Royan to St Jean de Luz
13 July 2012 | St Jean de Luz
7th to 10th July 2012 - I'm doing this log post as a combined post for two reasons really One: We've only just got the internet again as nothing at Royan where we stayed for a week (cool place with a bit going on) and Two: the two passages from Royan to Arcachon and Arcachon to St Jean de Luz were largely the same as in sand sand sand and......yet more sand to look at for the 10 to 12 hour legs (x2). Moral was summed up by Kim when she came up into the cockpit after a bit of a nap and stated 'it's like we've not gone anywhere!' as the scenery looked exactly the same - one very long beach! (which lasted for about 140 miles aprox). Anyway we left Royan as we had the only chance to leave given the mix of weather, strong tides giving us limited departure times, and the firing range activity which effectively closes the coastline for large periods. We had looked up the shorter southh channel for the River Gironde which the pilot books make out to rather tricky and dangerous - it very much reminded me of the River Exe really and proved to be no problem. Then largely nothing to report other than sand and reasonable conditions (after a bit of a bumpy ride out the river which upset the dogs a little). We had a nice sail for a couple of hours at the end towards the Arcachon and prepared to enter the river - again the pilot book makes a big point that it is important to arrive at the right time and we were bang on target an hour before HW. Although we did hear on the radio a yacht much bigger than us speaking to Cap Ferret coastwatch station and checking conditions okay for them to enter 3 hours before HW and seemed fine. Now one v important thing to mention here is that your Chartplotter is useless for entering this particular harbour as the sandbanks shiift considerably each winter and the channel we found beared no resemblance to that on the chartplotter - althought as Kim helmed us in covering the ground at 8.5 knots with the last of the flood, I marked the up-to-date channel marker buoys positions on the plotter which would be useful on our exit. The other thing to mention is ther is a whopper of a sand dune which is quite impressive! We went to where the anchorage was just outside the marina but then in true Team Petrella style armageddon happended with the sky turning a blacker than blacker and a nasty squall hit us - a quick team discusssion and sod it not the conditions to try to anchor so we dived into the marina (it was getting late getting on for 9pm). We found a small 'welcome' pontoon and went along side only to find out not much water there so a v pleasant french couple suggested we rafted alongside them for the night - they reallly loved the dogs! Tied up nicely, a spot of dinner and then a good night sleep.
Archachon is lovely and definately one of the nicest places we have visited so far - we took the dogs a walk along the seafront and had a good lunch and bit if an explore. I then went up to the Capitanerie and took Bells with me as a bit of a hike around to the other side of the marina. Now I must say that having visited many ports in France – the guys in this particular port were amazingly helpful (and a bit of a laugh!) with Bells being made a big fuss of. Oh and the Almanac says that it’s twice as expensive as anywhere else with limited space for visitors which is correct but what it doesn’t say is that the 2nd night is free so provided staying 2 nights it’s v reasonable and the guys in the office did their level best to make us feel welcome giving us a map, some tips on where to go, the dog a bowl of water, and checked the weather and the firing range activity for us.
We really didn’t want to leave and original plan was to stay at Arcachon about a week and anchor but unfortunately we were again restricted by when we could exit the river (an hour before HW is best) which meant no good at the weekend, the weather checked again, and the blessed firing range – rang the Cap Ferret station for information. So we had to leave earlier than hoped otherwise it was going to be either an overnight passage or stay for a couple of weeks for tides to come around again. So off we went with the conditions and tides right. We filled up with diesel before we left the marina so we were full again and it was a long day as we had to cover 80 miles. Sand, sand, sand....and more and more sand! We could have gone into Cap Breton or Anglet was the original plan but was put off by the right up in the book regarding cement works opposite the marina which can be rather unpleasant in NW winds (which is what we had). Oh and WOW look at those mountains which appeared with a sudden change of scenery! St Jean de Luz looked good with a large anchorage – we much prefer to drop the hook then pay money to marinas and hoped to have a few days moored up. Watch out for a large amount of rubbish in the water as going passed Biarritz and we had a bit of a band as we hit something (probably a plank as we saw several). We got anchored up by about 2130 next to an American boat (although the owner sounded v French). This place is awesome and by far the favourite so far – beautiful with the mountains in the background, a huge beach, a big anchorage – to ourselves, free wifi from orange, and great weather! The paddle board is out and we all went swimming around the boat! We’re gonna stay here for a while I reckon!....