Wednesday, 31 August 2011

John’s toys 3 – the cockpit

One of the things I found really tiresome on overnight passages was standing up at the helm to keep a lookout.  All of the commercially-available cockpit chairs I found had no armrests – or at least, no armrests which were at a height suitable for resting my arms. So I experimented with garden chairs.  First of all, I bought a cheap plastic one, and took a saw to the legs, extending two of them with bits of wood to rest on the deck, and shortening two others to rest on the cockpit lockers.  This was a dummy run for the real thing to establish the precise location of the seat support:  too close to the wheel and it would not be possible to get past; too far away, and it would be uncomfortable on the arms of the helmsman.  Having established that the idea was viable, I bought a hardwood garden chair kit for about £15, raised the arms by a couple of inches and fitted a foot rest.  I then fitted a proper stainless steel seat support into the deck with a hardwood stiffener to the cockpit locker and put the seat in place.  It’s a tight fit in the HT cockpit, but worth its weigh in gold, as the helmsman can keep a 360 degree lookout from the chair, making long-distance shorthanded passage making far less tiring.

With the arrival of Wendy, it was evident that we needed another raised seat in the cockpit, as she far preferred to sit on a plastic stool on the locker tops so that she could see forwards without standing up.  I built a lightweight hardwood seat close to the centreline using beech decking. 
It cost around a tenner to make, and it is used daily as:
·        a seat by the off-duty watch, with optional cushions
·        a mini-table for drinks and snacks in calm conditions or in harbour
·        A workbench for  the vice
·        A very convenient place to put the Coleman stove when the water is flat, so preventing the saloon from getting too hot.

Another useful modification in the cockpit is the hardwood rail behind the helm’s seat.  This uses light line attached to lacing hooks for storing our mooring warps. As the cockpit is fully-enclosed, this means that there is a range of neatly-coiled and dry warps of various sizes and lengths immediately to hand whenever they are needed.

The really big modification is our enclosed cockpit.  When I bought the boat she had a plywood cuddy with a canvas cover over the after half.  The soft top was something which I never felt the need to remove, so last winter when it took on the properties of a colander, we extended the original cuddy to make a wheelhouse.  This has been incredibly valuable, and we now have no need of oilskins, except to go on deck or in the dinghy.  It is light and airy, with lighting at night, space for the dry storage of our folding bikes, provides dry access between the aftercabin and the saloon, and most important of all provides perfect shelter underway, be it from wind, spray, rain or intense sunshine. When we rounded the Raz de Sein a couple of weeks ago, other boats’ crews were wrapped up with just their eyes peering out of their oilskins.  We were in tee shirts and shorts…  An unplanned by-product of the hard top is that we now have well-placed handrails all around the after superstructure, making access to the afterdeck and bathing platform much safer.  On the top of it we mounted a pair of 80watt solar panels which provide power for the freezer, and a solar water heater so on sunny days we can have a shower without using any fuel.
With hindsight, I would have made the after surface slope slightly more, at the same angle as the after edge of the aft coachroof to make the lines a little fairer, but apart from that, it has worked really well, and we are delighted with it.  

Wendy’s Diary Mardi 30 Aout The generosity of fellow sailors and the end of retirement.

John had sent text a fellow French “amitier” to say we were in Le Bono, and George replied that his crew member Jean, whom we had met a couple of times, lived in Le Bono and sent his number. John sent him (Jean) a text and he invited us for dinner back at his house. When we arrived, he showed us around his rather large garden, the chickens (eggs and meat), the ducks (look pretty on the pond and meat), the vegetable garden, the greenhouse etc before sitting down to a dinner of the unlucky chicken of the day.  They invited us to stay the night as it was getting late and the wine was going down well and the following morning we had bread and jam (homemade) for breakfast with Earl Grey tea (yummy). Jean offered to take us to a supermarket on the way back (out of the way) to the boat and before we left his wife had collected together a huge bag of fruit and veg from the garden, half a dozen eggs (some chickens still out there then), a loaf of bread  and a couple of jars of jam (homemade).  All this from someone we had met a couple of times on La Route!

We left the Auray River and Gulf of Morbihan early the following morning and had a very good sail across to the Vilaine, albeit a bit bumpy at times and we both felt a little green around the ears. We went through the lock at Arzal  - fascinating,  about 15 boats in one go with a lock master who enjoyed the power given to him.  He would call in each boat in turn, shouting where they should go in a tone that made them hurry, before then shouting “doucement” when they were going too fast. I think he must have been bullied at school!!
After the lock we managed to continue sailing up the river, sometimes very slowly, but without the engines on, all the way to La Roche Bernard.  We stopped to talk to some English people who advised it was 20 Euro’s a night on a buoy, but 100M further up river it was free to anchor – a hard choice but in the end we opted for anchoring.  Our friends Annie and Phillipe joined us for a very leisurely lunch on the boat and in the evening we went ashore for a wander around the old town. Finding an Auberge named “The 2 Magots” was temptation enough for me to take a snap of the sign hanging proudly above the door. These are some sort of monkey, but the thought of wiggly little maggots made me smile.  We found an excellent little creperie in a half timbered building and finished off the said crepes with lashings of Breton cider.

The lock at Arzal

The wonderfully named Auberge

Another day another sail (after a nice long lie in) this time up to Redon, passing through the swing bridge at Clan. There were lots of abandoned fishing boats lining the river and we wondered what had happened to cause an apparently abrupt end to something previously so popular and presumably profitable. Much higher up the river we spotted some animals which we thought were otters, but my dad informs me are coypu’s. Anyway they looked cute and I got a snap of them too, along with some sunset type shots which I must say I am proud of. Finally around 9pm and getting dark we reached our destination of Redon, where we anchored just outside the town.

Redon is a large town, the first thing we wanted was WIFI, so we set the sat nav to find the nearest MacDonald’s, just over 2 miles away, which no longer felt like a barrier when one has to cycle to get there! John wanted to email his CV (now translated into French with the help of Phillipe and Annie) to a contact who runs an English Language Centre in St Nazaire.  We spent a while catching up with friends on facebook and email and I managed to Skype Mum, Dad and daughter Amy whilst we were there.  Although we now have a French mobile it is still expensive to call the UK, around 19p per minute. We stocked up on a few goodies at Lidl’s next door before cycling back down to the boat for lunch.  In the afternoon John telephoned said contact at the language centre and was offered an interview the next day (Tuesday). 

Late afternoon an English family had wandered along the quay and we got chatting. Mum declared that he one thing she missed was a good cup of tea, so our kettle went on and we spent a couple of hours sat on the quayside chatting and drinking Earl Grey. Their 3 boys were studying French, German and Spanish between them, so they had booked a holiday in each country to help the boys with their language skills. In the evening we were joined by another couple who had arrived on their catamaran, “Wandering Star II” an Ocean Winds, the big brother to Freya Frey. As often happens we had several common acquaintances and they had arrived at Millbrook just after we left at the end of June. A pleasant evening chatting and a rather late night.

On Tuesday morning Annie arrived to drive John to his interview, 45 minutes away in St Nazaire. She helped me finish ironing John’s shirt, I have a very cute little travel iron which made its first appearance on this trip. No ironing board, just a towel on the saloon table – four hands made it much easier than two. I went along for the ride and whilst John was being interviewed, Annie gave me a car tour of the docks at St Nazaire (unbelievably huge), including the submarine garages from WW2. We carried on to the sea front and had a cuppa at an outdoor cafe on the promenade waiting for John to call – and before we had finished the call came to say he had finished and had been offered a job starting in October!!

Over a very leisurely lunch back at Annie’s house John filled us in on the details, he’d be working around 20 hours a week probably over 3 days teaching professionals in the aerospace industry.  The next thing we needed to do was check out where to put the boat for the winter. We discovered that the docks at St Nazaire have now stopped taking leaisure craft, “it’s not a port de pleasance” said the grumpy chap at the capitainerie! Apparently there is an argument going on between the mayor and the dock owners over the inclusion of a port de pleasance, and in between time, the docks are refusing entry to all leisure craft!

So on to Le Pornichet, the next port along, tucked just inside the entrance to the Loire estuary. We had been warned that this was a very expensive marina, but kept our fingers crossed that for the winter it would be affordable. It is a lovely looking marina, quite large, and has a handful of boaty related shops along the main wall. With a price of 229 euros per month, including electricity and wifi we thought it not a bad deal and it certainly seemed a good option. Back to the boat to look at charts and discuss plans for the next 5 weeks, it feels nice to know where we will spend the winter even though I didn’t think I felt unsettled by not knowing!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Some recent photo's

Cooling off in the Morbihan

The sailing club which made us honorary members

A charming little cottage on Ile D'Arz, one of many.

Sunset over Ile D'Arz

Me and Annie!!

Wendy’s Diary Mardi 23 Aout - Seagull Soup and the joys of WIFI

Bonjour encore.... A much quieter time to report than last time – but here goes...

We left Hennebont and stayed on a mooring at the boat club down the river at Kervignac as invited, where we received a very warm welcome. We stayed for two days and it rained for two days. We had a couple of wet bike rides to the local shops (easy reach of several supermarkets) to provision and were both pleased to find that cycling up hill is becoming much easier and we don’t have quite so sore bottoms when we get off!!

The weather finally brightened up and we had a long day motor sailing around Quiberon and into the Gulf of Morbihan where we blasted through the entrance at 12 knots and found our way to an anchorage off of Ile D’Arz.

I promised you a story of seagull soup...we carry a fishing rod and so far have not had any success, but keep trying in want of a free dinner. As we left the river Blavet we set up the line but at the speed we were travelling the bait (a plastic fish) kept jumping out of the water. I relayed this to John along with the thought that it could be attractive to seagulls, his response being of we caught one we could always cook it for dinner. A while later he went down for a sleep whist I took the helm, whilst keeping an eye on the line. I woke him up with the line ”you know what you said about seagull for dinner??” He managed to pull the line in along with a very angry but young gull who had managed to catch the bait only in his wing and hadn’t swallowed it. A few bite marks later in John’s arm, a lot of struggling, getting caught and re caught in the hooks we finally had the poor thing free of the bait and sent him on his way. Neither of us fancying the idea of having him for dinner. Sorry to disappoint if you were after the recipe, but I guess to quote a Terry Wogan line – it probably tastes like chicken!

 The following morning a trip ashore in the dinghy proved this to be a very pretty town with quaint houses, a couple of bars, a handful of arty shops along with a very expensive Spar.  The weather was beautiful and we returned to the boat to chill out for the afternoon. John spotted a boat dried out on the beach and went to investigate if we could do the same the next day to scrub the weeds off the bottom.

He declared it a fit place to dry out, so the following morning – John’s Birthday saw us both in knee deep water scrubbing and scraping away. How so many barnacles manage to find their way onto the bottom of the hulls I have no idea. A French family wandered along the beach and stopped to chat, John issued his usual invitation of joining us on board for coffee, they declined, but said they would be pleased to provide us with coffee at their house later once we had finished working on the boat.  

At the end of a long days work we found our way to their house where we accepted beer rather than coffee as it was so hot. A tart was cooking in the oven and on hearing it was John’s birthday, they produced a set of candles and we all sang happy birthday (in French then again in English). John was very touched, this was a family whom we had only met on the beach and chatted to for about half an hour, it is amazing how friendly people can be to us foreigners!

We moved on to Vannes as we needed more fresh supplies, and to avoid harbour dues, we anchored outside and went in to the harbour in the dinghy. A quick whizz round to where we thought we would find Lidl, but failed and settled with Monoprix instead. This was a mixture of very expensive stuff (Jam at 8 Euros a jar) and very cheap (Cucumber 25 cents) so we were content to find the bargains and stock up. We took our purchases back to the boat, exchanged them for the bikes and went back ashore for a general site seeing tour.

After Vannes we crossed to the eastern end of the Morbihan to a little place called Le Passage, which was not very inspiring, but it was the entrance to a pretty river Noyolo and we spent a pleasant morning in the sunshine exploring the river. On the falling tide we managed to go aground and it was nearly midnight before we could leave again when the tide returned. An interesting night-time run back down to the anchorage at Le Passage, using the instruments in the dark and working out where the channel was, spotting buoys etc.

Another quick trip over to Ile D’arz again, we needed water and internet access and knew both were available here and on the afternoon tide headed off to the Auray river where we managed to find room to anchor at the end of the buoys opposite the tributary that leads to Le Bono.  I had another important email to send and so we went up to the town centre where the bars were but couldn’t find any with access. I wandered around with the netbook open hoping to come in range of something.  We gave up in the centre, looped back down to the foot bridge across the river where I picked up a weak signal. We followed the path back down to the harbour where it (the signal) appeared and disappeared about 20 times. We got back to the boat where I sat on the harbour wall above the boat and spent the next hour trying to get the thing to send. Orange is my email provider and there appear to be lots of WIFI providers who do not allow outgoing emails to connect to the server through outlook, although received items arrive ok. John has only had this problem once with Google mail – maybe orange is worse for some reason.  Anyway, back on the boat, as I started reading through the new emails I noticed I was on line, with the strongest signal I had had all morning. BAAAAAAAHHHHHH. 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

John’s toys 2 – a vice!

John’s toys 2 – a vice!
If you are as much a fiddler and tinkerer as I am, there are times when you need to hold something really steady in order to work on it.
When I saw this little beastie in Lidl for under a tenner, I thought it would be useful for some of the work I was doing at the time, which it was. It’s a bit on the heavy side, so when we left on our travels I hummed and harred for a good while about whether to take it or to put it into storage.  Then yesterday I discovered that the shackle on the dinghy anchor chain needed replacing, and that it was rusted solid.  The only thing for it was to get the hacksaw out and cut it into two pieces, and doing that without a vice would have been difficult – although not impossible - so although it doesn’t score as highly as the petrol stove, I’m glad I brought the vice along.

We had Conger eel soup, look out for seagull soup in the next episode!!!

If that doesn't get you thinking I am not sure what will!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Wendy’s Diary Vendredi 12 Aout

Bonjour a tous!

La Route de L’Ametie – this was a whirlwind of sailing and partying and chatting this year. My second attendance at the event and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I am not quite so ecstatic about it as John – he says I need to wait until I have done 4 and then I will understand!
In general terms the days go like this
1.     Get up (quite early – at least earlier than I would choose)
2.    Plan the route to the day’s port (I would do this on the computer whilst John did so on the paper charts and then we would compare notes
3.    Sail or motor sail depending on the weather – up to 28 miles on the longest leg
4.    Tie up at the port (usually on a shared buoy but if lucky on a pontoon).
5.    Drink a bottle of beer with the boat next to you
6.    Drink a bottle of beer with someone who comes to see you
7.    Drink a glass of wine with someone you go to see.
8.    Have a meal and a bottle of wine with 800 other people on huge lines of trestle tables, food served by huge numbers of volunteers.
9.    Go chat with someone else that you didn’t get to sit with at dinner and have another glass of wine.
10.  Remember where the boat is, find it and fall into bed.

Strangely enough by the end of the week we were both rather tired!!
More specifically we left Audierne for Loc Tudy (Pontoon), then the next day on to Concarneau (harbour wall). Two and four years ago in this port it rained, and 2 years ago the mayor promised that in 2011 it would be sunny. Thankfully he was right and it was a warm balmy evening. We went over for the evening meal to find it was Chicken Curry – something awful in my books. I had made a quiche earlier in the day (yep, pastry and all), so went back to the boat and made myself a plateful of quiche and salad and returned to the crowds to find John. He had not been able find a seat with anyone he knew – it was incredibly busy, so he sat at a table on his own.

 A French lady took pity on him and asked him to join her and her husband at another table – it would be a bit of a squeeze but she was sure there was room.  I spotted John and as I sat down, I thought, I know the lady on the other side next to me but can’t place her – I couldn’t associate her with a boat. I looked across the table to see her twin boys – Dave and Mike (Jason’s schoolmates) and it all clicked – Saltash. So you sail all this way and bump into people you know. Tracy and I sat chatting for a couple of hours, interspersed with a little bit of French with Annie – the lady who had taken pity on John. After our Cornish friend left, I chatted a bit more with Annie, a lovely lady who was very patient with my poor French.

The next port was Ile de Groix, we were tied up between 2 buoys, in a line of boats about 20 wide and 4 deep! If you are prissy about your boat this is not the place to be. Lots of fenders and a couple of bottles of beer and everyone is happy. Another meal, this time I spotted Annie and we sat with her and her husband (Phillipe) and she introduced us to her sister and brother in law on whose boat they were sailing. She was again very patient with my French and it was good to get the practice. With John and Phillipe on hand to interpret where necessary we had a lovely evening.

Friends on the only other catamaran taking part had caught a conger eel along the way and offered us the tail end – it was a big beasty so the trail was not small. On consulting my cookery book, I turned it into conger eel soup the next morning!
Overnight the weather turned and the event organisers pulled the plug on the days sailing. It started off very foggy and windy, a strange combination. With some very small boats taking part the decision was one based on safety.  I slept for most of the morning, but what does one do when stuck in port on an event such as La Route – Party! So in the afternoon we joined the throng on the harbour wall, a selection of wines and ciders along with some interesting snacks appeared and we drank and chatted with our fellow sailors.
Whilst we understood the organisers responsibilities towards the safety of the crews we were still sad to have missed out on the next port – Le Bono, in the Gulf of Morbihan.  The street would have already been closed and marquees erected, food ordered etc at the point the plug was pulled. It was too complicated to delay everything by a day so we had to miss this one out. It is a very pretty town and very capable of feeding hundreds of people in a short period of time with hot tasty food.

So the following day we made our way to Huat, another of the Islands and a tiny harbour. We arrived fairly early so got a good berth on a buoy (no pontoons here at all). Some boats had to moor outside the harbour where the sea was a bit choppy, so we were glad to be inside.

The last stage of La Route was to Port Louis, where were allocated a pontoon berth with electricity, indeed all boats here got a pontoon berth, it is a huge marina, how they made room for 180 boats I am not sure, but that they did. We had been having problems with the new fridge cycling all the time and using up the battery so it was good to plug in. I made some scones on arrival and invited some German friends to join us for a Cream Tea (I had another tub of clotted cream left over from my quick visit to Plymouth). She had commented that she liked them when we had been drinking onbe of several glasses of wine on their boat so it was good to be able to serve them warm and fresh from the oven.

More beer, wine, food and chatting for the remainder of the organised event which finished on the Sunday evening. By now Annie and I were firm friends and we were both improving our conversation skills in each other’s languages. On the Monday morning when it was time to depart, Annie and Phillipe joined us for a journey up the river Blaynet to Hennebont. Phillipe took the helm, which was a very different experience from using a tiller on a monohull. He enjoyed the challenge and soon got the hang of using a steering wheel.  Annie and I went for a wander around the town and they stayed with us for the rest of the day and departed with Annie’s sister and brother in law who live nearby.
Annie’s brother in law had arranged to go with John to sort out the French mobile phone. We had bought a top up voucher back in Audienre but couldn’t get it to work. After being promised some good coffee the day before (has anybody ever heard of John not offering coffee), Clement arrived with a bag of fresh warm croissants and pain au chocolate (my favourite) to accompany the coffee. They set off and I did a load of hand washing (I’m working on an exercise routine that involves stomping in a big bucket of washing), hung it out to dry, did some tidying and vacuuming, felt I’d deserved a rest so made a cup of tea and sat out on deck to read my book.  This is when they finally retuned having failed to achieve the desired result. In the afternoon we cycled up to Lidl’s to stock up on fresh food. Another uphill all the way trip, but that means when there is a heavy bag on the back, it is an easy ride back to the boat.

Clement had recommended a trip along (up) the river as it was so pretty, so another day saw us setting off on our fold-up bikes and it met our expectations. It is a beautiful river and the path was tarmac and of course fairly flat for most of the ride. Hennebont is the last place that masted boats can reach, a low road bridge (adorned with hanging baskets) prevents yachts going any further without dropping their masts. It is also the start of one of the canal routes, and we cylcled past around 7 locks in 6 miles. With slightly bruised behinds we returned to the boat very pleased with our excursion.

On Thursday we decided to go up to the visitors’ pontoon for the day. Max stay 12 hours, room for two very small or one medium boat. Free electricity provided you don’t exceed the 12 hours, so again time to top up the battery with the fridge still misbehaving. Another load of hand washing done and hung out to dry whilst John paid another visit (his fourth) to the Post office (still no credit on the French phoneI went with John in the afternoon for the fifth trip to La Poste, and this time they came up trumos and we left with a topped up phone – woo hoo!! ).  A cycle ride (uphill) to get some diesel, a fast journey back with the extra weight.

Friday – a day to tidy up and sort out some niggles with equipment. I had a good sort out in the “garden shed” and put away all the things that seem to get lying around everywhere. John moved the fridge into the dog-house to see if a shorter lead would help with power consumption, and then got on with some electrical stiff that needed doing. I decided to write my diary. I was sitting in the dog-house as it was so warm, suddenly a call of “JOHN” from the harbour wall. A fellow sailor from La Route was waving and john went over in the dinghy, and he came back for a cup of coffee. He is the president of a local sailing club which has its clubhouse and pontoons further down the river and we were invited to use them if we wish.

Before he left, another call of “JOHN, WENDY” from the harbour wall. This time it was Annie and Phillipe here to pay a surprise visit on their way home. I whizzed over in the dinghy and they too came back to the boat. They also knew the chap from the sailing club, and after a quick chat I took him back ashore. It was lovely to see Annie again, we have lots of laughs together and at the same time both improve our spoken language skills. Conversation gets easier and more in depth each time we meet and it is so nice for me to be able to chat in French after spending 2 years at evening class, thinking I had hardly improved.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Wendy’s Diary Samedi 30th Juliet

We feel like we have become residents of Audierne during the last 2½ weeks. We get a very warm welcome everywhere we go and keep bumping into friends and acquaintances both French and English.

After a week of rain the weather finally cleared up and stated off sunny but with a chilly breeze, but in the last few days the wind has changed and the temperature is now in the mid twenties which is lovely.

Last Sunday I paid a very brief visit back to the UK as I had an appointment with a neurosurgeon who is writing a report for the compensation claim. Jean-Louis kindly dropped me off at the ferry and I arrived back in Plymouth at 9.30pm after an crossing that was flatter than a pancake. I was kindly picked up by the friends who are minding my car whilst we are away (and I get to use it when I am there which is very useful), and had a pleasant couple of glasses of wine with them before bed.  On the Monday I spent the day with Amy (my daughter), my dad and his wife. Had an enjoyable day and a lovely meal out in the evening with rather a lot of wine!

On the Tuesday Paula (car minder) kindly came with me to the appointment to make sure all went ok and to be there in case I needed moral support (thank you again Paula). The appointment went very smoothly, nothing unexpected and I now await his report that will be used in agreeing a settlement for my injuries. We spent the rest of the day drinking wine and tea and chatting. The one thing I miss being away sailing is girlie chats and so it was lovely. They dropped me back at the ferry for the overnight crossing. Two bus journeys later (total cost - 4 euro’s for 2 ½ hours travelling), I arrive back in Audierne.
It felt strange for the trip to be that way round, that home is now France – but it will take a while to get my head around what we are doing! Equally strange was buying food in Plymouth to bring back to France as it is so much cheaper there. Also picking up things we can’t get here like Salad Cream and Cornish Clotted Cream (see later)!!!

On Wednesday evening we were invited to another boat owner’s house for dinner. We met Silvie 2 years ago when we both took part in La Route de l’Amitie – the cruise we are here for again. She is a professor at a University in Paris and has a holiday home in Audierne which was built originally for her grandfather. When I say holiday home, it is a good sized house with the most amazing views of the estuary and out to sea. It is one of the best place houses in the town and there is a large balcony across the front which shares the same view. She served an amazing meal which finished with a tradition Brittany pudding; Kougin Amaan – the most amazing pudding which is made of little more that butter and sugar! It was another lovely evening and I practiced more of my French.

On Thursday we had some French friends over to the boat for a Cornish cream tea. I baked the scones just before they arrived and we treated them to some traditional English cuisine. We started with Pimms and ginger ale – followed by the scones, jam, and clotted cream (cream on top), served with Earl Grey tea. It all went down very well, and one of the ladies even took the wrapper with her from the clotted cream so she could get some next time she went to England.

On Friday lots of boats started arriving for La Route de l’Amitie. There are around 180 boats taking part, and it involves a party in port every night followed by sailing the next day to get to the next port and party.   This will be the second time I have done La Route, it will be John’s fourth. Last time (2009) John took the boat over and I flew out just before the start and had to return home a couple of days after it finished, as I had work commitments. It is a tiring event and I needed a holiday to recover from it. This time I am hoping that being able to take things easier before the event I shall be able to take the pace and will of course be able to take it easy afterwards to recover.
It was my attendance at this event 2 years ago that prompted me to go to evening classes to improve my French. There are so many lovely people, many of whom speak very little English and last time I was here conversation was not possible. I am pleased to say that my studies have not been wasted and I can now at least make myself understood, even if my grammar is appalling, and am able to understand far more of what I hear. This does depend very much on the accent and the speed, but it is a distinct improvement. Many thanks to my teacher Cristel who has both encouraged me and given me the confidence to speak in French. 

Saturday saw around 100 boats arrive in this little port and the harbour master worked his socks off to get everyone rafted up to corresponding sized boats. We remained at anchor in the middle of the harbour out of everybody’s way. The spring tides have returned and we needed to tweak the anchors again as we had dragged slightly. In the evening it was the “fest noz” for the crews, a tasty meal and a couple of bottles of cider with old and new friends saw out a very pleasant evening.