I've been a bit lax about posting to the blog so far this year. Life has been somewhat full. My father sadly died on April 23. He was very nearly 90, had been ill for a long time and was very fed up with life, so it was no surprise, but still sad. At least I saw him the evening before he died. Also, being involved with arrangements for the funeral and cremation and being there for my mother took up quite a bit of time. I designed the order of service for the funeral with tiny drawings taken from the Giant Alexander books (pictured), which naturally took far longer than I thought. And in between doing all of that there was June's issue of Cruising and the email newsletter to design and finalise. I thought I was quite together, but kept forgetting stupid things.
As ever the biggest challenge for the season was finding suitable crew. Guy is now working for the National Trust, running the ferry to Orfordness, and living with his lovely young lady in Leiston, but he doesn't start full-time work until the birds stop nesting on the Ness, so kindly agreed to come out for a few days and help with the build-up. (Kalessin stayed in the water this winter so we didn't have to worry about a launch). Ben is joining us for a week later in June which hopefully means we can get to the CA Biscay Rally in Yeu. And from June 30 we will have one and possibly two enthusiastic sailing crew and can start heading west on the long trip home.
Earlier in the winter I started getting ready to come out, putting together a box of stuff for the boat which was topped up with a new Turtle mat, a very shiny new kettle (the old one was at risk of putting out the gas flame when it leaked) and a few bits and pieces. In the last few weeks I arranged with Brittany Ferries to transport dangerous cargo (the serviced liferaft – I didn't know it was dangerous cargo when we brought it back to the UK), sorted out transport for Guy & Ben, arranged to extend our contract at Arzal for a month (which seems to have worked out at €4.60 a night, although they did warn us we would have to remove the boat during a festival from June 16-19, something of a problem with no crew). I arranged to fill part of the period when we have no crew by going down to visit our friend Harry in Abzac. There were lots of things I gave almost no thought to, but fortunately so far everything has worked out ok - the sails and the electronic chart were on the boat so it didn't matter that I forgot to look for them!
Sam seems to have strained the Achilles tendon on his good leg (of course) which makes walking even more difficult than usual. The pain also makes it difficult for him to cope with things he normally manages fine, and his balance is very poor. With Guy's help and lots of wiggling of the wheelchair we managed the trip to Portsmouth, the overnight ferry to Saint-Malo and the drive to Arzal.
Having arrived at Arzal on Sunday morning and spent a couple of hours unloading and unpacking, we tried to go out to lunch at the little port cafe which sadly was unable to accommodate us because it was complet (about five tables were full as far as I could see, but still), so we had a jolly nice burger at Le Barrage cafe instead. Kalessin thank goodness was on a finger pontoon with no step down (Arzal is possibly the only marina we have even been in where most of the catways are a step down from the ponton), and Sam was able to walk incredibly slowly down the pontoon, be hoisted up on his harness and dropped straight down below. That was Sunday and today is Tuesday, and he hasn't been anywhere else yet, so at least his tendon has been rested.
We extracted the cockpit tent, which had collapsed during a winter gale and had been very kindly rescued by the CA's Hon Local Representative, who rolled it all up and shoved it below, completely undamaged as far as I can see. Having redeployed it we enjoyed the sunshine, quiet evening and gentle breeze. Finally I thought I'd better check the forecast to ensure that this delightful weather was due to continue while we installed the sails. O hell and damnation, the forecast for Monday was starting very quiet and building to a F7 by mid-afternoon. So Guy and I got up early and got both sails on before 10:30am. Then I realised it was Whit Monday and any supermarkets were only open until 1230. So while I hastened to La Roche Bernard to buy food and diesel for the car, Guy checked and ran up the boat engine which started first time, bless it, and then we settled down for an afternoon of increasing wind and bucketing rain.
I did also manage to replace the catch on the forehatch, which broke last year resulting in the supporting rod detaching itself from the hatch, which is above our bed, and trying to stab someone, anyone, preferably in the eye. It took lengthy discussions with Trafalgar Yachts (www.westerly-yachts.co.uk) and £48.70 for the new catch, but it does work and the rain didn't come in.
We watched the Swallows & Amazons film on DVD in the evening. I'm glad I've seen it, but no film would ever work as well as the books IMHO, and the action was totally dominated by what was supposed to be a little subplot concerning spies and a British hero (aka Captain Flint). Rather Riddle of the Sands, with a touch of Sherlock as the baddie was Andrew Scott who is Moriarty.
Today's excitement was an anticipated change of berth. The prospect of doing this in a westerly breeze of about 15-20kt, gusting occasionally to 25kt or more, was delightful as you can imagine. My main concern was that the feathering prop, which has been underwater of course all winter, might refuse to deploy at a crucial moment. Fortunately a very nice marinière, who had seen Sam struggling to get on the boat on Sunday and also spoke better English than the ladies in the capitainerie, found us a new berth on the Camoël side of the river where we have an even better finger pontoon, and we don't have to move for the festival on June 16-19. Even better, he and his mate turned up with their pusher workboat and shoved us across the river in 10 minutes while, as he said, we "could just stay below and drink a cup of tea". Camoël is rather inconvenient for the chandleries and petite épicerie but pretty, and worth it if we don't have to move the boat again.
One final twist. The marinières offered me a lift back to the car but I said I'd walk. Off I jolly well went, oh wait, I needed the car key. Could I jolly well find it? Guy had it last, late last night, but it was nowhere to be seen. Off I jolly well went anyway. The car was there, locked, no key visible. Inquiry at the capitainerie produced, thank god, the key, found on ponton B, wet but undamaged. The French talk about a mauvais quart d'heure, I think that was a mauvais heure at least. But all was well.
The wind has eased slightly but is still rocking the boat enough for Sam to struggle with balance. The sky has brightened and it hasn't rained for a while... blast, shouldn't have said that, it's just started raining again. We can, thank goodness, all chill out for a little while and I will try to stop worrying about Stuff.