Brit’s abroad.

WABI’’’ real time….early morning alongside the quay at Port Launay.

Today, in real time WABI’’’ is alongside another boat at Port Launay inland in the river Aulne, in a short while I will have my breakfast and then motor the short distance, 2 km, upstream to Chateaulin.  There I will tie up alongside another boat at a pontoon almost in the town centre. 

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At some point soon I will catch up on the blog posts that actually get me here and then you will see Port Launay and Chateulin, for which I have definitely got the photographs : I just checked.  This afternoon, as soon as the lock at Guly-Glas is open I will head back down the Aulne.  Tonight, if all goes to plan, I should be at anchor somewhere near the big suspension bridge down near the exit into the Rade de Brest.

Yesterday….was the day that Jax had to travel back to the UK after Brittany Ferries changed her sailing because one of their ships is broken : by all accounts they had an engine fire several weeks ago and the ‘Pont-Aven’ is now alongside the dock in Brest being repaired.  The second ferry, ‘Armorique’ is now running an almost continuous shuttle service between Roscoff and Plymouth but it sounds as though all bookings have been been affected.  What it meant for us is that we had to work out new bus and train times to get Jax back to Roscoff from Chateulin . 

Lunch time yesterday and we walked up to the railway station and tried to work out the French-only keyboard menu to buy a ticket.  Just to say that there is a station there but it isn’t manned and the only way of buying a ticket is to use the single machine which is outside the building…..and in direct sunshine.  I don’t know whether you have ever tried to buy a ticket in a foreign language on a rail network that you don’t know but I can say that it would have been a lot easier if to start with we had been able to read the screen.  

The only way we did it eventually was for me to shield our heads and shoulders with Jackie’s jacket to create some shadow.    Working through the different options on the menu took us about a quarter-hour but we did eventually get the ‘right’ ticket….we think….nobody ever checked it so….   The next challenge was to work out which platform to use as unlike Uk train stations there are none of the overhead information screens to say which trains and platforms are arriving/departing.  We did ask a couple of French teenagers who said it was the other platform…..they were completely wrong….as we then asked a much more sensible lady who told us that it was the first one.   It was kind-of farcical and we kept in touch by text just to find out where she actually got to.

So I woke up in France…..that much should now be obvious.

For the last few days I have been thinking a lot about actually ‘being here’ and not being in the UK.  The previous night, for example, we sat in the bar (Ty Mad) at Port Launay and had a beer on the way back from our walk to Chateaulin and back.  Not that I could follow much that was being said on the wide-screen TV but that our very own prime-minister seemed to be suggesting a second referendum for the whole Brexit fiasco. 

I was wondering what would happen because our own government seem to be doing everything in their power to weasel their way out of what the country has at least just about told them to do.  I suspect that a second vote would go the other way…..what happens then ?, best out of 3 maybe or maybe the brits will say enough and hit the streets just like the ‘Gilet Jaune’  here.   I’m glad that I’m here and not in the UK, right now I have absolutely no wish to sail ‘home’ and might even keep the boat here for the foreseeable future, to be honest, where I am is a nicer place and a more interesting and challenging cruising ground.

Chateaulin.

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What I will say is that it was clearly much harder work to get here than say just another run down to the west-country or even out to the Scillies.  Of the options I had at the start of this voyage I definitely took the harder one rather than the expedient one and  that definitely resulted in a very uncomfortable 30 hours at sea and being very tired and restless for a few days. 

 From waving goodbye to Jax on the dock at Calstock I didn’t really have a conversation with anyone until after I’d landed in France and then I’d landed in a part of France that is very ‘French’ and I had to quickly adapt to the language…sort-of !.   My first experience of speaking the language again seemed to completely alarm the check-out lady at the supermarket and I almost had to do a self-check to ensure that what I thought I was saying was some even very poor version of the right language .   

It got better….after the supermarket I found a very nice cafe that I know in Lannilis , said hello, nicely to the young lady and ordered coffee reasonably competently.   Spurred on to greater things linguistically I even achieved a ‘thank you and good-day’ as I paid and got a very sweet smile and ‘bon-journee’ in return.  I can’t say that I immediately switched over to speaking French because I just don’t have enough of the language and neither am I a confident and outgoing communicator anyway…..but….that day for example I’d walked past the market and a street vendor with a big open dish of a local street-dish….a simple sausage onion and potato dish made in the kind of big and wide pan we used a lot in open-fire bushcraft cookery and it smelt great.  

Now, iv’e never ever tried to say something along the lines of ‘can I have some of that’, but, with a friendly smile and hello I managed to cobble together a ‘I would like’ and a portion of’ and ‘the sausage thingy’.  My real problem is trying to latch onto what is being said in return : it’s often too fast, this time I just about understood the price once the lady had potted up a portion for me.  

The awesome display at the cafe in Chateaulin.

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In this post I want to leave the sailing and seamanship aside for a while and just talk about my time in France so far.  So far in this year’s voyage I have done the longest offshore passage I want to do, done some nice coastal cruising and explored the rivers as far as I can.  In a future post I am going to talk about ‘the cruise within the cruise’ in which I set WABI’’’ with water, food and stores for a 9-10 day period of independent cruising and doing what she is good at, which is the coastal and inshore sailing.

Alongside that though I have now been in France for most of 5 weeks as it’s day 40 of the voyage in my logbook.  I think that’s the longest I have ever spent so far in a foreign language speaking country….unless you count the USA of course !. The longest I have spent in any other country before is probably New Zealand and anyway I can just about speak Kiwi so that doesn’t count.

France is definitely not the UK in any way, ok I know that this morning I went to a supermarket and did my stock-up shopping for the boat and that was very much like being in Tesco back home except that there is different stuff on display.  If anything the fruit, veg and fresh fish are much better.   It just happens to work out that most of my supermarket shopping has been in the ‘Leclerc’ chain and I guess that their buyers buy-in the same products for their stores.  In most of the stores there’s not just food but pretty much everything from clothes to kitchenware, and essential to me things like alcohol for the meths stove.

  A couple of weeks back I found that I needed (really needed) a new pair of shorts for my time ashore as my sailing shorts are almost in the same state as the pair I  was in when a Dutch sailor approached me in a different supermarket and helped me pin that pair back together with safety pins !.  So anyway, just for fun I had a look in the chandlery within the Brest marina complex to see what they had on offer….yes they had some natty ‘sailing’ shorts at nearly 90 euro’s….the same day I got a better pair in ‘Leclerc’ for less than 30 !.   I do wonder though that with so many different things for sale in a supermarket, but the same things across the whole chain, that it does sometimes feel and look very utilitarian….egalite’ at work maybe.

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The funny side of the local supermarket is that they have a laundry station right in their car park so I used that to do my clothing and bedding.  When I told Jackie that she said she had an image of me sitting naked on the post next to the laundry machine watching my washing go around….close but not quite….I did my shopping while the washing was in and I’m fairly certain I had clothes on at that point.

The opposite side is that after my big stores shop, and I must add, being given a big bag of ice for free from the fish counter, is that then I walked into town, bought some very good fresh bread from the baker and then sat in my favourite cafe here and had very good fresh brewed coffee and of course a pain au chocolat.  While the big shops might all be chain-stores the bakers particularly and small cafe’s and bars are all individual and unique….no endless Costa et all here !

I will show you a lot more of where I am right now in a future post because that is part of a logical sequence in the voyage.  What I have added is just some of the many small quirky details that make this place such a pleasure.  Yesterday for example we had a decent walk out of the town to get up to the railway station and below is just one photograph of just one very well done garden and only one out of many.  A few days ago I walked around the area where I was moored at Port Launay, not in my usual mode ie looking at the boats, but just looking at the local detail…the amazing woodwork on a local barn, near to that the ‘gayest’ house I have seen in a long while…..and I use the word in it’s original sense !.  Here the local church has a display of flowers and as we walked through the town the local council guys and girls were setting up this years display of planters all along the quay…..just seems like a bit more care, a bit more pride and a lot more civility.

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In ‘real’ real-time ie just this moment, I am sitting in the boat finishing this post and working on others, as I sat here there was a discrete knock on the cabin roof and a guy from the local Mairie : equivalent of the council asking me if I needed anything….water, electricity, showers and so on and no demands for instant cash…..eat your hearts out visitors to Salcome, Darmouth and just about anywhere else on the UK south coast !

In terms of blog posts ready to go that’s about it for the first series from La France.  This afternoon I will walk back into the town, get on the wifi somewhere, schedule this last current post and then head off down the river to get on with the next stage of the voyage.  It’s possible that I will be able to land in Morgat around the other side of the Crozon peninsular, there again I might not do so until I am around the mighty Raz de Seine and into southern Brittany at Audierne.  I’m all stocked up for another 10 days continuous cruising and all I need to do is top-off the water and go.

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2 Comments

  1. You’re having a great time to be sure Steve and good news about the photographs. I’ve fond memories of putting up tents for a holiday company in the Dordogne one spring a few decades ago as a callow youth. They definitely do do things differently there and in many cases, as you’ve discovered, a lot better. Still, I wouldn’t want to live in France full time as, despite it’s failings, there’s no place like home in my opinion, even if the country is drowning in rain and Brexit madness. You’re well out of it 😉

    Like

    1. I love the Dordogne, went there a few years back on a road trip. Most of the time I really like France although there are things that annoy me….can’t get decent peanut butter or Branston pickle for example….oh the problems of a cruising life !

      Liked by 1 person

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