Here’s the plan. \240Emma and Andrew never had a Gap year. So we’ve decided to start now later in life!
The idea is we’ll take our boat from the UK, the long way round down to Gibraltar and in to the Med and then in and around as many of the Med countries for as many years as we decide it’s still exciting. \240We only move on from where we are at a given place once we feel we’ve had enough of that place.
In the winter months we’ll leave the boat wherever she is and come back to the UK until the following spring.
We’ve spent the last 3 years equipping the boat as we want it and for a very extended time aboard. Our boat is called Verano Azul and is a 60 foot French built Prestige 550 fly bridge motor cruiser and we’ve taken her out extensively since new, to Northern France, the Channel Isles and along the south UK coast.
We’re pretty much ready now for a departure from the UK in the second half of March 2019, before Brexit day.
But, we are eagerly watching and waiting for the outcome of Brexit. If we crash out then it looks like we may only be allowed to stay in an EU country for a maximum of 90 days in any 180. We may be able to apply for an extended visitors status for six months but that appears to be on a country by country basis and must be applied for from the UK and not whilst abroad.
Today we completed and passed our First aid at sea training. Another step in our readiness to go plans. So in theory we can save lives if required when out at sea or when in marinas. It was a good day in Southampton \240& we learned a lot & only hope we don’t actually have to put it into practise😱. We have now adequately stocked up the first aid kit & added a de-fib to our inventory - just in case (because we are not as young as most gap year travellers 😂). The most important thing we learned is that securing the boat and making it safe is critical and then alerting emergency services \240before attending to any first aid incident.
Getting ready to go
Today VA has been lifted on the sealift at Haslar Marina despite the force 9 winds!! All went ok getting her into the lift and up to have her bottom cleaned, Pods serviced and anodes changes ready for our journey to the med. A small set back is that the hydraulic hose connectors for the hydraulic tail lift have completely corroded despite only being fitted last year so Ancasta are going to have to fix them quickly or visit us in Cherbourg to get the work done. Getting back into our berth was a bit challenging with the wind but we did it. I managed to do a large shop during the day so our onboard stocks are now almost complete (we have plenty of loo roll😂). It’s getting exciting. We are almost ready to depart now with just the life raft & jackets to collect & final bits & pieces to get on board. The weather at sea is looking good for next weds for our crossing to Cherbourg. ☀️.
Our Adventure Begins..........
Today we said Goodbye to Royal Clarence Marina in Gosport, our boat’s home for the past 2 years and a great place to be . We like to think of Gosport as Guildford on Sea 😂😂 - not quite but it has been great and such easy access to the Solent has enabled \240us to get lots of practise onboard Verano Azul ahead of our departure.
Today’s departure was a little premature but we couldn’t risk the UK crashing out of the EU & us not having the boat already there.
Bonjour Cherbourg - Port de Chantereyne.
An uneventful crossing of less than 4 hours which is exactly what we want. Calm seas, very little wind, few other boats (other than the expected huge cargo ships in the channel) and an easy berth in the Marina - sorted. We are paid up here for the next month & so tomorrow will clean the boat, lock her up and leave her here whilst we drive down to La Jouverie & spend a few days there enjoying some delicious French food before returning to the UK next week by Brittany Ferry.
Here are some photos of our departure this morning and arrival into Cherbourg.
Leaving Royal Clarence Marina for the last time
Last shot of the Queen Elizabeth opposite our berth
Our Marina for the past 2 years
Our adventure begins - you can see why we want to go to the Med - just look at that grey sky😀
First sight of Cherbourg 3 hours later
How very French - hotel de ville
Nav screens showing route into Cherbourg
We are back here on board VA for one night only before heading back to Caen/Ouistraham for the ferry to Portsmouth tomorrow.
VA from the inner harbour wall in the late pm sunshine.
We arrived back in Cherbourg on the ferry from Poole last night & spent our first night on board ahead of our actual departure.
The last few weeks have been hectic with final preparations and mostly catching up with as many people as we could before we left (sorry to those we didn’t manage to see but we just ran out of time!). Sphinx (our home) has been locked up & left pristine until we return. We also spent a few days in Spain to ready Banoo Villa for the summer rental market ahead of our first guests who arrived before Easter. Today we popped down to La Jouverie to store the car in our garage there, did the usual list of jobs whilst there & headed back in our hire car.
We had been hoping to head out of here on Friday 27th April however with 3+ meter waves and gale force 8 winds forecast it looks as if Sunday is a better bet to get to Guernsey. So now we have a few days to entertain ourselves here so I will post a few photos of our adventures over the next couple of days.
Our trip to the Cite de La Mer today provided hysterical entertainment as we heard how Fanny was going down with George and he might not be able to get up 😂- a very bizarre French animation with some odd translations to say the least. It left Andrew& I crying with laughter and some odd looks from French families.
Not having a car to hand is already paying dividends with 17k steps stacked up today & that is only our first day without it.
Next stop Guernsey 🇬🇬.
Andrew on the Redoubtable Nuclear Sub in La Cite de la Mer Cherbourg
The Redoubtable Sub
In the aquarium
Full rainbow tonight over the Cite de la Mer from the fly bridge
Today we are testing the trains & buses of the Contentin peninsular. Valognes is a very pretty granite town with lots of grand houses & today a lovely French market (we live a market). Sadly the Cidre & Calvados Museums are closed so no tastings for us.
From Valognes we successfully caught a bus towards St Vaast la Hougue on the coast. Unfortunately the bus driver kicked us off 4km away from our destination telling us there were road works and she couldn’t go to the village. So we had to walk with a plateau de fruit de Mer lunch as our goal because St Vaast is a huge Oyster farm & renowned for its seafood. Sadly by the time we arrived choices were sparse & to Andrews horror we could not get a full plateau and had to make do with huitres et crevettes seulement 😱 he was not happy. Anyway it was a very pretty place but we ended up with a very expensive taxi back to Valognes rather than the cheap bus to catch \240the train back to Cherbourg.
In all today we have done 22k steps - ouch sore feet and not so successful public transport experience - things can only get better!!
A small plate of oysters & crevettes with cider oh and a salad.
On the long road to St Vaast - worth the walk
St Vaast la Hougue Marina - rain was coming
Valognes back street
River in Valognes
River again - note pretty pots on right side - not sure what they are for
We are finally off today to St Peter Port, Guernsey after 5 weeks berthed here in the huge Cherbourg Port Chantereyne Marina. 2 days later than planned due to huge3+ metre waves that frankly we are not prepared to face. Today the waves should be under 2m and reducing so hopefully not too lumpy. Cherbourg has been fun but we have seen most of it now.
More when we arrive.
Our final dinner inCherbourg - Happy Andrew 😄
Verano Azul from the Harbour wall
Bloody hell - we are alive😱😱😱 after the worst ever journey from Cherbourg with huge, massive, rolling waves & swell for most of the journey. We had to put bits of Verano Azul back together on arrival but she seems to have survived the battering. As for us Andrew is aching all over and I had debilitating sea sickness & am now only just feeling human again! I don’t think either of us actually spoke for 2 hours we were so terrified 🤐.
What have we learned - definitely not to go out in Force 5 winds the day after a huge storm hit the coast. The marine weather forecast waves 1.8-2m in reality we were facing 3+ m waves and had to keep our speed right down so the journey from hell lasted for 3.5 hours instead of 2!! Never again 🤮🤢.
Anyway here is a photo of VA safely berthed in a very quiet Victoria Marina in St Peter Port. It may take us a couple of days to recover.
As you can see it’s a bit overcast but we are just happy to be here & alive
We left St Peter Port very early (5.30am!!) this morning on the high tide to get to St Sampson’s for very cheap fuel @ 56p a litre. From there we headed straight out to Roscoff, in North Brittany, a four hour, thankfully very calm & trouble free crossing. We are now very happily berthed in the very accessible Marina just by the Roscoff ferry terminal.
You might be asking why we missed out the beautiful coast of France East & South of Guernsey on this trip but it’s because we did it a couple of summers ago with Alex & Seb and got as far as Perros Guirec so decided not to do it again. Roscoff is therefore our first never visited before port on this trip & from now onwards it is all new - so very exciting.
Roscoff has already exceeded our expectations and is a charming old port town with lovely clear waters & most importantly kouign amman cakes (see photo) - the most delicious sticky, buttery cake in the world (Clearly also very healthy & not at all fattening). We walked into town & yet again have done far more than 10k steps so hopefully have walked off the cake!
Our boat here seems to be of great interest to the locals who are walking all the way up the very long pontoon to take a look, possibly because it is a French boat with an English ensign or maybe because it’s a motor yacht in a marina full of sailing yachts & fishing boats. It’s a bit odd to look out of the window and see people staring in, perhaps they are expecting to see someone famous and then they see us !!
Leaving St Peter Port early this morning
St Peter Port @ dawn
Looking out to Herm
Church in Roscoff
Across the bay from Roscoff
A kouign Amman Brittany speciality cake & a nice cup of tea \240- 😋
We enjoyed a little trip by ferry over from Roscoff to this delightful island today. Ile de Batz has 600 permanent inhabitants, white sandy beaches & turqoise seas. We took our bikes (at great expense) & cycled around the mainly car free island, enjoyed a lovely local lunch & some lovely gardens. The first photo however is last nights sunset.
Sunset in Roscoff 1st May
Garden on Ile de Batz
Top of le phare- lighthouse
Le Phare from the bottom
Pretty cove on the ile de Batz
We left Roscoff early this morning to get the best sea conditions. It was a little bit choppy as we left & worse than expected & it looked like we had a little issue with our starboard engine so a bit stressy. However after a restart of engines (hard re-boot) and we got past the ile de Batz conditions improved so we continued.
We have finally turned the corner to the west coast of France and as we did the sea turned to a lovely calm state. So the second half of our trip was far more comfortable & just how we like it. We arrived here in Brest in time for lunch. If you are following our map please note that we didn’t travel cross country as shown but did go around the coast by sea 🤔 no cheating here.
Brest certainly isn’t the loveliest of cities, it was after all bombed to smithereens for four years by the allied armies because the Germans used it as their naval base for attacking allied boats in the Atlantic. So there’s not much left of the original city at all. So not many lovely photos. It is a good marina and base for a couple of days enabling us to do jobs on the boat and fix things (Andrew loves to fix things) & apparently there is a fabulous market here on Sundays which we will be visiting tomorrow.
Leaving Roscoff this morning
Château in Brest
Ready for a night out on the town
View across the port
Another view of the chateau
The fluffy of the day 😀 intriguing
And this is the fluffy of the day
Happy bank holiday to everyone in the UK for us it’s just another Monday. Oh and we hear that the country has a new baby prince to welcome so we are keeping up with the news - just the positive stuff!!
The weather was conducive today so we said au revoir to Brest after struggling to fill up with fuel. A beautiful sunny morning as we headed out of the Rade de Brest back into the Atlantic and turned south wards down the coast. Stunning scenery all the way today with plenty of rocks to keep us on our toes. We arrived here in Concarneau about 4.5 hours later into a marina overlooking the old walled fort city. Amazing!.
We noticed that we are quite the largest boat here & were told that we were too big to berth where we had first selected and had to move but to an even better view. We expected to be here for a few days because a big storm is coming in with forecast waves of 5.3m on thurs - no no no no definitely not for us. Saturday is looking the first day we can possibly move on so we will be exploring every corner of this town and beyond no doubt.
Just some of the rocks on our way
Good bye Brest
Leaving the Rade
Spot Verano Azul 😀
So here we are sitting in the Marina through the worst storm we have ever experienced as skippers & its not very nice. Even here in the Marina we are rocking all over & stretching the strength of our ropes to their max. It’s going to be a long night again.
We have had the pleasure of Jenny & Stuart’s company though for the last couple of days which has been a lovely distraction for us. Between the rain showers and in occasional bright sunshine we have today managed to do the sites of Concarneau. When they arrived yesterday the rain meant we ended up sitting in and drinking a little bit too much wine but had plenty to catch up on over dinner. Wisely Jenny & Stuart have chosen to drive back to their home in Normandy tonight before another sleepless night of the boat rocking & rolling. Leaving us on board to sit it out and hope that the waves, wind & rain abate without us breaking any ropes or damaging the boat. Hopefully this is our first& last BIG storm & we haven’t put them off visiting us again in warmer climes.
The storm showed its face earlier than forecast and last night Andrew & I ended up getting up & dressed and going out in high winds & teeming rain at 3.40 am to add extra ropes & fenders to stop the boat from jarring so heavily. Not much sleep was had and when we finished the job we looked like a pair of drowned rats.
Tonight’s storm is due to peak at midnight & then start abating into the morning so although we may have another sleepless night we can hopefully catch up tomorrow. It will be Saturday at the earliest before we depart this marina & continue our journey southwards. Just a few hours now to ride out the worst of the storm & chalk up another experience to tell our future grand children.
Us outside the walled city earlier today
Stuart, Jenny & Andrew on the ramparts - it looks windy & it was
The old walled city just after a heavy rain shower
At the musee de peche on a fishing trawler
Looking from the ramparts down onto VA it looks surprisingly calm - it isn’t now!!