18 - October 13, 2006: Guernsey to La Rochelle
18, 2006, Monday
left Guernsey on Monday
morning. It was a beautiful day, sunny with some wind, albeit on
our nose. We motored the entire way, approx. 50 nm. We saw a few
fishing boats at a distance, tending to their lobster pots, one
catamaran which appeared and disappeared very quickly as it sailed
a course different from ours. We saw a rocky island group with a
huge light house. A British gentleman, David, told us that the French
are world champions in building light houses. This one was for sure
impressive in size. Approximately 7 nm before the entrance buoy
to the river Jaudy which would lead us to the French town (our first
by boat) of Treguier, we again saw a few rocky islands, well marked
with light houses. My apprehension increased because of all the
rocks and the strong current which, by then, was against us. Thank
God for a strong engine. We made it easily past all the buoys and
into the mouth of the river. There were fairly large red and green
buoys - the green ones to starboard, the red to port, just like
it is under international rules here in Europe - there were red
and green markers on very skinny poles outside of the main channel.
Initially, we were not sure whether we needed to follow those. In
the end, we decided against that - a good thing - as we noticed
the next day at low tide, many of them were standing in the middle
of huge rocks... if we had gotten too close.... I don't even want
to finish the thought. After about 7 nm into the river, we found
the yacht harbor "port de plaisance" in French, tied up
to a hammer head and went to find the harbor master to pay our dues.
Well, here my French was challenged for the first time. Remember,
I have not spoken French in over 30 years... not only because we
have been living in the US but also because there was little if
any opportunity to speak it way before I emigrated. I asked two
Frenchmen by telling them that I did not speak French - in French
- and asked them to speak very slowly. They did, and told me where
the harbor master's office was, except, it was closed on Mondays.
walked around town. What a beautiful little place. See for yourself:
on foto to expand!
course, in addition to the huge cathedral in the middle of town,
it had lots of bakeries ("Boulangeries et Patisseries")
and plenty of other shops including a fish monger (Poissonnerie)
which had a tiny restaurant above the store. There we had dinner
with a couple from a Swiss boat, he Swiss, she French. They had
seen our boat in Guernsey already - we theirs, but because we were
on different docks we never had spoken. Now, we were on the same
dock and exchanged views and ideas as to custom and immigration
into France, restaurants, etc. So we went to the fish restaurant
together, had a terrific time. When, the next day, the weather turned
really bad (September 20, 2006) and was predicted to remain that
way for a few days, they invited us to go along with them in their
rental car which they wanted to get the next day. On September 20,
we just enjoyed the town, did some shopping, wrote post cards, returned
books to Manfred and Ilse which they had lent us for our Channel
crossing and the Northern coast of France. Jean-Pierre, the Swiss
gentleman, offered to help Juergen connect his computer to our SSB
(single side band), a transmitter/receiver through which we could
receive weather faxes from all over the world - finally. The two
worked well together, and because it took quite some time, I offered
to cook dinner - totally forgetting that we had a French woman aboard
who might be used to more delicate cooking than mine. Still, we
all had a great time and set out to meet the next day around 0900
to drive around.
it turned out to be around 1030 or so, but we started our little
tour, first going to another small harbor slightly East of Treguier,
called Lezardrieux. The town had a rather interesting church and
a beautiful little harbor but with limited access during ebb tides.
We stopped for some beverages, sitting in the middle of the town,
watching the limited traffic, and chatting before we went on our
way to Paimpol, the actual destination of today. Paimpol is a combination
of fishing and yacht harbor, very picturesque. We walked around.
Jean-Pierre had eaten abalone in a restaurant called La Cotriade
in Paimpol. He made a reservation after confirming that they had
the special fare which he wanted Veronique to taste for her first
time. It was our first time, too. What a meal!!! We started out
with an aperitif, thereafter, we had a wonderful bottle of Entre
deux Mers, a very special white wine which accompanied our appetizer
- foie gras - and, thereafter, the abalone. We were in heaven. The
three of them also still had dessert. I did not want to spoil the
wonderful taste from the abalone.
bought kites from a sail maker - though he certainly did not make
them and continued on our car ride, past Treguier again - our boats
were securely fastened though the current was extremely strong in
the river. We went to the other side of the peninsula to places
like Perros Guirec, Ploumanac'h and Tregastel-Plage - all beautiful
little places with lots of rocky coast line. We walked around a
bit as well then rested over a beverage (no alcohol this time) before
the rain started and we returned to our boats.
on foto to expand!
from our little Land Voyage
out the Markers on land - normally under water but clearly
visible at Ebb Tide....
restaurant in Paimpol advertising the availability of Abalones
22, 2006, Friday
had kept the car to do some food shopping and invited us to go along.
The super market was outside of town, not far but certainly too
far if we had not benefited from the car. We purchased a few things
including gallon bottles of water for our coffee. This was the first
time we saw those in a long time. They invited us to their boat
for dinner. So we spent the afternoon navigating for the next day
- we hoped finally to be able to leave, playing Backgammon, Juergen
checked the weather fax and is soooo happy about his new set up.
I went to send my last few post cards off from Treguier, purchased
a few bottles of white wine and returned to the boat.
custom officials had made their way to Impromptu and Alya (Jean-Pierre's
boat). Thank God Juergen was around, could show them our boat papers
and our passports.
on Alya was very nice, veal served with sweet peas - quite delicious.
We had unbelievably wonderful red wine from Bordeaux. I have to
check with Jean-Pierre for its name again as we would certainly
like to purchase that as well.
23, 2006, Saturday
paid our dues for the past three nights at the harbor master's office
- actually, he gave us the last night "off" as a discount
for having stayed this long. He was very nice anyway and gave us
the weather forecast in both English and French. I had asked for
the French so that I could get used to the terminology. It all is
so different.... We had agreed to leave at around 1100 and to follow
Jean-Pierre. The trip down river was different from when we arrived
as, this time, it was ebbing and we saw lots of rocky places that
had been hidden by the high water at our arrival a few days ago.
The sun was shining, the wind slight - very comfortable. In order
to follow Alya, we sailed at times until we needed to catch up again.
The current aided us in moving faster than we would normally have
moved in such light winds. Jean-Pierre timed our travel speed to
arrive at a critical point of the coast just in time before the
tide changed and we could move towards Trebeurden, our new destination.
The wind started picking up just when we only needed to go another
six miles or so. Waves were breaking in the distance, thrashing
against the rocky shore line - a somewhat eery feeling. We finally
made it to the harbor entrance which we could only enter - there
is a gate - after 1630. When we arrived at 1640 or 1645, the water
over the gate sill was already 3m. We tried to find a proper dock,
not too close to the gate so that we would not be feeling the rush
of the water at opening times. The wind was blowing around 24 knots
at the time. Thank God there was some room at the dock we picked
after Juergen first tried to go to the same dock that Alya had been
tied up at - this was not good for our length boat. The end result
after being securely fastened, we had to walk for a few minutes
from one dock to the next - not a big thing. We paid the harbor
master and told him that we intended to leave the next day...
and Jean-Pierre came for dinner to our boat - we had a beef roast
and two different vegetables, some French pastries for dessert.
Since we wanted to leave around 0900, they left at 2230 just when
it began to rain and the wind picked up even more and there was
24, 2006, Sunday
wind seemed to have died down. We had agreed to speak via VHF and
discuss our departure which we had tentatively set for 0900. Just
about then, the wind picked up again quite strongly, the sky turned
black and it did not look very nice at all. Jean-Pierre also noted
that he would not make it fast enough to get to l'Aber-Wrac'h, our
next port of call, in time before the current would move against
him. He was also concerned about the wind shifting to WSW. With
the tide and current opposing he felt uncomfortable, and because
there really is no harbor to access by our boats between Trebeurden
and l'Aber-Wrac'h, he did not want to leave. We walked over to chat
with them and to return the food we had kept in our fridge (they
don't have refrigeration) so that we could leave. - In the end,
we decided not to leave either and to hope for better weather the
next day. We hope to depart tomorrow morning at 0800 which should
give Jean-Pierre and Veronique sufficient time for the roughly 50
nm trip in terms of tides.
on foto to expand!
- at high...and
25, 2006, Monday
left around 0830 under a gray sky and some threatening looking clouds.
The waves were very uncomfortable as we left the harbor, and Alya,
jumped up and down so badly that we expected Jean-Pierre to turn
around. He did not, and we went on our way. We kept fairly close
to the coast to avoid the current against us as best we could as
it was necessary to round the Isle de Batz with the tide later on.
There, the waves became fairly large and uncomfortable again, thank
God for a relatively short period of time only. Soon thereafter,
we reached the buoy that marked the entrance to the large channel
for l'Aber-Wrac'h. We passed lots of rocks, some we only knew were
there because of the chart and water breaking, others sticking out
ever so slightly. The coastline was beautiful, and it was nice to
get into this harbor. Unfortunately, the floating dock that is generally
there during the summer had already been removed. We were forced
to take a mooring in this very strong current - and had our problems
as I fastened the hook that we used in Sweden a lot and tied the
line to the center cleat rather than the bow cleat. We immediately
dug the buoy under and had a very hard time correcting my mistake.
Of course, thanks to Juergen's strength and ingenuity, it all worked
out in the end, we removed the hook but had now two lines going
through the eye of the buoy. This would ensure easy casting off
in the morning.
had pasta dinner on our boat together with our new friends as the
Pizzeria was closed - Veronique had craved pizza for a few days
already... There is always another harbor...
on foto to expand!
- an Oyster Fisher at work
26, 2006, Tuesday
left on a beautiful sunny morning though the fog rolled in over
the town of l'Aber-Wrac'h and it looked a little eerie. There was
no fog over the water, and we could turn off our radar very quickly.
The trip from here to Brest was about 40 nm and the scenery beautiful.
We passed through the Chenal du Four, a well-feared channel - in
bad weather, whereby bad weather in these waters is defined wind
even at Beaufort 4 to 5, against the tide as being dangerous, just
because of the enormous waves that form abruptly. We were lucky
and found the Chenal du Four very friendly -shoring its best side
and allowing us to enjoy the very rugged coastline with houses high
above the water. We rounded Le Conquet, a peninsula of rocks, a
beautiful light house and a church ruin, of course also a light
house right in the water to prevent people from running on the rocks
- all very picturesque - see for yourself.
on foto to expand!
light to Goulet de Brest
harbor - lots of navy ships and an old aircraft carrier
arrived in Brest in the late afternoon as we stayed with our friends
the entire trip. We had some trouble tying up our boat because the
wind pushed us away from the dock. A nice British woman arrived
and quickly took one of our lines, then the second, and I finally
could jump off to help. The dock we were tying up to had very strange
concrete contraptions which really did not lend themselves to jumping
onto the dock from a boat - the legs were highly endangered that
way, so I was very happy about her help.
four of us went to the bar called Autour du Monde (around the world)
where we had mussels, French fries and beer - talked a lot and went
happily back to our boats thereafter.
27, 2006, Wednesday
and Veronique took their boat to a wall near the harbor master's
office to let her fall dry. He thought that his propeller was all
dirty with barnacles as his boat seemed rather sluggish. They went
there in the dark at 0730 at high tide and now had to wait for the
water to recede. We went by to say hello around 0900 and learned
that Veronique had fallen off the boat into the water and was somewhat
shaken up. We tried to cheer them up a little. Juergen got his boots
and after the water was gone helped Jean-Pierre power washing the
bottom while Veronique and I tended to our laundry, sat down in
the bar for a glass of wine (around lunch time), had wonderful sandwich
lunch with our partners and tended to the laundry again. After all
was done and Alya tied up at the same dock as ours, except from
inside the harbor - we laid outside as they expected 80 boats to
arrive for a regatta - we went out for dinner in pouring rain. We
found a cute little restaurant just around the corner from the bar
Autour du Monde and had a nice dinner - I had the best Coquille
St. Jacques I have ever had. They are not just the muscle of the
clam we are used to but have another little piece that makes them
resemble mushrooms - in a way only. They were served over a salad
in a most delicious sauce - I was in seventh heaven...
all went to bed exhausted after agreeing to depart around 1000 the
next morning to take an approximately 10 nm trip to Camaret sur
Mer which is where we had wanted to go before Jean-Pierre needed
to go to Brest for the falling-dry operation.
28, 2006, Thursday
was gray, foggy and drizzling as we departed. We noticed that one
of our orange fenders was missing - it had been there the night
before when we returned from the restaurant. The only way to loose
it, in my mind, was by someone removing it, and Jean-Pierre confirmed
that there was a lot of commotion late in the night - i.e., my suspicion
was not ridiculous. Thus, we are left with just two - not very good
when it is blowing and we need strong protection against the docks
or walls we are generally tying up to. We don't want to use our
normal fenders for that as the fender covers were quite expensive
and they tear easily (one was already fixed, another is still torn
and is awaiting repair by sewing machine).
both tried to sail but there was not enough wind. Also the waves
became rather steep in the narrow passage of the Goulet de Brest,
so our engines were turned on until we got into more open waters
where we sailed again for a short period of time. We tied up in
Camaret sur Mer in the Port Vauban. The Port du Notic which is closer
to town does not accommodate boats larger than 11m. Our friends
came with us to Port Vauban so we could continue spending time together
walked into town in pouring rain to have a typical Bretagne meal,
Crepes, with ham, cheese and egg and a nice salad on top. We sat
under an awning in the rain, watching the goings-on in town, went
to purchase lobsters which were steamed right there for us to pick
up 30 minutes later. We went to purchase wine and baguette and sat
down on our boat for yet another wonderful meal and great conversation.
Our friendship seems to be deepening which all four of us seem to
on foto to expand!
29, 2006, Friday
had agreed last night to sleep in as the weather forecast for the
Raz de Sein, the Race of the Sein, was terrible. The Raz the Sein
is yet another one of these areas to avoid in winds and opposing
currents when the wind is blowing at Beaufort 4 or worse. It was
projected to be around 6 with gusts significantly higher as there
was a deep low just South of Ireland which was not expected to move
but to remain and strengthen - not a great outlook for either boat
morning, it was quite windy and very gray. We read in bed and did
not get up until the heat turned our cabin quite cozy - it is getting
quite cool at night already and the sun only rises after 0800 in
the morning. I finished cleaning the galley from last night and
began preparing the lobster bisque by boiling the shells from last
night. I found that Veronique had not eaten her lobster tail. I
removed it and cut it into small cubes for the bisque later on.
We played Backgammon after breakfast, but only five games. It is
getting too boring too soon, as I keep loosing.
immigration officers arrived and wanted to see our passports and
the boat documentation. They spoke very little English, but between
my French and their English we managed pretty well. They departed
after taking down all the information they needed. Their boat is
tied up to the dock next to us as there are quite a few foreign
boats in this tiny harbor (Swiss, Jean-Pierre, two Swedish boats
and at least one British, in addition to us). I am sure we were
not the only ones being visited by them.
just called to check where we were and to tell me that his dental
problems are still not gone. His dentist must have hurt a nerve
whose name I already forgot. He explained that this particular nerve
seems to "serve" the entire jaw and lips, so that Ulli
is in constant pain. When asked whether this would improve he responded:
I checked it out on the internet and I immediately closed the page
again ... I sure hope it will get better so that he can feel better.
30, 2006, Saturday
stayed in Camaret sur Mer again as the weather did not let up. We
took a walk into town, purchased yet another French chart to get
us through the Raz de Sein and to Concarneau whenever we would finally
depart, had a most delicious Crepes lunch at a tiny place where
the owner was the server, the chef, I am sure the cleaner, dish
washer, etc., all in one. He was a little weird but very friendly
and, of course, delighted when I ordered a second "fromage
et jambon" (ham and cheese) and Juergen a sweet one, Crepe
flambee avec Grand Marnier - amazing, I cannot even translate that
into English. How would one say this??? for those of you who understand
what I am talking about.
friends came over for dinner.
1, 2006, Sunday,
2, 2006, Monday
contiued staying in Camaret though Monday afternoon looked a lot
more promising, but the waves were reported to be unacceptable at
the Raz de Sein. The decision was made to depart
3, 2006, Tuesday
morning, just in time for us to arrive there at slack tide. We had
gone out for a delicious seafood dinner on Sunday night and had
dinner on our boat on Monday though we did not really have to leave
very early. We were ready at 1000 just as agreed. Jean-Pierre seemed
to need a little more time - according to Veronique, that is what
happens every time, but, to her amazement, he always arrives when
he says he would. So what is wrong with leaving a little late? We
just were not too happy about this as we would love to get moving.
On the other hand, he is very prudent in terms of timing is arrival
at the critical places, and so we stayed behind Alya, often reefing
or taking one sail in entirely not to get too fast.
started raining just before the Raz, everybody took their sails
in, Alya reefed the main to the third reef point and took the genoa
down. Poor Jean-Pierre. It seemed so awfully uncomfortable on the
bow of his boat as the waves certainly were not very kind. He claims
it is his choice and he does not mind it. We are glad not to have
to do this any more - though, at his age, we were pretty much doing
the same thing... we reminded ourselves. The rain let up pretty
quickly so we could enjoy the view of the various light houses,
the point of the Raz etc. - and all the sailboats that seemed to
have popped up just before slack tide to get through the Raz (race)
- we had not seen many of them until just about then.
was a very long day. By 2000, the sun went down, the moon rose to
almost full and lit our way. We had another 10 nm to go to get into
Concarneau. Jean Pierre had been there before and knew his way there.
He also had his chart plotter. Juergen is still communicating with
Garmin as the charts are unlocked on his computer but then the plotter
itself which he bought specifically for that purpose cannot unlock
the charts. We are getting the run-around from their tech support.
Most likely, by the time we are in the Caribbean or, for that matter,
back home in Milford will they solve our problem.... I am not very
happy with such ineffective "support".
entrance to Concarneau is very well marked even for night entry,
with a range light, lit buoys both port and starboard. It was a
great entry. The yacht harbor ("Port de Plaisance") lies
just next to the old town walls from the 12th or 13th century -
very impressive, and while I did not pay much attention to that
and the beauty of the houses right in port as we had some problems
with the current tying up to a dock, I was very happily enjoying
all of that the next morning in bright sun light. It was past 2200
by the time we had docked. I quickly prepared a clam chowder. Juergen
invited our friends over. They stayed just for an hour or so as
we were all tired from such a long day and happy to have made it
into this beautiful port town.
on foto to expand!
4, 2006, Wednesday
breakfast, Juergen and I walked around town, particularly the old
part, took pictures and video, went through a few stores, took a
brief look into the Museum of Fishery (Musee de Peche) and went
food shopping - we desperately needed some of the wonderful French
bread and some other goodies and wanted to have a Crepe lunch before
getting on our way to Lorient - actually Port Louis right near Lorient,
an approximately 30 nm run. We met with our friends who joined us
for the lunch and then said good-bye as they wanted to stop over
in another harbor while we were trying to find one that was easy
to get into and out of. We needed to take advantage of each and
every fair weather day and no longer wanted to spend the time with
Jean-Pierre and Veronique traveling slowly and needing 8 or 9 hours
for just about 35 to 40 nm trips. They, too, wanted to do things
differently than they had been with us "in tow". We all
were very happy to have spent the days together and to have met,
and now it was time to do "our thing again". We had an
easy and quick motor sail to Port Louis.
a disappointment of a harbor. The visitor dock had barely sufficient
room for us. The harbor master's office was closed so we could not
pay our dues. The sign in the door said that it would be closed
"exceptionally" for the following three days as well.
The "town" looked somewhat decrepid. We quickly returned
to our Impromptu, opened a bottle of wine, set up our Backgammon
game in the cockpit and enjoyed our arrival, always with a look-out
for Alya which should pass about 90 minutes later to go further
up river. We finally saw them but they did not respond to our call
on the VHF. As we found out later, they had already turned it off
at that point. Alya looked beautiful as she was moving smartly up
river, with both sails up and brightly lit by the evening sun.
boat came while we were still playing Backgammon. We helped them
dock on the other side of the visitor's dock.
5, 2006, Thursday
checked at the harbor master's office - just in case someone was
there to collect the dues. I met the two Frenchmen. We chatted briefly
about our plans of departing that morning for Port Haluguen on the
Quiberon Peninsula. They, too, indicated that this is not a very
pretty harbor, recommended another, in the end agreed that it was
practical and easy to get in and out. We did the navigation for
two other ports, all in the vicinity of Port Haluguen, just in case,
and went on our way. It was blustery, blowing between Beaufort 5
and 6, and the waves outside the harbor were rather steep. A "fishing
boat" (inflatable with some flag in the back) seemed to aim
for our boat. We tried to get out of its way - to no avail, until
we realized that this was a boat "Security". The French
marine had a firing practice going on, and they warned us to stay
out of a certain area, all in French. I had difficulty fully understanding
where we should or should not be until someone from another navy
ship spoke with me in English - Thank God. As opposed to his colleague,
he confirmed that we were ok to go to our indicated destination.
I once more repeated our intended course and destination. All was
well and we continued on our way without changing our intended route.
was it bumpy. The wind and waves came roughly from 100 - 120 degrees
to Impromptu. We were rolling and rolling and rolling - not exactly
fun. I decided not to get seasick, not to feel miserable, and to
just enjoy the day. It seemed to work - I also ate crackers whenever
I felt a little queezy. This way, I made it perfectly through the
day. We had slowed our boat to reach the next tricky point The Teignouse
Passage. We needed to arrive pretty much at slack tide and not with
the current against the wind. That slow motion had made the trip
less pleasant but at least we would not run into any issues at the
was still blowing quite hard. We saw lots of rocks near and not
so near the shore, plenty of cardinal buoys warning us of shallow
waters, rocks, wrecks. Charlie steered the entire way. We found
all the buoys before we finally turned East and later on even North
to get to our harbor.
Haluguen is a huge yachting harbor with a separate basin - the old
port - for fishing boats and local motor boaters. The only visitor's
dock seemed pretty much taken by locals as well. Still, we found
a spot - Juergen had to turn Impromptu around in a really tight
spot with a huge getty right next to us. How he did it, I don't
know, but he did it without touching ground or the dock or any other
boat - very professional, I must say. We quickly tied up and immediately
went to the harbor master's office to pay for the night. It sure
was not pretty but efficient. We were handed a weather report for
the next day, a map of the harbor area, some recommendations for
an internet cafe (there was no wifi service at the harbor itself
- what else is new???). We walked back to Impromptu and rested...
6, 2006, Friday
as the weather forecast had indicated, it was gray, blowing 7 to
8 Beaufort, raining. I was determined to utilize our harbor time
to do laundry. What I did not realize was that the washing machines
were in a building near the old port a very, I mean very, long way
from our boat. Still, after breakfast and a few rounds of Backgammon
I packed up and went my way. Juergen was to meet me there an hour
or so later... To make a long story short, Juergen came but could
really not do anything. So he took his computer to go to the internet
cafe - he thought...First, he could not find it. Then, after he
found it, it was closed. He returned to the boat, exhausted from
all the walking, and soaking wet from the rain which had started
had a little lunch on Impromptu, then checked our e-mails at the
harbor master's office - the lady was kind enough to permit us to
use her computer, then went to the local and highly recommended
Creperie where we had yet another delightful Crepe dinner with some
nice wine and walked back to Impromptu. The rain had stopped in
the meantime, the sun had come out just a little to raise our hopes
for a better day tomorrow and a nice sail or motor sail to Pornichet,
also about 35r nm away and easily reachable after a slow morning.
We tried to time our departure in such a way that we would have
the current with us most of the way.
7, 2006, Saturday
a difference to yesterday! The sun was shining, there was barely
any wind. The boat was dry and the entire harbor looked pretty.
We walked around the harbor after having finished our navigation
and decided that the current really did not matter but that the
day was so nice that we should leave "now". When we had
8.5 ft of water under our keel, we cast off our lines and exited
the harbor. After a few miles, we even saw Alya, briefly spoke with
Jean Pierre on the VHF and said good buy yet another time.
had a most pleasant trip, arrived at Pornichet - what a dreadful
place, all highrise buildings along the shore, no quaint little
old French house to be seen for miles, but lots and lots and lots
of sail and motor boats. We tied up at a "hammer head"
of a dock - those are specifically reserved for visitors and took
our usual stroll to the harbor master's office. At the tourist office,
we were given a map of the peninsula, shown were the nicest beaches
were - as if we wanted to go to a beach - we went to purchase more
French bread, a British newspaper (there are no US ones, nor any
Germans) and went back to Impromptu. We enjoyed watching other boats
come in - many racing boats with expensive sails, huge crews - and
many men just p.... into the harbor, not even concealing their action,
some just looking at me as they were doing it - I was appalled...
And Juergen watched the same today again - it is amazing. The French
seem to know no shame, nor do the Swedes if you may remember...
8, 2006, Sunday
left shortly past 0915. We said hello to the British couple that
we had met in Camaret sur Mer a few days ago and who had also departed
Camaret last Tuesday. They plan on departing for LaRochelle on Tuesday
only - we assume because of the spring tide which not only raises
sea levels but also doubles the strength of the current to unpleasant
strength - as we found out today... They plan on taking part in
the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) and to move from the Caribbean
through the Panama Canal into the Pacific - at least that is what
she told us a few days ago. We are surprised that they don't seem
to be in a greater rush as they still have a lot of "ground"
to cover to get to the Canary islands for a November 20 departure
with ARC, and the weather in the Bay of Biscay is not exactly getting
had a bumpy but ok trip to Ile d'Yeu, a small island on the way
to LaRochelle, about 32 nm from Pornichet and about 63nm from LaRochelle,
The currents are so crazy here that and ebbing tide does not mean
that the water is running one way, just as a rising tide does not
mean the opposite. We felt that at times the current was with us,
then it pushed us sideways, then it was against us, pushing us in
the other direction, and so it went for the almost 4.5 hours it
took to make today's trip. The harbor entrance was difficult to
make out against the sunlight. A ferry entering as well as two other
sailboats exiting the harbor made it a little easier for us. We
tried to find the visitor's dock which was well marked in the pilot
books we have been using. All spaces were taken by local boats,
and the harbor master did not respond on Channel 9 on the VHF. As
we found out later on, they are closed on Sundays. A large motor
boat motioned to us that they were taking off. So we finally had
a spot to go into with a dock just barely reaching to our gate.
Still, it is a pleasant little harbor filled with hundreds of tiny
motor boats and a few sailboats.
enjoyed lunch in the cockpit in sunshine, then walked into town.
Lots of people were waiting for the departure of their ferries.
It was Sunday late afternoon, time to get home for tomorrow's school,
work, or whatever. The harbor cafes did not look very inviting,
and so we returned to Impromptu to do our navigation, check the
weather report and have dinner. It is supposed to rain heavily in
the morning tomorrow, the wind is to ease. Let's see what the day
on foto to expand!
9, 2006, Monday
was supposed to pour at around 0600 this morning. Instead, around
0400, the rain began, but just a soft subtle rain, nothing that
would have deterred us from going. The tides, however, will be in
our favor around 1400 only, and as we decided not to battle the
current today, we decided to take it easy, sail / motor-sail to
Les Sables d'Olonnes only, an approximately 32 nm trip. This will
reduce tomorrow's trip to LaRochelle by almost this much, i.e.,
tomorrow is expected to be an easy day as well. The sun came out
after a while. Juergen dried the dodger panes so that we will have
unsalted "windows" to look through as we go - that is
assuming that we will not have the wave action we "suffered
through" yesterday. The boat was constantly awash by the sea,
some waves even had made it into the cockpit. We paid the harbor
master who was working today - the winter fee of Euro 14.70 for
our boat, at least one advantage for moving about this late in the
season. If our pilot book is correct, we will get the third night
free in LaRochelle. We will see...
arrived in Les Sables d'Olonnes around 1900. The harbor master was
still there and permitted us to remain at the check-in dock. It
would have been quieter in the harbor itself, but we did not know
that when we asked to stay there. Still, it was not bad... A lot
of people tried to speak with Juergen but his French is rather limited,
and so many of them walked away... I remained at the harbor master's
to check emails on his computer. There is no wifi...
on foto to expand!
Sables d'Olonnes the next morning.... when I purchased Fresh
10, 2006, Tuesday
up earlier than we have been in the past few days. I wanted to walk
around this little town a little and get fresh croissants for breakfast.
Juergen thought I was crazy, but then... I am crazy. The town was
awake though not abuzz. There were people sitting in the bars drinking
coffee, reading the newspaper and eating croissants already. Some
parents took their kids to school. Others did what I was out to
do, bought breakfast. I quickly found a small bakery with delicious
bread and croissants, then I stopped at a butcher's to get something
for lunch, took some pictures and walked back to Impromptu. Juergen
was up and we both enjoyed our lovely fare.
to the post office for stamps so I could finally mail my postcards
that had been written a few days ago. Initially, we only wanted
to depart around 1400 to catch the tide, but then, Juergen did not
feel comfortable leaving Impromptu unattended (I wonder why, because
the tide was quide low and it would have been more than obvious
if someone had climbed down the ladder to get to our boat). We decided
to depart at 1130 even if that meant going against the tide for
had a wonderful ride to La Rochelle. It was sunny, we could enjoy
the coast line almost the entire way. There were picturesque little
villages along the short, sometimes right on the water, sometimes
high above the water on a steep cliff. The high rises had long stopped,
and it became real quaint and wonderful again. In between the coastline
became totally flat, an unusual sight recently. After a while we
started seeing the first signs of Ile de Re, the island right in
front of La Rochelle. Unfortunately, we were too far away to see
any great detail. The water in the bay was very shallow and we were
concerned whether we would make it but the tide had risen for at
least two if not three hours. We "inched" our way towards
La Rochelle, under the bridge that connects the Ile de Re with the
mainland, passed the commercial harbor which is built into the ocean
with just a getty that protects part of this harbor. Our passage
continued past the commercial harbor, the fishing harbor and then
we finally saw lots of masts - the Port des Minimes, a marina with
4000, yes, Nancy, four thousand, boats, mostly sail, a few motor.
3000 thereof are for permanent residents, 1000 for visitors. We
had called a few days ago to ensure that there was space for us
as we had been told by Jean Pierre that a lot of British people
keep their yachts there over the winter and that it might not be
easy to find room for Impromptu. We found it was not a problem.
We tied up at the gas dock where we were greeted by a young Frenchman
who even spoke English. We registered the boat, explained what we
needed and that we would initially pay for one month, possibly to
extent to some time in January when the Dockwise ship would depart,
and all was done. They even have internet access "wifi"
here for Euro 6 we can use the internet without limit for a whole
week - I am in heaven!!!
11, 2006, Wednesday
walked around the area a bit but it was gray, rainy and cold so
we did not venture very far. There are a few little restaurants,
a couple of small shops - at least we can buy wine and bread and
some produce though the selection is more than limited (or less
than limited???). We played Backgammon a lot, read and just rested,
made some phone calls and received a visit from the agent for Dockwise
to discuss our arrival and following procedure. He asked a colleague
to come by to discuss how to move the boat onto the ship etc. Unfortunately,
that colleague has not shown up yet, not even after the second day,
and we have not received a phone call either explaining his absence.
We are not happy.
12, 2006, Thursday
waited all morning for both agents to visit - no such thing. The
first one explained that he had not heard from custom yet who he
had contacted on our behalf as we will be exceeding the 18 month
limit of visiting the EU without payment of VAT and that he would
call us the next day to let us know when he was coming. He also
wanted to talk to his colleague again....
spoke to someone concerning short hauling our boat, power washing
and painting it some time early January before Impromptu gets put
on the ship. We visited a few chandleries as we needed a new compass
light (nobody seems to have 24V bulbs). We took a stroll into town
for the first time. What a delight. It is a quaint little place,
surrounded by huge town walls dating from 1000 - 1300. There are
two small harbor basins right in town, one locked in by a bridge
that gets raised from time to time, the other seems to be open at
all times, but we have read somewhere that the water depth is questionable
and there is limited room for larger size boats - well that is not
quite true for the basin enclosed by the bridge where we have seen
quite a few very large boats that dwarf ours. We also saw the boat
of the British couple there who we had met in Camaret sur Mer for
the first time. They were not aboard though...
decided to have lunch in the old part of town, inspired by the many
people that sat outside enjoying the Fall sun with a nice beverage
and delicious seafood. We went to "Andre's", a terrific
place with perfect service and super delicious mussels and fries.
Juergen had a very nice mixed seafood appetizer and grilled tuna
with dock liver. We hopped into the water taxi that had been advertised
to go from the old port (where we had had lunch) to Port des Minimes.
A lot of people were on the water taxi which surprised me. The boat
stopped right across the harbor and everyone got off. We asked whether
they would not continue to Port Minimes to be told that there was
no boat going there.... (as Juergen found out later, it is running
daily during the summer season only and right now, its service is
limited to weekends - too bad). So we had to walk back the mile
on foto to expand!
des Minimes - "our" marina in La Rochelle
Port (Old Harbor)
out the town (St. Nicholas Quarter)
13, 2006 Friday
it is Friday, the 13th, and it shows. I just messed up one of my
favorite shirts by cleaning our ice chest with Clorox - some mildew
had made its way into the cover, which I wanted to clean... instead
my shirt is ruined... We did a few other things in preparation of
Impromptu for her lonely winter stay here - we took the genoa off
this morning - part of it ended up in the water. We pulled her out
and let the wind dry her before we flaked her as best as possible
on deck of Impromptu and put her down below. We cleaned other parts
of the boat, and I started washing woolen sweaters which I will
not be able to put into the washing machine nor into the dryer.
friends are scheduled to arrive around noonish on Sunday, and they
will stay till Tuesday - we need to find a small hotel for them.
As we plan on departing from La Rochelle to visit with my brother
and family on Wednesday, that will not leave us with a lot of time
to do all the laundry, clean all of the down below, remove our bedding,
disconnect the batteries and stow most of the electronics out of
people's sight for the transport. This also means we will have to
purchase the train tickets today (we checked into flights, but one
way trips from here to Duesseldorf or Cologne cost more than a round
trip flight to New York). We will rent a car in Cologne so we are
flexible getting to and from my brother's, visiting with some people
in my home town, etc.
had been recommended a few restaurants in town. We hope to enjoy
dinner in one of them tonight. But Juergen is resting from a long
walk to various chandleries to also find a large luggage bag with
wheels as our large suit cases are both at home and we have too
many things to take back home for our two small suit cases and our
will be my last update for this season and for our trip to Europe.
We hope you enjoyed some of our descriptions and photos. We will
write again once we are in Martinique. We will alert you by e-mail
once that is starting. For now, thanks for sending e-mails, checking
into our travel progress and letting us know what was up with you.
We enjoyed receiving mails from many of you and hope to be in touch
some time over the winter - one way or another - and to resume our
"conversation" in February of 2007 again.