After a bit of fannying around with the Marina staff we were ushered to our visitors berth for the next three nights, luckily it was pay for 2 nights get a 3rd free, so we were all ready for a holiday away from our holiday, for a real break with showers, electricity, a bit of internet and some good stuff to do. We had made La Rochelle a bit of a big deal, making it such a significant milestone in our adventure and building it up so much that when we finally arrived it felt like a bit of an anticlimax. Not helped as our marina was actually about 2 miles outside La Rochelle itself, meaning a long walk, bus or ferry. First of all we needed showers, we had a few days sweat on and had only had washes in the sea, apparently Holly’s hair feeling like straw was worse that the 2004 tsunami…..Ready for a long hot amazing shower we headed to the Capitainerie only to find out it was €1 for 7 minutes of typical French shower designed to save water!!!! However still an upgrade from washing in the ogin. Once cleaned up, it was about 12 o’clock so we walked into town to try and find a chandlery as we had ran out of gas onboard for cooking and to find some lunch, completely forgetting that this entire country shuts between 12 and 2, so what turned out as a quick trip turned into a 3 hour painstaking outing. We were hungry, thirsty & exhausted from the night sail unfortunately it all got too much for 1 crew mate and she descended into a tired hangry tantrum & then rapidly into full blow melt down. She decided to return to ship with a thirsty hot Scramplely Scrat Bag leaving poor Simon to it, like a good egg he returned with gas & moral in the form of a take away pizza and what can only be describes as a kg of chips each. We settled in for an early night with plans of spending the next two days living the dream…..
Following a decent sleep it was time to tackle the epic bundle of ‘Dhobi’, that is washing to those of you who don’t know. Its a Naval / RM thing (google it!). So 24kg of washing later and an afternoon spent in ‘La Laverie Du Port’ the boat looked more like a fancy washing line than a yacht. While I was dealing with the washing Simon had the joys of fixing the Heads (Toilet) as the pump was becoming rather stiff, so he had to take apart the pipework & pump, clean it all and put it back together. All was fixed with the help of some olive oil & it was a joy to use again …..& no need to syphon any pooh pipes this time ….bonus!
At 4pm we decided it was time to bin off the chores & do some sighting seeing so we embraced the epic walk into town, taking our furry 3rd member of crew (as always) for some exercise. It turned into a 3 & half hour romp but we found a nice big park & treated ourselves to ice creams, but this was still not feeling like the holiday we had expected. That evening we were then engulfed in a Gale Force 10, 50 Kts of wind rattled through the marina, clattering masts & flapping around our semi broken awning like crazy, bringing epic rain with it! We were glad to be alongside but we didn’t get a wink of sleep.
The following day you could barely walk, so we spend the morning having a lay in ….obviously! Once outside it wasn’t as bad as it sounded but still strong gusts every now & again and sporadic rain. Holly took Scrumps for a walk, only to find someones yacht out of the water on stilts had been completely blown over cracking the whole starboard side… bad times for them. We decided it was time for a trip to the Supermarche, for more supplies (more importantly biscuits) so we took Scrumps on another epic walk, including another trip the chandlery for some bits (this time when to was open!). That evening we got the bus into La Rochelle just the two of us and had a nice restaurant meal as a treat, Holly”s seafood platter was a little OTT, although partial to to crab, prawns & oysters she backed herself & tried the welks & winkles but left most of them!
It had been a nice little break in La Rochelle but we were itching to get back out to sea, our favourite part has been the anchoring in bays and staying in small harbours. Being alongside, nowhere near the town & not much money to do the tourist thing, wasn’t our idea of paradise….we were getting itching feet and so decided the 4th day was time to move on.
After a quick rondevous to La Rochelle Cathedral which Holly was keen on seeing before we left (taking the dog too as we wanted to make sure he was not only well travelled but well educated) we left the marina around 4pm. Although the winds were in the wrong direction, they were strong so it would be a bit of a fight but we were set for Santander in Spain, 212 Miles away. We were more than excited to get underway, until we go outside of the port entrance and realised not everyday was as nice as the past 10 days had been, it was grey and gloomy and a bit choppy, but with 3 days sailing ahead we were anxious to start ticking off the miles. Unfortunately all of a sudden about 2 miles out of port, one of our supporting shackles on the boom ripped off bringing down part of the rigging…..so miserably we about turned and headed back into the same gloomy dull Marina to moor back up for the night.
Morning came and the sun was out, I got the bike out and rode to the chandlery to get the bits for the repair, and between us we spent the whole day doing all sorts or minor and major repairs, including the previous nights misdemeanour. So 6pm came and off we set again, we were now climbing the walls to leave this time…..wishful thinking. This was by far the most demoralising time at sea we had experienced…All started well, out the harbour sails up and nice and calm. Until about 4 miles in when the wind switched and was just beating head on to us. No dramas though, as Holly had become a tacking legend from the previous sail. Unfortunately this was not the case, the wind was too strong and for 4 hours we tacked into the wind and covered 2 miles, with this delay it meant the tide was now against us, as it came sweeping round the island we had to get past. I was adamant that the world GPS system had gone down and that both GPS receivers on board were wrong, the only explaination was that a satellite was out of sync……or I made a miscalculation….I still think it was a broken satellite. So engine on…..the sea was getting slightly rougher and it was 12am by now, Holly and scrumpy popped down for a sleep. I had this covered…. 🙂 so i told myself. As we rounded the island things improved, yet we had come to the decision to push past the island about 30 miles and moor up for the night in a small port, and head for Spain the next day. A technician must have been called out in an emergency and got the GPS satellite up and running again, as all was in order!!!!. Except one flashing buoy that I could not find on any of my charts? I was confused, I couldn’t tell the distance, only the sequence of flashes (This is what is used to determine each buoy and there meanings in the dark), it wasn’t there, I was starting to panic, was it land? I gave it a wide berth, until somehow out of know where we were right by it, that wasn’t the problem, it was the string of 100’s of tiny buoys leading off it, it was fishermans net. OK I though…luckily we hadn’t crossed them, so I did a quick turn and rounded the side of the lit buoy without the nets. This manoeuvring had awoken Holly and La chien….they came out of to see the commotion, and we both watched in amazement as a light slowly started heading towards us, it got brighter and brighter until we realised it was a fishing trawler, everywhere we turned they turned, they were flashing us with a search light (Holly believed this was morse code…. mmmh Really!!!)
and honking their horn. They kept sharply turning to create a large wash and were all on deck screaming at us “Nets, Nets, Nets”, as it was the only English they knew. We knew the bloody things were there and in my opinion had gone round the lit buoy that marked the beginning of the string. They however did not….they just wouldn’t leave us alone, genuinely scarily harassing us, to the point we though they were going to sink us!!! Maybe a little mellow dramatic, but it wasn’t nice. So much so, that after 10 minutes we turned around to head back round the other side of the island to find an anchorage for the night…and re sail in daylight. The charted anchorage was unfortunately non existent. By this time it was 2 am, and raining and a pissed of grumpy crew about turned and demoralisingly headed for the monotonous La Rochelle for another night. We arrived back to a berth at about 3 am, cold wet & disappointed and went to bed.