A good start to our cruise to France. We proceeded down Channel to Falmouth, and across on a fast reach to L’Aberwrach. After some bad weather in L’Aberildut and Lesconil, we visited Port de la Foret, Ster Vraz on Belle Isle, La Turballe and Joinville on Ile de Yeu.
Despite some concern about port availability after the winter storm called ‘Xynthia’ wrecked La Rochelle and damaged Bourgenay and Les Sables d’Olonne, we made our way down the islands to St Denis d’Oleron.We spotted a weather window and succeeded in reaching our goal of visiting Corduan.
On our return to Ile d’Oleron, we picked up Sue from La Rochelle (where they were allowing a one night stopover if you had a reason to be there). She stayed with us for a week during which we visited Rochefort to see the progress on building the frigate Hermione. (Update 2015: video of the completed L’Hermione at sea can be seen here) There followed a gentle cruise back up the mainland coast calling at many ports and meeting several friends on the way. The wind was persistently from the north, usually north west, so progress was tricky. In the mornings the winds were light, but that meant motoring and in the afternoons the sea breeze effect often produced F5 winds on the nose. So we tended to choose the days when there was a slant that meant we did not have a vigorous beat.
We visited several new places, and one of the most interesting was a lunch stop at Ile aux Moutons (See pdf on right)
Towards the end of August the weather showed signs of deteriorating and we were positioned in L’Aberildut for a cross Channel dash when we heard Dairne’s mother was not well. So next day we motored for 7 hours before the breeze filled in, after which we had a sparkling 11 hour reach to Falmouth. Effectively, our cruise was over. Dairne hired a car to get back home, and I followed a few days later, leaving Ariadne in the care of Marc and Anne from MiddaySun at the Ruan Pontoon in the Fal.
The tailpiece is that I returned with a passage crew comprising Roy Dowman from Marchwood YC and Bob Comlay, one of very few people to have completed 2 cruises with Bill Tilman. We had picked a bad week, and were working our way round SE winds most of the time. However, we had a better-than-expected sail from Helford to Fowey,where we took part in a small, but successful, Rustler rally. There followed a day of mainly motoring to the Dart and finally a frustrating day where the wind was not strong enough to allow us to sail properly in the slop left over from the day before, and the rain came down in stair rods. But we got back to the Solent, and I am very grateful to a wonderful pair of guys for helping me to achieve it.
Reflecting on the cruise, one bonus of cruising in France was the plentiful availability of good quality wifi hotspots in virtually every marina. Many were free, but in Vendee they charged 1€ per day (which compares very favourably with the usurious rates in the UK). In Camaret they use unsubsidised Netabord, which looked expensive at 14€ for 24 hours. But as that is usage time, not elapsed time, it lasts for several days - even if you are using it for listening to radio 4!.