Monday 5th September
When we arrived at Allemand, the crane was already in position with the straps in the water, so we just docked the boat in the little lifting bay right on the river, narrowly missing having the anchor which was on the front of a boat parked at right angles to the quay, score the paintwork of our back cabin as we went in. I had to rapidly leg it down the gunwhales to push us away. We wouldn’t fancy having to touch up the green paint, as although we’ve got the right stuff, the old paint has weathered to the point where any patch-ups are very visible.
As the crane lifted Désormais out of the water and started to cross the road, a guy with a weird orange trike was packing stuff away onto his bike. The crane operator, who works like a demon all the time, asked him to move his trike so the crane could start bringing the boat across the road, stopping the traffic on the way. The biker said he would, and then casually finished packing his bike, carefully putting his helmet on and finally putting on his gloves, smoothing out each finger as he did so. So the crane operator just started crossing the road towards him with Désormais dangling above him, which seemed to concentrate the biker’s mind and accelerate his pace a tad.
We were craned out within 15 minutes, and settled in our spot by 4.00pm, luckier than others. Lili Ann wasn’t craned out until 7.30pm, and the other couple, whose anchor had narrowly missed our boat, were not craned out until next morning. We are on the perimeter of the boatyard, next to the road and only a few yards from the river, with nice views.
We found some old acquaintances at the chantier. Dave and Moira from Clara Stark were already in the middle of a long stay, and Clive and Di from Harvink, moored at Vias, called to pick up some spares and introduce us to their new dog Oliver. We had a quick beer with them. They have made quite a few improvements to their boat this season, and it’s on the Apollo Duck website if anyone is interested.
We were absolutely dog-tired, having had a fairly frantic and at times stressful day, so just a quick salad for our evening meal, watched a couple of programmes on the TV and then in for an early night. The satellite signal here is good, and the internet connection also strong, we’re getting 3G compared with 2G at Villeneuve lesBeziers.
Tuesday 5th September
We have a great position on the site.
We were woken at 3am this morning by the fishing fleet setting off down to the sea. The chantier is only about 7 or 8 minutes walk from the sea. I walked down there first thing to get the bread. There is a market place, lined with shops on all sides, with everything that you could want – a couple of supermarkets, poissonerie, boucherie, 2 boulangerie’s and a pharmacy. The market seems to be on just about every day, and the Spar supermarket is open 7 days a week.
Graham (Lili Ann) has rigged up a series of steps, planks and ladders to make it easier to get Rosie, who is no lightweight dog, on and off the boat. Another couple here have two dogs on board, but they still get regular walks despite the lifting necessary.
Neville set to pressure washing the boat quite early. He’d hired Allemand’s pressure washer as it’s more powerful than the one we’d brought with us. You get four hours use, though we’re not sure how much it will cost. Allemand had given us a contract to open an account, so I guess everything will go on that and we can recoil in horror/amazement at the end of the week.
There’s one patch on the bottom of the boat, about two feet by 10 inches, where the epoxy two pack coating has come off, but by and large the bottom is not looking bad at all.
It’s not clear what you do about your grey water waste. One person said he’d fitted a hose and pumped it out to the drain in the centre of the yard, but I did see a number of boats where the water was just coming out at odd intervals. I’d heard some people say that they used old barrels which were lying about, positioning them under their grey waste outlets, but we couldn’t find any. One or two have buckets. Neville has fitted up a hose from the shower outlet so we can have a shower in peace of mind, and at first I took the washing up water to the bathroom to pump it out. Once he’d started pressure washing there was so much water around I just let the kitchen sink water out, as and when.
We’d quickly bagged a set of proper hand-railed steps, securing them to the boat so they couldn’t slide away, so we can get on and off quite easily.
Neville worked all morning, absolutely soaked to the skin from the spray, and covered in green slime that had been blasted from the bottom of the boat. In the afternoon we both spent a while wire brushing off loose paint and any remaining algae.
We discovered that we could get an internet connection, which was really good news. This might not be the case all over the site, but where we were, it worked fine.
It remained hot right through till mid evening. We took a walk down the river to the sea, and a short way along the front. There are plenty of restaurants down there for those who don’t have a car with them, but we’ve heard that the ones further back towards the centre, on the river, are better. We enjoyed a glass of wine before dinner, enjoying the view across the river as the sun went down in a golden glow.
It’s amazing just how many boats they can fit on this site. Just when you think it’s full, they manage to squeeze another one in. An old barge was put into the space between us and a yacht, with only the space of a set of ladders in between us. If you look at the photo (above) of where we were positioned by the side of the road you can imagine how tight it would be to have another boat parked between us and the white yacht. We just hoped he wouldn’t want to be power-washing whilst we are bottom blacking.
Wednesday 7th September
Mixed up half of the epoxy two-pack paint and did the first run along the boat bottom. We weren’t doing a full coating as it’s only three years since she was last out of the water for blacking, but even so it spread further than we’d imagined, and we were able to do some cosmetic touch-ups in addition to the essential knocks and grazes we’ve incurred over the three years.. The weather was cool to start with but then began to heat up and at this point, about an hour and a quarter after starting, the paint began to thicken markedly. We just about finished before it got really difficult.
Late yesterday afternoon a large hireboat had been nosed up the river by another smaller boat from Le Boat. We’ve seen several of these around this season; they really are bigger than the normal run of the mill hireboats, quite luxurious, three or four bedrooms running off a side corridor and very impressive saloon areas. In an effort to protect their investment, I suppose, Le Boat have had reinforced fibre-glass triangular ‘noses’ fixed to the bow of each of these beautiful boats. This one appeared to be a fairly early casualty in the range.
When it was lifted out, everybody just stood round in amazement. What a sight underneath! Whatever it had hit, had sheared off one of the stabiliser fins that runs a beneath the boat, and the heavy duty cage that protects the prop had been shunted sideways and backwards to the extent that it was fouling the prop. Men from Le Boat were there, taking photographs, and we suspected that someone, somewhere has lost a fairly hefty security deposit. This really was a top of the range boat.
Not all inexperienced hire-boaters get to see the damage that reckless speeding can cause; this would have been a salutary lesson. A fellow boater had told us that he’d had to pull a hireboat off the canal bank earlier this week!
Thursday 8th September
Started work early and used up the rest of the epoxy two pack. We’ve had very good coverage out of one can. Now for re-varnishing the wheelhouse.
Neville had an unexpected repair to do in the back cabin. He’d gone in there in the early morning, saying I was snoring, (as if!), and discovered that the loo in there wouldn’t fill with water. He could hear the click in the panel when he pressed the button, and eventually decided it must be the solenoid, which he took out. It was all gunged up with calcium, and after cleaning, it was back in perfect working order. It’s a good job he’s handy!
Everyone we know who has used this boatyard has only good things to say about them, so it’s come as something of a surprise to find a couple for whom the experience has not been so positive. These people left their boat here back in May to have some work done. They’ve returned, expecting to start cruising and found that the work hasn’t been completed. The hull had been sandblasted but the boat not properly prepared and the grit had got everywhere inside the boat. For some reason the propeller had been coated in epoxy, and the rudder articulating mechanism also, so that it now doesn’t move separately.
They were not happy people and now, having flown all the way from America and driven from Toulouse, they were busy doing the work they had hoped would have been completed in their absence.
On reflection, we’ve realised that nearly all the people we know have actually done the work themselves, using the excellent facilities available. It’s so handy to just pop into the shop for whatever you need.
Friday 9th September
Settled the bill today and booked ‘mise a l’eau’ for Monday morning. Putting in and out of the water for our 16 metre boat cost 163 euro each time. Hire of the pressure washer for 4 hours was 39 euros. There was an item ‘Calage beateau’ at 43 euros which we believe was the positioning of the boat on the stands. All in all, not a bad price we believed. We’ve paid far more than this for cranage.
Went to the Super U big store this afternoon with Graham and Jean in their car. Such an advantage to be able to buy the heavy stuff in bulk. Stocked up with milk, water and of course, the inevitable wine.
Graham had spent the morning painting Lili Ann and she was looking very smart indeed. But by the time we got back to the boat yard after shopping, a yacht had been lifted out of the water, placed beside his boat and someone was power washing the bottom. All the spray was going on Graham’s paintwork which was not yet dry. This is the trouble when the yard is as full as this, people who are painting don’t want people spraying or sanding close by and there doesn’t seem to be much of a system for regulating who gets placed where.
Yet another very hot day, 29 degrees.
Saturday 10 September
An uncomfortably humid night last night, even though we’d had the aircon on before going to bed. It’s too noisy to leave on during the night so we were tossing and turning, before waking to an overcast day.
The boatyard sprang into action early. Mandy, the neat little steel cruiser close to us was ready for going back into the water. She was looking really good, and the French couple on board had worked extremely hard throughout the week.
The young guy working on the old barge parked next to us has been continually grinding away at the rusty hull of his boat for three days now, and we’re so close the noise is very wearing. The dust from this process seemed to reach crisis point today, covering all the surfaces in our boat, and getting in your nose and eyes. A bit of rain to dampen the atmosphere would be great.
The hustle and noise of the boatyard continued all day today. Saturday is just another working day here, and boats were in and out of the water and being ferried all over the site throughout the day. How that crane operator works out which boats he will put where I can’t imagine. Sometimes he has to pull boats out of position to get other boats past them to their allocated spaces, and he has three or four different craning vehicles for the different sizes of boats.
And not a hard hat or a pair of safety boots in sight!
Sunday 11 September
There seemed to be a lot of dust from the boat-grinding job inside our boat during the night, and being humid again, it was an uncomfortable night. Dusted and hovered to lessen the dust, in the morning, and Neville polished the boat with Autoglym but then later on the guy started grinding again.
Overcast, humid morning and we cycled down to the thriving market which has been on every day this week since our arrival.
Lili Ann is staying an extra day, since they lost a day by not being craned in until Monday evening. Graham and Jean have painted her now and she looks very smart. They have bought stick on transfers with her name on, and they look very good indeed. Almost like professional signwriting, each side of the bow and across the back. You’d never know the difference. They are planning to put the boat up for sale shortly, but are in no rush to sell.
Around 4.30 we had to ask the guy next door to give us a break from the grinding, explaining that we’re leaving tomorrow and wanted to clean the boat yet again. Apart from the noise the entire boat is covered in black dust, inside and out, and we’re physically very uncomfortable, with sore eyes and prickly skin. We shut the windows to stop any more dust getting in, but it’s so hot.
In the evening we walked into the resort area by the mouth of the river and ate at Zoulous with Graham and Jean. Neville had prawns, Jean and Graham had Sea Bass and I had mussels. Nice meal, 71 euros in total with three carafes of rose, bread, water and one dessert. We’ve paid more and had worse.
Monday 12 September
We were up early on the off-chance that Henri might want to get us out of the yard promptly. He started the process just after 8.00 by moving a yacht out onto the riverside standing. Into the newly vacated space he put the rusty barge that had blighted our last days on the site. Then, just as it seemed he might be bringing the big crane across to us, a lorry load of steel arrived and he waved it round the back of the factory, disappearing for a good twenty or thirty minutes. Back on the job once more, he brought the big mobile crane and positioned it over our boat. Just as he was about to fix the straps beneath the boat, a customer arrived, exchanged warm greetings and then off they went into the factory for half an hour and were last seen chatting and examining a boat under construction. We were hanging around off the boat, having removed the steps and in the end Neville went and stood with them until they finished their conversation. And then, within minutes, we were safely in the water, an hour and a half after the process had started.
Moira (from Clara Stark) had arrived with her dogs, and she and Jean waved us off as we drew back out of the cranage bay. Graham was busy applying anti-fouling to the bottom of Lili Ann, but came across for a final goodbye. We were now off on the next stage of our travels.