Wednesday, 31 August 2011

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!

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