On 27.8. Brigitte flew in from London to come on board.
Because she had not sailed so much before and the weather was actually horrible with rain, 5-6 Bft from ahead we took it easy the next day and sailed only to Camaret 11 nm away from Brest.
We picked up a mooring and had Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner. Afterwards the harbour master took us to shore with our dinghy towed for our return to the boat later. We had a nice evening in one of the bars and luckily it had stopped raining when we went back.
The next day, Thursday 28.8. we set sails to St. Evette which included as a navigational challenge the rounding of the Raz du Sein where the hand book strongly advised to be there exactly at slack water (Stillwasser) because otherwise tide against wind could build up dangerous seas. So we started with plenty of time, the weather had improved and we perfectly well timed got through the Raz du Sein.
In St. Evette we also picked up a mooring, slept in the next morning and in best sunny weather wanted to start to sail to the 100nm distant Ile d´Yeu. But the engine did not start. I tested the starter battery but the mulitmeter said that it had a good voltage. So I thought the starter had a failure. But as we were at a mooring it was no problem to leave under sail and wait with the repair of the engine until we are in a proper port.
So with light winds and sun we sailed all through the night with Brigitte and Jacob in one watch and me alone in the other watch. There were almost no other ships and we were far out from the coast so also no other obstacles.
Unluckily the wind got less and less during the night. In the morning we put the genoa and the main sail in butterfly position which helped a little bit but when the wind had died almost completely we were doing only 2 – 2,5 knots. We already well saw the Ile d´Yeu but because the engine did not start we had to be patient. I thought that this would be the right moment to try out the spinaker. I got it out, arranged the sheets (Schoten), barber hauler, down haul and the spinaker boom lift. The spinaker itself is in a long canvas tube (Segeltuchschlauch). So you first hoist this tube and with a line you can lift up the tube from the bottom to the top to unfold the spinaker. This way even with a small crew of just three people it was no problem to set the spinaker. Even with two persons and an autopilot it would be possible..
The spinaker instantly gave us one knot more of speed.
In the late afternoon we had finally reached Port Joinville on the Ile d´Yeu. Because the engine was still not working we had to moor under sail. It almost went alright but I had underestimated the turning circle of the boat. When turning in the harbour basin under sail to go alongside the pontoon we hit the pontoon with our bow a little bit. A little bit of wood had been scratched off the pontoon and on the boat the metal rail on the bow took most of the impact. So no serious damage had happened. We hooked up to shore power to charge the batteries. After some quick shopping for dinner I tried to start the engine and it started! So it had been just the flat batteries and nothing was broken on the engine. That was a great relief. So I was very happy that evening even despite the little damage on the bow.
The next day, Saturday 31.8. we very nicely sailed the 30 miles to Les Sables d´Olonne. But when I wanted to set the spinaker the spinaker halyard (Spinakerfall) got caught in the furling system of the genua and jammed it (blockierte es). That meant we could not set the spinaker neither furl in or out the genoa. So with a ¾ of a genoa and the main sail we sailed to Les Sables d´Olonne. In the approach to the harbour we furled (wickeln) the genoa by hand around the forestay (Vorstag). That was quite difficult because we had already 4Bft of wind an the sail was madly flapping in the wind.
After we had moored Brigitte and Jacob hoisted me up to the mast in a bosuns chair (Bootsmannsstuhl) and I untangled the halyard.
Afterwards we went to the bars and had some beers.
The next day, Monday 1.9.2014 we sailed 42 miles to La Rochelle. The day started with little wind but we made the best out of it and took a swim in the ocean from board.
Because we arrived only after sunset and the handbook had recommended not to go to the old harbour at dark, we went to the modern marina with 4000 (!) places.
It had just been extended and apparently due to the construction work the navigation marks on the harbour entrance had not yet been corrected, at least it was all different from the sea charts. But with great caution, a very strong search lamp and the chart plotter we safely found the entrance and eventually a free place.
Early morning of Tuesday 2.9.2014 Brigitte had to leave to catch her plane from La Rochelle to London. We were sad to say good by, it was such a enchanting trip with her.
Later Jacob and I moved the boat 2 miles up to the old port of La Rochelle. And that is really one of the best harbours for yachts to be. You are in the middle of an old harbour basin, on the quay there are all along restaurants, the next bakery and super market are near by within 5 minutes walk and street musicians play.
So while we cooked our dinner, lamb with salvia (Salbei), zucchini with lemon and rice with eggs, salad and pineapple with yoghurt as dessert, we first heard two old men playing jazz and for dinner we got very good cover versions of rock and pop songs.
When we were finished it was already almost 10 pm and we went to sit directly where the music was. Unfortunately the musician had to stop playing because of the people living there. But it turned out that the musician is a German, Julien Müller is his name, under way with his voicycle., and maybe he becomes famous. At least he is participating in the German casting show “Rising Star” on RTL and he got into the next round last time and the next show will be in September. So watch out for him.
He invited us to have a glass of wine with him and some other friends at a nearby wine bar. So we did. During the evening we also met Clarisse, a young french woman living and working in La Rochelle and invited her for the next evening for dinner. Originally we wanted to cook fish, but the fish market closed already at noon what we did not know. So we had pork with carrots and mashed potatoes. Afterwards we again went to meet Julien and had once more wine with some people.
For the next day we had planned to have a barbecue on the beach because a new crew member, Maria, from Germany was expected. And because they were all so nice people we invited also Julien, Clarisse, Annabell, Louis and some other french guys making street music to the beach barbecue.
Our main challenge was to get a grill. We had to walk for almost an hour to get to a big supermarket were we got the last grill, but only the actual grill, not the stand and hold for the charcoal. On the way from the super market we had picked up Maria from the station and she was very delighted when she heard that we had prepared a barbecue.
Without the stand and hold for the charcoal it was even nicer on the beach because we simply took some of the small rocks, arranged them in a circle so that we could place the grill on it.
Everybody had brought something to eat and drink and it was put in the middle on a big blanket. We had a wonderful party on the beach, undisturbed by the police. It is actually not allowed in France to grill on the beach.
The next day, Friday 5. September 2014, we sailed again just a short distance to Saint Denis on the Ile d´Oléron and on Saturday, 6. September we sailed to Royan on the estuary (Mündungsgebiet) of the Gironde. Due to little wind we did more than half of the distance of 42 nautical miles under engine. When we entered the estuary the tide was fully against us. We knew that before but not that it would be 4 knots at the maximum. According to the books and tidal charts it should have been only 1,5 knots. But it did not matter as we were too early for the harbour anyway because it is only accessible 2 hours after low water and we still had to go 15 miles. So thanks to the good wind. we out sailed the current, but at some times doing only 0,1 – 0,5 knots over ground.
The last 200 metres to Royan harbour were the most exciting ones because it was very shallow, the shallowest point we came across left us just 10cm of water under the keel. But that was the litteral one hand width of water.
On the next day, Sunday 7.9.2014 we slept in, had breakfeast with croissant and baguette. During the day we visited the modern cathedral built by a scholar of Le Corbusier, Guillaume Gillet, and afterwards went to the beach. Before the shops closed I bought light wind spinaker sheets in expectation of our next leg along the French coast to Spain with light winds from the back.
On Monday, 8.9.2014, Maria had to leave already again, as well early in the morning to catch her plane from Bordeaux.
Just after she had left the sky cried, it poured with rain until the afternoon. So Jacob and I did some reading, route planning and put a shopping list together. After it had stopped raining we went shopping for the over 100 mile long trip because there are no harbours between Royan and Capbreton. Except Arcachon, but that is only accessible in good weather, is 10 miles inland, and one needs to be there at the right tide.
For dinner we invited our neighbourgh, Guy, a retired Swiss man from Geneva, and enjoyed together with him our carrot risotto.