Saturday, 3 March 2012

Wendy’s Diary February 2012 – A month of extremes!

Without John working we have been able to get lots of things done on the boat which has been brilliant for getting her ready for a long summer of cruising ahead. I always know when John is getting near the end of the list when he is happy to do the aesthetic jobs rather than mechanical/electrical. As the boat is our home I like her to look nice, and obviously she needs to work as a boat, but it is important to me that she looks nice too.

In between working on the boat we have taken a couple of excursions. The first was a trip up the Loire by car, partly to see the places again that we had seen by boat (not the power stations) and partly to see Nantes itself. It was at the end of a very cold spell, and for the first time since 1986 there was a significant build up of ice on the river.

Our first photo stop was to check out something John had thought he had seen on the sail, but couldn’t quite make it out. What he had seen was a very clever piece of artwork, a sailing boat curved over the side of a quay. We nicknamed it “sailors droop” and the photo is below:

You can see the ice in the picture, this was an inlet on the south bank of the river and there were a handful of boats buoyed just in front of this artwork. To see and hear ice like this was a first for me. The sound of it crunching and grating as it slowly moved down stream was ...I am running out of adjectives for amazing/fascinating etc etc. There were circles of ice, these formed as sheets bumped into each other on the way down stream and kept chipping off any bits that stuck out until they became discs, some are in the next photo below:

One night on our sail we picked up a buoy close to where one of the ferries crosses the Loire between St Nazaire and Nantes, so we decided to have a look at the town alongside the river there. We arrived to find that the ferry was not running. A huge amount of ice had built up on the slip-ways and it was impossible for cars to cross this wall of ice to get onto ferry. It had drifted down the river in sheets and the slope of the slip-way had become the perfect collection point for them to settle. The pictures below show how the sheets built up one on top of another. It was a fascinating sight.

Jumping back in the car to get warm again we drove through the next town and came to a signpost which showed something that I lost a while ago and I couldn’t resist getting a photo:

We carried on to Nantes our last port of call of the day and found the island in the middle of the river. Another place where someone has been creating artwork, this time a row of circles placed alongside the river – that were asking to be photographed:

Our second outing (day off from working on the boat) took us south along the coast as a research trip for when we leave Pornichet at the beginning of April. We wanted to see some of the possible ports of call and places to hide should the weather not be good. We have paid to stay in the Marina until 1st April and don’t want to pay for any further nights as the price goes up and more importantly we want to head for warmer climes and John’s yearning for sailing to Spain is getting stronger every day.

We called at about 10 different harbours/anchorages including Pornic, St Jean de Monts, Les Sables d’Olonne and furthest south L’Aiguillon where we had a friendly chat with the local sailing club president who said we would be welcome for a day or two on their visitors’ pontoon. We plan as last year to anchor as much as possible and it is frustrating to see so many harbours packed so tightly with buoys that the room for anchorage is minimal or non-existent.

That trip over and back to work on the boat. We took advantage of some very settled weather to go round to a tiny beach where the Gavy sailing club is situated; this is the club Annie and Philippe belong to. Not only was the weather calm i9t was also warm and sunny. It was perfect weather for scrubbing the bottom and painting the hulls. John stripped off his shirt as he was so hot and later I applied sun screen as he was feeling in need of it. This was still February – only two weeks after we had been fascinated by the ice on the same river. I took a couple of snaps, in the first there are two things to look out for, the first being the reflection in the new paintwork, it really did come up looking good. The second is proof of the weather, the sun lotion is perched on the deck just in front of John.

The second photo shows just how tiny the beach was that we spent the day on. We had a stream of curious visitors all day, stopping for a chat, asking about the boat and where we were from etc. One chap who stopped by twice, each time he took his dog for a walk and on his second visit we plied him with coffee and my homemade cake (thanks Pauline for the recipe). He then invited us back to his house to see where he lived and gave us a dozen eggs, freshly laid by his chickens. Another example of the excellent hospitality we have received from the people of Brittany.

A quick update on my ankle – the physio has signed me off and I can now walk about half a mile, sometimes more. I have been for a couple of cycle rides and have loved being able to do some exercise again. Hopefully this year I will get fit and lose some weight. I have a final check up with the surgeon next week, and fingers crossed the story of my broken ankle comes to an end!