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Piers and Lin du Pré are the owners of the Fleming 55 Play d'eau, based in Beaucette Marina, Guernsey in the Channel Islands at N49° 30’.197 W002° 30’.350.

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Leg 12 – Rochefort to St Denis d’Oléron – 5 August 2013

Sunrise over the Embouchure de la Charante almost two hours after leaving Rochefort
click to enlarge

At 0500 the swing bridge swung, the lock gate unlocked and the green exit light greened. Casting off at 0507, we eased our way towards the exit in the glow of the marina’s spartan lighting.

The Harbour Master was there to bid us farewell. ‘Bonne navigation,’ he called. ‘A l’anée prochain,’ we responded.

Who turned the lights out?

Leaving the lock to enter the river it was as if someone suddenly turned all the lights out – literally. Nothing, but nothing could be seen apart from a few distant spots of light from a house or car, and with sunrise not expected until 0638 we had a good 45 minutes or so before anything might be seen with pre-dawn twilight giving us plenty of time in which to find a mud bank….

Instead, we navigated on instruments with the screen of our FLIR thermal imaging camera displaying the river ahead. The detail was stunning. It was as if it was daylight. The ripples on the water, terns swimming and taking off as we approached, branches of trees – how brilliant was that?

The SW corner of Île d’Aix where we anchored in glassy flat seas. Soon, the sky darkened, the wind changed and picked up, and the seas started to mis-behave
click to enlarge

Concentrating on that, the radar and depth sounder, we threaded our way deeper into the black as if blindfold. The FLIR was exceptional. With the chart plotter as back up, all was well – even our heart rates.

The nav plan

Two main pinch points on this journey to Port St Denis in Île d’Oléron.

Departure from Rochefort was limited to 0500 – 0530 and entry to Port St Denis was limited to between 1600 and 1800.

This gave us far too much time to cover the 25nm journey so we planned to break the journey part way by anchoring off the west side of Île d’Aix in the lee of any E’ly wind, have breakfast, sleep, catch up with some work, and leave for Port St Denis at 1445.

The Journey

Having exited the Embouchure de la Charante we dropped anchor 0732 in a perfect spot; flat, silky calm, and completely shielded from the wind.

The Capitainerie at Port St Denis, Île d’Olérone
click to enlarge

With the anchor’s snubbing line installed, the anchor ball proud in Play d’eau’s bows, Lin produced a cooked breakfast of ‘eggy bread’ (scrummy) and we sat back to enjoy the day. Well, that was the intention.

Where did that come from?

Soon after 1100, the sky darkened, the wind changed to a NW’ly at 15 gusting 23kts and started to build a sea with a tall, short and rather nasty chop. We began to roll around. This hadn’t been forecast.

Given our earliest arrival time at Port St Denis, we couldn’t leave until 1445. Moving anchorage wasn’t an option either; all the allowed anchorages were either exposed to this wind and/or the endless wakes caused by the multiple fast ferries that ply between the islands.

We braved it out, eventually weighing anchor at 1445 and heading for Port St Denis. At times, spray flew over the top of Play d’eau as she pitched, sometimes rather excitedly, whilst the stabilisers coped brilliantly with any roll.

The sand is really soft and a lovely deep orange golden colour
click to enlarge

As ever, Play d’eau coped well, nothing was broken and I gave her a good long bath when we arrived.

Arriving

Port St Denis was crowded, as if the world of ‘those who normally anchor out’ had taken shelter. We managed to squeeze into a space giving barely a metre at either end, and within no time at all we had two large yachts rafted up against us.

At least we weren’t rolling anymore and Lin, for one, was happy.

The tecky details

Departed Rochefort – 0507
Arrived Île d’Aix – 0732
Departed Île d’Aix – 1445
Arrived Port St Denis – 1620

Total distance – 24.9nm
Longest leg – 12.9nm from Rochefort to the Embouchure de la Charante
Tech issues – nil

Piers and Lin
From the Nav table of
Play d’eau
Fleming 55

You can get in touch with us any time by using our Contact Form.

2 comments to Leg 12 – Rochefort to St Denis d’Oléron – 5 August 2013

  • Dave Birch

    Hey Guys,
    I have exceedingly fond memories of Oleron, and of course, how absolutely rammed it gets – especially at weekends. It’s a magnificent island worth exploring. We rented one of the 4 wheel bikes where you sit side by side and toured the island. It did get silly though when I became convinced we could ‘wheelie’ the contraption whilst standing on the back axle, leaning forward and pulling back hard on the steering wheel whilst Jen peddled!!! It worked too until we had an accident…………..
    Anyway, stunning island with glorious beaches.
    Enjoy.
    Dave and Jen

  • I wonder if that’s the one they tried to get us to rent, the one with the wonky wheel and bent axle?

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