Month: September 2014

The costs and benefits of keeping a boat in France

Do I hear you yawn? If you don’t have a boat, don’t intend to get one and aren’t interested in the cost analysis of UK vs France then skip this part. But not all of it.

You might want to check out the post I made last year when contemplating leaving Filibuster in foreign climes. It’s here, under Relief at Last.

Arzal vs UK

To summarize, last year we found ourselves too far South, in the warm pleasant envroins around St Martin / La Rochelle. Getting Filibuster back to Wales would have been a  2 week slog with the dreadful Bristol Channel at the end.

We found a place at Arzal and I reckoned it would not only extend our holiday in the warm pleasant environs but might also save a few squids as well – in fact estimated at around one thousand squids.

Did it work out?

Well actually, yes, quite a big YES in Fact.

My estimate for a repeat of the 2013 season but taking the boat back to the UK came to just under £4,600. This includes annual mooring & storage cost, delivery trip to and for France and associated travel costs, cost of berths during the holiday and diesel to get the boat around when it couldn’t be sailed.

Our actual costs for 2014 look like coming in at a tad under £3,300. This figure includes the same items as UK and also costs of ferries to and fro.

And in this year, we spent all of our nights cruising in France (a total of 7 weeks), whereas the UK version has 2 weeks of delivery nights (which can be fun as well)

So, plus ou moins, we saved £1300 on the year. Certainly worth doing.


Other benefits

  • Kitting out and prepping the boat in April and May were a delight – warm weather.
  • No dead flies in the hood
  • Boat was dry as a bone – no condensation inside at all
  • Marina berth compared to swinging mooring at Lawrenny
  • Lots of professional services (sail making, life raft service that seem to be less expensive than the UK)
  • Free holidays in France
  • Lots of French wine at much lower prices than UK/ And Malt Whisky at 50% of UK prices


Not interested in owning your own boat?

Well I admit it, you’ve got to be a bit loopy to campaign a 40ft sailing boat. To  the reduced costs at Arzal you need to add insurance (£500), annual repairs and maintenance (£500-£1000) and the lost opportunity cost of the money sunk into the boat itself (….let’s not even think about that…).


For the less loopy there are other ways to get your sailing fix. We came across one towards the end of our stay in France:

Tops’l Sailing Club 

In Piriac sur Mer and again at La Roche Bernard we came across a British boat (Dufour 385) owned by the Tops’l Sailing Club. Notionally based near Portsmouth.

The club is a really interesting proposition: they own 3 boats: Dufour 385, Southerly 110 and a Halberg Rassey 36.

Members are shareholders and shares entitle you to money off their already very reasonable “charter” rates. Interestingly the value of shares can actually increase and they are redeemable.


Worked Example for a shareholding of £10,000

You can check out the details on the costs page of the Tops’l web site

Let’s assume you have £10,000 to invest and as a couple you want to sail for 4 weeks in a year.

Number of shares = £10,000/£2.58 = 3,876

Cost Per person per day = £49 x 2 =£98 x 28 days= £2,744

Less discount at £13 per 100 shares owned: = 38 * £13 = £494 (equates to a 5% yield)

Gives a total cost of £2744 – £494 = £2,250 for 28 days on board. Incroyable.

Plus your share of engine hours/berthing. Min 3 persons abord.

I have left this post open in case any of the folk from Tops’l wish to add a comment.


(And by way of comparison, a 7 night Sunsail Med charter in mid 2015 costs around £2,800 plus options for just 7 nights!)


Heck, what’s not to like about such a proposition. We spent quite a bit of time and a couple of dinners with the folk aboard the club’s Dufour 38 and can only heartily recommend what we discovered.


We’re still loopy enough to want to continue campaigning Filubuster on our own, but one day we might not be so and Tops’l is certainly something we would look at.





Join an exclusive mooring sharing club – FREE!

Whichever way you look at it, sailing can be a pricey business.


The kind folk at Arzal have come up with a clever solution that’s absolutely free! Let’s call it the Eco-Skint contract.

The key features of Eco-Skint are:

  • You simply park your boat at their place
  • Don’t pay them any money

– and in return get an exclusive pontoon berth alongside other like minded boats.


What could be better?


Arzal 015

Arzal’s exclusive Eco-Skint pontoon


….And that folks, really is the last word for the season.. See you next year.





Fun in St Martin

I’d forgotten about this ….


First: read this post from last year, all about the fun of lots of boats leaving the small harbour at St Marten en Re


Then watch the timelapse video:



Taken by James using Laurie’s Go Pro camera over a period of about 90 minutes.


Try to spot James (red cap), Michele, Zoe (grey cardy), Martin (stripey shirt) and Filibuster (reverses out then back in again at about 12 seconds in).

See photo below: the camera was mounted on the white boat crane to the left, beyond which is the entrance/exit. Filibuster is 2nd from right on the nearest row. Not going anywhere quick. And we didn’t: stayed there for a whole week

St Martin 001

Caption Competition 2014

Well that’s all folks. Well almost.

We’re back in Arzal. Remeber these words from the first post: “Perishingly hot at 28 degrees in the day and not a lot of air around. The water temperature is the same! Yuk. The evening temperature as I write at 930pm is 24. Double yuk. The water is still 28…triple yuk…”

Not much has changed except it’s a bit warmer in the day (30+) and a bit cooler in the evening (20+)

Last post?

I had just one more post in the pipeline,discussing the costs and merits of keeping a boat in France.

That’s going to be rather a dry affair and by great fortune some material for a bit of fun came our way on our last day out of Arzal. .


Caption Competition 2014

Same rules as before: any decent and printable captions welcome. And the best wins the Bottle of Bubbly.

For 2014 we have a choice:

1) along side us in La Roche Bernard, a craft of uncompromising genius, made, almost totally from aluminium. Housing man, wife and dog.

LRB 002

caption please

side on:LRB 003


2) Us boaters are often considered to be mere users of unstable floating caravans. This looks like a better solution, photographed up river at Foleux, it a has a certain “Je ne sais quoi”. I don’t know what it is either.


Quoi? caption please


Over to you…..

Piriac sur Mer and the Frogboats

So we find ourselves in Piriac sur Mer, our final saltwater stop before going up into the Villaine River.

And forthcoming fin du saison.

Victoire vs Les Frogboats

Piriac has what I call “a hard stop”. A flapgate that rises automatically to preserve a comfortable level of water inside the marina, whilst outside there can be an uncomfortable level of sand.

No one's going anywhere

No one’s going anywhere. Note and observe 3 red lights.

And so it’s imperative to get your arrival timing right: in our case no later than about 1 hour before the gate goes up.

And in the case of a few others the same, causing a bit of a rush.

Scanning the horizon for competition for the last berth (not that there is likely to be a last berth problem) reveals 2 French boats coming in: let’s call them Frogboat1 and Frogboat2.

Frogboat2 coming from the North looks like it’s ahead of the fleet. Frogboat1 coming from the West looks evenly matched. Filibuster from the South West raises the engine speed a bit to get in front.

Not enough: Frogboat1 does the same and cuts across our bows 50m ahead. Zut, Merde. but he has to change course by 90 degrees to avoid rocky rocks, comes up parallel then, crossing ahead of us, heads back north to go round a mark.

An opportunity arises: Filibuster’s nav system shows clear water to the south of the mark. We make the call, take the short cut and round up ahead of Frogboat1. He’s toast.

Meanwhile Frogboat2, close to the entrance, ahead, inexplicably dithers. He looks all ready to go in but has virtually stopped.

We pass on the home straight and takes line honours. Hooray to the Britboat: Frogboats 0 Filibuster 2

All played out at the cracking speed of about 6kn (7mph) and there were loads of places left, although I’m sure I detected a hiss from Mrs Frogboat1 as they passed us in the port.

And of course we are not racing at all are we?

And so on to Piriac sur Mer

But first a little fun with “Spot the Difference”


Two photos taken in the same berth in Piriac sur Mer

The obvious first:

  • The hood is down
  • Martin’s clothes are different
  • He’s changed from red to white wine
  • The very observant will note a new pair of Ray Bans
  • And the very, very observant will note Martin on the left is sporting a sun tan (oh – you didn’t spot it did you?)

The photos are taken on 3rd September and 25th April this year: it’s not our first visit to Piriac: at Easter we stole a super sail out of the Villaine in super sunny, warm weather.

And again in May when we stayed in a hotel here whilst the boat was out of the water being prepped for the season.

And so on to Piriac sur Mer

IMG_7747It’s an old, small fishing village with buildings of granite and slate bedecked with flowers and ivy. Almost back to Brittany.It’s pretty in the way the solid granite buildings are.

Superbly preserved, it’s a real magnet – in high season can be overrun with visitors, but as I write on 4th September 2014 all is quiet, though not yet as deserted as we found it out of season in May.

Excellent fresh pasta in the 3 days a week market.

The fishing fleet, as with so many smaller ports has been reduced to just those serving the local shops, market and restaurants and the harbour now given over to pleasure boats large and small.

Piriac marked our furthest South stopover in 2012. These days its our first/last port of call.

See more pics below. We like it.


Piriac, May 14. Not in season.
Piriac, May 14. Not in season.
Piriac, May 14. Not in season.
Piriac, May 14. Not in season.
Piriac, May 14. Not a toruist in sight
Piriac, May 14. Not a toruist in sight
Piriac, beach, May 14, deserted
Piriac, beach, May 14, deserted
typical Piriac back alley
typical Piriac back alley
Harbourside and Church
Harbourside and Church
Nice little beach
Nice little beach
More splendind old buildings
More splendind old buildings

Pornic, stylish

Here we are in Pornic. A stylish place if ever there was one.

The houses and grounds along of the estuary to the old port reek of having had a lot of money applied to them over a long period of time. If you remember the film “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with Michael Caine and Steve Martin then it’s that sort of ambience.

panoramic view of the west bank of Pornic

Panorama looking away from the marina along the west bank. The coast path wends it way right into town in a delightful 15minute stroll



panorama looking out from the drying harbour. The marina wall can just be made out in the distance

And its the 1st September and pleasantly warm and sunny as our new instrument confirms.WP_20140901_007


And it’s the first day of Michele’s retirement. More on that later but first a word or two about the bottom and how close it gets to the surface.

2m or more required

In Filibuster it’s never less than 2m. Or so you would have thought. Negative draught is not recommended in the manual.

We tested it on the way out of La Rochelle – that was a bit scary. The following week we left a furrow in the mud on the way out of Rochefort – and that was at high tide!.

Bourgenay track 27 aug 14And of course when you are on a boat as long as we have been this time round (5 weeks now) you are bound to come across days when the place you want to go to, the time you arrive and the tide are at odds with the 2m or more rule.

Like Bourgenay on the 27th August : the chart shows 0.7m minimum but the channel is supposedly 1m- added to lowest tide of 1.2m should be OK. but with swell running and an unfortunate arrival time discretion delayed arrival in favour of some pootling. (See chart)arrival chart

Like Pornic.  Arriving much earlier than expected due to very favourable sailing conditions. We approached….very slowly…we stirred some sand, we retreated and did some more pootling. In fact quite a bit as this chart shows….

Don’t get the idea we make a habit of testing the bottom, but there is always something delicious about getting into port or up river on a rising tide 🙂

View from rear of boat

Shot taken by Michele from the rear of boat whilst in Pornic

Retirement Party

So here we are on the 1st September in Pornic.

chink, clink, slurp

chink, clink, slurp



The season has finished and Michele has retired.

To celebrate we broke a golden rule and had a drink before the sun was over the yard arm. At least in this time zone, but as long as you believe its over the yard arm in some time zone somewhere then that’s Ok
Life is tough.





Some time later.Pornic 020


And a bit later zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


and even later we found out that every restaurant around the port had closed down except the one where the local fishermen were making a really professional job of getting obliterated celebrating the end of season. I say professional since they had been at it for over 24 hours.


NEW member of Crew

– this is Michele anthropomorphising again

CHINKY-BOO – yes that is its real name – made by the eponymous Chinky Boo Corporation of China is an ice maker and it produces 9 hollow ice cubes every 8 to 9 minutes.

It has been marvelous and also allowed us to have G & Ts with ice for the first time ever on board.

This leads onto the other piece of equipment purchased this year – a proper device to keep white wine cool into which we put Chinkyboo’s ice cubes (ed: as well as the bottle of wine ). Result happiness !!!!!!!!!!!