Arrived in La Rochelle

My 2021 Cruising Plan Atlantic Circuit shows us arriving in La Rochelle on August 5 and viola, here we are, on time! Like the German Bundesbahn, not like Amtrak! You'd think it was easy but it wasn't. We had a lot of upwind sailing over the 1,380 miles from Ponta Delgada and often somewhat light winds. It's a testament to Kincsem's design and the hard charging crew that we averaged 7.3 knots over the 1,350 mile trip with only a few hours of motoring.

After a couple of days, the days started blending into one another and everyone settled into a routine. We ran 2 hour watches at night, and 4 hour watches during the day. The result was that every night, everyone had a different watch, 2 hours earlier than the night before. But most importantly, with 2 hours on and 6 hours off at night, there was a lot of time to lie in your bunk - although sleep was sometimes difficult to come by because of a confused sea state.

Logbook entries are made, at a minimum, at the beginning and end of each watch

Course La Rochelle, finally

Rig inspection by binocular

Most days we did not see a single ship (Mora calls them friends) but we saw dolphins a couple of times. No orcas, though! I guess there were a few highlights. The first one was crossing the shipping lane around Cape Finnestere, which is about as busy as Gibraltar. The ships were actually spaced well apart but with AIS you see so many of them coming at you because AIS can see much farther than the eye, that your heartrate can go up substantially. This can make you feel like you're playing pinball, as Kerry calls it. But ultimately everything was ok and we did not have to take any avoiding action or ask any other vessel to take avoiding action at all!

However, the next morning we had a fishing vessel get very close to us. If fishing vessels are actually fishing (then they're going slowly), they have the right of way over sailboats which means we have to sail around them. If they are not fishing (then they're going fast), however, a sailboat has the right of way. If they come too close, we respond by calling them on the VHF and asking them to please stay away. The problem is that the captain of a Spanish or French fishing vessel typically does not speak English so they often don't respond at all to a VHF call in English. This one said "je ne comprend" but then one of us heard "ok" - and in fact, he turned around us with just a few hundred meters separation. Skipper back to the bunk!

The second was the Southwesterly coming up early in the Bay of Biscay when we hooked into one of the lows coming across the Atlantic. The autopilot - now named Maximilian or Max if he behaves well - was given a break and everybody enjoyed spirited sailing in up to 30 knots of wind with full white sails up, a good upper body exercise! This is when the new record for Kincsem of 13.6 knots was created!

The third was the fishing fleet just outside La Rochelle - which of course tried its best to interfere with our course and of course in the early morning hours. It's interesting to note that most fishing boats nowadays have AIS but of course, it's the ones that don't which are on a collision course with you! So the rule aboard Kincsem is every 20 minutes get your head outside "the Bubble" - the enclosed cockpit - and turn the radar on to look for bogeys.

So this morning early we jibed for the La Rochelle entrance some 40 miles away and with a nice following breeze sailed all the way in to just a few hundred yards from the harbor. The last excitement was that the engine did not start for the first time - ever. Luckily, JM worked out quickly that it was just a button pressing issue - one of the buttons had already been pressed - and got it going quickly. Within minutes thereafter we tied up to the docks of Amel, where Kevin, Nicki's favorite Amel employee and our trainer when we took possession of the boat in 2016, took our lines.

The forest of masts at the Les Minimes Marina in La Rochelle - 4000 boats!

We're moving to the old harbor

According to the log, we've covered 13,849 miles since Kincsem was launched in 2016 but I think the actual number is a bit higher.

We covered 3,224 miles in our little Atlantic circuit, over 23 days. More than a standard East to West Atlantic crossing! I feel very fortunate that we were able to get all this sailing and exploring in with Covid 19 raging everywhere around us!

Next will be a fall cruise on the West Coast of France, i.e. Bretagne, Loire and Charente, Covid permitting. There will be no sailing overnight and the aim will be to discover as many French restaurants and wines as possible!


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