Bastille Day, July 14, the French national holiday, and as workmen whistling La Marseillaise deck out the public square next to Oceans of Hope’s berth with tricolour flags, seating and loud speakers in preparation for the military parade this morning, the yacht begins to come alive in the morning sunshine.
In the galley Bertram’s got the coffee brewing to go with the croissants and pains au chocolat that Bruno from the Association Française des Sclérosés en Plaques (AFSEP) has brought to the boat as a farewell gift, in the cockpit Tessa’s writing a blog and Kristian is at the front of the boat leading a work party to get the headsail back on the furler before they leave the dock. Meanwhile, Lizzie’s sporting her new dress, fittingly in the colours of the French flag: blue, white and red in readiness for a ‘king of the world’ moment at the bow as they leave the harbour.
After yesterday’s rain, La Rochelle is a glowing in the warm morning sunshine.
At 0830 the bridge lifts and Oceans of Hope, with Jens at the helm, slides through the lock and out into the channel towards the Bay of Biscay and the next port of call, the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, where another warm welcome awaits the crew.
The Portuguese patient association, Sociedade Portuguesa de Esclerose Múltipla (SPEM), has been planning for Oceans of Hope’s arrival for several months and if they’re wondering how much it will be appreciated, Tessa’s heartfelt thanks on behalf of the crew for AFSEP’s welcome in La Rochelle should leave no doubt in their mind.
She describes the crew’s arrival on Thursday, saying, “We entered the beautiful harbour escorted by boats from Le Cercle Handi Rochelais. People are waving, filming and tooting their horns. Even the Danish national anthem was sung from a bridge. On the dock stands a group of French people with MS. We feel so welcome, if we only could speak more French to tell them that. Hopefully we can let them know via this route: Thank you all, for being there!”
Now life on board will settle into the rhythm of being at sea, with the watch system back in place as the crew take their turns to work in three-hour shifts to sail the boat.
Bertram adds, “We do have a few days of motoring ahead of us, as we wish to leave the Bay of Biscay before encountering too much head wind, but we are all looking forward to turning the north western corner of Spain and have the northern winds in our back for some proper sailing!”