

Francois’s girl Francine was also giving him a hard time – “work harder and earn more money” she argued with him that morning.

So, eager to please both irate girl and irate boss, Francois put on his best blue top and went off to work: but the prospect of taking it out on the yachties troubled him.

Late for work following the contremps with Francine, Francois raced off in his silver Peugot, Pierre. He parked on the quay wall, but being late his regular slot of 51a was occupied, so he parked next door in 51b (more later), leapt out and off to his boat….bad move Francois…

…. about 30 seconds later an enormous crash follows as his trusty Pierre fell off the harbour wall. Francois the forgetful had forgotten to put the handbrake on….oooops

Now most of the parking spaces on the harbour wall do indeed face downward and would be subject to a roll away and splash were it not for the fact that anti-roll-away barriers are installed opposite most of the parking spaces. Except 51b….an unlucky choice on this day of all days ….

Of course all this in direct view of the aforementioned sleep deprived yachties now having a good serving of trog watching with their breakfast.

The old Irish trick? I’m sure you’ve all seen the mockup of 2 mobile cranes falling into an Irish Harbour to recover a car – I say mockup because only one fell in. This is how the French recovered Francois’s car:

Francois 001

Francois (top), Pierre (bottom). The sapeur-pompiers inspect the problem

1)      Bring in the sapeur-pompiers to investigate. Note Pierre’s in his best blue top pointing to 51b and final path of Pierre the Peugot.

Francois 003

I parked it over there in 51b, Francois explains. Note gap through which Pierre rolled.


2)      Realising this is a job requiring specialised lifting gear bring in divers and the guys from Phares and Balises (lighthouses & buoys dept)

Francois 004

crane in the water, French style

3)      Pull out the car

Francois 006

good job we was ‘ere guv, wasn’t it

4)      Take it away

Francois 009

For Sale. Peugot 205. Slight accident damage

The whole process lasted no more than 20 minutes.

Poor Francois, or whoever “the forgetful” one was.

And the moral of the story. Don’t annoy the yachties because they have ways and means of having the last laugh 🙂

PS This is a true story….well part of it is….and all names have been changed to protect the true identity of the unlucky Peugot driver.