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Old 14 August 2006, 08:35   #21
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Concarneau – La Turballe Thursday 20th July

Log 72.6 miles Cumulative 450.7 miles

Fuel Used 87.7 litres 543.0 litres


It was another blisteringly hot day. Florence picked us up from the hotel and we took our bags down to the boat and then set off for her house. Nicolas was waiting by the gate to welcome us. I spent some time admiring Philippe’s new Avon and then we all played football and rugby on their lawn before lunch.

Florence is an excellent cook and had really pushed the boat out for us, despite the fact that she had to drive 300 Km that afternoon. There was pasta for Sophie, a steak for Michael and fish for the rest of us. She had made a rich Breton sponge for desert and she then packed up the leftovers for our onward trip. We were inundated with their kindness and they were so looking forward to meeting everybody the following week. It is a great shame that circumstances did not allow this to happen.

Philippe ran me back to the boat, stopping at the supermarket to pick up 100 litres of petrol on the way. He then returned to pick up Michael & Sophie whilst I fuelled the boat and got everything shipshape for our departure.

We left Concarneau mid afternoon and were soon heading South East, a respectful distance off the cardinals. I was all for stopping overnight at Ile de Groix or Belle Ile but the kids were insistent that we had to make La Turballe that evening. After an hour, we had just passed Les Chats at the SE corner of Ile de Groix. It was a bright sunny afternoon, there was a 2-3 ft following sea that required a modicum of driving and the boat had settled into a nice rhythm. The kids had their iPods in and were content and I was driving, not thinking about anything in particular as far as I can remember.


I suddenly became aware of this phenomenal noise building behind me. Unsure of what it was or what was happening, I needed time to take stock. My questions were answered a fraction of a second later as two French Air Force fighters flashed down the side of the boat. I’m sure that this was their recognised form of amusement; to pick on some poor unsuspecting yottie, or in my case ribster, and to put the fear of God in him and to see if he soiled himself. If they hadn’t gone quite so fast and if they’d given me a couple more seconds, I’m sure that I would have obliged them but it all happened so quickly that the best I could manage was a sphincter spasm. Their mission accomplished, they gained altitude and banked sharply to the right. By this time, the kids had managed to extricate their earphones and were wearing a “What the f*** ?” expression.

We stopped for a drinks break, while I checked my underwear.

We needed to alter course to clear Birdvideaux. All that open sea and our plot took us straight over an isolated rock. We passed to the south of the lighthouse and were soon running along the north coast of Belle Ile and encountered a bit of rag ‘n stick traffic heading for Le Palais. Although the seas had picked up a little, we were only an hour from La Turballe and we just needed to clear Les Grands Cardinaux , a cluster of rocks to the SE of Hoedic and we could set a course that would take us all the way in.

Upon approaching La Turballe for the first time, it’s not immediately apparent where the entrance to the harbour is, as from the sea, the two breakwaters tend to merge together. However, we soon found ourselves in the visitors horseshoe, rafted up 3 out. I wasn’t happy with this position as all the boats were 30ft plus yachts, we were exposed if any further yachts came in, and I learned that the 2 boats inside us would be leaving at 08-30 the following morning, which meant I would need to be down at the pontoon for eight o’clock, but hey, we’d made it. We’d arrived. Kathleen met us at the top of the catwalk and whisked us off to La Passarelle for dinner. Caprisante’s crew were looking forward to a couple of beers and an apple juice. We felt we’d earned it.
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Old 14 August 2006, 09:48   #22
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Superb write up, look forward to the return journey now, which way did you go back, canal route or coastal?
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Old 14 August 2006, 09:53   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Whiteshoes
[B]






I suddenly became aware of this phenomenal noise building behind me. Unsure of what it was or what was happening, I needed time to take stock. My questions were answered a fraction of a second later as two French Air Force fighters flashed down the side of the boat. I’m sure that this was their recognised form of amusement; to pick on some poor unsuspecting yottie, or in my case ribster, and to put the fear of God in him and to see if he soiled himself. If they hadn’t gone quite so fast and if they’d given me a couple more seconds, I’m sure that I would have obliged them but it all happened so quickly that the best I could manage was a sphincter spasm. Their mission accomplished, they gained altitude and banked sharply to the right. By this time, the kids had managed to extricate their earphones and were wearing a “What the f*** ?” expression.
Keep an eye out on this web site. Those French Pilots often post their home made movies.
http://www.patricksaviation.com/videos/
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Old 14 August 2006, 13:16   #24
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Old 23 August 2006, 11:23   #25
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La Turballe Friday 28th July

It had been on the calendar all year and despite my attempts to change the booking, Michael and Sophie had to return to London for a speedreading course starting at 09.30 on Saturday 29th July, which they were to attend with their mother. I had spoken to the organisation running the event a number of times in the preceding months about the possibility of changing the booking. They were not particularly helpful and very inefficient. It was to be the last course that the company would run for advanced students so there was no viable alternative to which Michael and Sophie could be transferred and the company’s cancellation policy was typically pernicious. As the investment for the 3 of them was almost £1,400 it was not something that could be easily written off.

I managed to rent an old Renault Clio from the local Renault dealership, who did not offer a hire facility. Perplexed by my initial request, they suggested that I try surrounding towns for car rental companies. I didn’t budge and explained that they had previously hired a vehicle to my hosts. After some animated discussion with his colleagues, the boss photocopied both sides of my driving licence and handed me the keys to an old clunker. There was no contract, I didn’t sign anything, and they didn’t want my credit card; they just wanted it returned by 12 on Saturday, when they closed for the weekend.

We visited a chateau in Angers on the Friday, stopped for a lunchtime drink on the Loire and I dropped the kids at Nantes airport in plenty of time for their flight, leaving the car in the towaway zone whilst they checked in. It was 15.45 and there was a 40 minute delay listed. I gave them 20 Euros to get a drink and we said our goodbyes. We had shared a lot of experiences together in the past fortnight and I was sorry to see them go. I texted their mother that they were on the flight and set off back to La Turballe, hoping to avoid the Friday evening traffic

I went down to the marina to study the weather situation at the capitainerie. It was gradually deteriorating. I paid my berthing fees, cleaned the seagull mess off the tubes, and went to get petrol for the boat whilst refuelling the car at the same time. I determined to make an early start on the Saturday morning although this might prove a little tricky as my hosts were having their neighbours around for drinks that evening. However, all the jobs were now done and the boat was ready to go. All I had to do in the morning was pick up some bread, return the hire car and make my way down to the marina. Even with a hangover I could manage that by 10.30ish.

I returned to the house where I was too late to make a meaningful contribution to the clearing up process, so I showered. I had been appointed sommelier for the evening and as I took my responsibilities seriously, I felt it incumbent on me to taste every bottle to ensure that none of the guests were served with corked wine !

Some time later I went upstairs to get a handkerchief from my room and noticed that there were 3 messages on my phone and a missed call. There was a major delay on Michael and Sophie’s flight back into the UK and their mother, waiting for them at Gatwick, was becoming increasingly irritated.

A couple of the guests now took charge and obtained the number for Nantes airport and interrogated the information desk on my behalf. It would appear that, although the flight had gone out onto the taxiway, it had subsequently returned to the pier with a computer malfunction and after a couple of hours the passengers were allowed to disembark. The fixes that had been tried had not worked and there was no longer any prospect of the flight leaving that night so they were attempting to secure hotel accommodation for the stranded passengers. I took off for the airport again and didn’t spare the clunker.

It was 11.30 by the time I was back at Nantes Atlantique and the kids were stood forlornly outside the terminal building with their bags in front of them. It had been almost 8 hours since I had dropped them off and Michael had steam coming from his ears about the treatment they had received.

Whilst there are 3 or 4 hotels right on the airport, the authorities had seen fit to charter 3 coaches and transfer the rest of these poor frazzled bastards 12 miles across town. Ironically, I knew the hotel’s location as we had been there previously that day. The receptionist accepted that I needed to stay with the kids and they came up with a room with 3 beds. I asked about the availability of food. There was none. I asked if there was a residents bar that was open. There was none. Once in the room, we found that the fridge had been completely stripped apart from a 25 cl bottle of water, which we were welcome to share with their compliments. British Airways hang your heads in shame.

I got into bed while Michael watched a rerun of the New Avengers. Sophie warned me of the dire consequences if I dared to snore and I drifted off in an imaginary embrace with Joanna Lumley, and wondered what tomorrow would bring.
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Old 23 August 2006, 11:25   #26
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La Turballe Saturday 29th July
.
The flight was further delayed in the morning and by the time they got into London, the kids had missed a quarter of their course. The oil light had come on in the clunker and I had put 600 Kms on the clock as I returned it to the garage, smack on their 12 o’clock deadline. But I had missed my weather window. The rain was about to set in and the winds would increase over the next few days.

Caprisante had given up her finger berth on the pontoon while we stayed 2 nights on a strange island that can’t be mentioned and we were now squeezed onto the hammerhead on our return. This was much closer to the fish market and my pride and joy became the picnic table of choice for the local seagulls. They would descend in numbers with their latest takeaway and leave the most appalling mess, which had to be removed on a daily basis with large amounts of water and fairy liquid As the bilge pump was no longer functioning, the only way of clearing the subsequent slurry, was to take the boat outside the harbour, lower the elephant trunk and power up.

This daily fouling was so bad that I was tempted to rename the boat “The Guano”
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Old 23 August 2006, 11:28   #27
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La Turballe Tuesday 1st August


Tuesday was a filthy day as the wind howled in from the west. I had done my usual clean up routine after the shitehawks’ party and needed to get to the harbour entrance to jettison the cocktail sloshing around the deck. The wind was gusting so strongly that the only way that I could manoeuvre the boat safely within the confines of the marina, was by going astern. I knelt across the span of the helmsman’s and navigator’s seats with my ankles splayed like a trussed up chicken, to prevent my trainers getting wet. I also had to motor very slowly to minimise the waves coming over the transom.

Nobody was going anywhere that afternoon because of the storm and a number of the yotties were hunkered down in their cockpits with a few bottles of wine. They watched in amazement as Caprisante inched backwards past them with me perched at the controls in a pose that would have done justice to Basil Fawlty. As soon as I was out of sight I imagined them shaking their heads in disbelief and reaching for their bottles to check the alcohol content.

In the next couple of days, the wind was due to go around to the north west and then north east. The prospect of taking on the Raz du Seine and Chenal du Four alone in a wind over tide scenario did not appeal. Furthermore the accuracy of the predictions provided by the Bulletins Meteo Marine left something to be desired. I stood for a few minutes to observe the anemometer in the capitainerie. It was consistently showing 19-26 knots from the west, while the print out posted on the bulletin board suggested SW F 4-5.

My dilemma was that I wanted to get going yet conditions would be far from ideal. I had originally planned to put in 3 long legs to get back to Southampton for which I would need relatively calm, settled weather yet the foreseeable future did not offer this prospect.

Whilst I had been laying over, I had looked at my host’s pictures of their trip down through the canals from St Malo the previous summer and this option was beginning to look increasingly attractive.

My preference was still to come back by sea but I would be able to make a significant saving on fuel if I pootled back gently through the canals .

I had been shopping for supplies that day. Whilst I now had a few more receipts in my wallet I took the precaution of investing in 6 rolls of Leclerc’s finest, luxuriant double thickness toilet paper in a fetching shade of pink, along with a parasol. I had a mere 190 Euros left and was going to try to eke this out as far as the Channel Islands.

We went for dinner at the harbour on the Tuesday evening. The breeze had certainly dropped 5-7 knots and was now coming in from a more northerly direction. I was leaving tomorrow and would make a decision in the morning.
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Old 23 August 2006, 11:39   #28
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La Turballe – Redon Wednesday 2nd Augustt




There was moisture in the leaden skies and a lumpiness in the sea. I headed north and left Ile Dumet to port. I was coming home through the canals. As I approached La Varlingue the sea’s colour took on a brown component from the sediment in the Vilaine.

The barrage at Arzal measures 85 metres x 13 metres and only opens on the hour so I knew I was in for a 40 minute wait. As there were only a handful of boats taking part in this transit, I was happy to tie up to a chain at the back of the lock. I now felt overdressed in waterproofs and a lifejacket and, once disrobed, set about tidying the boat and reading and answering texts on my mobile. With 5 minutes to go, there was a small audience assembled in the gallery of 3 rows of seats. A 38ft French yacht entered and wanted my space as he could not pass under the roadbridge until it was lifted. I was happy to accommodate him and untied my lines, started the motor and was repositioning under the bridge when my phone went off, reverberating amongst the concrete walls of the barrage.

Tony, my landlord, wanted me to know that the management company for the block where I now lived had installed a combination lock to the bin room and that the combination was 3924. Great, thanks, Tony.

This proved to be a classic example of management inventing a solution for a problem that didn’t exist. In 8 months I had not witnessed a single example of flytipping, yet the managing agents had seen fit to install this new system. Crucially, they had forgotten to convey the code to the binmen themselves and when I got back, the wheelie bins hadn’t been emptied for 3 weeks and the fly population had reached swarm status.

Once through the lock, I was amazed at the hundreds of millions of Euros that were tied up inland of the barrage at Arzal. The handbook states that there are 925 berths and I wondered why anybody with an oceangoing yacht would keep it at this location, 5 miles up a river and behind a lock that only opens on the hour, and then only if the tide is right !

The speed limit upon exiting the barrage is clearly shown as being 10 kph, which equates to just over 5.5 knots. The Vilaine is quite wide for the first 35 kilometres and I had been warned about boredom and the dangers of falling asleep No problem for me, there were countless things that I could do to keep me amused and alert.

First off, if I was going to be running the boat at this ridiculously slow pace for a further 5 days, I should try to find the most fuel efficient speed. I guessed that this was probably in the range 18-22 knots, where she would not create much wash either but as this was obviously not acceptable, I tried fine adjustments to trim and throttle for half an hour and found that at 5.3 knots Caprisante was returning somewhere around 1.2 miles per litre. Great, I could live with that for the duration. .

I assumed that as I burnt off the fuel load, then the boat would return increasingly better fuel efficiency figures. This proved totally incorrect and I struggled to replicate these figures on subsequent days and eventually was happy to settle for around 0.95 miles per litre. .

I passed La Roche Bernard, which has an excellent reputation and looked very picturesque, but I was not on a sightseeing expedition. I was on a mission to get home in the least possible time.

Having found my best trim on that first day, the next thing was to see how long I could go without using the steering wheel. It was no longer practical to wear a kill cord as I needed to be able to move around the boat readying fenders and mooring lines so, by positioning my body weight in different locations around the boat, I was able to influence the heading. This was still quite feasible while the river was 70 metres wide and there was no approaching traffic. When it came to a bend, I found myself holding onto the inside seat with one hand, while my arse was hung out over the tube and I had my other hand in the water, creating resistance. I accept that this was dangerous, stupid and immature and only had one grisly, possible outcome. In the event, the wheel went untouched for 8 minutes.

It was now drizzling heavily and I waited until I was thoroughly drenched before donning full waterproofs. This ensured that, when I came to take them off again at some stage later in the day, I would still be thoroughly drenched.

I saw a cabin sports boat nuzzled into the river bank with a midsized Suzuki on the back. There were 3 people huddled under 2 umbrellas in the cockpit, enjoying a picnic. I glanced in their direction and they immediately responded with a wave and a cheery chorus of “Bonjour”. I realised that I had not established a working etiquette for this trip.

I decided that I would proactively wave at all other boats, cyclists, and walkers. Fishermen were not to be included unless they had small children who had not yet been indoctrinated against the true canal users. As it happens, I was respectful to the riverside fishermen and slowed down and tried to give their lines a wide berth. I even found myself greeting many fishermen along the way. On the narrower stretches, I was amused by some of these guys who had 5 rods out and the panic that ensued when I came chugging around the corner. There was only one instance where I was confronted with an angry fisherman, who wanted to push me over to the other bank. I resisted his gestures.

It was way past lunchtime and I thought I should have a rummage in the food locker. I selected a banana, a nectarine and a can of mouton a la turandalle. I pulled the ringpull on the can and was confronted with haricot beans in a gloopy sauce. I had nothing to eat this with, other than to hold the can vertical above my nose. I chomped my way through layer upon layer of cold green beans and needed to turn the can up the other way to check the picture to reassure myself that there was some meat in the can somewhere. There in the serving suggestion were three pieces of succulent looking lamb. I persisted my way through another layer of cold beans to encounter some straggly meat ,capped with a layer of congealed fat. The nectarine was acid alright, but it was going to have to go some to counter all that.

Whilst in the supermarket before I left, I had selected a luxury Scottish biscuit from speyside which boasted of lemon and Mediterranean fruits Whilst this may have been delightful when accompanied by a pot of Earl Grey beside an Aberdeen fireplace, it was totally hopeless on an open boat without a kettle. These biscuits were drier than a camel’s armpit.

Two or three times after lunch, I found myself dozing off.

By the time I got to Redon, I was wet, cold, miserable and frustrated. I pulled into the siding that was their “Port” and found a berth on their “visiteurs” pontoon. As far as I could ascertain, there were only two berths that were purely for visitors. I was in berth no. 3 which was unclassified and berth no.4, which was already occupied, was “reservee” . I went to the capitainerie to seek clarification as I did not want to be cast adrift in the middle of the night. I was reassured that I was in the right place but I was charged the princely sum of !2 Euros. There was a hut on the quay with some sort of toilet, which I chose not to explore, but I was aghast that they could charge this sum for an overnight stay in this backwater of beyond for so few facilities. My budget was not anticipating this !!!

I was so wet that I could not contemplate the possibility of a night in the tent..I left my bag aboard while I went to explore the town that was Redon and to seek a hotel room. Redon was small to start with and, as some of it was on holiday anyway, the place was completely dead. I found myself outside the 2* Hotel de France down a tiny sidestreet.. Why do they always give these dumps such a grand name ? Who do they think they are kidding ? I walked away but as the Marriott and Crowne Plaza chains had yet to reach Redon, I found myself outside the same establishment 10 minutes later. I entered through the narrow lobby on the groundfloor that served as their breakfast room and climbed the even narrower stairway up to the reception on the first floor. I had no bags with me and was still completely saturated from my earlier exploits on the river. The proprietor eyed me suspiciously and I eyed him suspiciously back and demanded to see the room. He led me up two further narrow flights of stairs and opened the door to a small room with an ensuite bathroom and furniture that was 15-20 years old and stains on the carpet to match. The sheets on the bed were crisp, clean and white however and I would take it.

I paid for the room while the patron gave me the key and the security code to get in after 9p.m. He was still eyeing me suspiciously though…

I went back to the boat to collect my bag and waterproofs which needed drying. I figured that I would be making a lot of my own entertainment in Redon so stocked up with some heavy duty reinforcements from the drinks locker. Out came the Desperdo and some 1664 Kronenbourg, which I stuffed into all available pockets.

I was surveying the menu at the pizzeria by the harbour when an old timer that I had seen in the capitainerie approached me to tell me that everywhere was closed in Redon. He was a nice old guy and I listened to him for a few minutes while he told me his story. He was on an extended cruise through the canals and his wife had received an urgent call to go back to the UK to sell their house. I am not a great listener at the best of times, unless it’s a woman with large breasts, and I was cold and wet and carrying my bag and waterproofs. I wanted to be in the grubby little hotel room, sampling the contents of my pockets and to start drying out. I made my excuses and left, rather as I suspect that his wife had.

The hotel proprietor surveyed me even more suspiciously as I trudged up his stairs with my wet weather gear and a heavy bag. I had a lot of stuff to dry and used every hanger in the room. I even pressed into service the chairs, TV stand, cupboard handles and anywhere else that could be used to dry my kit over the next 14 hours. I then drank my rations from the locker, set my alarm for 19.30 and leapt between the crisp sheets for a glorious nap

I returned to the pizzeria and the old codger was right, it was closed. I found an information board detailing the delights (or lack of) at Redon and the spiciest place I could find was a Tunisian restaurant. It was even in the same tiny backstreet where my hotel was located. How could I go wrong ?.

The Tunisian no longer existed and had been replaced by another bloody creperie. I was not going to give in that easily and explored the market square. I settled for the Restaurant du Theatre, which was a good choice. I ordered three large Heinekens while I selected the buffet for starters, steak & frites and ile flottante

After the difficulties of consuming the mouton a la turandalle earlier, I wanted to steal some cutlery to assist with the other star of my food locker, a tin of cold coq au vin.. There was plenty of cutlery in evidence on the tables, and I got to locate the waitresses’ secret stash, but I did not want to be caught and known forever as “the forkstealer of Redon”

The waitress was cheerful, attentive and old and I gave her a 2 Euro tip.

On the way back to my two star luxury accommodation, I happened upon a back street bar that proved that Redon really did have a heart and soul after all. A live band was in the final throes of a jazz/blues composition and the place exuded a warm welcoming atmosphere, with subtle lighting and an attractive girl behind the bar. It beckoned to me and I wanted to go in.

My logical brain kicked in immediately “you’ve already had quite a lot to drink, you’re carrying your laptop-you don’t want to lose that-, you’ve already overspent your budget today, you look like shit anyway….”

I found myself punching in the doorcode to the hotel to be confronted with more cutlery waiting to be liberated. Again I resisted.. Back in the room, I turned on the TV and flicked through stations showing interviews and gameshows in french. I was delighted to find the League of Gentlemen showing on channel 6 (BBC Prime ?) This was my kind of stuff. Unfortunately,it finished after 10 minutes and the BBC announcer introduced an episode of Jonathan Creek. Not really my kind of thing and without really buying into it, I went along with the convoluted plot as a number of quirky, dysfunctional characters took part in a farfetched whodunnit in a country house, only for the screen to suddenly go blank and the message came up TO BE CONTINUED. I was outraged. I had been conned. At no stage did the announcer say “Next we have the first of a two part Jonathan Creek mystery….” I would never have entertained it for a minute.

I was disgusted and sought some international sport that I could recognise elsewhere. Channel 10 was showing a naked woman performing a very popular sex act on an appreciative young man. I knew how this was going to end…


Spend for the day 66.40 Euros Euros left 123.60
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Old 24 August 2006, 09:35   #29
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Magnificent!

Great writing. Can't wait for the next installment.
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Old 30 August 2006, 09:56   #30
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Redon - Pont Rean Thursday 3rd August


I had no immediate lock to transit and was therefore able to make an early start. I called in at the bakers for a baguette on the way to the quay. There was little life stirring and Caprisante was covered in a heavy dew.

It was a bright sunny morning and I was concerned about the prospect of being under the sun all day. Some clouds quickly bubbled up and a chilly breeze filled in. Even so the dew didn’t completely go until 10.30.

By then I’d been running for 2 hours and I deemed it breakfast time. A banana from Ghana, a small tin of pate with half of the baguette followed by a nectarine, which duly stained my shirt for the rest of the day. Lucky dip from the drinks locker produced a John Smiths. Beer was not what I had in mind but thought “What the hell. Why not “ It could have been worse, I could have pulled out a Desperado..

I was very chilled but my mind was turning to mush. I wracked my brain for 20 minutes trying to come up with the name of the famous highwayman who marauded across Hounslow Heath. I knew his name had a “T” in it !

The sun blazed down from a now cloudless sky and I sought shelter when I stopped for lunch at the quay at Guipry. All the picnic tables were unshaded and I had to make do with the shadow cast by an information board. Unfortunately, this was closer than I would have liked to the Gents toilet. I ate the other half of the baguette with some cheese and drank water. I really knew how to live !

I applied more sunblock and waited for the clock to tick around to 13.35. Bizarrely, access by foot from the quay to the lock was up some steps through the Gents toilet and I was concerned that after all the loitering I had done in the vicinity, I might be sending out the wrong signals.

I ran the gauntlet of the male toilets again and located the lockkeeper up in her cabin. She was a long limbed, willowy creature who had seen better days (haven’t we all) but there was something about her that I found strangely attractive. She was wistful and I sensed a mystical quality about her. We chatted about the boat, the size of the engine and the locks ahead and I told her about my trip. She fussed unnecessarily and my mind raced ahead with possibilities. The lock gates were now open. At that moment, I wished that I was on a cabin cruiser and could have just pulled over for the afternoon to listen to a few CD’s and have a nap, With her duties over for the day, we’d have a couple of bottles of wine and a memorable evening…... My logical brain started laying into me big style and I left Guipry behind, wondering .

I was beginning to suffer from the sun despite my shredded panama hat and all the sunblock I had liberally applied. It was too windy for the parasol I had brought and I just had to seek whatever shade was offered by the trees that the planners had had the foresight to plant on either side of the canal.


I stopped short of the lock at Bouxiere to allow a big charterboat into the lock first. It turned out to be crewed by a German family. As the gates were closing behind us, the lockkeeper got a call to say that there was another boat on it’s way and I was asked to move up to accommodate them. No problem apart from Klaus trying to haul my bow up onto the stern of his floating conservatory. I asked him to stop twice and then had a sense of humour failure with him.

I did not want to transit any more locks in this convoy and fortunately the Germans stopped off to invade Bourg des Comptes. I continued up with the Frenchman, who knew his lock drill. He passed his lines up to the lockkeeper on a boathook and they were all exactly the right length. No hurling filthy lines at the poor keepers for him. If the lockkeeper didn’t like the look of what you were throwing at them, your lines would invariably finish up in the mucky water anyway. Initially, I had joined a short line to my painter but this still wasn’t long enough and having a knot hindered the ongoing coiling and throwing process. My longest line had been rigged to the anchor for the trip down around the coast and I now used this as my bowline. It was too long and needed to have 20 feet stopped off at the cleat.

The Frenchman advised me not to overnight in Rennes. He twisted his nose to indicate drunks, a gesture I had not seen before, who would come along and cut your lines in the middle of the night. I was more concerned about the possibility of someone taking a Stanley knife to my tubes. He was a font of information and he knew exactly where he was going to stop each night as he took things at a leisurely pace. It seemed it was only me who treated the canals as an endurance event.

The canal pilot book stated that there was a “maison du naturaliste” at Besle along with the conventional services such as water and showers. I preferred to keep going and use the hours of lock operation to the maximum. I figured I could get as far as Pont Rean that evening.

There were some tiny finger berths at Pont Rean and it took me 10 minutes to get the boat properly settled with a spring and the fenders rigged in the right places. A 225 hp engine was unheard of in these parts and the Yamaha drew admiring glances.

There was a lot of activity two berths up as a new arrival was seeking to tie up for the night. A Frenchman and his wife were on an ancient and sizeable wooden riverboat, protected by fenders everywhere. There was a finger berth available, with a tidy little cruiser already moored up on the left hand side of the horseshoe of space afforded between the two catwalks. Checking that the owner of the little cruiser was not around, the Frenchman then attempted to insert his floating shed into a gap that was patently too small. The Frenchman’s wife was equipped with a boathook which she deployed as a cattleprod against the defenceless cruiser, while her husband applied full power to the shed, churning and muddying the waters furiously.. The fenders squeaked and the pontoons groaned but the little cruiser held her ground. Not to be outdone, the Frenchman put his wife ashore with a line and he then attempted to winch himself into the gap. It was like watching a size 16 woman trying to get into a size 12 dress. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t going to happen. I had watched in shock and amazement as this scene had unfolded. Somebody had to do something to bring this French farce to a conclusion and I went down and paced out the width of our berth. There would be room for his monstrosity in our berth if I moved Caprisante, which I duly offered. This gesture was acknowledged without a hint of gratitude and I allowed them to find their own alternative.

It was the cocktail hour and the Desperado came out of the drinks locker, followed by several Kronenbourg 1664’s and I installed myself at the nearest picnic table. A French family were at the next table. Out of a large bag they produced an abundance of tupperware, containing salads, pasta, cooked meats, fruit and gateau. I surveyed my own feast for the evening; the tin of cold coq au vin and a nectarine. And I still didn’t have any cutlery ! I was going to need more beer.

The French family were visiting a couple of guys on their small riverboat and the meal just went on for ages. They opened more wine and then they took pictures. The kids were then kitted up in orange lifejackets and went for a ride on the boat up to the lock, a distance of at least 200 yards. By now I had my sleeping bag ashore but didn’t want to draw attention to myself in the gathering gloom by blowing up my inflatable friend for the night. I wasn’t looking forward to sleeping on the picnic table and an air mattress was an absolute must. I just wished the other lot would bugger off .


Spend for the day 0.78 Euros Euros left 122.88
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