Bayonne to Arcachon - Monday and Tuesday, 4 and 5 August 2003, 53 miles

Since we'd arrived in Spain, there had been harbours everywhere, with no need to sail for more than an afternoon to reach the next delightful port. However, we now faced over 100 miles of inhospitable coast up to the Gironde, with only the fair-weather port of Acachon to break the journey, Also, the forecast, lasting as long as anyone could foretell, was for light Northerlies. To add to the fun, there was a missile firing range all along this coast, but luckily it shuts for August (good time to invade France!).

We decided that the way we'd handle this was by sailing as slowly as we had to, rather than motoring, and breaking the journey at Acachon, because this was surely fair weather.

We cast off at 10:50, and motored down the river at the top of the tide into a light headwind. We called at Port Anglet, hoping to buy a Navicarte chart of Arcachon, but "desolé", the chandler was shut on Monday. This was a nuisance, rather than a problem, as the chartlet in Votre Livre de Bord was more than adequate for entry. However, we were able to fill up with water, and our offer of payment was refused. As marinas go, it looked a nice place.

As we left the river, Ann pulled out the jib while I was below stripping for a plunge. I jumped in without looking to find Razzmatazz pulling away faster than I could swim. Nice man-overboard practice for Ann!. Made sail on broad reach in F3.

13:00, mountains disappearing astern.

13:30, sea breeze filling in from North. As we passed Cap Breton, we lost soundings as we went over the trench where the ocean deep comes right inshore.

Through the afternoon and early evening, we were making 5 to 6 knots with winds between North West and North East. However, we had no chance of making Arcachon in the one tide. After midnight, the wind became Westerly F4, and we became concerned that we might reach Arcachon in the dark on the ebb. So, dropped the main and half-rolled the jib to slow down to 2.5 knots.

However, by 03:00, we were now concerned that we'd never arrive, and hoisted the main again in a F1.

The entrance to Arcachon has star rating in all the pilot books, with dire warnings about only entering 2 hours before HW in light weather. We arrived at the entrance at 07:00, 3 1/2 hours before HW. Another yacht was gilling around off the entrance. However, there was no swell, and only a gentle breeze, so we proceeded up the channel. There were no worries about depth, but the current got up to around 5 knots, which made holding the course when we only had around 2 knots of way a bit tricky. And the "zero" swell was breaking quite heavily on the banks on either side.

Anchored off le Grand Piquet at 09:30. All the inshore spots were crammed with moorings, so we had to anchor in around 8m more than half a mile offshore.

After breakfast, sleep and lunch, we dinghied ashore to land on a holiday beach full of happy people. Much to our surprise, a short walk inland took us to a parade of shops, including a chandler who sold us the Navicarte charts for Arcachon and the Gironde, and a newsagent stocking all the English broadsheets.

We then sailed gently right up the harbour to anchor in a drying creek near Arés.