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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 14 (2015) – St Martin de Ré to Les Sables d’Olonne

St Martin de Ré marina, taken from our quadcopter
click to enlarge

John and Beryl’s fortnight of cruising on Play d’eau had come to an end.

Amidst tears, damp handkerchiefs and endless wavings, the taxi drove slowly down the road, over the roundabout and on to La Rochelle’s airport. We stood a while, looking, and hoping beyond hope that the taxi would turn around and come back.

You see, John and Beryl are accepted as part of the family. We recognise this, my parents recognised this, as do our children. Family occasions of all sorts just wouldn’t be the same if John and Beryl weren’t there.

That’s why it was so hard to say goodbye.

St Martin de Ré

Surrounded by its early 17th Century fortifications originally designed by Cardinal Richelieu and later strengthened by Vauban, the small town of St Martin on the Île de Ré gleams with worn pavements, small alleyways adorned with hollyhocks, and square stone buildings with blue shutters and roofs of old, warm orange Mediterranean tiles.

A moat surrounds the fort’s inner sanctum half of which is locked to form the marina. No longer a citadel, the inner sanctum is now a few small street cafés and shops. St Martin de Ré is abuzz with life.

The weather changed

The small town is a maze of alleyways adorned with Hollyhocks
click to enlarge

Almost as soon as John and Beryl left, the weather changed.

Winds increased and the seas began to deliver a short, marked swell. Temperatures dropped and the humidity rose uncomfortably high.

The next two nights saw lightning and dramatic thunder storms bringing rain laden with copious amounts of dirt and dust held suspended for these last many weeks. Play d’eau became filthy and needed another one of her soapy bubble baths.

Where now?

Given only Lin and I were on board, it was quiet. No exciting tastings of the challenge to find a drinkable red wine as close to €2 as possible (it was €1 nine years ago); John wasn’t there to raise or strike the ensign at the correct times (two alarm clocks as reminders), or to source morning croissants. The list goes on. As I said, it was quiet.

Interestingly, it didn’t seem to matter where we went now. We couldn’t make our minds up. We found ourselves saying, ‘John and Beryl would have loved…’

The option was either Les Sables d’Olonne (again) or the beautiful, small Île d’Yeu. With the weather closing in our feeling of adventure was at a low ebb. We chose the safe option of Les Sables, but to use the Olona marina rather than Quai Garnia.

Our homeward journey northwards had to start.

Our last night

Having had such a great meal at Les Embruns with John and Beryl we had to return before leaving.

Welcomed back by the Chef to this small, boutique restaurant with its 13 tables, we had another magnificent meal. Some of the most adventurous and exciting cooking we’d had in years. We tried calling John and Beryl to share the fun. The calls went unanswered.

En route

The crew of this white, British yacht was fast asleep on the deck in their sleeping bags
click to enlarge

The lock gate opened at 7am, but a large, white, British wooden yacht was in the way. We couldn’t bring ourselves to wake the young crew so fast asleep on the deck in their sleeping bags. It was two hours before they woke and moved the yacht, allowing us to motor gently out of the marina into the moat and out of the fortifications.

Being sheltered by the island, the sea was flat. A number of shoals of sardines were creating energetic ruffles on the surface. We wondered what was chasing them for their breakfast.

As we neared the north of the island the swell rose and the ride became uncomfy.

Nearing Les Sables, the numerous trawlers and small fishing boats which inhabit (plague?) this area appeared on the radar.

Checking into Olona’s Capitainerie we were given one of the best moorings in this large but quiet marina.

Where next- and when?

The weather has certainly changed. The wind and swell are both high angered by a series of tight depressions ganging up against the west coast. The forecast shows we could be stuck in Les Sables for well over a week.

So where next? We have no idea. We may end up making an unsightly dash up the west coast and around the Finistère Peninsula to be in Roscoff for the 19 August where we hope to pick up our next guest, David, whom we’ve known since the early 1970s. We’ll see.

Met data

Les Embruns served some of the most exciting and adventurous food we’ve had in years
click to enlarge

St Martin de Ré: NW2, 8/8 cloud (stratus), good, calm with a swell
Sea state: 1½m swell from the west
Les Sables d’Olonne: Clear skies, NW3

Nav data

Times are FST.

Date: 21 July 2015
Departed St Martin de Ré: 0920
Arrived Les Sables d’Olonne: 1242
Pinchpoint: St Martin lock times
Longest leg: 17.5nm
Time en route: 3hr 22min
Planned distance: 25.9nm

Tech issues: Nil

Piers and Lin
from the Pilot House of
Play d’eau
Fleming 55

(click on the photos below to enlarge, and use the left/right arrows)

3 comments to Leg 14 (2015) – St Martin de Ré to Les Sables d’Olonne

  • Hil

    It all sounds utterly beautiful and utterly sad-suddenly slow and with dampened and lost spirit. St Martin de Re is a magical place and so picturesque. With all those blooming hollyhocks the scent must be heavenly. Oh, how LOVELY. Why couldn’t J and B stay longer? The photos are EXQUISITE. DO you still feel flat?

    Lots of love, Hil x x x

    • Hi Hil, it’s really strange how we feel and the weather isn’t helping. We had such a great time. Now we have ‘cabin fever’ and just want to get going again. It’s a nuisance we can’t really stop to play but as we know, there’s always next year. This coast is simply glorious with so much to explore and experience.

  • John and Beryl

    Our dear Piers & Lin, our time with you was such a delight. Yes, our gloom on leaving was not only due to the weather… (Consolation – it’s even worse in the UK) And the ground has now stopped moving!
    We loved all you thoughtfully & generously shared with us – the cruising, the exploring of the beautiful French towns & coast, the wonderful meals, but most of all, your company, sometimes with serious conversations, usually with much laughter.
    As to places, the lovely St-Martin-de-Ré, was our favourite, with its stunning fortified location, hollyhock-filled lanes, & tiled rooftop views from the old Church belfry. We love the shot from your quadcopter, having shared the excitement of earlier launches!
    And the gastronomic climax was the privilege of sharing your wedding anniversary meal at Les Embruns, which you picture here – what an experience! We’re glad you returned there.
    We have exchanged the hollyhocks for our Morning Glory flowers, with all they signify to the four of us of shared memories.. And I don’t have an ensign here!
    Thank you both for such treasured experiences. Bon Voyage & our love remains with you, nos chers amis..

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