The adventure begins… or so we thought…
To our boating friends picking up in France seeking information, advice, or some kind of heads up, see our very informative companion piece, Boater Bits ~ Picking up in France.
OK, it’s time to go…
Leaving Livermore, California, was… surreal. While it was happening, it didn’t even seem like a big deal. We were just heading to the airport… yeah we had a few more bags than normal, but it was just a few more bags. (shoulder shrug emoji) You said goodbye but it’s not like you won’t see them tomorrow… no big deal. (shoulder shrug emoji)
Even while going through airports in three layers of clothing and two jackets (in June) trying like hell to act casual with 40 pounds of cruising guides in my backpack/personal item and a disguised fanny pack stuffed with nail polish hiding under my shirt, in addition to the two huge carts of suitcases topped with water sport bags stuffed questionably under airline guidelines, it just seemed like we had a lot of stuff. Again, no big deal. Sure it was bit odd having to nonchalantly wipe away actual sweat beads from my forehead at the ticket counter, but not in any final way. (again, shoulder shrug emoji)
Hit the ground runnin’
Because our plane was late, once we hit the ground in France, it was one make-it-happen moment after another. We basically ran around, trying so hard to make sense of literally everything while carting a ton of shit half way around the world… under a time constraint.
It was like we were on a loop… Do we go here? Wait, over there? What are we even doing? I can’t believe we are doing this! Do you speak English? He said go down the stairs and make the second left. Is this it? Are we really doing this? I can’t believe we are doing this! Here! This looks like it. OMG, wrong floor! Go! Go! Go! I can’t believe we are doing this! Are we really doing this? …and around and around we went.
There was no time to think about it. Time holds the door for no one and the train is never late. Matt had to throw our bags on the escalator steps one by one while I waited to retrieve them at the top. So crazy to watch as each bag slowly marched up single file to meet me, taking the whole escalator and then some, as everyone waited patiently. It was just ridiculous.
Or relaying racing our bags down the train alleyway because there were no carts allowed, the last train of the night had already pulled in, and we were at the wrong door. We were running around like crazy people! Up and down, up and down the alleyway. Literally throwing shit… like airborne throwing shit.
Could you imagine if only half of our stuff made it in the train and it pulled away? Or one person didn’t make it? um, bye bye! That was the hairiest moment for sure.
Or when I stayed behind at the train station in the middle of the night with a mountain of stuff while Matt went ahead to the hotel, only to see him coming around the corner riding a hotel luggage cart like a skateboard.
It was all really just one foot in front of the other. No big deal. (shoulder shrug emoji)
Hi, I’m La Rochelle, but all my friends call me LR
We stayed at The Yachtman, centrally located in the Chain District (where the fun be at). The hotel was great and super friendly. So friendly were they, they allowed us, free, after checkout, to take a full set of sheets and comforter to the boat until our shipment came in, whenever that would be. “Just take care of the maid.” Who does that? So nice to do on top of looking out for the maid. OMG. Nothing but love.
Besides being friendly and helpful, LR is charming as can be. The streets are always full of family and friends enjoying their day. There are beaches, bike paths, shopping, historical sites, sweet hangout spots, and cafes and restaurants galore. Dinner is late and sunset even later, like 10:30 later. There is a vibrant nightlife that grows as the night becomes morning, where you drink and have a big time talking and occasionally singing with all your favorite people.
I remember one time it being 2 in the morning when Matt asked what time it was. I said it was 2 in the morning but it could have been anytime… 2, 3, 4 in the morning. It didn’t matter. There was no, “ohh it’s getting late.” It’s all part of a normal day. Normally, our asses would be in bed. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. You’d think one might be annoyed hearing singing from the streets at four in the morning, but no, you lie there in bed in awe and somewhat impressed. *feeling envious
If you haven’t checked out our article on our first trip to France, click here… Great pics of Paris and La Rochelle with a sentence or two of history. LR is beautiful. It never got old or boring.
Life on the hard
The shipment we had sent by cargo was supposed to be there already. We allowed 4-6 weeks for transit and it did land in France on time. We were thinking about 5-6 days to get released by customs. It took 5 weeks to get released by customs! This was a complete disaster. Progress was at a standstill basically until we received the parts needed from the shipment. This caused a lot of timeline issues for us and Uchimata, our aftermarket outfitter. Boater bit ~ be sure to ship all items needing to be installed well in advance.
It would be a week until we moved on board. Sea Odyssey was on the hard. ‘The hard’ means on stilts in a parking lot/boatyard. It is a time where you need work done on your boat that requires the bottom to be exposed, or you are storing it for some time. Life on the hard means not on the soft water ~ where boats belong. It’s not the best feeling.
During the coming weeks on the hard, Matt’s girls, Payton & Sydney, came to visit. Needless to say, it was less than our intended dream of them coming to a wonder-full new experience of travel and adventure. But, La Rochelle, what a great city. Awesome really. Definitely a cool place to be stranded for a bit.
As practicing Frenchmen, we would make our daily trip across the road to the boulangerie for the world renowned baguette, traditional style, maybe croissants and an occasion pastry. Everyone had a baguette in hand. As Americans, it was surprising to see a lot of folks push the top of a baguette out of the bag and simply eat it like an apple. We don’t eat bread like that at all…
but when in LR… hahaha
Oh how we both miss the bread tho! You have no idea what this brings to your life. The taste is rich and full, hard and chewy, and they don’t kill you on price, 1 euro. It could be 3 or 4 dollars for a fresh loaf in the US. At that rate, not a daily occurrence for sure. Plus the fact the store is so far away, takes away the luxurious convenience. We have been on the hunt for a good bakery ever since. No joke.
It’s not super easy to fall into the rhythm of french life but super easy to fall in love with the rhythm of french life. You get me? Hours of business being the hardest to accept. ‘Bon appetite’ is at 12 – 2. Sundays closed. These two times are great for running errands, as any American knows. The inconvenience did allow us to do other things. We had dinner late and stayed up late. We practiced our french accent and we even picked up some french mannerisms. pfft!
To add to the charm, LR is very bike friendly. All kinds of bike lanes and coastal paths with bike racks everywhere. It’s sweet to see. Where mountain bikes are what’s hot in the US, three speeds with those big skinny tires complete with chain noise is typical in France. And you mustn’t forget your bell and basket either. It’s the French way and quite necessary. Again, it’s is all very charming.
Couples who walk together, stay together
We enjoy walking very much, but when our feet started to ache just getting out of bed, we did get bikes. The miles we put on our feet, phew!
The first ones we bought were shit. They literally fell apart from underneath us, so we brought those good-for-nothings back. We hopped on the number 4 bus (boater bit) and went to Decathlon, a sporting goods store, to try again. We got two B’twins with basket and bell, of course, and storage bags and love them so far. Life changer. Very happy.
We still walk too tho, no worries 😉
The work continued for 10 weeks, day in and day out. Quite exhausting. In this time, Matt’s girls had returned home, Atlantic Cruising Yachts’ Ken Krasko visited twice, we were demasted once, hauled out once, we found out what it means to clean the bottom of a 50ft catamaran, sailed a little, made some excellent friends, and countless other important shit happened.
We turned right, not left. Damn it!
Having not “finished” our warranty work, we left mid August for Southampton, England, well into the French Holiday lasting the full month of August. The quotes are a joke btw, but that is what we said at the time.
In turned out we had a faulty seacock. This is a valve that allows raw salt water to enter the boat so it can be used for a piece of equipment, air conditioner/heater in this case. It would not close. Since the hose coming from the seacock was hooked to the air conditioner, the water couldn’t just run freely. But, if there was another issue on top of that issue, like that hose broke, there would be no way to stop it other than something makeshift and this would be an emergency situation.
We were advised to hire a captain to help us sail to England because there are several patches of water notable for being very tricky to navigate and knowledge of these areas would be critical. So we hired a captain recommended to us, Julien. He helped us sail up the coast of France, across the English Channel, and up the Hamble River to Swanick, England.
Good thing too. Seemed everywhere we turned there was a rocky shore called “dead man’s corner” or “dead man’s cove” or something of the like. In these coastal areas, there is almost constant wind over tide that has a tendency to go extreme. When this happens, strong winds and big tides come together and the water gets real choppy. It makes a washing machine type effect. Everything fights itself. That is bad enough, but stir in some mega current and big swell and you’ve got yourself a true blue situation. You could actually hit the ground as the swell builds into the next wave. Whoa. Can be very dangerous.
First crossing was a light breeze
We were good tho. Our timing was perfect the whole sail. Pushing current, high tides at the most important times, and calm seas. There was a few seconds of a thrill ride at one point where I did comment I should have had a seatbelt on or something. It was like a log flume, you feel you might fall out. But that was it. All good.
On Julien: Julien is a delivery captain. Just a sailor to the bone. The best sailor I have ever met actually. His knowledge is immense and his understanding is deep. I feel nothing would ever phase the man either. No way to explain really. When you meet someone like this, you know. Totally impressed.
Our timing was so amazing that our entrance through “the needles,” a narrow passageway into the Isle of Wight, England, notorious for being particularly perilous, was a breeze. We came in at night, which normally would be a huge no-no without the proper experience, but everything was smooth as silk. The only surprise was Matt and I learning just how bad we are at reading lights at night.
Once we got to the Hamble River, the magic of sailing in a river happened. Everything became majestically still. It was so beautiful and quiet, just the soft lapping of water on the bow and crickets. We came in so slow, barely making a ripple. It was so, so nice. I can still see it in my memories.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times
Probably the most used quote of any book. It’s life really. However you choose to live your life, you have to take the good with the bad. An easy life wasn’t really our quest anyway. We just never imagined it to be that hard to pick up your boat and sail away.
To be honest, France was mostly work. Lots and lots of work. Not what we had envisioned at all really. Every single moment was something new and our charade game was level 10. There were days we looked at ourselves and wondered what we got ourselves into. This sucks!
The foreign aspect of it all is really what made things exhausting. Feeling alone to deal with it is what made things excruciating. If we had picked up in Annapolis, the exhaustion would have been one we are used to as Americans, lol, and manageable.
On the bright side, the only side that matters, we hear the best is yet to come, and we believe it.
I wonder what you wonder about
It is so strange to write something and just blast it out there. I’d love to bring the experience to you all but I’m not sure what you guys wonder about? Do you like a play by play? More about sailing, sailing thoughts, boat work, nature facts, reflective pieces, informative pieces, cultural/historic pieces… anything! Ask questions, what do streets look like there? The trees and flowers? What do they wear? What music to they listen to? Maybe a scavenger hunt? Or a wild goose chase, lol?
I do realize you can’t please all the people all the time, but you all are important to me and I’d love to try.
For me, I want to inspire myself to create something, but it has to have a value, a purpose. I love fine art but I am a functional art lover. I want things always to be fresh and exciting. Ask away on facebook! Let us be your detectives on the case! We’ll be partners in adventure and discovery!
Thanks for reading along.
Check out these Fun, Freaky and Fantastic pics from France! Click me!