Wild Heart waiting: La Rochelle and all things yachts


A small part of Port des Minimes, the largest marina in France for pleasure boats. It’s also where a number of brands launch their yachts not only Fountaine Pajot but Amel yachts and Nautitech catamarans


Boats and masts as far as you can see


The entrance to the old port, where boats constantly leave and enter


The historic architecture and rich history of the town sits side by side with the pleasure craft yachting lifestyle


There are regattas and sailing schools a plenty.


Wild Heart in the evening shortly before we left the marina


When we arrived in La Rochelle, a few short months ago, we had no idea what to expect from many things; the town, our new catamaran “Wild Heart” and sailing in France.

We quickly discovered that La Rochelle was a joy, rich in history and lifestyle; commisioning a new boat was an intense and exciting experience; sailing in a new country was an adventure. In fact, it continues to be an adventure of exploring, discovering and learning.

Photograph credit: Scott Johnston

Where we stayed: Hotel St Nicolas La Rochelle

Low key hotel, in a convenient location in the old town and about 30 minutes walk to Port des Minimes

Where we ate:

We enjoyed all the local boulangeries and pâtisseries around the hotel. And any gelato shop, of course

As restaurants go, Prao Restaurant was one of our favourites for the fresh food, atmosphere and wine selection.

Shopping for the boat: Get our download here of all the places we shopped to “outfit” the boat.

Wild Heart’s maiden voyage: The Bay of Biscay and the Coast of Death

The maiden voyage of Wild Heart and her crew meant leaving the safety, familiarity and comfort of a marina in pretty La Rochelle and crossing the notorious Bay of Biscay; a large open stretch of water with a reputation for being very unfriendly. It was not a trip I was looking forward to in a brand new, big and shiny, unfamiliar catamaran; especially when it involved 2 overnight passages.

The Bay is a gulf in the northeast side of the Atlantic which has a fearsome reputation for storms especially winter and and you can read and see many horror stories on it’s weather. Here’s one filmed from a cruise ship. So lets, just say, my anxiety level was high and I was obsessively reviewing the weather forecasts for a suitable window for the passage.

It was definitely time to leave La Rochelle as the boat handover was complete; we had fitted Wild Heart out and were excited to get started. We would head directly across the Bay to La Coruña in Spain, a distance of approximately 350 nautical miles. There’s nowhere to stop and its just a long 2 night haul. The Bay is subject to all the winds, swells, weather and other vagaries of the Atlantic Ocean and can change very quickly. Surprisingly it was also quite cold. We bought out the Spinlock safety harnesses and tethers and Musto wet weather great for the nights.

We choose a particularly “good” weather window to leave. By “good” I mean, light winds and swells. We set the sails including our light wind gennaker and had high the expectations of some great sailing. However the winds were not in our favour for the required course so we had to resort to motoring to get the crossing done and to get out of harms way on the open water.

While the winds were light, the Bay wasn’t letting us off completely. On my moonless night watch, fog rolled in and stayed in for the next 6 hours. I could barely see our navigation lights on the bow of Wild Heart. We slowed the boat speed down, turned the radar on and kept each other company on watch. We were kept relatively comfortable in the helm enclosure now affectionately known as the “Pope Mobile”. However it was difficult to know who else was out there on the water nearby. Not that it gave us any comfort really but we occasionally heard communications to other boats from “American Warship XXXX” on channel 16. Of course they don’t show up on your AIS screen as they “run dark”.

So for all it’s reputation, we has a comparative anticlimax on that trip but it was a relief to get it under our belts. In La Coruña we rested, refuelled, regrouped and serviced engines for warranty purposes. Beer and gelato helped the regrouping process along!

Our next leg had us facing the Costa del Morta (Coast of Death). Dramatic, I know. It’s a stretch of coastline from Cabo Ortegas and Cabo Finisterre that La Coruña lies in between. The coastline is high, rugged and known for it’s onshore winds and swell from the Atlantic, given giving it its name. The Pilot guide for this area warns to keep an extended safe distance from this shore; so time to take another deep breath to get past this one and onwards down the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal.

A new catamaran and a different life.

There are times you make decisions that you know will change the path of your life.

Our catamaran purchase is one of these big, scary decisions.

Why big and scary? We have made a big commitment to a particular way of life. A life of 6 months sailing and 6 months at home in Austrlia. I know it will have its challenges. We are taking a leap into the big unknown and having to let go of things in our life now to make it possible; the comfortable, safe familiar things.

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Going to the darkside: From monohull to multihull

We’re old school sailors. Well, correction, we were old school sailors. A little less than a year ago we wouldn’t have stepped foot on a catamaran, let alone consider buying one. My, how things changed. I’m not even sure whether I could pinpoint how, or when, our thinking changed. Was it when our friends bought a catamaran and took us for a fabulously relaxed day sail? Or that our favourite You Tubers moving from monohull to a multihull? Either way, when we decided we wanted to upgrade our yacht, the option of catamaran was thrown into the mix and months of research began. We went from zero to 100 in our knowledge of cats, researching different brands and their pros and cons.

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Bareboat chartering in Croatia

The Dalmatian Coast is simply breathtaking. It’s a coastline of turquoise waters and the red roofs and bleached stone of the old seaside towns and cities. Have you been inspired by these images to sail Croatia but possibly don’t know where to start? If you’re a sailor and haven’t chartered overseas before, it can seem daunting. Really, it’s not difficult to do, and I’d encourage you to go ahead and book your trip. It’s an exciting place to experience by boat. In this post, I’ll take you through what I think are the better options for bareboat chartering.

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