Saturday 31 August 2013

Treguier to Roscoff 10/8/13

The Mate's lunch

Saturday was another fine weather day and we departed the marina in the sun at 0830 and motored down the river.

We left the river at about 1000 and headed west. There was light westerly breeze blowing just sufficiently to allow us to make reasonable progress under sail so the engine went off and we commenced tacking down the coast towards Roscoff.

We were soon sailing fast enough to deploy the fishing lines and within a couple of hours Mick and Bernie had caught enough Mackerel for our supper that evening.

Dinner - later baked by Bernie

The summer sailing continued as we made several tacks down the coast between the mainland and Les Sept Isles. Our charts and pilot showed the island as a restricted area but there were lots of yachts at anchor. Perhaps another example of the famous French approach to "the rules".

We were actually heading for Port Bloscon just east of Roscoff proper which dries completely at low water and whilst it would have been another delightful location in which to berth we didn't have a board for protecting the boat alongside harbour walls etc. Port Bloscon, once just a ferry port with only an anchorage for yachts now apparently sported a new - but not yet finished marina. It was less than a mile to walk to Roscoff town so we were quite happy with the prospect. Our pilot was out of date and only made "don't get your hopes up" type comments about the prospect of a marina ever being built and even less positive ones about it ever being finished. Tom Cuncliffe the author clearly did not fancy the place.

It's where we were going though. Once again the wind died so at 1530 the engine went back on.

On our approach I spotted what I thought was Nick's Folkboat sailing in way ahead of us and much closer to the coast. He had left about an half an hour ahead of us but it looked like he would be in more than an hour ahead. How on earth did he manage that I wondered and put it down to his greater experience of these waters and the short cuts around the ever present rocks. Nevertheless I was a bit put out at being so soundly beaten. Not of course that we were racing. Cruising sailors never "race" we just take enormous satisfaction from getting from A to B quicker than the other bloke! And of course the fact that we are not racing provides the perfect excuse for getting 'there' after him. The excuse is of course for his and others' benefit - because as you can see we are secretly quite dismayed when we do bring up the rear. That - at least in my case - is despite having a great deal of experience of precisely that situation. Fear not though, there is a further twist to this tale of skill and seamanship to which I will return.

Back with the topic of the new marina at Port Bloscon. I had found a website that confirmed its existence with some sketchy details about how to find it and get in. It all seemed a little confusing from a distance - where was the entrance? But as we drew nearer it became clear and we were in without any problems and moored up at 1900.

Rough key stats:

Departed Treguier 0830 on 10/8/13
Total passage hours = 10.5
Total engine hours = 5
Sailing hours = 5.5
Total distance over the ground = 47 nautical miles

Average speed over ground = 4.5 knots

We moored up just a couple of berths away from Nick who looked like he'd been there for hours. We invited him for a beer at the Marina bar which he accepted and I quizzed him on his passage. He'd arrived a whole two hours before us at 1700 so that sail that I thought was him was not. More importantly though he'd shown us a very clean pair of heels and I was secretly even more dismayed. After a while however he let slip that he'd motored all the way because of the head wind. That was OK and I even offered to buy him another beer!

Roscoff Harbour front

Roscoff Harbour (2)

Roscoff's haunted Church

Canal de I'Ile de Batz

Another view 

And another

Old Roscoff

Inside the Church

Dinner time at Roscoff

Shame about the cars

My dinner (I did not send photo to Sharon!)
Over dinner we discussed our return passage. First leg would hopefully get us to Sark but that would require a very early start. Fortunately the marina's fuel pontoon was self service so we could fuel up on our way out at 0500!!!!!

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Lezardrieux to Tregiuer - 8/8/13

Given our earlier disturbed night courtesy of the strong ebb we planned our departure for the top of the tide at 1000. Despite this decision being communicated to the whole crew, I had to refuse a last minute request for shore leave to use the marina's heads from one of them. He was to be uncomfortable for 30 minutes or so but I had no wish to be the centre of an embarrassing incident. Arctic Smoke doesn't 'do' tricky manoeuvres in confined spaces at the best of times and I had no wish to pit her 10hp against a four knot ebb in the marina.

We therefore got out without incident and at 1000 and headed down the river. It was a delightful day and our first opportunity to see in daylight the sights that we had passed under cover of darkness on the way in.

The photos below give only a hint of the rocky beauty of the river.

Yachting in Brittany

One of the large lumps we passed in the dark

This was only a short hop around the coast and yet again there was precious little wind so it was mostly under power. Given it was such a calm day we skirted the shallow bits quite closely and crossed some disturbed water as a result. Probably preferable to slogging round in a gale. The only other points worth recording were firstly that Mick and Bernie attempted their first assault on the Mackerel. It was however in vain. Mick complained that we were going too slowly and was convinced that 5 knots was the Mackerals' favourite suicide speed. Back in the 70's in the approach to Poole Harbour we enjoyed a memorable purple spot and caught so many mackerel we didn't know what to do with them. We ended up trading them at Poole Town Quay (in those days you didn't need to be amongst the super rich to moor there) for fresh home grown tomatoes supplied by our neighbour. Both crews enjoyed excellent fayre that night. There were to be no mackerel for us on this occasion however.

Second was our siting of a lone large Dolphin in the approaches to the river. 'He' was much larger than the dolphins in the pod we had previously seen and seemed to be a consistent grey colour whereas they appeared to have yellowish undersides. He didn't come as close as the others nor stay around so around as long as they did.

Treguier is another delightful location. The wind picked up as we neared the river and we enjoyed a delightful sail up it admiring the scenery. One of the great things about this coast from a yachtsman's perspective is the complete absence of commercial craft except for the odd fisherman. We had the river almost to ourselves apart from a couple of other pleasure craft.

Rough key stats:

Departed Lezardrieux 1000 on 8/8/13
Total passage hours = 6.5
Total miles over the ground = 20
Average speed = 3k
Engine hours = 4
Sailing hours 2.5
Arrived Tregiuer 1630 - on 8/8/13

Shortly after our arrival, Mick noticed a boat in the marina smaller than Arctic Smoke - an unbelievably rare occurrence! Everywhere we went AS was dwarfed by far bigger yachts. Modern yachts - even those only a foot or two longer than AS are huge in comparison - so much beamier with at least double the freeboard. Fourty footers - which seem two a penny these days are huge. On occasions I thought I'd walked down the wrong pontoon, only to realise that AS was hiding between two monsters and was virtually invisible.

Anyway back to the Folkboat - which is what it was. I have a soft spot for them because my first boat was one. This one was unusual being the only fibreglass smooth hulled version (and with a long coach roof) I had seen. All the others I had noticed up to now were imitation clinker ones - so called  Nordic Folkboats - built for racing. This one was being sailed single handed by Nick from Plymouth. Nick not surprisingly was not racing but would be officiating back at his club in Plymouth in a few days. He was heading west first for Roscoff and so we were to see him again.

Shortly after arrival we got ashore for drinks in the pleasant local bar near the marina. We still had fresh food aboard so after a couple of drinks Bernie prepared yet another feast that we all consumed with relish. Afterwards Mick and Bernie undertook a quick sortie around the town while Ian and I decided to take it easy aboard

The next morning we explored the town that whilst bigger than Lezardrieux was nevertheless pretty small.

The good people of the town took their flowers very seriously.

The architecture was also impressive - little signs of recession here.

The Cathedral had been restored in the 19th Century although part of it was clearly much older.

They had a strange way of honouring their saints though:

The skull of St Yves on display
After doing the sights we another good lunch and made our way back to the boat and had another couple of beers. Then we did the laundry at the local launderette and had another excellent meal in the restaurant opposite - this time the fayre was rustic but what starters:

Mine and Bernie's starters

I'd been sending the family photos of the trip as we went along and continued by sending the above, Sharon replied "Go away".

Mick and Ian's starters

Then I sent the this one and got the reply "I think u need to stop sending pixs now plz". Sometimes I just can't please my wife no matter how hard I try!

Roscoff some 30 miles or so further west, was to be be our next and final port before we started our homeward passage.

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.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Guernsey to Alderney 3/8/13

The tides dictated a late afternoon start so we slept in and breakfasted late - or was it an early lunch?

It was a pleasant afternoon and we were sailing within half an hour of departing the marina. We abandoned our initial plans to fill up with fuel (having previously done so at Portsmouth and Plymouth) due to a rather lengthy que and safe in the knowledge that we did not have far to go.

A fine sail to Alderney followed, on if memory serves me right, a beam reach in a civilised westerly. We recalled the advice we received from a local Guernsey Fisherman all those years ago - aim for Burhou and you'll be OK. The infamous Swinge was in fairly docile mood on our arrival with the westerly wind blowing in the same direction as the early flood. Even so enough of a chop developed off Burhou to remind us of what the Swinge was capable of delivering in less benign conditions.

Alderney may be my favourite island for a number of reasons but one sticks vividly in mind. At the tender age of 16 Alderney loomed out of the gloom at the end of my first every channel crossing. That one was on the Ocean Youth Club Pilot Cutter 'Equinox' and the landfall was quite simply the most amazing experience of my 16 years - absolutely magic. In those old pre-gadget days (30 years ago - only a couple of years after that first landfall - when I sailed on my Dad's standing gaff cutter, the most advanced technology we possessed was an occasional echo sounder (i.e. it worked sometimes) and a chip log - not counting the fancy RDF set that I could never master - new technology - pah); ensuring that one cleared the sunken breakwater was something of a challenge especially in poor visibility. This time though our GPS units and my laptop plotter made the task much easier. Mind you we still struggled to identify the leading marks correctly, but didn't follow the boat in front who went straight over it.

As we entered Braye harbour it was clear that whilst Alderney was still the island I had grown to love, things had changed. The 12 yellow visitors buoys had multiplied into closer to 50 and everyone was taken. We therefore anchored in 9 meters on the Eastern side of the harbour close to the North Cardinal and a very handsome one time steam yacht.

Our neighbour in Braye!
Later that evening

Hooray, we actually sailed more hours than we motored for the first time on the cruise (but note the rather short distance below).

Rough key stats:

Departed St Peter Port 3/8 1540
Total distance over ground = 22.5 miles
Total hours = 4
Total Engine hours = 0.50
Total Sailing hours = 3.50
Average Speed over ground = 5.6k
Arrived Braye 1930
Anchored 2027

It was late in the evening so despite mutinous mutterings from certain quarters we decided to stay on board and enjoy yet another excellent meal prepared by Bernie. And so reasonably early to bed. Except that there was  a beach party in full swing. This is no exaggeration - it was still going at 0800 the following morning! Those Alderney folk know how to party.

The next morning we hailed the water taxi (a new innovation since our previous visits) and went ashore.
The view from the quay in the morning

And another one!
First stop the the immortal Divers. Not quite the hostelry of old, but still a good pub and infinitely better than anything Guernsey had to offer. The wild seascape photos on the walls of yesteryear had been replaced by various "Divers" images. Appropriate enough but not quite the real thing.

The bar maid was very pleasant if a bit bleary eyed and we discovered the reason (for her bleary eyes) she left the party early at 0600! Some of her pals were in a far worse state and I supposed must have only just left! We also discovered the reason for the celebrations - it was Alderney Week!

After a swift pint - or was it two? .. we continued on our way up the hill to St Anne. Mick declared that having given up smoking some considerable time ago - he was fitter than he was at 25. Not having smoked I had to accept that I was not!

On arriving in St Anne we noticed that the locals were laying out their wares on various stalls up an down the high street. Pretty impressive given that many of them had been partying until 0800 that morning. Perhaps that was why we secured some excellent bargains - CD's at 50p a throw allowed us to stock up the boat's music library and I picked up a classy hip flask for a fiver.

We explored the town further - it was still as attractive as I remembered and quaintly some of the pubs still only opened on occasional days - Mick's favourite had however turned into an Art Gallery! Time for lunch. After inspecting the scene where yours truly fell asleep in his dinner some 30 years ago ....

As it says on the wall
.... we returned to the centre of town to a pub I have forgotten the name of (help guys) and had a most superb lunch. This was followed by a walk around the north Eastern corner of the island - as beautiful as ever ...

A humble Alderney home

The harbour from afar

Alderney delights - all the above

Then back to the boat for (yes you guessed it) and consideration of our next passage. That dam low was still lurking over the Irish Sea and so we finally had to let go of the idea of the Scilly Isles and turn our attention to Brittany. This had certain compensations (and we were to discover more) namely that Mick and I had spent many years on the trot in the 70's trying to get there on my Dad's boat. We never got any nearer than Jersey, so to get there now provided a certain symmetry to our trip. The die was caste. The next day we would head south once more.