We left the Vannes and the Golfe De Morbihan to return sometime in a future, and ventured into the open briny and turned left. We sailed along the coastline encountering fisherman’s buoys by the bucket load. We were heading for the River Villaine and a marina which had quoted us the cheapest rate to store Money Penny for the three weeks we would be in the UK. A sail of about 30 miles was enjoyed by all on-board, until in the distance we saw evidence of an approaching storm. By evidence I mean thunder, lightening, storm clouds rain etc etc. It was at this point that I should have looked at our sail plan. Full main sail and full 130% genoa which probably, with hindsight, isn’t the best sail plan for the conditions. However, we were enjoying a fine sail with Money Penny in the groove, speeding along at 7knots plus. As we neared the entrance to the river which coincided with the arrival of the periphery of the storm, we had an involuntary ‘man overboard’ incident. Having enjoyed , as onlookers the antics of the French and their boating we were now centre of attention albeit with no onlookers. In a squall under full sail, the fully inflated dinghy stored upside down on the fore deck decided enough was enough and, in a strong wind, decided to lift off the foredeck and rather adeptly managed to manoeuvre itself between the genoa and all its sheets (ropes) and self launch over the side in 20 plus knots of wind. O flipping heck or words to that effect were muttered, as we continued along at high speed with said dinghy heading in the opposite direction. Judith was laughing, and to this day I don’t know why. In high winds, entering a river estuary, with oyster beds aplenty to our starboard, and a wayward dinghy Jude was laughing. Oh well, down with the sails, engine on, and motor towards the errant dinghy, which was getting too close to the oyster beds. We caught the dinghy up and I made a short job of hooking it with a boat hook attaching a halyard and pulling the inflated bit of rubber back on board. I wasn’t too pleased and I think the dinghy knew it!. Back on the foredeck the dinghy was lashed down with multiple ropes. Try escaping now you little bugger!. In fairness I should have tied it on in the first place!! Another lesson learnt, in that if things are going to go wrong, they will, and very quickly. On examination of our GPS track afterwards, we realised how close we had been to the oyster beds!
We continued up the river under the periphery of the storm to our North, with rain and high winds, and eventually arrived at the modern tidal lock into the River Villaine. Let me try and explain the system –a large lock on the river , half of which is covered by a bridge. Boats go into the lock and tie up, jostling for a place. When it appears full from the rear, the operator stops the traffic and opens the bridge up vertically. Now all the boats in the lock move forward to take up the space under the bridge, and a new set of boats go into the lock, the lock gates closed, the lock flooded, and the top gate opened to allow all the boats into the river. Hey presto!. We arrived late for the three o clock lock and could have got in but decided to wait until the 4pm lock. We tied up alongside the waiting pontoon and commenced to wait an hour when along came Roger. Roger was obviously a lone sailor in need of company and in my enthusiasm to please, I invited him on board for a cup of tea. Mistake. Roger spent the next hour talking about the virtues of being a member of the Cruising Association to someone who was already a member –me!. Oh do come along to the next meeting which is on London in November. Now why would I want to travel all the way back to London to attend a meeting of lone sailors and their stories. I politely declined. Anyway, the time flew with Roger on board and it was soon time to move into the lock. Thank God!.
The lock attendant allocated us chain 12, and we duly secured Money Penny to the numbered chain. To our stern came a beautifully varnished, polished, wooden yacht all bright and sparkling clean, flying a Japanese flag. Yep that’s right, a Japanese yacht in Southern France. A multi-National lock one could say!
The lock was eventually flooded and when the big steel door at the top end of the lock opened we exited into the river, and motored up through another Arzal Marina, a huge marina and boat storage facility. We chose an anchorage just up from a line of moorings, and dropped the big hook. The naughty dinghy was hung over the side of the boat, under control this time, and we ventured ashore. There are literally hundreds of boats and yachts in storage at Arzal, the majority of which were British. We consequently found out that Arzal was a favourite with our English cousins. Apparently, boat owners on the South Coast, having become fed up with extortionate marina prices, have moved lock, stock and barrel to South Brittany. They finish work on a Friday afternoon, jump in the car, overnight ferry to France incorporating an evening meal and wine, wake up refreshed and travel just over two hours to their yacht and have a great weekend on the cheap.
Waking up at anchorage on Villaine River
Our allocated three week storage for Money Penny was another 4 miles up river at La Roche Bernard. The following day saw us motor up the Villaine River, passing La Roche Bernard and continuing for another 8 miles to have a look at the river. We spend the night at anchor just passed Foleux Marina, yet another large marina/storage facility on the river. During the evening at anchor I saw hundreds of fish jumping in the fresh warm waters of the river, but non succumbed to the offer of a fishing hook tangling in the water, temptingly baited of course .
La Roche Bernard
Our mooring was available from the 3rd but we were given a pontoon berth at La Roche whilst we were on-board. Our flights weren’t booked until the 7th September so we had a few days to fill before returning home. We ate in the Sarah Bernhard Restaurant in the village, an old Theatre, hence the name and we even hired a car to see the area…..ended up in Ikea looking for bed slates!!! and happily found a shopping centre that catered for a 6ft 2” fat bellied Welshman!!!!
The obligatory Cafe Gourmard
Everyone is so nice in the sailing fraternity and we were offered rolls of bunting to cover the boat to scare off the birds. Judith duly accepted the offer and spend a while walking the bunting around the boat wrapping it around everywhere in our attempt to make the yacht bird proof. The 7th September came along very quickly so it was in the taxi to Nantes airport. Another day, another story