La-Rochelle to Lorient - Alone on board
I need to write: La Rochelle has impressed me very much. Therefore I have many additional thoughts to the few sentences in the last report and I need to put them on paper!
La Rochelle is a city you can fall in love with
The city has remained largely unscathed in the Second World War. The Submarine basis was far enough outside the city and at the end of the war there had been a standstill agreement between the German commander and the French negotiator. The result of this "Convention of La Rochelle" was the handing over of the intact and undestroyed city and port facilities after the German surrender.
This story can be wonderfully understood with a visit to the city bunker. The Germans had first demolished a hotel in the middle of the city for their officers, built a bunker underneath and then put the hotel back on top. This bunker has been completely preserved and can be visited today as a bunker museum. Impressive contemporary documents and re-enacted scenes bring history to life. Emphasis is also placed on the French resistance and the drama of submarine warfare. 30 days was the average survival time of a submarine soldier at that time.
Not far from there is the market hall, here all kinds of culinary delights are sold. In the surrounding alleys on Saturdays also all sorts of other things are offered. I have to think of Inspector Dupin, a famous crime character in this area. At all his places of action he first needs a petit café, but then, at some point, he also visits a cheese stand. I also buy cheese here, the small pieces are wonderful. Impressive also the large Mixed Paella pan from which a portion is sold for 10€ each. Mixed Paella means chicken and seafood. We had it in Vivero in Spain several times.
By the way, ordering in a restaurant works quite well after the one-week intensive course. French is not so easy when you don't want to know anything about it after school and don't start again until you're 58. The course here is now for one week, 60 new students on this Monday, there is a short interview with everyone for placement. We are then 9 in the group, 6 only conditionally motivated young people and 3 adults, including a mother whose daughter sits one "floor below". I will never do an intensive course again in the school vacation period. Nevertheless, great were the two afternoon sessions under the motto "Atelier Culturel" about "La Bretagne" and "Les DROM-COM" (Departements Regions Outre Mer - Commantés Outre Mer), the French departments overseas.
Back to the city: Fleetwood lies in the “Bassin des Yachts”, here one comes only after previous registration and place assignment purely. To do this, I was first asked how long I want to stay and what kind of boat it is. I have the impression that the keyword "classic sailing yacht" makes the allocation of space between the other yachts of the classic sailing boat club much easier. By the way, the harbormaster speaks perfect English and German.
A visitor should not miss a walk along the incredible fortifications to the beach, but should swim only at high tide, preferably rising so that the "downward suction" after high tide does not scare too much.
I also visit the new "Marina les Minimes". It is with about 5000 berths one of the largest marinas on the French coast. However, the charm of the city is not to be felt here. But there is a beach immediately next to it and there is an unbelievable offer of service for all conceivable cases at the boat.
What else should I write?..: you can't see everything in one day, here you can find everything in small stores, from the Spanish textile chain store, to a branch of "Les Galeries Lafayette", to an infinite number of small and smallest stores. There are no huge department store buildings; everything is integrated into the old building fabric.
An experience are also the street musicians, from chanson singers to big bands, the whole harbor environment is virtually a continuous concert. The restaurants fill up at noon and this continues into the evening. Admittedly, on the west side of the harbor very tourist oriented, but if you stay a few days you have quickly figured out where it attracts the locals.
The last evening I listened to a chansons singer, the visiting French people are singing all along, old and young, all know the lyrics. This and the illuminated harbor towers and the almost full moon in the background will remain in my memory for a long time.
From La Rochelle to Port Saint Louis, near Lorient
The next day brings me back to reality: Originally I wanted to sail the 135 nautical miles to Saint Louis in three to four smaller stages, but the weather does not play along.
On Sunday NW 3 Bft, Monday from morning SW increasingly 5-6 Bft, Tuesday W 5, Wednesday West to NW 7, Thursday NW-N 3 from noon. In addition, from Tuesday afternoon again and again showers.
No choice for me, the course is WNW, so only on Sunday wind and wave to cross, then on Monday prospect of a suitable wind direction and at least until noon good conditions. 135 nm means a 20 hours trip.
I am alone, not the first time that I sail alone through a night, nevertheless it´s always something special.
Departure is determined by the high tide time and opening of the harbor gate to 13:30 and it goes into the afternoon immediately with a reef in the main. There is here every afternoon thermally and locally conditioned again a little more wind than Windfinder indicates. Nevertheless, it becomes a beautiful cross up to height Les Sables d'Olonne. In the late evening the wind turns to SW. Next noon, I have calculated, I am on height of Belle Ile, 30 nm before Lorient, and then I might decide to continue or to stop there. Up to Belle Ile the sea is completely fine. The sun is shining and the wave is okay with two meters and only few foam crests. At noon I looked again at the weather and decide to continue the 17 nautical miles to the next island, Ile de Groix.
Nevertheless, what comes then is a significantly new experience for me: wave 3-4 m, massive foam combs. Sailing is now only under jib and mizzen. The jib seems to be a bit large. The strongest measured gust is 43 kn. Damn wet the whole thing, had just fixed in time the lowe part of the plug-in bulkhead, but the skylight over the salon and the foreship hatch are not closed well enough for this. Some little water came in and I'm more often under deck to remove the drops from the upholstery.
Good that I have a good performing autopilot: the Raymarine Ev-100 does a really good job, the boat is so well trimmed that it can be controlled by hand with two fingers and so of course the permissible workload of the autopilot is also on the safe side. Only the last hour I steered by myself, because the autopilot is not very interested in the breaking foam combs, which then bang from time to time against the ship's side and the spray simply shoots across the cabin roof. I can reduce this a little by hand.
At 14:30 I come slowly in lee of Ile de Groix, and at 15:30 I am fixed at two moorings in the outer marina. I share them with another boat. The next day I can move to the next basin. The very inner part can only be reached at high tide via a then submerged wall. Ile de Groix is obviously a very popular destination for day trippers from Lorient. At the port, 4 bicycle rental stores are lined up. Every 75 min a ferry comes and goes. The island is really very beautiful.
After I'm slept off the night ride, I also get my bike out and go exploring. It is worth it! Meanwhile, a real storm rages outside, good that I dodged with my night mission. Highlight of the day is a tuna boat that sells its catch directly at the pier for 10€ the kilo! But only a whole fish. Too big for me alone. But my nice French berth neighbor bought a whole, of course much too big for him and his wife and so I get a slice as a gift.
I did not know how incredibly delicious fresh red tuna is.
Thursday brings me then in the afternoon to Port Louis where our friend Yannick stands on the bastion and wants to burn flares as a welcome. What honor! But it does not work, because by chance a police patrol comes by and the burning of fireworks on the occasion of the arrival of Fleetwood is of course not allowed.... nevertheless, the welcome is very warm!
From Sunday is then 3 weeks family vacation announced, which will be the subject of the next report from board! We want to sail to the Glenans, here and there and then around Brittany to Saint Malo, where the return crew will board.