We were on our way from the UK to Portugal when we ran into the Season of Autumn Storms. We waited for many days for an opportunity to head south to warm seas and sunshine but the wind and waves of 5m+ were against us. After a week of waiting, the lockdown in France being announced, and we retreated to the comforts of the Marina Moulin Blanc in Brest, North West France.
We have been battered by storms with waves breaking over the mooring pontoons, had snow with enough for my first snowball of many years, we have had amazing warm sunny days, icy cold days, fog and autumn mists, in all a real mixture of everything.
Lockdown? Well, we can't go to the bar or restaurant, but we can exercise, go for our grocery shopping, spend time working on our boat to get it ready for when the weather improves and lockdown allows us to move on - quite a good situation really. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to sail to any location, other than back home (Where is that?). We do have, though, dispensation to make manoeuvres in the marina, so we are taking advantage of this. For the last 10 days Ingrid has been progressing well and is now able to safely back into an imaginary box, moor alongside the jetty, do U-turns & full circles in small spaces as well as moving straight forwards and reversing - quite an achievement - and I think I may soon be out of a job ! There are 3 things to develop these manoeuvring skills - practice, practice, practice. It is necessary to balance the action and reaction of the boat to the wind, engine and bow thruster - not as easy as it may seem for a 15m boat.
Our views change every hour as the tides keep moving with the sun and the moon. Even after five weeks at our mooring spot the changes of our view keep impressing and amazing us. One red evening sky was particularly spectacular !
Obviously, we need to be careful during manoeuvres to make ure that we do not run out of water depth in the marina channels.
We are located next to a very large sailing school as well as the training center for the French National Team. School kids from the area get bussed in and every day it is a feast to hear and see these kids no matter how cold or how wet it is. They scream, laugh and shout - and have a great time on the water - we do it for the same reason, it is great to build skills and have a great time doing it.
In addition to this, we have a number of ongoing projects as life is never dull on a boat. The biggest of these was our whisker pole - 5.45meters of 90mm carbon fibre pole that is necessary for down wind sailing. It has now arrived and we look forwards to working out how to use it without losing it overboard at a critical moment.
The new whisker pole nicely stored on deck!
We have taken down the sails for repair and put them back up again - a first for us and quite a daunting task, but all has gone well and we learnt a lot in the process. Mainly that is is possible and even quite easy for novices like ourselves. The pictures may tell you a different story, especially when it comes to getting the sails into the bag...
I have also been getting Ingrid up into the mast to assist me, should it be required. With small steps we make progress.
Ingrid: "Spot the difference!! Peter on the left at 22 meters and me on the right at 2 meters... Hey, you've got to start some where :)
The guest toilet also stopped working. It is electric, hence there is no water being pumped in or out and so it is a troubleshooting process to identify the source of the failure. The original pump is still working (I now have a spare at €120) and next is the replacement of the electronic control system - just another €170 for this kit. At least the labour costs from a third party €72- €108/hr is not yet needed, but I am running out of options so I am hoping the electronic control unit will do the trick and our future guests have a working toilet again!
Of course there are the regular household choirs such as laundry, and Ingrid scrubbed the carpets on the jetty when we had a sunny day.
After all this hard work it is time for some rewards. Now we happen to "live" opposite Paul, the bakery & patisserie shop. Have a look what we have to endure almost every day:
After four weeks, on 28 November, the strict lockdown was over, and people were allowed to move up to 20km from their residency.
Well, the skies were blue, a soft breeze and it felt like Spring with 16-17 degrees. Where to go? To the beach and the marina of Moulin Blanc! Where else? The beaches here were bussier than in Spain during the summer !
And it is almost December, so it is a good time to decorate the boat with the external lights. We are quite modest compared to some, but a small effort is always worth while.
We are also starting our exercise routines with some running and stretching a few times a week to keep the side effects of Paul the patisserie at bay.