Yacht Pipit


Light airs, flat sea, blue sky and a storm jib? 28th May 2011

More on that story later...

We had a good sail to Les Sables d'Olonne a week ago last Wednesday, once again with the wind mainly behind us. On Thursday we pottered about La Chaume, which is on the Port Olona marina side of the water, with Les Sables itself a water taxi ride away. On Friday we went to Les Sables and explored there, including the beach. In the evening we enjoyed a lovely seafood supper with Kit & Pippa, Pipit's original owners, aboard their Ovni 395. It was almost a year to the day since we last saw them in Salcombe and, by happy coincidence, here we all were in the same marina in France!

The next day we caught the ferry across to Les Sables d'Olonne in the afternoon and stumbled upon the Quartier L'Ile Penotte when walking back to the ferry. To describe it as a little neighbourhood where all the houses are decorated with frescoes made from seashells and occasional pieces of tile and glass would conjure up a potentially naff, twee or even tacky image along the lines of flamingos on the lawn or gnomes in the garden. The reality however is a surprising and highly artistic delight. Sorry there are so many photos, just skip along if you get bored!

Les Sables d'Olonne is the home of the famous Vendee Globe non-stop single-handed round-the-world yacht race, and also of many French production yacht manufacturers, one of which is this:

Another one is responsible for these (actually they look quite impressive...):

Spot the impostor...

Some further views of La Chaume & Les Sables:

A classic French scene...

Old & new beachfront buildings juxtaposed, not dissimilar to La Baule.

We left Les Sables d'Olonne on Wednesday for a six mile hop to Bourgenay. Originally we had thought to sail to La Rochelle, but decided the very short hop to Bourgenay in calm weather and light winds would give us time to do MOB recovery practice and to set the Storm-Bag, our storm jib. As well as being good practice, we both really enjoyed the day, which turned into a still short passage of 15 miles. We were particularly pleased with the ease of rigging and setting the Storm-Bag and that Freddy the fender who volunteered to be the MOB was recovered several times, under sail, within about 3 minutes. Another advantage of having a plotter on the helm is the speed at which you can press the MOB button without having to go below, which could put you a surprising number of boat lengths further away from the MOB. Hopefully, we'll never need to put any of this into practice for real.

It deploys as obviously and as easily as it appears in the video...

...and packs away again almost as easily, even on deck (although the Nestaway makes a handy platform, as well as a Black & Decker Workmate substitute on occasions).

The evening weather was glorious and we had a lovely dinner of lamb shanks with garlic, lemon and rosemary accompanied by roast potatoes cooked on the Cobb, and broad beans.

Leaving Bourgenay on Friday morning about two hours after low water (and avoiding the dredger currently working in the entrance) reinforced the need for the warnings about sticking to the leading line and not entering or leaving in a big swell - even in the moderate conditions, it was quite lumpy, with seas breaking just outside the channel! We had a great sail under genoa alone to La Rochelle as the seas and swell were going with us - some of the boats going the other way were making good progress in the F4-5 winds, but visibly having a far more 'lively' ride than us.

Approaching the bridge that links La Rochelle with Ile de Re.

We fit!

Port des Minimes in La Rochelle is just as we'd heard described and read about - a distance from the city, supermarkets and shopping. The marina staff in the office were very friendly, but you are left to your own devices to find a spot to moor in a kind of chaotic way that we haven't been used to, but actually kind of works... Oh, and the first people we met were Kit & Pippa (Pipit's previous owners) - we're not following them, honest!

So we'll be spending a while here, exploring the city (and quite possibly the curry house - haven't been to one since Chipping Sodbury!), planning our passage across Biscay and watching the weather for a suitable window.