La Rochelle

La Rochelle was always going to be a highlight – and it didn’t disappoint.DSC_0489 DSC_0485 DSC_0469

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But we had to get there first.

We pulled away from our home of the last week, on a cold, dark morning. We made our way out to sea, together in convoy with Ooroo, and into a brisk 30kt SW. It was a bumpy ride down the coast, with the two girls buried under rugs and donnas, trying to keep the seasickness at bay.

Meanwhile, Allan and I were busy putting in reefs and trying to learn all the systems and electronics. La Mischief was treating the rough weather as a walk in the park, much better than her crew.

We finally managed to round the top of Ile De Re and the seas started to calm a little. The girls at this stage had retired to their respective cabins and we had to wake them as we approached La Rochelle.

Brendan was on board Ooroo so he was able to direct us into the Port des Minimes marina, which is at the mouth of the entrance. Here we waited for a couple of hours until the tide came in and we were able to progress into the centre of La Rochelle.

What an amazing entrance as we passed by the twin forts that guard the entrance to the old port. We were heading next door to the ‘bassin à flot’ behind a set of lock gates that open 2 hours either side of high tide.

The port captain directed us to a pontoon, with very little manoeuvring space either side. We carefully crept past a row of boats with some nasty looking anchors poking out at us. Ooroo went in first and successfully tied up, with us slipping in behind them. Thank goodness I was now getting used to driving and parking La Mischief, which is considerably bigger and heavier than Camelot (but now I’m used to it, its a lot easier to manoeuvre).

We were now tied up in one of the most beautiful port settings in the world, surrounded by stunning old buildings.

At this point Brendan said his goodbyes and we were now on our own. Two Aussie boat crews that knew about 20 French words between them. All the VHF radio traffic is in French. Every now and then we would hear a “Securite” call on the radio and we would not know what they were saying – maybe it was something like “beware of dumb Australian yachties in the area”.

Once checked in and marina fees paid, it was time to explore. We wandered around to the old port and into the old city behind. It was full of narrow streets with elegant shops, coffee bars and a traditional market.

We could only book in for a single night because there was a boat show happening later on so we had to the next high tide when we would need to leave. We had a wonderful morning wandering around the shops, stopping for lunch and coffees. Cas and I managed to each buy hats as well as a few other bits and pieces.

Back at La Mischief, it was time to leave and as there was no space to swing around, we needed to back out past 6 or 7 boats, with their anchors threatening to punish any mistakes. We made it out okay but Ooroo, being a bit wider picked up a scratch on its new fibreglass.

Back to the marina at the Port des Minimes we went and paid for a berth. It turned out that the berths we paid for were on a set of visitors jetties that were full. This marina has 3,500 berths and is known for this sort of thing – the staff are pretty useless – so in the end we just found our own spots. In the meantime, we watched a power boat take out a 240v power cabinet and knock it off its footing and into the water. They courageously (or stupidly) picked it out of the water with a boathook.

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Similar to the Russians we saw in Sables D’Olonne, who were there to pick up a Lagoon 450 and decided to start drinking at 10am for a few hours before leaving for the Med and taking out the corner of the floating pontoon on the way out.

Anyway back to La Rochelle, where we had a good nights sleep before leaving for Ile D’Aix the next day.

Commissioning

TIME FOR SOME SERIOUS BLOGGING……

After arriving on Thursday, we had a couple of busy days shopping for everything – kitchen stuff, tools, safety gear, everything – you name it. we had a comprehensive list from Camelot and we spent two days driving around in our hire car discovering where to buy stuff.

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Leanne and mike from Ooroo 1 were invaluable, as they had been there from a couple of weeks already and had sussed out most of the shopping – especially the cheap (but good) champagne – €4 a bottle – how goods that).

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We picked up Allan and Joan from the train station on Saturday and caught up with Brendan from Vicsail on Sunday morning. Then we were into it. Unpacking everything… Commissioning stuff … Checking stuff – it was full on. We managed to find places for all our shopping and the bits that we unpacked on La Mischief.

The new Lagoons have their mast and rigging installed on the hard stand and then are put on a commissioning jetty where they are finished off. There were 8 new Lagoons on the jetty when we arrived. Commissioning has been an interesting process with all the different players and contractual arrangements. La Mischief was purchased from Vicsail (the Lagoon agent in Sydney) who orders the boat from Lagoon in France. Lagoon have a limited number of options available that can be done during manufacture but they refuse to deviate from their standard assembly line process so any extras you want, have to be done separately. Lagoon contract the commissioning work to a company called Sailing Atlantic Services (SAS) who we also used to commission some of our after market items. For the electrical / electronics after market items, we used a company call Robin Marine. Vicsail contracts with both SAS and Robin Marine for the extras that are not part of Lagoons scope of work.

As well as getting lots of help from Brendan Hunt, the MD of Vicsail, who came over from Sydney to help us through the process, we also dealt with Olivier from Lagoon who was their Customer Relations Manager – a suave Frenchman, who was obsessed with Rugby, and was very charming. Jean-Christophe was our go to man from SAS – he was brilliant, as he worked quite hard to make sure everything was finished off before we left for Easter. Jean-Christophe has a bit of a reputation for being a bit abrupt, but he’s like a lot of techos I know – really good technically but not necessarily a smooth talker. Allan and I really liked working with Jean- Christophe – he called a spade a spade. Pierre from Robin Marine was their go to man – a really nice guy and didn’t all the girls just love him. Joan threatened to run away with him if Allan wore his new beanie to a restaurant.

By Monday lunchtime, we were casting off the dock lines and heading out for our first sea trials. Really light winds – 5 to 7 if you were lucky. Nice gentle conditions to try out our brand new geneker, as well as the main and genoa.

We finished by dropping our 25kg Rocna anchor and testing our 100m of 10mm chain. I think that will secure us at anchor.

All the time, SAS and Robin Marine were finishing off their commissioning and after market items. Allan and Joan were such a huge help with everything. Al was really enjoying the process of understanding and commissioning a new boat.

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Robin Marine needed the boat for two days whilst they fitted the smart alternators. Meanwhile someone had forgotten to fit our new outside (beer) fridge so SAS leapt into action to get this very essential item installed. How can you possibly go sailing with warm beer???

Whilst Robin Marine were busy with the smart chargers, Allan and I took the opportunity tovisit the Lagoon factory (the girls went shopping of course). Brendan, Allan and I drove about 50km inland to find one of the eight or so Benneteau factories amongst an area known for good workers. Some of the Lagoon models are built here and transported to the coast at Les Sables DÓlonnes where they are commissioned. We followed Olivier (from Lagoon), who was auditioning for a drive in the Le Mans 24 hour race, so we had our work cut out in our Renault Scenic keeping up with him. The factory was very impressive, good processes that turned out a very well built, consistent boat. The factory seems to be full of women, the boss is a woman and they explained they use a lot of women in the factory because they are more careful with their work(wo)manship. We started at the beginning where the boats start off as a huge layered patchwork quilt before infusion. Allan said that the quality control process is as good as that used in the oil and gas industry. As we wandered through the factory, we heard Madame Rue was also visiting and we were luckyenough to meet her in person. She owns 60% of the Benneteau Group that owns the Lagoon brand. She is the granddaughter of the original Monsieur Benneteau and is treated like royalty in these parts. We left the factory thinking that these boats are great value for money for the amount of and quality of workmanship and componentry that goes into them.

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WHEEL HOUSE

Because of the complexities of multiple parties, the people involved and language barriers, finishing La Mischief off kept us very busy. We had test sails to do, fit the Aussie BBQ, commission equipment and shop for spares and tools. Allan thought it was a hoot, shopping for tools on my credit card. Even better for Allan was knowing that Joan’s shopping bill wasn’t going on his credit card either (Well except for a few things).

In between we found time to have a look around Sables D’Olonne and check out a few restaurants and bars, with our partners in crime from Ooroo.

All in all it was a great effort all round and by Thursday we were nearly ready. We had new linen, kitchen appliances, cutlery and were stocked up with food.

Ready for our first leg to La Rochelle.

Ile d’Aix

Oops, something has happened to this entry…it’s somehow gone missing. So I will rewrite it and put it back. Sorry for the lack of order but this was way back in France.

Well, enough of marinas. Time to see a French Atlantic island. Ile d’Aix seemed like a likely candidate – 8nm away with an interesting fort sticking out of the open sea out the back of the island.

It was quite calm as we turned south west towards our destination.

We decided to visit Fort Boyard on the way. This fort was built between the islands of Aix and Oberon to protect the harbours of rochefort and aix. It was built in the 1850’s and is now the site of a somewhat famous French tv show.

It was quite eerie with fog all around and little breeze as we glided past it. Very unusual to find a fort out in the middle of nowhere.

Sightseeing over, we headed for aix, where we dropped anchor and then managed to move onto a public mooring.

We negotiated the tide and pulled the dingy a long way up the beach. We all decided we needed rubber boots to avoid getting our toes cold in the freezing water after watching what the locals do, so the local store now has three less pairs for sale.

Then it off to explore the island by foot. We were soon out into the countryside with ponies and big draught houses in stone paddocks. The island was splatters with little villages and fortifications dating back to the 1800’s.

It was the last piece of French soil that Napoleon set foot on before being shipped out to the south Atlantic, never to see France again. So of course, there was the obligatory Napoleon pub.

After a couple of hours walking, we desperately needed to check out one of the local establishments. Which we did.

Then back to the boat for a rather rocky nights sleep. We had tide against wind and the mooring ball kept disappearing between the hulls, making it reasonably uncomfortable.

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Les Sables D’Olonne – Here we Are!

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With three marvellous days in Paris under our belts, we braved the motorways of France and drove our hire car to Les Sables D’Olonne, 5 hours away. Our hire car was a Renault Scenic, not too bad despite having the steering wheel on the wrong side – the manual was also a bit of a challenge with everything round the other way.

It was a lovely drive through the French countryside to the coast. We quickly checked into our room and saw a message from Leanne that La Mischief had just been put in the water. Missed its launch by an hour or so – bummer.

But it was great to see her in the flesh. We hopped on board and had a quick look round as there were workers crawling all over it. Then we went and had a drink or three on Ooroo 1 – Mike and Leanne’s new Lagoon 450. How weird is that – two couples from Perth getting new Lagoon’s parked up in France, one behind the other.

First Pictures of La Mischief

La Mischief is now out of the factory and into the yard at Sailing Atlantic Services (SAS). Here they offload the boat from truck at launch site and do the following

Mast preparation
Launching
Mast stepping
Complete setting-up of the boat and her equipment
– Installation of pulpits, pushpits, stanchions and life lines
– Electrical connections
– Sails and rigging
– Installation of anchor kit and mooring kit (if supplied)
– Engine start up / check
Filling of water tanks and fuel tanks (200l)
Complete cleaning of boat

Here are the first photos….

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A New Adventure Commences

Having successfully sailed from Fremantle to Sydney, Camelot’s Excellent Adventure has drawn to a close and its time for a new adventure, bigger, longer, and a bit more daunting.

La Mischief’s Excellent European Adventure steps out of Australia into international waters with different languages, customs and procedures to deal with.

Now finally off my trainer wheels, its time to get the boat of my dreams, fitted out with the benefit of 4 years of experience and lessons learned.