|Port de Mortagne-sur-Gironde, winter quarters|
We only stopped the one night at Meschers, neither the silent atmosphere of closed-up holiday homes nor the price per night encouraging us to stick around. The moment the automatic lock gate opened, two and a half hours before high water, we were on our way so as to catch the last of the flood up to Mortagne. The pilot book indicates that the lock at Mortagne is only opened from HW-1 to HW, so we didn't want to miss our chance. As it turns out, that was a bit of an exaggeration. Depending on the size of the tide, it's open from two to four hours.
Following the narrow channel in through the surrounding reed beds, we were immediately impressed by the security of shelter inside, the pretty setting with the limestone cliffs behind and the relaxed friendliness of the harbour master and other local folk. Here, we thought, is a potential wintering spot. The clincher came when we found out the price - very, very reasonable. In fact, the cheapest marina we've encountered on the trip so far.
|The view from our cockpit|
|Vineyards adorn the higher ground|
|They grow other stuff too. Sunflowers ready for harvest|
|Blaye's halte nautique - it's right out there|
The pink line shows our peregrinations at Blaye. We took one look at the pontoon and said, 'Nah!', thought we might get a reasonable anchorage over by the Ile Nouvelle, where we'd noticed some moorings on the way past. Went over for a look and said, 'Nah', went over to the Ile de Pate, anchored, rolled around for a bit and said, 'Nah', hauled up the anchor (of course the current was increasing all this while) and went back to the Ile Nouvelle, where we passed, if not a comfortable, at least a tolerable night. The current was pretty considerable, perhaps 3.5kt and this 5 days before spring tide. I dreamt of the anchor chain snapping, but of course everything was all right and the anchor well and truly buried in the thick river mud.
The wind too carried on howling most of the night but conditions were slightly calmer in the morning as we waited for slack water before moving across to the pontoon. The tides, not surprisingly, are a bit odd up this large river estuary. The main difference from what we're used to is that the ebb continues to run for about an hour and a half after the time of predicted low water. Slack tide is then very brief and the current picks up swiftly into the flood.
Anyhoo, we sat and waited for the tide to turn, then hauled the anchor and crossed back to the pontoon. The flood was already running at maybe 1kt as we made a lovely docking on what we subsequently discovered to be the commercial (wrong) side of the pontoon. Leisure craft are meant to go on the inside, which is actually slightly more sheltered, so we decided to shift around though the current was running stronger all the time. It was kind of a fun challenge and we brought it off without mishap or shouting, though no doubt things would have been different if anybody else had been watching.
|Blaye's main (only?) attraction, but it's a good one|
|Picturesque ruins inside Blaye Citadel|
|Blaye's other undoubted attraction|
|Just a sliver of moon to keep us company in the pre-dawn chill|
|Misty morning on the Gironde|
|A river of many moods|