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Old 13-07-2013, 17:46   #1
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Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

So for those of you in this forum frequently, you may have noticed I'm new and I'm asking what seems like a bunch of random and contradictory questions. Everything from getting delivery captains to the Med, to sailing the Biscay, to now liveaboard in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne.

We are throwing in the towel on the working world and bought a boat in Les Sables d'Olonne. I'll spare everyone the long story, but the punch line is the boat (Lagoon 380) will be mine in Oct/Nov. This is not an ideal time weather wise I know, so we are debating several options:

1) Get someone to help get the boat to southern Spain in the Med and live aboard there until it gets nice. Given the Biscay this time of year and outfitting might be easier in France this option is not looking good.

2) Liveaboard in Les Sables d'Olonne or La Rochelle during the winter - This just sounds cold. We would have shore power, so have some options for staying warm and could take long excursions to travel inland in warm inns/hotels.

3) Just put the boat on the hard, keep working in the States, and show up in March to start outfitting, etc. This has the downside of pushing out our planned adventure another 4-6 months. Not something we're too happy about. We're anxious to get out there.

My questions on this post is about #2. I've never been to the Atlantic coast of France so am wondering, does anyone liveaboard there over the winter? I'd rather not install an expensive heating system considering if all goes well I'll never have this boat in that kind of cold weather again. With shore power could we make due with electric heat options?

Thanks for everyone's help so far. I try to search through the existing posts before asking anything that has already been answered, but I haven't seen much on this. Everyone seems to haul out for the winter...which might be what I need to do.

Thanks!
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Old 13-07-2013, 18:47   #2
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I can't say anything about the weather in that area but a friend of mine lived aboard last winter in southern Ontario - and it was COLD. Once you've got shrinkwrapping on the boat it's very well insulated.
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Old 14-07-2013, 01:40   #3
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The marina in La Rochelle is typical of most french marinas, large and concrete, I wouldn't like to spend too much time there. The weather can be cold in winter, or cool and wet. Don't spend money on a heating system, a few electric heaters on shore power is better. I personally would head south to the lower part of Portugal, the Algarve, climate better and it's cheaper. The Portuguese coast is one long beach with not very nice commercial harbours, and most people do it in one go stopping half way in Lisbon. Beware the Portuguese obsession with paperwork.
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Old 14-07-2013, 02:50   #4
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

Electric heating will do you fine.

La Rochelle is a fine town to spend time in, with lots of character, even in winter. And the snag with winter is that many of the summer holiday resorts along this coast virtually shut down. But some places still buzz . . .

There's no reason to stick with La Rochelle - except that 6 month berth contracts are a lot cheaper than daily berthing fees. You have an option to day sail northwards during decent weather windows.

Drop in to Sables d'Olonne, it's a busy fishing port, so stays alive (just) over winter. Wander up the river Villaine to sample some (quiet) smaller French villages. Vannes, in the Morbihan lake, stays alive over winter and has a lot of character, but I guess you'd have to check if your beam is acceptable there! Concarneau is another busy fishing port which stays alive over winter, with a lovely old quarter to visit.

Now the beauty of wandering north over November is twofold. First, you'll find all the snags which need to be fixed before you set off south. Second, you'll see a wider picture of France, and you may, as a result, decide to settle somewhere else for the cold bit in January and February. Or you may decide that La Rochelle was fine, after all.

Personally, I'd spend some time in Douarnenez among the historic vessels there. Also Camaret. And if you want a city, with guaranteed life in winter, there's always Brest.

How's your French though? They're not too hot about speaking English out of season . . .
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Old 15-07-2013, 02:01   #5
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

We have been monitoring weather and temperatures in La Rochelle and Vannes areas of west France with a view to buying a house there. What we have found is that in winter, the temperatures in both areas are generally only slightly higher than south UK with similar weather. The last 3 winters have been very cold and last winter started in October and was still going strong in April. So you could experience a cold, wet and long winter. Equally, there have been years when you could get a short mild one. You (and the forecasters) just don't know.
If you use electric heating, then you need to make sure that you have a berth with enough power. In our experience in France, supplies tend to be limited to about 5-6 amps (<1500W) and its not uncommon for the supply to be tripped by someone firing up an electric kettle or similar. Personally, I would advocate fitting onboard organic heating and then you could enjoy out of season sailing more on the good days. If you are going to the Med you will still need heating on the European side in the winter. Our experience in Croatia is that heating needs to be available from November to early April.
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Old 15-07-2013, 05:21   #6
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Originally Posted by Rapanui View Post
We have been monitoring weather and temperatures in La Rochelle and Vannes areas of west France with a view to buying a house there. What we have found is that in winter, the temperatures in both areas are generally only slightly higher than south UK with similar weather. The last 3 winters have been very cold and last winter started in October and was still going strong in April. So you could experience a cold, wet and long winter. Equally, there have been years when you could get a short mild one. You (and the forecasters) just don't know.
If you use electric heating, then you need to make sure that you have a berth with enough power. In our experience in France, supplies tend to be limited to about 5-6 amps (<1500W) and its not uncommon for the supply to be tripped by someone firing up an electric kettle or similar. Personally, I would advocate fitting onboard organic heating and then you could enjoy out of season sailing more on the good days. If you are going to the Med you will still need heating on the European side in the winter. Our experience in Croatia is that heating needs to be available from November to early April.
+1. If you intend to live onboard all year round in the med , you definitely need a heating system. The winters can be surprisingly cold , remember its not the tropics.

Ps good advice , personally I'd fit out and overwinter in France , but then I live even farther north. The Algarve can be a little one dimensional for long periods. ( and the foods Brit influenced )

Do something useful like learn French etc.

Dave
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Old 27-07-2013, 13:38   #7
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

hi,

winter can be cold in La Rochelle or les Sables, but also in the Mediterranean. Investing in a diesel heater for example seems necessary. Although a small additional heating may be sufficient, shorepower is often only 6 to 10 amps at 230V in the marinas.
if it's a new boat, it may be that the delivery will be delayed contrary to expectations, additional equipment and all the small jobs can be quite long.
So it would be too late to risk facing the Gulf of Biscaye and the long coast of Portugal.
Wait for spring to go with a good weather window seems wiser.

La Rochelle has an airport and fast trains to Paris and europe.
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Old 01-09-2013, 20:39   #8
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

Hi, this is really a message for Rapanui. In your reply you said you had been monitoring the weather in both Vannes and La Rochelle. We too are trying to come to a decision between the two as a permanent residence. Just wondering which you are favoring and if you would share your weather findings?
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Old 16-09-2013, 03:31   #9
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

October November are LOUSY months to be out on the Bay of Biscay. Sailing in this region is a challenge in the best of weather. The Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal won't be much fun either. And if the boat is new to you, then there will be kinks to be worked out. If it was me, I'd hold off the urge to go now and either over winter in Les Sables, if you can, or put the boat on the hard till spring.

You don't say what your sailing experience is but I've seen many couples go right off living aboard because the first passages they made were awful. Why push it? Wait till next season, check the boat out with some day sails and then find a good window and head south.

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Old 16-09-2013, 04:27   #10
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pirate Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

Pity your boat will be ready so late... I'm bringing a new Lagoon 38 down (owner assist) from Les Sable d'Ollones towards the end of the month... could have buddy boated..
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Old 16-09-2013, 14:06   #11
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

some good info here, maybe ask the Original Poster what they ended up doing this year
New Cruiser, Winter in Atlantic Coast France?
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Old 18-09-2013, 07:46   #12
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

Is there a reason to rush south to the Med? if not I would stay put or sail up to South Brittany fitting the boat out, testing systems and learning to sail it with short hops inbetween the weather patterns. Then stay there for the Spring and early Summer before heading South in July to avoid the French holiday in August.

South Brittany is a delightful sailing area it would be a real shame to sail south and miss it all. Have a look on Google for the Gulf of Morbian and Belle Ile for a taster, you might never leave

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Old 09-10-2013, 11:19   #13
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

If still relevant - few things to consider:

1. Approximate marina fees for Lagoon in 2012-2013: Les Sables - up to EUR1000+/month, Torrevieja (near Alicante, Med) - EUR 450/month, Marina Saidia (Morocco) - EUR 300/month

2. Weather - summer weather in Les Sables is like winter in the Med. +15C in July in Les Sables is a norm, just like in Med in January )))

3. The Atlantic coast is worth exploring, but it is possible and best to be done by short passages in weather windows. But 99% prefer to regret and head for better weather across Biscay.
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Old 09-10-2013, 20:06   #14
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

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Originally Posted by jckb View Post
Electric heating will do you fine...

Personally, I'd spend some time in Douarnenez among the historic vessels there. Also Camaret. And if you want a city, with guaranteed life in winter, there's always Brest.
Agreed. Douarnenez is great. South harbor and north harbors. Two different worlds.
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Old 10-10-2013, 00:39   #15
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Re: Liveaboard Winter in La Rochelle/Les Sables d'Olonne

Sorry Susaninoraas, I missed your post re houses in the Vannes or La Rochelle area. We have regretfully come to decision that either area for a house does not fit in with our sailing etc lifestyle at present, although we love France. Our problem is that we like England in summer and sailing the Adriatic in the summer, spring and autumn, so we are looking for somewhere to enjoy late autumn and early spring and perhaps part of winter away from the grey, wet and cold of uk.
Wrt the climate, the Vendee and La Rochelle areas are more sunny and fractionally warmer than the Vannes area on average. We searched the web for climate statistics of which there are quite a lot a graphed them in Excel.
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