April 21, 2012
Our sailing expectations for the summer of 2011, drastically reduced following news from home in February. After a great deal of soul searching over our future in France, we gratefully settled on sailing fairly locally for this year, so to be available to go home if needed.
Back in January 2011 we made a scheduled visit to the UK, we learned the good news that our youngest Daughter Caroline and Son in Law Chris were to become parents again, although this news was tinged with concerns over the health of the unborn baby, however after various tests the baby was given a full bill of health and the birth date of the 9th.July was confirmed.
In February our dear Son in Law Chris (45), suffered a heart attack and massive stroke, it was unexpected and devastating for us all, in particular for pregnant Caroline, and bewildering for grand-daughter’s Meghan and Isabella.
Over the following months, Chris desperately clung to the edge of life and eventually he started to show small signs of recovery, but it was clear that it was to be a long and frustrating road to recovery, one still being fought.
Over the following months we made several expensive trips home in an effort to support Chris and Caroline.
In order to assist in last minute passages home we decided to purchase a car, and in March we took delivery of a VW Golf, which we took back to France.
Elder daughter Vicki and Son in Law Bob, grandchildren Ethan and twins Olivia and Erin moved into their new house, their current challenge was dealing with three challenging but delightful children and bringing their new home up to date as they would like it.
In the middle of April, we surrendered the tenancy of our Gruissan house and took a short break at our landlord’s apartment in Alcacebre, Spain.
Back in Gruissan in early May we launched Fandango only to discover that the post service installation of the Auto-stream propeller reflected the incorrect fitting experienced in the previous year the result of which caused Fandango to go forward in reverse gear and reverse in forward gear; accompanied by a great deal juddering and grinding. There was no alternative but to pay the cost of a second travel hoist, we dared not refit the auto-stream; instead we opted to fit the original backup alloy propeller.
We finally departed Gruissan on 25th. May. Our plan was to make for Cap d’Agde, Port Camargue, Port Napoleon and on to Ille de Frioul off Marseilles and eventually the beautiful French Island reserve of ‘The Pocquerolles’ and picturesque Corsica about 150 miles east of Gruissan.
We were due back in Gruissan for our scheduled trip to the UK on the 15th July. We were expected in Lancashire for the birth of our grandson, and and the same time to collect Granddaughter Meghan who was returning to France with us for her school holiday.
It was a beautiful warm sunny morning with a northerly breeze which pushed us at 3-9 knots on a broad reach in a slight sea, perfect for our ‘shake down’ sail of the season.
We spent several days exploring Cap d’Agde, and on Friday 3rd June we moved on to Port Camargue which was a further 35 miles east.
This was our first visit to Port Camargue, the largest marina in France, boasting in excess of 5,000 boats, and surrounded by apartments, bars, restaurants, a zone technique a shopping centre and numerous golden sandy beaches which gently shelve down to beautiful blue sea, the numerous coves facing every point of wind roll towards neighbouring Gru du Roi approximately 2 miles west of Comargue.
Fandango being broad at the stern, was unable to fit into the standard 12 meter ‘stern too’ post style moorings despite several attempts to squeeze her in. We secured against an alongside pontoon intended as a passage berths.
We spent several weeks waiting for the weather to stabilise. Weather forecasts showed that whilst on land the weather was sunny, warm and beautiful, at sea the weather had not stabilised with bands of heavy winds passing through, we dared not risk a trip to the Pocquerolles with the prospect of mooring on anchor, marina prices in July and August are astronomical.
As the 15th July fast approached we settled on enjoying sunbathing on the beaches and socialising in the bars. The offshore weather had not stabilised.
Over the next few days we returned to Gruissan, on arrival our boatyard, ‘Nautiland’ had come up trumps allowing us the use of a pontoon in the Zone Technique.
Our trip to the UK went well, our grandson Noah arrived 10 days late but in good health.
Son in Law Chris was now home and making slow but steady progress, he had suffered some setbacks suffering medication induced epileptic style fits, which were both debilitating and undermined family confidence.
Meghan was excited to be making the trip with us, a series of new experiences laid out before her, meeting family members, ferry travel, and the journey through France with its different scenery and open countryside featuring grapevines and sunflower’s, castles and Chateau’s was enlightening and exciting.
En route we called on friends Keith and Carol near Angouleme, we are grateful for their hospitality, and a good night’s sleep, Meghan and I swam in their pool and relaxed around their pool before completing the trip south to Gruissan.
The three days travel from the UK was long and wearing, our arrival in Gruissan consolidated all Meghan’s expectations.
During the next few days we stayed in Gruissan , Meghan enjoyed the beaches, but was initially alarmed by the heavy rolling waves crashing to shore but she soon learned to ride them and could be heard shrieking with delight as they broke over her.
Her education was continued when she learned to speak a little French and made some French friends.
Sadly ‘Meggie’ our 20 year old Burmese ships cat, who had been looked after by neighbours Sue and Jill whilst we were away, was not well, a visit to the vet confirmed our worst fears when she was diagnosed with kidney failure. The result was that we had to say goodbye to our lovely little friend; rest in peace Dear Meggie.
The next five weeks were spent sailing in the ‘Golf du Lion’ but the weather was still not stable enough for us to make for the Pocquerolles and so decided to stay in Port Camargue.
Whilst in Port Camargue we met new friends Bob and Julie- Anne and their son Toby, who is of a similar age to Meghan, they were on their way west following collection of their new boat, ‘Vicki 2’ a Dufour 41 from Italy. They were looking for winter storage facilities, we suggested Gruissan as a possible option.
Whilst in Port Camargue we were treated to the 25th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of a lifeboat at the port, with a weekend of festivities including several demonstrations, a helicopter rescue, water dog rescues and a parade of the famous Camargue horses followed by a bar-b-cue a firework display and a concert by the ‘Angles Blanc’ A local dance band.
We enjoyed the festivities with Bob, Julie-Anne and Toby, both children spent most of the evening glued to the barrier in front stage and by 0130 am we all retired exhausted having spent most of the evening dancing to a range of largely English music, a good time was had by all.
Two days later we departed Port Camargue for Gruissan and took up the stern too mooring provided by our boatyard adjacent to the Quai de la Tramontane’ in Gruissan…
In late August we started the long journey to the UK with Meghan. That was the end of our adventures on Fandango for 2011, the remainder of the summer and Autumn was spent in Gruissan, preparing for lift-out and our winter lodgings in Les Cabestans.
A plan for the winter is to fit a holding tank in Fandango, take French lessons and formulate an sailing programme for summer 2012.
A rough plan may be to depart Gruissan in early May and head down the Spanish Coast to Valencia and cross to the Balearics.
Chris and Chris Grundy.