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2005 - 7
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Part 7: We learn more about our Dufour 40 Performance as we remain in the La Rochelle area

La Rochelle (24th Aug, 40 miles)

I'd checked the weather forecast before we set off; it said W2/3 becoming SW 5/6 but back on board I missed off mention of possible sixes. It was another bright sunny day and David's last sail this year and as the trip would be familiar to us it would probably be quite relaxed if the force six stayed away.

The passage to La Rochelle.  As is now the norm we motored out of the harbour and, even though there was no real wind, we hoisted full sail and switched the engine off. Sure enough with a F2 on the beam we were sailing nicely.  David tried for a few mackerel but was unlucky this time as the wind had risen and we were sailing at 6 knots, too fast for fishing; experience tells us we'll only land dentures.

During the afternoon, as we neared the Ile de  Re, the wind moved slowly into the South but luckily for us our arrival at the North of the island meant that for the final 20 miles we would slowly be turning to the East. As luck would have it our slow 90 degree turn kept the wind off the nose and so we continued at fine speeds to La Rochelle where Janet's calculations were proved correct and she declared the water deep enough for entry.

During the journey, and unknown to us, the forecast had been revised to read "becoming F8"; we only learned of it when we  read an SMS text from Chris. Again our luck was in as there was no room at La Minimes marina as they said they were emptying the visitors area due to the forthcoming boat show and so we had to go up into the town marina the Vieux Port. Here we were so sheltered that although we heard the gale we felt little of it due to the shelter provided by the city walls. Amusingly, La Minimes  told us to raft up along side Fanara a UK boat and as we approached it we almost could see a mirror of our selves in action. We started to fasten fore and aft breast ropes but before we were 50% complete Mr. Fanara asked if he could help with our land lines. Land lines I though, give us a minute and we'll get to them; but he was quite assertive. "I'll take them ashore for you, just pass me the end" he went on. It being easier we gave him a rope and he went quietly busy. 10 minutes past before he realised we were not French and therefore knew how to moor in a rising gale. We laughed together and wondered why the French never use shore / land lines, in fact most seem to think springs of little or no value when rafting.

click for full view of town

La Rochelle is impressive during the day time and it is also impressive at night as almost all of the harbour area is flood lit. David and I snapped away merrily in the difficult lighting, each optimistic of the odd good shot.

The following morning we needed to be away by 0830 so left David in La Rochelle to fend for himself for the next 4 hours until his midday flight back to Birmingham.

Saint-Martin de Re (26th Aug, 15 miles)

The passage to St Martin. We motored out of the port in just about zero wind; so much so, even Ruby couldn't sail so we motored at the running-in speed of 2000 revs all the way to St Martin.

click for full view of town

As you might have read, we visited this port one week ago and needed to pay �38/day, it was not a good price. So this visit we were worried as we needed a berth for 3 weeks until Margaret and Nigel (brother and sister in law) visit and we could not afford such prices. Speaking to the mademoiselle in the bureau was difficult, here English equaled my French, in that both were zero. She asked if we were from LR and we hastily said we were. Thus, seemingly, we were recognised as a boat without a home for the duration of the boat show, and so were offered a seriously discounted rate. We look forward to paying and hope we have not misunderstood the prices.

Here in St Martin we continue to add to our list of issues for discussion with Dufour on our return. Luckily nothing major so far.

click for enlarged view

One week into our stay Nigel and Margaret arrived for a long weekend visit and a late 50th birthday for Nigel. This photo is from the top of the church tower, 2 mins before 1200. I can confirm the bells were truly as loud as David had said some weeks earlier.

Saint Dennis D' Oleron (15th Sept, 18 miles)

We've been on Re for about 3 weeks now and so it was with some trepidation that Janet went to the Capitainerie to pay. Luckily we had passed the peak season so paid only �20/day overall.

The lock opening was at midday so we had a leisurely morning and exited with a dozen or so other boats.

The passage to St Dennis. Heading South we could see Cinnabar a couple of miles ahead; they'd been one of the first to leave and were also headed for Oleron but as there was no wind we both set cruising revs hence the 2 mile gap was maintained.

Eight miles further saw us pass beneath the 30m tall bridge and suddenly find wind. Actually we were out of the shelter of the island and so we felt the F3 SW'ly in our faces. So up went our sails but only the main on Cinnabar who also kept her engine on. Once trimmed we were sailing at 30 degrees to the wind at about 6.5 knots and faster than we had been under engine at running-in revs. The next 10 miles passed in a flash and so it was that we entered St Dennis at about HW, 200m behind Cinnabar.  We were both quickly berthed and and tied up ready to weather tomorrows gale.

Ile D' Oleron is only about 10 miles SW from La Rochelle and a good jumping off point to go to Rocheforte or return to La Rochelle but we'll see how long the gales last before we decide where to go next.

Our first day was a trip to the morning market, where we found veg to be not all that cheap, and then a cycle to the next largest town southwards of us. The cycle was along pathways thro ever changing scenes. We passed thro villages, along salt pans, vineyards, market gardens and a host of back yards to Le Douhet.

click for enlarged view

Le Douhet is a pretty little harbour and it seems to feed the inland waterways through a sluice gate. Ruby could call in here on all but spring tides. In the photo we see some of the back yards with splendid access to the waterways.

Eventually to Saint Georges where it seemed to be either siesta time or post season as the place was deserted. We saw more people repairing the church roof than walking the streets. Anyway, neither coffees nor ice creams were consumed before we headed North towards some ominous black clouds in the distance but luckily the rain largely held off until we were back aboard.

click for enlarged view

On our second day we read that about 1Km as the seagull flies or 7km by cycle-way is Pointe de Chassiron, its at the N of the island as is this lighthouse. Close by was a small tourist shopping area but it was largely deserted, in this part of the island the season seems over.

In the evening we asked Mike and Kay from Cinnabar for pre dinner drinks. They were a super couple from Wigan and used to keep Cinnabar in Caernavon, and surprise surprise they had previously owned a Jaguar 25, just as we had. We remembered sailing her like a dinghy in Chichester harbour and later in the same way on the Menai Straights past Carneavon; happy days, Alphina taught us a lot about sailing. Mike said one of the best trips they had had on Alphina was to S Ireland.

"Did you say Alphina", Janet and I asked simultaneously, "our Jaguar was called Alphina."

It quickly became apparent that when we sold Alphina in the late 80's it had been Mike and Kay who bought her. They had sailed her for about 10 years and loved her to bits. They then bought Cinnabar a 36' Westerly Conway.

alphina off Ireland

Kay quizzed us to see if we could remember anchoring in her. Janet recalled an almost complete failure to anchor Alphina and described how we had dragged that anchor all over Chi harbour without it ever biting into the ground. Kay had similar tales and then said we would be quite surprised to hear that the anchor was a cheap copy of a Danforth but all its angles were wrong such that it never would work. They binned it and had no further trouble anchoring with the new CQR.

Baby donkey

On our final full day on Oleron we decided to cycle down to Boyardville. The route looked tricky on the cycle touring map but we had a super day out. Initially the route took us almost back to Saint Georges but then it entered a forested area for the next 12 km. During the day we saw Marsh Harriers, Buzzards, Egrets, Kingfishers and a baby donkey. Donkeys seem quite a popular pet as opposed to a working animal and we oftem saw large groups in the fields, one of which was this cutey. Overall a brill' 50 km ride.

click for enlarged view

During the morning, whilst waiting for the tide, we watched the dredging operation.  Quite what the aim was we never did find out but the digger was lifting pieces of rock as big as small cars.  Here you can see the cill is covered by about 30 cm and the truck is waiting for its next load.  To the left are fishing boats in about 2 m of water. Dredging continued until the tide rose to a point where it covered the giant JCB's tracks.

La Rochelle (19th Sept, 13 miles)

The passage to La Rochelle. Once out of the harbour we felt a weak Westerly wind so we hoisted full main and turned for La Rochelle but as we lost the shelter of the harbour walls the wind rose to a good F5 and off we rocketed. "I Don't think we need a headsail" said Janet, "we are doing 8 knots all ready."  So we sailed for about an hour to the marina of La Minimes, even passing a small motor boat on route.

Here the staff said take a berth with a blue float but not one carrying a reserved notice. Expecting little choice we were quite surprised to find the visitors area only 10% occupied.  The boat show was still being cleared away but most of the pontoons were empty. We then checked with the Capitainerie who said we could have the berth all winter if we wished. And so we did.

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