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August 2020 – we finally made it

We finally made it out to Arzal on 13th August 2020. Two trips cancelled so we have to cram everything (i.e. boat prep & provisioning) into this one trip.

On the evening we arrived the UK government announced that returnees coming from France would have to quarantine for 2 weeks if arriving after 4am on Saturday. Crazy or what. Just a few extra hours would have accommodated the normal Saturday changeover without causing panic.

Anyway if it’s still in place when we get home 5 weeks hence a Tesco home delivery will be on its way.

Biblical Rain & schoolperson errors

Yesterday evening we were ready for the forecast thunderstorms. Gale force winds blew up in an instant. Torrential rain soon followed, as did the thunder & lightening.

It went on like this for an hour and a half

And so to the schoolperson error (for it was down to both of us): we’ve been away from Filibuster for nearly a year , we forget things that otherwise are second nature.

On this occasion, mesmerised by the storm, we forgot that Filibuster has windows that open inward and were open. Or maybe we reopened in the night and the storm came back.

We had a lot of drying to do the following day 🙁

Most of our clothing got a bit damp….

Welcome to Sailing 2019. The 6th June boat has been delayed.

We arrived at Arzal yesterday, provisioned this morning ready for departure this afternoon to Piriac sur Mer then Quiberon or Morbihan or L’Orient to meet up with friends John & Sharon who are travelling out on Sunday.

But there’s a problem.

Not a broken boat again I think you’re wondering. No it’s not a boat problem.

It’s a weather problem.

Map of shipping forecast areas

Thee BBC Map of the shipping areas. We are in Biscay.

Should you have listened to the good old Shipping Forecast you would have heard it open with the phrase “There are warnings of gales in Biscay, Trafalgar, Fitzroy”. We are in the former.







This is the forecast for 3am on Friday 7th June (4am UK, 5am France).At that time it won’t have made much impact at Arzal, but see those arrows with triangle on them at the bottom: that’s classed as a “Storm” with sustained winds of over 48kn /55mph.

You really don’t want to be in that.

(Here’s Wikipedia on the Beaufort scale)



Fast forward the forecast to midday tomorrow and the area we are in gets “Gale Force” or “Severe Gale”.

Filibuster is strapped down, extra lines should hold her in place. We are not going anywhere for a couple of days.


Unless the lines break…..


Is this an effect of Global Warming? Who knows, but 75 years ago to the day a similar storm delayed the D-Day landings.








Update on 8th June. Storm Miguel came and went.

Put some donk on it / Peter Mathias

I’ll come to the title later.

This blog is intended only to highlight the interesting, humourous or otherwise noteworthy happenings of our travels in Filibuster.

Our the last trip of some 4 weeks was, well, average. The weather was,well, average, we didn’t hit anything, nothing hit us (apart from the mysterious yellow mark now on our life raft). All the places visited have been written about… no cars fell in the water etc…

Something Remarkable….

But before I distil that , that recent, average, trip, let me tell you about something remarkable that happened today, down here in Pembrokeshire:

Peter Mathias walked up the hill to the chalet, in between rain storms and with a smile said “hello”  and:

  • It was my birthday yesterday
  • I’ve just got engaged
  • Can I introduce you?

WOW. Peter’s wife Anne passed away in 2013 after a battle with cancer. We had lost touch a bit.

And now a new love enters his life. Cath is a delightful lady, Irish, shares a common love of golf with Peter and enjoys travel.


Peter and Cath.

Peter holds a dear place in our life and early sailing career: we raced with and against each other, did delivery trips together, we bought our chalet from him and more recently he hosted James for a week of work experience at a real architects practice.

We wish Peter and Cath the best for the future.

A neat manoevre

Read this: About getting Filibuster into a tricky mooring.

So, if you find yourself having got yourself in to a similar position :

  • alongside a pontoon
  • 3 boats fore, 3 boat aft, no more than 2 ft either end to play with.
  • no wind to help you out
  • no bow thruster to turn the nose?

And the 3 boats aft being worth more than £1m, skippers hovering, all watching and wondering how you are going to get out without damaging their prized possessions….

We saw this in Piriac, just a few weeks earlier, when a student in a bateau ecole (training boat) got their command stuck and the teacher had to show them how to get out:

  1. create a pivot point on the bow by taking a line from outermost cleat to the pontoon.
  2. remove all other lines
  3. put the boat into reverse.

The boat can’t go forward, can’t go backward, can only pivot around the one line – and it will do so to 90 degrees or more.

Slowly she does it. Slip the line and reverse out. Works on a bateau ecole, worked on Filibuster.

All watchers smile, think “neat”. A Facebook equivalent of a super like if they have one…..


How to get out of a tight spot (I’m a better sailor than an artist!)

The donk

not yet…

Frank Singleton

We bought Filibuster in 2007. Mobile internet was not there. For those of us needing up to date weather info there was one source: Frank Singleton and his collection of nascent weather info delivery services that could be acquired using the painfully slow, but all we had at the time, GPRS on mobile.

Well I’m pleased to report that Frank and his wife Jennifer came alongside us in St Martin for a few days.

Both over 80 they are a remarkable example of “continuing to use it” as they have campaigned their Halberg Rassy for many years and continue to do so.


Frank and (recently showered) Jennifer Singleton aboard their HR34 Anhinga in St Martin, Ile de Re

Demi Donk

Explained later (sorry: I’m struggling to pad this one out)

Photos from a plane

See this:groix from the air

Well we’ve all taken photos from a plane. Note how clear this one is? It comes from the driver’s seat. Cap’n Laurie Stimpson flying an Easyjet Airbus south-ish to Lisbon. The island is Ile de Groix, L’Orient and Port Louis to the left. Mid picture is the Quiberon Peninsula. In the far distance would be Piriac Sur Mer, where I write from.


And finally: donk

our new found friends: John and Julia Strudwick on board their Nauticat Wyldwind. Now Nauticats are built for comfort,pleasure and not hi-performance. they come with appropriately sized engines (ie the donk) that, when sailing isn’t the right option , the donk does it.

And so into our vocabulary comes:

  • put some donk on it: give it some welly
  • demi donk day: motor until the wind pipes up
  • donk it: better put the engine on to avoid whatever needs donking

The next instalment

Starts August 16th. Let’s hope something more interesting happens. Let me know if you would like to join us.

‘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.


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.



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.



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.

a l’eau a l’eau

Bonjour mes amis.

Sailing season 2015 gets underway 🙂

Airbnb – what they didn’t say

Whilst the boat was out of the water we stayed at an Airbnb place for 4 nights. Situated right in the port side of Vannes it was ideally located and much better than a hotel. More details here.

Except for one thing: the steps. Located on the 3rd floor it was 65 steps up! And the mezzanine bed-floor was as steep as a ladder….

And so onto boaty things

Launched yesterday after 3 days full time faffing, cleaning, pressure washing, fitting, fixing and fiddling we are now chilling out at La Roche Bernard.

sail 15 005

wife and mistress. Both demanding.

And even more serious matters

I broke the law yesterday. Unwittingly. So I bring to your attention the following notification about feeding the ducks: it’s illegal here.

sail 15 006

Now there are are some questions that need answering. And in the absence of any obvious sign of the anti duck feeding fuzz to help with clarification here we go:

  • Why €38? and not the easier to handle €40. Did the pro duck lobby get the fine reduced?
  • But why set the fine at that level at all, Would €38 stop you from illegally feeding the ducks. Would €20 have the same effect?
  • Charlie Drake, pictured centre, takes the wrap. Why did his mate Francis exit stage left so fast? Was it to avoid being done for receiving the illegal bread?

So many questions, so few answers, it’s driving me quackers.

And with that it’s adieu until I find something more worthy of writing about.

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…..

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.

‘Allo ‘Allo

Just to let you know  a new season is underway.

We are in Arzal, it’s the 29th July. 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…

Can’t wait to get out to the freshness of the sea, which we will do Wednesday

The view from here is pretty much like last year:

Just after sunrise on the 28th August

Just after sunrise on the 28th August

And that’s because we are in the same berth. D137.

If you are seeing this and didn’t see any of these posts last year that’s because over the winter I added a few contacts to the distribution list. Unsusbcribe if its not for you (there a link to do it at the bottom of the email)

Our itinerary this year takes us down to near Bordeaux where James and Zoe will join us for a week from 16th August and thence back to la Rochelle.

And after that? Who knows? Michele has retired. We booked a one way trip on the ferry. Come and join us.

More to come once we get underway.







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