Il d`Yeu to La Rochelle

Chris & Sally Longstaff
Sun 30 Jul 2006 16:45

From Belle Ile to Ile d’Yeu

Into the Marina at Port Joinville, behind the considerable concrete embankment that must be a great reassurance at times of storm. Home of the local Tuna fleet. Rafted again on the end of a pontoon alongside a very welcoming French family.

A very pretty island explored by bike, by intrepid Mum, Maddie, and on a slightly different course, lost girls. The ferry service disgorges boat loads of tourists from the mainland to mix with the locals. A very entertaining hour to be had (if nothing else to do!) down at the local mini roundabout watching local and visiting French demonstrate their antipathy to rules and regulations, and each other. The majority on bicycles!

Sally and I sneak away for an early drink to be accosted by a ‘retired’ solicitor who is apparently doing volunteer work on the island helping neighbours settle disputes. He seemed rather keen to find someone to talk to, which did make me wonder….

Girls arrive and we order food; success of the night undoubtedly the ‘Tuna fondu’ enjoyed by Lauren and Tara. Great chunks of super-fresh fish. In fact the local fish shop had one of the most varied displays imaginable, so not only Tuna and tourists arriving by boat every morning. Impressively long queues of locals discussing fish and cooking all morning.

Girls disappear to explore the night life, and we watch a display of (local?) country dancing, which started with an exciting Cajun rhythm, but ran out of spice some time later as the caller forgot his words. The event sort of fizzled out into something more akin to an English country shuffle.


To La Rochelle

Another fairly long day at sea to cover the 60 miles to La Rochelle. Just not enough wind to be able to sail. An opportunity to test my new ‘man overboard’ set up (new snatch block arrangement on end of boom to take recovery hoist to powered winch)….but no enthusiasm from crew to volunteer.

Approach La Rochelle via (under!) the spectacular bridge that spans the Pertuis Breton to the Ile de Re. Les Girls break off from fixing a dinner of pasta and “creative” sauce to provide Simon and Garfunkel, plus full vocal accompaniment, in ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’. Local Gendarmerie make a dash to close the port, but too late and we slip ’silently’ into the huge Marina to the west of the old port. La Rochelle has its revenge, as we find ourselves moored for the night next to a “live” local radio young talent (??!) contest. As I drifted in and out of delirium at around midnight I might have heard a rendition of “Bridge …..” across the local PA. Girls return late.

In the morning we make an assault upon the old port. Dramatic and imposing twin towers greet our approach. A wonderful location with great atmosphere; we feel compelled to try and find a berth. In the event we attack (almost literally) a space between two rafted motor cruisers and a huge British Catamaran, to get into a rafted position inside. I think we would not have attempted it if the owner of the Cat had been on board! As we finally struggled to secure our ropes in position the two French motor cruisers cast off and departed…..leaving, needless to say, a huge vacant space! Unkind thoughts crossed our minds, although we put this ‘inconsiderate’ behaviour down to a difference in sailing / motoring , rather than ‘national’ cultures.

A fantastic few days. Plenty of evening and night entertainment that is inevitably reminiscent of The Ramblas in Barcelona; jugglers and artists and musicians. French cuisine at its finest, mainly fish again, excellent at street and restaurant levels….also some rather fine duck! A couple of cruising British yachts joined us, with lots more useful info and advice on the route head……….and one man rumoured to be the father of a Very Famous ’pop star’ (unconfirmed).

Somewhat reluctantly we left the chalky white surrounds of the old port (bit of a cliché, but in leaving you really could imagine setting sail for the new world, such was the splendid atmosphere of the old port’s frontage) to return to the main marina and prepare for the Biscay crossing.