The sunny, warm weather we’d hoped for this week utterly failed to materialise. We left Sables d’Olonne on Monday morning, as planned, and it seemed that half the boats in the marina had the same idea. We donned our jumpers and sleeveless jackets for the first time in weeks and joined a mass exodus of sailing yachts who had apparently also been stuck in this port for far too long. Our departure was due to desperation to make some progress and frustration from being stuck in the same port for almost a week- never good enough reasons to leave a perfectly good marina in questionable weather.
As soon as we left the harbour, we realised our mistake, but we certainly weren’t going to turn around now. The swell was around 3 metres high, and the wind was blowing around 20 knots on the nose. We put the main up, mainly in an effort to stabilise the boat, but kept the engine on, unwilling to lose any speed. In these conditions, we preferred to get to our destination as soon as possible.
It didn’t take long before Nick was requesting the ginger sweets we keep on board for seasickness. Unfortunately for him, he enjoys the taste of them so much that they’d been largely depleted. He hadn’t bothered taking any anti-seasickness tablets that morning as neither of us had expected the conditions to be so unpleasant, and before long I was left to my own devices as Nick succumbed and spent the rest of the passage in a collapsed state on the sofa. At least we managed to dodge the rainclouds, although actual sunshine was too much to hope for.
We had planned on making some decent progress that day, but because Nick was feeling so miserable, we ended up back on Ile d’Yeu which was directly en route to our original, more northerly, destination. Thankfully, Nick managed to rouse himself as we were approaching the marina, much more cheery now that the journey was all but over. I was, however, warned against entering the forward head unless I felt the need to be greeted with a sink full of partially digested yoghurt and peaches which he had yet to clean up. Nick delicately broke the news to me that some of my toiletries had not escaped unscathed either.
Despite feeling pretty washed out, we had recovered sufficiently by evening to enjoy a couple of drinks and a meal in one of the bars along the harbour front. The atmosphere had ramped up considerably since our last visit, undoubtedly due to the commencement of the French school holidays. There were people everywhere. We were lucky to spot a free table. Bikes abounded once again, to the point where it was a struggle to find anywhere to chain them up. We sat and enjoyed our beer and pizza in the lively atmosphere, the difficult morning forgotten, and agreed that if we were to be port-bound again, Ile d’Yeu was a most satisfying option.
The next day there was rain and more high swell predicted, and Nick rather forcefully declared that we weren’t going anywhere until the weather was more accommodating. So we went for a bike ride instead. We explored the parts of the island that we missed out on last time and our high opinion of Ile d’Yeu was reinforced as we discovered the series of beaches that lay to the east of the main town, Port Joinville. It’s just such a laid-back, charming and beautiful place. Or, at least that’s how we felt about it until the moment the heavens opened and we had little choice but to cower under a tree for the best part of an hour. Soaked, busting for the loo, and lamenting our utter lack of snacks, I was beginning to get rather grumpy. The French didn’t seem too bothered. They just zipped up their rain jackets, pulled their hood up, scoffed a chocolate bar, and carried on, giving us the occasional rueful greeting as they passed. However, once the rain passed and we were once again on our way, our spirits picked up and we cycled back to the marina via a quick walk along the beach. Once back on board, we enjoyed a much-needed cup of tea.
Today was more leisurely and less wet. We woke to strong winds but clear skies. Nick’s maladie du jour was an infection of one of the lacerations on his ankle, so he rode (still can’t walk) to the pharmacy to get whatever he could over the counter. I remained on board and did a workout, which requires a little creativity when you have no space and no equipment. I found myself using a box of wine in lieu of actual weights. See how essential wine is to so many aspects of life? The rest of the day passed without incident and we amused ourselves by sitting in the cockpit and watching boats attempting to manoeuvre in the windy conditions. We were about to settle down to watch an episode of Band of Brothers, congratulating ourselves on managing to avoid having a boat rafted up beside us as we have plans for an early start in the morning, and then I spotted a boat entering the marina at full speed, heading determinedly in our direction.
With a sinking feeling, I raced up to the cockpit, Nick on my heels, and we watched in horror as this french boat, only a few feet shorter than ours and being sailed single-handed, attempted to come up alongside us. We realised very quickly that this skipper was foolish in the extreme. The reckless high-speed manoeuvring was bad enough, but he had exactly one fender out and no lines attached. I couldn’t believe my eyes- surely he wasn’t going to attempt to raft up alongside us with no fenders or lines? He was sailing solo and so had no-one else on board to help, but my sympathy was limited; he should have been prepared before entering the marina, and now he was putting our boat at risk. We’re more than capable of scratching our hull ourselves, without this bloke’s help. We were furious. He came alongside, but, due to his lack of preparation, was unable to tie up in a timely manner, and so ended up drifting away before we could secure the solitary line he had managed to hurriedly tie on. Our polite demeanour gave way as his bow, anchor leading the way, swung around toward us and he made no effort to prevent it from colliding with our starboard side, preferring instead to just stand at the helm and look around helplessly; at this point, we screamed at him to watch out, reverse, turn, something! He did, only to collide with the boat behind us, who luckily had its owner on board fending off, and he’d swung around to collide with it side-on, so no damage was done. Nick and I looked at each other in disbelieving horror- was this guy for real?! As he executed a rather wild u-turn, reinforcements arrived in the form of our various neighbours who had witnessed the altercation. We had no less than 5 of us lined up along our starboard side waiting for this maniac to return, and this time nobody stood in shocked silence. He received plenty of shouted instructions, mainly of the “Slow down!” variety. He still bounced off the boat behind us- again- but once he came up alongside us we were able to hold the boat still while he ran around tying up. Nick asked him the polite version of “WTF!?” and all he had to say was that he was expecting someone to help him when he got into the marina. As we returned to our saloon to commence our evening DVD session, Nick observed that at least we’ve never cocked up our mooring that badly. So that’s something.