At Port Lornay

Dream On
Freddie Alderson
Wed 1 Sep 2010 16:23

The Adventures of Dream On - Port Launay and back.


At Port Launay

Thank heavens for Port Launay. It was just what we needed. Despite the fact that we 3 alone had made the decision to abandon the voyage, and it seemed all very logical, once made, and for good practical reasons, it was also a decision to lose the dream. And to lose the dream so soon after the beginning of its realisation still had the capacity to stun us. We had just been convincing ourselves that it really, really was happening at last when we had to start convincing ourselves that it really, really wasn’t happening at all. The worst of this period was between deciding we’d have to abandon it, and when we decided to go next year. Everyone had tried to stay cheerful, and find different ways of passing the time, while we waited for the weather or for Freddie to start feeling better, Sarah really missing Jim and waiting to see him again.. But always, behind all of this day-to-day stuff, there floated the unmentionable doubt, shock, surprise, disbelief and the horror of having to rethink our whole lives and all our arrangements and plans. Many only-ifs intruded despite barriers raised against them, the inability to believe it returned at unexpected moments and all were aware that indulging these feelings would make it harder for themselves and the others, (though at times despite our best efforts, they did briefly poke through). I found I couldn’t write the blog anymore, not sure of what to say or not wanting to say it. It was also hard to write emails, and explain it all to family and friends, who were wondering what was happening. But we thought the blog could explain it best. When I finally did make myself write it, the chronology of events was sometimes tricky to sort out, and I think the confusion in our memories reflected our unsettled souls. And then, to rub salt into the wound, having finally done it, we couldn’t get it uploaded for as yet unidentified reasons. It was a very low period in an uncomfortable and dazed Limbo.


But Port Launay was so overwhelmingly beautiful, peaceful and charming, it was a balm to our somewhat bruised souls. And besides that, it was so busy and so much kept happening that we hardly had time to mope.


We were quite tired still from Sunday’s journey of 7and a half hours, and from the stress, before and after the decision and the worries about Freddie.  We had not bothered do much shopping at Brest as the shops were some way away, involved buses and lots of walking and it would have meant staying an extra day to get to them. We were feeling ready to leave so we reassured ourselves they would have shops where we were going, with the consequence that we were running a bit low on basics by Monday morning.


Freddie, feeling a bit better and eager to try the wares at the boulangerie, rushed therewards and returned shortly with delicious bread, fresh croissants and his favourite, freshly made apricot tarts. So we had a slap-up breakfast, wondering how bread could taste that good.





 The only shops as such, as it turned out, were at Chateaulin a little way further down the river but easily reachable in the dinghy or a 2-mile walk - a nice way to spend an afternoon, normally but not carrying heavy bags of shopping in the hot sun. So Fred and Saz set off in the dinghy. It started very misty that morning, but the mist soon lifted and we had another beautifully hot day. Saz got some nice pics.



 Misty morning, us in middle.                   River reflections, visible as the mist cleared on the near-still river.



                                               The dinghy mooring at Chateaulin …………           and a surprising find



They seem to have enjoyed their trip, and have got lots of nice things to eat, including all the proper ingredients for Cassoulet, which Sarah is going to make tomorrow, and veal for today. And lovely really tasty bread fruit and veg.


The sun called for a bit of sunbathing, so we all had a read on the boat in the hot sun and it began to feel like a holiday. Then we all went off for a walk. In Port Launay, this isn’t far, in that there is the road along the river, and then steeply wooded banks, and then alongside the square there are two roads, which enclose one block and recede away from the river till they meet the main road sweeping past the village. This block begins with shops and the Town Hall, encloses a little school and then various and varied types of usually old stone houses. Some have very steeply rising and enticing back gardens, full of secret stairways to even more secret places.





We did manage to get some wine from the café, and it was really nice; smooth, with a lovely bouquet, and also liked by Gail, who often has a problem with acidy wines. It went well with the delicious veal and we watched an old episode of ‘Coupling’ to finish the evening off.


The next morning it was very wet and raining most of the day, though not cold at all. We lazed about, eating, washing up, showers etc. In the late afternoon, I went to get some more of the wine. As I got off the boat, it seems that the front of the boat was resting on the river wall and bank, though the boat at my feet was not. This was something I had never seen before and one of the problems with Port Launay if you’re not equipped. Anyway, calling Fred to have a look, I set off for the café. When I returned I saw that the boat seemed to be resting on top of the wall and the fenders were flailing about on top of the water rather than between the boat and the wall. The boat in front is clearly resting on the wall.    



I let my rucksack fall to the bank and stupidly and vainly tried to push the fenders down between the boat and the wall. A voice behind me assured me this only happened at springs, that it just depended on the rain and the wind, but the only thing for it would be tyres, or a fender board, Ah, I said, having neither, and feeling very unprepared. By this time, the owner of the voice and I were standing together on the bank in the pouring rain and then Freddie joined us. The gentleman then informed  us that ‘it would be Wednesday and Thursday that would be the high ones, today was only 7.4 but they would be 7.65 then – it was springs of course’. Later, we realised his figures was referring to High Tides at Brest. But at the time, baffled by the figures, I could nevertheless sense from his manner that this was not good for us somehow. But I could think of nothing to reduce my feeling of impending doom, especially when he told us that his boat had ended up with one hull on the bank 2 years ago and several other smaller boats were in the road that runs along the river.


He introduced himself as George, and said he had a catamaran but it was at Brest, hopefully being mended. It turned out his was the same as the one my husband did his Yacht master practical on at Plymouth and both owners knew each other. He didn’t know when his would be ready, but we were welcome to use his tyres in the meantime. Well, we agreed readily – tyres of course won’t float and are heavy and we were both relieved and astounded by his kindness. George took us to where he had tied his, under a bench and in the bushes. One was already missing, which surprised George because he said you could usually leave anything round here. (It was nice to see, when we returned our borrowed tyres to these places, that the missing tyre had been returned). We carried the tyres back to the boat and attached them, and they did the job perfectly. The next day, as George promised, the water was even higher and we were really glad of the tyres and appreciative of his kindness.






































He was down on the river bank again that night checking on a friend’s boat and I think other ones. The next day he told me he had prepared 3 more tyres for use that night. Wanting to thank him somehow, we asked if he would come for a drink the next day. He accepted and we looked forward to a nice chat. We knew by then he had just brought his friend’s boat back from Greece. And we went to collect the wine we had ordered from the café, and who had opened especially for us, so that we could. When it came to it though. George arrived at high tide and could not get on to the boat – the water went half-way up the bank, and we didn’t have any sort of passarelle, never mind one long enough for that. So we had to say goodbye there and then. I wrote a note of thanks and hope that he may get in touch.


The water was heavily disguised by the grass and I was surprised when I jumped off the boat the day before. I was sure I’d jumped far enough to miss it, and landed with a great splash, water over my ankles. Sarah gave up on squelching about in shoes and went barefoot.




It is easy to underestimate the force of these tides, but the surprising thing is as soon as they peak, there is no stand, they disappear immediately and amazingly quickly.


You may be able to see the man in the picture above, left. He is leaning on a piece of wood while pushing against a plastic stool on the bank. Later, his daughter was pulling on the piece of wood on the boat, while he pushed from the land. But he began by leaning against the boat having a glass of wine. Then the stool and then the wood appeared later in an attempt to resist the tide. Though I think it was quite hard work, I think they were alright in the end and they left early next morning. They were very cheerful all the while – I was sorry we could not help.



During these days, we did a few other things. We went for a meal at the café, nice wine, very tasty steak and Sarah had a pizza. What a waste you might think, to go out in France and just have a pizza. But these pizzas were different – freshly made, light-as-anything base and all kinds of deliciousness on top. I don’t really eat pizzas in England but these were to die for.




The next day, Thursday, we needed to get provisions in before we left on Friday and we all went in the dinghy. These hydrangea are everywhere in Brittany, apparently growing wild and looking really pretty here on the river banks on the way to Chateaulin.





The mooring at Chateaulin, behind Kantara       View of Chateaulin through the bridge.

whom we saw at Port Launay and L’Aber.


We found everything we needed at the supermarket and Fred went mad at the fish counter, which in itself he could hardly believe. We were leaving the next day so he splashed out.

(Captains note – this was a moderate sized supermarket in a small town, the fish counter was 100’ long and had: live crabs, live lobsters, oysters in two sizes, prawns in four sizes, mussels, many sorts of clams and of course fish).

So It was clear we were going to have some sort of fishy fest that night and so we did. When we had stopped waiting for George to pass by, and it then became clear he could not get on to the boat, Freddie began to cook and lightly fried in olive oil, garlic and chilli, with white wine to steam it in and cream at the end – langoustines, very big prawns, medium prawns, clams and scallops. Sadly we didn’t get a picture of it because we instantly devoured it, which was a great shame because it was very pretty. So we’ve added another one.




We had a game of monopoly, during which Sarah complained of a pain in her shoulder. She said not to worry; it has happened before and was always gone by the morning. She was having difficulty lifting her arm above elbow height. And we all went to bed about 10.30.


At midnight Sarah woke us both up. She had an excruciating pain in her shoulder and she could not move her right arm. She was also white and had a sweaty sheen on her face, and she felt nauseous, but it was mainly the pain and discomfort that seemed to be the immediate problem. We were non-plussed; we couldn’t think what it could be. She hadn’t done anything strenuous and felt the first twinge when she stretched out to pick up the pepper. No matter what position she was in, sitting, lying, standing – she couldn’t stay still, the pain was too much. We gave her ibuprofen, and when there was no immediate and obvious effect, we gave her a strong painkiller as the pain and her distress seemed to be increasing. Eventually, at half-past one, she seemed to quieten enough to doze and we all went to bed. We were up again at 5, and administered another painkiller. She dozed again eventually, tho clearly uncomfortable, and I stayed up, realising we would probably have to get a doctor early in the morning if there was no improvement. I realised I didn’t know what to do in an emergency in France, so I went to the little bar-tabac to ask at 8 am. On the way I met the fisherman who’d been fishing alongside the boat all yesterday, asking how we were. I explained Sarah wasn’t too good. He immediately rushed me into the café, questioned me about the symptoms, picked up the paper, found the number and told me whom I should ring. Immediately the Madame of the café (Isobel, I later found out) picked up her phone and insisted that he ring immediately on that. There followed a long 3 way conversation as Pascal (who worked at the hospital and whose wife was a doctor there) translated their questions and then my answers. Isobel had said we would need ‘les pompiers’, which I’m sure I was taught, was ‘firemen’. I was puzzled then concerned by this as I worked out it meant ‘ambulance’. Pascal told me Sarah would have to go to hospital in Quimper. I had no idea where that was and if there was a taxi. But he immediately said he would take us and would bring us back. I was overwhelmed by all the help that I was getting, but truly grateful for it as I was really worried by this time. Within minutes however, the ambulance turned up. They examined Sarah and rang a doctor to consult, and confirmed that she had to go in. I just had time to grab her health papers, and for Pascal to give me his phone number so I would let him know how Sarah was and so he could pick us up. And then there we were, racing in, bells and sirens going, whenever there was traffic or a junction.


Sarah was wheeled in and waited a while till I had registered her and then she was taken to a single room where a doctor and nurse came to examine her. This was all conducted in French, which I used to speak. But a) I haven’t taught it for 5 years b) I haven’t had a proper conversation with a French person for much longer and it was a bit technical. But the doctor seemed very thorough and very nice, said they needed an x-ray and gave Sarah a dose of painkiller that really helped, tho she did still feel nauseous. From the fact that the x-ray showed little, they said it looked like tendonitis or something called ‘buscite, another inexplicable but well known complication, involving small bones and sacs of liquid that keep them apart, and that Sarah should see a specialist on our return. They charged us 32E for all this treatment and we were treated, diagnosed, x-rayed, given a report with the x-rays, a really comfortable sling and a prescription, all within 3 hours. Sarah’s medicines seemed very effective, and though she was in some pain for a few days, the improvement could be seen every day.


Pascal came to collect us, full of cheer. Then he found out that the chemist next to the hospital I had rushed out to before they shut for lunch, had not had everything Sarah needed, especially the very important Ibuprofen, and when he dropped us off, told me he would take me to Chateaulin as soon as the chemist opened there. He would have none of it when I said he had done enough and I could go by dinghy, - it was now 1.30 pm - though I was beginning to feel exhausted. I found out later that we were using up one of 2 planned fishing days of his. He was back on the dot, took me there and back and would accept nothing by way of thanks, and not even the petrol cost, though Quimper was a good half an hour away. And went straight back to his fishing, though it was now after 3pm.

The weekend passed quietly. Sarah mainly slept, heavily medicated; I was exhausted, and so was Freddie, as Sarah often woke up at about 5am, needing something, though she tried not to wake us up.


I did go to thank Isobel, but she said, with a big smile, no need for thanks, we’re welcome. When I tried to leave something for Pascal to have a drink on us, she said he didn’t drink; but eventually she agreed to take for 2 coffees and she gave me the change. She just insisted it was normal for people to help each other when someone needs something and we were welcome. And it does seem to be so in Port Launay, and it does seem to come straight from the heart. On top of George’s kindness, we felt really spoilt.



Saz, very fed up and a bit sideways from her pills       Cutting Fred’s hair on the river bank beforehand



This very large ship came down one day   with loads of crew on her at great speed


I thought she would drive straight up onto the road.         Port Launay at sunset.


Fred went off to do the shopping before we left. He used the long tiller and sat forwards in the dinghy, and

found he could do enormous speeds, and felt very smug.         


Mist and rain prevented us leaving on the Monday after the weekend. Despite Sarah’s impatience to get back and see Jim, we were pleased she’d had another day’s rest. Then on Tuesday we were off, with many happy memories, and a Sarah, still beslinged but feeling much much better.