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.