La Sable d’Olonne to La Rochelle
29 May 2014
Once again working the tides got us out of bed and on our way early, as we would go aground if we didn't get out of harbour by around 10:30. The wind was a repeat of the previous day, which started with a light breeze that slowly filled during the day strengthening into a good afternoon sea breeze. It was still quite cold with a beanie and windproof jacket standard dress for the day, but the sail down the coast was smooth, with the surprise of an array of high rise buildings at Bourgenay, they looked out of place. We stayed close to the coast while taking the inside route past the Ile de Re and under the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. This bridge was enormous standing 30+ metres above the high tide mark, which allowed access to quite large boats to take this inside route. Arriving on a Thursday, we didn't expect to see many yachts out sailing on a weekday. It was like 'peak hour' at 15:30 in the afternoon with large num,bers of yachts out sailing......the French had it right, bugger the work and go sailing......As we rounded the outer breakwater and into the shallow estuary and an even narrower channel, it was hard to imagine that La Rochelle ('Port de Minimes') would have to be one of the largest small boat harbours in Europe. The Marina holds over 4900 boats, most of which are yachts, power boats are a minority.......La Rochelle is a medieval walled city, with twin towers at the entrance of the old harbour, that are impressive giving the place lots of character. A travelling sideshow was in town complete with rides and 'ghost train', this seemed to blend in well with the character and provide a bit of lively atmosphere to the town. Street art seemed to be tolerated in some parts as kids openly painted walls in the more down trodden sector of the town (see photos)........We spent four days there, arriving on the Friday, with Mike (Peckham) flying in on Saturday the 31st to join us for the stretch across Biscay....
Kim and I were head down, working on Songbird, when Mike wandered down the pontoon ramp, kit bag over shoulder and swaggered onboard with a "G'day mates" like he did this sort of trip several times a year......Warranty work by Dufour was attempted.....to quote a good old aussie saying "they couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery", although the guys doing the work Manu and Yann were great and did the best they could....Kim being ships 'quarter master' sourced the best three course meals in town (around 15 euros). These are really good value....most of the restaurants do these, they are the perfect size to feed you but not make you walk away bloated. Coupled with a beer or wine they are top value and polished off with a coffee, you can't beat it......One of the highlights was a 'museum ship' in the old harbour with the bar located on the top deck, learn a bit of history while drinking a beer, great stuff.