Sunday, 2 August 2015

Onwards and upwards

After a couple of years of silence, I’m back!

The last two years have been very interesting.  After Wendy’s odd departure, there was a fairly frantic time to get back to some sort of financial stability, as she had cleared out the bank accounts and left me with very little. 

I realised that I needed to return to the UK, and so after La Route 2013, (the big maritime festival which has become a regular feature of my sailing calendar) I headed north to Audierne.  A contact in the Torpoint Mosquito sailing club introduced me to a couple of fine young lads who jumped at the chance of doing a cross channel trip, and so all was set for the return.

Before leaving Audierne, I decided to dry the boat out next to the harbour wall for a quick scrub to remove any stowaways.  Audierne has a flat granite bottom next to the quay which is perfect for the job, and so we were tied up ready.  As the tide fell, a large motor launch went past, producing an enormous three foot breaking wash. Freya Frey rose and fell with the wash, landing on the solid granite with a sickening bone-shaking bang, again and again, until finally the sound changed to a splintering crunch, followed by the sound of running water.  The leading edge of the port keel had been pushed through the hull, and there was a hole big enough to put my hand through.  We were in real trouble!

The hull, after removing the sikaflex

When I worked for the Royal Navy at HMS Raleigh, I had the experience of being in the DRIU (also known as Havoc) which is a damage control instruction unit.  Essentially, it is the centre section of a frigate on massive hydraulic rams which simulate the motion of a warship in heavy seas. The exercise consists of being below decks, and the motion starts.  It is so realistic that within a few minutes it is all but impossible not to believe that you are on a warship at sea.  Then there is a loud bang and the lights go out as the ship is hit by enemy fire.    Water immediately starts spurting in from splits in the steel bulkheads and up from the decks.  It is the task of the trainees to stem the flow of water coming in and save the ship by hammering wooden wedges into the splits and shoring up with pieces of wood.  
As the water poured in to the galley, I went straight into DRIU mode, stemming the flow with a tea towel stuffed into a cereal bowl wedged in place with cutlery. The tide continued to recede and we were left high and dry – for the moment. I inspected the damage.  There was a six-inch split across the hull, and the weight of the boat on the keel was keeping it wide open.  When the tide came back in we would be inundated, unless I could fix it.  I ran around the harbour, scrounging pieces of timber (not an easy thing to do in a tiny town at 9pm!) which I could use to cantilever the hull back together.  I decided to use Sikaflex (sailors are familiar with this:  it’s a general purpose sealant/adhesive which sticks like you-know-what to a blanket) and lever the hull to close the split. As the tide came in the keel would pull back down and squeeze the Sika into a watertight seal – I hoped!
Six hours of sweat followed.  The tide came in and we floated off. Miraculously the sika made a perfectly watertight repair, and we moved the boat off the wall.  Sure enough it was watertight, but if the boat was put on the ground again it might open up.   We set sail for the UK, with me constantly and nervously monitoring the repair, but it held and we made a safe passage back to Plymouth.
I was then offered some work by my very good friend Ali, whose boat needed significant TLC.   The boat was in a yard at Walton on the Naze, near Ipswich, which was a pretty long sail from Plymouth, but with prevailing SouthWesterly winds I made good progress, helped by a couple of friends who helped crew.  After a couple of weeks I arrived at Walton, and the boat was hauled out and put next to Ali’s.  Initially we thought it was not much more than sanding and re-painting, and so I cracked on with the work until the weather turned too wet and cold.
I then got a call from Ana, a friend in Spain, who was apparently being rushed into hospital and needed someone to teach and even act as Director of Studies in her English Language school.  Could I come out and do the job for six months? There were a hundred nurses in Ferrol waiting to start classes.  She was desperate. Accommodation would be provided along with a car and I would be properly paid.  I agreed.  I flew out a few days later.
When I got to Spain, I was introduced to my lodgings – a lovely three bedroom apartment with a sea view.  The car was a rather old and cranky Fiat Panda, but it was a car.  I was to be introduced to my first client on Monday, but in the meantime I should settle in and get comfortable, which I did.
The view from the patio of my apartment

Monday came and I was introduced to my first client, Michelle.  I was astonished by her English, which was as good as any native speaker, even down to a Hampshire accent.  I commented on this, and she said she came from the Isle of Wight.  I was confused. Why then did she need me to teach her English?  She didn’t!  But she did need me to look after her 4-year-old son for 38 hours a week, while she taught English at a language school.  As remuneration I would have the free use of the apartment with all bills paid, use of the car with 20 euros worth of fuel each week, and ...  wait for it ...  40 euros cash payment.  I – who had zero childcare experience - had been tricked into travelling to Spain to earn a euro an hour as a nanny!  I was well and truly cornered.  I would immediately lose the roof over my head if I quit, and I desperately looked for an escape route.  After a week, I managed to find temporary lodging on a Spanish friend’s boat, and I quit the job.  It turned out that Ana is known as “Ana loca” (crazy Ana), and that her language school does not exist, and has never done so.  A teacher I know in the town explained to me that she is delusional, incapable of distinguishing between the world as it is and the way she would like it to be.  She really believes she has a language school, and even pointed out to me the magnificent building in Ferrol where it supposedly is based.   Later she denied offering my anything, and kept this denial up, even when I confronted her with the emails she had sent me.  How sad.
In the meantime, I needed to get some sort of income.  Then a British couple arrived in Ortigueira in a 15m yacht, having read my article in Practical Boat Owner magazine.  They had decided to leave the boat in the marina over the winter, but had not realised how few berths were available.  Their insurance required that the boat should not be left unattended for more than 24 hours, and they offered me a  job boatminding, which essentially meant going on board each day and spending a couple of hours checking that all was well and having a beer or some coffee.  I accepted gladly, and even spent a few nights on board. 

Mid-December, and 24 degrees!  Warm enough to discard my shirt and have a beer on deck!

As Christmas approached, the weather turned colder, and even went below freezing a couple of times, although the days were still pleasantly warm.  Being on board the boat overnight was not fun when it got that cold, even when I slept fully-clothed inside the sleeping bag.  I needed to get somewhere ashore.
I made some enquiries of my friend Mila in the Tourist Office, and she called a lawyer friend of hers.  The conversation which followed was full of assurances that I was honest, clean, and reliable, and then the lawyer suddenly asked “What, you mean the Cornish chap?  Mila, surprised, replied “yes”.  The previous year I had helped a young fisherman out when his dory was holed on a rock.  He was in despair, but I glassed it up for him in a couple of hours, and he was delighted.  I refused any payment, saying that this is what sailors do for each other, although I did accept his warm invitation to go and have dinner in his home.  It turned out that the lawyer was his sister, and that their mother had a family holiday apartment in the town, and having shown myself to be a decent sort...  well, let’s just say they were delighted to help me out.

Inside the lovely apartment

There followed many parties, full moon suppers and a magnificent traditional English Christmas dinner with my friends.

These were some of the happiest times I have ever known.  Surrounded by lovely people, continual laughter.  They are very dear to me...

In the spring Wendy finally agreed to release my property from the storage unit, giving me a fixed date to meet in Cornwall, so I travelled back to sort it out.  When I arrived back in England, there was an email waiting for me, telling me that she had changed her mind, and had already done it.  It transpired that there was a fair bit missing, and some stuff broken through mishandling. The excuse for not returning my tools was that they were in the car when it was scrapped, whilst my crystal glasses were not there because “they got broken”.  No apology, no offer to replace the broken items, but that was the last contact I had with her, and from my point of view it was good riddance.  I was busy getting on with the rest of my life.  I cashed in an investment bond and bought a Honda Deauville which was a great machine, and which enabled me to get around again.

Honda Deauville 650.  With panniers, topbox, heated grips, full fairing...

An offer of work came along with the MOD, and I grabbed it with both hands.  Several short contracts later and my finances were looking better.  Between times I was working on Ali’s boat, sanding, painting and plumbing.  I was meeting new people in the sailing world, and looking forward to getting the boat sorted again.  

But that is something for next time!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Epilogue - La Route de l'Amitie.

It seems strange to be writing this blog, which has in the main been Wendy's work rather than mine, but this is to be the final entry, for reasons which will become clear.

You'll all remember the last entry from three weeks ago, with the exuberance of looking forward to the great sailing event, La Route de l'Amitie. 

We arrived in my favourite Breton port, Audierne, with some sadness, knowing that Jean-Louis, whom I loved like the brother I never had, had died a week earlier.  He was one of the most generous men I have ever met, and his parting leaves the world a sadder place.  We entered port in more sombre mood than normal, with the big Welsh dragon flag that he had given us two years ago flying at half mast on our bow as a mark of respect for him. His boat was still there, with his dragon flying valiantly in the breeze at his masthead. It seemed like a last goodbye from someone I loved very dearly.  Later, people would remark that they knew we must have been friends of his from our flag.  I'm glad we did it.   

We had a couple of weeks to get ready, and Wendy took advantage of the opportunity to go and see her daughter, Amy, in Guernsey. I had a frantic week of being taken out to dinner, invited on boats for aperos  and much music-making and jollity.  On her return I hired a car and picked her up from St Malo, as well as my very dear friend of thirty years, Ann, who had flown out to Brest to join us for the event.

Wendy was full of talk about a retired Deputy Chief Constable she had met on the ferry, how they had talked and talked for the whole journey.  At one point Wendy asked him directly if he would be attracted to her if she were not in a relationship.  She even arranged for him to come and visit us on the boat, and Ann and I were a little amused by the obvious chemistry between them, especially his blinkered tastes in food which were even more extreme than Wendy's.  This immediately removed any vestige of interest that Ann might have had in him, as she, like me, is adventurous where food is concerned.  Curiously, after his visit, Wendy became rather distant, and rejected affection, but in the confines of a small boat taking part in a big festival, with late nights of revelry and early morning starts, the opportunities for discussion are very limited, and there was always something getting in the way.  So I let it rest, thinking that in two or three days when things were more tranquil we would have the chance to do some talking.

On the last day of the festival, Wendy told Ann that she was going back to the UK for a job interview to earn some money to fill our cruising coffers. She told Annie that she needed to take a lot of clothes back to London for work, and persuaded Marcel to accept bags of stuff onto his boat for Annie to take home with her.  Late on Sunday, Wendy told me that she was going back to the UK the following morning, which was unexpected, as that was a week earlier than we had originally contemplated.  I was rather put out by that short-notice change of plan, and was actually rather annoyed when it was presented as a fait accompli, not up for discussion or negotiation, as it left me short-handed for getting the boat to the Gironde for the winter and our subsequent plans for the Canal du Midi in the spring.  Wendy refused to come to the last night of the festival, so Ann and I went alone - my presence was obligatoire in the words of the organisers.   When Ann and I returned it was late, and the atmosphere with Wendy was icy.

The following morning Wendy was picked up by her friend Annie, leaving Ann and me to carry on for the next week.  The atmosphere was still icy and Wendy didn't say a word to me, not even to say goodbye when she stepped ashore. 

On our return  to the boat I noticed that I could not find the big camera which Wendy had bought us for Christmas.  "It'll turn up" I thought.  A few hours later I noticed that the rucksack of photographic equipment (most of which Wendy has no idea how to use) had gone.  It included all of the photos for the article I was writing for the yachting press about the festival we had just done.  Given that Wendy hates carrying unnecessary weight owing to her whiplash injury a few years back, I was dumbfounded.   After all, even on short trips ashore she usually preferred to carry her lightweight camera. Then I noticed more things missing: the cuddly mascots which have voyaged with us over the last two years; her teddy bear; little things like packs of hairgrips, and toothbrush heads.  I went to our secret hiding place where we keep a stash of about three hundred euros for emergencies: there was only 50 euros in the safe.  I looked around the boat more thoroughly.  There was much more missing.  Even her oilskins, fleeces and wetsuit had gone. This was stuff that she would have no conceivable need of for a temporary accountancy job in London.  But how had she carried it all?  It was far more than the modest luggage she had taken in the morning.  It would have filled a large car boot, and it was only later that the truth emerged about the way she had ticked Annie into helping her move out. Annie was of course utterly horrified when she discovered how she had been used.  

It was obvious  now that Wendy was not going to the UK "for a month or so" but that she had actually jumped ship, and had taken a lot of our joint assets with her.   I went online on our UK account and moved some money across to my own account as a precaution, as it was obvious that something was very wrong.  It was just as well that I did, because shortly afterwards I got a secure message from the bank confirming that they had closed the account and that  they were sending a cheque out in settlement according to *my* instructions.  Later when I went ashore to get some cash from the French Euro account, the ATM refused my request, referring me to the card issuer.  Alarm bells started ringing loudly.  It later turned out that Wendy had withdrawn 500 euros, even though she knew that this was my only source of local currency now that she had closed the Santander account.  In closing that account and taking the proceeds, she had even left me with  the bill on my credit card for her trip to see Amy, and because she had taken the money and closed the account, the direct debit would fail, and I would be unable to make the payment on time.
Then, trying to contact the bank from the only UK mobile on board (their helpline cannot be called from an overseas number) I discovered that the UK SIM had been blocked to outgoing texts and calls and a message came back to "contact the service provider".  This was something which had been planned very carefully. 

Some time later I got a message from Wendy's dad, telling me that he was sad that Wendy had told him that she was ending our relationship. Although it was obviously no surprise to me by this time, I was still annoyed to receive the confirmation in this way.  It would have been nice to have been the first, rather than the last to know. Days after the event, she said via Facebook that she was sorry it had to end that way.  Of course, it was her choice to end it that way, not mine.  I am not a monster:  If she had been honest with me, we could have parted with trust and respect intact.   Instead she chose deceit and betrayal, which destroyed in a matter of seconds the trust and respect which had been built up over six and a half years.   

A few days later, I discovered that she had  actually decided months ago to end the relationship but had "decided to stick it out until the end of the summer", as she had said to one of her friends.  That at least explained something which had left me completely baffled all of this season:  In previous years,  Wendy had been an excellent First Mate aboard Freya Frey, and we had always worked together as a well-oiled team.  This year, she had become careless, clumsy, and even uncooperative, and appeared to have become incapable of  teamworking on board, and this had become a source of irritation to me.  At times it seemed almost as though she was deliberately trying to irritate me, and I'm certainly aware that there were times when she succeeded.  Knowing what I know now about her months of premeditation, it all now fits...
I remembered the Serenity Prayer:  "Give me the strength and courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference"   
There is no point in wishing things were otherwise.  The old Irish joke came to mind (no offence intended to anyone!)
Mick:                                     Hello Paddy!  Can you be telling me the way to Dublin?
[Paddy scratches his head and then his chin.]
Paddy [triumphantly]:   Ah, to be sure.  If I was wanting to be going to Dublin, I wouldn't be starting                                       from here!
The moral of the tale is that we are where we are, and it is pointless wishing we were elsewhere!

So, after all of that, what next?
Well firstly, although I was left in the lurch at a few hours' notice, I seem to have got things sorted. Perhaps it is the years of TA study that have borne fruit.  I used the flush of anger and consequent adrenaline rush to  get on with changing the things I could change,  spending hours overnight updating my CV and making applications for jobs, rather than wasting energy over things I could not affect, like wondering about where Wendy was or what she was doing.   It has paid off.  Within two days I had confirmation of a job in Galicia, managing a language school.  Two days later I had an offer of crew to get the boat across Biscay, and the day after that he was on the ferry to France.  We depart as soon as we have the weather window. 

Galicia is of course a place very dear to my heart, following the eight months I lived there last year.  I have many treasured friends there, and could see myself settling there permanently.  The sound of Galician pipes - sometimes merely the thought of the sound of them, as is the case now! -  can bring a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.  The prospect of living and working there is deeply attractive to me.  I am at home there...
Secondly, and really astonishing, is my emotional response to all of this.  Rather than being in bits as you (and I for that matter!) might have expected, I'm actually feeling very positive.  I've noticed scores of little things, all of which are positive: being able to cook fish and curry on board; the absence of a trail of half-dried sticky saliva down the handle of the electric toothbrush every morning from Wendy's ablutions the night before; no more clumps of hair left to clog the shower outlet.  individually these seem petty:  taken together they provide an increasing feeling of relief and freedom. 

I don't find myself longing for Wendy's face, her hair or her touch. On the other hand,  I'm not consumed with anger. The photos of her on our digital photo frame no longer arouse feelings of affection, but neither do they arouse hatred.  Just disappointment, and disgust that someone who was so emphatic in the way she presented herself as always being meticulously truthful no matter what the consequences, could have lied to me and to so many other people about something so important.   I'm getting on with what has to be done, and doing it with plenty of laughter and fun, and enjoying the freedom of not having a veto placed on everything I suggest, from food to destinations.  The curious thing is that I don't feel upset or heartbroken - just excited about the future. Perhaps it is something to do with the betrayal?   Wendy convinced us all  that she was a decent and honest person.  The last week has revealed someone  behind the mask  who is cold and calculating, indifferent to the feelings and needs of one who had loved and supported her unconditionally through all of her years of trauma, injuries, hospitalisation and clinical depression.   Maybe that is why I can so easily let her go.  I know that I did my best for her, and that whatever my faults may be (and we all know I have my share of them!) I did not deserve to be treated this way.  

So that is the end of this blog.   It has been a wonderful experience, truly the experience of a lifetime, and something I will remember to my dying day.  My life is now on a completely new and unexpected course which I'm embracing with enthusiasm.  In the words of the old toast, "If it's half as good as the half we've known, here's Hail! to the rest of the road."  I'd like to thank everyone who has followed it and given their feedback.  It has enhanced my enjoyment of the trip to know that there are others out there who have been following it vicariously.  Perhaps there will be a new blog in the future.  Who knows?

Bless you all.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Wendy’s Diary 23 July 2013 – Fireworks & Paradise

I can’t believe it is only 10 days since I last updated my diary, so much seems to have happened since. 14 July we went back up the Aven river to the quayside in Pont Aven to watch the fireworks for Bastille Day. It was well worth the trip back up the river: the town itself is so charming anyway but the fireworks in the evening were definitely worth being there for. When we arrived, the car park and road that runs alongside the quay had been closed and when we inspected the notices it also said that boats were forbidden to moor on the far quayside. We motored past our previous mooring with the convenient ladder, as it appeared a music stand was being set up almost next to it, and a little further round the corner found a nice space, albeit without a ladder.

Entertainment started on the quayside mid-afternoon and the crowds started rolling in. The music stage was not where we first thought, but further away from where we had moored, although the food and drinks stalls were in between us and the stage. I enjoy people watching and this was a fabulous place to do it from, especially as the tide came in and we were nearer the top of the quay. Sarah from Wandering Star had commented that she felt as if she was in a goldfish bowl on this quayside, but on this occasion I definitely felt that the quayside was the goldfish bowl and I could watch away to my heart’s content. During the day were watched the team of pyrotechnicians set up the display almost opposite where we were moored. It was a roasting hot sunny day and they worked almost continuously from 8 a.m.

As the evening drew on we settled down in our deckchairs with beer and snacks as hoards of people arrived jostling for places on the quayside. At 11.15 p.m. the display commenced to music and was one of the best I have ever seen. Now previously living so close to Plymouth we have been spoilt by the annual fireworks completion in August, so the benchmark is high. The fireworks may not have been as big, but being so close and perfectly synchronised to music it was fantastic. I took lots of photos and attach a couple to show how close we were to the display itself.
Fireworks above the boat

Early next morning we did a quick grocery top up and headed back out of the Aven with the tide across to the Glenans. It was a beautiful sunny day and I sat up on the coachroof leaning back on the windows topping up my tan. Unfortunately the wind was not in our favour, but it was only 11 miles from the entrance to the river so we motored across the bay and arrived in paradise. This is the most beautiful place we have anchored in all my time on Freya Frey, white sands, crystal clear water, just perfect.

I had been in contact with Debbie and Pip from Star Catamaran and they were on their way to the Glenans at the same time. On their way they had encountered Jim onboard Mago Merlino, and he decided to take a diversion from his planned course and join the party. John had offered to cook Paella (these multihull paella evenings are becoming a habit – 3rd one this year). Jim announced he had a joint of lamb that needed cooking to we agreed on a Paella starter followed by Roast Lamb and all the trimmings.

We had been the first to arrive and anchored up, then Jim arrived and anchored alongside, dropped over some fenders and tied alongside. When Star joined us they too anchored and then rafted up next to Jim. We went for a dinghy ride to get some photos of the boats tied up and I got one of my favourites this year which reminded me of Goldilocks, with daddy bear, mummy bear and little baby bear. Star is the biggest of the “twins” boats designed by Pip’s father, Mago Merlino being not much smaller with Freya Frey looking tiny alongside.

I took a quick swim to cool off before the slap up meal. There were 7 of us in all including Jim’s 2 crewmates, and with Debbie’s mum’s cake as pudding to finish off the meal it was an evening of good food and good company. We ate aboard Mago Merlino, partly as she was in the middle and partly as she had the largest outdoor eating area.  Jim called time as he was keen to make an early start and needed some sleep. He was already behind schedule and the diversion to join our party had cost him another day so each crew stacked up their own pots and took them back to their respective boats for washing up.

We had agreed that unrafting for the night would be a good idea, with Jim wanting to be off at the crack of dawn, and also it was a little lumpy for our boat so we wanted to find somewhere a little more sheltered. We headed round to La Chambre – a popular anchorage and mooring, with hundreds of buoys laid for visiting yachts. It was dark by now and we found room in the shallower water but it was difficult to see what was on the bottom, sand or rocks. We had enough depth to not go aground so tucked up for the night. In the morning we were amazed that we were the only boat anchored there as it was so lovely. We watched another boat come in and anchor much closer to the beach and decided we could do the same and in daylight pick a sandy spot.
Freya Frey anchored near the beach

The sandbar connecting the islands that covers at high tide
We anchored about 50 yards from the beach and a sand causeway that joined two islands together at low water. It didn’t take long before I was in for a swim; it was so beautiful and enticing. Late morning Pip and Debbie dinghied over to join us and we went for a walk around the perimeter of the island, then stopped for an ice-cream (girls) or Crepe (boys) at the cafe overlooking the beach (thank you Pip and Debbie). This is the only place in the Glenans that you can spend money, with the exception of the rib that whizzes around and sells bread and croissants each morning to boats anchored and moored there.

In the afternoon we went over to Star, the first time I had been on board and it was lovely to see the inside, having seen and heard so much about her in the past. Debbie rustled up some English cheese and biscuits before we went ashore on Ile Du Loch for another walk. This island is a bit less trampled, as only private boats reach it, with the Vedettes only going to La Chambre. We did the circuit around the island then went back to Star for a swim and evening meal on board before heading back to Freya Frey.

Pip and Debbie had not long left Cornwall, so were keen to get further south, and joined us on Freya Frey for a couple of hours the following morning to swap cruising notes and the boys did some techie boys' talk about engines and alternators and battery chargers etc. I would have preferred to have stayed longer, enjoying the swimming there and just the sheer beauty of the place but John was keen to head over to Benodet and the Skippers word is the law, so we up anchored that afternoon and headed back to the mainland.

One of the many chateaux on the Odet

We found a quiet spot a couple of miles upstream from Benodet and put the anchor down for the night, before heading further up the river next morning to Quimper, in search of a good supermarket.  We anchored just before a low bridge and dinghied the rest of the way into town, tying up alongside the tourist information office. We had a nice wander around the town, did a little shopping and then back down to the boat not knowing what the tide would be like so far upstream.  We returned to the same anchorage for the night before and spent another peaceful evening on the river.

Early morning sun on leaving the Odet
The following day (Friday 19th) we agreed that we were happy to move on, I tried in vain to persuade John to go back to the Glenans and instead we headed for Audierne, our most northerly destination of the year, and the port where La Route de L’Amitie starts. So 12 weeks and 919 miles later we had reached our destination. All my stressing over not making it here in time was needless as we arrived 2 weeks before the start of the festivities.

We have now been here 4 nights, met up with Alain the harbour master and his girlfriend Audrey, done lots of provisioning (Lidl’s is within cycling distance, albeit up a killer of a hill, but fab to ride down again laden with shopping), and got some little jobs done on the boat. Sadly our old friend Jean-Louis, French/Welsh resident of Audierne who we have known for many years lost his battle with cancer last month and his absence is tangible. We arrived flying the Welsh flag (that he gave to us on our last visit) at half mast as a mark of respect to this lovely man who cared so much for so many people. He had been our guest in Saltash several times, it being a very convenient stopover when catching the ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth on his way to and from Wales and seeing his boat in the marina and not him is very poignant.  

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Wendy’s Diary 13 July 2013 – Summer at last.

Picking up from my last entry we spent a full week in Ars en Re waiting for the wind to turn, but for once happy that it gave us a break. I have said this before so apologies to those who have heard it, but most of the time living on the boat is just that, living on a boat. But sometimes it feels like we are on holiday. No real difference I guess apart from the weather and lack of pressure to move onwards. The anchorage was for the most part sheltered, and the weather was good most of the time. We spent the evenings socialising with Sarah, Mark and Anthony from  Wandering Star,  taking it in turns to host nibbles, drinks, meals or whatever fitted with our days.

Freya Frey was tucked into an offshoot of the main channel that dried which meant we had to time going ashore around access to the boat. This wasn’t too much of a problem and it allowed us to once again have a quick scrape off of weed that had attached itself to the underside of the boat. Replacing the coppercoat antifouling that has been on for 9 years is a must this winter, as the speed at which things grow back is getting a little too fast, and there are the first signs of osmosis (a technical word that I partly understand, and know it must be sorted in the winter before the new antifouling is applied and something you don’t want to see on a survey if you are thinking of buying a boat). 

Market day on Re
The Ile de Re is almost flat, so taking the bikes ashore and going for a ride around the salt marshes and up to the lighthouse were pleasant easy trips, the island is full of cycle paths keeping bikes and cars separate. It is also full of cycle hire points so sometimes the paths would be a bit crowded with holiday makers a little wobbly having not ridden a bike for years, but on the whole it was quiet.

The town of Ars was pretty, the old houses for the main part had been preserved and new build was restricted and where allowed kept in line with the traditional architecture of the island. It has a reasonable supermarket and lots of tourist shops selling typical touristy things, bowls with names on, table linen, seaside related ornaments etc. There are two locked basins, but we were happy to anchor free of charge out in the bay and could use the dinghy on the upper half of the tide to get into town.

Paella with Sarah and Mark
We held our annual multihull paella evening the day Anthony left and I understand from Sarah she told him the details of our rather slap up meal aboard Freya Frey that night (apologies to Anthony if you are reading this, we didn’t deliberately wait until you had gone, it just happened like that!). As an aperitif we introduced our guests to Pineau de Charente, something a little like sherry that is one of the regional specialities. I discovered it on holiday in the area about 10 years ago and buy it when I get the chance.  We had fish soup for starters (ok I didn’t as I don’t like it but the others did) the Paella of course and for desert I have been trying to perfect a chocolate cheesecake recipe using chocolate flavoured Philadelphia cheese, and didn’t do a bad job on this occasion. Cheese (French) and biscuits (English) with a glass of port and finally coffee and chocolate truffles. We made a call against the liqueur or whiskey to finish due to Sarah and Mark needing to dinghy back to their boat safely.

Wandering Star headed south for Arcachon on 1st of July and we headed north on the 2nd hoping to get to Croisic. The weather forecast was for a westerly breeze veering southwest during the day, and although gentle it would at least be in our favour. In order to get tides in our favour, we calculated on a 3.30am start which would also get us to Crosisc just before it got dark. As we left the wind was blowing a gentle north westerly, right on the nose and by late morning the wind direction hadn’t changed. Our speed meant we missed the tidal flow we wanted and by the time we were 10 miles off of Ile d’Yeu, with both the wind and current against us and a lumpy sea we were struggling to make 3 knots so made a swift right turn and headed for the shelter of St Gilles Croix de Vie instead.

Pilot books can be very annoying when they get things wrong and this was no exception, as the anchorage shown in the 2011 Bloc  (and our older Imray pilot book but I let them off as it is more than 10 years old) was, we were told, now a forbidden place to drop hook, so our only choice was the marina. It being only lunchtime we thought we would just hang around for the tide to turn again and head out to Yeu or Croisic depending on sea conditions. We paid a visit to the Capitainerie to be told that we would have to pay the half-day rate of 17 euros, was that a problem she asked? I responded that “oui”, it is a problem, we only want to stay for about 4 hours. After suggesting we buy some fuel whilst we were there she relented and said we could stay until 5pm free of charge.

We left on cue having checked the weather forecast again which was still saying the southwesterly was imminent, but on leaving the river we had short choppy waves and a northerly wind to battle through. Leaving rivers on an outgoing tide usually means you have some lumpy stuff to get through where the river current meets the waves coming in, but this time it continued and after an hour or so we reassessed our options. Ile d’Yeu was not that far away but I had not route planned for it and the boat was too bouncy for me to do a proper job of that so the safest and most comfortable thing to do was to abort the trip and head back to St Gilles.

We arrived back in the marina after office hours, but there was still someone on duty to help take lines. This is another problem we have – people “helping” when we arrive somewhere, whilst it offered for the right reasons we prefer to turn it down. The reason for this is that we have perfected a standard approach to tying up somewhere and this is different from how most sailors do things (blame John,  it is his method – although I must say it works very well). Standing on the port bow, I knew what I wanted to do but felt obliged to pass the rope over to waiting hands, but he then headed for the cleat John didn’t want. I quickly jumped onto the pontoon, asked that it go on a different cleat and quickly (non, non, ici, vite vite), when he just looked at me I virtually snatched the rope out of his hand and secured it where I wanted to. John then motored back against it swinging the stern in gently against the pontoon enabling us to secure that end. He then rather amusingly complimented us on our ability to come alongside competently, as most boat owners don’t know how to. He didn’t want to use the cleat we wanted as most yachties would have then collided with the boat in front and he was setting out to avoid that. When we had the pontoon berth at Millbrook with about 6 inches to spare at either end, coming alongside was something that had to be perfected (ok so it may have been a couple of feet at either end but we still had to motor in sideways and I always freaked out whenever John encouraged me to have a go).

We checked the forecast again before visiting the capitainerie in the morning and decided that a voyage that day would probably end in the same way as the previous afternoons, so gritted our teeth and booked in for 2 nights at a cost of 69 euros - our most expensive nights yet and two of them to boot! We met a lovely couple from Amsterdam on the same pontoon who invited us on board for coffee.

We discovered there was a large shopping centre and a Lidl in town so cycled up a rather long hill to get there and spent the morning browsing the shops and came back laden with groceries. In the afternoon I went off for a mooch on my own to the local shops which were mostly tourist shops selling the same sorts of things, but it was pleasant to wander around none the less. In the evening the Dutch couple joined us for drinks and nibbles aboard Freya Frey so we did at least have a both useful and pleasant stay, having forked out so much for it.

En route to the Vilaine
8am on 4th of July we headed out again this time with virtually no wind and sunshine. Learning from the previous run and again wanting to make a good distance north, I plotted a route to Arzal, the entrance to the Vilaine river, but had escape routes marked for Ile d’Yeu, Pornichet and Croisic in case conditions deteriorated. The sea was much calmer and we had a gentle run for 16 hours approaching the Arzal dam at around midnight. The tide was just turning but it was low and we managed to run aground just after midnight, waiting half an hour before the boat floated off again and getting to the waiting pontoon at 1.30 am. A long day but a pleasant run with no lumpy bits, and apart from running aground near the end it was an uneventful one. 

We skipped the first lock opening of the day on the basis that I was still in bed, and caught the 9am one instead, John was worried if we left it much later there may be a queue and we wouldn’t get in. We did this dam together in August 2012, but only John who came back the other way, as it was at the top of the navigable Vilaine at Redon where I broke my ankle so spectacularly. We were 2nd of 4 boats so an easy time with no worries of being crashed into. The harbour master was chatty this time, I remembered him from last time and had him down as someone with “small man syndrome” due to his manner of barking of orders at every boat. Maybe the number of boats going through the lock at any one time has an impact??

Anchored next to an elephant!
So half a mile upstream we anchored, had breakfast and went back to bed! After catching up on sleep we headed upstream to La Roche Bernard, or just short of it so we could anchor without risk of being charged. We were amazed at the number of British boats there, it seemed half the boats in the marina had a red ensign. The sun finally came out properly and the temperature shot up to the high 20’s.

On Sunday 7th July our French friends Annie and Philippe came over for the day to join us, when we took a short run up the river, dropped anchor again and had our first BBQ of the year out on deck, albeit using the George Foreman grill.   My chocolate cheesecake on this occasion was not one of my better efforts, with the cream separating and the only thing I could find to blame it on was the weather. This time I had put the Cointreau in the base so that the chocolate part would set better and that did work very nicely. In the midst of my inadvertently separating the cream I texted Ann in Macclefield for advice, she being properly trained in the field and her advice was use the thick stuff for the cheesecake.  It was edible and enjoyed by all, just not up to my standard.
La Roche Bernard

Annie and Philippe waving us off
In the evening Annie and Philippe treated us to a meal at one of the waterside restaurants which was lovely, particularly as it was still being warm enough to comfortably sit out at 9pm without a jumper. John had an enormous bowl of Moules Marinere, whilst the rest of us had savoury crepes and a bottle of cider to wash it down. Ice creams all round to follow rounded off the evening nicely. It was lovely to see them again, I hadn’t seen them since recovering from the latest lot of surgery at the end of March and that seemed an age away. On Monday morning we headed back down to Arzal and caught the 9am lock to exit the canalised part of the river, having enjoyed a few days without tides, currents or swell. The sun was shining brightly and a gentle northeasterly wind took us over to Belle Ile. 

In contrast to most of our sailing this year, it was a very gentle ride, I am glad to have South Biscay well behind me. In fact it was such a smooth sea (Belle Mer as they say in France - beautiful sea) that I washed the sheets (making use of the hot water the engine had generated) and hung them out to dry on the stern. I then remembered the buttermilk in the fridge and made some scones (from scratch) and baked them whilst the engine was running to power the oven. Ann’s advice on this subject was excellent, if I say so myself, they were some of the best scones I had ever made! A cream tea (minus the cream) followed; I always think scones are at their very best whilst still warm from the oven. Doing any of these things whilst sailing in South Biscay would have been very challenging.

Dolphins near Belle Ile
We headed for Le Palais on Belle Ile. John had been a few years back and I had never seen that part of the island. He remembered you could tie up on the town quay free. Ummm not this time, the town quay with no facilities (and it dries) would have been 27 euros a night for us. We turned them down and headed further along to Sauzon (home of our biscuit tin) where we knew we could anchor. We were charged 7.5 euros for dropping our hook up the very busy creek, for which we were allowed access to the showers. As the tide went out we realised we had picked a duff spot with the nose right down in a fairly muddy puddle, so decided we would move first thing in the morning to a better spot.

John was able to rig a spare anchor and lines up to a wall at low tide and secure a small mooring buoy, then in the morning all we had to do was pick up the buoy and we were sorted. That was very kind of him seeing as we needed to move very early and it was my birthday! By the time I got out of bed he had moved up to a new spot that gave us access to the boat at all states of tide.

I have been to Sauzon once before as part of La Route de L’Amitie, arriving late afternoon, partying on the square and departing early next morning so this time I decided I wanted to see a bit more of the Island. The pilot book describes a fjord like anchorage on the west of the island and I reckoned we could easily cycle there to have a look. Unlike Ile de Re, Belle Ile is not flat and it wasn’t quite so easy going, but after a trip to the light house en route we headed over to the fjord to check it out by land. It is a beautiful spot and I took the opportunity for my first swim of the year before tucking into a picnic lunch on the beach.
The lighthouse at Les Poulains on Belle Ile

My evening swim
We decided it would be a lovely (and free) spot to spend the evening so cycled back over to Sauzon, had a birthday treat of an ice cream and waited for the boat to float off so we could get to the fjord. We erroneously thought that most of the boats in there would be day trippers, who would head safely back to their marina berths in the evening. When we got there, there were more boats than earlier and no one looking like they were about to pack up and go. We squeezed in closest to the beach but only had enough water for a couple for hours as the bottom was likely to be scattered with rocks. We had a BBQ tea out on deck hoping one of the other boats would move with plan B being an overnight sail back to the mainland.

Plan B won and at around 10pm we headed back out of the anchorage and in the direction of the Aven river, past Ile de Groix. John had made a large flask of coffee and suggested I got some rest whilst he did the first leg. The first part of the journey was quite lumpy, the sea had picked up from nowhere and made a fairly uncomfortable ride, albeit pure sailing with no motor for a change.  I struggled to get some sleep being bounced around in the cabin and popped up wondering if John wanted to swap. He had just topped up his caffeine levels and was fine so I went back to bed. Unfortunately at one point the boat slammed hard with the wash from a fishing boat as John was making his way back up from the galley and he slipped and banged his ribs hard on the seatback. Possibly a broken rib but they can’t do anything even if you go to a hospital so he is just managing with pain killers. After a while the sea state calmed (basically because tehere was no more wash from dozens of fishing boats) and I got some sleep, but I then repeated the pattern of popping up to see if he wanted me to take over the helm to be told he had just had another cup of coffee. This continued until daybreak when we were just approaching the mainland and he then wanted an extra set of eyes to check for buoys and channel markers.

We were a little thrown by an additional light flashing at Port Manech, and couldn’t work out which was the light house. As we got close in and the day got lighter, we realised that one of the flashing lights was a large catamaran’s anchor light, but flashing as if it were a north cardinal. It may seem like a good idea if you want other people to notice your boat in an anchorage and so not crash into it, but pretending to be a cardinal marker is not perhaps in everyone’s interest!

A chateau on the Aven river
John managed to spot the first of the channel markers for the Aven river and we made it up past the moorings and dropped anchor at Rosbraz at high water. We had breakfast and John went to bed whilst I found a book to read (Jodi Picoult – My Sister’s Keeper – thanks to Amanda at Royan for offloading on to me, I am really enjoying it). As the tide came back in again we upped anchor and slowly pottered up the river to Pont Aven, running aground in the soft mud a couple of times in the process and hanging around for a few minutes each time for the water level to rise.

I visited Pont Aven a few years ago (maybe 10??) during a summer holiday with both my and my sister’s family. It could well have been on a cloudy or even rainy day as we generally used to haul the children off to a beach whenever we could. I remember it was pretty and had lots of arty shops but not much more. It is a very pretty town with lots of arty shops and a town quay that charges 12.5 euros per night to tie up including water and electricity. We have completely blown the budget this year already but decided we could stretch to this as it was such a nice spot and we would be able to get diesel from the supermarket filling station instead of a marina. On this basis we reckoned we would save more than the 12 euros by buying fuel there.

We like this car sticker
 - but you have to know Breton food to understand it
We secured the boat and tucked up for the night. In the morning we did a supermarket run on the bikes, each with a 20 litre jerry can on the back. I went and got some fresh supplies whilst John filled the cans and we then whizzed back down the hill to the boat to offload.   John’s ribs were hurting a lot by this point so I did two more runs on my own, giving us 80 litres of fuel in total which should keep us going for a while.

The day flew by and by evening we reckoned we hadn’t seen enough of the town so decided to stay put for another night. Whilst enjoying the evening out on deck, someone called bonsoir from the quayside and it was 3 French people we had met a couple of times before on La Route de L’Amitie. We invited them to join us aboard and treated them to some of our English Beer collection – some Tanglefoot and Hobgoblin which both went down very well.
Enjoying the shade 

In the morning a Welsh boat moored up just ahead of us and we had coffee on board with them, exchanging information on places visited. We then set off to do some further exploring of the town, John did a wifi session in the tourist information office whilst I pottered around the shops, then back to the boat to chill out and read in the sunshine. I am amazed that a river you (we) can sail up can turn into something that looks like it is in the middle of Dartmoor in the space of about 100 yards. Philip and Margo from the Welsh boat joined us for a late afternoon Sangria before we all set sail back down the river on the tide, them to Port Manech and us just halfway back down the river to the same anchorage we used on the way up.

On this morning’s tide we headed round into the Belon River, which shares the same bay and approach as the Aven, and found a very peaceful anchorage in one of the creeks. As the tide went out I sat out on deck reading, catching the morning sunshine before it gets too hot. The thermometer is now showing 30.8 degrees outside with a mere 28.9 in, so I am hiding in the shade of the salon writing this, aware that I haven’t updated it for a while, mainly due to the fabulous weather stopping me form wanting to spend time indoors typing. We are thinking of going back to Pont Aven tomorrow for the Bastille day celebrations, and the weather forecast is just more of the same. Life is so much better than it was a month ago!!

Wow – 3900+ words, apologies for scribbling so much, I hope I haven’t bored you!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Wendy’s Diary 26 June 2013 – Up the creek without a paddle – well it felt like it anyway.

When planning our crossing of the corner of Biscay from Spain to France we chose the Gironde as our destination as we wanted to check out Mortagne as a possible winter berthing option. As per my last diary entry, we sailed into the Gironde on 12 June.  The estuary is the largest in Europe, and most of the time looking across the river it seemed like we were looking at the open sea as you couldn't see the other side. The other problem we soon found was that the wind changed direction regularly, making anchoring potentially unsafe and consequently something we were not keen on doing.

So we had our first 3 nights in Mortagne (no wifi on the boat, but free of charge on the boatyard pontoon), then a night in Royan at 27 euros (no wifi) and upstream again to Meschers at 17 euros per night (pants wifi on the boat), back to Mortagne on the town pontoon 16 euros per night (with wifi, albeit slow). We budget at 20 euros per day for all our expenditure during the summer, including groceries, fuel, and berthing (normally negligible as we normally anchor). So this was starting to knock a hole in our finances, particularly after we had several hundred pounds worth of damage repairs to the boat in May.    
On 19th June, a week after arriving in the river the weather forecast looked good continue our journey northwards, with a southeasterly 4-5 to push us along nicely. Mortagne is about 12 miles upstream from Royan and surprisingly the estuary carries on for a further 15 miles out to sea between shallow sandbars despite the fact that it appears to be virtually on the sea front if you look at it on a map. So out came the tidal streams book and we made plans to leave just after high water, allowing the outgoing tide to carry us out of the river and then have friendly currents north to Oleron. Final weather check on the free wifi and off we went.

Can you feel a “but” coming on yet?? The river estuary faces North west, so a southeast wind makes for a fairly uncomfortable passage, with short lumpy wind waves causing the boat to bounce around more than we like before we had even got as far as Royan (12 miles remember). As we rounded the bend in the river past Royan we heard the radio weather forecast, in French, and thought but were not sure that we maybe heard it said a force 7. We had only got an update 3 hours earlier so assumed we must have misheard. Another couple of hours later and the wind was howling, and the updated weather forecast this time we realised did indeed say force 7.     The Gironde has a current of 2 to 3 knots, so we were faced with a choice of turn back against the current – now about 8 miles back to Royan as the first place we could get into, or carry on heading north.

Decisions like this of course always come at a time when you head is least in the mood to make them, as there is so much going on around you – like are there any container ships about to bear down on you, just how bad is the wind (that hadn’t been mentioned in the forecast before we left). We carried on and I admitted that I was starting to feel scared, but John remained calm. Soon wave after wave started crashing down on the foredeck shooting water up over the windows and then the roof of the wheelhouse. Now I was really scared. Apart from the waves hitting the foredeck, I could also see big breaking waves up ahead and was worried these were in the channel.  I knew John had been in this boat in very bad conditions, but this was the worst I had ever seen. I couldn’t decide which was worse, watching the waves land and being able to predict which way and when the boat would jerk, or not looking and being thrown about more by every slam of the boat. I decided in the end that cowering in the doorway was my best option and I was obviously of no help to John with the navigation. A few more minutes and John made the call to turn back.

Against the current the boat continued to slam after we turned around and the speed dropped to less than 3 knots on average – it was 12 miles back to Royan at this stage. I remained in the doorway not looking where we were going and not helping John either. A particularly big wave slapping on the underbelly managed to click the mouse and change the screen so we no longer had a chart showing at the helm. I was instructed to rectify the situation, not just because I'm IT person on the boat but also there was no way John could leave the helm. I couldn't find the remote mouse (it was cowering under the table) and trying to use the touch pad when the boat was slamming everywhere was nothing short of impossible. I managed to coax the mouse out from under the table and persuade him to click on the right buttons to get the chart back on the helm (we have a small net-book with a solid state hard-drive strapped down in the salon and a repeater USB screen out in the wheelhouse).

Four and a half hours after turning round we finally limped into Royan at 10.45pm feeling very battered about. The relief of being back in a safe marina was immense and I took the luxury of sobbing my socks off for a while before tucking in for the night. The whole of the following day I felt shaken, but more than anything we were both trying to figure out what had gone so wrong. It wasn't just the force 7 winds, we have had those before. We found the local boat owners' association and had a chat with around half a dozen seasoned old sailors in there. Apparently the nature of the estuary means that you have to leave somewhere like Royan on an incoming tide and time your arrival at the narrow part of the estuary (where we had turned around) for high water slack. Also forget it if the swell is more than 2 meters out at sea (which it often is) and don’t do it in an easterly wind.

OK, our boat speed is normally around 5 knots, so to get to the right bit at slack high water we would be fighting a 3 knot current for 12 miles, leaving us a speed over the ground of 2 knots, so 6 hours then, without a favourable wind...ummmm that sounds good (not!). For the next few days I felt relieved when the weather was obviously too bad to try and leave again, as I wasn't quite ready to attempt it again. The reports were however consistently predicting no wind and swell of 1.5 meters on Tuesday 25th so I began psyching myself up for that and a departure date. We also spent the intervening days finding out about another marina and anchorage another 8 miles further downstream from Royan and so decided we needed to start from there to have any hope of sensibly making it to the dodgy part for high water slack. Google earth showed a lovely anchorage with a large catamaran just outside the marina, but asking around we found that there is never an up-to-date chart for the anchorage or marina channel as the sands are continually shifting. It is however buoyed in the summer.

We had a few days in Royan to explore and visited the must see cathedral that was built after the blitz of the Second World War. To our minds it was a bit of a concrete monstrosity, not a must see at all, and sadly the concrete was crumbling away in places and buckets around the floor collected rainwater that leaked through the gaps. The sea front is very touristy with many expensive bars and restaurants to rip off the tourists (many British ones), but there was at least a good market and a couple of supermarkets. With the next port being Island-based I wanted to provision from a mainland shop assuming it would be cheaper. I also baked a couple of cakes (electric oven – free electricity) and did loads of washing (dehumidifier running for anything that didn't dry) basically making the best use of being in a marina. We also had an evening of drinks and nibbles on a British couple‘s boat (I took home-made cheese straws) and lots of chats with a number of French yachties.

So on Monday afternoon, a couple of hours before high water (yep, against the current) we headed downstream to Bonne Anse – La Palmyre. We wanted to get there at high water hence the need to go against the current. It took us three hours to do just under 9 miles, and we missed the top of the tide, but thankfully found the buoyed channel and headed into the marina as the nice anchorage was questionable. We found the end of a finger pontoon and tied up for the night, our plan being to set the alarm for bright and early on Tuesday morning and providing the forecast no wind had arrived, we would set off an hour before high water.

We had a wander around the harbour area and again there were lots of expensive restaurants out to catch the tourists, although many of them did look nice. Having overspent our budget on marina bills, (Royan does do a 3rd night free – but not a 6th!) eating out was not something we could afford to do. At 6.45 the following morning (before the harbour office opened so unfortunately we were unable to pay) with very little wind and a dose of anxiety we headed out to the estuary once more.

The most eventful part of the exit from the Gironde was the autopilot playing up meaning we had to manually steer. I offered to do so as I thought it would take my mind off of things and realised just how out of practice I am at doing so, not that it was the best of conditions to start learning again. However we made it through to the exit without a single wave crashing on the deck, no sign of breaking waves on the shallows to the sides and were quietly pleased with the achievement. However we did still have a further 40 miles to go with very little in the way of shelter for the next 20 miles at least, so I didn't sigh with relief just yet. The wind remained gentle although on the nose, so no point in pulling out a sail. After a while I retired to the cabin to catch up on lost sleep, and enjoyed a couple of lazy hours slumber whilst John listened to his iPod at the helm. (Apologies for the lack of photos thus far, it was either bad weather or not the right time to be taking snaps!) 

Freya Frey tucked in the corner at La Flotte
Our route took us past the west coast of Ile D’Oleron then through between there and Ile de Re before turning north under the bridge and heading up to an anchorage on the north of Re, with the questionably-pronounced Ars en Re as our destination. The bridge that links the island to the mainland was about 10 hours into the day's journey and as we came through the bridge (with the current in our favour) we hit a wind on the nose of 25 knots that made the sea horribly choppy and virtually stopped us in our tracks. This wasn't scary, they weren’t very big waves but they were causing the boat to slam and things to fall off of shelves. We were struggling to make 2 knots of speed and I scoured the chart for places to hide from the wind – and decided La Flotte en Re was the most sensible option and plotted the route for John to follow on the screen. This last 8 miles of the trip took us three and a half hours, and we finally tied up to the visitor’s pontoon 13 hours after setting out that morning. Finally we could sigh with relief that we had escaped the Gironde and were safely tied up on the Island.   We had provisionally arranged to meet up with some more friends with a catamaran of the same mark as ours only bigger, called Wandering Star. They had made it to Ars against the same horrible wind we had encountered, and we agreed we would join them the following morning when the wind was forecast to be gentle again.
Sunset along the promenade at La Flotte

The evening sun lighting up the boats outside the harbour
After throwing together a quick pasta dinner we went for a quick walk around the town before sunset. The town is very pretty, obviously a tourist destination but an upmarket one and very nicely kept. Quaint little back streets, nicely whitewashed cottages and a lovely seafront promenade. Parking in the harbour car park is one euro for half an hour, and ice-creams are the most expensive we have seen yet. Anyway without spending a penny (or cent) and having watched a fabulous sunset we tucked in for the night. The harbour office was closed and had a sign saying it would open again at 2.30pm the next day. 

To catch a good tide we set off at dawn, 6am, thus sadly missing the harbourmaster, so not being able to pay again (dread to think how much if a car costs a euro for half an hour) and with a glorious sun rise and a following wind sailed the 8 miles along the north coast of Re to the anchorage at Ars, and had tied to the adjacent mooring buoy to Wandering Star before David or Sarah were even awake.

Once they were up and about we moved both catamarans to a more sheltered spot in the bay enjoyed tea and cake (homemade of course) on Freya Frey over a good natter. After two early starts we decided to spend the day aboard catching on jobs as well as sleep and are due to join them for drinks this evening to celebrate our second anniversary since leaving Millbrook, that sunny Sunday afternoon 2,405 miles ago! 

Celebrating 2 years afloat with Sarah, David and brother Antony aboard Wandering Star