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Cruise 20 - 27 July 2019

Pornichet to La Rochelle

Surveying the weather forecast the week beforehand was depressing. Like farmers, sailors are never happy with the weather, forecast to be high pressure for two weeks and not a breath of wind above 5kn, and, as we all know, BB likes a good blow. How wrong could we be? The days settled to a pattern; a few breaths in the morning building to F3-4 during the afternoon, occasionally f7-8 in the evening. F1-2 in the mornings is perfect for playing with every sail in the locker. We don't often get the Cruising Shute out as it takes a while to rig, but F1-2 is perfect to get started and used to how to trim it, and what satisfaction there is all round when we are "bowling" along at 3-5kn despite the light wind. "Happy campers" below. 

The other, under-used sail is the mizzen stay sail, launched from the Mizzen mast, with tack on the coach roof and sheeted using a block aft, and the aft winch. Much, much easier to rig than the cruising chute, but absolutely won't sail with the wind forward of the beam. There's nothing like seeing it for yourself to engrave on memory: both sails are downwind, light airs sails; the cruising chute will sail just about on a close reach; but the mizzen stay sail needs wind well abaft the beam. Happy days!

Back to the lack of wind. What a "little liar" the forecast was. F8-9 and rough seas were forecast so we decided to "hole up" in the fishing boat quay of Port Joinville on Ile d'Yeu. The RHIB boys were questioning our sanity when we left the following lunchtime on the tide. But we of BB are made of sterner stuff and experienced a very fast, exhilarating sail to Sable d'Olonne. We averaged 8kn in f6, gusting f8 and a couple of crew members surprised themselves by learning the skill of helming downwind with a 2 metre cross sea. Yehaaa!

Skipper, Steve likes everybody onboard to volunteer for roles at the beginning of the cruise…nobody takes any notice by the way…but he does continue to try…

Fiona and Mike are henceforth volunteered for sail flaking…

Cruise journalist – nobody volunteered, so guess who ended up writing this report…

Quartermaster – Who would dream of volunteering for quartermaster when Fiona and Pascal are provisioning for the week. For the record we ate "fine dining" most evenings from the range of quality fresh produce available in local French markets, complemented by the occasional purchase of fresh fish on the quay side, straight off the fishing boat (Belle Ile if I recall)

Purser – Most of us resort to the trusty pencil (and rubber) plus paper to keep a track of the crew expenses. It normally takes an hour or so to sort out all the vagaries of crew expenses ranging from who bought what, through to fuel charges. Not the youngsters though! Matt came armed with an "app", "splitwise" I think it was called. Within minutes the final split was available, and e-payments made to settle-up. Magic!

Mates – over the two weeks Fiona and Joan shared week one, and David Roberts stepped in on week two. The importance of the Mate role mustn't be underestimated. Skippering BB day after day, with daily unknown ports and anchorages, is a big responsibility and the load is substantially reduced where the Mate can take over for a day, or where tricky navigation decisions are shared. The Skipper is always the Skipper of course, but it makes a big difference. Working the Skipper/mate combination we managed to negotiate BB in to the Villaine river across some shallow mud flats leaving enough time to arrive before the lock at Arzal closed for the night. (we'll gloss over the Jaques Tatti, Traffic, type bun fight when the lock finally opened) The following week we crept through the narrow, rocky entrance to an Ile de Rey anchorage. Both of these would be extremely nerve-wracking without being able to double check tide and depth calculations. Great job! Thanks!

The surprising thing about cruising is how 6 people who may never have met before seem to gel. By landlubber standards we are crammed together, often sharing a cabin, and sometimes not going ashore for a few days. Recipe for some crossed words. The smiles in the photo tell a different story…

As for Steve he seems to have "friends in every port". He promised us his rugby mate and wife in Arzal. Well, Jacko and Martine turned up with 2 daughters, 4 grandchildren, the boyfriend of one daughter, and a dog. They only left when BB ran out of beer (a flogging offence by the way). And so on to La Rochelle, where Helen and Richard came aboard, they said for the beer, but more likely because they knew that Rainbow Warrior had heard Steve was in town. RW arrived, a little late it has to be said, to tie up across the quay from BB….Strange though, when asked, the RW crew responded "Steve who"? 

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Steve Benham

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