Thursday, September 15, 2016

On the houseboat

I hadn't realised it was five days since my last post. Once you settle into a mooring the days seem to pass surprisingly fast.

One slightly annoying factor is that we have had to move the boat a number of times. When we arrived late on Friday we went into a spot on the outer end of D pontoon, as our old berth at D127 was full. Enquiries at the capitainerie the next morning revealed unsurprisingly that the owner would be returning shortly but we could go to D27 on the other side of the same pontoon. When we returned from our brief sail on Sunday (see below) someone had moved into D27 and the captainerie had gone home for Sunday afternoon, so we tried D28. On Monday we moved again to C29 where hopefully we can stay until Sam and I go home. Each move is only a few metres but it's almost as much hassle as moving to another marina!

After our grey day on Saturday we thought we'd show Ben the delights of the Vilaine in the sunny spells on Sunday. There was almost no wind so we motored a couple of miles upriver with the sails hoisted to dry them after Saturday's rain, before Ben convinced us to stop the motor and drift at speeds approaching almost a knot, all the way through La Roche-Bernard and under the two bridges. We turned intending to drift back even more slowly so that Ben could swim, but after he'd been in the water a few minutes the wind picked up and the sky went grey so we hastened back to Arzal... only to find a nasty boat called Bel Air in our berth. In spite of all that it was a delightful afternoon in the most beautiful part of the river. Sam and Ben were very keen to take off the sails while we were under way but unfortunately the wind was so fickle we were never head to wind for longer than a couple of minutes before it swung around. Once we got back to the berth the wind which had picked up died away again, and we managed to get the genoa off and packed. Monday was another quiet day and we got the mainsail off and packed too.

Tuesday was Ben's last full day on the boat and we felt we needed an outing. Sam certainly needed one as he was very wobbly having not been off the boat for several days. Anyway we kept things low-key and went to Penerf, a little village on an oyster river just north of the Vilaine estuary, which was very peaceful in an East Anglian sort of way, and we had a good lunch where I indulged myself in fruits de mer and in fact Sam and Ben also had fish. A short drive took us to a viewpoint where we could look out over the Morbihan, very different waters which we have bypassed this time around, notorious for their terrifying tides but looking very unthreatening.

We sat in the cockpit on our return admiring the very exciting lightning on at least two fronts and whopping great black clouds approaching from the south. You could see a squall was on its way but even so we were a bit shattered when the wind went from 6 knots to a maximum of 47 knots! and then back again, all inside a minute. Bearing in mind we are 10 miles inland the power of the wind is phenomenal. Hopefully anyone out sailing would have observed the two lightning storms and very clear signs of a squall and taken in some sails (in fact they would have to have been slightly blind and deaf not to notice them), but a knock-down would have been easy in those conditions.

Wednesday saw an early drive to Redon to deliver Ben to the station. He went home via TGV and Eurostar, for a few more pounds than Easyjet from Nantes, but with the advantage that he ended up at St Pancras station perfectly positioned for a train home to Nottingham. Trains are much more fun anyway. I managed a bit of boat tidying, an engine oil change which has been on my conscience as the engine has done a lot of hours this season, and a walk which turned out to be about 6km, which was about 4km more than I was expecting, and included a nature reserve pretending to be a rain forest, thanks to some very good maps left on board by Alex & David.

And today, after a rather late start, I thought we should keep up the good work with Sam and get him off the boat again, so we went to Nantes. Getting there and back was a bit of a schlep, quite a long stretch of motorway and a very lengthy drive in and out through the suburbs with a million roundabouts, but it's a very pleasant city. We had a good wander around the old centre, the castle and the cathedral, with a lunch which included the Nantes answer to cheesy chips for Sam - chips with just about everything on them including cheese and steak. I think he enjoyed them. We gave the giant mechanical elephant a miss because it was just too much hassle to get there - another time perhaps.

I picked a multi-storey car park slightly at random because our new TomTom satnav suggested it, and it was all good and right in the centre, but was reached via a short stretch of extremely steep ramp - very disconcerting in the car, rather a challenge to get Sam down in the wheelchair, and getting him back up it could have been enough to give me an instant heart attack, although we made it with me gasping for breath. Not surprisingly perhaps all the disabled spaces in the car park were empty.

We are now booked on the daytime ferry which leaves Saint-Malo at 1030 on Sunday, meaning we'd have to leave here by 0700 at the very latest. Getting Ben off on Wednesday brought home to me that it's not really light now until 0730 and getting Sam off early on Sunday would not just be a question of hopping gaily over the guardrails and into the car, it takes at least 30 minutes even on a good day.So we are booked into an F1 hotel on the edge of Saint-Malo. We may live to regret this but after weeks in marinas I think we are used to not having en-suite facilities and it was a lot cheaper even than the Ibis, never mind the nice but pricey place we stayed last time. We'll see.

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