14th July 2020
Treach er Goured, Ile d’Houat, France – Gijon, Spain via L’Herbaudiere, Ile de Noirmoutier France & Plage des Vielles, Ile d’Yeu, France
Preparation is everything in successful offshore passage making. It’s all about studying the weather systems, researching the destination and bail out options, being fully rested prior to leaving and having a boat in tip top shape. These have always been the rules we have applied to Ruffian and Ruffian is always in tip top shape, however as we wake up in a new country, we can only say that we adhered to the rules but we did bend them a little.
Pushing further south we found ourselves in L’Herbandiere on Ile de Nourmoutier. This little port personifies everything that is French about sailing, it has a rock strewn, tidal entrance, there is a marineros who is chilled in the extreme and fishing boats rule the roost. The boats in it are also impossibly French. They enter without fenders and certainly no string attached to cleats, boats leave into howling winds with crew sporting no more than swimming trunks and everytime they pull off impossibly haphazard unprepared manoeuvres without incident. If only we could be a little more French.
L’Herbaudiere is the East Anglia of the French coast. The land is so flat you can see for miles and every available inch of land is pushed into production. This makes for great cycling and so out came the Bromptons. As we idled our way past fields full of crops and along ancient lanes, we mused about the funny lighthouse type symbols on the road. These lighthouse symbols, as it turned out didn’t warn of imminent rocky danger, they warned of imminent shooting water danger. Time after time as we cycled past fields we emerged drenched as the roads were watered as much as the crops.
Still not feeling French we left L’Herbaudiere in our usual prepared manner and outside found water crashing onto rocks, rollers smashing into the sea wall and tide ripping through narrow passageways. In all this we were happy to be maintaining our British organisation.
Unusually we were sailing with the breeze in-front of the beam (evidence below in the photos to show this was really happened!) and as we headed towards Les Sables-d’Olonne we started discussing when we should tackle our crossing of Biscay to Spain, as an almost off the cuff statement, Fiona said ‘ Why not now?’ and so with typical aplomb, we cancelled our visit Les Sables-d’Olonne, turned right, put the breeze behind us, and anchored at Ile d’Yeu, here we started to abide by our usual offshore rules.
As boats anchored around us in typical French fashion (too close, with not enough chain and obviously while motoring forward) we downloaded weather, studied ports, prepared offshore meals and slipped off to bed so we’d be rested and relaxed for our 300 miles of sailing.
As dawn broke so did something else. We were woken by the sound of another boat just feet in front of us and as we wiped the sleep from our eyes we could hardly believe what we were seeing. They had anchored too close in front of us, had not put out enough chain, and now that the tide had risen, their anchor had dragged and picked up ours. So much for the French getting away with impossibly haphazard manoeuvres.
We were helpless as we watched the hapless Frenchman try again and again to free himself, as the minutes dragged Ruffian did too, but she dragged towards rocks and impending doom. Was this an omen that our rules were broken and we shouldn’t head off? Finally, after ditching all their chain, all their rode and taking a whole heap of good luck, the boats unlocked and we were free.
With all the rules having been bent, but not broken we were now Spain bound. The forecast was perfect and made for perfect Ruffian style sailing. Headsails were deployed, cockpit cushions trimmed and books devoured. Ampie, the towed generator, even made his debut appearance, and pushed energy into the batteries making for true equilibrium. It just couldn’t get any better.
Ruffian slid through the water for mile after mile and as we crossed the Biscay shelf the seas flattened to nothing. In such flat water we felt like we were on conveyor belt with sleep coming easily and the only creaks and groans were coming from us as we read about twists and turns in our books and not Ruffian.
After 2 days and 300 miles Gijon was welcomed us and all because we’d abided by Ruffian’s offshore rules, even though we may have bent them a little.
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