Royan/Gironde Estuary, Biscay
We are now on the threshold of becoming full blown seafarers
again having metamorphosised from a barge and back into a sailing yacht a few
We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the Canal Lateral du Garonne,
especially the ancient town of Moissac with it’s superb Romanesque abbey and
world renowned cloisters, and the many unspoilt villages en route. There were
herons and little bitterns to keep our attention as well as the ever present
swallows, house martins and swifts darting over the water.
The very last lock of the canal into the Garonne looked rather
daunting at 10 meters deep but was operated by a very friendly and considerate
keeper who let us down gently as our longest lines were not long enough to
secure to the bollards as we dropped!
The exit onto the Garonne River
The Garonne here was deep, wide and rural lined with fishing
huts on high stilts to cope with the Spring floods.
As we headed for Bordeaux the current increased. We throttled
back as we were trying to time our arrival at the pontoon downstream of the city
for slack water. We still bowled along at 7.5knots however which was
particularly scary when we “shot the rapids” through one of the 16 narrow arches
of the Pont de Pierre, the limit of navigation for masted boats. There was
nowhere to stop in Bordeaux, high quays, no pontoons and a vicious tide, so we
headed for a small pontoon further on where we braved the night in preparation
for the next ebb the following morning.
The next stop was Pauillac. There are only 4 hours of ebb on
this river and due to the strength of the current, navigation is only really
possible by travelling with the flow, hence the various stages of the journey.
Pauillac is where we planned to have our masts stepped having heard of it’s good
reputation several times. We arrived too early again. The distance was 25M but
it took only 3 hours and our log recorded only 19M. The rest was the effects of
the tide. At one point we were motoring at 3.5 and the GPS was registering 8.5
over the ground! It was impossible to enter the narrow tight bend of the harbour
so we hitched on to a convenient buoy to wait.
Note the bow wave!
As you have seen, the water here is chocolate brown. Once safely
in, our berth was very shallow but although we were on the bottom at low tide,
it wasn’t a problem as we just sank down into the muddy ooze.
Can you spot where the mud ends and the water begins?
The masts were put back into the boat with the minimum of
fuss. To celebrate our arrival back into the
Atlantic we were given a voucher by the mast team which when presented to
the Tourist office was exchanged for a bottle of the local
wine! We spent the rest of
that day and the next making the
masts secure and sorting out the sails, ropes etc, as well as giving
GF a thorough clean.
Pauillac is in the centre of the Medoc area and as we sailed
down the estuary to Royan we passed many Chateaus surrounded by acres of rolling
vineyards. The water changed from chocolate to good old Solent grey/green, much
Royan is a very new town having been severely bombed in WW2, but
has been rebuilt with plenty of space and greenery. We were not sure about the
exterior of the 1970’s concrete cathedral, but it redeemed itself by the huge
amount of modern stained glass lighting up the interior.
Tomorrow we plan to head north, exploring the offlying islands
as we go.