|The unexpected job: rebuilding the mainsheet cleat|
|The final sleepover|
|Granton-style berthing on the eve of departure|
The mouth of the Gironde can be perilous as it is rather shallow and very subject to the Atlantic swell rolling into Biscay. Any swell will break on the ebb tide and on the shoals (one aptly named 'la Mauvaise') to either side of the channel and so, even on a rather peaceful Biscay morning we found the conditions surprisingly violent on the way out. It wasn't until we were well clear of the entrance and in depths approaching 25m that conditions settled down to something more comfortable. Only a precautionary anti-seasickness pill swallowed the night before allowed us to keep our breakfast, I'm certain. That was when we discovered that the old Stowe tiller pilot had peacefully expired over the winter, meaning that all steering while under power now has to be done by hand.
There was precious little wind and the day was mainly motor sailing, but there was plenty of wildlife about. A distant sighting of dolphins hunting, the usual range of sea birds (gannets, guillemots, terns, etc.) and a close encounter with a basking shark. The top slider on the mainsail was found to be broken, but was easily replaced under way. There was no traffic once we left the Gironde behind. No big ships, no yachts. The land is low and soon lost to sight. It was like an offshore passage.
In the evening a surprise visitor arrived in the form of this tiny warbler (possibly a chiffchaff):
|Flying visitor, rest in peace|
Back a step. The very slight breeze we were motor sailing into started to veer at around 8 or 9 in the evening, heading us directly towards les Sables d'Olonne, a huge maritime centre and the starting place of the Vendee Globe race. The temptation was definitely there to pull in for the night and catch up on some sleep, though we wouldn't reach it until around midnight. Sonja in particular was pretty exhausted and was pushing hard for the stop, so I agreed and we took a good look at the pilotage for entry to the port.
The very tired Sonja went below to grab some rest when we were about an hour and a half from the entrance and was soon fast asleep. I looked at the bright lights ahead and the bright moon behind, thought about it, and put the helm down, heading back out to sea and towards the Ile d'Yeu. It was a beautiful night, clear and with a rising breeze that promised some good sailing ahead and a deep feeling of happiness settled over me. I knew Sonja was well out of it when she didn't even notice me raising the sails again.
An hour and a half later, at midnight, I noticed Sonja stirring down below and watched with a smile as she looked at the chart and tried to figure out what the heck was going on. Once she realised, she went straight back to bed and I let her sleep on another half hour. At that point I really needed some kip myself and roused the crew, who took over for an hour, which was enough to get me through the night while the needier member slept on and revived in time for the approach to Yeu.
We'd hoped to anchor off, but there was way too much swell working into the anchorage, so we decided to treat ourselves to a night in the harbour of Joinville. Having arrived at 0630, we really got our money's worth. The harbour is outrageously busy in the summer season, but this time of year there was plenty of space and it was less expensive too. We really enjoyed our stay.
|Yeu in bloom|
|Le vieux chateau, Ile d'Yeu, inspiration for:|
|Kiltoch Castle, in Tintin and the Black Isle!|
|Dramatic south coast of the Ile d'Yeu|
|Port La Meule|
|Cleansing ales at Port La Meule|
|Nice library in St Sauveur|
The other nice thing that happened in Port Joinville was that we encountered the first British cruising boat we've seen since Santander and got together with Robert and Hazel for a good chat and a couple of glasses of vino in the evening. Oddly enough, they'd had a chiffchaff on board the day before as well. Theirs had flown off while still at sea so it's not known whether that one made it.
The forecast was for strong northerly winds on Thursday night into Friday, forcing us to move on and get tucked in somewhere cheaper and well sheltered, so we took a tip from Robert and Hazel, who know the area well, being based here year round, and headed for La Turballe, 40 miles away on the Breton mainland. Next stop from here should be the Gulf of Morbihan, where we plan to spend some time exploring and where there are plenty of secure anchorages to wait out the unsettled weather.