Separate Lives

Having spent the first three weeks in Beaucette checking the weather for an appropriate weather window coinciding with a favourable tide time, we did quite a lot of soul searching and wondering just what it was we were doing. Whenever we saw Ricky (the marina manager) and advised that we would be staying a bit longer, his response was: “stay as long as you want”.   I believe this sowed a little seed in Steve’s head and made us face up to some difficult questions – What are we doing? What do we want out of this life?

It felt like all we seemed to do was watch the weather, looking for the opportunity to move to another marina to do the same thing again there – relax, drink and people watch. Neither of us particularly enjoys the sailing side of things but absolutely couldn’t go back to living in bricks and mortar. Steve felt that he wanted to put down some tentative roots – in fact it appears that we are not the gipsy/roaming types we thought we were after all!

Why is Guernsey the right choice for us?

  • The people are amazingly friendly. When we have been out and about, looking blankly at our map of the island, people stop (whether on foot or in their vehicles) and offer assistance
  • Steve can understand the locals
  • The ‘hills’ aren’t big
  • Honesty boxes are prevalent for local produce
  • The marina is picturesque, gnarly (being an ex-quarry), entertaining during strong easterly winds with a good mix of friendly live-aboards
  • Great walks – as we are in probably the least populated part of the island where beach and cliff walks are plentiful
  • Even in hot weather, as we are a stone’s throw from the sea, it is at least 5 degrees cooler

Why is Guernsey a poor choice for us?

  • Wine at English prices
  • Bread selection is poor as there doesn’t appear to be any small bakeries on the island (only the supermarkets)
  • Haven’t managed to find an egg supplier yet (other than supermarkets)
  • Shower block/toilet trips are best planned to coincide with high tide (the ramps are a tad challenging at low water). This also applies to trailer shopping trips as the decline is quite impressive which could result in a runaway trailer!

After chatting with Sunil in the marina office and then Ricky, Steve returned to the boat with the figures for a year’s berth here! Could we do that? Should we do that? We could always do some sailing from here and return but it would mean that Steve could have his required roots and he would be able to find something, other than the boat and the weather, to occupy his time. This again caused more conversations and we agreed that it might be a good idea so Steve ‘paid up and looked happy’, but this then caused more issues!!

After having spent practically every day for the last year together (ok we did have one 24 hour period apart when he took off with a French man!) we were starting to realise that we have absolutely nothing at all in common. So after many hours discussing matters we have decided that it is in our best interests to follow our own particular dreams and go our separate ways.

To be honest, it is not as bad as it sounds! We have both decided to return to our great loves. Steve’s love is food and cooking and being the hunter/gatherer type he decided that he would try his hand at fishing. He bought himself a tin of sardines and put them into his lobster pot and dropped that over the side of the boat. He didn’t have any luck for the first few days so decided to try the other side of the boat, closer to the pontoon. I think he had pretty much given up and was going to wash off the pot and put it away when he pulled it up and discovered a decent sized lobster inside. He was like a kid in a sweet shop, so excited!!! This was all the incentive he needed.

Surprisingly my love is for getting fit again. We have walked and cycled around some of the island and have discovered some lovely beaches – good enough to encourage me to “take the plunge”! So now I cycle the ten minutes to L’ancresse beach and spend some time splashing around in the water! When we first arrived we noticed a blackboard proclaiming “Bendy Beaucette Yoga”. I have wanted to try yoga and thought perhaps a small group here might be a good introduction – although I wasn’t sure if I would be confident enough to do something on my own. However, Steve encouraged me (or should that be, pushed me) to give it a try and so far I have been to two sessions and that combined with the swimming and cycling seems to have helped me with my intermittent back aches and has also resulted in a marked increase in my fitness level, such that on our most recent cycle ride together I had to brake whilst cycling behind Steve as he wasn’t going quick enough!

One particular cycle ride stands out in my memory – is this the unluckiest woman in the world? We had bought a picnic at the supermarket after visiting the largest car boot sale we’ve ever seen (well , at least ten cars!) and ended up at L’ancresse beach, sitting with a nice bottle of cider and some bread and cheese. The only other occupants of this part of the beach were a young family and then after a while a woman and her son stopped to chat with them. I suddenly heard a “thwack” and the standing woman fell to her knees. The poor lady had been hit by a stray golf ball. The fairway that the golfer was aiming for was at least 150 yards away. The man from the couple disappeared off and, according to the kids, was going to “go and tell off the golfer”. He returned shortly with two men – they had both hit their balls off course towards the beach so were unsure which one had actually hit her! Amazing, considering how much empty beach space there was, that one of them managed such a direct hit. Fortunately the lady had turned to reach her phone so it hit her on the side of the neck and not smack bang in the middle of her face.   She was a bit dazed and shocked but I don’t believe she suffered any serious damage and the rather embarrassed golfers were extremely apologetic.

There have been some very large, beautiful yachts visiting here. At one stage we were one of the smaller ones, having been dwarfed by an Oyster 62, Hallberg Rassy 64 and a possible Contest 60ish. When I went to my first yoga session, inevitably I was asked which boat I was on so pointed Shearmyste out. Comments were made about Beaucette becoming a ‘Super Yacht Haven’ and I believe Shearmyste was included! Quite chuffed about that, although I already knew she didn’t look out of place amongst them!

The buses here are cheap (£1 per journey) so we have taken advantage of them and have been into St Peter Port (Town) a few times. You can also go all the way around the island and if you want to sit in the bus station for about 20 minutes that still only costs £1. We did the trip but broke our journey in Town. This did mean that our ‘round the island’ cost £2 but to be honest I think we would have quite happily paid at least £5 each. The nearest shops to the marina are at St Sampson which is about a 10-15 minute cycle away with a Co-op and an Iceland and there is an Alliance (Tesco) fairly close too.  There are lots of small produce stands dotted around, so far we have purchased tomatoes, strawberries, cauliflower, new potatoes, cucumber and lettuce. As they all have honesty boxes it is necessary to make sure you have enough pound notes (yes I do mean notes!!)

Liberation Day back in May – we took the bus to St Peter Port, saw the parade and had a little mooch about. We walked past a lady who was the spitting image of Shane Spall (wife of actor Timothy Spall) and “star” of one of my favourite TV programmes – Somewhere at Sea where they sailed their Dutch barge around the UK. It is one of my go-to DVDs as they visited quite a few of the same places we have and I have noticed a lot of similarities in our relationships! I didn’t approach her as I thought it was inappropriate but when we got back to the boat I looked for her on Twitter and she had posted a photo of the life boats taken from the exact spot I had seen her! I am just amazed that she didn’t recognise me from my avid viewing!!!

Steve has now become quite a proficient fisherman. In his lobster pot he has managed to catch three lobsters (one too small to keep), a haddock, a brown crab and an eel. He took the dinghy out of the marina the other day and attached himself to one of the waiting buoys and caught himself two mackerel. I must admit that the only item I have eaten was a small portion of the haddock in a curry! I did try the first lobster but I really didn’t like it and I think Steve was quite pleased about that as he won’t have to share any!

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Steve then turns from fisherman to chef, so far he has made:

Lobster with lime and caper butter served with coconut rice

Lobster fusilli with a lobster bisque sauce

Haddock jalfrezi with boiled rice (this was for me!!!!)

Crab and Haddock with a spicy noodle broth

Smoked mackerel on toast

Smoked mackerel quiche

As I write, the smoked eel is sitting in the fridge, excellent taste test results, no dish yet created! (Cooking time 45 minutes, preparation time a day and a half – so not your Jamie’s 15 minute meal!!) Recipes will appear on the Recipe Page!

Other food highlights have included, I’m sorry to say, yet another falafel based meal. I had made a rather tasty pea risotto and as is normal I’d made enough to feed an army! So we decided to use up the leftovers as arancini – mozzarella stuffed rice balls. Steve thought about putting breadcrumbs on the outside but then suggested using falafel mix – hence the creation of Falancini! Served on a spicy tomato sauce they were bloody lovely!!!

 

 

A Woman Of A Certain Age 

Well, the weather put paid to our plans to leave Ouistreham this morning as the ‘pea soup’ arrived and as we actually want to see where we are going (and passing) rather than just keeping a lookout for other vessels in the murk we decided to go back to bed. It has also presented me with the opportunity to finalize a little poem that has been building in my head (generally at night when I can’t sleep!). I think I’m finally happy with it and thought I would share it here with you! Hope it makes you smile!!

A Woman Of A Certain Age 

A woman of a certain age is that what I’ve become?

I hope it doesn’t last too long, I know it does for some

I hope you will forgive me if you think I’m being rude

it’s just that all this shit puts me in a cranky mood

A woman of a certain age is that what I ‘ve become?

But I was sure I’m meant to be one of the “ever young”

My mind is busy telling me I’m only twenty one

So WHY can’t it tell the rest of me and make it play along?

These bloody ‘granny whiskers’ keep appearing with no warning

So I stand before the mirror, plucking, each and every morning

Don’t talk to me of flushes or sweating over night

Because I’ve become an expert, just so you know, ALL RIGHT?

Maybe I should try some fancy HRT 

But that means seeing a doctor and that is so ‘not me’

They’d ask me lots of questions and I’d struggle to reply

I might be able to say my name but then I’d start to cry

A woman of a certain age is that what I’ve become?

It’s not supposed to happen to me, I mean, I’m not my mum

I wish that it would hurry up and please, please, please just end

Before it’s finally too late and driven me round the bend

A woman of a certain age IS what I have become

Now a wrinkly dry old prune, no more a juicy plum!

Summer Starts Here!

We really can’t believe it is already April.  Winter’s over – did it really begin?  Having experienced the past ten years in the north of England (other than a brief interlude in a snowy Somerset) a winter in Northern France has almost been like a summer up north.  Other than the highest winds the area has seen in at least fifty years it has been rather benign. I haven’t even had to use my “clamp-ons” (spiky things that go over your shoes so you grip not slip!).  I have, however, on about ten days had to be escorted to the ‘bloc sanitaire’ to perform necessary ablutions. I think one of my favourite moments was watching a coot struggle on the ice – his wings flapping to maintain balance much as I think I do (well, I use my arms not my wings).

Coot on Ice
Coot on Ice

 

On the upside, compared to all other marinas we have been in in England, maybe by chance or luck, the marina staff told us that our electricity consumption would be included in our mooring fee. Bearing in mind we have a 32 amp supply (the proper visitor pontoon has 6 amp, I believe), our heating and shower facilities were effectively incorporated in our mooring fees – a huge saving as we used to spend around £500 on electricity and gas for an English winter.

Over the Christmas period Steve finally got his head around this “not working” thing and decided he needed to compartmentalise his life – End of Season, Break, Prep for New Season, New Season.  This really helped with his mental state!  As he had decided it was now Prep for New Season he could focus on what needed to be done before our departure (preliminary date April 1st – end of 6 month contract) and created a Before We Leave List.

The only significant activity that appeared on this list (other than him rearranging the galley cupboards – no. 1 priority!!!) was to replace all the batteries.  This required a little bit of homework as the costs in France would have been maintenance budget busting for the year.  We needed to replace two engine and four domestic batteries – total ampage (for those numpties that want to know) 1260 amps.  These batteries also weighed in the region of 50 kg (7 stone) each.  We decided on a company in England that could supply them at approximately a quarter of the French price (and with free delivery!).  We needed to try and arrange a delivery date where the boat would be stable enough and with the weather amicable in order to exchange them.  Thanks to a really good French delivery driver who wheeled them along the pontoon on his trolley they were deposited on a pallet right next to the boat!  Our little trolley was breathing a huge sigh of relief I believe!! Next came the fun part – imagine this – Steve’s 6’ 5” frame having to lift a seven stone lump whilst bending over on his knees in a confined space (the size of a kitchen cabinet!) twelve times, whilst also getting the old ones off and the new ones on board – all on his own – what a sweaty hero!!  Fortunately the marina here will accept the old batteries so along came ‘Marina Man’ with his trolley and took them away – saved us making several trips to the local tip.

Following this it was time to get Shearmyste back into her summer plumage, so off came the window covers, on with her sails, decks and windows cleaned – oh she does look pretty!

So now, we are ready for the off again – one year on from Steve quitting work – still talking to each other and loving life!

We plan to leave here on Monday morning (3rd April) so thought it appropriate to reminisce and reflect on our time here.

In order to assist in our internal communication and not knowing our neighbours and passing yachties we have fallen into giving individual unique identifiers (names to the uninitiated).  So we would just like to share a few of these with you:

  • Grimsby – so called as when we first spoke to him, he asked where we were from and we said Hull, the Humber and he said “oh yes I worked out of Grimsby for a while”
  • Smiley, friendly motorboat man. This chap helped us on our arrival – taking our lines
  • Grandad – spent most of the remaining summer on board his yacht with his grandchildren (also passed on his knowledge on shellfish cleaning to Steve – purging the sand)
  • Pyjama trouser man – sports the most wonderful pair of pink (although could be very faded red) trousers
  • The Belgian – self explanatory!! His yacht is named “Bye Bye Bruxelles” and apparently he owns a classic 2CV
  • Deux noeds (translates to two knots – the speed limit in the marina) – This man on the next pontoon spends most of his time shouting “deux noeds” at any passing vessel that may or may not be sticking to the speed limit
  • Cute Dog Man – needs no explanation, however during a stormy evening after Steve had helped both him and Grimsby securing the boats, they joined us for a drink (non-alcoholic for them) when he mentioned that, in fact, it was his dead wife’s dog. (We had often seen him with a lady and were concerned that he was recently bereaved – however that lady reappeared a few days later so was obviously not his wife – we assume)
  • Monsieur et Madame Le Criou – Le Criou being the name of their yacht – he speaks quite good English and waves like crazy every time you walk past his boat
  • Strawbridge – This man has the most amazing Dick Strawbridge-like moustache and hairstyle – he is only a passing yacht but always acknowledges us
  • Smoker No. 1 – chap on our pontoon who coughs like a good’un whilst smoking and talking on his mobile
  • Smoker No. 2 – worker at one of the local yacht businesses, who collects boats from their pontoons and takes them across the canal. Practically every single time we have seen him (usually in enclosed motor/day fishing boats) a roll-up dangles from his lips.  Although I must say I did see him the other day without a fag – in an open yacht!!!
  • Paris Boat Show man. Another Pontoon E berth-holder, initially called Old Man but renamed after he spotted and greeted us whilst visiting the Paris Boat Show
  • Blue boat man – Plays music (and not necessarily good music) loudly whilst sailing and manoeuvring around the marina. Steve thinks he looks like one of the jailers in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian – bald on top with long hair on the sides
  • Guy and Jacques – because we were told their names!!!!
  • AND FINALLY – Serge (Wiz A Little Lemon Twist for fans of Beverley Hills Cop!) He bought Guy’s boat (in the adjacent berth)

Now over for a little bit of input from Steve!

During our time here Serge became the new owner of Kazan IV, a Bavaria 36 with slab reefing & furling head sail – which was his first foray into owning a  larger yacht.  We believe that his previous boats were either dinghies or perhaps a 24 ft day sailer.  He had spent January and February understanding bits of his boat and playing with a few things and had taken the boat out into the canal twice with his other half, Francoise.  We had quite a few conversations (Franglais) and he said that his ‘maiden voyage’ was to be taking his boat to his permanent berth in Cherbourg.  His wife was possibly going to do it with him or he would do it alone.  About a week prior to his departure date I had been assisting him in how to pull in his genoa and thought that it might be a nice idea to offer to act as crew if he was going to be short-handed. (His wife seemed less than enamoured with the idea of the trip and gave a huge grin at the offer).  Initially although Serge was grateful it appeared that he wouldn’t accept, however Francoise obviously worked on him as we received a very pleasant email saying yes please (I think google translate had a hand in it as it did in our reply!)  This was likely to be a challenging operation for both of us as Serge’s English is on a par with my French (next to nothing). The week passed with checking the forecasts and the only near favourable forecast was for Monday 6th March, however this was still force 6 and 7 – and, of course, in the direction we were heading – yet more wind on the nose.  We had calculated that the trip (66nm) should take 12-13 hours assuming the boat could do 6 knots.  What we both didn’t know was what the boat could actually do. 

So Monday morning I got up at 5.30 in preparation for the 7am lock out.  We cast off at 6.45 just as it started to rain. Serge managed his first SAS successfully and was very pleased with himself.  After leaving Ouistreham and passing the Cardinal buoy we headed for the headland at Barfleur which was approximately 45 nm away.   Due to the headwind, (fairly light at this stage) we could only motorsail with the main fully raised and a small amount of genoa.  At this point we were doing maybe 5/6 knots maximum. The wind then decided to pick up and was in a slightly more favourable direction so Serge cut the engine and we sailed for about an hour.  At that time our average speed went down to less than 3 knots so we pulled in the genoa and restarted the motor. At about 12 o’clock, whilst attempting a French definition of a sandwich, the wind picked up to a degree where I made the decision to put a reef in as we were getting gusts of up to 20 knots. (The following day Serge did comment to his wife that I must have had a sixth sense at that point). About an hour later the wind increased to maybe force 7 with possible gusts of 8 and another reef went in the main, however due to the wind and the rain we were lucky if we got above 2 knots.  I was bored out of my brain.  After a few more hours and with the skipper coming out of the cabin deciding that he was feeling seasick and needing to get closer to the rails (without his lifejacket on) I decided that the best course of action would be to head towards St Vaast la Hougue and anchor as we were likely to miss the tide gate for entry into the harbour.  If we continued to Cherbourg at this pace we would be trying to round the headland with a foul tide and gusts of force 7/8.  During this redirection from a course of 305 degrees to 270 degrees, the skipper, whilst at the helm, was quite often nowhere near the required heading – maybe this was due to tiredness/seasickness.  We made it to the safe anchorage at St Vaast just before 9pm – therefore 14 hours to travel 44 nm! (Pace a little bit slower than I am used to now).  We anchored successfully in very good holding and by 9.30 we were secure with the engine off and twenty minutes later Pot Noodles to the rescue!  Serge’s phone was unable to make international calls so we had to send Tee an email to let her know where we were and our plans for the following day.

Before any “relaxing” could occur Serge was insistent that I tell him when we should leave the next morning. In my mind it was a very simple equation as the tide window to go around Barfleur on this day was at 5pm, therefore simplistically the next time would be 13 hours later – 6am Tuesday.  So our plan was set to get up at 5 o’clock and, due to the amount of diesel used, head into St Vaast to refuel and then proceed to Cherbourg.  The trip around Barfleur headland was a little bit lumpy but not unexpected and with very light winds (I would have hated to have done that the previous night in force 7/8).  On the way round we talked about whether we had done the right thing the day before – my mind was yes, his was no.  Maybe we had different perceptions or experiences that led us to these conclusions. 

We arrived at Cherbourg at approximately 10-10.30, after securing the boat and Serge talking to his other half, it came to pass that she (having Serge’s car) was unable to get to the port due to work until 8pm.  So 9 hours to kill in Cherbourg – after having a well-deserved shower and letting the water run as long as I wanted I thought it would be a good idea to have some time apart and trundled off into the town to see what we could expect when we (me and Tee) arrived.  Feeling a bit peckish I decided upon a kebab for lunch (prohibited when Theresa’s around) – couldn’t tell you what the meat was as it wasn’t a doner, maybe some pork derivative?  However at 3 euros 50 including chips it did the business!  I then managed to find a Carrefour City where I decided that a couple of bottles of cheap Chardonnay would help me get through the rest of the afternoon (which it did!)  Here endeth my little tale other than I did have a sore arse from the trip but honest it was down to the hard seats on the Bavaria.

Back to me!!

My time was spent somewhat differently!  I got up at about 6ish and watched all the activity as they got the boat ready (thankful that they had made some decisions as to how they would communicate basic actions!) and waved them off – then I had the day to myself – the first time since March 31st 2016!  I did my usual pottering about and decided to eat my main meal at lunchtime – a two course effort as I misjudged how long my pasty would take to cook so started my veggies too soon!  This meant I could have a go at making my own crumpets – we have been able to buy them in France but I’d found a recipe on my favourite baking website (BakingMad.com) and wanted to give it a go and not having Steve around meant if they were awful I wouldn’t have to admit the attempt! As it was they were lovely and I had two for my tea with four left over for breakfast the next day with Steve (or so I thought!)  I spent a fair amount of the day wondering how the boys were getting on – especially as the rain didn’t stop all day! The evening rolled around and I thought it would be the ideal time to watch some of the DVDs we have that Steve isn’t interested in so out came “Far From The Madding Crowd” but I couldn’t get into it, so tried “Guys and Dolls” – for all of about two minutes – then I remembered that I had Season 6 of Castle on my laptop so started watching that.  When my phone signalled an email at about 9.30 I thought “ah good, they’ve made it” so I was very surprised to see that they were only at St Vaast.  With nothing else to do I continued watching Castle until about 2am!!!  Next morning I got an email at about 10.30 to say they’d arrived and please ring – so I did! This was when I discovered that I would get another full day on my own as it was unlikely Steve would be back any time before 9.30pm.  This really put the whole trip into perspective – it had taken them 19 hours by boat but the return journey by car was 1 hour 20 minutes max!

We did manage to eat the crumpets for breakfast the following day and Steve reckoned they were better than shop bought ones – although to me they weren’t as good as on the day they were made – so success and a new sometime breakfast (when I’m organised enough!)

Another essential before leaving Ouistreham was “restockage”.  Steve’s latest favourite word! We know we are not going to be too far from supermarkets anywhere in France but it is nice to know that we don’t have to immediately search out provisions on arrival.  The supermarkets are relatively close to the marina here so Stevie decided that, with the help of his trusty trailer, we would refill the empty lockers.

Our first foray was to Carrefour and Lidl where we purchased:

  • 6 kilos of flour (three different types!)
  • Cream crackers
  • 6 kilos of pasta (on special offer!)
  • 6 bottles of milk
  • 2 kilos of rice
  • 15 litres of fruit juice (various)
  • 2 litres of olive oil
  • 2 litres of vodka
  • 10 litres of wine
  • Loo roll

To name the bulky items!!

Then Steve went to E Leclerc (on his own – while I got my hair cut!!) where he returned with:

  • Another 4 litres of vodka (it’s a better price at Leclerc!)
  • Another 10 litres of wine
  • 5 kilos of potatoes
  • Various crackers/breakfast bars.

The only problem with the Leclerc trip was that the wine was on special offer (half price) meaning a 5 litre box was less than 5 euros – this meant that Steve was adamant he would return to do some bulk-buying!  The offer was running until the 1st of April so we had a few days.  Unfortunately in this time Steve managed to pull a muscle in his back which had him walking around like a 90 year old twisted body man.  However the pull of the price reduction was too much and so he decided that he would see if cycling helped with his back.  This time he returned with:

  • Another 40 litres of wine
  • Another 2 litres of vodka
  • An additional 32 rolls of loo roll (he cannot pass up a bargain!)

It is lucky we don’t have any guests at the moment as the wardrobes are full with wine (well for the next week or so!)  We really aren’t alcoholics –  honest!

The little bike trailer performed perfectly, although when fully laden it did try to push Steve down the hill!  His back survived the trip too, fortunately.

Smokey and the brownie

Steve has managed to earn his brownie points – the one job low on his priority list due to it being “quite a big job” has finally been ticked off! I have new galley flooring!!! It is brilliant I can sweep and wipe it down in about 5 seconds flat – heaven!!  After hunting high and low for a carpet/vinyl flooring store (admittedly only in our immediate area, there are probably loads in Caen!) we finally managed to find some suitable lino at Bricorama in Colleville Montgomery.  It was a grey morning when we set off and the rains came down on our trip back – I really do love cycling in the rain – mad I know but so much better than getting overheated!

Our normal practice in this type of work involves the product to be fitted having to acclimatise (generally for at least 6 weeks) in the garage (which we no longer have!) although I suppose he could have used his man cave (stern locker – 8ft x 4ft x 4ft – almost a full-size shed!) but that’s not watertight!  However, the very next day he set about removing the ridges and then the old lino – amazingly he was able to get it out in one piece so he had a template to use!  The longest part of that day’s activity fell to me, which was to remove as much glue as possible from the floor – the afternoon went well as I was probably as high as kite on the solvents used – no alcohol required!! He did have to undertake a small modification to the insert to stop the rocking which involved using a rubber strip that had been in his bucket of “come in handy one day” stuff.  By the end of day 1: lino up, glue removed, insert screwed down, new lino cut from template and all in time for wine o’clock (3pm CET).  The following morning the monumental task of replacing began and by 12 o’clock Steve had finished!  No need for edging strips as he had managed to slide it beneath the units (ok with a bit of extra force and a lever at times).  So all in all, this significant task cost approximately 17 Euros and about 8 hours of real work (at least 4 of which were mine!) and several shouts of “I hate lino”.  Admittedly the job was made so much easier by the fact that the old flooring came up in one piece as if he’d have had to cut in situ we may not have survived the Stanley knife.

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Squeak Free, Easy To Clean Floor

Steve’s favourite expression is “everything tastes better with bacon”.  Since finishing his last, purchased in England, 12 rashers of smoked streaky bacon he has been trying a number of alternatives to get his weekly fix.  This has proved difficult but not insurmountable, so if you are venturing to France and run out of this staple don’t panic there are passable alternatives.  Look near the wide variety of sliced ham products and usually tucked somewhere obscure you might be lucky enough to spot the Bacon Fume – it isn’t as strongly smoked (contains an awful lot less water!) and usually only has 7 rashers per pack.  The other struggle has been for an uncooked smoked bacon joint (recognise a theme here?)  One has been discovered at E Leclerc – however, in Steve’s words: “it aint big”. Having said that it does last him at least 4 or 5 meals so in my view is plenty big enough!

As we have mentioned before, one of the benefits to being at Ouistreham is the proximity of the ferry to Portsmouth, now this can be considered as a positive or a negative depending on whether you want to be away from the English speaking world.  Steve had spoken about going to the Southampton Boat Show back in September but I had been reluctant – mainly because we had talked ourselves out of going since visiting the year before (although I think there might have been another undercurrent to my thinking).  So, having to plan for the dreaded C word (Christmas), we decided that perhaps a practice run would be advisable.  It also meant we could do a bit of shopping of some basics that we cannot do without but cannot get here or only expensively from the World Food aisle – salad cream, brown sauce, feminine items to name a few.  This was when it became patently obvious that I was going to find it very difficult to leave my beautiful baby all alone on the end of Ponton E as she doesn’t even speak the language.  We decided that our trip should be less than a week as that was as long as I could imagine being away from her  (as my other babies no longer need me and are all growed up, allegedly!)

The morning ferry arrives in Portsmouth at 1.15pm, a civilised time for a family pick-up, however it meant leaving the boat at 7am at the latest.  A still, slightly frosty & misty morning as we said our goodbyes to Shearmyste and made our way to the terminal.  The sea was unbelievably calm, thankfully and we had an uneventful crossing.

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Isle of Wight from the ferry – wot no waves

We spent a few days of very enjoyable family contact (including the essential chip butty with plastic sliced white!) and Steve could get his fix of breakfast telly (and fully understand it all!!)  We chose to return on the afternoon ferry (again a civilised time for family drop-off – thanks to both sets of parents for this!) We managed to find ourselves a comfy sofa in one of the bar areas and Steve made a trip to the shop and purchased himself a box of wine and me a bottle of vodka.  I didn’t drink very much alcohol as it was a little bit rougher on this trip!  It rained during the return crossing (not that we knew too much about it) but fortunately it had stopped by the time we got to Ouistreham at about 9.30pm.  I’m not sure if it was the amount Steve drank on the ferry or just the fact that we were back on dry land but he certainly seemed to struggle to walk in a straight line on the way back – he blamed it on the small wheels on his trolley and the weight of all our provisions in the bag secured to it!! We arrived back at the marina and Shearmyste was still where we had left her, none the worse for our absence and even greeted us with 9 degrees of warmth inside!  Amazingly the rain then decided to fall down again – but we didn’t mind we were safely home!

Some live-aboard facts for those who may want to consider the big get off the world and may not consider it as a viable option, or for those who want a view of what to expect when leaving the rat race and getting off the English island.

  • Marina fees work out at least 20% cheaper to stay a week than just one day, so if on a budget and no time pressure stay for week or even month blocks (we will spend approx. £6k this year against a year round berth at Hull of £5k), but electricity is included which will save us £20 a week over the winter period.
  • Consider joining the Cruising Association and/or RYA as it will pay for itself (in our case) in the first week in France – discounts on berthing etc.
  • When speaking to a Danish couple (back in Dieppe) who were crossing to the Caribbean they were surprised with the lack of anchoring opportunities that they had come across – so not many free nights from their experience. There will be more opportunities the further south we head (but we do like staying in marinas!!)
  • Yachts over 50ft do seem to get better berths and generally don’t have to fight in the so-called French finger berthing arrangement.
  • 17mtr boats can fit on a 9mtr finger, make sure you have a centre cleat.
  • If using gas other than Camping Gaz, go with the minimum you need for a few weeks, the cylinders are a pain to dispose of if you have a conscience.
  • Folding bikes are a godsend, I have just ordered a folding trailer to aid shopping.
  • Food prices are similar but most prices are displayed per Kg so try to have a mental picture of what that means to you, meat is at least 30-40% higher (but the meat does contain less water). English Cheddar is very hard to find and in the region of £15 per Kg so stock up if it is your staple.
  • The French market prices are higher than the supermarkets and the fresh veg and fruit doesn’t last as long.
  • It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong when trying to speak the local dialect all that matters is that you try.
  • When moving from port to port you will motor far more that you have imagined if you want to hit the tide gates.
  • We have budgeted £20k a year as we don’t have any income, we both smoke and drink but in year one we will be under budget.
  • Get a credit card that doesn’t charge for transactions, we have spent less than 300 euros in cash in 6 months.
  • Carry some spare 240v plugs or fit some continental 240v socket outlets.
  • Tool shops are few and far between, so stock up on those English size tools.
  • Re-stocking on filters and other boaty items are far cheaper from English suppliers even with the extra cost of delivery.

So end of boring entry, bottom line is look at your current life style and get the book “Sell Up and Sail” Steve got over 3000 points in their ‘Ulysses Quotient’.

Coming next food blog including the pitta bread challenge and veggie scotch eggs!

I thought he was done with hills – but oh no!

As I have probably said somewhere before I hate my galley kitchen floor.  It has an unnecessary lifting section with a number of raised ridges, presumably to stop you sliding (although we haven’t figured out how they would work).  It has to be the worst kitchen floor ever – even using a toothbrush to try to clean the ridges wasn’t always successful and it creaked and groaned when you walked on it.  Steve had added “Replace kitchen flooring” to his job list with the comment “make it easy to clean, earn brownie points!”  With the job list getting shorter and shorter he decided it was probably time to tackle this one so after having noticed a large shopping complex at Herouville St Clair on our bus trip from Caen, we thought it was as good a place as any to start our search.  After looking on line it didn’t appear that there was a suitable store there, however there was a large Carrefour Hyper Marché.  Steve managed to persuade me that we should take a cycle ride there anyway, because, well, you never know!

As we wanted to do some shopping on the way back at the E Leclerc supermarket at Blainville (my cheese mainly!!) we decided to head to Leclerc’s then follow the roads to Herouville – surely not difficult as they are relatively close together.  We arrived at Blainville and proceeded through the small town heading in the general direction of Caen as we could see the large hospital building as our point of reference.  Unfortunately the most direct route seemed to want to take us onto the very busy dual carriageway and as we didn’t fancy taking our chances on that it meant a detour (yes, you’ve guessed it) up an incline.

Steve’s homing pigeon had obviously taken the morning off and at one point we found ourselves back at the same point (bottom of the incline) after a nice ride through the housing estates!  We chose a different road which unfortunately was sending us west when we wanted to go south!  We took the first opportunity to head back in the right direction which involved a very steep downhill and, of course, the obligatory uphill too.  Steve managed to find at least three more hills for me – thanks darling, love you!!  The worst one was from Caen Golf up towards Herouville – a long drag on a very busy single carriageway road.  Steve didn’t want me to stop but it was either that or fall off!!  We were really not sure which way to go but by some quirk of fate we saw a load of flags flying (something that seems to happen in large shopping areas) so we headed towards them – not what we were looking for but it looked like we were at the top of the hill now!  Somehow we eventually ended up at Herouville St Clair Center Commercial – but unfortunately no lino shops!! We took the opportunity to pick up some lunch – bread, obligatory cheddar, salami, crisps and as a special treat – a four pack of eclairs – 2 coffee, 2 chocolate!!  Steve did comment that they didn’t feel the lightest but we didn’t think anything of it.

For the return trip we decided it would be easier to head towards the canal and follow the cycle path. Steve’s homing pigeon was back and within 5 minutes we were canal-side.  We decided to stop at one of the benches for lunch with a number of passers-by wishing us “bon appetit”.  After devouring our bread and cheese / salami, we decided to forgo the crisps and eat the eclairs.  Steve once again commented on their weight and on first bite we knew why.  We started with the coffee ones and instead of the light, fluffy cream we were expecting, they were choc-full of coffee crème patissiere.  I don’t like custard and don’t drink coffee so was surprised that I managed to eat it!  We were hoping that the chocolate one would be as expected however, as feared, it was full of chocolate crème pat. They were both pretty sickly – not sure which was worse!!  It might be a blessing in disguise as we won’t be rushing to buy anymore cakes for a while!! We managed to get back on our bikes and the trundle home was uneventful and surprising much quicker than the trip out!  As it turns out the trip there was about 15 km and the return only 8!

Steve was bored one afternoon and as I had some left over bean chilli he decided he would make me enchiladas.  For that he would need a special chilli sauce – so he took control of the kitchen and whilst I sat, reading, he started “creating”.  After a few minutes the smell (I know I should say aroma or something else pleasant) emanating from the galley was just like burnt milk, then lots of sizzling and he started choking.  I do not drink milk at all and was a bit concerned that there was going to be milk in my chilli sauce so headed to the steps down to the kitchen to see what was going on.  I started to ask “are you …..” when I also started choking.  I really don’t know what was going on but I had to get away from there (pleased that there was no milk in sight!!)  The end result was a very spicy chilli sauce, which made a lovely dinner for me!  He’s probably made enough for the next two years as he only used 2 teaspoons in my meal! Anyone for chilli sauce as a Christmas pressie?

Steve’s Recipe, adapted from one he found on the web:

Chilli Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons chilli powder

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp cumin

Vegetable stock

Method

Heat the oil, cook out the flour (preferably in an extremely well-ventilated kitchen or have a slightly cooler pan), add remaining dry ingredients (choke) then add stock stirring as it cooks until it reaches the consistency of ketchup.  Allow to cool and use as desired (at your own risk!!)

Enchiladas with avocado, salsa and tortilla chips
Enchiladas with accompaniments

On the subject of food, I think I have finally managed to work out my flour requirements.  We have purchased some OO flour to make pizza (which works perfectly) and just use the French bread flour to make my bread and rolls – as long as I make sure the dough is quite wet before I knead it, it turns out perfectly each time!!

Having purchased quite a few courgettes cheaply we were desperately trying to think of different ways to cook them.  Steve suggested a courgette quiche – initially I didn’t think this was going to be a good idea as the recipes I found suggested frying sliced courgettes before placing them in the egg mixture.  Steve though had other ideas – he thought that we could grate it, sprinkle some salt on and get rid of the majority of the moisture that way.  The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea so I made another pastry case – this time I used a loose bottomed cake tin.  I was a bit apprehensive when Steve decided to remove the case from the tin, fill with the filling and bake.  I was convinced there would be a hole somewhere in my pastry and my oven would be the recipient of messy, gooey egginess.  However, he was right and I was wrong – it baked perfectly!

Courgette & Onion Quiche

Ingredients

1 Courgette

1 Onion

1 Egg (Free range from the market – no idea of size but probably medium!)

100ml Crème Fraiche

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Cooking Salt (to extract excess moisture from courgette)

8” Pastry Case

Method

Grate courgette into colander, sprinkle approximately one heaped teaspoon of cooking salt (not the decent sea salt) on top, stir and leave over a pot (to collect the water) for as long as you want or have time for (2-3 hours ideal). You can squeeze it occasionally to aid the process.  Some may like to use a tea-towel – but only if a washing machine is readily available.

Chop one small onion, add to the now-dry courgette, and mix thoroughly-ish.  Beat the egg and crème fraiche together and add to the onion and courgette.  Remember to season using decent sea salt.  (Chef’s tip: the salt used to extract the water from the courgette isn’t enough to flavour the dish).  Steve would also have added pepper, but someone around here doesn’t like it!  Pour mixture gently into pre-cooked pastry case and bake in the oven at 180 degrees(ish) until set.  If (like us) your oven doesn’t always brown the top of your food, grill for a couple of minutes to get a nice finish.

 

We have done a few little jobs on board – the Morse (engine control) was stiff in operation so Steve wanted to remove and lubricate the cables.  He sat in his engine room for 30/40 minutes pondering why the cables ran the way they did, he then decided to take a break and have a coffee.  I could tell that something was bothering him so asked what was wrong.  He said that he couldn’t understand why the cable went to a sliding mechanism and then to another cable straight to the gearbox – as it was the sliding mechanism causing the friction.  Immediately my brain, which surprisingly was attached to my mouth, said “is it because there used to be an internal steering position?”  It was amazing to see the light bulb go off above his head and it shone so bright that I’m sure it could have been seen from the international space station! “Aaah,” he said, “of course!”  See I do have my uses sometimes.  This meant that he could re-engineer the cabling and get rid of the redundant stuff!  It has even helped to make it easier to get into the engine room and perhaps I might even be able to use the throttle now!

I must have been on a roll that week as we then decided to try to sort out the GPS feed to the VHF radio.  Originally it was fed from the GPS plotter which we had had to get changed in Ramsgate, but after the upgrade this was no longer the case.  Positive Marine would have sorted it for us but unfortunately their schedule and ours meant it was not possible at the time.  This isn’t a big issue, just that we would have to manually input our co-ordinates into the radio if we had to use it in a distress situation.  Steve was convinced that there would be some way that he could wire things up and make it work.  We spent some time testing the cables and checking out diagrams in the technical data sections of the manuals.  His first attempt resulted in a blown fuse on the Smart Pilot!!!!  He tried a few more things but soon lost patience, gave up and moved on to a much easier job – fitting a French 240 volt socket in the galley (did I say easier? That’s another story in its own right! However, he did persevere and complete that one!!)

I decided to do some research online to see if I could figure out how to do it and after asking Google some weird and wonderful questions managed to find a website that took great pains to describe how NMEA works.  After some note-making (which wire on this connects to which wire on that etc) I thought I had it so once he’d finished with his socket I suggested he try my attempt.  He followed my verbal instruction of connection “a” to connection “b” etc – and guess what – we can now get the GPS on the radio, as long as the chart plotter at the chart table is turned on – RESULT!!  Not the best result, but a good result none the less!!  Steve now has decided that he does mechanical and electrical and I am “Miss Electronics” as he (in his own words) hasn’t got a clue with electronics.

Coming next time:  Bacon, leaving our baby, Steve’s brownie points, liveaboard facts.

She’s finally allowed me to post something in MY words!

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So time to put some of my thoughts down on paper (well as close to paper that we now get, other than the selection of post-its lying around). What’s it been like, leaving a well-paid job to join the ranks of the retired folk but with no income?  Rather up-lifting actually. After either selling or giving away the last of the bits that we accumulated from years of “we need one of those”, or “that’s nice”, Monty Python always comes into my head:  “You come from nothing; you’re going back to nothing, what have you lost – nothing!”

We moved onto our home with no plans other than to go out of the marina, turn left and head south.  I had imagined that my days would be filled with thoughts of sailing, looking at the dolphins and whales and other marine type things but it has been far from that.  With no time pressure or we need to do that “because…”, we have filled our time with “what shall we do today?” or “the forecast is not as good as it was, let’s stay a while”. One of the promises we made each other was if we like somewhere then what’s the rush to move on.  This has put the brakes on how far we have travelled this year but thus far we have not regretted that decision. It’s amazing how the day can be gone before you have realised that you have not changed the world or the engine oil but that’s life and it’s OK to spend all day at the beach gathering food for that night’s tea (for me anyway).

Boat life does allow a lot of time for reflection – one of the most notable is that after 30 years of work not one of my ex-work colleagues has contacted me, a little strange or a reflection of life in the working world where the only focus is what they are doing or maybe they just didn’t like me (c’est la vie), it reminds me of the saying “put your hand into a bucket of water then remove it, the hole that remains is how much you are needed”.  To be honest I haven’t contacted them either!

Thanks to the Brexit vote we now have an exchange rate that is almost £1 to the Euro, but on the flip side my shares have rocketed, so for eight months of doing nothing we are only a few K down on what we started with, so that’s another thing not to worry about.

Strange things have come into the head like what if the monkey world had Viagra? Would there be any need for the alpha male syndrome as they only try to oust them out when they have reached their useful life’s end, is that retirement?

I do make the comment that I am not retired but just doing something else until I do.  This struck home this week when a well spoken English lady married to a French man said we “live an alternative life style”.  Hearing someone else say it was the first time that it struck home – yes, it is alternative.

I cannot speak the language of our home land (remember our home is with us at all times), don’t overly like the food, struggle to get a good curry but we have met and interacted with people and places that you read about in books, the good the bad and the ugly.

So after 8 months with the woman I married 30 years ago, being together for at least 12 hours a day in a 55 ft aluminium box we have not killed each other but have, in fact, learnt (for me anyway) that you have to take every day as a new day; plans are there to be made and broken; every day that you wake up is a bonus and doing nothing particular doesn’t matter.