03/08/2012, Les Minimes Marina (position 46 08.572'N 01 10.056'W)
As well as having the largest Marina in Europe, La Rochelle is also reported to have the most Chandler's in close proximity. Six and all within half a mile of each other - Excellent. Bruce is in his element and I'm going to have to work hard to look after the wallet!
Having spent a good couple of hours browsing across all the Chandlers we actually found one that is nearly as good as Darthaven Marina, Kingswear, being well stocked and nicely laid out - Phil you should be really proud of what you've created at Darthaven!
Whilst here we've taken the opportunity to purchase a new dinghy as the UV has finally taken its toll and done some serious damage to our current one as the fabric has 'gone sticky'. Every time we sit on it we literally have to 'peel' ourselves off, our bottoms then coated with a sticky residue that's hard to remove. Needless to say, we'll be making a cover to protect our new dinghy during the winter months.
No doubt we'll be visiting again whilst we're here ... Budget blown totally!
02/08/2012, Les Minimes Marina (position 46 08.572'N 01 10.056'W)
It's been a year already and we're really loving the lifestyle! :-)
01/08/2012, Les Minimes Marina (position 46 08.572'N 01 10.056'W)
We are really spoilt for choice when it comes to Marina's in La Rochelle.
Les Minimes is reported to be the largest in Europe, providing berths for over 3,000 yachts and motorboats with work underway to hold another 1,000 by January 2014 - it's just massive and for the first time since leaving the UK we felt that we would benefit from having our bicycles onboard.
There are three smaller marinas in the town centre; 'Vieux Port' and 'Bassin a Flot' which are located in between the two towers of St Nicolas and La Chaine and are surrounded by cafes, bars and restaurants and all very busy and the 'Bassin des Chalutiers' which is full of super-sized yachts and catamarans and even more restaurants but slightly less crowded. Both 'Bassin a Flot' and 'Bassin des Chalutiers' are accessed through locks gates at more or less high water whilst the 'Vieux Port' is accessible most of the time.
As for lifting these super-sized yachts and catamarans, well you need a big crane! John, how about Darthaven invest in one of these at 150 tonnes?
Our visit couldn't have been better timed when we saw the arrival of at least 30 classic wooden yachts, all dressed (flags flown in a particular order from the boats bow to the masthead and back down to the stern) and varnished to perfection, clearly these yachts were very well loved and it was a pleasure to see. Money appeared to be no object with most of the crew members dressed in colour co-ordinated shirts.
Having briefly walked around all three Marina's, we've decided to remain in Les Minimes for the time being (now we've paid we can move between any of the marina's at our leisure), even though it's a walk from the town centre. La Rochelle is full of history and places to visit, so we've decided to stay up to the end of August in order to explore. It's also near the airport so ideal for Bruce to travel back home for his appointment with the consultant.
30/07/2012, Les Minimes Marina (position 46 08.572'N 01 10.056'W)
Originally we thought that we would be motoring all the way to La Rochelle as the weather predicted light winds, but they got it totally wrong this time and we sailed with one reef in the main and 22 knots of wind (that's a Force 6) all the way to La Rochelle.
We had a bumpy ride whilst leaving Bourgenay where we actually scooped a wave over the bows - we only just ducked behind the canopy in time to avoid getting soaked!
En-route we spotted a couple of large ugly jellyfish, just below the surface. Seeing jellyfish this size definitely puts you off swimming. The highlight of the trip was sailing (yes Mike, sailing) under the Île de Ré Bridge (this joins the island of Île de Ré to the mainland).
Arriving at La Rochelle at high water (it's all pretty shallow around here), we stopped at the 'accueil pontoon' at Les Minimes Marina to book in for 3 nights, taking advantage of their buy 2, get 1 free offer before relocating onto the visitor's pontoon.
Total distance this season: 644.39 nautical miles
29/07/2012, Bourgenay Marina (position 46 26.347’N 01 40.704’W)
A little cooler today so decided to explore a little more of the area by following a 12km circular walk, denoted by blue and green stripes. Starting near the car park just outside the Marina we followed the coastal path meandering in between the shade of pine trees whilst walking over really soft sand, making walking difficult at times. In some places, the coastal path was uncomfortably close to the rocky edge (Jo you wouldn't like it!) but the views across the sea either side were lovely.
The path then heading inland down farm tracks where we passed several fields full of sweet corn (not ready otherwise we would have pinched a couple). Butterflies were in abundance and flying all around us for at least an hour. I don't think that I have ever seen such variety apart from in a butterfly farm - certainly not in the wild. The colours were so bright and beautiful.
From farmland we found ourselves walking in what we can only describe as a 'holiday village', comparable with a posh version of Centre Parcs. All the apartments appear to be owned and subsequently rented out directly or indirectly through the company running the park. The village was huge but nicely spaced out with apartments, golf courses, ponds, a petit train, bars and restaurants. The walk finished just behind the marina on the outskirts of the holiday village.
The evening was spent listening to traditional French music that played from the quayside between 9pm and 11pm. A two man band on an carnival float which looked like a traditional french canal barge, playing traditional musical instruments and dressed in costume was absolutely brilliant!
27/07/2012, Bourgenay Marina (position 46 26.347’N 01 40.704’W)
We've been following the blog of another HT "Grey Dove" with interest
http://sailblogs.com/member/greydove, owned by David and Jeanette.
Their current track suggested that our paths were about to cross so we took the opportunity to contact them via sailblogs with a view to meeting up. We informed them that our next destination was Bourgenay and it would be great to meet them if they were passing.
As it happened, they were at St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie and would be sailing past us the following day on their leisurely way back to Rochefort so would pop into Bourgenay for a night or two.
Shortly after 4pm HT Grey Dove appeared from behind the marina breakwater as advised by David and we helped with her lines and briefly introduced ourselves. Knowing what it can be like after a short spell at sea, we left them to organise themselves and invited them aboard later for drinks and nibbles.
The next day, we were invited aboard Grey Dove for what started out initially as coffee and then a long afternoon lunch. Grey Dove has been extensively modified since David and Jeanette have taken ownership so it was really enjoyable and interesting to hear about the changes and their cruising plans for next year. Like us their planning on going to the Med but currently their looking to do it by way of the canals rather than the coast of France, Spain and Portugal like us.
Another topic up for discussion was fishing given that David, like me has yet to catch any fish! Unfortunately David lost all his gear recently (rod, reel & rod rest) so has had to replace it all. He doesn't know what took it but believes the water was too deep to have caught it on the bottom so assumes it was something pretty big!
Thanks again David and Jeanette, it was really great to meet you and see Grey Dove having followed your blog for so long. Hopefully we'll see you later this year or early next in Rochefort before your departure. Fair winds and good cruising.
P.S. We'll continue to work on reducing Drummers weight ... but unfortunately I don't think we'll ever be as light as Grey Dove :-(
26/07/2012, Bourgenay Marina (position 46 26.347’N 01 40.704’W)
We were expecting Bourgenay to be relatively built up given that it's in close proximity to Les Sables, but surprisingly its not. The Marina is built in a small bay besides a nature reserve. Just behind the marina is what can only be described as modern town houses with balconies clad in wood and colourfully painted which are holiday homes. These lead down to the Marina where there's a selection of cafes, bars and restaurants on the waterfront.
On the afternoon of our arrival we walked inland to the small town and then continued to the nearby beach of Veillon 'Plage du Veillon' before returning to Drummer via the coastal path. It was a glorious day and the beach was full of families all enjoying the sea and sand.
Once back at the Marina, we couldn't resist Moules Mariniere with cream served with frites, served up at one of the restaurants 'La Belle Epoque'.
Just like the French, we lunched from 12am through till 3pm, watching the world go by whilst enjoying our mussles over a pichet of Muscadet followed by a crepe with rum & raisin ice-cream.
With very full stomach's we returned to Drummer for a late afternoon snooze. We've concluded that we just can't drink and eat at lunchtime like the french ... maybe more practice is needed!
25/07/2012, Bourgenay Marina (position 46 26.347’N 01 40.704’W)
Heading a little further South, we travelled ... wait for it ... a total distance of 8 miles today. To be honest, the actual distance in a straight line is only 5 miles but due to the shallow sea bed you have go out an additional mile or so when leaving Les Sable and arriving at Bourgenay. Amazingly the temperature was 20 degrees as we left at 7.30am so we started the day wearing trunks (that's Bruce) and bikini (me).
Not a cloud in the sky and absolutely no wind. The sea was just ripples over the slightest of swells.
Bruce, having reverted back to feathers and a lead weight actually caught a fish but unfortunately as he was winding the line back in the fish managed to get away (I'm not laughing!).
Arrived on the visitor's pontoon in Bourgenay by mid-morning - what a hard, stressful journey!
Total distance this season: 614.24 nautical miles
24/07/2012, Port Olona Marina (position 46 30.105'N 01 47.513'W)
Les Sables d'Olonne just had to be visited because it's famous for the Vendée Globe, the world's most prestigious round-the-world single handed yacht race. It's held every four years and the next race is this November 2012.
Our first morning was spent walking along the waterfront of the pretty fishing village of La Chaume, stopping first for a quick 'browse' in the many chandleries. Once this was out of the system we continued our walk along the front passing a number of bars, restaurants and shops all lining the prom. As we walked along the pier people were fishing with nets and rods just like in Pornichet.
In the afternoon we continued our walk into Les Sables, with its 'Quai Garnier' marina, town and beach.
There are significantly more bars and restaurants to choose from here compared to La Chaume, all lining the quay front. Every last one of them looked inviting but we didn't succumb and walked on continuing to the beach, passing loads of hobbie cats on the way - Trev, you would have been in your element!
The busy sandy beach is not as large as "La Baule" but just as clean. The tide was going out so we went for a paddle - it was lovely and so refreshing although I'm not sure if it's anywhere near the 21 degrees as our instrument suggested. We didn't think to take our cossies otherwise we would have gone for a dip ... well one of us would have anyway!
We spotted 'Stressbreaker' in Quai Garnier marina and caught up with Nick and Rona the following day spending a lovely afternoon with them - Thanks both. The last time we saw them was back in Camaret early on in the season and now they're making their leisurely way back home.
The weather over the last few days has been really great and we must say that we've also appreciated the late afternoon breeze that seems to arrive out of nowhere and lasts just a few short hours - we believe is called the 'vent solaire'.
Let's hope this weather continues for a while because we haven't had much of a summer yet!
Bimini, bimini side panels, window covers and a wind scoop...and its still over 30 degrees below deck.
Good job the fridge is still making ice!