Pembroke Haven Yacht Club

Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock

La Rochelle (8.10.2017)

Ever since we set off in June one of my goals was to take ‘Money Penny’ back to La Rochelle, her place of manufacture. I had visited La Rochelle previously by car on two occasions and enjoyed the ambience of the city , with its smaller marinas right in the heart of the main restaurant area. The sail from Joinville on Ile d’Yeu had taken us down the back of a very long island called Ile de Re, this waterway is sheltered and rammed full of mussel beds so careful navigation was called for. At the far end of the island near La Rochelle is a huge bridge servicing the island. Having checked the height of the bridge I worked out that Money Penny with her 16.4 meter tall mast would pass underneath (a vessels ‘air draft’) however there is always a point when you doubt your calculations passing under a bridge,  this one was high enough.


We arrived in La Rochelle on a cold dank evening, and decided to use the massive marina at the mouth of the river and some 20 minutes from the city centre. (The marinas in the centre are controlled by tidal locks and only open at high water) This is the biggest marina on the Western Atlantic with some 4500 berths. Its huge, and full of some very expensive boats. The system is to go alongside the visitors berthing, report to the office and they allocate you a berth on a map which they give to you. Back to your boat and find your berth for the night. Easy!     

We were lucky that the La Rochelle boat show had just finished the previous week and there was room to spare in the section vacated by the show vessels. An evenings walk took us passed workers busily taking down large marques ready to move onto some other sort of festival or show.


The following morning was spent wandering around the city centre with its twin turrets and outer stone defensive walls containing narrow streets with hundreds of food outlets, and the majority of shops set under stone arches.  The centre is very picturesque, clean,and well laid out. This is the sailing capital of France and the afternoon was spent walking back via the chandlery stores and boat yards, eyeing up yachts Jude and I could never hope to be able to afford. We can always dream. I think the boat show marked the end of the sailing season in France and I found the marina very quiet. Maybe it was because my thoughts were set on the task ahead, which was to sail some 220 miles in one go, across the Bay of Biscay.

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Ile d’Yeu (6.10.2017)


It was an early morning exit through the lock at Arzal along with 30 other boats of various sizes and means of propulsion. We were ushered in and given our allocated chain number. A smaller French yacht decided at an early stage to attach his lines to us and we had to basically pull him down with us as we made it further into the lock. All settles, the sluices were opened and in no time the lock gate opened to let us on our way. (four days we had waited for the privilege of this exit!). The exit channel to the sea was narrow as our exit coincided with low water, so a carnival procession of vessels made it’s way to the sea, worried about passing the vessel in front for fear of hitting mud. The majority of yachts, on reaching the entrance went straight on as we turned to port and headed for Ile d’Yeu some 50 miles to our South. An uneventful motor sail was endured for the following 10 hours as Mr Windy Poo’s didn’t make an appearance. However, the coastal scenery en-route was stunning.


We had heard from fellow travellers that there would be no difficulty getting a berth in Ile d’Yeu as the season had finished and the ‘French’ had gone home. How very wrong fellow travellers can be on occasion. We arrived in Port Joinville,  Ile d’ Yeu to be greeted with a sailing rally of yachts from La Rochelle who had arrived for the weekend. With no berth available we drew alongside an equal sized yacht and secured Money Penny for the night. It was then that one of the crew of the neighbouring yacht informed us that there was a tuna festival in the town that night, hence their reason for sailing up from La Rochelle, and we needed to buy ‘tokens’ if we wanted to partake in food and wine during the evening. A quick walk into the town centre ensued and two bright fluorescent green tokens were secured for 16 euro. Back to Money Penny to wash, and look pretty and it was back into town. Well they certainly know how to celebrate on this Island. The celebration was in fact a protest at further reductions in tuna quotas and the effect this would have on the fisherman's livelihoods. So they celebrated by feeding over 2000 people with a big tuna steak, boiled potatoes and a small salad. This was washed down with a bottle of red wine. Judith and I had virtually finished our bottle of red when it disappeared from the table. We looked around and the group of La Rochelle sailors at the far end of the table realised that they had taken the bottle. They were very kind and replaced our near empty bottle with a full one. We didn’t complain too much. There were music bands, with the old and young dancing in the street together. It was nice to see everyone enjoying.


The following day was spend, nursing a hangover and hiring two cycles for a grand tour of the island. Luckily it was reasonably flat and Jude and I where soon at the Western most point of the island which was littered with the remains of German World War gun emplacement's and a periscope device within a reinforced concrete block.  

The island is totally unspoilt and a marked characteristic was the fact that all the houses were painted white with the same shade of blue for the wooden window blinds. I didn’t find the local decorating store but I envisaged that the poor owner  had a paint display of two colours, whitewash and china blue, but sold a huge amount of these colours!


The castle in the photo above was closed on the day we went visiting, which was a pity. However you soon realised the task undertaken in its construction. I got the impression that some poor souls had to chisel away at the rock underneath the bridge in order to provided a defence from invasion. A lot of work without a JCB or pneumatic drills!!!!!

We both loved the island with its pine tree lined beaches and golden sand. We cycled the entire coastline of the island that day, which was some 14 miles.

There was a long trip to La Rochelle the next day, coupled with a days exhaustive cycling so it was early to bed. The next day it was up in darkness and away as our neighbour wanted to leave before the sun rise.

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Holiday and return (3/10/2017)

We had reserved a taxi from La Roche Bernard to Nantes airport and paid dearly for the privilege of having our own use of a car and driver.  The 140 Euro taxi fare was exactly what we paid for a months boat storage at La Roche Bernard. In fairness, the taxi ride took us some 45 miles along the motorway to Nantes airport where Judith and I boarded separate flights. I flew to London with Judith boarding a delayed flight to Bristol. In fact I was in London before Judith left Nantes. Not a happy bunny!.

The three weeks flew by with weddings, ceremonies, meeting friends, organising things, dog walking, baby sitting (5 days whilst parents were in Ibiza!!), and even a trip to Southampton Boatshow. Although it reminded us of how wonderful it is to live in Pembrokeshire, it wasn’t long before Jude and I wanted a rest by returning to Money Penny.

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IMG-20171101-WA0007Babysitting duties!

Our return trip involved being on the same flight out of Bristol to Nantes. On our arrival in Nantes and in the scramble to get your individual overhead locker luggage I heard the lady in front mention that it would be nice to get on their boat again. A conversation was struck up and it turned out that Debbie and John had their sailing yacht in the Villaine River at Reddon some 17 miles upstream from Money Penny. Whilst walking through the airport, various sailing stories were shared with Debbie and John. Outside the airport terminal there was a row of some 20 taxi’s all waiting in turn for a fare. An enquiry by Judith led the lead taxi driver to work out the cost on his mobile phone calculator which he proudly presented displaying his quoted fare to Reddon. Three hundred and twenty five Euro!!!!!. In explanation , he quoted night rates. It was only 7pm!  What is the difference between driving a taxi in daylight to darkness was lost on me. We declined the offer and it was at this point that John had a wonderful idea. Why didn’t Judith and I use the train with Debbie and John to Reddon, sleep overnight on their boat and they would take us on their boat the 17 miles down the Villaine river the following day to Money Penny. They were taking their boat to Arzal the following day for a lift-out so wasn’t out of their way. A plan was hatched. Forget the train, Judith had by know managed to contact Uber taxi’s online and within minutes a swish newish Mercedes arrived and we all piled in with one suitcase sharing Judith’s lap for the journey to Reddon.  One hundred & fourteen euros later (57 a couple),we arrived in Reddon in darkness and wheeled our cases along the pontoons to John and Debbie’s very nice boat. Transpired that John had built the 38 foot boat himself and  as an engineer had made an excellent job of things. Cheese and crackers washed down with wine were the order of the day mainly due to the fact that that was all that was on-board (Judith had stashed the cheddar in her suitcase for emergencies such as this). Sleeping accommodation prepared by Debbie saw us turn in after a long day. I had hoped for a good nights sleep but unfortunately decided to have a  fight with the sleeping bag liner for most of the night. In the morning I woke up and resembled something out of the Mummy movie with the liner deciding to wrap itself around me countless times and I felt constrained as it won the day or should that be night!

It was early as John fired up the motor and we headed down the Villaine towards Money Penny. The joys of an early start were soon rewarded with sightings of an otter and numerous heron all out for their early morning feed. The trip down the river was idyllic, with the open fields covered in  a blanket of early morning mist and dew. It was so peaceful, with the only noise being the boat engine and on-board conversation.


After a couple of hours La Roche Bernard came into view and Money Penny festooned with her bunting to our starboard. Money Penny looked like the morning after a village fete with the bunting in a state of disarray, but having done its job in that we couldn’t find any bird poo on the decks. With Jude and I plus suitcases transferred over to Money Penny it was time to say goodbye to our very kind new found friends Debbie and John.

Having settled in we used the dinghy and rowed ashore to pay our fees.  On arrival at the Captainaires office we found out that the lock at Arzal didn’t open until Friday and it was only Monday. This lack of opening was apparently to reduce the levels of salinity in the river water. O dear, another few days in the river waiting to get out. Time for some routine maintenance jobs, lunches out and general walkabouts. On the Thursday we motored down the river and anchored near the river bank and went ashore to browse in the variety of chandleries, and have an obligatory coffee. Having been suitably refreshed we ventured into the boatyard and soon found Debbie and John’s yacht in its storage cradle. We were soon on-board continuing tales of our adventures with John and Debbie. In order to repay their kindness we invited them on-board Money Penny for the evening, with even a dinghy ride both ways thrown in. I can’t remember a huge amount about that evening, other than we had a great alcohol infused evening filled with laughter and conversation.  Tomorrow morning we would be continuing our journey South……

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The Villaine River - La Roche Bernard and three weeks off (7/9/2017)

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!.

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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.

IMG-20171101-WA0002Waking 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 . 

20170904_162143   20170904_14583720170904_145844La 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!!!!

IMG-20171101-WA0005IMG-20171101-WA0006IMG-20171101-WA0000The 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

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Vannes (29/8/2017)

Having anchored the last few nights, we decided to venture further into the Golfe and eventually joined another flotilla of small craft as we weaved our way up the river towards Vannes, which is pronounced ‘Van’.  Entry into the port of van is fairly specific as there are a number of bridges and tidal sills to negotiate on a rising tide. The road bridge swings open and remains open for 2 hours (don’t know what happens to the usual traffic, but a detour is inevitable).

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We were met at the pontoons by a young lad in his inflatable dinghy who was zipping around here and there. Having allocated us our berth, we drew up alongside and were surrounded by Brits eager to help with our lines. Within five minutes our fellow Brits had found out all there was to know about us, where you from, where you been, where you going? Within minutes another large yacht was shoehorned into a berth to our stern. Another British boat so the introductions and chat continued, each boat, I think, relieved to find another ‘English’ speaking person in order to converse.

All three crews off the ‘Brits’ then watched, with some amusement, as a fairly new large French Jeanneau sailing yacht came into the area. He was attempting to berth the vessel in his usual allocated berth which was equipped with some very snazzy fenders on the pontoon as a permanent fixture. When I say large I mean around 50 foot in length. As the helm swung the vessel to starboard in order to turn into his berth there was a loud thud as his keel hit the bottom of the slipway and for the second day running a French boat had, pardon the pun –ground to a halt.  Severe embarrassment all round as the identically dressed crew (red shorts and sparkling white shirts) rushed about and checked for damage. Back the helmsman went and on the second attempt missed the ground and came straight into the berth. No doubt there was a debate as to what had just happened.


Vannes is a busy cosmopolitan city with a fortification surrounding the inner city centre, with arches allowing all to enter the inner sanctum of shops and business. Since my last visit by car the city council have improved the area around the waterway and now, instead of a car park there was a tree lined avenue to walk and cycle along, littered with restaurants and cafes. We chose a nice looking restaurant for lunch and weren’t disappointed. The food and the presentation of the food was mouth-watering!  The woman on the table next to us had ordered a salad, and much to hers and everyone’s amusement the salad arrived on a large shallow bowl, complete with three small terracotta flowerpots full of accompanying ingredients. It really was very well presented. Our meal was equally carefully presented, I had carbonara and Jude had a salad, and I finished the meal off with a cafe gourmand, which in English means a coffee with four small taster desserts (gourmand has good reason to be translated to the English word - greedy). Flipping delicious.

The hunt was still on for a pair of trousers for me to wear in London. Every gents outfitters in Vannes was visited and again the elusive pair of 40” waist, by 33” inside leg, wasn’t forthcoming. Time is now getting a little too close to find trousers!. We spend an enjoyable two days discovering Vannes which included a long walk along the riverside, past some very professional boat building enterprises, one of which was a yard refurbishing a 70 foot long racing trimaran. What an absolute beast. The winches adorning the deck area were each the size of a barrel, and made, of course from carbon fibre to reduce weight. Would love to have a go on such a flying machine!

20170830_105657too big to get the whole Cat in the shot!

Vannes is a beautiful historical city, well worth a visit. 

IMG-20171024-WA0008IMG-20171024-WA0004IMG-20171024-WA0003Medieval Wash Houses along side of the river.

Time to move on, and with the tide at the right state, we left Vannes. Now getting out of our tight berth was a bit of a problem, but again the Brits came to the rescue and two guys gave Moneypenny a good push sideways and she obliged in moving out of the berth with inches to spare either end. Within minutes the heavens opened and a downpour ensued. I got soaked to the skin in a matter of minutes. My crew, had the good fortune of sheltering under the spray hood, and remained relatively dry. The rain continued as I steered Moneypenny through the lock gates, over the tidal sill and through the opening of the swing bridge, towards the open sea, some 20 miles away.

We motor/sailed down the Golfe, and when the rain stopped, it didn’t take long in the warm breeze for those of us who got wet to dry out. On an out going tide we were quickly swept down the channels towards the sea, and at times were covering the ground at over 9 knots (10miles per hour) towards the open sea. Next stop, the River Auray.


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