July 15, 2015

West coast flight – Day 4

A turtle inconveniently rears its ugly head

It was hardly ‘the morning after the night before’ because both Wim and I each enjoyed a good night’s sleep and awoke as fresh as a daisy to another glorious morning. The breeze had dropped to almost nothing after the blustery winds of the day before, although if the patterns that we had experienced up to now were anything to go by, the sea breezes would probably begin to pick up again by about midday.

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While Wim pondered the day’s route, I took a few more shots of the airfield and the aircraft parked as they had been on the extended apron and emergency crosswind runway for the previous night’s bonfire celebrations.

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A few club members had spent the night in tents as we had, and some in camping cars, but already quite a few additional ones had arrived to clear away the marquee that had been attached to the left-hand hangar for the soirée and clear up the rubbish that had been left over. We all then adjourned to the clubhouse for a most welcome free breakfast of coffee and croissants.

One of our new-found friends, Christian, then offered to drive me to a local garage to pick up some ‘essence’, which solved our day’s fuel problems. Our flight plan for the day was not too demanding as we only planned to fly the second half of the route that we’d planned for the day before. We therefore only planned a fairly short hop, really, from Le Thou in the Charente Maritime to St Brevin les Pins on the south bank of the River Loire in the Loire Atlantique.

The following image shows the planned route in purple and the actual track that I flew in red, and I’ll come back to the reason for including the latter a bit later.

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Then a short while later after saying our ‘au revoirs’ Wim and I were airborne. Initially we had to fly on a north-westerly heading along the edge of La Rochelle controlled airspace, after which we flew a more westerly heading towards the coast. Here are a couple of pics that I shot at the time.

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The second, above, was looking back towards La Rochelle. Then our route took us over a shallow sandy bay with mudflats called the Anse d’Aiguillon and the next two shots show the view that was ahead of and then below me.

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The next shot taken as I was flying across the bay shows the Île de Ré in the distance.

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There is a small spit of land jutting into the sea to the west of the Anse that’s shown in the first of the next two pics. Its southernmost point is called Pointe d’Arcay. To the north-west of the Anse is found l’Aiguillon sur Mer, which is itself shown in the second.

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At the northern end of the spit of land is the little resort of la Faute sur Mer, shown below with the more famous les Sables d’Olonne in the far distance.

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There are many rivers and streams feeding into the sea in this area and just a few kilometres beyond la Faute I spotted a small barrage over the little River Lay.

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It was about this time that I began to notice that all was not well in the cabin of 56NE. More specifically, but without going into too much detail to save the sensibilities of the more sensitive souls amongst us, I realised that all was not well in the tummy department. I concluded that I was suffering from ‘Mal de Moules’ and that one of the mussels from the night before must have got to me, but unlike when you’re driving a car when you can pull up, leap out and make use of whatever facilities are available to resolve the problem, when you’re flying along at 1500 feet there’s not very much that you can do about it. Apart from try to hang on, that is.

The sensible thing that you can do, of course, is try to get to your destination as quickly as possible and the more sharp-eyed readers will notice that from this point on, the actual track that I flew was much more direct towards St Brevin than the zigzag route that I’d intended to fly.

Putting my problems behind me (no pun intended), I still managed to keep taking photographs along the way, although I have to admit that this was becoming evermore less of a priority meaning that I did unfortunately miss a few good ones. As I flew on, these are what I shot.

Sainte-Anne and la Tranche sur Mer.

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The little town of Talmont-Saint-Hilaire.

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Les Sables d’Olonne, but taken with gritted teeth from a greater distance than I’d originally intended.

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Île d’Olonne.

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Le Bouil.

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By now, the wind was bringing in cloud off the sea, so I had decided to climb above it into calmer air. The next shot is of Le Marais Buor.

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Ahead between me and the relief available at St Brevin les Pins lay the Baie de Borgneuf, which I’d originally intended to fly around. No chance. With Pornic visible on the other side and the thought of getting ever closer to my destination, the direct water crossing of 14-15 kilometres was now an attractive alternative to the onboard accident that might otherwise occur and I embarked on it with just the single thought of getting to the other side as quickly as I could.

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I’m not saying that from then on, it was plain sailing. Far from it. I recall a posting made by a microlighter in a similar predicament on a UK forum who wrote that ‘the turtle’s head was already beginning to emerge from its shell’ and by now I understood exactly what he meant. I then began to commence my descent into the little ULM airfield at St Brevin and although it was very bumpy below the clouds, I found it without much problem. I carried out a quick circuit to the north but in my haste to land, I overcooked it and turned in too close. So ‘quelle horreur!’ a go-around was necessary. What a time! But I then landed safely on the short east-west runway and taxied in.

Anyone looking out of the clubhouse at that moment would have thought that I was a man possessed. I dashed inside, although ‘dashed’ is a relative term given my predicament, spotted the club’s instructor, Laurent, and immediately asked for ‘la toilette’ into which I disappeared for several minutes. And in such an ignominious way ended my day’s flying. Later on, when I’d recovered my equilibrium and decorum, Wim and I were introduced to the ULM Côte de Jade’s President, and here we are with him. And before anyone asks, yes, I did wash my hands beforehand 😉

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I made a video of the day which can be viewed by clicking on the following image.

France West Coast Day 4