Let The 2024 Adventures Begin

It’s hard to believe that the time had finally come to make our way back to Europe.  This year the trip back to Zoe had us flying by the seat of our pants and following some  rather unconventional routing.  To say that I am a high stress traveler would be a huge understatement and yet, I found myself very comfortably (and calmly) just going with the flow.  Well that’s an interesting twist!

It all began with a Sunday evening wedding in Las Vegas.  Our plan was to leave Vegas Monday morning on a flight to Los Angeles and then on to London.  Dan and I usually fly standby (Dan retired from American Airlines) which already makes travel very unpredictable (and yes, very stressful).  The empty flight we were listed on out of Vegas somehow filled up over night, and things only got worse as the day went on.  As far as the flights to London, Monday was our best shot at getting seats.  Flights to London got fuller and fuller as the week went on.  We made a last minute decision to drive to Los Angeles rather than fly.  Turned out that was a brilliant decision since the next flight out of Vegas cancelled and, we would have missed every flight available to us from Los Angeles to London.  As it was, we arrived at our gate within 30 minutes of boarding and standbys were already receiving their seat assignments.  Not only did we get seats together, but we got the last couple of seats in business class…..woo hoo!

One of the perks of being a retired airline person-standby travel for free

The majority of the flights that leave the US for Europe depart in the evening.  Our flight left early in the afternoon.  That turned out to be a rough flight since I can’t force myself to sleep in the middle of the day.  Oh well, I struggle to sleep on planes anyway.  Once we were cleared in London, our plan was to fly to Marseille, France (the closest airport to Zoe).  Well, that was a bust too.  The earlier flight to Marseille had cancelled which meant the one that we were suppose to take was now full.  My brilliant, travel planner husband quickly listed us on an open flight to Lyon, France.  This worked out great since we got our boarding passes right away despite being standby and seats together without a third person in our row.  Things really seemed to be turning out great!

Three flights and two unplanned rental cars but we made it

During all of this, Dan was quickly readjusting the pick up location of our rental car.  I am always amazed at his ability to pull off these quick itinerary changes on the fly (no pun intended).  From Lyon, we were going to fly to Marseille which would put us at a one hour drive from Zoe (versus 4 hours from Lyon).  At this point, I’ve been up for more than 24 hours and really have no desire to get on yet another plane for another flight to another airport.  We quickly strategized and decided that driving sounded better.  We figured we would drive and enjoy the beauty of the French countryside until Dan felt too jet lagged and tired to continue and, we would stop for the night.

We ended up stopping in the little town of Montelimar, home of the world famous nougat of France.  Dan found us a cute little apartment for the night before continuing on to Zoe the next day.  

Lovely place we booked enroute from Lyon to Marseille area in the French countryside

As we hit the road the following morning, we decided to stop for some much needed coffee.  We pulled over at this massive truck stop and headed inside for coffee.  Not only was the line for Starbucks huge, there were bus loads of kids milling about as if on a field trip.  On a side note, Starbucks in Europe is sooooo much better than in the US!  While Dan waited in line for our cappuccinos, I noticed a large nougat shop within the building.  I figured I’d go in and explore.  The amount and variety of nougat on display was mind numbing, and I’m not sure I even like nougat.  I selected a few small bags of several different kinds to try.  I mean, it’s world famous nougat from this town, you gotta try it….right?  FYI…..it was delicious!

We finally arrived back to Zoe by late morning.  We also arrived with a very strong Mistral (a strong wind that is famous in this region).  The winds were blowing between 30 and 65 knots!  It was hard to walk or even stand outside.  The waves on the Rhone River and nearby bay were pretty big for such small bodies of water (out on the sea, the waves were averaging over 15 feet!).  Talk about sapping your will to do work.

50 plus knots of Mistral wind greeted our arrival
Upon arrival to Zoe, the Mistral was blowing more fierce than normal. Our boat yard neighbors clocked 65 knots! Locals told us it was one of the worst.
Zoe looking pretty naked without her mast. She is 10 years old and in need of new standing rigging (the cables that secure the mast) especially if we are planning to cross the Atlantic.
60 feet of mast waiting for new goodies. Look how little Dan looks in comparison!
After 10 years in the heat and salt air, the seal around the doors became this gooey, tar like substance. It took me hours to clean the gunk out (never mind the sticky mess that ended up all over the boat which then also needed to be scrubbed)! Luckily, the installation of the new seals was quick and easy.
Our old lazy jacks (which guide the sails back into the bag) were extremely weathered and crusty. Time to make some new ones. Unfortunately, this is not a common knot for me, so I had to carefully deconstruct not only the crazy knots but how each line would run to the mast and through each pulley to the various connection points on the sail bag.
After a full day of frustrating work (and you can see the disaster behind that still awaits), you can’t beat our favorite Sardinian beer!

Zoe is always a mess when we return from being gone for so long, and this time was no exception.  If anything, I think she looked worse.  My heart sank.  The amount of work ahead of us seemed overwhelming, and in this wind the entire boat was shaking and rattling as it howled through the boatyard.  I was very worried the wind was going to knock us off our stand.  It was just as bad at the nearby lodge where we were staying.  The walls and windows shook violently for hours on end.  For me, the worst parts of owning a boat are getting her ready to launch and shutting her down for the season….a lot of work and no fun.  Everything in between is awesome!

These lodges aren’t far from the boatyard
After a hard day of work on Zoe a bit of local red wine and a sunset
Port St Louis du Rhone
Walks from the boatyard
The beach isn’t that far away
Our winter storage yard – this is the third country we’ve stored Zoe

Our plan is to be out here until mid May before returning home for the first birthdays of our granddaughter and grandson, then returning mid July to start the sailing season.  In the meantime, we are having a lot of work done to the boat in preparation for sailing her across the Atlantic to the Caribbean in the next year or two.  We have also been preparing for another bucket list adventure while we are here and out of the water.  While waiting for work to begin, we will be heading to Portugal where we intend to do an over 100 mile trek of the Camino de Portuguese following the path of St. James’ body to his final resting place in the Cathedral de Santiago in Spain.  Stay tuned for some fun and exciting land adventures in Portugal and Spain before we return to Zoe and then home. 

Onwards and Forwards!
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