Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Wendy's Diary 21 Septembre

Just a quick update for now.

The boat is now in Le Pornichet Marina where we intend to spend the winter, altough John has now joined me in living with friends in their house in St Nazaire as I can't manage the boat. More bad news with my ankle - it was hurting lots so I went back to the equivalnt of A&E and an xray showed the bone had slipped out of place. I am booked in for surgery tomorrow so will be back in hospital for a couple of days. Oh well!!!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

John's Diary 1

John’s diary – singlehanded sailing
It was a bit of a shock to find no Wendy on the boat and a message to “Come up to the Hotel behind leClerc and we can have a chat” when I arrived back at Redon after nearly eighteen hours travelling on Sunday night.  I was a bit disgruntled by the mysterious messaging, especially as I was practically asleep on my feet, and all I wanted to do was to get my head down!  That said, all the irritation evaporated when I discovered Wendy’s injuries.
Having got Wendy packed off safely to Annie and Philippe, it then fell to me to get the boat out of Redon on my own – an interesting task, as it had needed the lockkeeper pulling hard on the spinnaker halyard to heel the boat enough to get the cap shrouds clear of the bridge, while Wendy fended off.  We are 4.2m wide, and the lock is only 4.5m, so we have only about six inches clearance on each side, most of which is taken up by fenders!  The young lady eclusiere (lockkeeper) didn’t seem to have any concerns, which might have been something to do with my having helped her out with a large barge a few days earlier when the holidaymakers on board had spent nearly fifteen minutes making a hash of it.  She had been tearing her hair, calling out things like “Now go slow ahead, helm to starboard.  No! No! NOOOOO! STARBOARD, not PORT!!!  AHEAD not ASTERN!!!” and all the time the queues were getting bigger at her bridge and I suppose she was imagining the complaints which were going to flood in to her boss about the delays.  I was as much concerned about the barge hitting our boat as their difficulties getting into the lock, and after several near misses, I offered to help and got them into the lock.  As I came away afterwards the eclusiere gave me a big beaming smile, a thumbs up, and blew me a kiss which made me grin.
Anyway, on the morning of my departure I had everything ready, and I had disconnected the cap shroud, pulling it out of the way with the spinnaker halyard to clear the bridge.

The eclusiere called across to me, and so I set off.  She raised the bridge and I gently nosed in with a crowd watching (that normally guarantees a disaster!) but in we went, gently nudging the fenders on both sides as we did so.  The eclusiere was outside her control tower, camera in hand, snapping away with a big grin.  “Oh god!” I thought.  “Don’t mess this up now!”  However, it all went perfectly, and I got another wave from the control tower and a big smile as I cleared the lock and went into the port de Plaisance.

As I went down I noticed a heron on the bathing bathing platform of one of the yachts, quietly waiting for breakfast.  It was unfazed by my passing quietly past.

At the other end I saw a British Moody (Globil) just having the mast stepped, and I went alongside for half an hour for a chat while I reconnected the rigging.  Bill and Gloria (hence the name of the boat) came aboard and had some coffee and madeleines (little sponge cakes).  Neither of the couple had been on a cat before, and Gloria said to Bill just before they left, “Now if we had a boat like this, I’d be more than happy to live aboard!”  I’m not sure whether I have done him a favour in cementing his relationship, or whether there is now an impending divorce! I hope it’s the former…

I went gently down the Vilaine with one engine just ticking over, replacing what we have used from the batteries over the last few days of immobility. Eventually I came to a lovely little halt in the middle of nowhere, called Rohello, consisting of a car park, a beautifully-maintained aluminium pontoon and a set of rubbish bins.  I offloaded the rubbish and dinner went on, comprising a couple of gallettes au lardons et fromage (pancakes with cheese and bacon bits) with duchesse potatoes on the foredeck washed down with a glass (well, two actually!) of Normandy cider.   I settled down to a lovely night’s sleep and awoke early enough to watch the thick mist drifting in the moonlight before the sun came up.  

Sunrise quickly dispelled the mist, and the day warmed up quickly.  I carried on downstream.  There are dozens of abandoned boats tied up on the banks with large square nets on small cranes off the sterns.  Apparently these were used for a fishery which has now evaporated through overfishing, and the boats have just been left to fill with rainwater and rot.  Some of them are little sailboats with the masts lifted off, others are traditional rowing boats and some are basically mini pontoons.

A bit further downstream I turned off into a tiny insignificant creek behind a boatyard, a creek so small that it appeared to go almost nowhere.   It turned out that it was actually navigable for about half a mile and I was treated to the sight of a large bird of prey flying across, the streak of iridescent electric blue from a kingfisher which went ahead of me along the stream as well as countless beautiful dragonflies, thousands of pond skaters and blooming water lilies. 

 I finally turned round when the creek got really shallow and only just wide enough to swing the boat around.  It was a lovely diversion, and showed rural Brittany at its absolute best.  The creek is a couple of miles above la Roche Bernard on the left bank of the river behind a busy marina.  Any reasonably small boat could anchor up there free of charge in complete peace and tranquillity, yet with the marina facilities a short dinghy ride away.  There is a lot to be said for having a slightly smaller boat like an HT!

After the diversion, I headed downstream again.  The port of La Roche Bernard is busy, but they were happy for me to use the visitors pontoon for a couple of hours (without charge – what a contrast with the UK!) to do a bit of shopping and hunt down a bar with wifi to catch up on emails.  I topped up with water at the same time, before setting off for the lock at Arzal. Up to this point I had been able to sail most of the way down the river, sometimes hitting nearly five knots under just the (reefed) genoa, but after a few hours of perfect calm, the wind changed and I found myself motoring downstream with 18 knots of wind on the nose.  Having become accustomed to making three knots at 1,200 revs on one engine, I was not impressed to be making just under 2 knots at 2,000 revs, but then I spotted a tiny cove on the left bank, about half way between la Roche and the lock.  It looked interesting, so I nosed in very gently and although very shallow (the props were kicking up the mud a lot of the time) it was perfectly sheltered so I spent the day there, out of the wind in warm sun, getting ready for the passage ahead.  When evening came, I raided the fridge and freezer and had smoked peppered mackerel (oh boy, what a glorious meal!) with a handful of chips and garden peas, accompanied by another glass of cider, all on the foredeck in the setting sun.  “Life doesn’t get much better than this,” I thought, and much as I miss Wendy’s company, being able to have smoked mackerel (which she can’t bear) was a real treat which went a little way towards making up for it. 
The following morning, I had a call from Wendy, asking if I might be able to get to La Roche for lunch with her and Annie. You can imagine my delight at the idea, and so I upped anchor and relocated just below La Roche, leaving the wind generator to do its stuff in the breeze.  

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Wendy's Diary 15 September A bad week

I am typing this on a french keyboard which makes it rather slow as lots of the keys are in the wrong place!!

So after the good news at the end of August with John being offered a teaching job we started to make plans of what we needed to do before he started work. We had a few restful days socialising, reading and watching the time float by whilst planning ahead.

We met another heavenly twins owner from Cork in Ireland called Francis (the owner not the boat) and enjoyed comparing notes with him life abord these boats.

We moved the boat round to just inside the canal, where we were told it was free to tie up along a wall which was at just the right height for the boat. It was rather interesting going through the lock with the lifting bridge, as it did not quite lift far enough to avoid the shroud on one side and we were stuck. The lock keeper came to our aid and pulling on the rope attached to the top of the mast (I have forgotten what it is called) he managed to lean the boat sideways and the shroud cleared the bridge by at least an inch! The trafiic had waited around ten minutes by the time we were done.

John will need transport for his job and having both the car and motorbike back in the UK being looked after and available we decided the bike would be best mainly for economical reasons, so last Thursday morning I waved John off on the train to Roscoff, I stayed behind to look after the boat.

I had a wander around the clothes shops and others that John is not really interested in then returned to the boat to fetch the bike so I could cycle to the supermarket. I got the bike on the grass bank, fetched a couple of bags for shopping (very green of me) when one of them blew out of my hand in the wind and I ran to retrieve it. Reaching the slightly damp stone quay I slipped  and fell between the boat and the quay, managing to land with an arm on each and only my feet going in the water.

Ouch, that really hurt I thought, and in pain knew I needed to swing my legs up on to the boat, which took 2 attempts. Once my legs were safely up, the ouch factor increased and I saw that my ankle was distorted - I had dislocated it!  OMG what do I do now. I thought that John would be close to Roscoff by then, we had piad for the crossing, he needed the bike for work, so I chose not to ring him but my friend Annie instead. She knew exactly where the boat was so with my panic level rising with the pain, I managed to tell her (in French) that I had fallen and needed an ambulance NOW and she sorted everyting for me.

A few minutes later the Pompiers arrived, 4 strapping young men with half a dozen words of English between them. They found my twisted lying down position on the back of the boat made it rather difficult for them to move me, but managed to get me on to a stretcher and then to the van. I say van as it is not like an English ambulance, there is no paramedic, no pain relief, no taking of pulse or blood pressure, just a taxi to hopsital.

Fortunately along with having my phone in my pocket I also had my purse, which contains my EHIC card. This made things much simpler and I would recommend to anyone abroad to carry it with them at all times just in case. They took some xrays which not only confirmed the dislocation, but that I had fractured one of the bones quite badly in the process. They needed to do surgery so I was finally given a drip for pain relief and hydration.

Annie had arrived and managed to act as interpreter between the medical staff and myself. Having had surgery only 6 months previously I knew the routine which made it much easier to work out what they wanted to know. I was scared when she was not allowed to come with me when I went for surgery, being in a foreign country and not having met the surgeon or what he planned to do. It turned out that the plan for the evening was to yank it back together under anaesthetic and hope it worked, although they were doubtful. I was pencilled in for open surgery in the morning. 

It was Friday morning before the surgeon had examined the post op xrays and thankfully declared it was perfect. No surgery necessary and 6-8 weeks in plaster. He said if all was well I could go home the following day. I made the decision to not tell John as I did not want him worrying about me when he had a long list of things to do in the UK.

I was discharged on the Saturday with a bundle of precriptions including one for a pair of crutches, the hospital does not issue them, you have to buy them from the pharmacy. Annie and Phillipe thought a wheelchair would also be useful, and picked up one of them at the same time. Annie and Phillipe had been sleeping on the boat whilst I was in hospital, as they knew we did not like leaving it unattended. There was no chance that I could climb on to the boat in my condition and so Annie and I stayed in a local hotel.

On Sunday afternoon we awaited John's return in a Creperie overlooking the boat. He was sending me texts to update his e.t.a whenever he stopped and then sent one to say the GPS had died, he had no map, and would have to find the way on major roads through towns he knew so would be late. The Creperie was closing so Annie and I went back to the hotel and Phillipe had to return to St Nazaire as he had work in the morning. When John finally arrived at about 10.30pm not knowing why I wasn't there, was very tired and a little grumpy. Annie drove to fetch him back to the hotel so that I could explain all. Later he returned to the boat to get some much neede sleep.

He sent a text on Monday morning to say the bike had been stolen overnight and that he was at the local gendarmerie!!! Unbelievable. Annie collected him and we sat and had breakfast together at the hotel and managed to laugh rather than cry about our misfortunes.

Later Annie brought me back to her house in St Nazaire to stay for as long as I needed to, as the boat was so inaccesible to me. Yesterday John left Redon to sail back down the Vilaine, and will slowly work his way around to Le Pornichet. I don't think either of us will ever go to Redon again!

I am being very well looked after, spending most of my time propped up on the settee with my leg raised to stop it swelling up. I have to have an injection everyday to prevent blood clots, with the nurse coming to the house. We went for a promenade along the seafront yesterday, with me in the wheel chair. We sat and watched the sun on the waves for a while and I was very envious of the surfers catching the waves and longed to be able to do the same.