IT issues -
A computer crash has delayed this blog. What a mess! But thankfully due to the efforts of dear friends Nancy & Mark Fox back in Virginia, most of my contacts, data and photos were recovered and downloaded to a new laptop!
So, with my brain back, I remember that we left Brittany, rounded the northwest coast of France and headed for La Rochelle. This was a longer sail - two days and overnight. But we needed to lay some sea miles down to rendezvous with our ultimate fate in Bordeaux. This bit of a rush caused us to skip the Loire Valley. But then you can do anything you want in life, but you can’t do everything. Port La Rochelle
was bustling in the late 1600’s thriving on vigorous trade with New France (Canada) and the West Indies. Today’s maritime business for La Rochelle are the tourism and sea salt markets. And great restaurants with you betcha great French wine!
Entering Port La Rochelle. Towers date from the 1300’s.
We were looking for our berth. The Capitainerie (port authority) directed us to wait for the green light then go under the bridge to the white tower and tie up. Seems pretty clear but can you see the green light on the bridge? And how wide is the opening? You better be able to ask in French or as we did you just “go for it”.
Guess what type of food Les Flots serves? Garonne River to Bordeaux -
Our stop after La Rochelle was Bordeaux and the surrounding wine country. It is not easy to get there by boat. The pilot guides, web sites, and other information sources all strongly suggest leaving your boat at Pt. Medoc on the Atlantic end of the Garonne River and visiting Bordeaux by train. All the information is negative - the intense river tidal flow (up to 6+ knots), no marinas, impossible to anchor, river traffic, hostile shores, etc.
Braun was determined leave the Atlantic and go up the Garonne River, 52 miles to Bordeaux and tie up smack in center city. In February he had contacted the Bordeaux Mayor’s office and received special permission to tie up at the downtown Ponton d’Honneur. All we had to do was get there. He figured we understood and could overcome the obstacles and navigate the river. But the hazards that will get you are the ones you don’t know about.
How about a bridge on the River that was too low to pass under? The Pont Chaban-Delmas Bridge. Why wasn’t it mentioned in the guides, charts or other sources? First it is barely two years old and not well known. The nautical publications and web have not picked up on the low center span. And then it is a lifting bridge opening to 50+ meters - plenty of room to pass under. But it only opens for large cruise and war ships, once a month or so!
So we had to call on our secret weapon - Mr. Andre Fromilhague. Andre is a Bordeaux Station Chief for the Cruising Association. CA is an international organization which provides services for cruisers, one of which is resident station chiefs with local knowledge. His help was invaluable to us over weeks that we were in the Bordeaux region.
Andre on the Pearl and on the phone with the French authorities. One of dozens of times on our behalf.
He hopped aboard the OP at Pauillac on our way up the Garonne to Bordeaux and guided us to the bridge. He had learned that an ocean liner was leaving that day and persuaded the bridge authorities when they lifted the bridge to let us “piggy back” our entrance on the ship’s departure. This got us into Bordeaux. Getting out was to be another matter.
The Pont Chaban-Delmas Bridge, span down. A beautiful ultra-contemporary vertical lift bridge built in 2013.
Bridge one half way up with cruise ship in distance ready to come out.
Span up. Takes 20 minutes to raise and stops traffic for 3 hours. They won’t raise for pleasure craft. The bridge opened for the cruise ship, we scooted through and made for a small pontoon - the Ponton d’ Honneur in Bordeaux city.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! Bordeaux:
We were excited about our arrival in Bordeaux and here are some of the things we did, before we realized we were trapped.
Tied up at the Ponton d’Honneur, city center.
These Irishmen were our neighbors for a couple of days. They had rowed this homemade boat from Belfast! What stories they had but whew!! Do you see a shower on board? Wine Country –
Bordeaux is the largest, oldest fine wine vineyard region in the world. This matchless cultural treasure has grown out of subtle harmony of soil, landscape and human experience and the origin of the wine chateau concept.
As anyone in their right mind should, we paid homage to the great names of Medoc, north of the city of Bordeaux. Through the quaint villages of Saint-Julien, Pauillac, St.-Estephe and Margaux lies the famous Grands Crus Classes dating back to 1855. Touring and sampling wines at Lynch-Bages, Chateau Grand Larose and Chateau Kirwan was not only a learning experience but a delicious one too!
Little known wine fact - adding a solution of egg whites to wine (“fining") does a nice job of pulling out excess tannins, suspended particles, etc. that might cause your wine to be overly astringent or bitter. Traditionally used in red wines Burgundy as a way to “smooth out” the rough edges and give more clarity to the wine.
Oh - one French oak barrel costs anywhere from 600 to 800 Euros – good only for 3 years in first quality production of wines and, then used for 2 years for secondary wines.
Posers in front of Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron
Checking wine for clarity
Healthy stash of wine barrels at Chateau Lynch Bages
These roses are in the vineyards at the end of the rows of vines. In prior times when mules were used they knew to turn and plough another row when they came to the roses. Also, roses are weaker than the vines. When the roses are doing poorly they signal that the vines are not far behind, and need tended to.
Delivery to the boat of some of Bordeaux’s finest. Bordeaux City –
Old main gate to the city.
Grosse Cloche/Prison tower
On the hunt for goodies. FRESH croissonts.
It was in Bordeaux that we had our nephew, Beck (9yrs) and grandson Logan (11yrs) join us on board for a spell of sea time. As Beck would say…it was an “epic” adventure! A few pictures of the young lads…
Biking in Bordeaux
Beeg Fun...! Departure from Bordeaux – Hotel California.
Ok, we had our fun and now it was time to leave. I and the four boys, Braun, Wayne, Logan and Beck set off from Bordeaux…or, that was the plan. We altered our departure to coincide with another luckily scheduled bridge opening…yes, this time for another cruise ship. However, the day before we were to leave the scheduled bridge opening was suddenly cancelled!
The unrepentant port authority refused to open the bridge and told us to wait for low tide and just go under, there was plenty of clearance for our boat. Oui Monsieur, put that in writing or an email? No way Jose, not a chance.
So we furiously began to calculate our chances of passing under without an opening. The bridge has an air draft of only 37 feet 5 inches at low tide. That’s the height of the bridge at its tallest point, the center, from the water at lowest tide! The height of Ocean Pearl, its air draft, measures 36 feet 11 inches (with antennas down). Do the math, 6 inches clearance!
If there were any chance of getting under the bridge without ripping the superstructure off the boat it had to be at the exact time of low tide. There is lots of information on the tides which are extremely important in this area. Reed’s tide tables, Nobeltec chart plotter, local Bordeaux information broadcast hourly, web sites like marcee.info.com tide predictions, etc. But they all vary and no one really knows for surewhen low tide is.
We combined what we thought was the best data on when was the lowest tide and decided to go for it.
From the side of the bridge, here is the clearance in meters when we went through, dead low tide on that day.
Passing under. BJ is outside looking up, waiting for the crunch, and catastrophe photographer, Wayne Davis is perched on the bow rail. Fortunately we actually had about 18 inches of clearance. More to come...stay tuned ~
Ocean Pearl Out ~
Tina & Braun
Miss our young swabbies!!