Saturday 24 August 2013

Alderney to Lezardrieux 5/8 to 6/8

So after two nights at Alderney it was time to go. First though an early trip in the water taxi for me to fill up the spare fuel cans. Then a quick breakfast. We weighed anchor at 0950 and despite Mick doing his best to run AS over the sunken breakwater we cleared the obstacle and headed down the Swinge in an increasingly fresh North Westerly that during the course of the day backed initially to WSS and the veered back to the West.

No need for the engine on this passage, I finally had what I had been wishing for - wind and plenty of it! We started off with one reef in 20+ knots of wind. As the day progressed the wind gradually increased and by mid afternoon we put in a second reef as the wind rose to 25+ knots. Shortly afterwards Jersey Coastguard caught up with events and issued a strong wind warning for the area - as if we didn't know. The seas built up significantly and with the boat being close hauled for most of the time we began to get a little damp. AS was always comfortable but we got the odd dollop of green stuff in the cockpit and some of it dripped its way through the bridge deck and over the VHF radio and quarter berth. Bernie later diagnosed the likely route being the slightly loose teak slats running across the bridge deck in front of the main traveller. He also commented that the battering the traveller had taken during the Plymouth repairs had also probably opened up some gaps.

Between Alderney and Guernsey we were joined by a large pod of common dolphins. Unfortunately conditions were such that I did not dare risk my phone to take photographs.

A few miles SW of Guernsey the wind increased further and backed further into the south west requiring us to tack and head north west for a few miles. During this period the wind was frequently 27 knots and gusts of 30 were seen on the wind gauge.

I was a little concerned about whether all the crew were happy to continue south and pointed out that we could divert to St Helier, Jersey if necessary. However after a brief conflab we agreed to press on. Mick in particular was keen to finally make Brittany after all those years.

An hour or so later the wind eased a little and veered back to the west allowing us to tack back on to a southerly heading which we held all the way to Lezardrieux. Within a few more hours both reefs were shaken out and we were under all sail once again.

We did not set off with Lezardriuex as our definite destination but it soon became clear that at our rate of progress we would make landfall during the night and short of standing off and waiting for daylight we needed a port with good lights to guide us in. The approach to Lezardrieux and indeed all the rock strewn Brittany coast, looks rather intimidating to the first timer, especially at night. However, Lezardrieux has excellent leading lights and so our choice was easily made.

A little dispute arose between skipper and mate about the identity of the marks but after a short period of confusion the lights were identified at about 2330 and we followed them in. After a while it became clear that the skipper was not up to countering the strong west flowing tide and we were pushed off our line for a while. A local fishing boat steamed up close during this period and flashed her lights - I afterwards realised that she was probably trying to warn us that we were off line but at the time I hurled uncomplimentary remarks in her direction.

It was a very dark night and a long river with the leading lights being the only lights on the river. Very dark shadowy columns and lumps slid past sometimes alarmingly close and I was very glad we were back on line. Then a moment of blind panic - a new set of lights replaced the original ones and as these separated and could no longer be followed and before the line of the new lights became clear I had no idea which way to turn the boat. Fortunately the mate was conning the boat with the aid of the laptop chart-plotter down below and was able to guide us through the turn. Nothing sharp stuck through the bottom of the boat and I breathed a big sigh of relief.

By 0130 we had arrived at the sight of the Marina and moored up on the waiting pontoon in the middle of the river.

Rough key stats:

Departed Braye Alderney at 0950 on 5/8/13
Total passage hours to river mouth - 13.75
Total distance over ground = 75 nautical miles
Average speed 5.5k
Total passage hours to marina 15.5
Total distance over ground = 80 nautical miles
Average speed 5.2k
Total engine hours 4
Total sailing hours = 9.25
Arrived Lezardrieux marina 0130 on 6/8/13

Later that day after a good night's sleep we motored into the marina and if memory serves me correctly we did a number of odd jobs around the boat and finally got ashore for a beer at the local bar at about 1630.

No customs officials were in evidence - indeed we saw none the whole trip and were never asked for Passports or ships papers. The marina staff were most friendly but we later found that the easy access berth near the outside of the marina to which we had been directed had one major disadvantage. It was in middle of the river and therefore not only did arrival (by accident) and departure (by design) have to be timed to be at slack water, but also the stream at full flood or ebb excerpted enormous pressure on the boat and pontoon. In the middle of the following night just after we had retired to bed we heard an alarming cracking/banging sound. We emerged to find out french neighbours already on deck. Their much bigger and higher boat had pulled the pontoon up above our fenders! We had to rig a complex series of lines to pull ourselves off from under the lip of the pontoon. Fortunately no damage was done.

Lezardrieux's chruch
The town proved to be even smaller than we thought and was "done" in half an hour. However we found a lovely restaurant and had a truly excellent dinner. It proved to be the best of the trip. The skipper even bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate our arrival in Brittany, some 35 years or so since he and the mate first attempted the trip.
Dinner in Lezardrieux

Having done Lezardrieux in half an hour the next day we caught a taxi to Paimpol another delightful harbour town a few miles to the east. A beautiful spot and it would have been delightful to berth there but the approach to the locked harbour dries out and they were preparing for hosting the Classic Channel Regatta at the weekend and so we probably could not have got in anyway.

We explored the harbour and town, had lunch and the guys bought fishing tackle for a later assault on the local mackerel population!
Classic Preparations

Local classics

English classics!

A British classic

A classic bookshop

A classic lunch in Paimpol

Next up Treguier - 5 miles or so West as the crow flies, but we had to go back down the river hop along the coast and down the next river. Probably nearer 25 miles as a boat swims.

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