Sables D’Olonne

Over the past couple of days we walked around both Sables D’Olonne and the town of L’Chaume, and had a good time exploring both, (and also trying to find the Supermarche!). The berth we have is quite handy for both the towns, and also the Cafes and Restaurants along the side of the marina.

The following photo shows the harbour entrance, and our approach brought us down the coast from the right of the photo past the cardinal markers and the isolated danger marker situated just outside the entrance.


To the left of the above photo is the beach which was long wide and clean, and we paddled along it’s length feeling pretty relaxed and happy– simple thing, but lovely just the same.


On the promenade we found this delightful old Carousel dating from 1900, which no doubt is a labour of love for someone. It was closed when we passed but we could imaging all the happy children laughing away, as they went around and around over the past 111 years.


Ille d’Yeu to Sables D’Olonne

This morning we were up early to ensure we had enough depth to exit the marina – it does get shallow in one part of the entrance/exit and the ferries can create a sizeable wash, thereby potentially reducing the depth. We slipped our lines and were just heading for the exit when the lights changed to red, and we had to mill around until the ferry came into the harbour.

Once clear we sailed along the coastline that we had walked yesterday, however the weather wasn’t as good today. It was overcast but we did have a F4 NW which suited us just fine. It would have been handy to have goose winged by poling out the genny, but Sun Dog isn’t set up for this method……………one important thing is missing – a pole!!

The trip over was fine and the swell was reasonable until we hit the shallower water in the approaches to Sables D’Olonne when it started to increase in size, nothing to worry about really but a noticeable difference non the less.

I’ve said before (in a positive sense) that the French seem to mark almost everything with some kind of buoy, leading lines/lights, but I have never seen better than the leading lights on the approach to Sables. It was daylight when we were approaching but these were still very bright lights and could not be missed – these would be a godsend in foul weather and coming in at night.

We tied up at the Capitainerie pontoon and were allocated a pontoon berth in a nice central spot – pretty tight with the wide beamed boat we are next to but close to all we need. The other good thing is this is the cheapest berthing fees we have had to pay (11 euros per night) since we started out on our trip. This was a big surprise because we both thought it might be one of the most expensive!

It was kind of neat sailing in here, as this is the venue for the Vendee Globe single handed round the world race that starts and finishes here in Sables D’Olonne. To be precise they base themselves in Port Olona Marina (where we are) and when we came in we saw a couple of them tied up on the race pontoon which is to the right of centre in the photo, and we will get a better look around tomorrow.


The other marina Quai Garnier, is located to the right hand side when coming into the harbour, and looks lovely.


This final photo is looking back to the entrance into the harbour.


Ille d’ Yeu

Last night it was so peaceful and quite in the marina that we both slept like logs – made a nice change from being squashed onto the pontoon at Pornichet where I had been sleeping (well trying) at an angle of about 15 degrees and listening to fenders squeaking away all night

Duly refreshed we made an early start, and decided that we would go for a good walk rather than get the bikes out as I didn’t really fancy cycling on the roads, and needed to stretch my legs. I needn’t have concerned about the traffic, because there are plenty of cycle tracks criss crossing the island, and in truth the roads have very few cars on them once out of town.

Here is a shot from one of the beaches at low water looking back to the harbour, where a cruise ship had dropped anchor.


There are countless lovely properties nestled back in their own grounds, and lots of really clean quiet beaches. Some of these beaches have trees reaching down almost to the sand line, which would be a blessed relief from the sun during the height of summer. It is simply the best place we have visited thus far. All we heard while out for hours walking was birds chirping away in the trees and the odd cyclist on the paths………….simply lovely and really good for the soul.


By the time we got back this afternoon the sun was getting pretty hot – you can probably tell that from the colour of the sky in this shot.


Pornichet to Port Joinville on Ille d’ Yeu

We were up early to check the weather, and were pleased to see the winds had abated overnight. So off with the lines and we set off for Port Joinville on the Ile d’ Yeu. With the tides being where they are right now this meant fighting against the tidal streams as we headed south. Thankfully it was neaps so it was never more than 1kt of foul tide. The trip down was in glorious sunshine with the wind, such as it was from the north, and not west as forecast. The sea was a whole lot flatter than I expected after the recent winds – so all was good.

Nothing much to report really other than on the approach to the Ile d’ Yeu there are loads of lobster pot markers, but these are quite easily seen, as the fisherman have long bamboo poles and flags attached to them. It’s a lot better than old five or twenty five litre drums as in lots of waters around the UK. So much better for all parties.

It’s an interesting entrance to Port Joinville, (check it out on Google earth and you will see what I mean) and we had a chance to have a good look at the approach, as we had to stand off to allow a ferry to enter. Once tied up in the visitor’s part of the marina (into the marina and first left) we had a quick look around and we are both amazed at the size of the harbour area. The town looks original and not “developed” but tomorrow we will have time to explore a bit more. One shop we did look in was the fishmongers and the range of fresh fish and shellfish is quite amazing, long may they survive and stave off the supermarkets.


We have had to stay sheltered in Pornichet for a couple of days as the winds have been building up to 30-35kts and we are being pressed hard onto the pontoon. We have quite a number of fenders out, and they are taking a fair amount of abuse.

With the weather being what is was we never saw a great deal of the town, but have to say the beach is very long and well used in the sheltered bay by wind surfers, or at least that’s what I think they are called. If this isn’t right I mean the people who have a kite and some kind of board and they “sail” across the water. It’s amazing to see so many in the one place, and equally amazing when they take off from the surface of the water.

I am quite sure this is a popular place in the summer months as the beach is about 5 miles or so long and looks really clean and well kept. The marina was certainly busy and boats were rafted three deep on the hammerheads, the shower facilities could perhaps do with a revamp as they are a bit “rustic”. This is wee bit surprising given the obvious affluence of the area. The other surprising thing is there are no trolleys at the marina and everyone has to lug all their bits and pieces down to their boats like pack mules.

I’m not knocking it too much, because there are a number of restaurants etc in the marina and one in particular that is worthy of mention was the Red Sail. All steaks and fish are grilled over a BBQ within the restaurant, and the kitchen is open for all to see.

It looks like the weather might break tomorrow – fingers crossed we might be able to make a move.

St Nazaire

This morning we awoke to another beautiful morning, and felt sorry for those getting battered by the winds back home. We are also glad we didnt leave our departure from Scotland till May as we would have been hammered ourselves by the weather.

When we came in yesterday there was a lovely old boat sailing in at the same time as us under an impressive amount of canvas, but I wasn’t quick enough in getting the camera to get a shot of her looking majestic as it was impressive. However I did a shot of her coming out of the fuel pontoon this morning.


There are no laundry facilities in the marina, so we had to carry everything up to the town and leave with the laundrette who said it would all be ready by this evening – smashing. From there we went to the tourist information centre to find out the times and number of bus into St Nazaire……..if you ever need it the number of the bus it is number six.

As for St Nazaire this town has been on my mind since I was a wee boy, now I don’t know whether it was reading too many Commando comics, whether with my Dad serving in the Royal Navy during WW2, coupled with the reality that U Boats left here trying to sink both Merchant and Royal Navy ships, perhaps even the ones my Dad was serving on…………

Here is a shot of the submarine pens that were bombed repeatedly by the Allies, but were never destroyed.


We went into the visitors centre where the French have placed one of their old submarines “Espadon” in one of the submarine pens, and we took the trip through this submarine with an audio tour – it was an extremely interesting touristy thing. One thing is for sure, me and submarines would not get on well, as both Sara and I were feeling somewhat claustaphobic after being inside the submarine for only around 30 mins.


In adulthood I read quite a bit about the heroic efforts of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines in and around St Nazaire. One of these was the ramming of the lock gates to the U Boat submarine docks by the “Campbeltown” which was loaded in the bow with explosives, and these brave guys sailed her in ramming the lock gates and setting off the explosives…….pretty much, in todays parlance a suicide mission.

Being here and thinking about Dad during WW2 I found the experience very emotional.

I wanted to visit the memorial to those brave men and we found it next to the beach, and quite clearly as can be seen in the following couple of photo’s the French have not forgotten this bravery…



“Mans inhumanity to Man makes Nations weep”

Ille de Groix to Pornichet

We decided on an early (ish) start this morning as we had changed our plan to visit Belle Ille for a couple of reasons. At the time we would have arrived, it would have meant us picking up a mooring, as there wouldn’t have been enough tide to get through to the inner harbours. This would have meant blowing up the dinghy to get ashore, and you know how if feel about inflating, deflating, and storing the dinghy!! The other was a far more practical reason, in that we also need to get fuel fairly soon and access to the fuel berth in Belle Ille is restricted by the tide as it’s on the harbour wall. So Pornichet it was to be……….Belle Ille will need to wait till another time.

As we reached the end of Ille de Groix we were met by a “Securite” vessel who was explaining and gesticulating wildly that the French Airforce were using the firing range but explaining that they would be finished sometime between 1000 and 1100. It was pointless going back to the marina so we hove to and put the kettle on. Within 10 mins they were back giving the all clear. We were listening to Channels 6 and 16, but we couldn’t understand what exactly was being said, but we didn’t wish for our sabbatical to come to an explosive end! The safety boat is a sound idea and welcomed by us, and I dare say all foreigners not fluid in French.

The next part of the trip was covered in lovely sunshine with Sara sunbathing on top of the coach roof – so much for active and involved crew…….

It stayed that way most of the day until about 10 miles out from Pornichet when both the wind and the waves increased until we were sailing along in a F5 and climbing, with increased swell and waves. (Sara had come back inside by this point – she must have been exhausted). Looking on the charts for the gap into the bay it had looked a bit narrow and with the seas lifting I was being careful to ensure our track was correct. As it transpired the gap wasn’t too narrow to squeeze the sea up even more, and into the bay sailed with the sea flatter but the wind piping up further. We went into the marina and tied up at a free hammerhead berth, and then went and reported to the marina office, who were happy where we had parked. We will enjoy a relaxing evening on board, as we intend spending at least a couple of nights here.

Plan for tomorrow is to spend the day visiting St Nazaire, and instead of taking the boat up the river and staying overnight in the commercial harbour, we will go by either train or bus.

Concarneau to Ille de Groix

This morning (Monday) we were up at the mobile phone shop and the same guy was there, and he tried again on the phone to get this resolved but no joy. He asked us to leave everything with him for an hour, and then, when we went back he requested a further hour. Boy this is a struggle, can you imagine us trying to sort this out ourselves on the phone to customer services and technical departments?

Anyhow it seemed to put the spoke in our plan to get to Belle Ille, so we went back to the boat for lunch and chill out for a while.

Sara suggested that if the dongle was working when we went back to the shop, we could go for Ille de Groix rather than Belle Ille – good idea because I was getting a bit stir crazy. So whilst I got things ready on the boat Sara went back to the shop. Back she came and it still wasnt working, but Sara was convinced the guy in the shop was genuine, in that the problem has now been resolved and it should work later today. I think I had lost the will to live by this point, and just thought to hell with it lets get moving.

So we set off and had a good trip down to Ille de Groix. About 3 miles off Ille de Groix we found ourselves being escorted in by a pod of dolphin! They were leaping about our bow waves which is always a wonderful sight. The Marina was chock a block with boats, so we rafted alongside an Irish boat that was on the hammerhead. Doing so made it a wee bit tighter for boats going down to the pontoons but heigh ho, it was our only option. First thing Sara done was get the dinner started.
Next thing was out with the dongle and guess what? – no you are wrong, it worked…..yippee. A big thanks to the guy in the SFR store for sorting this out; but should it be that difficult?

I’m willing to bet you’re glad it’s finally working, as you wont need to read my rantings about dongles………..


We were up at the SFR shop pretty early this morning armed with the dongle and laptop. Now I have to say the chap in the shop was very helpful and was on the phone trying to get it sorted out. The end result was that we were told it should be working by 1900 tonight as there is some major glitch in the whole system…..mmmmm

I also needed to find wiper blades for the wheelhouse as the rubbers were shot. Asking around we were told there was a place up at the Hypermarket. This was fine as we also needed to get some provisions so off we went…………….what a hike! But there again it was a nice day to take a laptop for a walk!

We found the Hypermarket and the accessory company across the road, so whilst Sara did the shopping I went across the road to try and get the wiper blades. They didn’t have any with the fitting I needed and the guy in the store was very helpful in trying to find adaptors – but no joy. I then reckoned that I could (with a bit of filing) get the rubbers from new wiper blades to fit the old wiper fittings. The guy wished me the best of luck, so off I went back to the Hypermarket.

Sara explained they had wiper blades within the store so I had look at these but as they were sealed packs it was hard to tell if they would be suitable. I eventually burst open a pack and with bits and pieces lying all around me and found that by removing a bit from the old blades I could make them fit.

Are you bored with this yet?

Back across the road, I explained the situation to the chap in the accessory shop and got my money back.
With all the shopping, laptop etc to carry, we tried to find a taxi to take us back to marina – no joy with this either so off we went on the hike back down the hill, and back to the boat. Where I am delighted to say, I found that my adaptation on the wiper blades was a success yippeeee

After a bit of rest we went back to Ville Close for another look around, and in the small amphitheatre there were a couple of guys playing what I assume was local music on accordion and fiddle, which was lovely and atmospheric.

There are some lovely looking restaurants within Ville Close, and here is an example.


We then went back to the boat hoping to get online – I know you have already figured it out – the bloody thing wouldnt work!!!!!

With tomorrow being Sunday the shop will not be open so it looks like were are here till at least Monday because I aint leaving till we get it working properly.

I’ll leave you with a shot of the marina taken from the walls of Ville Close – all the red sail covers are from the sailing school, and watching these coming in and out has been, shall we say, not without incident! The technique appears to be, come in really fast, dont have any fenders tied on, have people leap ashore to fend the boat off the pontoon whilst someone else grabs a spagetti type ball of rope from a locker and heave it to no one in particular……………all this from a nation who have some of the best sailors in the world!

I tell you it wasnt dull watching 28 of them coming and going at the same time……..


Audierne to Concarneau

We left Audierne this morning to catch the tidal streams down to Pointe Penarche, unfortunately there was precious little wind, but there was a fair amount of swell. As we have been sailing with the Atlantic swell for so long now, there are times where one doesn’t really notice. At least not anywhere near as much as when first encountered.

The trip down to the corner was pretty uneventful, ditto for about half the remaining part of the journey to Concarneau. We did however hit a patch of water where it was either lobster pot city or long line city – not sure which. It does say in the pilot books that there are still some fishermen using the long line technique and as their lines are pretty much on the surface, one should avoid going through between the markers. Well these particular ones were definitely better marked than normal and had six foot poles with big flags on them (not the usual old plastic drums) making me assume long lines. Therefore I decided to go around this patch, who knows whether I was right or wrong, but it only added about 10 mins to the overall journey so no drama ether way.

It was however rather neat to go through between the Illes de Glenan and Illes Aux Mouton, and somewhere at the back of my mind I have something telling me that there was some connection with the Illes de Glenan and Bernard Moittessier, …………perhaps someone could tell me if this is true or whether I need to go and lie down in a darkened room?

Once through the gap between the islands we decided that irrespective of the light winds, (bearing in mind that Sun Dog needs a fair amount of breeze to get her sailing), that we would hoist all sail and do our best to sail the last part over to Concarneau. Let’s just say that Mr Campbells “Bluebird record” was not challenged!

We managed the heady speeds of between 0.5 to 1 knot, but the sun was shining and were in no real rush, in fact it was lovely and peaceful for a couple of hours, but we did eventually have to admit defeat, fire up the engine, and get ourselves into Concarneau. Upon double checking the pilot book it suggested that Fridays were best avoided as this was sailing school changeover day! (guess what day this is?) However when we went into the marina we were pleased to see that there were plenty of visitors berths available on “D” pontoon.

It’s really quite impressive sailing into Concarneau marina, as right in front of you stands the Fortress of Ville Close another defensive structure built by Monsieur Vauban……he must have been a busy chap as he was also responsible for the one in Camaret……….he must have been the French “Thomas Telford” of his day as his civil engineering products seem to be everywhere.

We had a cursory look around the old town contained within the walls of Ville Close, and its very reminiscent of Carcassone in France, albeit on a smaller scale.


We then went to find a mobile phone shop to buy a dongle for internet access and were pleased to find almost immediately and Orange shop. In we went, saw the right dongle package tried to buy it but were refused because we were not residents of France nor did we have a French bank account.

Now I know what you are thinking, we probable messed up the translation and they thought we wanted a dongle on contract/account – no we didn’t – the only dongle they were prepared to sell, unless you had the above, was a dongle that would last exactly one day!!

We left this shop scratching our heads, but just a few hundred yards away was another mobile phone shop SFR, into the shop we go and go through the same request – viola – we could get one with the first three days free, then a quick phone call would connect us onto our 60 day access whilst in France.
Just the ticket, duly purchased just before the shop closed, back to the marina all excited because we could catch up on e-mails, update the blog, check the detailed weather forecasts, and hopefully get onto Skype.
Onto the boat out with the laptop and guess what bloody thing wouldn’t work….O’ dash it I heard myself say!

We tried on and off into the evening but no joy – we will need to go back to the shop tomorrow…ho hum!