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The story of Fandancer
Great sailing
George, sun, partial cloud
Tue/05/12, La Ciotat

Just a quick note. We left Port St Louis at 1050 Monday, and had a wonderful sail along the French coast, past Marseille, to the old port of La Ciotat. Very picturesque. But a huge base for mega size gin palace boats too. This is supposed to be one of the cheaper places to berth, and eat out, along the south coast of France. We paid 19.50euros to berth here for one night. It really is a lovely harbour, surrounded by many different restaurants. We chose a Moroccan place, and each had the most wonderful lamb tagine for only 9.50euro each, plus drinks.
We are leaving soon, it's only 0820am, we were up and walking about even before the market stalls were fully set up! We are heading for Toulon tonight, about 20 miles along the coast, eastwards. The light wind will be on the nose, so mostly motor sailing for a while.
I have some new photos but not easy to put them on here via iPad, so will use e laptop next time.
Miss you all lots! More news soon ........

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We have left Beaucaire!
George. Sunny, partial cloud, light breeze.
Thu/05/12, Port St Louis

I'm pleased to say that I am now able to plot our new position, Fandancer is now in the Mediterranean port of Port St Louis. We left Beaucaire on Monday 30 April and travelled a short distance to St Gilles down the canal and stayed overnight and most of the next day as it was a holiday in France on Tuesday 1 May and the locks were closed. We moored very close to the St Gilles lock on Tuesday night and woke to a beautiful sunrise on the Wednesday and we went through the lock at 0730.

After we left the canal, we joined the Petit Rhone and went upstream for about 3 hours until meeting the Rhone proper. We had been keeping a careful eye on the weather all week, and also the current on the Rhone, which can be very strong at times, but we had absolutely no problems and made rapid progress to Port St Louis, we had to slow down a bit so we got there for the lock opening at 4pm. We met up with a friendly Australian couple, also in a yacht, and moored near them in the marina.
On Thursday morning, Tim got the boat ready for the re-masting, getting the bottle screws ready, the spreaders, etc. We motored to the Navy Service yard and arrived at our allocated time. Of course, being France there was no one from the yard to meet us, so Tim expertly motored Fandancer in astern to the little dock area, and eventually the team of yard workers arrived and did an excellent job replacing both masts. We were thinking of how to dispose of the three wooden mast supports that Tim had carefully made before we left England, and just as we were taking them off the boat, a French couple came and spoke to us and said they were looking for some mast supports as they were soon doing the reverse trip to us and going up the French canals. It was their lucky day, we gladly handed them over.
We then motored back to our marina space and Tim spent the rest of the day sorting the rigging, adjusting all the bottle screws, setting the mast, etc. tomorrow we will put the spars back on and also the sails. Then maybe we can go for a short shake-down sail!

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Leaving Beaucaire on Sunday 29th.
Thu/04/12, Still in Beaucaire at the moment ...

Well, it wont be long until I feel like a proper Sailblogger, and my location will change! I keep getting a message saying my location hasn't changed for over 30 days - well that's not quite true, we often go to a different cafe for lunch, I went to the supermarket, and I walked to Tarascon the other day ..... Oh, I see, it means the boat location! Well I'm very pleased to inform you that this blog might be a little more exciting very soon, because as from Sunday, Fandancer will no longer be in Beaucaire!
We are finally ready to move on to the next stage of our adventure. The new autopilot which we brought back from the UK has been installed by my extremely clever husband. He can't wait to calibrate it when we get to the sea - apparently you have to make the boat go round in circles and wavy lines for a while, so the computer inside the autopilot can 'learn' the boat's movements. Sounds like a normal stint on the helm for me, I won't have any trouble steering wavy lines or circles!
We took a trip to Port St Louis on the bus last Monday and booked to have the masts lifted back in at the Navy Services Boatyard. No idea why it is called that. They appear very efficient and professional. From Beaucaire there is one lock, then we will stay overnight near St Gilles. The next day we have to go up the Petit Rhone, then down the mighty Rhone to Port St Louis, ghrough one more lock and a lifting bridge. After the masts are in, we will then berth in the town marina for a day or two, doing some sea trials to make sure the sails and rigging are set correctly, and to calibrate the autopilot. And I will be visiting the big InterMarche supermarket to stock up on some goodies for the next part of our voyage, a couple of nice cheeses, a dozen bottles of wine, a bottle of Pastis and a bottle of Scotch should do nicely........

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Back in the UK
George. Colder than France.
Wed/04/12, Portsmouth

Thanks to everyone who has made nice comments about the blog, and been wondering why it has dried up recently.
We've been back in the UK for over a fortnight now, but will be returning to FandAncer in Beaucaire on Sunday 15 April, flying to Avignon. We hadn't planned to be here for so long, but decided to buy a new auto pilot for Fandancer and the parts haven't arrived yet, they are coming from Raymarine in Belgium. If they are still not here by Saturday we will get them sent out to us.
I have missed being in the UK so much! Especially the tv, the newspapers and magazines, and the shopping! Oooh I've done lots of shopping this week!
It's been great to catch up with family and friends, and we've had lots of nice meals out, but the service and prices have made us realise how good the restaurant food is in France!
While we've been here, we have been sorting out and emptying our rented garage store, and discovered quite a lot of boat related items that are now on EBay! Anyone want an ancient pump for a boat loo, or a couple,of ancient bronze winches, or an electric router or a wood workers mallet ( don't ask!)...
We're off to see Titanic In 3D tonight, my daughter has never seen it! Better not tell her the ending ......
More news soon!

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chemist, station and French TV
George
Mon/03/12, Beaucaire

Bonjour mes amis!
I have decided that quite a lot of French life is quite bizarre - just as an example, I've just been to the local Pharmacy (....and why does every tiny town have at least 4 pharmacies! Do the French get ill a lot, are they just a bunch of hypochondriacs, or maybe they are just more concerned about beauty products than the British!), anyway, in France you can buy almost anything over the counter, regardless of whether it is prescription only in the UK. So I asked for two boxes of these prescription tablets (and they are less than 3 euro a box here, compared to whatever the prescription charge is per box in the UK) and the chemist was quite happy to sell them to me, but strangely he would only let me take one box at a time from the shop! I paid for two boxes, but he would only give me one and told me to come back at 6.30pm for the other! Why!

Another oddity which I observed last week - while queueing up in the local train station for tickets, the Frenchman in front of us didn't seem in much of a hurry, and when he approached the counter, he held up a brand new paperback book to the ticket lady, then after a very brief word with her, he proceeded to open the first page, wrote a message and signed the book, then handed it over to her, then left! What does this mean? Can anyone get on a train if they bring a new book for the ticket clerk? Or is she someone special in the literary field like a book reviewer who gets paid to read books and has this second job as well as being a ticket clerk to supplement her income? Or were they both spies who were secretly passing messages to each other?

And finally, another strange observation, this time about French tv (which is basically rubbish). When they have a preview or trailer of a future programme, sometimes the trailer is clearly over-dubbed in French, and to start with, we thought we wouldn't bother to watch it later in that case, because by the time I've had to look up so many words in my little pocket French dictionary, I get behind in the plot and lose the will to live. But we subsequently found by accident that when the actual programme is shown, it is in English, with no French sub-titles! What's the point of that? Is it to try and lure the French into thinking they can watch something later? Or is it to stop the English from watching it as they think it will be in French? This only seems to be the case for USA tv serials like "House" and "Grey's Anatomy" but I've also noticed it for some films made in English, but the trailer is in French! And another bizarre thing - I tried to record an English speaking programme the other day, "House" I think it was, then when we played it back later it came out all in French with no English sub-titles possible!

Thank goodness I've got less than a week to go, then I go back to normality for a while when we return to the UK at the end of the month. I can't wait to have an overdose of trash TV, and a pile of English papers and magazines! When we return to Beaucaire around Easter, we plan to move Fandancer to a boatyard nearer the coast, have the masts put back in, then we'll be sailing in the Med!

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Early morning rescue, and sunken boats
Sun/03/12, Beaucaire

We've been in Beaucaire for over three and a half months now. The weather is definitely getting better; it's forecast to be 21 or 22 next week. But we have a very big Mistral wind blowing at the moment, often the wind is over 60kph with gusts of 80 or 90 kph,so it's very strange to have really warm, sunny weather, but a very strong wind blowing! The Mistral always blows from the North, down the Rhone valley, and people say it lasts for multiples of 3 days - either 3, 6, 9 or 12 days. We're on about day 5 now, and the forecast is suggesting it might be gone by Tuesday. The little canal basin in Beaucaire is extremely well-sheltered; the main town is north of the canal, and then behind that is the castle on the hill. We couldn't really be in a safer berth.
However, this morning we were woken just before 7am by one of our boat neighbours, Lennie, a nice Dutch lady who lives permanently on her boat by herself. I heard all this banging and shouting, saying she needed Tim to help her, so I woke Tim up to go and investigate. Tim got to Lennie's boat first, and found that another smaller motorboat with no one on board, about three boats along from Lennie, had broken free from the stern ropes by which it was moored to the quay, due to the wind continually moving the boat so the rope was worn through. The boat was still moored by its bow line badly tied to a red buoy further out in the middle of the canal, and the wind had blown the boat away from the harbour wall and was trying to blow it almost a full circle (270 degrees to be exact) so the stern of the boat had swung round on a long rope and was now banging into the bow of Lennie's boat! Do you get the picture so far?
My gallant husband launched Lennie's dinghy, jumped into it and paddled out to the loose boat to attach a line to it so we could manoeuvre it back into its space. It wasn't that difficult to do, and just as we were securing the boat onto the mooring rings on the quay, one of the guys from the Capitainerie (harbour master's office) shows up. Apparently the police had phoned him at home at 0630 and said they had seen this loose boat on one of their surveillance cameras, but by the time he arrived there was nothing for him to do.
It just shows how important it is to check your mooring lines carefully, and if you leave your boat unattended for a long time, get someone to check it regularly for you. There are quite a number of unattended boats here over the winter, and we are always amazed when we walk round the harbour to see how badly secured some of them are, and how some have been neglected for a very long time. This winter, FOUR boats here have sunk! Now, when I think of a boat sinking I think of it disappearing completely under the water, but it wasn't actually that dramatic, it just means they have sprung a leak somewhere, and been taking on water. In the worst cases, they fill up with water and the bottom of the boat actually touches the bottom of the canal otherwise they probably would have disappeared. The local pompiers/firemen are called, but there is only so much they can do, especially if there the leak has been going on for some time and the boat is full of water. Two of the sunken boats seem to have been completely abandoned, in very poor condition, and no-one was looking after them. The other two were saved, pumped out and repaired. We will definitely be getting someone to check on Fandancer regularly for us when we leave her for a couple of weeks when we head back to England later this month.
PS - the picture that goes with this blog is of some Algerian men who frequently sit for the whole afternoon on the bench near our boat. They usually chat to each other for a while, then often fall asleep. What a lovely way to spend your day!
PPS Clare W, its great to get your comments on this page, but everyone can read them so maybe send me email instead, or facebook message?

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