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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 9 (2105) – La Rochelle to Rochefort

John and Beryl have joined us for a fortnight
click to enlarge

Our dear friends, John and Beryl, have joined us after a nine year absence from cruising.

Flying into La Rochelle two days ago, we’ve already been having a ball; dinner at Safron (first there, last to leave), exploring the ancient town and climbing the recently restored tower that guards the entrance to the vieux port.

Un petit navigational challenge

Our nav plan showed the passage would take 3hrs 10mins. But with the Les Chalutiers lock opening only 2hrs before high water (HW) and the Rochefort lock closing some 30mins after HW, we’d have some 2hrs 30mins in which to execute our 3hrs 10mins nav plan. I say some, since HW at both locations is almost the same.

It didn’t take an Oxford mathematics don to see this was not possible unless we installed warp drive. Note to self: add warp drive to the wish list.

5,000 boat marina

A sea of 5,000 masts at Les Minimes marina, La Rochelle
click to enlarge

However, the solution was simple. The day before, we’d take the Les Chalutiers evening lock and motor all of 0.7nm to the Les Minimes marina which is open 24hrs a day with no lock. High five!

Enlarged over the last two years, Les Minimes is home to 5,000 leisure boats and the largest marina on the Atlantic east coast. When we say, ‘C’est énorme!’ we really are making a severe factual understatement. Gigantic would be a better description.

En route

On Monday, the alarm woke us at 0445 to give us time to prepare for our ETD of 0535. Again we were blessed with clear skies, a light N’ly breeze and warm air. C’est la vie.

We left at 0533. Two minutes early. We couldn’t wait – too excited. Pre-dawn light was just starting to take the edge off the star studded darkness as we crept out of the marina and into the fairway.

Captain John took his rightful place on the helm seat.

Sunrise illuminated John as he was in the helm seat
click to enlarge

The sun made her rich orange appearance over the landscape forty five minutes later as we were motoring SSE along the Plateau des Duraignes, heading to pass just east of Ile d’Aix, before entering the Embouchure de La Charente.

La Charente

Approaching La Charente, you can’t miss the numerous forts that guard this seaway, including Fort Boyard. It’s no surprise given Rochefort, some 12 miles upriver, was a major naval shipbuilding town between the late 1600s and early 1900s.

The river is so pretty albeit the water is a muddy brown. Flat land either side, fringed by reeds and carrelets, small fishing huts on stilts dangling large square nets waiting to be lowered by rope and pulley into the muddy waters to catch – who knows what?

Rochefort

Having piloted Play d’eau the 12.9nm upriver, we arrived outside Rochefort lock at 0844, one minute early of the time we were given. The nav plan had worked! But actually it hadn’t. The lock hadn’t yet opened.

La Charente has many strange looking carrelets on her banks
click to enlarge

Hovering outside in the river, the lock opened at 0853 allowing a stream of boats to leave before we entered at 0910 and were moored by 0915.

Might that extra 25 minutes have allowed us to have made the journey in one hop from Les Chalutiers rather than stopping at Les Minimes?

‘But hey!’ I answer with a Gallic Shrug. ‘This La Belle France. C’est la vie!’

Met data

La Rochelle: N2, clear skies, good visibility
En route: Wind veered and increased to NE3. Skies remained clear
Sea state: Very smooth
Rochefort: Outside the lock, NE3. Inside, NE2 (the trees and buildings offered shelter)

Nav data

Times are FST.

Date: 6 July 2015
Departed La Rochelle (Les Minimes): 0833
Arrived Rochefort: 0844

Moored in Rochefort on her own pontoon
click to enlarge

(1 minute ahead of plan)
Moored: 0915
Pinchpoint: Lock times Rochefort
Longest individual leg: 12.9nm
(pilotage along the river La Charente)
Time en route: 3hr 11min
plus 31 minutes waiting for the lock and mooring
Planned distance: 25.2nm

Tech issues:

  • Sat Compass. This has suffered two problems since Les Minimes. ‘Aborting’ & ‘Output Error’. Changed sources to the fluxgate compass and No 2 GPS. Will monitor the Sat Compass over the coming three days whilst we are in Rochefort.
  • Over the last few legs, there’s been a gradual reduction in the starboard engine instrument readings. Not a problem in itself apart from creating a furrowed brow. The cause appears to be a lowering of DC voltage. Need to eliminate probable causes sooner rather then later

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 9 (2105) – La Rochelle to Rochefort

  • Pip Flynn

    Hope the 4 of you have a fantastic 2 weeks, which will be filled with much love, laughter, food and drink! We look forward to hearing updates on where you go, etc.
    P&Pxx

  • Hil

    It all sounds such fun-so organised and yet so free, so beautiful and so exciting. I have never seen a carrelet before – rather a clever device. Have you seen one in action? Lovely photos and very good ones of J and of J and B. Glorious dawn photos. Good food too? Keep travelling, keep writing…

    Lots of love, Hil x x

    • Hi Hil. Yes, I have. Some people have smaller, portable versions which they set up on the side of a pier. I’ve seen some reasonable sized fish caught, certainly enough for two servings. Bait is placed in the centre of the net, the net’s lowered and after a long time, it’s gently raised for inspection. More often than not, it’s empty apart from some small shrimps, but sometimes there’s a fish! You can imagine the Gallic cries of joy, and ‘Mon Dieu!’

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