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July 4, 1997

Camaret to Concarneau, France

Friday morning I think.
We're in Concarneau tonight. Chris & I came across to France yesterday, but couldn't get to Camaret so we stayed in a hotel in Brest overnight. Within about 90 minutes of arriving on board we set off, originally for Audierne but changed our minds & carried on until Concarneau. Great progress - 65 miles! Chris got seasick approaching the Raz as it was quite rough, but I didn't (thanks to Stugeron partly!). Concarneau seems quite pleasant - it has an old walled town.

July 5, 1997

Zamindar in La Rochelle

Saturday night or Sunday morning depending where you are.

I'm sitting here in the cockpit of the yacht, having a beer & reading my e-mail in the old town harbour in La Rochelle. Yes, I admit that life is good. Finally now I feel that I'm making progress. It's warm, sunny & definitely foreign here!

July 7, 1997

Looking for McDonalds in La Rochelle

Last night I started talking to a couple of French girls who were eating dinner on the pontoon beside the yacht. I offered them a beer, then later went back to ask where the railway station was. Anyway, they came on board & sat & chatted & drank beer for an hour or two & it turns out that one of them is an actress & the other, Flo, is a reporter. She takes her Sony 3CCD camcorder away to places like Nepal & Morocco & films reports & tries to sell them to television companies. I then went off looking for McDonalds on my bike, realised that it was in the next town, & then got a puncture. So I continued walking for a mile or two, then came back sans le big Mac.

July 13, 1997

La Rochelle to Arcachon

We're in Arcachon now, I'm sitting on deck with the sun going down, at anchor just west of town. Fred is lying on the settee below & Chris left this morning to head back to Guernsey. Not that I think he really wanted to though.

Fred arrived in La Rochelle early on Tuesday morning & woke me up by screaming, "Get up you lazy mother f***ker!!", through my open hatch as I lay sleeping.

I had spoken to Isotherm about my faulty (well flooded) fridge & they proceeded to send parts down to their dealers in La Rochelle until Chris (onboard mechanic & refrigeration engineer) got it working again. It's such a luxury to have cold drinks! Things seemed to be getting somewhere, & we were just about to leave for Arcachon when Chris noticed a crack on the heat exchanger in the engine. It looked like a fairly simple welding job, so we unbolted it & took it to be repaired. It wasn't long before we'd found somewhere & they asked us to come back about 6pm. We spent the afternoon getting some shopping, then I headed back on my bike to collect the heat exchanger. As I was cycling over, I tried to signal that I was turning left, got cut off by a car, lost my balance slightly & pulled back on my brakes. Unfortunately, only my right hand was on the handlebars so my front brake slammed on, causing me & the bike to somersault over. Luckily I managed to land on the grass & didn't get hurt. So off I went again, & went in to collect the heat exchanger. As he was giving it back to me, showing the weld he had did, he pointedto the end of it... I couldn't beleive it! He must have clamped it in a vice & had smashed in both ends! It was useless! I screamed at the guy in English & walked out. I returned to the yacht to find Fred & we went to the Volvo dealers to price another part. I was shocked when they told us it would cost 9000FF - almost �1000 pounds!! Anyway, after a not very happy evening, we spent the next day trying to get it repaired, failed, told the guy we would sue him, he said we had to get it analysed by a marine specialist & eventually Volvo dropped their price to 7000FF. In the end the marine specialist told us over the phone that it was corroded & would have needed replaced soon anyway, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that they knew each other. Chris, however, fitted the new heat exchanger, which Volvo remarkably had in stock (!!), & we left La Rochelle.

The trip down to Arcachon was pretty good, apart from the fact that the autopilot broke down as we left La Rochelle. This of course meant that Chris & I had to helm right through the 17 hours or so that it took us to get down here, although when Fred got up after his full night's sleep it turned out that he can helm pretty well too! We sailed quite a bit of the way down & Zamindar was storming along, breaking 8 knots at times. This, however, meant that we were too early to get into D'Arcachon Basin so we anchored off a very busy beach full of semi-naked women to wait. When we got to the marina we spent about an hour looking for a berth (which included some very nifty reverse chez moi), then we decided just to pick up someone else's bouy & spend the night on that.

July 16, 1997

Stuck in Arcachon

Chris left on Sunday and Fred went back to Paris yesterday. I'm a bit fed up today, I don't know how long Autohelm are going to take to send down the new drive unit and my acoustic coupler seems to have packed up so I can't communicate with anyone. I spoke to Teleadapt this morning and they'll send me out a new one but they don't want to send it Poste Restante. I wish I could get my e-mail and I wish I could get out of this place. I'll figure out where they can send it but I'll also try to log on one last time this afternoon.

July 18, 1997

Autopilot Replaced

Logging on that last time worked - remarkably! I tried to lower my baud rate & I increased the phone volume & somehow I�ve been managing to connect since. It�s good to be back online again; I really feel like a part of the virtual community down here. Teleadapt have agreed to send a replacement down when I have somewhere I can receive it.

Also, the local Autohelm guy came & replaced my drive motor yesterday & it seems to be working again, but he appears to have been telling them that it is a problem with my steering, so if it goes again in the future I could have a job getting it replaced again. It�s been quite a week here, all things considered. On Sunday, after I took Chris to the station, Fred & I got woken up by the Gendarmie coming alongside in a patrol boat to check my documents. That night Fred pulled a waitress & we went to a club called the Bobo Club with her & her really quite attractive dark-haired friend who payed very little attention to me & stood & snogged some other guy in a very horny way. We didn�t go out until 3am & I was standing in the club thinking...�Must close at 5am... must close at 6am...�, but no, we finally left at 7am! Knackered! A few hours after getting to bed we got woken up by customs boarding the yacht from a launch. They again went through all my documents, & finding that I did not have my registration certificate (as the yacht is currently being re-registered in Guernsey), threatened to impound the boat & fine me. I eventually persuaded them that I would get a copy faxed to them immediately, & they reluctantly agreed. They then proceeded to spend about an hour and a half searching the boat. I was naturally worried because I knew that Fred had hash on board & I didn�t know if he�d had time to put it in his pocket or not. After being asked for receipts for everything on board, they finally left. When Fred booked his train ticket later that day I didn�t try to get him to stay any longer!

I�ll be glad to get away from Arcachon, as I�ve been here a week now. Luckily we anchored so it hasn�t cost me a thing, but with the customs guys here & the fact that I want to keep moving, it�s been long enough. The tides & the firing range have to coincide properly too, which means that I need descent forecast sometime between tomorrow & Wednesday. I guess I�m not completely sure if I can rely on the autopilot now, & I�m not sure how well my acoustic coupler is working. Also, the fact that I don�t yet have the original registration certificate for the yacht means that I might have more problems. Anyway, these problems seem to be fixed at least for the moment, which is all I hoped for. I�ll get them all sorted out properly further down the road. I might have to come back to Arcachon to collect my Underwater Kinetics case from the post office here, but that�s no hardship if I can get further down the coast.

July 20, 1997

Bound for San Sebastian

I�m about 34NM NNE of San Sebastian, which I�m bound for. It�s a beautiful sunny day & there�s blue sea & sky for as far as I can see. There�s only about 7 knots of wind, but Zamindar�s moving along at 4-5 knots which is a welcome relief after running the engine all day. Feeling a bit down, and a bit bored now though; I started to feel that way earlier when I was looking at the engine & wondering how much I could rely on it, then I noticed that there is quite a bit of water coming through the stern gland now (maybe 4 drops/second?), & this worried me a bit. I�m glad to finally be bound for Spain (for the second time of course!), but I guess I do get lonely & sometimes I wonder why I�m doing this.
I miss friends too. Ged & my friends in Scotland, Chris, Mark, Dan, & my friends in Guernsey. Sometimes I feel very alone. It�s much more peaceful & relaxing with the engine off. Yeah, much nicer. Although I do feel sad sometimes, is there anywhere else I�d rather be right now? I mean I miss lots of things, but maybe I�m just not appreciating what I have. I�m glad that I�m doing this, no matter how far I get or how long it lasts, & I�m sure I�ll look back upon these times with fond memories.

I�m starting to feel better now, & looking forward to making landfall at Spain. It in itself will be an accomplishment - a whole new country to explore & cruise around. At least I can stop practising my French! Though I am still bound for there & have 32NM left to go!

July 21, 1997

San Sebastian

Here I am in Spain at last! It was quite a good trip down here, if a bit long, but it feels like an achievement to have made it. San Sebastian is really quite lovely. It's set in a bay surrounded by hills, and feels quite like Rio, partly due to the large Holy statue looking down on the town from a nearby hill. There's an island in the bay, in front of which I'm anchored, and this and the hills are floodlit at night. Some of the houses on the seafront are supposedly amongst the most expensive properties in Spain, but I sat on deck this evening having dinner and thinking, "Well, I've got a better view than all of you�". I sat and watched a Spanish guy rowing his girlfriend across the bay, something that a British guy would be unlikely to do. A passing thunderstorm lit up the sky and silhouetted towers against its light.

Today was lovely, with sunshine all the way through. The kind of days that I'm beggining to take for granted. Before lunch I dived off the back of the yacht and swam around it. I spent some of this afternoon trying to tighten my stern gland to stop the drip that was coming through. The problem was that my large adjustable spanner was too big to fit into the space that its in. Motorboats passed and increased the roll that the yacht had from the swell. Eventually I lost it and broke down crying. Something I probably haven't done for about a year. I was fed up of the mechanical problems, lonely, and at that moment had had enough. Soon it passed. I started to feel better. I left it dripping. Nothing else I could do. So I took the dinghy into town and checked my e-mail. I was having a problem logging onto the Spanish machine so I dialled up the French server across the border. I'd got a message from someone I didn't recognise... it was Kevin, mailing me from his office, where he'd just discovered a machine online. It was good to hear from him. Now I can stay in touch with almost all of my friends by e-mail. I picked up the shipping forecast; it was good. Tomorrow I would leave and head on to the next place. Although I would have quite liked to have stayed longer in San Sebastian, it was best to leave while the weather was good and before I got bored of the place. I took a seat in a cafe in the old square, had a coffee and some cake, and read through my e-mail. I liked San Sebastian with its picturesque bay and its old town with its maze of small citadel-like passages. I bought a frozen lasagne for dinner and took a walk along the seafront before I got back into the dinghy and motored back to the yacht. It was about 20:30 by this time, but it was still 25c. I appreciated how lucky I was. I had a look at the stern gland, mainly to see if it had got any worse and was surprised to see that it wasn't dripping as much. I'll see what it's like when I'm motoring though.

I feel quite contented and happy right now. Maybe crying this afternoon helped to get a lot of things out of my system

July 22, 1997

Bound for Bermeo

Bound for Bermeo at the moment, with about 8NM to go. I wanted to get some sailing done today & the forecast was for NE 3-4, but it�s been either on the nose or virtually calm since I left San Sebastian this morning. I didn�t really want to go to Bilbao very much & it was quite a long detour to get into the harbour so I thought that this place would be a nice midway stop before Santander.