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LaRochelle’s approach dries out and can only be entered at high tide.

With the average Chateau in St. Emilion only 17 acres no plot goes unplanted.

The World Heritage village of St. Emilion.

Early morning traffic on the Spanish coast.

Part 2: Ooo La La and Deja Vu (Jean)

Monday, July 30th

La Rochelle, France 46'09N 001'09W

We arrived back to Onora last week after a fast ten day trip home for a family vacation. The weather in La Rochelle was sunny and warm and the city teemed with tourists enjoying the seaside views and historic sites. We, however, still have some repairs to do onboard, plus provisioning and all the chores to do in preparation for taking off for Spain as soon as the weather is favorable. If we could get everything done by Friday evening then we could treat ourselves to a weekend off and visit Bordeaux and St. Emilion, two of France's best known wine areas.

It's amazing what a little motivation can do and while Jim worked on the boat's "to do" list, Jeannie, in her meager high school French, made the arrangements for trains, city tours and a hotel for Saturday night. We caught the early train to Bordeaux on Saturday morning and enjoyed a peaceful 2-1/2 hour ride into the countryside. After a full day tour in Bordeaux- historic city tour, lunch and two outlying vineyards- we jumped a quick train ride to St. Emilion to spend the night. Where Bordeaux is a large busy city on the River Garonne, St. Emilion is a gorgeous village surrounded by vineyards as far as your eye can see. Winding cobblestone streets take you through the town where every other shop is a wine merchant. There is no question as to what the commodity is but how do you begin to choose where to shop?

We ate at a popular outside spot that night. It was crowded with families whose kids and babies were up quite late by our standards but were all very well behaved and accepted by the surrounding adults. After a decent night's sleep and a delicious breakfast we headed over to the visitor's center to catch the tour of the city. It was a glorious day, sunny and warm and just walking around this lovely town was impressive but learning some of the facts behind the wine history was fascinating. After the tour, our guide suggested that we visit one particular vineyard not far from town that she thought was very interesting because of the labyrinth of limestone mining caves that existed beneath the village and vineyards. It was amazing: vast, complex and a little eerie.

Before we caught our returning train, Jim ordered a case of wine from one of the wine merchants in town ("eeny, meenie") who promised delivery to the boat by Tuesday, no problem. This was crucial because, if the weather was favorable, we would leave at first light on Wednesday. This, of course, never happened. The case of wine finally arrived on Thursday afternoon and we made our final preparations to leave first thing the following morning.

At 6:00 am we slipped out of our dock and waved "au revoir" to Fabrice, the harbor master who had checked us in three weeks ago. We motored out of the old port headed for the Bay of Biscay and our next stop - Spain! There's always a sense of excitement and anticipation when heading off to a new destination, especially when it's a three day sail to another country. After the lines and fenders were stowed, Jim took his usual "look around" to make sure everything was in working order. When he came out of the engine room, he said we had a "problem" with a leaking seal on the engine's heat exchanger. We dropped the anchor in the outer harbor to assess how serious the problem might be. Good news was that we had a replacement seal onboard. Bad news was that the plate that the seal sat on was cracked and we did not have spare, therefore we would have to return to La Rochelle and to track down another plate. Bummer!

We had to wait six hours for the rising tide so that we could enter the harbor and silently slip back into our marina space. Jim dashed off to find a Yanmar dealer and I looked around at our familiar setting wondering if, in fact, we had ever really departed.

Tuesday, Aug. 7th

Underway to Bayona 45'12N 004'15W

Our setback was a brief one. Jim found a metal worker who made a replacement plate and we tested it on the engine yesterday at full throttle. No leaks or problems so this morning, once again, we passed the raised inner harbor draw bridge and headed out to the Bay of Biscay and this time we made it!

Our last weekend in La Rochelle was really pleasant as we let ourselves become tourists. We visited the sights; took long bike rides along the coastal road; shopped at the weekend market; and, just enjoyed the beautiful city around us. August is the month of the "la grande vacance" in France when almost everyone in the country takes off for their summer vacation and La Rochelle is a popular spot. It has historic sites, sandy beaches, an oceanarium and hundreds of restaurants to keep you happy and full.

Saturday, August 11th

Bayona, Spain 42'07N 008'50W

After leaving La Rochelle we had two overnight sails and, as usual, they were physically tough. Our weather was favorable and our sails were out but our bodies were not used to the four hour watches on an overnight sail. We feel sluggish and lethargic most of the time. Having good sailing conditions helped because we could spend our time in the pilot house relaxing until we needed to go on deck to change sails. On watch at night, sitting in the cockpit and gazing up at the zillions of stars in the sky is always thrilling but staying awake for your four hours is a struggle.

After two long days of downwind sailing, Jim found a great anchorage in Ria Muros, Spain. It is listed as a popular cruising port but we just tucked into a protected bay, dropped the anchor and went for a swim in the chilly but "refreshing" water. Heaven!

During breakfast the next morning we watched as thick fog rolled into the bay and eliminated our surroundings. We hoped it would lift after a while and we could leave for Bayona in clear weather but the fog persisted and so we raised our anchor; turned on our radar; kept our eyes wide open; and, took off. Sailing in fog is the pits. It can creep in really fast and totally obliterate your vision. Once in its grip, you rely on your senses to keep moving along but always with one eye on the radar screen and a knot in your stomach. So our sail to Bayona was a cautious one and thankfully, the fog cleared a few miles before the entrance into the bay.

We were here eighteen years ago on Mara but the memories are vague. There still is the castle (now a luxury hotel) on the bluff but the city is more developed with several marinas, a yacht club and hotels dotted along the beachfront. We had no need for a marina so we dropped our anchor alongside some other foreign boats in the bay and went for another swim. We took the dinghy into town and found the recommended restaurant that Jim had researched and made a reservation, their last, for 9:30 p.m. This is Spain and 9:30 is an early reservation but could we even stay awake until then? We returned at our allotted time and found that we were only the second couple there. Our waiter spoke little English, asked us how much we wanted to spend on dinner, including wine, and then he choose our dinner menu. Fish, fish, and more fish. It was fabulous and by the time we rolled out of the restaurant, around 11:30 p.m., the place was packed with lively customers.

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