Quite a big week in La Rochelle (and beyond) with lots to report. By Friday we will be either living aboard or sleeping on a park bench!
Sunday - Let’s blow this popsicle town...
Although ITIKI is in the water we are not allowed access (officially) until she is handed over from FP to Uchimata. Even after the handover we need to keep out of the way so we don’t slow the boys down with all the work they need to do preparing our baby. With this in mind we decided to head up to Bordeaux to do a bit of sight seeing and satisfy ourselves that their wine really is as good as they say it is. Bordeaux is a lovely, historic town, very lively and with lots of boulevards and laneways to explore, great shopping and some groovy wine bars - and yes the red is not too shabby!
Monday - More vineyards and a side trip to Sweden
Bordeaux just so happens to have an IKEA! And who would have thought the layout is just as ridiculously convoluted here as it is in Australia (and no doubt everywhere else). We managed to find everything we didn’t know we needed (and more) before heading on to St Emilion to double check on the local tipple. Another beautiful, old town, perched on a hillside overlooking the vineyards. We were able to cool down by exploring the caves underneath one of the wineries in the village before heading back to La Rochelle.
Tuesday - Where it all begins
We were fortunate to score a guided tour to the Fountaine Pajot factory to see the production line. Sadly no photos were possible, its all very top secret, so I can only describe how amazing it was to see such a production line. Forget the robotic factories of the car manufacturers, the only robots here were doing the heavy lifting, moving the bits of boats around while teams of specialist humans lay up glass matting, fit pre-fab components and put everything together. Helias and Saonas were the main models going through this particular line. The planning, precision, execution and quality control were incredible. Seeing the hulls, decks and fly bridges come together, seeing the inner workings really makes you look at your new boat differently. The quality control was also very impressive with every component numbered (full traceability) and every job signed off by the responsible specialist. No Monday or Friday boats here! We left with a great deal more confidence in the quality of our vessel.
Wednesday - Sunsets on our solar panels
Handover day! FP went over the boat with a fine tooth comb, all part of the final quality control, and then handed over to Uchimata Team to do the rest. We snuck down at lunch time, busted in on the cleaners to take some extra measurements for the spot where our solar panels will one day be fitted... Although Helia means sunlight, it is going to be some time before that sunlight is topping up our batteries. We have run out of time and up against the rapidly approaching holiday season in France so no joy with getting our frames made before we leave. Looks like these will be done over winter. On a brighter note though our good friend PJ arrived today. He and Keith have long dreamed of cruising someday. Its been a long time coming but Paul will be sharing the first leg of our odyssey from La Rochelle to Gibraltar, not to mention helping us set up the boat!
Thursday - Shop till you drop
There is so much stuff to get when you are kitting out a boat, we have had lists upon lists and have made so many trips to the local homemakers centre we could go there with our eyes closed. Today was a big one and we have also started picking through the 18 boxes of stuff we sent over before we left and moving some of it onto the boat. It’s a bit like Christmas opening up the boxes, sometimes a nice surprises and sometimes, well, what were we thinking bringing that?!
Friday - Helias to the left of me, Saonas to the right, here I am...
After checking out of our accommodation in the morning, moving more stuff on board during the workers' lunch break it finally came time to call ITIKI home. We shared a beer with the boys as they packed up their tools and we moved in. We finally have the keys in our hands and the whole weekend to get her looking ship shape. Helia 233 is our nearest neighbour, a French family who plan to leave the same day we do. Helia 234 is beside us, a delivery skipper leaving on Monday for the Virgin Islands, his 36th Atlantic crossing! It cant be all that bad, right??! So much to do cupboards to fill, boxes to unpack, beds or make up... but wait, first things first. Nothing like a new boat to bring the Aussies out of the woodwork - some friends of PJs just so happened to be in the neighbourhood and dropped in for a drink on the bridge deck. Why not!