Speedwell of Rhu Ship's Log

27 th to 30 th of June 2018 - Rochefort

Crew : Andy and Helen
Destinations : Rochefort.
Distance : 16 miles

After cleaning the muddy brown stripes from our hull (courtesy of Ribadesella) we weighed anchor at 1315 to get the tide across the shallow estuary and up La Charente river. It was another silty river but we were surrounded by beautiful rural country. We were overcome with flies which had been with us all morning. Eventually DEET sand fly spray seemed to work. The tide was quite strong so we couldn't travel at less than 5 knots. This meant we were at Rochefort by 1630, an hour before the lock gates opened. Fortunately there was a waiting pontoon which had plenty of depth by the time we got there. (At low water the entrance to the harbour completely dries). Just one other boat was waiting with us initially.

We had a sans alcohol beer in the shade under a tree waiting for the harbour master to arrive. By the time he did a number of other yachts had arrived, including two British yachts: Avante and Saradan who stay in Brittany all year round and know the area well. We were told to enter after everyone else and take a berth just inside the entrance. We just about managed to get alongside when the harbour master changed his mind and got us to move onto the long pontoon with the two British boats. We were quite glad as we like long pontoons. I climbed aboard by grabbing hold of the forestay and heaving myself over the pulpit. We then went alongside where three people took a line each. This was just as well as the wind was blowing us off and there was no way I was going to step ashore. Trying to get in with two boats rafted up next to our space meant we also had to go in at a very steep angle. 


We ended up staying in Rochefort for 4 nights. It was a lovely town with a typical French market and a really relaxed feel. Rochefort was a major naval port important in ship building. It continues to be a busy port despite its strong tides. It was a little like a mini Chatham with a replica ship, ropewalk and maritime museum. The marina is in the old port and was full of all sorts of yachts, live-aboards and project boats in need of some TLC. It was incredibly hot during this time so we were slowly acclimatising and getting used to summer attire. On the second day, after vacuuming up the dead flies, doing loads of laundry and an oil change, we took the bikes upstream to the small town of Tonnay-Charente. Here they have a beautiful 19th century suspension bridge, now just open to pedestrians and cyclists. It would be possible to bring a boat up this far as there was a pontoon with enough depth at springs. We didn't want to risk it. The washing dried in no time since the heat on deck was like being inside a tumble drier.

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