We left Gallician having walked the boys and visited the Boulangerie (definitely a recurring theme!) and made our way south towards Aigues-Mortes. The sun made an appearance and was wonderfully warm as we meandered through the flat plains of the Camargue.
White horses, black bulls and pink flamingos randomly peppered the banks and took little notice of us as we slipped past.
It is a truly unique place – not obviously beautiful but so definitely Camargue. And when the sun rises or sets over the sea water salt pans they emanate a pink glow.
It is a land of gypsies, real gypsies, not the pikey’s that break onto common ground and trash the place. True gypsies with their own beliefs, values and principles. Cautious, unique people living their own way of life. They give the place an air of mystery and intrigue.
As we took the channel down towards Aigues-Mortes we both felt a sense of relief and excitement. Aigues-Mortes is less than 5 miles from the Med. We were arriving at one of our major goals of this trip.
We first discovered Aigues-Mortes when we did this trip in 2002-2003. We came at it from the other side, having run in from the Med to get away from the constant rolling swell and a storm that was threatening to hit at any moment. Grau du Roi is essentially a fishing port with, at that time, just a handful of berths for pleasure craft but we were lucky enough to get a berth for the night. Unfortunately, at that time, there had been significant rainfall and a constant stream of logs, trees and branches were being swept down a river that emptied into the canal on the opposite side us and we were bombarded all night. The following day we headed up the canal and came across Aigues-Mortes. It is an awesome sight!
A fortified town, Aigues-Mortes was built in the 13th Century to give King Louis of France a Mediterranean Port to launch the crusades from. The impressive Tower of Constance was once used to hold prisoners but is now enjoying retirement as the tourist office.
Suffice to say, we fell in love and over the years have had many happy holidays here.
Back to the present, and as we made our way down the canal I had the binoculars sweeping the rows of liveaboards on either bank to see if I could spot Warrior. Warrior is a beautiful ship built in 1912 that duly served in Dunkirk when her country needed her.
She is now owned by friends we have known for about 9 years, having met on the south coast of England when we brought Illusion back from Ireland.
Dave and Fiona had a different boat then, but fell in love with Warrior and decided to restore her whilst making their way through the French canals. They too discovered Aigues-Mortes and have stayed ever since, so we always catch up with them whenever we are in town.
It seems they have been following the blog and knew our arrival was imminent so suddenly, through the binocular lenses, I spot Warrior and there on her deck, waving madly, was Fiona. It was such a lovely welcome into this special place!
We called greetings across the water as we passed and having found a great berth in the main harbour we got the scooter off and headed back to say hello properly. We agreed to meet that night at Banaras, one of the finest Indian restaurants we have ever known owned by Shakil and his lovely wife Perrin (I’m sure that’s not how you spell either of their names but the best I can muster!).
We decided to stay for a couple of weeks and were glad we did as the wind got up and blew strong for several days. When it started to abate and the sun came out we decided to take the opportunity to catch up on some maintenance, which required us to turn Thirza around.
As we let go of the lines and allowed the wind to take the bow around Frank tried to give it a bit of a hand using the bow thruster, but it didn’t work! Fortunately, it wasn’t really required for the manoeuvre and Thirza completed the 180 degree turn under wind power and laid gently back alongside the pontoon. But we were not happy. Our next goal is to reach Carcassonne on the Canal du Midi and there are some very low, odd shaped, tricky bridges that we would not want to tackle without the assistance of our 3rd crew member, the bow thruster.
We took the panel in the wheelhouse apart and found a burnt out diode. We are stupid when it comes to these matters and immediately decided this was the problem and we just needed a new one. Our friend Dave on Warrior has a hobby-turned-business taking items of modern technology (Bluetooth speakers, keyboard and mouse sets, tv screens etc.) and giving them a Steampunk makeover. It is lovely stuff, really impressive and he does it all from the cabin located in the bow of Warrior……what a set up, what a job!
Anyway, we asked Dave if he had a diode and he didn’t but gave Frank some idea’s as to where he might find one. Frank tried the local electrical shops, with no luck. As always in these situations, when we are completely clueless, we hit the panic button, which is linked directly to the mobile phone of Roger, Thirza’s previous, cleverer and much more practical owner!
Ann, Rogers wife, answered because Roger was driving and she gave two excellent suggestions – read the manual and call the manufacturer…….erm, yes, sorry didn’t think of that before we pressed the panic button. A little embarrassed at just how incompetent we are we said we would do just that and let them know how we got on. Reading the manual did help us understand the wiring a little better and a good chat with Roger later in the day gave me the confidence to strip the switch down a little further to check for dodgy connections. Hey presto! It seems the on/off switch wiring had become damaged when the diode burnt out. The diode is non-essential so wasn’t required to operate the unit. With that out of the way and with the wiring stripped back a bit we got a clear connection and now have a fully functioning bow thruster again. Phew!
Saturday 4th May. We sung happy birthday to Bosun, who looked at us as like we’d completely lost it, just like he does every year, and are planning to go to a BBQ this lunchtime arranged by the local boating association. It seems it will cost us €10 each to attend, we bring our own food and drink but there will be some wine available. Vaguely comforted by the fact we could probably drink €10 of wine each we then discovered that the €10 is actually a year’s membership of the association and as we hope to be back here for the winter we felt this was good value indeed!
We have made some new friends here, Hans and Angie on Groen Licht and Jeremy and Sheena on Jo de Mer, so off we set to meet them and be introduced to others. It turns out the association was initially started by French boat owners but they welcome any nationalities so there was a mix of English, Dutch, Irish (of course) and French and after we’d eaten the call went up for volunteers to play petanque, the French national game for all ages.
Frank put himself forward, as did Hans and Ian, of Ian and Sue who we met, and they joined another English guy, Paul and a Dutch lady called Ine, on team 5. The other 5 teams were all French and the battle commenced! Well, team 5 did remarkably well, winning 2 out of three games making it to the semi-final, much to the displeasure of the French. There were calls for a stewards enquiry in one game and several attempts to bend the rules to ensure the home teams won. Eventually “the rest of Europe” fell to the pressure.
It was a great afternoon and at one point they tried to nobble “the rest of Europe” with home made plum potchin! By 7pm we made our way back to the boat and crashed out – too much wine, too much exercise and just the right amount of laughter.