At 03.00 on Sunday 28th February
a deep low tracking up Biscay
from Spain and Portugal veered off to the East and came ashore some
miles north of La Rochelle causing devastating flooding to the Charante Maritime area and drowning some 50 plus people before moderating and
heading off towards Belgium and the Netherlands.
The day before I was launching my
anti-fouling and hull polishing etc and moving her to the new permanent berth in
Les Minimes - the La Rochelle Marina - on Pontoon 21. We had intended
cleaning the decks and polishing her stainless fittings but because of the light
rain and cold together with the fact the forecast low would be passing off shore
during Sunday making it even wetter we decided to return to our home in Saujon.
The marina operates a SMS/text system and sent out an message saying strong wind
warning in force - 'check your lines and make sure your boat is secure.' I
put an extra line on the small rib we have stowed on the foredeck and doubled
the lines to the pontoon.
Had we stayed the
night we could have lost our lives.
The spring tides of that night
combined with the storm surge from the depression, tracking in with 70MPH winds,
creating waves that swept directly at the open La Rochelle entrance between the
Islands of Isle d'Oleron and the Ile de Re caused virtually every one of the 43
pontoons in the to float up over the top of the tall piles that hold them in
place. The marina staff who had been preparing for the eventuality
following a similar storm damage on two previous occasions, evacuated all the
liveaboards to shore around midnight. They would not have know about us on
board Paw and if we had attempted to leave the boat for the comparative
safety of the land we would not have made it down the pontoon. Several
boats including a large Halburg Rassy on 21 were stuck with their bows under the
pontoon jammed there by the anchors so the movement must have been dramatic. The
Road on the external dyke du Bout Blanc which separates the marina from the
approaches to the Vieux port has had the tarmacadam lifted by the force of
the waves sweeping down it from the sea - The chandlers 'Big Ship' at the end of
the digue on Rue de la Huguenotte had every window smashed and was flooded out
like other business's in the area. All the cafes and restaurants facing
the Vieux Port were flooded out to the height of their counters around one and a
The Photographs below were taken on
Monday 1st March on our 2nd visit. Frankly I was more interested in securing my
boat as pontoon 21 looked as if the extremity might break away. The highest spring tide was for the early morning of Tuesday 2nd before
decreasing. The pontoon, like most of the others, had lost it rollers onto the
pile and was only hanging in place against the incoming tide and stiff breeze by
the alloy sheets on the edge.