Chantier Allemand

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No time to blog yesterday. It was a busy day that started early with a trip out of the harbour and down the coast to Grau d’Agde,  where the River Hérault enters the Mediterranean Sea. Our destination was a little further up river, a boatyard named Chantier Allemand. We plan to install a bow thruster on our boat to make navigation a little easier. Of course it would be more convenient  to use one of the workshops in the busy port of Cap d’Agde. But Chantier Allemand is special; a  family firm that has been run for many years by 3 sisters and a brother Henri. It is here that we used to bring our canal boat ' Njiva,' a nine metre Dutch steel vessel, entering the Hérault from the ‘round lock’ on the Canal du Midi. By this time the river is wide and magnificent, and flows through the beautiful old town of Agde with its unusual Cathedral  constructed from the local black basalt.

One  might say that Chantier Allemand seems a little chaotic, with its yards full of yachts hoisted on trestles and great old steel river barges in various stages of renovation. Henri commands the practical side of things. At the height of the season he can be seen driving the enormous lifting crane many times per day, raising and lowering boats back into the water , and constantly giving advice to someone or other. He begins work early in the morning, and continues until sunset . I warrant that when he removes his familiar blue boiler suit at the end of each working day, it must stand up of its own account.

We moored at the waiting pontoon, and before long Henri had jumped on board and was measuring and assessing the job to be done with his charming sister Marylène.  And then he was off on another mission.

I watched a  man  cleaning the barnacles off the hull of his yacht nearby with a  high pressure hose , while local fishermen mended their nets on an adjacent pontoon.  Opposite us stood a magnificent old working barge badly in need of renovation. No doubt within a few weeks it will be looking resplendent. Many boat owners live onboard while carrying out the arduous task  of sand blasting and painting their beloved vessels themselves. An artist was crouching by the stern with a selection of pencils and coloured crayons.  I saw that he was sketching the barge’s newly restored wooden rudder. Closer inspection revealed the  fascinating carving of a young mermaid. This boatyard is about as far removed from the modern boat enterprises and super yachts  of  Cap d’Agde as an antique car dealer is from a Ferrari agent.

 

An artist and his muse at Chantier Allemand

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Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long as the heat of the day was rising . As we left port, we headed between the two stone jetties, their beacons like little white pepper and salt pots topped with green to port and red to starboard. The sea was already abuzz with jet skis and pretty flotillas of trainee yachts following their leaders like strings of ducklings. We turned to the North and headed for home. Fortunately the wind was low and B easily manoeuvred the boat back into its mooring, without any embarassing collisions. We reflected that it will be easier still wnen we have our new bow thruster.

 Local sea going fishermen on the River Hérault.

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