Saturday, 7 July 2018

Flying home an unexpected route

With the alarm set for 6.30am we were expecting to do the final packing up of Robinetta before taking the bus to Quimper to catch our 10:45 flight. Unfortunately rather than the alarm we were woken by a text message alert.

The flight was cancelled.

BA could not help us find another flight home unless we travelled to Toulouse, or waited for Tuesday, neither of which were possible, so Julian started looking and grabbed the first flight that showed up on his search, the 18:30 from Brest to Southampton. We would have to catch the bus to Quimper, then the train to Brest, then a tram, then a bus.... but we would be in England by 18:30 UK time, and trains from Southampton Parkway to London were frequent.

Finding and buying the flight took time, so we did not make our previously intended 08:09 bus, but we did catch the next one which actually took a shorter route than the earlier one so we were in time to catch the 10am train to Brest.

Mini sub at Brest Castle maritime museum
Two hours in Brest, looking round the castle and maritime museum, made a worth while stop over, so the travelling day feel more like a holiday. The schedule of the bus that connects the end of the tram line to the airport meant we had a three hour wait there, then the plane was 30 minutes late...

We were tired and over hot by the time we took our seats on the plane, but we then had the most amazing flight home. From a cloudless sky we could look down and see the coast spread before us. Julian thought we were flying over Paimpol, but I was pretty sure we weren't, so he got out the Samsung tablet, and opened up the chart. We were over Roskoff.

We then passed Guernsey, with Herm and Sark, and the Cherbourg peninsula visible beyond, before reaching the Isle of Wight and a Solent crammed with boats by Cowes as they finished a slow Round the Island race.

Having a flight cancelled is a pretty stressful event, but I am very glad we took the route home that we did!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Loctudy to Douarnenez

We left in drizzle and mist. Visibility was OK but we put the AIS on with the new antenna. We needed the cabin hatch closed for the rain so we led it through the ventilation chimney. It worked well like that.

Leaving Loctudy was a matter of dodging crab pots and small fishing boats - some servicing the pots and some fishing with rods.

We set full sail but kept the engine on to help point. We managed to point as little as 45 - 50 degrees off the wind some of the time.

It took an age to get around the Pointe de Pen Marc'h, beating long boards. The west going ones were into the waves which rarely stopped us but were very hard work. The north going ones where rather nice. But we realised we would never have made the Raz by the afternoon slack on our previous plan of leaving Loctudy at 5am. Not with a northwesterly.

Once round the Pointe de Pen Marc'h sailing was easier and we made one very long board up the coast, only tacking when we got to 10m depth (of course we know that is less than 10m until I recalibrate the echo sounder). We could see other yachts on the AIS doing the same thing. They tacked much earlier.

Passing Audierne I got enough 3G signal to check the weather again - it was still OK to try to get through the Raz. I also found the Pointe du Raz webcam. It looked serene.

Although the wind was due to fall it got stronger now. We put in a reef and throttled back. Alison was pretty tired on the helm and decided (having read something in a book) that heaving to might help reefing. It all got a bit fraught as the only way to get the roller reefing to work on Robinetta is head to wind. I shouted a bit. We managed.

We had planned a sausage dinner but with the new plan I suggested we shift that to breakfast. Alison said she wanted a pot noodle - the perfect dinner when you don't want to cook! She had a Teriyaki one and I had Hoisin Duck. Well, what passes for Hoisin Duck in a pot noodle.

It was late dusk by the time we got to the Anse de Feounteunod at 22:15 and getting misty but we could see well enough to thread our way through the moored small boats and find a spot to anchor. We dropped in about 6m indicated (so maybe 4.5m). We had time for four hours sleep before we needed to head for the Raz.

Like all the anchorages we have tried in Brittany the swell came in. So we spent half an hour stopping odd clanging noises. The hardest new one to find was the spare shampoo bottle rolling around in the vanity unit cupboard.

Then we both managed at least three hours sleep; although the swell never stopped it was mild.

The alarm went off at 2am and we preped the boat then got the engine on and hauled up the anchor, retracing our GPS track through the moorings with Alison in the bow making sure no boats had moved. We had hoped for a moon but it was cloudy.

Once out of the lee of the anchorage there was a really nice wind with lots of north in it so we could sail to the Point. I had set a route in which took us nearly to Les Chats - the rocks at the southwest end. I thought we would need to be able to go northeast through the Raz to get a good reach. I wanted to be very early and try to go through against the last of the ebb tide so the tide would be with the wind. That way it might be smooth-ish.

But it was so calm that we could motor gently into the headwind and tide and make 2 knots. So we were ready to turn early, but then Alison spotted a yacht tri-colour masthead light ahead so we turned a little south to let it get ahead before following it in.

Even at 3am we were not the only boats going through the Raz. There would be more.

We were even earlier than I had planned but it seemed to be working. We realised we had made one mistake. There are lots of useful navigation lights - channel markers, cardinals and lighthouses. We should have learned these and their patterns - it would have made it easy to fix our position and to know which lights were unexpected and therefore other boats.

We did get one AIS alarm - a yacht coming through in the other direction under spinnaker. We could see his red light but the AIS made it really easy to see his track and know how to turn to pass parallel.

By the nominal slack time of 4:11am we were parallel to the rocks on the point - half way through! It was really easy going - head to wind but no swell and no wind over tide effects.

Once through we turned onto a close reach and I found the Cap de la Chèvre light was perfect to aim by. The speed increased to 5 knots and we turned the engine off and had a wonderful sail into the morning. We went onto proper watches now with one on the helm and one sleeping, until 8am when I felt like cooking breakfast. We hove to and had a really nice meal of chipolata sausages, mushrooms, leeks, potatoes and tomatoes.

Then we sailed gently towards Douarnenez until we lost the wind about half a mile out and put the sails away.

We got into Treboul at 10:30, exactly as hoped. After filling the tanks with diesel we headed in to our booked mooring - the same one we had before in Port Rhu.

Thursday, 5 July 2018


We didn't know what we would do today. We got up quite early to have a think. I thought the harbour master here, who's English is excellent, might make some phone calls for us. I looked at the local busses and it seemed we could get to Quimper on Saturday from Loctudy so maybe that was an option. Benodet and La Foret seemed to have buses only on weekdays but a taxi would still be possible. Audierne looked less good - no weekend buses and an expensive taxi ride.

Alison suggested we might try the overnight passage through the Raz. I looked at the weather and it had changed again. The 20 knot gusts were still there at 3pm but the night now looked much better. F3 with little swell, reducing later. Slack water would be 4:11 am so we had time to get to the Raz.

The Secret Anchorages book mentions a bay seven miles west of Audierne and only three miles from the Pointe. It looked like a good idea. We settled on it and even after a nice chat on the pontoon with another British couple we were away by 8:30.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Port Tudy to Loctudy

We decided on an early(ish) start, hoping to maybe round Pen Mar’c and reach Audierne today. Our more realistic expectation was to get to Loctudy, then head to the Raz de Sein tomorrow.

There is no boulangerie in Port Tudy itself, but it was not a long walk to La Bourg so we were back on Robinetta by 07:45, baguette and croissant in hand. A couple of boats had already left, with more preparing to go when we cast off at 07:55. Once we were clear of the harbour there was a noticeable swell, with the wind a good force 4 from the South West. Julian hoisted the no 2 jib, but shook out yesterday’s reef, then put it straight back in with fewer creases.

I helmed for the first hour and once we were out of the shelter provided by Groix the waves were only slightly smaller than yesterday. However they were spaced further apart and more regular. Trying to make the heading to clear Pen Mar’c put us very close to the wind and so nearly head on t the waves. It was not at all easy to sail the course, and butting into the waves slowed us down hugely.

We fell back on the Loctudy option, and were soon close reaching along at 4 knots at a sensible angle to all but the biggest waves.

The weather was familiar to British sailors. Some blue sky, some gray overcast, and cool enough to want an oily jacket against the wind chill. By 09:00 I decided on oily bottoms too, against dollops of spray that found their way into the cockpit.

By half eleven the wind had dropped enough to shake the reef out of the main sail, and as soon as Julian took the helm he decided he wanted the larger jib too. Once we had full sail up Robinetta regained the speed she had lost.

It stared to drizzle just before noon, then rain started pounding down. I took the helm and Julian ducked below to put on his wet weather gear. By the time he was back on deck the rain was almost over, but it had flattened the sea noticeably, and the wind was also decreasing.

We ate lunch in shifts, with the weather too unpredictable to set out a picnic in the cockpit, but the sky soon cleared again. We put the engine on to keep the speed up at 13:00, but then the wind speed increased again so we turned it off. We motor sailed, with more or less revs (sometimes none) for the rest of the afternoon. There were a lot of yachts about, including a lovely little classic gaff rigged yacht that sailed close to wave at us. Another little gaffer, a Skellig 19, was sailing in the entrance to Loctudy, and they came and escorted us through the entrance channel to make sure we went the right way.

We had had a good day’s sail, but were glad to get into a place where we could easily find a visitor’s finger berth, rather than the crush of Port Tudy. There were a lot of British boats in the marina, we were berthed between two of them, and it felt as though everyone was admiring Robinetta. We decided to eat ashore for a change, at the marina bar/restaurant, and had a lovely meal, spoilt by only one thing. We read tomorrow’s weather forecast.

Thursday afternoon, when we should be heading through the Raz de Sein, the wind would be North Westerly 4 gusting 5. That would be a head wind for us sailing, but even worse would make for horrible wind over tide conditions in the Raz de Sein. We would not be able to get through it. Trying to go round the Raz would give us a minimum 85 mile passage, beating most of the way, so that was not really an option either. Since we can not get through the Raz de Sein tomorrow we can not get to Douarnenez for Friday lunchtime.

Julian spend the rest of the evening working out where we could leave Robinetta and still make our booked flights from Quimper on Saturday. It needs to be close enough to Douarnenez to get there in two days (weather permitting) after we get back on Robinetta for the Temp Fête. Sailing with a timetable can be a frustrating business.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Heading west from Port Louis

Worm had about 30 gallons of rain in her this morning. Julian got most of it out with the bucket.

I was starting to take the cover off Robinetta’s main sail at half nine this morning when a very charming French man with perfect English came down the finger berth to ask if Julian and I would mind having a conversation with some students of his. He was an English teacher, and his students would be in a local café at 10:30.

We agreed it would be interesting, and I put the cover back on. It started to drizzle again, so we were glad to be in the dry talking to interested people.

We left the cafe at 11:35, and went straight back to Robinetta to get her ready to leave, (not wanting to incur another day’s mooring fee). After days of sailing in shorts and teeshirts it felt odd to be putting on waterproof trousers and jackets. Julian got the bowsprit out as we headed out of the marina, but it took longer than normal and he was still working on it as we passed the fort.

The sea state there was horrid, short steep seas as the head winds met the ebbing tide. I raised the stay sail, and tacking on it and the engine helped a little, but I was looking forward to getting into more open seas. Since Robinetta was head to wind we raised the main sail, but put three turns round the boom of reef rather than hauling it all the way up.

Yesterday’s forecast has been for light (force 2-3) South Westerly winds. Today felt like a top end 4 gusting 5, and when Julian re-checked the weather that indeed was as expected. The wind direction was pretty good for heading to Concarneau and once we were clear of the channel and could put the no 2 jib up and sail more freely to the wind the seas calmed down a lot. We were on a close reach, and it was challenging sailing, but quite fun once I had the “helping hands” to make the tiller easier to use. We were going at a good rate, over 5 knots in the gusts and nearly as much in the steadier wind.

Then we came out from behind the shelter of the Ile de Groix and the sea state increased again. Most of the waves were fine, but every couple of minutes a pair of larger ones would come at us in a challenging way.

I realised it was 13:45 and we had not had lunch yet, so suggested Julian go below and make himself something to eat before taking over the helm. Once he was below and I was alone on watch I began to realise that the sea state was not something I wanted to cope with for another 22 miles to Concarneau. That would be another five hours, and no ports of refuge if the sea state got worse. Robinetta was too small for the conditions, so we needed to turn back.

I told Julian what I thought, and he agreed. Down below it had been very obvious how rough it was getting.

We tacked, and headed for the Ile de Groix, which was another close reach. The helm felt lighter in this direction, and we slowed down to 3 knots, but the sea was still rather rough for us until we were in the shelter of Groix. It then became a rather pleasant sail.

A huge catamaran came past us, hesitated for ten minutes just off Groix, then turned round and powered right across Robinetta's bow as though to show how fast a boat could move. She carried the markings of the Route de Rhum race, all the way to Guadalupe, and looked really powerful with just one sail up.

Robinetta had the right amount of canvas for the conditions for her, and an hour saw us at the entrance to Port Tudy where we turned the engine on and got the sails down. The ferry from Lorient left harbour while we got ready to go in, then the Bro Warok preserved fishing boat headed into the harbour then out again... there were two other yachts waiting to go in too.

Port Tudy was just as crowded on a Tuesday afternoon as it had been on Sunday, and we ended up rafted 3 out on the hammer head, but this time we were not going to leave! Given the conditions a four hour sail was plenty.

We had a chat with another English sailor from a boat called Wave Function II. He had come on a broad reach all the way from the Ile de Glennan, and told us he had nearly broached twice. This made me even more certain we had done the right thing in turning back.
Locmaria harbour

We had a cup of tea, and I finally got round to eating lunch, then we went for a walk across Groix to Locmaria, a harbour on the south side of the island. The boats there were rolling horribly (the moorings are only protected by a mole, and there is no inner harbour) and we were glad of our place in Port Tudy.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Working day

One of the ways that Julian has managed to get enough work leave for sailing this summer is that he promised his boss that he would work for a day in the middle of the weeks away. That meant that this Monday he needed to be in the "office". The essentials of this are shore power, and good internet. By coming back to Port Louis we got both.

I was intending to do some painting and varnishing of Robinetta while Julian worked inside, but this of course depends on the weather. After a week of hot, HOT, HOT!! we got rain. The morning was not too bad, just light drizzle really, but in the afternoon the skies opened, and not just normal rain, but torrential rain that found every space in the seams opened up by the heat.

We were away at the supermarket when it really got going, so there was no chance to get the cockpit cover on. It was the forward bulkhead that let the most rain through, with constant drips coming though the new deck beam. Hopefully it will let up tonight, or we will be very wet by morning!

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Houat to Ile de Groix?

The promised thunder storms rolled in after we got to bed last night, accompanied by rain that made the cabin ceiling leaks reappear. Far fewer than before we had the work done!

Le Palais, Belle Ile
The previously calm anchorage also acquired a swell that made Robinetta roll. As a consequence Julian was hauling up the anchor by 08:00 and we ate breakfast under way with George on the helm. The weather forecast contained no wind, so we left the main down and did not unfurl the jib, The staysail went up as normal though. The idea of a day of motoring in the sweltering heat made both of us a little depressed, but at least the first hour was pleasantly cool. There were also a few clouds about which meant the sun was not continuously beating down.

Top end of Belle Ile
We headed for the east side of Belle Ile, and motored along it admiring the coast before heading for the Ile de Groix, which we had chosen as our first destination on the trip back towards Douarnenez. Belle Ile faded into the distance as we rigged the parasol, then ate lunch, motoring along in the oily calm.

At 14:00 I realised I felt cool for a change. Julian was below, dozing and keeping out of the sun, and it took me a couple of minutes to discover that the lack of heat was not just down to the sun being behind a cloud. There was actually a breeze.

Rather than disturb Julian I raised sail alone, and once I turned back on course Robinetta began to bowl along at 3½ knots. The sea surface still looked windless, but she was moving well. Julian popped his head up, and we had a beautiful sail all the way to the Ile de Groix, with the wind increasing smoothly.

We were slightly reluctant to stop sailing once we reached Groix, so we began to beat into the entrance channel of Port Tudy, our chosen destination. This was rather busy, with a ferry going out, a dive boat very close to the entrance channel, and a number of yachts and speed boats coming and going. We realised that sailing any further would cause more problems than enjoyment, so got the sails down and the bowsprit in.

The harbour at Port Tudy was heaving with boats, but we got Robinetta onto the final place on the hammer head, just by the entrance. She fitted perfectly, not overhanging the way the other boats did, and once Worm was moored up on the outside we were set. Julian went to plug in the power lead, and discovered a problem. No empty power sockets, and we needed power so he could work tomorrow.

Another 40' boat came in and moored up on the boat ahead of us on the pontoon. They were rafted three out now, and I began to feel guilty about our use of space. Another 2 bigger boats were milling around, trying to find somewhere to moor. It all felt a bit crowded and cramped.

45 minutes after berthing we decided to leave. It was only 17:00, and there would be space and power in Port Louis. The only drawback was that we had put everything away.

We left the bowsprit stowed, but the sailing breeze was too good to ignore for the three mile sail into Lorient, so up went the main and staysail, and we had a lovely (if slightly unbalanced rig wise) reach across to Port Louis.

The marina was pretty full, and we ended up rafted outside a large Bavaria on the visitor pontoon, but it felt much more relaxed than Port Tudy, and we were glad to be back.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Belle Ile and Houat

The swell died down nicely last night and we had a good night’s sleep. The wind blew steadily but lightly from the head of the fjord keeping the boats from swinging near each other or the rocks.

It was cooler too – not the searing heat we have become used to.

So we felt awake and able to have a decent start. I went on deck and got us ready to go while Alison put the cabin into day mode. That seems to be falling in to place as a habit – we must swap it around at some point.

The wind was strong enough that we debated setting the No 2 jib but XC said it was 3-4 and due to drop so we went for the No 1.

The shearwaters were looping the fjord as we left but proved very difficult to photograph. The zig-zag pattern on their upper wings is beautiful.

Outside we went head-to-wind to raise the main and then turned left down the west coast. The first part was pretty much due south and the freshening south-easterly wind pulled us along at 5 knots like a steam engine. Alison was finding it tough on the helm so we put a little reef in the main. We didn’t slow down.

The wind kept freshening and I realised we should have the No 2 jib but before we could change them we needed to reef the main more. I took it right down to the first hoop and we furled the jib and carried on with deeply reefed main and stay-sail.

I should have changed jibs then but didn’t think of it. As the wind eased Alison would have had the No 2 jib out for the last 15 minutes before I took the helm but didn’t want to try the No 1. When I took over I put the No 1 out and it felt good. Deeply reefed main and full head-sails shouldn’t really work but close hauled Robinetta was nicely balanced.

When I’ve read books on rig design they all assume the centre of effort is in a fixed place and one needs to reef fore and aft in parallel. With Robinetta the balance seems to shift with wind-speed and point of sail. I don’t know if this means a poorly designed rig or if it is true in practice for all boats.

We were quite far out to sea by now and beyond the bottom of the west side of the island. We tacked in to get closer for the views and to see if we could pass inside the only marked rock. This brought us close to another small yacht going the same way and we sailed beside each other for a while. Mostly Robinetta was faster but they did start to overhaul us when they put out more of their roller-reefing genoa. The wind was easing more and we went head to wind and shook out most of our reef in the main. It’s nice to sometimes find a boat that isn’t faster!

They dropped their sails and went into one of the bays, presumably to anchor for lunch.

The wind kept easing but kept us at about 3 knots all the way to the eastern end of the island. The whole seaward side of Belle Ile is lovely. The cliffs are quite high with offshore rocks and sea stacks and small sandy beaches.

Rounding the island’s southeast corner we lost the wind completely and put the engine on. The east shore is lower with bigger beaches. The southern one is full of moorings. On this Saturday afternoon – the last in June – it was full of motor boats and one sailing yacht. There are two or three further beaches and they were all occupied.

We could see Houat, our destination, now. Houat is surrounded by rocks and is said to be dangerous to leave or approach at night. There is a harbour on the north side and two good beach anchorages, one on the east side and one on the south. XC was predicting northerlies and our experience at the Iles de Glenans told us the vent solaire was likely to kick in from the north so we chose the southern beach.

Coming from the south there is an isolated danger mark and to the east of it a small island. An approach between the two avoids all the other dangers. Alison calculated a 2.5m tide and it was one hour before high water so we dropped the hook in 5m and went for a swim. A fender as an extra bottom rung to our ladder works well as a swim ladder.

We haven’t eaten ashore at all yet this trip. It was our only Saturday night of this leg and we felt like a change so we dressed up a bit and rowed ashore and walked into town.

The village on Houat is delightful. It is absolutely covered in flowers – lots of hollyhocks and roses and other flowers.

We bought some milk at the general store and walked to the harbour. There were lots of fishing boats and some yachts but what caught my eyer were two tiny three-masted luggers moored up together.

Alison spotted a hotel restaurant and we walked up their garden and booked a table. The Hotel Iles was running two sittings – one at 19:30 and one at 21:00 so we wandered off to find a bar for a drink before dinner.

The bar was nice and I spotted someone wearing a tee-shirt with a three-masted lugger on it. He noticed my interest and came over and said hello. He had sailed one of them over from Morbihan. It had been made in 1997 based on a Bantry Bay boat and been at the Breast festival in 2000.

Dinner was excellent. We shared a hot goats cheese salad starter and I had moules-frites and Alison had the seafood platter with spider-crab and langoustines and crevettes. I had raspberry sorbet and lime sorbet for afters and Alison had what was billed as Tiramisu but was more like summer pudding.
When we got back to the beach one of the boats at anchor was in full party mode with loud music blaring out over the whole bay. I hoped they would stop before midnight.

Back on the boat I was a bit concerned about the depth of water below us. Ever since I configured the echo sounder with the transducer offset I’ve not been sure what the chart plotter displays. We predicted the tide would have dropped by about a metre but when we turned the plotter on we were now in 3.6m by its measurement so it looked like we had a 3m tide not a 2.5m one. With the uncertainty of the reading we needed more information.

I dropped the dinghy anchor over to use as a lead line. We measured the depth of water with a steel rule and we only had 2.4m or 1m under the keel with another metre at least to fall!

Luckily there was a nice big space to move to. We put the engine on and I changed into older clothes and hauled the anchor up and we moved into 6m and dropped it again.

So now we know that the chart plotter does use the transducer offset number and we know that I need to change the number stored in the echo sounder. It looks like I should take at least a metre off the transducer offset.

The party boat went quiet about 11:20pm. Nice folks after all.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Port Louis to Belle Ile

Fort Louis
We spent a day in Port Louis, visiting the fort and its museums, then having a seista before catching the bus and going to the supermarket. We bought a ready to reheat paella and ate on board Robinetta. Add in a bottle of supermarket special offer white Bordeaux wine and we had a lovely dinner. All in all Port Louis was a good place to spend a shore day.

This morning we were waiting to pay when the office opened at 09:00. Only 18 euro for 2 nights, excellent value.

We left the pontoon at 10:15 and Julian got the bowsprit out while I helmed. We swapped jobs before we reached the main channel out of Lorient, and I got the jib up as we passed the fort we had visited yesterday,. It seemed a little gusty in the channel, do I flew the no 2 jib, bit within twenty minutes I changed it for the no 1. We had a lovely sail out of the South Channel, heading for Belle Ile at 4-5 knots.

Unfortunately the force 4 breeze began to fade, first to a 3, then to a 2. Our speed dropped to below 2.5 knots and we reluctantly put the engine on at 12:25. Julian was sure that sailing should still be possible, so he went forward and rigged the blue reaching sail. Once it was flying we put the engine in neutral to try it, but Robinetta made under 2 knots, so the sail went away again and we were back on engine.

Then, abruptly, the wind came back and we could sail at nearly 4 knots again. Every now and then it would go lighter, but we persisted with the sailing after 14:00, trailing a fishing line when the speed dropped and bringing it in when we sped up again. We did not catch anything.

A quartet of common dolphins came and swam lazily along side for about 20minutes, then headed off west, leaving us decisively behind.

We managed to sail until we were almost at the west cardinal that marked the rocks to the west of the tip of Belle Ile. The wind then failed again and we got the sails down before heading for the anchorage at Ster-Vraz.
Julian swimming at Ster-Vraz

We had found this anchorage in the “Secret Anchorages of Britainy” book. I would hesitate to call it secret, since there were a dozen boats in it, plus more in a side cove called Ster-Wenn. It is lovely though. Once we were securely anchored Julian went for a swim. We could have rowed to a beach at the head of the cove, but it had been a long hot day, and we just stayed aboard, and I cooked dinner.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Ile de Glenans to Port Louis

As there was wind and the morning was half-over we thought we ought to get a move on.

I went up and prepped the boat while Alison tidied away below and got the cabin into day mode. I don't think we've ever done it faster although we didn't hurry. We got the sails up on the mooring and sailed off it. We had the engine on and we needed it to tack out of the crowded moorings.

The two cat boats we had seen the previous evening were also leaving and we exchanged waves with the single-handed white sailed one. They headed out the north-east channel and we headed out the south-east one.

The southern-most island was a cormorant roost.

The wind was finally coming from the forecast direction - east. Where were we going? east! We sailed out of the archipelago but once free of obstructions we reluctantly turned the engine back on and motor sailed close-hauled until the wind died completely and then got the mainsail down and let George steer us towards Lorient.

It was a rather boring day. Motoring far out to sea with nothing to look at. At least it was a little hazy so it wasn't quite as hot as the previous day. I went below for a while and re-configured the Raspberry Pi so it is now possible to connect to it from my tablet. This is becoming more important as Lorient is the last place our Navionics charts cover. From now on the only electronic charts we have are the ones on OpenCPN on the Pi. We do have old but good paper charts Alison borrowed and we will make increasing use of these. We can see the OpenCPN charts now on my laptop and Alison's netbook and on my tablet and they seem quite functional.

The Ile de Groix has memories for Alison - she went on a geology field trip there in the early 1980s. We will stop there on the way back west. From 20 miles away it looks quite large. As you get closer it seems to stay the same size until as you approach it you can see its proper size - about 4 miles long and 1 mile wide. Very strange.

The entry into Lorient is straight-forward but there was quite a lot of traffic. One large cargo ship passed us went in ahead and another came out as we neared the Citadel of Port Louis. Two life-boats came out and half-dozen large fishing boats as well as some pleasure craft and the Groix ferry. We were alerted by the AIS receiver before we saw most of them.

There are lots of marinas. We had decided on the one at Port Louis as the Citadel there has a maritime museum covering the French equivalent of the East India companies. Also Port Louis is named after Louis XIII. I studied his reign in some detail for A level history although I've forgotten most of it. Less famous than his son 'The Sun King' Lots of interesting things happened during his reign - his first minister was Cardinal Richelieu and of course that makes it the period that the Three Musketeers is set. The English Duke of Buckingham is a character in the story and in real life he led an expedition to relief the siege of the protestant Huguenots on the Ile de Re in the harbour of La Rochelle after the 'Revocation of the Edict of Nantes'. Nantes and La Rochelle are all in the vicinity but too far for us to sail to this trip. The Edict of Nantes had given protestants some religious freedom in France but Louis XIII got rid of it which is how come many French protestants move to England and set up communities in London (which became Soho) and Nottingham (where they carried on making lace) for example. We'll look around tomorrow.

Entering the marina is easy and we ended up on the visitor's pontoon with lots of other English boats including Wyld One - last met in Cameret and Caroline - all the way from Tollesbury!

The showers here are top-notch - really new and nice and clean and they work well.

We are still trying to keep costs down so we eat aboard and had beans-on-toast followed by cheese and biscuits. Really rather delicious.

Manoeuvres in the dark

Robinetta began to rock in the swell as we got the bedding out, and the first half hour after “bed time” was spent tracking down all the bits and pieces on the boat that rattle when they move. Once we had everything quiet we did manage to get to sleep, but by 3 a.m. the movement was so extreme that the boom rolled out of its crutches. That brought us both on deck to sort it out, and neither of us could get back to sleep afterwards.

We discussed what to do, and decided the best would be to haul up the anchor, and go round to the other side of Saint Nicholas, where the island would be between us and the wind. Julian got the electronic charts up on his tablet as it was too dark to see much, then went to the foredeck and hauled up the anchor. I had to motor up towards it to help him.

Once the anchor was up I helmed us round the Isle de Bananec, following the chart and cardinal flashes. With looking at the lit chart on the tablet my night vision was not at its best, so Julian went onto the foredeck and called where to steer to avoid moored yachts. Once we found a vacant mooring we decided to take it, but I need two goes round to put Robinetta’s bow where Julian could reach the buoy.

Even these moorings, with an island between us and the wind, were not totally quiet, but they were a whole lot better than the ones on the other side of the isthmus that joined St Nicholas to Bananec, and I fell asleep almost as soon as we were secure on the buoy.

We were woken next morning, at 09:00, by the harbour master collecting his 10 euro dues for the buoy. Worth it for the four hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Le Guilvinec to Isle de Glenan

We woke late this morning. I could hear someone chatting on the pontoon and stuck my head up to see a fisherman about to get into his tender to go out to his boat. He called out to a younger man who was heading up the pontoon bridge. This turned out to be the Port de Pleasance harbour master, who had everything he needed to take our money. After a discussion of boat lengths we settled on 14 euro, 44 cents. 14 for Robinetta, and 22 cents for each person. It was good to be in a place that recognised that boats under 7m long might turn up!

He also told us where the shore heads and showers were, on the Lechiagat side of the harbour and the nearest place to buy bread. I jumped on the idea of a shower, so we headed there first, then bought croissant and pain au raison, plus a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. Breakfast and lunch sorted.

We ate breakfast on Robinetta, then went for a walk on the Le Guilvinec side of the harbour. It turned out to be market day, and we got sidetracked into tasting some Loire Château Grand Cru wine. The wine maker fed us oysters, bread, cheese, and strawberries as we tasted, and it was very easy to be tempted into buying half a mixed case.... We also bought some cheese and fruit, then purchases in hand we headed back to Robinetta.

There had been a lovely breeze in the morning, but by the time we were clear of the harbour it was dying away. We put the main sail up anyway, but within half an hour it was doing nothing, and we were motoring across a glassy sea, with the sun burning down and a swell pushing us around uncomfortably. We covered ourselves in suncream, and rigged the parasol against the glare.

A couple more hours did nothing to improve matters. I got the main sail down to save the UV damage, and Julian went below to stay out of the sun. He fine tuned my rough course to steer, and we headed for St Nicholas, on the Isle to Glenan.

The best bit of the journey was when a big pod of dolphins came and played alongside for ten minutes just as we reached the islands.

The anchorage on the north of Saint Nicholas seemed very busy. Most of the yachts were on moorings, with only two anchored. We joined them in dropping our anchor, seeing no reason to pay for a buoy. We are being cheap this holiday (helps to pay for the wine....) After getting the sail covers on and having a rest away from the heat we got into Worm, and I rowed us ashore.

One of the bars on St Nicholas
The sand had looked very inviting from Robinetta, and I entertained visions of wandering along the water line while Julian had a swim. The reality was a disappointment. The wet sand gave too much so walking was hard work, and I could see broken glass, with sharp edges that were not yet quite smoothed away. Julian decided not to swim either, and we ended up walking to one of the two pubs on St Nicholas and having a half of cider each.
The Isles de Glenan had supposed to be wonderful, but Julian and I decided that they were well down the list of islands we have visited in Robinetta. Part of our lack of enthusiasm was probably down to the heat, which neither of us like much. They have the air of tropical islands, low lying and fringed by sandy beaches, but have no other real points of interest. Not our cup of tea.

Back on Robinetta we ate tinned curry and rice for dinner, glad it was finally cool enough (at nine in the evening) to be able to face a cooked meal.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Into the unknown ...

We had a bit of a disturbed night. It was really calm but there was still enough swell to make Robinetta and the other moored boats pitch and roll all night.

I got up once to tighten the cord keeping the tiller still so the rudder wouldn’t knock when we rolled. Then we started pitching and got a different noise – probably the jib sheet block rolling back and forwards on the cabin roof.

So I needed a bit of a lie-in.

Eventually we rowed ashore to the beach at Sainte Evette and wandered to the public toilets at the ‘Gare Maritime’ which is where the vedettes go to the Ille de Sein. There don’t seem to be any shops – it looks like you have to walk to either Esquibien or Audierne proper. I thought it would be good to see it so we headed into town.

Audierne is a bit less than a mile up the river. The right bank of the river has a long quay wall and there are notice boards telling the history of the town in French and English (and a bit of Breton). Like Douarnenez it was once a sardine fishing town. When the sardines went they turned to crayfish. But earlier than that it had been a major centre for cargo shipping, sailing Caravels from Portugal to the Baltic and the British Isles.

We bought our groceries and a beach parasol and headed back. It was getting really hot and even using the new beach parasol like an umbrella I got burned on my upper arms.

Back on board I rigged the parasol to provide shade for the cockpit and we had a cup of tea and then went straight on to lunch.

It didn’t look like there was going to be enough wind to sail and I thought that if we weren’t sailing we should keep the sun off the sails – UV will kill them and we had more sun than I’m used to. So we headed off with the sail covers still on. Something we NEVER do!

Out in the bay the wind came up a little. So we got the covers off and the sails up anyway. We had to motor sail and not in quite the right direction but it felt right. We let George steer.

Our next port of call was to be Le Guilvinec, just round the Pointe de Penmarc'h. This was beyond the coverage of the charts on the plotter! We have borrowed paper charts and the Navionics charts on my tablet take us as far as Lorient and I have proper up-to-date electronic charts on OpenCPN on the pi but not having them on the cockpit plotter was something new! We found that the 8nm zoom lets us see the world base map which is ok for putting enough of a course in to help steer.

Alison went down into the cabin to do some writing and we pottered down the coast and I stayed in the cockpit on watch.

Sea bird commotion
The wind came up a bit at veered and I was about to change course on the tiller pilot when I noticed a big commotion in the water a little ahead and out to sea. Gannets and other sea birds had clearly found a shoal of something and were fishing.

We were a bit ahead of time so I turned the engine off and tacked towards them and put out our mackerel line. Alison came up to look.

Sea Bass for dinner
It took us ages under sail to get near and we did use the engine a bit to help but mostly we sailed. I pulled the line up a few times – once we caught a small mackerel but nothing much. Eventually the birds headed more out to sea and we went back on course but I did set the line again.

Then Alison noticed the line had come more horizontal and I pulled it and it was really heavy. I assumed we had caught several mackerel but as I hauled it in we could see two larger fish. We had hooked two fine sea bass!

Far too much to eat so we let the smaller one go.

An hour or two later we were met by a large pod of dolphins who played around the boat – the first we have seen since Cornwall.

After a while they wandered off and I started cleaning the sea bass. He’d been a greedy fish – his stomach was stuffed with sand eel. The dolphins came back so we threw them the insides and head of the bass – I think they caught some of it.

Alison spotted a tall ship on the horizon. We rigged the AIS to try to find out what it was but only got it’s MMSI. Looking it up later on Marine Traffic identified her as Morgenster – a 48m brig.

Morgenster on the horizon
The entrance to Le Guilvinec is tricky and strewn with rocks. Our old paper charts didn’t have the bouys we could see but my new charts on the raspberry pi worked well. I got them up on Alison’s laptop (using VNC) and she propped that up in the cabin and popped down occasionally to check. It was the only chart that showed the entrance to the harbour correctly although we would have got in OK just following the marked channel.

Fishing boats at Le Guilvenic
It is a really big fishing port, and as we have seen everywhere, many of the ships are old with wooden hulls but brought right up-to-date with steel superstructure and the latest gear. The port de plaisance is right at the head of the navigation and space is very tight but Robinetta is now snug on a pontoon with water and electricity.

I filleted and pan-fried the sea bass with garlic and shallots and we had it with potatoes and a little veg dish I did with a tomato and a little gem lettuce and some paprika. We had the mackerel fillets as a starter – just a morsel really.

It felt like a packed day.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Treboul towards Audierne

French bakers work on Sunday, which meant we could buy fresh bread to take with us. This baker also sold butter, which was just as well since the convenience store on the quay was closed until the start of July! Once provided with bread and butter we had enough dried provisions on board that we had plenty to eat.

We backed out of our berth, manoeuvring on ropes, to temporarily moor alongside the wooden sloop behind us. That gave us enough space to launch Worm back into the water from the pontoon. Then we set off into Douarnenez Bay, motoring across a bright blue sea with a light following breeze.

Approaching the Raz de Sein
George soon went on duty and we had a lovely trip along the coast with nothing to do but keep an eye out for pot markers and anchored sport fishing boats.

The wind seemed a little stronger after lunch, so we unfurled the jib and gave the engine a rest. We were ahead of time to reach the Raz de Sein at 15:00, high water Brest -½ as recommended by our pilot.

Passing through the Raz
We sailed slowly along at 2½knots so Julian tried the fishing line but with no luck. By 13:45 we decided we needed the engine again to make the tidal gate, and soon sped up to 3½ knots. I saw a blue helium balloon glittering in the water just to starboard, and since we had time we made a small diversion to pick it up, pop it, and bin it.

There were about 20 boats heading through or to the Raz when we reached it. A couple were going the other way on the very last of the flood, but by the time we reached the “now head through” point we were the last boat of the gaggle. With no swell, neeps, and very little wind the Raz was a non event of a tidal gate!

A modern yacht at the Raz
Once past the light houses we turned the engine off and sailed for a while. We were doing about 3 knots, on a run, but over 2 knots of that was tide and steering could be difficult.

Julian began to feel sick, probably heat stroke as it was too hot for our comfort and with the wind behind us we could not feel it. By 16:15 we had had enough and p ut the engine on to generate a cooling head wind.

And a classic!
An hour and a half later we were on a mooring buoy at Anse de Ste Evette, a bay just outside Audierne. There were plenty of free buoys, although they seemed very close together. Many of the visiting yachts were British, but most were French.

We ate on board, feeling too tired from the day to go ashore, then had an early night. The moorings were reasonably sheltered, but every time a boat went past any where in the bay it seemed to generate a large amount of wave action, so I could not describe the moorings as peaceful!

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Back to Treboul

We arrived back in Douarnenez at lunch time after a very early start, catching the 05:07 train from Stortford to reach City Airport in time for our 07:45 flight to Quimper. Cloudless sky and bright sunshine greeted us, but no bus, so we shared a taxi into Quimper and did a little basic shopping before catching the next bus to Douarnenez, which required an hour and a half wait. We had checked the tides, and knew we could get out of Port Rhu from 12:30 to 15:30, pretty perfect timing for us!

Robinetta sat in almost solitary splendour on her berth in the historic dock; with empty berths on either side of her. The “display” (a piece of paper) Julian had taped to her staysail cover was still in place. We had left Worm afloat beneath Robinetta’s bowsprit with the Drainman pump rigged, and this had either worked, of there had been no rain, as there was very little water in her.

I got the cockpit cover off while Julian brought Worm round to the stern and rigged the staysail. With our recent engine problems we wanted to have some alternative motive power available apart from the engine. Luckily the engine checks revealed no problems and it started first time.

With wind and tide pushing us into the berth backing out required a decent amount of power, but it was really easy, and there was enough room to turn and head for the bridge. A yacht had just entered Port Rhu, but the bridge was already being lowered to let pedestrians across. Julian called up the bridge keeper, and by the time we reached the sluice gate the bridge was ready for us.

We now had a very light head wind, and the tide running against us too, but as soon as we were clear of the bridge the tide slackened and we picked up speed.

We moored up on the outside of the Treboul visitor pontoon, ahead of a blue painted classic Bermudan sloop with Kim Holmanesque lines and no obvious name!  The two of us made a marked contrast to the white GRP boats that soon filled the rest of the pontoon. We had left the bowsprit out when we moored up, but by mid afternoon the pontoon was filling up fast. We decided to drop back closer to the sloop, and had to pull the bowsprit in in a hurry to let another boat moor ahead of us! A Beneteau 44 then came along and rafted up on that boat, with their stern overhanging our bow.

The skipper of the wooden boat astern approached us, carrying a plastic bag. Would we like the fish he had caught that morning? He had to head home, and had no fridge available to leave it in. Whether his offer sprang from fellowship between wooden boat owners, a “welcome to France” gift, or we were just the closest boat with people aboard was not clear! We happily accepted a rather splendid gurnard, larger than any I have seen in a shop.

Julian got straight on with filleting it, and a French couple from a boat on the other side of the pontoon drifted over to have a look, and admired it, so Julian gave them a fillet; there was way more than we could eat! In the absence of many fresh provisions we ate it fried in olive oil, with a side of rice and jalapeno pepper relish. Lovely.

After dinner we went for a walk, heading west along the Treboul shore. The sunset was absolutely amazing and we took a lot of pictures.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Last day of the trip

Our flights home are booked for Saturday, so we needed to be back at Douarnenez by Friday. We have arranged to leave the the boats there, in Port Rhu, on the classic boat pontoons. Port Rhu is behind a lock gate that only opens for an hour either side of high water at neaps, so we had to get there between 12 and 2pm.

The morning saw a flat calm, and hazy sunshine. We got the anchor up under motor, pointed the bow straight at Douarnenez, and told George to steer us there. We then pottered about Robinetta, tidying her up, while also keeping an eye out for other boats, and crab pot markers.

The sun burnt off the haze by the time we entered the harbour. We were slightly early for the bridge, so went into the Port de Pleasance and filled up with diesel.
As we approached the bridge another yacht was also heading for it, so we followed it through, and after dodging three boats heading in the other direction, went into our pre arranged berth.

We are in exalted company, by far the smallest yacht on the heritage pontoons, one yacht away from the oldest surviving Camper and Nicholson yacht in existence and surrounded by smart wooden Bermudan sloops. Not bad for a little gaffer!

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Worm's Eye View

I wanted to have a go at securing the nut on the stern gland. I hoped we could undo two hose clips and put one around the big static hex nut and one around the small nut that keeps coming undone and lock some strips of steel from a hose clip between them.

We managed to get the clips around the nuts but we couldn’t do them back up again. We gave up.

Back on holiday we worked out that one of the caves the trip boats visit is on the island we are anchored by. We got into Worm and Alison rowed us around. The geology is spectacular.

The other caves visited by the trip boats are just along the coast towards Morgat and then down towards Cape de Chevre. The last ones are in one of the ‘Secret Anchorages’ in our book so we thought we would potter down and anchor there tonight, looking at the caves as we went.

Of course it is only about 6 miles in total so we had a really lazy day.

There was no wind so we didn’t even raise the stay-sail. I got the anchor up but left the chain flaked on the fore-deck so we could use it again.

We kept close in and looked into the caves but didn’t stop to try to get in to any of them in Worm. You can see into the town of Crozon, which is a little in-land where the beaches are lower than the cliffs.

Morgat looks quite modern and the marina is large and new-ish with rubble walls but looks worth a visit. It is surrounded by a large number of crab pots so needs to be given a wide berth at its southern end.

Just past Morgat there is a pretty light-house on the hill – it really looks more like a house with an observatory attached!

The Anse de Ile Verge is the northern end of the Anse de Norgard. The trip boat brochure says it was voted 7th best beach in Europe. We anchored there for lunch and didn’t think that highly of it. Nice enough though and even nicer with better weather – it was still very hazy and overcast.

After lunch we carried on south and came much more quickly than I expected to the Pointe de Dolmen and the Anse St. Nicholas. Then I felt a breath of wind and before long it felt like a light sailing breeze from the west.

We got the stay-sail up and it gave us a knot so we raised the main and turned the engine off. We were definitely sailing so Alison went down and got the No 1 jib and bent it on. We were still pottering but now under sail!

The breeze was light but solid and with a flat sea we could do three knots. More-over, the sun was finally breaking through and although the humidity was still too high for great light conditions I suggested Alison it was a chance to take some photos of Robinetta under sail. Back in the sound of Jura I’d got into Worm to do this and this time Alison did it while I sailed around her.

After the photo shoot we used our new heaving-too skills again to make it easy for Alison to get back aboard. With the tiller lashed I could set the fenders and ladder up and Alison could row up to Robinetta quite easily.

It was 4pm and the wind was really nice and it was sunny. Rather than anchor here for the night Alison wanted to go back to our lunch stop or even back to where we spent Wednesday night. We had an absolutely lovely sail back north but then we saw some rain clouds coming from the west so we cut the journey short at Morgat and anchored in the bay near the town. In the event, the rain passed south of us but we didn’t need to move again.

For once we cooked together – not really necessary as it was just pasta with a jar of sauce and the salami we bought in the market yesterday cut up into the sauce. With Ouessant beer and sweet Britany cider it made an excellent meal.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Treboul to Ille de L'Aber

Treboul has a major market day on Wednesdays, and we spent an enjoyable hour shopping for lunch and dinner there, getting some very good salami type sausage from a specialist maker for lunch and steak for dinner. We were planning to anchor overnight at Ille de L'Aber, and needed to cater for it. This anchorage is less than 10 miles as the crow flies, so we were in no hurry, and did not cast off until 11:00.

The wind was northerly force 3, so we beat across Douarnenenz bay at speeds between 2.5 and 5 knots depending on the gusts. The cloud cover was total at first, but did thin as the day wore on, although a humid haze lay over the land making photography difficult.

We saw some impressive sea caves between Point de Lanvellian and Pointe de Tal ar Grip. There were also a flock of land yachts racing on one of the beaches.

By the time we reached Ille de L'Aber the sun was trying to show through the clouds. It was local low water and we anchored very close in to the island, in 5m of water. The rocks seemed really close, and we were not sure the anchor was holding. Rather than letting out more chain we pulled the anchor up and went further out to anchor in 6m, with 30m of chain out.

One other yacht was in the anchorage, an"Ecole Navale" vessel. Probably one of 3 we had seen yesterday practising manoeuvring in Treboul. They pulled up their anchor after dinner and we had the anchorage to ourselves.