A very Royal hair-do…..

This week I will be posting some articles I wrote when we lived aboard our yacht Fandancer in the south of France over the winter of 2011.   We had sailed from Portsmouth, UK, in October 2011, via the French canals and waterways.



We took the masts down in Rouen and carried them on deck.  We travelled on the Seine, and stayed a couple of nights in the marina in the centre of Paris.   We then headed south via the Saone and Rhone, and arrived in the canal town of Beaucaire in December 2011, staying there and living aboard for 4 months…….. Continue reading


Tales of a French canal.

Here’s a boat related post I wrote almost exactly five years ago, when we spent the winter aboard our yacht Fandancer in a canal town in the south of France.

Feb 25th 2011.


We’ve been in Beaucaire for over three and a half months now.

The weather is definitely getting better; it’s forecast to be 21 or 22 next week. But we have a very big Mistral wind blowing at the moment, often the wind is over 60kph with gusts of 80 or 90 kph,so it’s very strange to have really warm, sunny weather, but a very strong wind blowing! The Mistral always blows from the North, down the Rhone valley, and people say it lasts for multiples of 3 days – either 3, 6, 9 or 12 days. We’re on about day 5 now, and the forecast is suggesting it might be gone by Tuesday. The little canal basin in Beaucaire is extremely well-sheltered; the main town is north of the canal, and then behind that is the castle on the hill. We couldn’t really be in a safer berth.

However, this morning we were woken just before 7am by one of our boat neighbours, Lennie, a nice Dutch lady who lives permanently on her boat by herself. I heard all this banging and shouting, saying she needed Tim to help her, so I woke Tim up to go and investigate. Tim got to Lennie’s boat first, and found that another smaller motorboat with no one on board, about three boats along from Lennie, had broken free from the stern ropes by which it was moored to the quay, due to the wind continually moving the boat so the rope was worn through. The boat was still moored by its bow line badly tied to a red buoy further out in the middle of the canal, and the wind had blown the boat away from the harbour wall and was trying to blow it almost a full circle (270 degrees to be exact) so the stern of the boat had swung round on a long rope and was now banging into the bow of Lennie’s boat! Do you get the picture so far?
My gallant husband launched Lennie’s dinghy, jumped into it and paddled out to the loose boat to attach a line to it so we could manoeuvre it back into its space. It wasn’t that difficult to do, and just as we were securing the boat onto the mooring rings on the quay, one of the guys from the Capitainerie (harbour master’s office) shows up. Apparently the police had phoned him at home at 0630 and said they had seen this loose boat on one of their surveillance cameras, but by the time he arrived there was nothing for him to do.

It just shows how important it is to check your mooring lines carefully, and if you leave your boat unattended for a long time, get someone to check it regularly for you. There are quite a number of unattended boats here over the winter, and we are always amazed when we walk round the harbour to see how badly secured some of them are, and how some have been neglected for a very long time. This winter, FOUR empty boats here have sunk!

Now, when I think of a boat sinking I think of it disappearing completely under the water, but it wasn’t actually that dramatic, it just means they have sprung a leak somewhere, and been taking on water. In the worst cases, they fill up with water and the bottom of the boat actually touches the bottom of the canal otherwise they probably would have disappeared. The local pompiers/firemen are called, but there is only so much they can do, especially if there the leak has been going on for some time and the boat is full of water.

Two of the sunken boats seem to have been completely abandoned, in very poor condition, and no-one was looking after them. The other two were saved, pumped out and repaired. We will definitely be getting someone to check on Fandancer regularly for us when we leave her for a couple of weeks when we head back to England later this month.


Four years ago ….

When we lived in France for six months on our boat, I kept a diary.

This is what I wrote four years ago this week…..


Yes, I know minus seven isn’t the world’s lowest temperature, and I know you have probably encountered things being much worse, but this is the south of France and it’s not supposed to be this cold!
There is a strong Mistral wind blowing, with gusts of over 100kph, pretty strong! This is making the temperature feel much lower. The whole of France is suffering, the evening news consists mainly of snow reports from areas of France. At least we haven’t had any snow here, and I still think we are in the area which has been least affected by the bad weather.
Monday night was pretty bad – the canal had begun to ice over, I’ve never seen such a thing before, and with the high winds, chunks of ice were bashing into our boat during the night, making it feel and sound like we had hit a huge iceberg, terrible scraping noises, creaking ropes, things blowing over on deck. Didn’t sleep a wink!

Yesterday afternoon it was blue skies and the temperature was above freezing and we thought the ice was definitely melting, but then last night the low temperature came back with a vengeance, and it all re-froze, so this morning when I looked out of the aft window from my cosy bed, it looked like the whole canal had frozen solid, although it was not that thick in places.

I bravely emerged from my cosy duvet as I was due to do the local Radio Beaucaire broadcast at 9.30, so I thought I would nip out to the Boulangerie first. It was only 4 degrees in the saloon on Fandancer, but minus seven outside!
Now when I say ‘Radio Beaucaire’, I don’t want you to be thinking that this is anything like local radio; basically, the boaters turn their VHF radio to Channel 77 at 9.30am ever morning, and people who volunteer to be the net controller for the day make some announcements for about ten minutes. I can’t remember how I foolishly volunteered to do one day a week. All I have to do, is ask if anyone has any emergency or medical needs, I look up the weather the evening before on the internet, I have to ask if anyone wants a lift anywhere or has a spare seat in a car, and whether there are any social events, things people want to give away, if anyone needs help tracking down engine spares, you get the drift. Hardly anyone ever joins in.

Sadly I don’t get to play any jingles or music. But I have tried to inject a little more interest into the broadcast than what is normally heard; I told the listeners the maximum and minimum weather temperatures in the world, (38degC in Perth, Australia, and minus 37deg in Fairbanks, Alaska); I tell them the exchange rate for their euros, and sometimes I throw in a few interesting Fandancer Facts – eg; did you know that the average Frenchman eats 45lbs of cheese a year, and that Beaucaire is on the same longitude as Stavanger in Norway, and the same latitude as Toronto.
At the end of the broadcast, those boats who have been listening in, normally say thanks to the net controller, ie, me; and I think there must have been the huge total of six replies this morning! Phew, the dizzy heights of stardom. Sometimes I even get recognised in the street!