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.