Archive for December, 2009


Posted in Fun on December 21, 2009 by maidofmettle

Here is a little virtual card for everyone watching the blog…

Enjoy a snippet of our journey so far.  Just press the big triangle in the middle of the video box to play the video.   Put the sound on your computer to enjoy it fully.

The crew of Maid of Mettle wish you all a happy Christmas and New Year holiday!  Caroline is looking forward to seeing some of you briefly over the holidays and Pete and Chris send their love.

Hello the Med – First sail

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Mediterranean Sea on December 19, 2009 by maidofmettle

We left for the sea after putting up the sails and sorting out stowing everything.  It seems like there is even more stuff to find room for than we left England with though this cannot be true because we haven’t bought all that much and the wind vane boxes have now been thrown away.

Anyway, whilst getting all this ready it snowed at Port St Louis!


The snow cleared up pretty quickly leaving blue skies and a nice looking weather window to sail towards Port de Bouc (near Martigues) for a couple of hours.  The “where are we now” map has been updated according to the season and the fact that bizarrely the arrow mysteriously went missing when we were taken out of the water.  It’s almost as if it knew…

We are here...note the christmas decorations and new arrow!

The sail was quite windy and there were a lot of ships about in the Gulf du Fos making it a bit tricky to navigate.  Added to this was the fact we were working only from the maps in the pilot book…not ideal but did the trick at avoiding anything nasty.

sailing again

We are now holed up in Port de Bouc because it is frighteningly windy with forecasts for today of force 8 with nasty gusts.  The wind is currently howling through everything but looks set to calm down a bit tommorow when we might move somewhere else.   In the meantime we can do some of the more mundane things like washing and drying clothes (trying to make sure they don’t blow away) and I am considering writing a new exercise programme based on Tilley lamps as we have had to use it a lot to keep warm.  Keeping the pressure high enough to make it burn all day is quite tiring.

The damage and recovery

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Photographs on December 15, 2009 by maidofmettle

We are now in Port St Louis du Rhone fixing some of the “little scratches” we picked up in Cruas and doing a few other things before we can head out into the sea for real.  Had the boat not been made of steel I think there’s a chance we could have sunk.


There were lots of grazes like these all along the bottom of the keel on both sides.  Luckily the damage really only went as far as the paint with the exception of the odd dent but nothing too drastic.

However, as metal has a habit of going a bit rusty we have had to grind the areas around the scratches to bare metal and then re-apply an awful lot of paint over the last week and a bit.   This has been no mean feat given the strong (not to mention cold) Mistral wind that blew up a day after we arrived and doesn’t seem to have given us all that much respite.  The temperature inside the boat hit a new low of 3 degrees yesterday morning whilst outside was (colder than England) below zero…Getting up and out in the morning has been difficult.

For the  the last  days we have been working hard.  Chris fitted the windvane, which will act as another crew member (I’m told and am looking forward to getting it to do the steering) and I did lots of painting, whilst Pete continued the battle against mold that was started some time ago. We need to move somewhere warmer so that we can win the eternal battle.

The windvane

nearly the final coat!

Although the Mistral seems to have come back yet again today,  yesterday it stopped so the nice people at Navy Service were able to plonk the boat back in the water and put the mast up 🙂

The mast back where it should be

This means we should be able to get out into the sea, just as soon as the wind starts behaving a bit better, and head towards Marseille.  The prospect of sailing in force 6-7 or more with the wind chill is not making any of us feel very enthusiastic to be honest so I hope the locals are correct in telling us that it is unusually cold here at the moment and that we can get going soon enough.

I’d better get back now to help set up all the sails and boom and bits and pieces before we try to leave.  It’s very windy now but looks set to get better in the next day so we may only have to suffer the boat rocking about in the wind and howling noises for another evening here with any luck.


Posted in French canals and rivers, Photographs, Unfortunate events on December 5, 2009 by maidofmettle

Cruas has a lot to see…A nice castle and medieval village, lovely views over the hills and a hidden island underwater.  We spent a bit too much time at the underwater island the other day…

We drove into a nice marina in a little place called Cruas the other evening in the dark, being very careful to avoid the relevant bollards and bouys.  It was all very nice and we even spotted one of these…maybe…We didn’t take this photo though.  It was dark and we didn’t have a camera on us at the time.

Was it a beaver or was it a coypu?

The next morning we did an early start to get to Avignon by dusk…or so we thought.  The engine was started and casting off went well.  We left only 5 minutes before we had intended which was a bit of a result.  Having talked through the leaving bit the night before we head off with the advice from our previous conversation still fresh…”Just make sure you keep the bouy to your right and stay to the left of the big red pole”.  Ok, sorted so out we went.

So, we followed the plan avoiding the yellow bouy (keeping it firmly to the right) and stayed to the right of the big pole and headed at an angle towards the channel.  The depth seemed quite low but remembering that it had been quite shallow on the way in it was not a worry.
Suddenly….BANG (The kind of metalic bang that makes you feel a bit sick), big lurch forward and then whoosh as we turn swiftly, heeling over to the right.  ‘This is not good’ I am thinking.  I actually thought the boat was going to roll over and we would lose the mast and ourselves into the river which was running pretty fast, taking two of our petrol cans away with it.  The boat was now heeling such that the white toe-rail was nearly touching the water! I climbed over to rescue our last remaining petrol can except for the one attached to the motor (which thankfully I’d refilled before leaving).  Not that the motor was going to get much use that day after all.

boat on side

So now we’re stuck and looking like there’s no immediate chance of being able to drive off whatever we just hit and the current is pinning us there.  The others checked for water and thankfully there was none visible inside the boat or out of the bilge pump so we were hopeful that the situation couldn’t get much worse by the boat threatening to sink or anything so what now?!  Our world had been shifted and it was a bit confusing.

The leaning tower

By some miracle, a man was sat at the entrance of the harbour fishing and probably saw it all.  By now we had resorted to the foghorn SOS blasts because we mistakenly thought there was a barge or small boat coming up the channel.  Turned out it was a pontoon where they shoot ducks from but you can really easily convince yourself otherwise when you’re stuck in a river.  Fortunately he had phoned for help for us and fairly shortly afterwards we saw a car with flashing lights and a man shouting something incomprehensible in French at us.  I tried waving the radio at him but we were probably too far away for him to see it and we didn’t really know the correct radio frequency to use on inland water.

Nice place for grounding

Though I didn’t see it, apparently half of the left-hand side of the boat’s contents flew onto the floor on impact so we spent a while picking all that up and putting it out of the way.

So eventually we see a boat being launched from Cruas marina and it turns out to be the Pompiers (French firemen) who tried their hardest to help us move the boat but are not allowed to tow people because of insurance…I couldn’t believe it when they said that.  They did however offer to dive in the icy water to check what damage we had and how we were stuck so that was useful and revealed that there wasn’t a whopping big hole in the boat.  One of them (who apparently was half man, half bear on account of his strength we were later to find out) even rescued a rope and some other random stuff (including a chunk of paint –ouch!) we had lost overboard so that was good.

The pompiers diving to assess damage

After they’d checked for damage they helped us lay an anchor to try and winch us off and back into some free water.  This was tried several times with varying amounts of bombing up and down to create waves in their boat before finally realising that this was not going to work and that we would probably have to wait for a tow.  Clearly wanting to help, they even had a go at pushing us in a last ditch attempt but that didn’t work either.  I must admit it was quite fun driving around with them in their boat acting as French speaking translator to the boat but the novelty wore off when I realised this was probably not going to work.

Trying to haul off the island via anchor and waves

Earlier, I had been taken round to the captain of the port on his boat had told me that they could give me a couple of numbers of people who “might” be able to help us that evening or the next day…”Might” is not what you want to hear when something like this happens but we had no choice.  Not being all that sure whether they were actually going to help us the next day (having originally thought they’d said someone would help at midday the same day) we were a tad worried…it all became a bit clearer later.

I rang about a million people trying to find someone to tow us away sooner than tomorrow but noone could help…The prospect of staying on the boat tilted far over for the rest of the day and the night in the hope that someone “might” help us at midday the next day was a bit stressful.  We rang one of the numbers, a Mr Reynaud who said “there is no pilot for the boat today” and that “someone will be with you tomorrow between 12 and 2”.  This was established after rather too many phone-calls to him and doubting my french another phonecall from Pete’s French friend just to make sure it was actually happening…

We saw the day and evening pass by with views of the power station.

Cruas power station

The night was not nice…we had to keep watches just in case by some miracle we got free and floated away.  The person on watch had to sit on a seat sloping the wrong way so you had to wedge yourself against the table for an hour and a half at a time.  We were also concerned that the wind might increase or it might start raining and make the water level in the river rise.

At about 12.10 the next day halfway through eating someone arrived, including Mr Pompier from the day before 🙂 yay.  To cut a long story short they tugged us off the thing after several attempts and more sickening bangs and scrapings and then through some more clear water followed by another bang and scrape and oooh dear, this is worse than the first time (well not quite) They towed us to the marina through the way we’d come when we’d arrived..  Incidentally it turned out that was not the correct way so we were very lucky not to hit anything on the way in.

When we got back and found out that our rescuers did it all voluntarily, that we were one of about 10 boats a year that have done that and that they didn’t expect any money for helping us.

Spent a really nice half day going “phew…” exploring Cruas and eating in the campsite restaurant where we were the only people there and our dinner was ready and waiting for us on the table having booked in a few hours before.

Chris in Cruas medieval town

Where's Pete?

View over Cruas

We then made the day trip we intended to Avignon, including getting through the largest lock in the Rhone (22m)

Big lock

Motoring down the Rhone -Just worked out how to put videos on

Off to Port St Louis soon…pretty much at the Med…