Thursday 12th June
Having raced La Nef IV in the HRSC Wednesday evening “A” series fully laden with all the cruising gear (we managed 3rd), Peter Slimming and I set sail for Weymouth at 08.20 on a bright sunny morning with just a little SW breeze. Sadly this meant motor sailing all the way to Weymouth. Although there was firing practise on the Lullworth range, this did not affect us at all since they were only firing 1.5 miles out to sea.
We arrived in Weymouth at 16.15 where a few more provisions were purchased. We chose the first night of our cruise to Brittany to eat on board.
Friday 13th June
Not withstanding the date, the day dawned bright and sunny yet again. Our destination was Dartmouth, so having fuelled up, we left at 08.45 in time for an early rounding of Portland Bill. With little or no wind again we motored on a flat sea along with several other boats. It was 14.30 before a decent breeze filled in. Everyone around cut their engines and the upwind race was on. Most boats we left far behind, but there was a Dutch boat about 45ft that seemed determined to not let us get in front. It was difficult with our old cruising sails but we finally did it. They tacked away in gentlemanly fashion and when we crossed again we had gained the advantage. After a glorious end to the day we docked in Kingswear marina at 17.30
Being so close to Capton, I made a call to my old friend Brian. It was decided that we should all lunch together the next day at a location of Brian and Sarah’s choice. That evening we dined at the Royal Dart Yacht Club.
Saturday 14th June / Sunday 15th June
Our next destination was to be L’Aber Wrac’h. Since we wished to arrive there in the daylight, with an 18 hour passage ahead of us, we decided to leave around 15.00 This gave us time to do a little more shopping and have a little rest before taking the ferry to Dartmouth to meet Brian and Sarah. They took us to a pub some little way away where we ate royally. Brian then got us back to Dartmouth in time for our 15.00 hrs departure.
To keep a relatively boring trip short, we motor sailed nearly all the way in a virtual flat sea. This seemed very strange at the time since the forecast told us to expect a F4-F5 NE. The only excitement we had during the clear moonlit night was dodging the various ships in the shipping lanes.
Just as it started to get light around 04.00 a sea mist formed leaving us with around 1.5 miles visibility. The last 30 miles or so were very slow since we had a very strong tide against us. The good thing, I guess, is that by the time we reached the Libenter buoy marking the entrance to L’Aber Wrac’h, the mist had all but cleared. As we turned into the river, all hell let loose. The forecasted F5 blew up. By the time we got to the marina entrance it was clear that it would not be easy and safe to get in, so we were forced against our better judgement to more against the wave break. The NE wind was on the port bow so pushing us on, but all was OK. Breathing a sigh of relief at having made the crossing in benign conditions, we ate a superb meal ashore.
Monday 16th June
We left L’Aber Wrac’h at 09.20 in order to take the last of the favourable tide down the Chenal de Four and then be carried on to Camaret.
It was obvious that the forecasted wind had arrived. It was blowing 16Kn+ in the river. In order to safely leave the quayside, we enlisted the help on the harbour launch to pull the bow out. From then on it was straightforward. Having left the river, the wind increased to 20Kn+ in the Chenal de Four, but with it behind us there was little problem. We had anticipated this an used the cautious approach on leaving the main securely stacked. The headsail was all we needed. Having reached the end of the chenal marked by the Vieux Moines, we had to harden up to a heading of 115 which gave us a close hauled situation. As an experiment we just sheeted in the headsail and she sailed like a dream even though by now it was blowing a steady 22Kn+. With a fortunate lift, we sailed straight into the bay, furled the headsail and entered the marina. I found just the berth which meant that we would once again have the wind on the port bow, but this time would be blown off, so no squashed fenders. I started to reverse in. Gave a stern mooring line to a waiting Dutchman who duly cleated it. A strong gust came, the bow swung out and before we knew it we were parked on the inner pontoon at right angles to what we needed. Having taken a deep breath, we enlisted the help of the 2 Dutchman on the boat next to where we wished to be (for the record an X-442). Between us all, we managed to haul the boat round to its rightful position. That afternoon and evening, the wind howled, reaching 35Kn at times and never less than 24Kn
Tuesday 17th June
With a continued forecast of very strong NE winds, we decided, with most others to stay put. This gave us a chance to stock up with more provisions and try to fill the tank with diesel. We emptied the final red diesel from the spare can into the tank and then took the 3 empty cans round to the self service pump. Having done the necessary with my credit card, I put the filler pistol in the first can an pulled the trigger. Immediately diesel fuel came pouring out of the pump body, but not into the can. There was a massive leak. Fortunately, Peter had the presence of mind to put the pistol back on the pump. This cut the fuel supply. The machine then presented me with a bill for 17 Euros. I was not amused. I went straight to the Capitainnerie and told the girl what had happened. “Oh yes” she said, “it did that last week. Give me the bill and I will reimburse you” This done she called her boss who promised to deal with the situation. Later that day, repairs seem to have been made, so we had another go at filling the cans. This time we had more success.
Wednesday 18th June
The forecast being somewhat lighter, we left Camaret at 05.00, just as it was starting to get light. This allowed us to safely negotiate the short cut through a gap in the rocks. We needed to transit the Raz around 09.00 when it would be slack water. In the end, with a light 8 Kn wind behind us and the engine running we got there a bit early, so slowed down. This gave the chance for a beautiful wooden German boat to catch us. He followed just behind as we transited the Raz. The wind had increased to 12 – 15 Kn and with a reek in the main we had a superb champagne reach to the Point de Penmarc’h on our way to Loc Tudy. Our German friend’s boat was so much quicker. He was a real gentleman and passed us to leeward before correcting his course. 20 miles later his 13m flush decked boat was 2 miles ahead! We should perhaps have used a full main!
Heading up to round the pointe and go on to Loc Tudy, the wind dropped and the tide became a hindrance so the last 15 miles to our stop was run under engine yet again. We cut through the shallows as much as we dared, finally arriving about 2 minuted ahead of the German! We exchanged compliments on our boats and greetings as best we could since they spoke little English.
The 55 mile journey had taken us the best part of 10 hours.
Thursday 19th June
We left Loc Tudy in a clear blue sky and with an almost imperceptible NE wind which meant we had to motor sail all the way to Groix, 30 miles away. The only real excitement was to see a school of dolphins play around the boat for a while. We tied up to a visitors buoy at 15.00 and took it easy.
Friday 20th June
Having arrived in Groix when a slight sea breeze had clocked the gradient wind round to SW making the harbour very protected, during the night, the wind rotated back to NE making it very lumpy in the harbour. This was all the more galling for us, since they put us between 2 huge rusty iron buoys that were too close together. There was a lot of snatching and banging during the night, making for a troubled sleep. Various black marks now need to be polished from the transom.
As we made to leave, the ferry chose to arrive, holding us back for a couple of minutes. Finally leaving the harbour, we saw a Pogo 8.50 that had been alongside us over night. It looked like the race was on again. With 10Kn NE we seemed very much matched. Any more wind and we pulled away, any less, he caught us. This continued until the wind died. We started the engine earlier than him and never saw him again. Later, the wind filled in again,so the engine was cut once again and we had a glorious sail as far as Basse Cariou at the tip of the Quiberon peninsula. During this part of the trip, once again a couple of dolphins came to see us. From there it was just a motoring exercise as far as our destination, Crouesty. We tied up in a very hot marina at 14.15. One more journey left to make to get to Vannes.
Saturday 21st June
Once again the day dawned hot and sunny with not a cloud in the sky. However there was a bit of a breeze blowing. About 15+ Kn as usual for this trip, from the NE. We topped up the water tank and then shortly before 09.30 motored across to the fuel dock and filled up with 41l of diesel. Once completed we set off for the famous Golfe du Morbihan with final destination Vannes. Since we had set off early, we elected to take a more scenic route around the islands. This proved very pleasant, especially since it meant we cleared away from a 50ft catamaran who seemed determined to cause us to change direction every 5 minutes.
Finally getting back to the main channel to Vannes we met up with a number of other boats all heading for the same destination. All very inconvenient since it was at this point we had to make a detour round a fleet of racing catamarans. As time went on, we went slower and slower so as not to arrive at the road bridge halting our passage too early. It was due to open at 12.30. As we arrived, there were signs of activity. The boats leaving Vannes had to pass through first and then it was our turn. In hot sun, we finally tied up alongside another UK boat in front of the Capitainnerie, goal achieved.
After lunch, I went to the railway station to pick up a hire car with which to take Peter to Nantes airport tomorrow and collect Wendy.
- John Noe