Captains Blog 9 Lots of Swell? Take a Kwell!

It’s not very far from Les Sables D’Olonne to La Rochelle, but we had a 4 hour window to get into the Bassin des Chalutiers, so we left fairly early. We intended to get the 14:45 bridge lift into the bassin and arrived with plenty of time to spare. Too much in fact, so anchoring just off Ile De Ré at around a 1½ miles from the entrance to La Rochelle was just the ticket.

Slight miscalculation resulted in us upping anchor and belting off to the bridge lift rendezvous faster than David Cameron’s disappearance post Brexit referendum. We arrived bob on time and found one boat circling outside the bridge avoiding traffic for the other port, as well as trying to avoid being blown aground. We slotted in and were almost immediately joined by a large floating gin palace. The three of us circled, vying for position and playing fancy boat chicken. I chickened out just as the bridge started lifting, feigning courteousness in allowing them in before us and joining the back of the que.

Now you can’t cock up an entrance into somewhere like this up because pedestrians, cyclists and the odd motorist have had to stop to enable the bridge lift and are watching your every move. Opportunity seized, First Mate and I proudly motored into the arena bassin waving nonchalantly at the bedazzled onlookers. No, there were no problems at all, we found it a doddle.

What a great spot. It’s the sort of place you walk past and see lots of fancy boats and while admiring them you’re chuntering about the fact that you’ll never be able to afford one. Its odd, even slightly uncomfortable being in the fish tank looking out. That said, the discomfort quickly passes.

Top week in a top place. It was buzzing, particularly in the evenings. Ever wondered what happened to those Peruvian pan pipers you used to see in the middle of the town knocking out a few 70’s tunes. Well, they’re not dead but very much alive, knocking out the same tunes here in downtown La Rochelle. And while we’re talking street performers, I couldn’t fathom out which of the two thick set Bulgarian fellas was actually the human statue. One sat as if floating, all painted silver while his mate sat on the wall behind him, dressed normally and never moved an inch. Who knows.

Two boats, not of the sailing variety, arrived while we were in Bassin des Chalutiers. One was called Vesper and the other Dr No. They were moored one in front of the other. They were completely different boats, just something made me think there was some connection. Maybe its time to watch the Bourne Identity again.

Ho hum. Bloke from the large sailing boat opposite popped over to say hello. Nice chap, having a chat about the benefits of a bow fender. Yes, I was in the process of fitting my newly acquired addition. “I’ve got one of those” he said, “can’t quite get it to fit correctly though”. “Oh really, this seems to fit quite well”. “yes, I can see” he said “mine is a smaller one though”. Okay, what you mean is that you feel into the trap of going for the one that’s about a 1/3 of the cost, to find that it’s not up to the job. Admittedly, I’d had serious issues with paying the amount I did for the damned thing, but it does work. Anyway, it turned out he was a ships captain in real life, so now you know how the captain of a ship spends his leisure time, yep sailing!!

The day had arrived when we were to cross Biscay to Bilbao. Thirty-six hours non-stop should do it and best to set off nice and early. At 6:30 we were up and radioed the Capitaine de Port to confirm the bridge lift. Right on que we were off and it wasn’t long before we hit the big swell in the Atlantic. First Mate looked a little green, still a few tuts and a shake of the head should help nip any idea of seasickness in the bud. All over the back of our lovely clean boat! Hurled up her granola and yogurt. Then, an hour later, did it all again!!

No amount of tutting, shaking the head or orders to man up seemed to work, First Mate was quite poorly. It was all clear, so we did a U turn and headed back to La Rochelle. Despite a minor incident with a daft French man and his irate wife on their catamaran, we arrived safely back in La Rochelle, but opted this time to go into Port des Minimes. It wasn’t too long before First Mate started feeling better, though we thought it might be better to hold fire for a few days before venturing out again.

To cut a long story short, exactly one week later we set out again and this time we were primed and all set for the swell. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the previous week but there was still quite a lot. As it got dark, the swell seemed to build and we were being hit from the back as well as the side so were pitching and rolling a lot through the dark hours. First Mate was imagining all kinds of weird stuff, which we put down to side effects from the seasickness tablets. Even claims she saw the captain naked on deck at one point, honestly, what’s she like. Those tablets really did have a strange effect on her!

We arrived in Bilbao just before 7 the following evening, totally knackered and slept like babies anchored in the bay between the two marina’s, one of which we’d be spending the next few days at.

So, we didn’t turn right out of La Rochelle after all and are still heading south as per the plan.

Right, it’s time for bed.

Good night.

Captain Mac

3 Replies to “Captains Blog 9 Lots of Swell? Take a Kwell!”

  1. Incredible effort, well done to the pair of you. Proper old sea dogs now you’ve crossed the Bay of Biscay. And thank goodness you didn’t come back to Britain for winter, I’m looking forward to a long weekend somewhere warm!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Caroline, lovely to hear from you. We’re in Gijon and leaving tomorrow. Hoping to get to A Caruna over the weekend & work our way round over the next week or so. Hope the UK is treating you well?


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Sailing Éalú

There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

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POOP DECK: Because we give a SHIT

S/Y Maggie

Living the dream onboard our Beneteau 473 with our sailor dog

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