Charles de Gaulle

I’m on my way back to the states, finally. I was in La Rochelle for about two and a half weeks, including a 3 day trip to Hannover to see my parents. La Rochelle has been frustrating in several ways but also extremely helpful in other ways. The main purpose of leaving the boat here over the winter is to enable Amel to do some warranty work: repaint the masts because the white paint is bubbling up in a number of places and to address some areas in the interior where the varnish hasn’t held up as one would expect for a boat of this quality. On both counts I’m extremely happy with Amel’s response - and optimistic that the work will be done right. They have apparently figured out what their original mast paint contractor has done wrong and are using a local boat yard here in La Rochelle to repaint using a better technique. They assure me that there will be no more issues. For this, the entire rig has to come down and has to be dismantled - every wire, screw, shackle, antenna, cable, halyard, etc has to come off the two aluminum tubes. A monster job but I’ve met the guy who’s doing the dismantling and reinstalling. His name is Franck and he even speaks some English. He is a rigging specialist and a boat manager who has 30 Amels under management and has been doing rigging work on Amels for many decades. He exudes confidence so I’m “tranquile”! The side benefit of having Franck dismantle and then put up the rig again is that he can do some maintenance work now due, like replacing the seals on the four furling motors for main and mizzen. He will also retune the rig to the correct settings using a large size Loose gauge.

The interior wood issue is also being addressed in a highly satisfactory fashion. The service guy Thierry who I’ve been dealing with since the boat was new came over a few days ago together with the manager of the wood production department of Amel and they presented me with a plan that will involve many, many man hours of work. Just two examples: They will replace the worn, varnished oak on the edges of the companionway steps with unvarnished teak and they will replace the worn oak fiddles around the galley with Corian. This will ensure that there will be no further issues in these areas.

So why did I say La Rochelle has been frustrating? Well, for starters, while Amel has been very responsive, some other service providers have been very unresponsive - the boating industry behaves the same way as in the US, what a surprise! But I’m being persistent because the guys whom Amel recommends all know the boats inside and out and have been working on Amels for decades or at least many years. So yesterday the mechanic who replaced the cooling liquid in my generator showed me a few tricks I needed to know if I ever wanted to do this myself and also showed me how to do the same job on the engine. He’s worked on Amel engines and generators for over 30 years!

So one thing I’ve figured out is that all the service providers apparently will not compete against one another - which explains some no shows. I had asked the AC guy who also does electrical work for a quote on some electrical stuff and he just happened to see when another Amel owner introduced me to another electrical contractor and so he decided not to come by because I obviously had found someone else to do the work - he actually told me that’s why he didn’t come. And when I asked the other contractor for a quote, there was no response - I suspect because I had told them that I had another firm bidding for the work. No antitrust enforcement in sight! But my AC still remains without refrigerant …..

Well, another key frustration has to do with the 4,000 boat marina where Kincsem is moored. The electricity is turned off on the docks every 24 hours and you have to put your key card into the machine and press a key to turn it back on! So there goes my plan to have a dehumidifier run in the boat over the winter and to have a surveillance camera and wifi leak and frost detector to get some control over what’s happening. Well, Franck recommends using chemical dehumidifiers - and I did. You also can’t send packages to the marina. What? No online shopping? Well, yes, but it’s actually not a big deal if you know how things work in France. If you order something online in France, when the merchant asks you for the delivery address, a window pops up that gives various locations - “Relays” - where you can have your package sent. In my case, it’s a 5 minute bike ride to a little electronics store that has a side business of accepting packages. It would be a 10 minute bike ride to the marina office - this marina is humungous! But what if I want to order something from SVB24 in Germany? I bet no relays are popping up! And then they restrict access for cars to the long access road to the docks - including taxis. So this morning, I had to walk for 10 minutes in the rain to get to the end of the access road where the taxi picked me up! Interestingly, the taxi takes a number of streets to the station that are access restricted - he has a clicker that lowers the barriers. But not for the docks!

Apropos taxis: Initially, it seemed impossible to get a taxi from the harbor to the train station - about a Euro 8 ride. When you search for taxis on Google, a long list of individual drivers pops up and when we first needed a taxi, we called like 10 of them and even if they answered, the answer was uniformly “pas disponible”. So all three of my crew had to walk the 25 minutes to the train station with their luggage - and so had I when I travelled to Hannover! But that mystery has now been cleared up - there is in fact a 40 taxi dispatch operation which picked me up this morning on time inspite of the rain! Live and learn. That’s one reason why I’ll be coming back in the spring!


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