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September 18 - October 13, 2006: Guernsey to La Rochelle

September 18, 2006, Monday

We 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.

We walked around town. What a beautiful little place. See for yourself:

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Images of Treguier

Of 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.

September 21, 2006

Well, 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.

We 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.

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Photos from our little Land Voyage
Check out the Markers on land - normally under water but clearly visible at Ebb Tide....
The restaurant in Paimpol advertising the availability of Abalones (Ormeaux)

September 22, 2006, Friday

Jean-Pierre 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

Dinner 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.

September 23, 2006, Saturday

We 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...

Veronique 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 a thunderstorm.

September 24, 2006, Sunday

The 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.

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Trebeurden Harbor
- at high...and low tides....

September 25, 2006, Monday

We 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.

We 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...

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L'Aber-Wrac'h - an Oyster Fisher at work

September 26, 2006, Tuesday

We 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.

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Le Conquet ...
Entrance light to Goulet de Brest
Alya fallen dry
Brest harbor - lots of navy ships and an old aircraft carrier

We 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.

All 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.

September 27, 2006, Wednesday

Jean-Pierre 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...

We 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.

September 28, 2006, Thursday

It 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).

We 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 easily.

We 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 enjoy.

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Images of Camaret-sur-Mer

September 29, 2006, Friday

We 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 and crew.

This 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.

Two 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.

Ulli 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.

September 30, 2006, Saturday

We 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.

Our friends came over for dinner.

October 1, 2006, Sunday,
October 2, 2006, Monday

We 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

October 3, 2006, Tuesday

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.

It 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.

It 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".

The 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.

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Concarneau, gorgeous without all the Summer Tourists

October 4, 2006, Wednesday

After 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.

What 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.

A French boat came while we were still playing Backgammon. We helped them dock on the other side of the visitor's dock.

October 5, 2006, Thursday

We 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.

Boy 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 Teignouse...

It 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.

Port 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...

October 6, 2006, Friday

Just 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 again.

We 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.

October 7, 2006, Saturday

What 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.

We 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...

October 8, 2006, Sunday

We 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 any nicer....

We 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.

We 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 will bring.

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Ile d'Yeu

October 9, 2006, Monday

It 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...

We 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...

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Les Sables d'Olonnes the next morning.... when I purchased Fresh Croissants...


October 10, 2006, Tuesday

I got 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.

I went 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 a while.

We 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!!!

October 11, 2006, Wednesday

We 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.

October 12, 2006, Thursday

We 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....

We 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...

We 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 or so...

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Port des Minimes - "our" marina in La Rochelle
Vieux Port (Old Harbor)
City Hall
Checking out the town (St. Nicholas Quarter)

October 13, 2006 Friday

Yes, 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.

Our 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.

We 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 camera bags.

This 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.