2006 BURGUNDY 2007 LANGUEDOC
"TO TASTE IS TO KNOW" Chinese Proverb.
Having obtained the parrot's (Bobo) DEFRA export licence on November 4th 2005, I collected her from her rather expensive digs in Chiswick and crossed to France through the channel tunnel. I had been pretty nervous about the whole exercise because of the Avian Flu epidemic and the general hysteria surrounding it. I had been easily parted from the £ 2000 the whole thing cost me. Slightly more than the £ 600 she cost in 1984! Incidentally she was captive bred, so she thinks that I am her dad. Since most wild birds spend their time migrating, you would think that the most sensible thing would be to sort out a mass innoculation and batten down the hatches! I have since been told that the current vaccine has more minus's than plus's..ie it does not work. Here in France I have been told by the local vet that avian flu is following the route of the trans-siberian railway! Not sure how that applies to the turkeys near Lyon, but hey what do I know? So we wait patiently for culling! PS: 2007 of course we now know that the whole thing has been a storm in a tea cup!
Anyway since the certificate was made out to "transport to Camargue", I immediately slogged down through France through constant driving rain and made it back to "Saul Nomad" early evening. Bobo needless to say was touchingly quite delirious with joy, as I lost count of the number of "Hello Bobo's" that were issued as we had a number of near death experiences on the French motorways! What do you expect driving one handed, with the spare hand tickling my faithful friend of twenty years duration?
Having settled back in for a few days, I made the decision to head north for the winter, because I really want to be well placed for summer chartering, and take advantage of being closer to German waters during the Soccer World Cup in June and July 2006. (Avian Flu not withstanding). One of the best places for this is St Jean de Losne, Burgundy, and I sailed up single handed from Port Camargue on 16th November. With four day stops in Avignon, and Lyon I arrived at my destination on December 4th. I had designed Saul Nomad to be handled single handed and she perfomed that task pretty well. I was even able to use the Auto pilot for lengthy periods on the big rivers...although the pilot is still not fully operational. The weather fluctuates between freezing snow, quick thaws that reduce the unmade up marina roads to mud. This swiftly transfers to the ship via the dogs. Just as well I went for wipe down surfaces that are either painted or varnished and pitch pine floors! The hot air heating has come into it's own, even though it is expensive to run. However absolutely no condensation anywhere on the ship is a big plus, and surely must protect the fabric of the boat...because as any old salt will tell you, "ship's rust from the inside outwards!"
Xmas 2005. Warmer winters? Lovely though it is, Burgundy is just too far north! Very photogenic, but a boat owner will have a major re-varnishing job in the spring!
"If those geese wake me up for their breakfast of yesterday's baguettes again, I will do for them!"
Perfect conditions for a Newfoundland! Erin will be thirteen this year.
March 5th 2006. Brrr..illiant innit?
A wonderful view along the Saone. Not quite ready for Bikini time yet!
All very pretty, but I have made a mental note that next winter we tie up in the mediterranean!
Then the thaw sets in, and the normally gentle Saone rises a metre overnight.
As far as the eye can see the fields are flooded. I am standing on the 1840 excavations for the original ecluse, so my feet are dry!
Not a good day to visit Macon!
In some places driving was hazardous!
The water levels soon start to drop...Roll on summer!
A more traditional way to travel along the tow path.
July 2006 I have painted the hull, the mast/derrick is up, and the new jetski lies alongside.
A 90 kph bundle of fun! It is quicker than a car..and more Cool, to use it to head up river to the Supermarket. The JetSki has 100 Litres of storeage...that is a lot of Beer, Wine and Icecream!
The incredibly sensible "Clamboat" now awaits a buyer! However later in the year and the thought of negotiating the shallow waters of the Camargue, has put this plan on hold. We will have to see how the finances of Saul Nomad hold up!
The St Jean de Losne summer also saw both founders of H2O involved in weddings. Robert Bond made it legal with longtime partner, Janet.
The blushing Bride and Groom arrive on top of a JCB Digger!
The Kids are kept occupied firing balloons filled with water down range. No accidents here?
Phillipe Gerard's lovely partner, Anke, is on the orange juice.
Their baby is due at Xmas!
...but then weddings are about the family!
Charles and Patricia Gerrard also pushed the boat out at the wedding of their daughter JoJo. I was very kindly invited to both weddings and had a great time!
We pigged out on a deliceous Spit Roast!
A few "Bon Mots" from the best man, will always create some nervous tension!
Charles and Patricia Gerard and daughter JoJo, get the champagne down the hatch, whilst the Bridegroom sips gingerly into his new status!
Every one really let their hair down! No wedding is complete without the "trouser dropping fandango"!
We moved our Port of Registration from Douglas, Isle of Man to Gloucester. This was because our commercial registration came through, and the IOM does not "do" commercial river barges...they are in the middle of the Irish Sea!
Local Cats, Ginger and Paddy (Out some where having a fight!) have moved in! They are a couple of killers, but Bobo is intent on getting them first...there is fortunately a feline stand off. Even a french pussy respects a bird that can do dog barks, mioows and ringing telephones! God forbid I return to a pile of feathers, or bloodied cat!! (For the anaraks amongst you, that is michael baghdadis getting ready to serve!)
Dusk on the Saone!
This autumn we head back to Languedoc for the winter. On October 1st we sailed from SJL, and headed to Port Camargue, where we are booked in until March 2007...and probably later...because I think we might do the summer 2007 on the Med. The passage should take around six days. I have fitted Saul Nomad with two 1000 watt halogen floods...just like the commercials. Our new headlights really light up the river. Believe me they will be handy when lining up mooring posts in the dark, with a barrage on one side and rocks on the other...especially on the Rhone with it's locks working until 21.00 hours. I will be single handed again. Remembering Horatio Nelson's mantra that the "Anchor is the most important part of a ship's equipment", today (the 27th September) I tested all my anchors/winches and capstans. Just as well because they were all pretty notchy, and all benefitted from spray grease into their swivels and links. Let's face it if the main drive goes pop going down the Rhone, one will need to drop the kedge anchor bloody quickly! My friends John and Judy Coates went down it a couple of weeks ago...on the tale end of Hurricane Gordon. They assure me that it was Force 8 with two metre waves...on a river! The southerly wind lifted their wheelhouse roof of it's supports. The spray was forcing it's way through their windows...nice. Being positive they said the spray was warm...so that's ok then!
October 1st we departed SJL. Having planned to leave at 08.00 hrs, we somehow did not get away until 13.30 hrs! Arriving at "Chalon sur Saone" just before dusk, we encountered the usual problem at the Port de Plaisance of being refused entry because we are longer than 15 meters. Bearing that in mind I noticed that as I left the port to re-enter the turbulent waters of the Saone, I passed some 40 meters of unnoccupied pontoon. Bloody daft! Dutch Barge Association where are you? I read somewhere that they were doing something about it, but I am not clear who has replaced Humph Farnsworth, who was their main man around here. It did cross my mind that the anti-bowthruster luddites in the club, had managed to rip one of these pontoons up using their "controlling springs" methods!
A typical example of a restricted mooring on the Saone...in this case empty....the sign to the right of the yellow steel post that is driven into the river bed says "no boats over 15 mtrs long". I know this village enforces it, because the local gendermes municipal turfed us off it last November as I was getting dressed to go to dinner at the local Michelin starred Restaurant that is allegedly based there! It was dusk, snowing, and generally miserable...not a good time to be heading off into the night.
The difficulty of the Saone, that unlike the Rhone, is there are no overnight stops at the Ecluses (Locks) until you are just north of Lyon. In pitch dark and a huge thunderstorm I pressed on to Tournous...using my new floodlight arrangement which even the Eclusiers were happy with. I arrived there at 21.00 hrs to find that it was filled with plastic boats and a huge Hotel Boat that looked several hundred feet long. No where to raft up without a major re-adjustment...and the natives were not falling over themselves to offer it. Oh dear! The Navicart charts showed several chart pages ahead that we were faced with the dreaded "r's". Rocks, Rapids, 'recks and rectal uncertainty! Hey with my new lights no problems...except that an hour past the point of no return, we hit serious fog banks. Visibility varied between misty and nil.
Hitting a channel post in the fog would be very bad karma! Every few hundred meters they loomed out of the Fog.
The saviour was my "C-Map" Electronic river chart. All the big French Rivers are on C-Map. It does not matter about the Canals, because the locks are shut around dusk anyway. Just setting my pointer on the river ahead, I was able to establish "course to steer"... and very gently edged along in the middle of the channel at two to three knots! I also took the precaution of using a Radar Overlay on the Chart. I find the general Radar Clutter quite confusing, but it did pick out one or two unmarked posts. I also took the precaution of closing my three internal watertight doors...yes I have the Titanic film, unfortunately not Kate Winslet! The basis of my thinking was that if we hit something, it would be only a moderate bang! Although at any speed the kinetic energy from our 100 odd tons makes quite a "dinga-a-ling"! Around 01.30 hrs I noticed a mooring sign flourescing out of the gloom and from behind a bush! What a relief, and fortunately we had not had what you might call euphemistically "an embarrassment"!
More visible at 08.00 hrs than it was at 01.00 hrs!
After 5 hours sleep the mooring still looked good!
Even at this hour of the morning, I come across yet another field of Maize "Corn on the Cob". One of the great mysteries of France, is why there are fields of this stuff everywhere, but finding it fresh in the Supermarket is hard. Always to be found in Tins though!
We had been woken by the sound of gunfire...it is a bad time for wild fowl every where at this time of year.
"Get a move on, guys 'n gals!"
Luckily we did not encounter this baby in the fog!
We pressed on to Lyon arriving at 16.00 hours on monday afternnon. The Saone had been very turbulent, and the water level at my favourite Mooring at the "Man on the Rock" bridge was only an inch or two below the stonework! The waters rose around a foot in the next 24 hours. It was time to break out my waders, and lower the Yokohama fenders over the side to stop us being smacked up onto the stone quay. They work by being heavier than balloon fenders, so do not pop out at the vital moment. The ship's hull then forces them down and the impact with the quay is reduced.
Tied up in Lyon, opposite the "Homme du Roche".
Yokohama's smallest model, but no less effective than the 25 meter one's they use for Super Tankers.
The surprise was that my so called "water dogs" were not happy jumping off into unknown waters to go "walkies". I hung on for two days..still the levels were rising. Finally on the 4th I bit the bullet, and sailed for Vienne on the Rhone. Banging along at 12 knots/ 20 kph we made Vienne at 17.00 hrs. We managed to keep a fairly straight line on the River, but I noticed several old peniches negotiating corners almost sideways...is it happens to be the correct method... but unnerving when lining yourself up on a bridge, and hoping the ship will respond to power and helm at the vital moment. Let's face it broadsiding a bridge pile could be fatal!
As usual all the fretting did not come to fruition, and we awoke on the 6th October to a fine day with a chance to look around. A beautiful Roman city!
Vienne. Believe me the River Rhone is flying by! When 5250 ton commercials (Two 2625 Dumb Barges strapped together with a Pusher Tug) passed by heading up River, the waters where seriously disturbed for up to 40 minutes. The first time since 1962 that my insides felt queasy...and that was in a Hurricane in the North Atlantic aboard the 1200 ton "HMCS Incharran"! The Navicart charts talk of "turbulance" around the bridges at Vienne. They are not joking!
Vienne. Hotel Ships abound, but privateers are...only us actually. I imagine they do not fancy the conditions. We have the power tho'!
Fine Vienne villa's peek out at the River.
Universal France. The Boules season appears over...the last pickings being played by the local Pigeons!
PS: I noted in this RYA month's magazine, that the French Customs have been pulling Brits in in Avignon to check for Red Diesel in the Motor Tanks. Even traces that have been legally bought in the UK or Belgium result in an on the spot fine. Bonafide receipts do no good apparently...an interesting one for the European Court methinks! Maybe they need the money to rebuild their famous bridge, or are they still pissed off about the Olympics...which is what the fuel bargeman on the Canal Lateral told me after he charged me 1.24 per litre last September! Definitely no stop at Avignon...not because of the above, but because it is a tricky mooring at the best of times...high walls, strong currents..and I did it bigtime last year.
A convivial sunday night amongst the Pike fishermen of St Etienne des Sorts. The Village is on the Wine Tour Route. I purchased a bottle of the local Red, White and Rose, and found it some of the most drinkable cheap wine that I have encountered in France.
Renee Clavel (79) sporting a wounded thumb which had recently spiked by a Mullet. The Pike which he caught last year sadly did not get the thumb first! Renee tells me that the trick to catch Pike is that you let them kill the live bait on the hook. They then spit the dead fish/hook out...turn their meal the "spike free way" and then swallow it all down to their stomach, whereupon these huge fighting fish are unable to to resist the hook and it's wire cable! Apparently they are delicious baked..butter, 225 degrees and 45 minutes. Sorry I just could not do it!
This stretch of the Rhone is filled with Hydroelectric and Nuclear power stations...providing a third of France's total. As we know the French had little trouble with Green Peace.. when confronted, they sank Greenpeace's "Rainbow Warrior"! Maybe as a consequence they now use the most (non-global warming) Nuclear power in Europe.
On our 9th October night mooring I chose the Downside Lock Pontoon at Vallebregues. Previous experiance showed that Arles is poorly served for Privateers. Furthermore the Petit Rhone to St Gilles lock is a narrow channel, with many underwater hazards. A bit of mist and there could be trouble! This was no time to gamble! I was proved right because it was still misty at 0700 hours at Vallabregues.
Leaving the downstream end of the Rhone Locks at this time of year requires a steady nerve. The current is running at up to five knots in places.
Not one of my greatest self portraits. My left hand is aiming the Nikon D2X with the zoom lens set at 17mm, "Paddy" on the controls and my right hand is clinging to the mooring rope which is...
..attached to the floating bollards...which actually make working the barge through the giant locks on the Rhone a doddle. I am wearing a lifejacket, as for years the French ignored their own rules about wearing them until someone recently expired by falling in the Bollene Lock. After the lawsuit was settled... the rules are now being strictly enforced!
The Bollene Lower gates open, and after a free shower, we are on our way.
"Ginger" is very laid back and tends to take a back seat, whereas...
"Paddy" having retired from the fight game, is far more "Paws On". The bottom right white dial shows around 3500 psi...about two tons bollard pull coming off our five bladed prop. "Stay with it Paddy Boy, as you clearly have the equipment to multi-task!"
10th October morning, we spin down from our rather wild mooring pontoon at Vallebregues Lock. The Rhone is shallower now and as a result the same amount of water in half the space increased it's velocity.
Bridges are invariably on a blind bend...even radar cannot see through rock! In addition, as you probably know, the strong current is on the outside of the bend... just were we are meant to be heading!
We pass the Arles turn at Fourques and head off to the right along the Petit Rhone to Saint Gilles Lock.
Camargue Horses remind us that we are in the zone! This one in company with her foal, is getting the usual beauty treatment from a couple of Little Egrets.
Consuming "Poppy" has a bad name in some quarters, but a girl sure looks cute in a field of it!
Of course "Saul Nomad" was not "flying", but this is Aigues-Mortes from the air! It takes around thirty minutes to walk the medieval battlements.
It is the head of the Rhone-a-Sete Canal, and we make Aigues Mort by 2 pm. Surprisingly the local plastic pleasure boaters have hi-jacked the old Intermarche/Super U and Ed's Supermarket moorings..and furthermore fenced off the entrance to the Supermarket Car Park! Only in France...obviously the local Intermarche..a sort of French Tesco's/Morrison's must have upset someone! On reflection I do recall that last year a number of German and Dutch barges had commandeered the mooring on what appeared to be a slightly long term basis..perhaps a temporary mooring sign might have helped.
After Aigues Mortes of course there were the wild Flamingos, Camargue Horses and Black Bulls...see last year! However what confirmed my decision to head south for the winter was the electric fan under the shade of the parasol. Being in France, it is colour co-ordinated of course! Very good for the spirit!
In actual travelling time it only took four days from Bourgogne to the Med. We tied up in Port Camargue at 16.30. The Port Capitain, Mr Canado, tells me that at the end of march 2007 they start a mammoth extension to increase the current capacity of 6000 boats to ten thousand! Monster, it must be one of the largest Marinas in the world. The weather is so bland today. It is just like summer has started again! No surprise..that is why we are here!
We are back! Instead of MV. Saul Nomad, we are known as "the Peniche". With 5999 plastic motors and raggies around, it does give us some exclusivity! It is also a "Brit" free zone...hey we are finally in the real France! I do not wish to imply that I am anti-British, however I have encountered on more than one occasion that uniquely embarrassing British creation that happens in some Marinas in France, where some retired Civil Servant, Ex-Union Official or Ex-Services type decides that they run the place for them and their friends. They then sit around all day complaining about France and the French and making little attempt to speak the language! The only way into their exclusive circle is to bend the knee. Not my particular skill, and also bearing in mind that it was the taxes paid by people like me and thee that allowed them to take such a comfortable early retirement! Grrr!
....Whoops! It is very catching! But rest assured that the normal attire on "Saul Nomad" is much more practical!
"Who ate all the Pies?"
P.S. Must dust off my wetsuit to check the anodes. Do not want to be known as "HMS Collander" in the Spring! In the meantime I have found some excellent portable anodes suspended on wires that one can bolt to the superstructure that appear to do the job...they are bubbling nicely...not that the Mediterraneé is particularly salty.
We were surrounded by expensive looking Catamarans on our first Pontoon. These Lagoon 380's go for around 235,000 Euros second hand.
Yesterday I noticed the pontoon was heavily encrusted with Mussels/Moules. This morning this diver was doing very nicely thank you! Hmm another use for my wetsuit! Let me see now, white wine, butter, garlic and a big pot!
15th October Sunday. The unusual thing about Port Camargue is that it comes to life at the weekends. Most of the little shops that brave the close season are open...something not encountered up in Saint Jean de Losne. The butcher does a take away Catalan Paella of enormous proportions. After this lot, I could only manage a little light varnishing! It quite takes me back to Tommi Nielsen's amazing Paella's in Gloucester Docks. That was a wonderful time that we had there, but time moves on!
A bit of wind, and the "Gulf of Lion" is soon filled with Sails. This time of year we tend to get a "blow" for several days. Then the wind drops, and the sun shines...it is summer all over again. At this time of year, wind from the south west and it is warm. The Northerly Mistrals are another matter. Shock horror one night last week it went down to 8 °C, but the chill factor made it seem cooler. Off came my shorts and on went my jeans...well it is november. However today the 8th is warm and fine, so a chance to finish varnishing the wheelhouse starboard side.
The Ship's Scooter has finally come into it's own. In three years it's mileage had totalled less than 100 miles. Now I am using it daily to skitter around the Port, and also it provides transport to the Aigues Mortes Supermarket's. I think that it was that windblown stretch between the Flamingo Etangs en route to AM, that finally convinced me that the shorts season might be coming to a close! However today, the 10th November, it is back up in the seventies °F.
Finally another British Ensign has been spotted on a fine looking 90 foot Ocean Cruiser.
On my latest pontoon I am surrounded by this "Mini" Class racing Yachts. I have been told that people sail them across the Atlantic. The case was proven when Alex, a young M.I.T. Graduate from Baltimore showed up from Guadaloup. In last week's race in Barcelona he came third out of some two hundred racers. On the return trip here he was dismasted, but safely made it back using a jury rig. These sailors are pretty laconic...he says that he knew something was wrong as he was standing on the ceiling..ok deckhead!...for an excessive amount of time! Apparently these "Minis" are pretty safe because they are self righting. Personally I think they look like they would fit in Airline Hand Luggage!
The "after" look, with the remains of his mast. Incidentally Alex Mauvais has invented some super efficient solar panels, solar panel controllers and lightweight lithium batteries...check out www.genasun.com for next generation solar power...no good for Saul Nomad's 32Kv draw, but ideal for you eco-warriors!
Tuesdays and Saturday's the Port gets a regular visit from the local Customs Cutter....based in Marseilles. After us hanging out here for a month, the Douanes finally paid "Saul Nomad" a visit. All very friendly, and courteous..no dipping tanks, they just wanted to see the ship's papers, my passport (see above.), and "Bobo's" Papiers...finally my investment was justified. Considering this is my first encounter with the Douanes since we arrived in France in August 2005, I cannot complain. They were more intrigued by my "Americain" Fridge freezer. When I tried to explain in my strangulated franglais that I had to build the ship around it, I think that something may have got lost in the translation, as they clearly thought I was mad! No tenseness at all, however I always try to introduce the fact that the England Soccer team is "merde", but "les bleus" are "formidable"...it always sets the right tone for any situation! Hopefully good relations will continue. The Skipper, Terry, has an Alsation/Labrador cross and thought it hilarious when "Lulu" drooled on his uniform. The French really do love their Dogs!
The Area Lifeboat is based in Port Camargue. The unusual Bow shape looks like a reflection, but is designed to punch through the short steep waves that are usual in the shallow waters of the "Gulf du Lion" in bad weather.
11th November 2006. Hey the Sun is up, who cares about anything! The temperature is back up in the low seventies today.
Typical moorings within Port Camargue.
They stretch for around 7 Kms/5 Miles.
Even the Seagulls are laid back here! A pair have adopted "Saul Nomad" and walk around the decks tapping on the Portholes with their beaks. It sounds exactly someone knocking on our front door. On more than one occasion I have sprung from my chairr to answer it, only to find an expectant seagull standing there!
...but they do have competition in that area! The Flamingos are everywhere.
...and this Little Egret knows how to dress too! At what point in evolution did someone say "You just have to have those yellow boots with those black leggings!"
They can be viewed from hides that are provided throughout the Camargue. This one is situated on the road to Espiguette.
The Hide gives an ideal view across the Salt Marsh. If global warning really does become a reality, it is a worry that all this could disappear under water!
They include a helpful guide to what one should be looking for! Incidentally the fish second from right is a Muge. They are "cleaner" fish, and there are thousands of them in Port Camargue. The one's that hang out under Saul Nomad go from Minnows to around a foot long. I am reliably informed by the local Pecheurs that they are "très difficile" to catch! In the meantime they have cleared all the weed off our bottom...a much more eco-friendly form of anti-fouling!
The last few weeks we have spent repairing and painting. With something as complex as Saul Nomad there is always something to do. The Vetus Hotwater tank gave up the ghost - poor internal components was the engineer's verdict, and not the first Vetus product to fail us! The Swedish Stronmag clutch, that connects our Beta Generator to the Denison Hydraulic Power Take Off for the deck machinery, seized. It had already jammed in the "engaged" position before we left Saint Jean de Losne, so it did not compromise safety as the anchors and crane etc. all continued to work. However it has an annoying whine that rises above the gentle sound of the hospital silenced genny! It also kept the hydraulic oil temperature up at the limit when after a day of hammering down river, I would have preferred everything to cool off in time for the next day's journey. Moored up and running it, did not allow our Fernstrom Grid Keel Coolers to be that effective, and on more than one occasion the Hydraulic Oil overheat alarm went off as I was recharging batteries, and cooking dinner in the all-electric Kitchen!
More pleasantly I have been researching our 2007 cruising program, and a combination of glorious food and fabulous vistas has kept us in good spirits - please do not mention the waistline! There is no doubt that we have a unique opportunity in this region to play to "Saul Nomad's" strengths, which are a Sea Going River Barge with a Commercial Classification. Please check out our commercial site on www.bargemanholidays.com and plan to join us! It make look expensive, but most of the essentials are included...consequently the bottom line could look sweeter.
...and now for some picture postards...or "postcards from the edge" of the Mediterranean!
Grau du Roi
En route to Maguelone.
Saintes Maries de la Mer. Van Gogh painted here in 1888.
The BBQ Burgers are looking good...no bull....!
The Roman Arena in "Nimes"....as in serge deNimes...Jeans.
The Pont du Gard Aqueduct.
The Pic Saint Loup Mountain in the Garrigue Range, which provide a rain shadow for the coastal area. Vineyards bottom right.
...plenty of sun then!
The Espiguette Lighthouse.
The harbour entrance at Carnon. We are definitely not sailing today! Let me see now, where is the Skipper's stash of that lovely Pic Saint Loup Red wine...that rather nice 2001 one!
But bad weather does not last long, and it has been sunny all over Xmas 2006, a definite improvement on Xmas 2005...See the top of this page!
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"The past is gone,
The future is not here yet,
The present is now, so do it!"
The above was taken into account by the Dowson family from London, who booked Saul Nomad to spend their New Year together. They visited a number of Tourist sites, they cruised the Gulf of Lion and generally had a great time!
Please do not worry, Charmaine Dowson is wearing that coat, because they are leaving to catch the plane back to London!
I found thisLibrary picture of a "Batellier" setting off in the morning with his breakfast in front of him! A large cup of Coffee so he can dip his piece of bread in it..and an ash tray where his " Gitane" is smoldering. As a non-smoker I have become fixated by the acrid second hand fragrance of French Tobacco! Native Americans, Sir Walter Raleigh, the American Tobacco Company and the risk of Cancer not withstanding, this French stuff is great!
Faraman Lighthouse in a typical Camarguaise setting.
An atmospheric view of the Canal that stretches between St Gilles/The Rhone and Aigues-Mortes.
Do you think that we should tell the people at "Persil" that they should consider this picture for their next advert?
Saturday 13th January, "Saul Nomad" on her new berth in Port Camargue. "Stern On" is a first for us, and has proved my misgivings were totally unfounded. It was dead calm when I reversed her in single handed. Tying up the ropework with "Pet" assist was interesting. I had cut some of the stern rail away, and repainted it the day before. The dogs have found that the stainless steel lettering on the stern gives added grip during departures and arrivals! The expense of not painting the ship's name and it's port of registration has finally been justified.
The Jetski is tucked up, ready for action....it is such fun for all ages...believe me!
27th January 2007. A saturday trip into the walled city of Aigues Mortes.
This wonderful confectionery shop requires close attention..the French do it so, well!
Holidaying Magistrate Sally Westoby discovered this talented Atelier in Aigues Mortes. The clothes Amar Zerroudi (www.azcreateur.com) makes are as finely made as anything that I have seen in 35 years of fashion experience...and cheap by european standards and made in washable silks and linens.
The winter sun casts shadows through the heavy medieval walls.
..And then on to Saintes Maries de la Mer...via the Bac Sauvage on the Petit Rhone.
The imposing fortified church that holds the relics of the "Mary's" and (possibly their servant) Sarah. Sarah is a much revered patron saint of the Romany Gypsies who visit annually.
For two euros you can climb up the tower, and on to the roof. There are magnificent views across the Camargue and out to sea. Marseilles founded by the Greeks in 600 BC lies to the east. There was a howling gale when I took this picture...it would not have been a good time to slip!
The Crypt. The candle lit ambiance supported by the smokey fragrance of the candlewax. Sarah, the Patron Saint of the Gypsies stands on the right. Much worshipped she is regularly "dressed" in some fifty ornate outfits provided by Romanies from all over the world!
The Shrine, which shows the two Mary's arriving by boat. In May and September
there is a festival when the two saints are carried down to the sea in their boat.
Whilst we were there, an organist was playing the most beautiful music.
It was very moving...and spiritual. The entrance to the crypt is in the foreground.
The entrance to the church, which is adorned by the traditional "Camarguaise" cross. The "Bull's" horns on the end of the cross, the anchor and the heart are important symbols for the Camarguaise. Across the churchyard is a small shrine to Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who visited during her lifetime.
A flock of Cormorants rests up!
Monday 29th Called for a trip further westward up the coast to the fortified Cathedral at Maguelone. It's origins can be traced back to 600 AD, but it was in it's most important period around the 1100's. There was a period when the Bishop owned Montpellier, but as their strength declined the position was reversed.
The slopes leading up to the cathedral provide many exmples of the local fauna and flora of the Petit Camargue.
"Acanthus" bushes growing under the trees catch the sun.
The "Acanthus" was much favoured in Romanesque Architecture and later adopted by the Victorians to adorn many a British Architrave! (Including my former anno 1854 house in Camden Town, London.)
The thickwalls repelled many invaders, and provided sanctuary to more than one Pope, when things had got difficult back in Rome! These fortified Churches were pretty common during early Christianity, and the Maguelone Cathedral is the best remaining example.
..and then on to lunch in Sete. January 29th...how's the weather back home?
One would have to spend many hours here to really capture this picturesque port.
..but after putting away this lot, including some homemade Icecreams, the will to walk and my creative juices dried up!
The end of february has brought with it the prospect of twelve months insurance and six months mooring fees including water and electricity. It concentrated the mind somewhat, and I finally bit the bullet and sold my much garaged, and hardly used classic Works Cooper "S". One of the last handbuilt Coopers in 2001, with only 7500 miles on the clock, she had to go....sound of "weeping".
Capable of 70 mph around "roundabouts" and 100 mph in third gear, it was probably a good idea for the well being of my driving licence that I did not get to use her 1275cc engine too often!
March 13th..and we just had a mistral wind blowing for three days. A fierce cold wind that was carrying sand, which got into every crevice I can think of! It disappeared just as quickly as it arrived, and I set off up to Agues Mortes to inspect our summer mooring.
Erin..sporting her summer cut..."le style Camarguaise" I explain to the locals...sniffs things out. Not as ritzy as Port Camargue, but a good secure mooring for the pets. The road runs down to a vinyard, and backs onto the Marette nature reserve. The view the other way is...
...is pretty special, with a backdrop of the medieval battlements. To the north are the inland waterways of all of France, and twenty minutes to the south is the Mediterranean Sea.
It was a glorious day in Port Camargue today, and after I had washed several pounds of fine sand off Saul Nomad's decks, I took the Jetski round the harbour to fire off some snaps.
Saul Nomad amongst the big boys. These German registered...but British built by Fleur de Lys.. Motor Yachts have to go the long way around France, as the airdraft north of Auxonne on the River Saone is 3.5 Meters.
The Port Camargue harbour Exit...La Grande Motte on the horizon. We have had a great time here this winter and made many friends...but we are essentially a River Boat! We may come back in the autumn, but it all depends on whether we get enough Summer charters to keep us interested.
April 3rd. We arrived at our Aigues Mortes mooring yesterday. It was not without incident...the whole reason for having a boat! Having travelled the length and breadth of France? I have rarely met any Eclusiers, Harbour Masters or Bridge Keepers who are anything less than friendly and helpful. However every rule has an exception, and I can now reveal that the Bridge Keepers at Grau du Roi are they! The weather forcasts all weekend had been pretty dire, and the short open sea traverse from Port Camargue was likely to be risky in the Westerly Force 8 predicted. However the wind dropped on Sunday evening and Air France Airbus Captain Louis and I, set off to Grau du Roi from Port Camargue. We were in the entrance of the harbour waiting to pass through the Bridge "Tournant", when it duly opened for an outward bound yacht. We allowed the yacht to clear, and as we approached the bridge from around 100 meters, it was slammed in our faces. The bridge keeper was later spotted, head down and hands deep in pockets, slinking away. This was not the first time that I had had trouble at Grau du Roi, and it was a relief that Louis witnessed it, and even his perfect French was of no use, as they did not answer their phones or the VHF Channel 73 before or after the event. If it is any consolation this sort thing often happens in the UK...are you reading this Sharpness Lock Keepers Gloucestershire?
With the dogs and cats on board, we would have had difficulty tying up in the outer harbour over night. Realising that we would have to return to Port Camargue, we executed a deft spin turn with spare inches either side. We flounced out of the harbour, tooting our Klaxon horn, and the tourist's flashguns reflected in our portholes. Our anger immediately dissapated, as there is nothing like showing off to lift the spirit! We tied up at the Port Camargue Capitainerie pontoon twenty minutes later. I planned to get up early on monday to catch the 0800 opening. I knew that the early start was risky from the cats point of view, as that 0600 to 0800 is hunting time, but safetywise there is rarely any wind at that hour. Louis would be unavailable as he was Captaining the Marseilles/Paris breakfast connection. I was up with the Lark, as were the cats and Paddy duly had gone AWOL. Arriving ten minutes early at the Bridge "Tournant", we camped in front of it. Still no response from the Bridge Operator, but I could hear him chattering to the Professional Fisherman that he could not let them out until he had got "that bloody Peniche out the way"! As you can see, there is always a simple solution to every boating problem. As we cruised up to Aigues Mortes, my phone rang. It was Louis calling from the flightdeck at 30,000 feet over France. "Was every thing OK?" he asked. It is amazing to think that here I was at ground zero, witnessing scenary that has changed so little in two thousand years!
Our first night at Aigues Mortes was a delight. It is very peaceful, and we look across to the floodlit walls of the fortified town..the lights shimmering on the water. I returned to Port Camargue during the evening and recovered Paddy...who I found hiding in the bushes next to the Capitainerie. Fortunately, he was none the worse for wear. After a huge meal, and a good sleep, he is now ready to terrorise the rodent and avian population of Aigues Mortes...or is that now "Avian Mortes". The only downside is that the the breakers on the new Electricity supply are incredibly sensitive. I note that they have been downsized from the contracted sixteen amps amps to ten amps. It is not funny when "Sports Roundup" on the plasma screen is repeatedly scrambled! Hmmm...watch this space!
No trouble with the "leccy" on the medieval battlements! ...even at 0530 hrs. But what a view!
All we need now is some fellow crew to come and enjoy the experience. We have introduced Bed and Breakfast only cruising on our www.bargemanholidays.com site (Now www.bargeshare.com ). The prices can be much cheaper, when you use us as a base for your crewing vacation. Not as cheap as a package tour, but we offer far more than that. Please check it out! The other option we could offer is a longterm cruise of internal France lasting several months, and taking in the big cities like Paris and Lyon. If any of the above is of interest, please email us on email@example.com.
25th April 2007. The weather is warming up, and I have road tested the Airconditioning a few times..especially in the early evenings, when the sun drops low over the Etang and burns into the ship's steel hull. I have been polishing my Asian Cuisine, aided by the supplies we are now getting from an asian supermarket that is situated next to Montpellier Airport. Supplies of fresh vegetables arrive weekly from Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan and China. Washed down with chilled local wines, can life get any better! Light the Weber BBQ!
May 3rd has come and with it several days of rain. We certainly need it because being dry, sunny and warm can get tedious! Maybe the clouds have been crying following Manchester United's loss to AC Milan in the European Champion's league!
Before the rains came, I did some work to the hull profile of the Clamboat..a definite improvement, and a test run around the port of Aigues Mortes.
The heat haze rises off the reed bed.
In the mean time "Paddy" has discovered the wild rabbits on the nature reserve. Three this past week is really straining our relationship! He being a team player is bringing them back alive, and waiting until I arrive before dispatching them. Between the second and third one, I fitted him with a collar and bell. Fat chance, it is still "the bell tolls" for these babies!
Nature is cruel! Thank god it is a while since the human race was in the food chain too...although a native Bengali might disagree when confronted by a Bengal Tiger!
17th May. There is still no sign of the electricity being improved upwards to the contracted 16 amp feed. At ten amps we really have to watch our step, as when the breakers trip all the onboard computors get the equivalent treatment of having their plugs yanked out of the wall! All we get is a gallic shrug and the eyes focussing into the distance. My neighbours are all in the same boat so as to speak, and we feel helpless in the face of "take it or leave it". I am told that last winter on one occasion the moorings were left without electricity for two weeks....and that was in freezing conditions. Despite all this, in this glorious place one cannot be cross for long. In the summer our electrical draw is not as high as when winter rears it's head. At this point I must extol the virtues of Port Camargue. Their winter mooring rates are the same as Aigues Mortes...slightly higher in the summer. However I can recall that on a number of times during last winter, electricity going down at around two in the morning, produced an electrician within ten minutes! No wonder there is a five year waiting list!
We had had a weeks heavy rain and suddenly hundreds of dead and dying fish were drifting along the banks.
...as so many were either side of the entrance to the Sea Salt Port, it did occur to me that the rain water was running off the sea salt mountains into the river. Having kept fish for several years, I wondered if the sudden huge shift in saline content in their surroundings did for them?
I have been pleased to note that "Erin", formerly a compulsive cat hater, now regularly chills out with "Ginger"...who answers to "Mioww!".
"Lulu" in the meantime...sporting her Camarguaise haircut...stands at the top of the saloon stairs, preparing to ambush any passerby with a string of slobber! Delightful! ps: As my late father always used to reassure me " the only difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut, is two weeks!"
Over the weekend I met the charming Jean and Claudette Brancion family from Paray-le-Monial, and their beautiful daughter Laure who lives in Lyon. We headed up the Grau du Roi for the marine Festival evening. Thousands of people..looking and being looked at in that continental way..and rounded off with a spectacular firework display.
A great spot to view the display...and there is the phone number to reserve the apartment next time!
A great evening with thousands of revellers enjoying music from a very lively Gypsy Guitar band aka "The Gypsy Kings"...real foot tapping stuff. The cafe's beside the pretty harbour jammed with the French doing what they like best...enjoying themselves. Washed down with a few iced beers...are there any problems? No way!
Dog (and cat) Days in Aigues Mortes!
Waiting patiently for charters in the Port Fluvial, I have been renovating some 200 Feet of River bank. What was a fairly perilous track is now a mown and watered space. Very handy for the pets, and much liked by the local fishermen...who bring along the whole family for picnics now!
It is so lovely in this part of the world, but without some income soon, we will have to wake up from our dream! It looks like London for Xmas!
June 27th, and the Summer kicks on! Allegedly it is not as hot as last year. However in any one week there is never more than two days cloud. It is so dry that every alternate day I flood the lawn with River water that I pump out with my submersible pump. The fishermen like the cool grass that has replaced the dusty rocks! It fills me with joy to see that Northern Europe...including Burgogne..has been pretty chilly and wet. Still if it is going to flood, it is better to be floating already! Noah was right!
July 8th. This last week we have welcomed Sally Westoby and Andrea Williams back on board. When not taking in Wimbledon Tennis and the British Grand Prix on Satellite TV, we did tours of the Balein Sea Salt works...which is quite amazing....and the Listel Wine Caves...which are etc...! On Saturday afternoon I took the ladies around some of our Local tributaries riding at trolling speed on the JetSki. It is ideal for this kind of travel, because it copes well with shallow water. We saw quite a few Bee Eater birds. They are very beautiful to look at...resembling King Fishers who have been on a course of steroids! Loads of Swallows diving around the JetSki, and many fish that that tried to emulate Dolphins as they went airborne around us. The Sun shone constantly, but the heat was ameliorated by a gentle North Westerly breeze which had drifted down from the Mountains.
Local fruit is in abundance at the moment, and we gorged ourselves on freshly picked Peaches, Apricots, large Black Cherries, and Melons. My God I feel self righteously healthy!
17th July. Bastille day came and went in Aigues Mortes. The Grand Firework Display also came and went...a bit of a flash in the pan by French standards. Thousands of people came to watch a display which lasted less than ten minutes. The gossip is that somehow the budget went "missing". However quite frankly "who cares"? We had a delightful quartet of young Design, Cosmetic and Fashion students staying for the festival...and they did not give a damn about "What Fireworks?". They were having a blast, and "Saul Nomad" was their R and R!
Left to Right: Tomas Eamis, Cindy Nguyen, Mathieu Pouderouse and Carole Mehreng.
"Erin" was shipped into the local vet on Monday. I had spotted a cyst like growth on her tummy. At her age it is always a worry, but the local vet who is absolutely excellent...and cheap... laconically assured me it was a simple job for antibiotics. I blamed the cats, but they were not having it...and having been dosed up to the eyeballs in Frontline, Ginger and Paddy were letting it be known that it was dinner time...quite right so!
However this family of ducks has miraculously not been on anyone's dinner menu yet!
23rd July. We were delighted to take Grenoble Surgeon Marc Thoureux and his wife, Mimi, along with Airfrance Captain Louis and partner, Christine, on a Lunch and afternoon cruise around local waters.
Moving sideways away from our mooring.
Easing out through the Port Fluvial.
Swinging around the slightly tricky turn into the commercial port.
Making sure our good friends on the tour boat "St Louis" know their place!
Cruising through the Petit Camargue.
Checking out the new Marina development.
It is those battlements again.
The thrusters push us back onto the mooring....with some difficulty against a stiff breeze. There was of course a more simple and orthodox way, but as usual I was just showing off! All this section of pictures were kindly taken by Neil Tomlinson of "Roama"...seen here on our starboard quarter. Neil and wife Sue are the most delightful neighbours you could wish for!
12th August. We have just had a very pleasurable visit from the Dowson Family from London. Julian, Charmaine and son Hugo spent four days here...a repeat of their New Year's holiday...but warmer! Ceramics designer Julian created a teapot design for the United Kingdom's largest supermarket group in one afternoon. Signed sealed and delivered on the ship's WiFi system in a matter of minutes! It really does help to be talented!
The Dripping Teapot question? Answered by Julian Dowson. It is almost impossible to design a non dripping china tea pot because you cannot make a spout less than three millimeters thick in serviceable china. Metal, Glass no problem. The trouble is that the three millimeters thickness will always produce a drip that surface tension cannot pull back into the spout! My late Physics teacher Mr "Chalky" Snelgrove would be pleased to hear that John "You stupid boy!" Smethurst is still trying to get to grips with "Fizzicks"!
Paddy still remains AWOL, and daily searches have produced many cat sightings but not the one that we want most!
Tonight Grau du Roi is hosting a concert by a Blues Brothers Tribute Band. It should be wild as we are smack in the middle of french Holiday Time!
15th August. The Blues Brothers tribute band were great fun, but not quite the original....! They were clearly all French, but did their best with a Chicago accent. They then told some jokes, pretending to be a Chicagoan trying to speak french! A bit like Dick van Dyke doing a Cockney Chimney Sweep!
Today is a National Holiday...not quite sure what for, but as long as you do not need any goods or services in Aigues Mortes there is no problem. The admirable Port Society ASUPAM is holding a BBQ party in the Jardin du Pecheurs tonight, and for some reason I have been asked to DJ it! We will do our usual, which is to get drunker than most of the guests, and play such world beaters as Abba's and Boney M's Greatest Hits and throw in a bit of Edith Piaf!!..I think...
23rd August. We survived the BBQ. I then invited a group of ASUPAM members to watch the England v's France Rugby match in Marseilles on our Plasma screen. I was the sole England supporter, and had to keep a stiff upper lip as England crashed and burned! ASUPAM were in high spirits none the less! I managed open a bottle of my finest champagne and drunk my portion through gritted teeth!
After seeing the depressing UK weather, and realising that the the Rugby World Cup runs through September and October, I have made the decision to endure the South of France until next April! Tough I know, but sacrifices have to be made!
Saul Nomad is fully booked until the 10th September, so everyone has a smile on their face! Now I must get Lulu into the showers, to bring her bodily fragrance up to acceptable levels! Have a nice day!
31st August. Erin fell off the Barge today, but fortunately was rescued nearly an hour later, swimming around the harbour. At 105 in human years, she can still swim further than she can walk! Those Newfoundlands!
At seven am yesterday the Eel fisherman was checking his nets..without any luck. However there were loads of Muges and Bream caught up and he spent some twenty minutes casting them back into the waters. Note flying fish airborne behind his back!
What a start to a day! No worries the Pecheurs will be along later, and they do not "throw back"!
In Board, Neil and Sue Tomlinson's "Roama".
Mike, Josephine and Prince's "Procyon". Currently under renovation, and for sale in the Spring 2008.
When not underway I tend to fly the "European" flag. I know that this will cause apoplexy for some anorak Ex-Naval officers, as the letters columns of the "Blue Flag" will testify. However I find it politic to fly it, as the "Red Duster" can make some of my esteemed hosts see red also! Several of the Scots fly the Saltern...I even saw a Saltern mounted in a Red Duster! ...and the Scottish Nationalists are in Power now!
13th September. My sister, Lorna, has just stayed with us for a week. We had a great time, although a slight mishap whilst photographing the new marina, resulted in a ducking for the pair of us! We managed to fall off the JetSki at around half a knot, whilst turning around in a cul-de-sac. The jury is still out on what happened behind me to cause this mishap...but a fair amount of giggling ensued!
We also took time off to search the Petit Camargue for "Paddy"...no joy on that front.
You can see what we are up against here!
Checking out the tree tops! No sign of "Paddy" ! (You can also deduce that Lorna and I made quite a splash when we ditched in Port du Roi!)
The Vidourle River Flood Gates that protect the Rhone a Sete Canal. Paddy went walkabout around 150 Meters from here.
The gatekeeper's house catches the evening sun.
The usual and the unusual in the Camargue. The traditional thatched roof is usual, but the graffiti is unusual in these parts! Different rules apply in the large cities, but on the whole in the provinces the French take a pride in their surroundings
The Marette stallion was fairly disinterested by my lack of news! He is a real character, whose harem is is separated from him by a lane and two barbed wire fences. A fair amount of unrecipricated love goes on across the divide, but I suppose he will get lucky sometime!
Getting ready for another bloody glorious sunset!
24th September 2007. We have just had the Aigues Mortes boat festival. Allegedly not as busy as last year but there were still many visitors. There was a constant program of activities from Friday through Sunday, and anyone who signed up for everything has a stronger constitution than me. Hats off the the Dutch, who did...and with great gusto!
Hopefully this week I can get back to finishing my varnishing program before the icy Mistrals start blowing down from the Alps.
3rd October. Last week we did have a mini-mistral. The temperature dropped to the low teens at night, and the high teens during the day. 100kph winds had been promised on the Port grapevine, but not for the first time this was an exaggeration as far as we were concerned. However all this week the debris coming down from the Rhone has turned our corner into an imitation of the Sargasso Sea! Sadly there have been three sheep carcasses as well, so it suggests that things were not too clever up river! The other downside was that the wind put off my attempts to varnish the main deck hatches! It has calmed down the last few days, so the air is now filled with red Iroko wood dust, which stains the paintwork if left hanging around on the white decks for too long.
Aigues Mortes is in a state of high excitement, as the annual Running of the Bulls festival is kicking off over the next three weekends. Economically I reckon it is the same as many resorts do at the end of the season in order to squeeze the last tourist dollar/euro out before the locals clear off to a beach in the Indian Ocean to rest and recuperate from their labours! The running of the bulls is a great excuse for the local young bloods to get their backsides kicked by some fairly cross bovines. Fortunately the Bulls are not dispatched, but the many BBQ's serving delicious steaks suggest that some of their immediate relatives were not so lucky!
We are also getting a few visitors from the Antipodes, who are here to support their Rugby teams in the France World Cup. I keep assuring them that they have no chance against the English. This is quite naturally greeted with derision, but these people do have an inflated opinion of their sporting ability! Hmm....I have got until after the match v's Australia this Saturday afternoon before I have to go AWOL! In the meantime I will dust off and fly my rather large flag of St George.
11th October 2007. "Oh Ye of Little faith!" Australia and New Zealand allegedly shared a plane back home, in order to cut down on their carbon footprint! Apart from hot air, they left hardly a mark in the World Championship! I have been searching hard for a few Antipodes to Glory over, but they have slunk off! If it had been the British on the receipt of a drubbing, the Pubs would have been full of drunken anglo-supporters celebrating another glorious loss!
It has been a fun week in Aigues Mortes, with the festival in full swing late into the early hours every night. I note that there is little work being done during the day, but quite frankly their stamina is quite amazing! As is the skill of the Guardians, who whizz through town at a full gallop with individual bulls tucked in beside them. The roads are all metalled, so how they do not fall over escapes me...especially with the propensity of the young bloods, and a few older people who should know better, to toss firecrackers in front of the charging hooves!
We get a ringside view of the Gardians saddling up. There is an obvious and genuine affection between man/woman and beast!
Not much room for error! I have heard about fast food...and this is some of the quickest I have seen!
Erin has been quite ill earlier in the week, and for 48 hours I thought this was it for the 105 in human years old Dog. However I got her back on the "Glycosamine", and within 36 hours she is back to her cheeky self..a bit wobbly, but definitely still with us!
9th November. Every one is fit again. Yo! Glycosamin! The nights are dropping into single figures, but the days are on the whole sunny and windless...the shorts are back on! The locker hatches have finished their sixteen coats of varnish...and now the wheelhouse awaits! I took the Jetski out for a spin yesterday, whizzing up to the Vidourle River. Definitely cleared out the cobwebs!
13th November 2007. Bat Corner This is the view of the copse on the corner of the Route du Mole that leads back into Aigues Mortes from our mooring. It is the source of a daily naturalistic panoply that starts about two hours before nightfall. It starts when swarms of flying ants gather above the pine trees…why? I do not know. Their timing is bad, because they rise directly into the path of flocks of Seagulls returning to their roosts near Espiguette. The Seagulls have developed a taste for flying ants. Lets face it most members of the Seagull family are quite large, and to witness their transformation into alias Swallows is a fascinating phenomenon. As the sun departs, the street lamps beneath the Pines light up thus attracting another swarm of insects..and certainly in the case of the voracious Aigues Mortes mosquito..searching out stray dog walkers. It is the signal for the Bat colony to awake, and they are hungry! It is difficult not to flinch as these sightless warriors flappily snatch their evening meal just inches from your face, but a wonder of nature nonetheless. After the Bats retire, a family of Hedgehogs comes out to play. Rather embarrassingly a Hedgehog is one of the few creatures that a Newfoundland can outrun. Fortunately my Bimbos have no idea what to do with a line of flea ridden spiky balls! As soon as the hounds depart, the untroubled “Hogs” continue snuffling their way towards the garbage bins outside the Constance boatyard.
The Gardian’s stallions holidays have come to an end, and they have been taken back to their home paddock. They were regularly attended by the Camarguaise cowboys, who supplemented the horses diet of eating the whole field with stale Baguettes of bread donated daily by the local bakery. They also were receiving medical attention, which may have been related to their close contact with some fairly cross bulls and some of the local village idiots for the last few weeks! No wounds to speak of, but sore legs for instance. The only downside of their stay was an infestation of Flies. Not just a few, but an industrial number of flies attracted by the horse dung. I have been off to the supermarket to buy up every known brand of Fly spray. Even those with such names that possibly translate as “Son of Agent Orange” ,“DDT was a wimp”, or “Bride of Bhopal“ had no effect on the flies apart from making them slightly more incontinent. The solution surprisingly was good old sticky Fly Paper. Not pretty, but within a few hours the visitors were definitely “in harms way“…and with no collateral damage to the crew.
A couple of days haul!
Yo Europe! Lulu says that she will drink to that...from her water bucket! As a reminder to the anoraks...although flying a European Flag is not legal, so is having Saul Nomad vandalised by French Nationalists...or worse, having my hand stitched "Red Duster" stolen. Remember "Toulon" the Vichysoise cry out! In fairness 99.999% of my hosts are most welcoming.
After such a naturalistic weekend, I settled down in the Skipper’s cabin to watch a good thriller. Half way into watching Hitchcock’s “The Birds” for the first time in five years, a sparrow shot into the room and clung to the screen before disappearing back up the darkened passage. Of course we have widescreen surround sound, but this was just too much reality! Furthermore it was way past the Sparrows bedtime! A quick inspection of the ship below decks found no sign of life, apart from a trail of feathers! “Gingahhh”! I rushed up to the wheelhouse to witness our hero standing over his new toy! “Who? Me?” came the innocent response. The Sparrow took the millisecond of opportunity to start flying around the wheelhouse..crashing into the windows in it’s desperate attempts to get away. I threw the doors open, and the now-tailless hostage shot to freedom! Ginger spent the next twenty minutes searching the ship, but in the end he disconsolately gave up. Ha! Ha! Back to Hitchcock for a spot of Avian revenge! It should be required viewing for a cat! Be careful! Be very careful!
17th November. It is cold! Only zero centigrade at around 2 am last night, but when stiffened up with a breeze that has come straight from the Alps via the Rhone Valley it comes as a shock to my system. There is always sun though, so if the wind drops, the temperature soon rises! Riding my scooter into town to hit the Internet Cafe brings on a sense of urgency!
Have a Nice Weekend! There is a slight degree of drunken frivolity planned here...although if Russia beat Israel at soccer tonight, and as a consequence England are eliminated from the playoffs for next year's European Cup it may be a case of drowning our sorrows!
23rd November. Why bother! Despite a gift horse, second chance, even nearly a third chance etc., England departed ingloriously from the Qualifiers. On a positive side it does leave my diary for July and August completely free!
The whole week started with freezing conditions...the Port was frozen over on Monday morning. From Tuesday we had a howling gale that blew in from Africa. This lasted until yesterday when we had the pleasure of an inch or two of rain. At least it flushed the Sahara desert off my decks, so that was one less job to do. Today it is still, sunny and warm. So it is shorts and a BBQ again!
This week we now have a Mistral blowing. Not too icy, but my fur lined trousers are back! The Sun has switched on again, so who cares!
8th December 2007
“Coupe de Camarguaise”
Since the 2005 I have been giving “Lulu” and “Erin” a Summer cut. There have been a number of reasons for this, particularly because “Lulu” feels the heat, and is never happier than lolling in a snow drift. “Erin” on the other hand is not so hardy, but her skin is susceptible to yeast infections…not helped by her neglectful owner who is a bit slow on the grooming front! The problem with “Newfs” is that their dense double coats tend to destroy the basic clipper kits that you buy in Pet stores. Most pet grooming parlours are not geared to Large Hairy Newfoundlands. They usually quote somewhere between £ 50 and £ 100 to get rid of you, and if that does not work…occasionally outright rejection.
A winter spent sleeping in a hedgerow, produces a jaw dropping reaction from the Groomer!
One of the benefits of being fitted out in Gloucester is that it is very agricultural, and the local farmer’s store was selling “Lister” Electric Sheep and Horse shears. This is the famed Lister’s of Dursley, Gloucestershire whose Engines have powered generations of Boats. Whilst their engine manufacturing has virtually ceased, their electric clippers are still going on…expensive, but dynamite! Ideal for Newfs, and one can clip a coat in whatever condition in around twenty minutes without damaging the dog or yourself!
Down here in the south of France, the warm weather has necessitated year round clipping. I have settled on a Gallic styling to the trim with a Pom-Pom tail and a semi-Mohican top knot. The locals think it very amusing, and I am starting to get visits from local Newfoundland owners wanting the same look. Not Kennel Club approved, but the Dogs love it…as do the local water fowl who keep getting fresh fur linings for their nests.
Yesterday four year old “Tai’Pau” from La Grande Motte attended the Saul Nomad Barber shop. His proud owner was not dissuaded when I recounted in my mangled Franglais my late father’s quote that “the only difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is two weeks!” I ask Tai'Pau, “Something for the weekend sir?” “A pig’s ear, a Bonio, a Markie?” “Yes, then that will be 20 Euros and a bottle of Merlot!”
One Heavy Duty Pump with Electromagnetic Clutch.
19th December 2007
Xmas is beginning to show up on Saul Nomad’s Radar. We have bookings for eleven bed nights over the holiday period, so there may soon be singing and dancing at Barclay’s Bank. In the meantime we are getting on with repairs and maintenance, a necessary evil of the joy shipboard living. My habit of washing down the decks with the brackish water that flows through the port, has done for two of the bathroom extractor fans. Both of them have become so corroded that their flimsy wiring has given up. Their Vetus 24volt replacements are not cheap, coming in at 72 Euros each.
Another casualty in the last year has been the Vetus Heavy Duty Pump. Bolted below the main engine, and run by twin A-Belts from a 245 horse power engine drive shaft and engaged via an electromagnetic clutch, the pump not only clears oily engine bilge water but also caters for the rest of the ship. At 700 RPM it pumps 129 Litres/Min and at 1800 RPM it shifts 350 Litres/Min. 1.5 inch pipe is connected via a five way manifold through all the watertight bulkheads using watertight glands to every corner of the ship, it pumps water overboard via three pollutant removing “Waveform 2000” filters. Allegedly they will remove most hydrocarbons, and although I cannot claim that they turn pure Diesel into Evian water, their effectiveness is heading that way…(the salesman said!)
Alas all these wonders of the 21st Century do not take into account a skipper who manually bypasses the vacuum switches and burns the impeller out! So fried was the impeller that it took myself and three mechanics an hour to pull it off the drive shaft! That was two to hold the patient down and the other two to pull! The replacement has been complicated by the fact that Vetus no longer carry the pump, which was made for them by Johnson Pumps of Sweden. With different model numbers used by the two companies, and a serial lack of help from either, we have had to rely on photos and measurements to get the correct impeller. I am happy to report that the correct new impeller has arrived, and after three hours of huffing and puffing our excellent bilge pump system is fully operational once more!
We have also been having trouble with our water pressure set. This compromises a 19 litre Accumulator tank with a pump strapped to it. Vetus again I am afraid. It may be due to the fact that I have a lot of Vetus equipment on board, but it is true that most of their expensive stuff has failed to last two years! Living aboard full time, one has had more time to repent at leisure about certain choices that I have made. One becomes very sensitive to noises on ship…which is dead quiet most of the time. So the sound of a pump starting up during the night will waken even the loudest snorer. The accumulator tank is meant to hold enough water under a pressure of 1.6 bars to flush a toilet or supply drinking water without the noisy pump kicking off. The reality is that the state of the tank is unpredictable, and if several people are on board the bloody thing is always kicking off! I have been contemplating ringing it’s neck for sometime, so when it’s internal pressure valve recently went to heaven I decided to replace it with the quieter Jabsco Parmax VSD Dual Pump. We have ten outlets on board. Only one of the Parmax pumps instantly runs for occasional use, but once the requirement increases the second pump boosts the flow to 34 litres a minute. Another plus is that the pump automatically runs on any DC voltage between 12 and 24 volts…a good thing if your batteries are going flat...and it runs dry too! This increase in water flow brings into play the comparatively low capacity of our fresh water tank at 2350 litres and our hot water Calorifier tank at just 60 Litres. We have three ways to make hot water. These comprise a heat exchanger on the generator, a 11.5 Kw Webasto Diesel Boiler, and a 800 watt Immersion heater. Fortunately the first two sources are pretty quick. Alas it will not take too many ten minute showers to empty the main freshwater tank….a problem to bear in mind if one is in the middle of nowhere, and the crew and passengers are hot and sweaty!
….and whilst talking showers, the Bristan shower thermostat in the Master Cabin has failed. Fortunately Bristan have a 5 year warranty on all their stuff, and even did not quibble about mailing a new thermostat to France. I mention this because it seems that most British Warranties apply to UK only.
Back in the Engine Room the Cummings “Varta” 24 Volt start batteries have stopped starting. They were meant to be “Non-Maintenance”, which unfortunately I took a bit literally before discovering that they had run dry during the summer. About 5 litres of Distilled water brought them around temporarily, but they then threw in the towel. In an emergency the Main Engine can be jump started off the main Batteries, but that usually takes longer than the few seconds that an emergency allows you. You know, Find the Jump leads, Untangle them, Check the Polarity, and connect them to the 250 Amp main battery fuse..with cranking amperage off the Richter Scale…Light blue touch paper and retire! Interestingly after I had nearly put my back out hauling the dead batteries out of their distant corner, I noted that their label showed that their 840 cranking Amperages were short of the Cummings recommended 900 Amps. Not being someone to hold a grudge for long, I replaced them with Vetus Non-Maintenance batteries with a total of 1320 Cranking Amps. The Cummins now gets a proper wakeup call!
Finally, having had one or two near fatalities at the entry/exit points on my deck, I am beefing up the non-slip paint all over the upper deck. I was the first casualty in June, when executing a particularly energetic Disco move during my Birthday BBQ, I fell over the side…the hard side. I am still limping. More seriously in November, lovely ASUPAM President Francoise Duval slipped whilst carrying a pile of plates and cracked three ribs! I have become quite an anorak on non-slip paints, and I do not think that many paints are as “Non-Slip” as they should be. There was a time when I was suspicious of most trainer soles on a wet deck, but when my indefatigable “Seabago” boat shoes slip, you know that there is a problem. Paint like Varnish is a very personal thing, but I think that International’s “Interdeck” is very effective. I also think that you should be able to see a “Non-Slip” finish…brush strokes and all. If it looks too pretty, I am not sure that it can do it’s job.