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!!!

 

 

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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!