La Bonne Anse to St Dennis de l’Oleron – Thursday, 14 August 2003 – 33 miles

Went shopping early so that we could escape on the morning ebb. Raised the anchor and motored out with the stores chucked anyhow in the cabin at 10:00.

Once outside, we found a Westerly F3, initially on the nose, and with quite a choppy wind-against-tide sea. The skies were grey, and it was cooler than of late. We followed the channel to buoy 6, when it looked as if we were outside the breakers on the Banc de la Mauvaise. Headed North West for the North of the Ile d'Oleron, across the bank in around 8m. There was a fleet of fishing boats to seaward, presumably on the edge of the bank.

The wind increased to F4, to give us a fast passage in quite choppy seas. Inshore, we could sea the Pertuis de Maumusson, which we had considered entering. All the books, and Tom Cunliff in a recent Yachting Monthly article, warn against it as dangerous in anything other than a calm just before HW. This was almost sufficient reason for taking it! However, it isn't actually very useful. The convenient time to leave the Gironde is obviously LW or earlier, so that the tide sweeps you out of the estuary, so that you arrivetoo early for the Pertuis de Maumusson. And if you do go in just before HW, you find a hostile current just inside from the water sweeping round Oleron.

Anyway, today we had an onshore F4, so the entrance probably would be really dangerous, so we kept going. At 13:40, we passed la Cotinière, a very exposed fishing harbour on the West coast of Oleron, and at 14:40 rounded Antioch, the North point of Oleron. A 7 mile run then took us down to St Denis d'Oleron. St Denis has visitors buoys miles out to sea, and a modern marina. There are also moorings occupied by local boats just South of the marina. We would have liked to anchor near the local boats, but it was not at all clear that the ground would be friendly, so we anchored in 4m close in to the beach just North of the marina. This was quite comfortable, certainly much better than where the visitors buoys were laid.

We launched the dinghy and went into the marina. The lady in the office was (atypically for France) unhelpful about where to anchor, probably because she was a temp hired simply to collect the fees. It was about a mile's walk into town through pleasant but unexciting residential streets. However, the town centre, around a square, was worth the walk, especially the beautiful, simple, whitewashed church.

They gave us fireworks in the evening, but not up to Bayonne standards!