About this site

Piers and Lin du Pré bought their new Fleming 55 / 129, Play d'eau, in 2003.

She was berthed in Beaucette Marina, Guernsey in the Channel Islands at N49° 30’.197 W002° 30’.350 until she was sold in October 2021.

This site charts the thrilling adventures they had in her.

You can contact us here.

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Leg 15 – Les Sables d’Olonne to Pornic – 15 August 2013

A lovely calm sea for the cruise to Pornic
click to enlarge

Looking forward to another FLIR experience, we cast off from Quai Garnier’s pontoon A ‘exterieur’ and headed into the black an hour and a half before sunrise, destination Pornic in the départment Loire Atlantique, some 60nm to the North.

Even with clear skies there was no moon. Maybe, because today’s a French public holiday, apparently something to do with Napoleon being officially recognised as a ‘good egg’, the moon had taken its own day (or night) as an Astronomic public holiday.

The nav plan

The pinch point was the latest time we could safely enter Pornic given the continuous silting it suffers in its approach channel.

I’d called the Capitainerie and Mademoiselle said she’d reserve a place for us. ‘Have you been here before?’ I was asked. ‘You must stay close to the rouge, the red channel markers, where it’s OK for you.’

We planned the north bound route to go anti-clockwise around the outside of the reefs surrounding Île de Noirmoutier rather than risk cutting through the narrow gap at its southern extremity and the mainland. Numerous published warnings advise not trying and although that to me is like a red rag to a bull, I agreed.

The route kept us some 5nm off the coast but there were large areas where the seabed rose to within the 10m depth contour. That would mean pots, lots of pots, and dozens of fishermen in their Merry Fishers hoping for a fresh catch for lunch and always somehow being directly in our way.

We weren’t to be disappointed.

The weather

With a gentle wind mainly from the E, and flat calm seas, we were completely protected by the land. The skies were clear, no moon (have I mentioned that?), and the visibility was perfect.

Our new Furuno FAR2117 picks up pots so well. The 4 strong returns ahead and port were pots, the three small light yellow returns ahead were gulls, and the long blue trail pointing 030 degrees was a helicopter we tracked doing 69kts
click to enlarge

The journey

The moment we passed over the 10m contour, pots were everywhere with clusters of ten being common. However, in the main they were well flagged and visible.

But deceptive. On this, our 15th passage since we left Guernsey, we came across our first net. At first, it looked like two more clusters of pot markers about 300m apart. Aiming to pass between them we saw, too late, a line of small white floats, maybe 10cm diameter and each 30m apart.

‘Net!’ I shouted as I pulled the throttles to idle and the gears to neutral. ‘Watch the floats as we go over them,’ I called to Lin.

We coasted and waited. Would I have to dive to cut ourselves free? Would our rope cutters work? I waited as Lin watched from the side of the Pilot House.

After an age, Lin shouted, ‘Looks like they’re not following us – we’re OK.’ I waited a few more moments just to be sure before engaging the gears and opening the throttles again. We’d had our first ‘net experience’.

Not knowing how nets are cast, I suspect each float has a line which suspends the net a few metres below the surface. We’d passed over the top.

Cruising up the west coast of Île de Noirmoutier it was just about high tide giving us some 4.5m above chart datum, confirmed by comparing the depth sounder against a sounding on the chart and the embedded local tide tables in our Furuno nn3d chartplotter.

‘If you’re OK with cutting the north western corner and passing through the reef, we’ll do it,’ I said the Lin. Looking at the chart, the calm sea and perfect visibility, the only issue would be pots and the fishermen. ‘We can dodge the pots, and for the fishermen we have Kahlenbergs – they don’t – and a black water tank,’ I added.

Sadly, we didn’t have to use the horns, not even once, but cutting the corner saved some 3.5nm and 25 minutes, putting us exactly on the best time to arrive at Pornic.

Dozens of small boats were out fishing over a
shoal bank just N of Île de Noirmoutier
click to enlarge


Leaving Île de Noirmoutier behind we entered the Baie de Bourgneuf of the Grande Rade de la Loire, and headed ENE straight for Pornic.

Pornic looked lovely. Large, beautiful villas lined the coast. Mature pine trees were everywhere, from which it earned its name of the Jade Coast.

Keeping close to the red port hand channel markers, we entered the marina and saw Mademoiselle in her dory waiting to take us to our berth. Perfect.

We intend to stay here a few days giving us plenty of time to explore.

The tecky details

Departed Les Sables d’Olonne – 0536
Arrived Pornic – 1249
Time on passage – 7hr 13min
Total planned distance – 59.9nm
Tides: Neap
Longest leg – 21.7nm from Basse Vermenou to Pont d’Yeu SCM
Tech issues – nil
Incidents – 1. The net.

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.

4 comments to Leg 15 – Les Sables d’Olonne to Pornic – 15 August 2013

  • Patrick J. Colahan

    Piers, brilliant work on avoiding the net. Looking at pictures of the Fleming 55’s keel, it is likely that the net skimmed long just below your props.
    We have to deal with the crabbers and shrimpers here also. During extreme tidal changes the current can cause the floats to disappear, bobbing to the surface periodically. Can make for a stressful passage. I don’t mind when they are set in open water. But too often they will set a string in a restrictive channel. It provides a pucker factor that rivals the best of carnival rides.
    All the best.

    • Hi Patrick,

      We have a similar issue with floats disappearing during spring tides. But there’s another factor as well. I was talking with a French sailing school instructor and he was telling me that every registered boat in France is allowed to place 2 pots. No more. But many place more. To make it difficult for the authorities to find them they use small floats that are almost always under the surface….

  • Patrick J. Colahan

    Fabulous, after all, we wouldn’t want to make this too easy now would we. These days we have another obstacle to deal with. It is the Pink Salmon season and a banner year to boot. That equates to thousands of boats crowded into a very small area trying to catch their share. I was called to tow a friend in yesterday who had lost both engines while fishing. The winds were up to 25 MPH and the seas were 2-3 feet. We were able to get him off the hook but all those fishing boats made it that much more difficult. Between the ones that would not move off their course and the others that came way too close at full throttle it was stressful. Add to this as we started to approach the dock he decided to let go the tow line without telling me. The current was coming from astern and the line went right into my screws. Luckily, I had the wind that laid me up to the dock. Diver had to cut the the line free from the rudder, prop and shaft, thankfully there was no damage. No good deed goes unpunished. LOL

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