5th – 10th September ~ Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie

5th September – Passage to St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie 

It was now time to move on to pastures new!  We thoroughly enjoyed our time on Île d’Yeu and as I say always it is a privilege to sail to these lovely spots!

We only had a short trip to our new destination, about 19 nautical miles and so we left soon after midday.  We made our way out of the marina at Port Joinville towards the Mayence north cardinal mark before setting our course ESE to the Pilours south cardinal mark off the leading line into the port of St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie. 

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The current in the river can run at 6 knots!!

Because of the wind angle, we flew the No.1 genoa and decided against the mainsail but still managed to achieve an average of 5.5 knots over the trip.  We needed to arrive on a rising tide and as the weather forecast wasn’t too good for later in the day, this sail plan seemed the best option.  And it was too!!  We arrived at nearly high water and as predicted in the pilot book, the entrance waters were fairly rough but once inside the port hand harbour wall it all calmed down and we motored up the winding river to the marina.

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The long pontoon 8 for visitors!

St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is a combination of two towns either side of the River Vie.  It is a commune in the Vendée department of western France in the Pays de la Loire and is situated on the Côte de Lumière.  On the north side of the river is the fishing port, Croix-de-Vie, which is the largest fishing port in the Vendée  known for it’s sardine fishing. On the south side of the river is the seaside resort of Saint-Gilles with it’s massive beach, La Grande Plage, which you can see from a long way out as your approach! 

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An aerial view of La Grande Plage with the marina too!

In 1967 the two communities were officially  joined to become one commune, St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie which is classed as both a fishing port and a seaside resort. As well as the beautiful beach there are many hotels, restaurants and opportunities to take part in all kinds of water sports.

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La Grande Plage St-Gilles with the port entrance in the distance.

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A point of interest for us sailors is that Saint-Gilles is famous for being the  site of the original factory of the famous Bénéteau Boats!  Their design by naval architect Benjamin Bénéteau and their manufacture began in 1884!  Originally the boats were just fishing boats but this has developed hugely and now Bénéteau are the world leaders in the mass production of sailing boats and there are now no less than five factories in the Vendée producing them.

The instantly recognisable Bénéteau Logo

We had some very windy and wet weather to deal with on a couple of days and so we were ship-bound taking the opportunity to do some boat jobs together with food shopping and laundry! Not good for sight-seeing as we had discovered that there were some good cycle tracks to explore and some beautiful walks, none of which we did mainly because it wouldn’t have been fun and also Alan wasn’t that well with a nasty cough/cold and he needed to be fit for his trip back to UK!

Look at the mud!!  That’s better, the same shot at high water!

The visitors pontoon has quite narrow channel on the approach and when the tide drops it is easy to see why the marina staff get quite excited if you stray too far to the right in the buoyed channel  It was a tight turn for us but we managed and brought Musetta safely alongside!

7th September –  La Roche Bernard to collect Alan’s car!

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La Roche Bernard

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One thing we needed to do was to go to La Roche Bernard where we had left Alan’s car and drive it back to St-Gilles ready for him to get himself back up to St Malo on the Sunday to catch the ferry to Portsmouth! He had another week or ten days in UK for business meetings. We hired a car from Super-U in the town and so we set off on the Thursday for the River Vilaine. 

We drove past this shrine in a place called Saint-Gervais en route! Bizarre?!

Our Dutch friends Co and Jopie were in Foleux, a little way on up the river from La Roche Bernard, laying-up their boat for the winter and so we arranged to meet and have lunch together.  It was good to see them again and we enjoyed a very nice lunch in the old part of town. 

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Enjoying a galette with Co and Jopie!

Friday 8th September

As we had a guest arriving on Saturday, we had to make sure that Musetta was ready and so one of the tasks we have been meaning to do for a while was to find homes for ‘stuff’, necessary or otherwise somewhere other than the forward cabin!  It was surprising how we managed and of course came the inevitable question, why hadn’t we done it before?!!

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Magic! All ready for our guest!

Saturday 9th September

Rather than sit and wait for Alan to return I was able to have a week of tuition on board Musetta.  I knew that I was in much need of refreshing my chart work skills and it was an opportunity to spend the week with a friend of ours and do some more sailing. Luckily for me Lara was available and so it was arranged and we picked her up from Nantes airport on Saturday evening.  Alan left on Sunday morning and Lara and I made a plan…..!!! 

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Lara Caine

More of Lara in my next post and in the meantime…

À Bientôt!!

St Gilles Coix de Vie is truly a jewel on the Vendée’s Atlantic coast.

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