Heading East on North Star

This is planned to document our sailing the Atlantic to England, Western Europe and return to US via the Caribbean

17 July 2017 | Caramiñal, Spain
09 July 2017 | Xufre, Spain
26 June 2017 | Xufre, Spain
24 June 2017 | Dinan, France
22 June 2017 | Pleudihen-sur-Rance
20 June 2017 | Giverny, France
18 June 2017 | Connelles, France
17 June 2017 | Amboise
15 June 2017 | La Bernerie-en-Retz
14 June 2017 | Bourges, France
13 June 2017 | Sault
12 June 2017 | Lagnes, France
09 June 2017
08 June 2017 | Menton, France
05 June 2017 | Cannes
03 June 2017 | Gourdon, France
02 June 2017 | Mougins, France
20 May 2017 | Varadoiro do Xufre
16 May 2017 | Varadoiro do Xufre
08 September 2016 | Westerly RI

Underway Finally

17 July 2017 | Caramiñal, Spain
Ted, beautiful day
Yesterday we finally got underway from the boatyard at Varadoiro do Xufre. It seemed like we were welded to the pontoon. Lots of little issues raised their ugly heads, as they always do with boats and ships when you want to get underway and go somewhere.

We are missing the new life raft which is still at Xufre. The life raft was delivered with a misfitted mounting bracket. I had the company which sold me the life raft send me the correct mounting bracket, for which we waited two weeks. They sent the same bracket. Rather than waiting another two weeks the boatyard modified the bracket to fit properly but did not have the material to fasten it to the deck. We will need to pop back into Xufre to install the bracket and life raft.

Yesterday's sail was just right 10-15 kts for a majority of the day. Shan had the helm the entire time, with the exception of a few minutes leaving and entering port. At one point I suggested she steer a little to the left but was ignored. When I asked why, her explanation was that she did not want to slow down and if she turned left she certainly would slow. The need for speed!! At lunch time we heaved to in the middle of the Ría and ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There was no one around to question what we were doing. Heaving to, for those who may not know, involved stopping the boat with all sails rigged and making no way, which North Star does quite nicely. We decided that as the wind died, we would make for the little port of Caramiñal which is just across the Ría from Xufre. Just after we arrived and we safely moored, the wind came back with a vengeance. I would say it is just the luck of the Irish, but....!

It was great to have North Star sailing again. Everything worked the way it was supposed to. Our call to the marina was ignored, which I found out later is normal for this area. We just headed for the visitor dock, where we saw a white bearded man in a red shirt waving his arms and pointing to a slip. North Star still does not behave when maneuvering in close quarters, especially with turns to the left, but we managed to dock safely. We will need to get out of here tomorrow and head back to Xufre to get the life raft, if possible, but more importantly, to have dinner with friends.

Our timing was a little off. Yesterday as a Sunday was the kick off to a series of summer festivals, fiestas, celebrating St. James. Fireworks, fireworks, and cannons. Loud music that played until midnight. Others from whom we heard said the music in other parts of the Ría played until 3AM! Today was very quiet, needless to say.

27 June - 8 July

09 July 2017 | Xufre, Spain
Ted, beautiful day
27 June - 8 July

Plenty has happened, but not everything was worth writing about. Work stuff. How I fixed this and that. Totally uninteresting. Two events worth updating are 4th of July Launch and Lunch at Nito's mother-in-law's dining room.

North Star is in the water. We are awaiting arrival of the new mounting bracket for the life raft, as I broke down and bought a 6-man life raft. Everyone knows that a 4-man life raft won't fit four men, hopefully the 6-man will! The sails are rigged, in process of convincing the engine alternator that it should work, outboard motor has a gummed up carburetor, and wind vane steering system is in process of going together. We should be underway this week for a tour around Ría de Arousa.

Fourth of July came too quickly this year. It also coincided with launching North Star. I had managed to get a set of international signal flags from our friend, Philippe in France. He had washed them and in the process had disconnected them. Dressing ship is normally done on Navy ships for special events and international signal flags are flown from stem to masthead to stern -- but the flags must go together in a proper order. There we were the night before launch with a myriad of things to get done so North Star did not sink when lowered into the water. One of the staff from the boatyard, Carlos, came over to check to make sure we would dress ship for the launch and 4th of July. We found ourselves at 11PM putting the flags together, in order, with no idea how we were going to raise them since the halyards had been removed last summer. And by the way, Carlos said, we hear there will be a party on the pontoon after the launch! I guess I had mentioned to the boatyard owner, Nito, that we would open a bottle of Prosecco in celebration. Of course this was interpreted to mean there would be a party on the pontoon for everyone in the yard since they had never had an American boat in the yard on the 4th of July. And did I mention this to Shan, our detailed planner, oops! I guess I forgot and somehow worked past an awkward moment.

So the Fourth came whether we were ready or not. Somehow the dress ship flags were raised and Shan managed to get off to the local super mercado for celebratory Prosecco and cake, still not knowing exactly what was planned. North Star was moved to the launch point, then picked up by this huge 160 ton travelift to be lowered into the water. We still did not have a clue as to this mysterious party. Launch went without a hitch, although right in the middle we had to make room at the pontoon by moving three other boats. So finally, Carlos agreed we would party at 6PM and brought a Stars and Stripes Banner that he had made specially for the Fourth and for us. Meanwhile, Shan kept asking for details which she finally decided to make the details for herself. She sent me out to tell everyone about the party and that it would be a few minutes before yard closing time so all the workers could attend. Everyone did come, so many came that the pontoon started to sink at one end, and a great time was had by all. Bob and Maureen, Irish friends on Modus Vivendi, rafted outboard of North Star had us over later for a wonderful dinner, after which we collapsed.

The problem with our big celebration was that Nito, the yard owner, could not attend due to a schedule conflict. He is the one to whom Shan and I had promised the Prosecco. We still had the bottle in the fridge. So Nito invited Bob and Maureen, Shan and me, and our Irish Storyteller friend, Gerry Burke to lunch at his mother-in-law's dining room. We brought the bottle of Prosecco. Nito, his wife, Mariquina, mother-in-law Josephine, and close family friend, Manuel, were there to welcome us. As I understand it, Mariquina and her mom had owned a restaurant, a Michelin Star, several years ago, so they brought all the commercial kitchen equipment to Josephine's house and built a kitchen and dining room separate from her house. The food was wonderful and the wine constantly flowing. I had gorged my myself on courses one and two, when Manuel happened to say there is much more to come...and it did. After the meal the singing and storytelling went on for a couple of hours, during which Josephine, in her early eighties, showed us all how well she could sing and kept right up with Manuel, Gerry, Bob and Shan who was playing spoons. Needless to say we had a wonderful time and learned much about superb Spanish cooking.

Spain at Last

26 June 2017 | Xufre, Spain
Ted, Squally
25-26 June

The trip to the airport in Rennes was totally uneventful with the exception of the usual anxiety of finding a gas station to top off the car’s fuel tank. The airport at Rennes is international but driving into it, the approach is on village neighborhood streets, homes and shops, not the usual limited access road designed for easy access for busses, taxis, and cars.

In the airport I always have a problem in security due to the metal in my knees. Every time I have to go through the embarrassing hand pat down. I think next time I will wear shorts so security knows that I don’t have anything strapped to my knees. I do wish we did not live in times like these.

When we boarded the aircraft there was an instant change in culture. The flight was Spanish Iberia and everybody began talking in Spanish at once and loudly, aircraft engine noise outside with aircraft doors open, and the flight attendant making announcements with rock music in the background. The din was almost overwhelming. At that moment we were not in France anymore and the flight hadn’t even left the gate.

Shifting languages is a problem when you don’t know either of them very well. For some reason, even though some say Spanish is a simpler language, the words just do not seem to stick. Shan has a similar problem. We studied pretty hard in the few months before we left for this trip and the last one in 2016. We can understand what we read in many cases, but drawing a word out of our memory and making a sentence is a challenge.

In Madrid we opted for a taxi to the hotel although riding the metro would have been easy and much cheaper. We had the heavy bags which seemed to get heavier every moment, and thunderstorms were threatening.

At the hotel we had a gin and tonic to celebrate a successful arrival. We had forgotten another good cultural difference between Spain and France. In France a gin & tonic is sometimes difficult to find, and lime is even more rare in a bar or restaurant. In Spain the server brings the bottle and pours waiting for you to say: Cuando (when). So we had two huge G&Ts with lime — quite a celebration!.

Monday’s trip to Villagarcia was pretty uneventful also. The Spanish train system, Renfe, is modern and very efficient. Five hours to Santiago de Compostela and another 30 minutes or so to Villagarcia where Nito drove us to the boatyard.

It is great to be back aboard. What is not so great is I want to rest after all our traveling, but there is much to do. After a short trip into Xufre to stock up with a little food we were in for the night and will worry about installing the new stove, fixing the refrigeration, etc., etc. tomorrow.

We heard a "Hello on North Star" followed in his very Irish accent "Bet you can't remember my name!" Very leprechaun-ish! But he was right, we couldn't. Jerry is a storyteller on the boat next to North Star. Moments later we were invited for a glass of wine on another Irish couple's boat, Maureen and Bob, following which we walked to town for dinner. Surprised, all of them found us in the restaurant and it was a late night! Perhaps we needed it.

Old Friend Michel

24 June 2017 | Dinan, France
Ted, beautiful day
Friday morning after extricating the car from the tiny close where parking was fully hazarded by granite stone borders and walls, we drove off to Dinan which was only a short distance away. This thriving village is noted for its old half-timber buildings that date back to the 13th century.

We arrived early in the day so our Ibis Hotel room was not ready. We took a walk down into the old part of Dinan, down the very steep cobbled street to the river, where we had lunch. We seem to pick a restaurant based on the plat de jour and little else, and always arrive early. There was only one other couple in the restaurant, but, as usual, it seemed to fill within minutes after we ordered. We were getting close to our last meals in France, and this did not disappoint us. I had a very messy mussels in cream sauce and Shan had chicken. The cream sauce was delicious but seemed to find every surface on both of my hands -- but, hey, what's a guy to do?

Saturday morning we drove to St. Quay-Portrieux to meet with our French sailing friend Michel. It was good to see Michel, and finally, after he had us for dinner in his home many times, we were able to buy lunch for him. The restaurant was La Passerelle, where I had eaten before when North Star was berthed here. I don't know if Michel was just being nice, but he said our French had improved which was a huge ego boost. We did notice that we could understand more of what he said, except when he got excited about a subject like politics and certain world affairs.

Back at the hotel we did a trial packing of suitcases. Shan and brought her clothes for the summer and we had bought clothes and gifts along the way. We wanted to get everything possible into two main bags without having to buy another suitcase and pay for additional baggage for the flight to Madrid. Success!! We did it -- with the set of international signal flags in a spare shopping bag for me to carry.

During the process of the trial pack, my laptop fell off the bed! When I plugged it in to charge it and ensure it worked, the charging light didn't turn on. I panicked. It felt like the sky had fallen! What would I do if the only computer we had for the summer didn't work. Then rational thought took over and I tested other things like iPhones/iPads and they didn't charge either. Shan noted that the room AC was also not working. The problem was with the room's electrical wiring and not my computer! Whew! The hotel offered to let us change rooms and since were happened to be all packed up anyway, we took them up on their offer.

Sunday we will drive to Rennes and then fly to Madrid

Pleudihen-sur-Rance Birthday

22 June 2017 | Pleudihen-sur-Rance
Ted, hot
20-22 June

After those three very hot days in Connelles, we anticipated some cooler weather as we moved back in the direction of Rennes from where our flight would take us back to Spain on Sunday.

Our first stop along the way was Honfleur, a little village on the other side of the Seine opposite Le Havre. When were were cruising the north of France, Honfleur had been on our list. Very picturesque with a tiny inner harbour with a lock. We arrived in time for lunch, and, unfortunately, the hottest moment of the day — mid 90F with absolutely still air, not a breath. The restaurant we picked had a glass wind break and overhead heaters for cold weather, but no fans — our sweat was puddling on our seats.

Shan’s two fish, salmon and a white fish, was delicious, but my pork was overdone. We watched as others were served gigantic seafood platters with lobsters, bullots, shrimp, oysters, and mussels. We watched as they ate everything! After lunch we walked around the village, shopping and attempting to stay in the shade of the buildings where it was cooler.

We had reservations at a B&B with Madam Theresa in Pleudihen-sur-Rance near our friends, Philippe and Sheena with whom were to dine that evening and who had planned a BBQ on Thursday, Shan’s birthday. Pleudihen-sur-Rance is a tiny Breton village of grey stone buildings, walls, and narrow streets, very unforgiving for automobile paint. We arrived at Madam Theresa’s when we said we would but couldn’t find a sign and there was no response to Shan’s knock on the door. She started toward a neighboring house and I attempted to turn around in the narrow close. As I started to drive out of the close, a small boy came running to the car followed closely by Madam Theresa — very distraught, asking: “What do you want? Have you reservations? Do you want see-catering or B&B?” All this and more in very fast French! She had apparently lost track of which day it was and had not planned on opening the B&B until July, but did especially for us (Philippe and Sheena’s friends). The B&B was not at the same level as those where we stayed in Bourges and Amboise, straight out of the 1960’s, tiny rooms, no AC, too much furniture, but great wifi!

We enjoyed a wonderful two days with our friends and will cherish every moment visiting with Philipe, Sheena, and their extended family from England and Sweden. Philippe just happened to have sold his boat and had a set of international signal flags. I needed the signal flags for dressing North Star for our crossing with the ARC, so other than the minor problem of carrying the bag of flags back to North Star, one problem was solved.

We decided to stay in Dinan for Friday and Saturday. So off we go again.

Giverny

20 June 2017 | Giverny, France
Ted, hot and still
Yesterday we were up and out early to arrive at Monet's gardens before crowds of tourists and the summer heat. The tourist route into Giverny takes one directly to the car parking and doesn't touch the village. Veronica, our GPS voice, "decided" perhaps we were too good for the tourist route and brought us into the village from the opposite end driving past the gardeners and villagers, who gave us strange looks. We were pleased to find the parking lot virtually empty, only to determine we couldn't have parked much farther from Monet's home if we had tried.

The sun had not risen too high in the sky, so it was prime for photos and not too hot. The garden was in full bloom as were the tourists. Trying to get a photo without someone's body part was somewhat futile. The famous bridge overlooking the water feature was packed such that there was a queque for getting to the front where a photo could be pinched. Of course, the water lilly gardener chose exactly the wrong moment to get his boat underway from the shore and start scooping debris and dead plants from the photo shot.

We were surprised by the number of Americans, probably not all From the US, but spoke English with an American accent. We have been submerged in French culture for the past few weeks, very polite, generally quiet, affectionate with kisses on greeting or leaving, and always a polite "bonjour" and "au revoir" when entering and leaving a shop. Our French teacher, Marie Claude, kept us focused on a correct accent and proper verb tense. She emphasized use of the subjonctif would differentiate good and bad. When we hear someone speaking bad French it is disturbing and we can imagine how the French must feel when people murder their beautiful language, and how sometimes they can seem aloof or cross. Our experience is that we will make the effort to speak as much of the language as we can, hopefully not murdering it. Chatting the the boatmen on the Loire, the shopkeeper in Valbonne, B&B owner in Bourges, and especially the friends whom we meet along the way have given us very special memories of France.

We are taking it easy for the next few days. The next visit on our list is Honfleur, which we will visit on our way to Dinan on Wednesday.
Vessel Name: North Star
Vessel Make/Model: Shannon 38 Pilothouse Cutter
Hailing Port: Westerly, Rhode Island, USA
Crew: Shan and Ted Rice
About: Shan and Ted make their permanent home in Westerly and live aboard during summer months. North Star is currently in Galicia, Spain. They will be continuing their cruise in June.
Extra:
Boat: Our Shannon Pilothouse 38 Cutter was built in 1982 by Schultz Boat Company in Bristol, RI. We are the third owner of North Star. She was taken to the Mediterranean in 1999 by the previous owners and spent most of her history split among Chesapeake Bay, Mediterranean, and Westerly, RI areas. [...]
North Star's Photos - Main
These are pictures included in the blog taken by both of us.
7 Photos
Created 17 April 2015
1 Photo
Created 17 April 2015
The process of outfitting for a North Atlantic crossing in June 2014.
2 Photos
Created 23 March 2014