We sorted out a couple of things before leaving the boat. One was a result of complete brain fade on my part. Given that we encountered several days of fog I was very concerned that we hadn't got the radar to work. Checking all the connections means getting down the headlining in the saloon, which is easy, and putting it back again, which is a complete p*** in the a***. So I put off doing anything about it and then the day before we left I suddenly had a Thought... for some reason which I can't now remember the radar doesn't work when the plotter display is in the cockpit. It only works when the unit is connected in the alternative position at the chart table. I took it below, connected everything up, turned on the radar and bingo. It works. I did kick myself quite hard but at least I hadn't taken down the headlining or even worse attempted to brief a French electricien.
I also changed the engine oil, which had been on my conscience since Rob mentioned that the oil is supposed to be changed every 50 hours, and our engine had probably done more like 150 in the season. Checking online suggested it would be better to change when we laid up rather than while the engine was still in use, so I did it after Ben had left and we were firmly fixed in Arzal. All very easy when you have the right tools. Note to self: I have left the oil extractor pump on the boat. Some oily substance still seemed to be leaking into the bilges. It looked very yellow but smelled like diesel. I couldn't work out what it was or where it was coming from so I turned the diesel feed off at the tank and crossed my fingers. Hopefully it's just something leftover running into the bilge and no more was hiding.
We left Arzal on Saturday a bit later that I had hoped - I think this is the first time we have ever left her over winter in a location where she may suffer from dampness, other than the UK where we can pop down and check her. She has either been in the warm Algarve or Med, or in a dry shed in Denmark. It is forbidden to connect a boat to shorepower in Arzal when no-one is aboard, so we can't run a dehumidifier. So all the bedding is sealed in bin bags, cupboards & lockers left open etc. There was a lot to worry about and it was a bit later than planned when we got away.
However the drive to Saint-Malo was easy and the F1 hotel proved really quite pleasant, with an accessible room quite intelligently laid out for wheelchair use and a disabled bathroom just along the corridor (which we didn't actually use as we knew Sam could have a shower on the ferry). Sam conveyed to me that it would be nice to go out for a pizza and using various electronic gizmos I thought I had tracked down an Italian restaurant. However either it was closed or very poorly lit, because we drove past it without spotting it. We carried on through Saint-Servain, which is very pleasant but hides any restaurants extremely well, and down to the old citadel, Saint-Malo Intra Muros, which is ringed by car parks almost all of which were full as it was a Saturday night. It was almost dark, and not knowing what I was doing I wimped out of finding a parking space and headed back to the hotel, where we dined rather well on leftovers from the boat fridge that we had brought with us. On mature reflection (and looking it up in the Rough Guide) this was probably a sound move, as Saint-Malo Intra Muros is the most expensive place to eat in Brittany and is also characterised by very bumpy cobbles which would have been far from ideal with the wheelchair.
Sunday's ferry was another pleasant crossing, with warm sunshine and smooth seas, and we reached home late in the evening, by which point I was more than somewhat knackered.
in the intervening days we have done mountains of washing, and on Wednesday 21st travelled to Wales for Luke's funeral, staying overnight in a pleasant but far from outstanding hotel at roughly four times the cost of the Hotel F1 (but probably a better location for a family gathering), returning to Suffolk on the Thursday.
On Friday I abandoned Sam and went by train to the Southampton Boat Show. It always amazes me what you can and can't get at these shows. I wanted to treat myself to a new Spinlock lifejacket and there were dozens of places where I could try one, although it was much harder to find someone who could provide an intelligent comparison between the Spinlock and its cheaper rivals, as the salesmen are linked to one brand. I wanted to look at bulkhead LED light fittings and I found a couple of places which displayed these, although only one which actually had them on sale to take away. And I wanted a new gas kettle, as our old one is leaking - if there was a single one of these at the show I missed it completely. Last year I looked in vain for a lightweight cockpit table and ended up buying a camping table from Aldi during the summer. Surely I can't be the only sailor who wants a lightweight cockpit table or a gas kettle? Maybe Aldi will come up trumps with a gas kettle too...
We're now getting back into the rhythm of life at home and in a mad moment I have signed up for French classes, in the hope that next season I will be able to enjoy more relaxed conversations in the capitaineries and boulangeries. Otherwise, all is quiet.