Speedwell of Rhu Ship's Log

1 st to 3 rd of July 2018 - La Rochelle

Crew : Helen and Andy
Destinations : La Rochelle.
Distance : 19 miles

We had a very disturbed night due to an incredible thunderstorm. Fork lightening seemed to come directly into the harbour and the rain felt like someone was chucking buckets of water down upon us. We had to close all of the hatches to prevent it getting in. Fortunately it wasn't getting into the companion way so we could keep that open. Despite that, it was very oppressive and hot so neither of us slept well and I couldn't tolerate our cabin it was so hot. Unfortunately we had to be up early the following morning. The lock at Rochefort opens at high water for 30 minutes. This is the only time that boats can leave or enter the harbour. Also they only open during daylight hours. It is necessary to get back down the river and out of the estuary before low water. We were up and ready to leave well before 0730 when it was due to open. Our neighbours were also up to wave us off and help us with our lines (or actually to make sure we didn't damage their topsides). Several other yachts also left at the same time and we all made our way slowly down river. The sun was low and the river was lovely. Sadly the transporter bridge is currently covered in cling film to be sand blasted. This bridge was made famous by a 1967 musical with Catherine Deneuve: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. Apparently the film makers wanted to paint it pink but the townsfolk refused. There are references to the film around the town and a celebratory party took place in the main square on our last day. There was dancing and the women were dressed in 1950s/60s spotty dresses and Bobbysocks. As we motored down the river there were lots of fishing platforms, some more rickety than others and some brightly painted.


As we needed sufficient tide to get into La Rochelle we decided to pick up a buoy off Ile D'Aix and catch up on some sleep. We left again about 1430 and had a lovely sail up to La Rochelle in the sunshine.


Suddenly there were yachts around. It was a Sunday afternoon so we were accompanied by lots of local yachts returning home after a weekend sailing. It was starting to feel very hectic. Fortunately the marina at Les Minimes is huge and the visitors pontoon was empty apart from one small yacht. Eventually we were asked to follow a young man in a small boat. He took us deep into the marina which really is vast. He narrowly missed being run down by the ferry, clearly having his mind on other things. We followed him to a fairly short pontoon where we were being blown off and there was a huge metal pile just where our bow needed to be. He was there to take our ropes. Unfortunately he seemed to have no idea how heavy we were and it all got a bit hectic. However Speedwell was fine and I didn't fall overboard. I eventually left Andy to tie us up. This involved using our chain and warp (normally used for mooring buoys) attached to the metal structure holding the pontoon to the piling. We couldn't use the cleat because the piling was in the way. Andy then moved the tender off the davits to avoid us sticking out to far into the fairway. We eventually settled down into the big anonymous (quiet) marina. The clouds started to build during the evening and we were again woken by thunder, lightening and rain, but this time not quite so torrential.

The following day we got the Bus de Mer into La Rochelle city centre. We wandered around ducking into cafes every so often to avoid the rain. We also brought tickets for the 3 towers of La Rochelle and visited the first two: Tour St Nicolas and Tour de la Lanterne.


On our second day we cycled into town and visited the third tour of La Rochelle: Tour de la Chaine, in the sunshine.

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