Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Feckin weather again!

Ok so you all thought we were off to Spain. Wrong!
One element we had overlooked was FOG!!! We woke to 50m visibility!
The almanac says the best time to cross Biscay is June, no gales, no fog and favorable wind directions. Obviously some form of communications error between the almanac publishers and the guy controlling the weather!

Yesterday was a very damp and soggy day on the boat, alternating between reading, re-checking the weather forecast on the Kindle and endless cups of tea.

Today at least it is not raining, but fog all over Biscay. Should improve tomorrow when the winds come from the south west, which is the direction we want to sail, jeez! We are not the only boat in the harbour waiting to go south. There are at least 3 British yachts plus a Dutch and a Belgium flagged yacht.

Keep me away from sharp knives and strong drink! (written from inside a bar!)

Saturday, 23 June 2012


Wednesday 29th June 2012

A dull and rainy day. Richard blew up the dinghy after replacing the spark plug and got it ready for its first outing.

Sandpiper and Tumbalong decided to go up river into Audierne, but as it was so miserable we decided not to bother. We waited all day for the rain to stop and eventually went ashore about 4pm to explore – still raining lightly.

Not much at the little port but there is a cafe/bar with internet. We had a bit of a walk through lots of houses with lovely gardens but not much fun in the rain.

We did not go ashore again till Friday because Thursday was very windy and rained all day. Friday was still windy but sunny. Ashore we filled up two cans of diesel and two of water. The showers are fine, but open 8:30 – 12:00 and 14:30 -15:30! We were there at ten to nine but had to wait till nine before they opened. They are also closed on Wednesday afternoons and weekends!

 We walked into Audierne (about 45mins) all along the sandy beach and the riverside. The town is picturesque, old sloping harbour walls, and tall old buildings – a relic of prosperity in a bygone age.

We found Sandpiper in the marina and were invited to lunch. Afterwards, we shopped in a little supermarket, charcuterie and green grocer, lovely local produce. There is a big supermarket but apparently about another half hours walk. We found all we needed in the town so did not go further. Again it was a Biscay shop, because fingers crossed, we will be leaving on Monday morning.

Next stop Spain!



An early start and an uneventful sail to Camaret through the Chanal du Four. The scenery is spectacular with lighthouses, towers and cliff top structures. Really not to be missed.

We motor sailed into the wind to begin with but a veering wind allowed us to sail from the top of the Chanal du Four all the way to Camaret. Once again ‘Arry was doing his bit until fluky winds off the cliffs near Camaret forced us to hand steer.

All the names around here sound very Welsh! We even passed a buoy called Swansea Vale!

At last a day with some sunshine and fair winds.  

Our plan is to overnight in Camaret and then sail from here to Spain on Tuesday evening with a fair tide through the Raz du Sein (weather permitting).

After a very easy entry we tied up in the marina at 12:30 in front of Sandpiper and our new friends on Tumbalong. The marina is in a lovely setting overlooked by Tour Vauban (1696) and La Chapelle Notre Dame du Roc (1527) on a spit which must have been the old fisherman’s careenage.

The name Camaret means curved spit in Breton, after the curved shingle spit which formed the original harbour’s shelter.

There are several old wooden fishing boat hulks rotting on the shingle spit. The Breton’s do seem to make a statement about their boats.

The harbour frontage is just cafe’s, restaurants and bars (even an Irish bar!) The whole place has a very Gaelic feel. In the back streets we explored the St. Thomas quarter, a network of tiny narrow streets with many artist’s studios and galleries. We saw the sign for the market on Tuesday morning but we need not have bothered. Expecting interesting food stalls and crafts, all we got was handbags, ladies clothes and Tupperware. A bit of a let down.

Checking the weather, it looks like we will not be crossing Biscay just yet as another frontal system is expected.

Plan B,C,.....XYZ? Is to go to Audierne via the Raz de Sein.

Our plans are to keep moving south but no further east than Audierne, where we will wait for a 3 day window to cross Biscay to Spain.

We left Camaret Tuesday afternoon and had a lovely sail through the Raz de Sein to Audierne. (About 30 miles). We caught the HW slack at the Raz and a fair tide to Audierne arriving at the anchorage in Ste Evette at 1930. The anomalies of the tide mean that we cannot get up river to Audierne as access is HW-3 to HW+0.5. 1930 being HW+2 locally. Despite dire warnings in the almanac, the Raz was very easy and uneventful.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


After sorting ourselves out from our passage and checking in with the Captinarie, we decided to have a siesta. Suddenly there was a knock on the hull I looked out and was greeted by 3 customs officials no less!

"Do you speak French?" Non. I replied, "It's OK we speak English."

They requested to come aboard and sat in the cockpit. Passports were requested along with the ship's registration. No problem. "How many on board?" Two I replied. Details were taken and they wished me a pleasant stay in Brittany. Before they went they handed me a receipt to show if I was stopped again. Totally pleasant and Rowena slept through it all!

Not interested in out of date flares or unserviced liferafts, red diesel or any of the other scare stories you hear.

L'Aberwac'h village consists of a row of nine or ten pubs, restaurants or small hotels! The Cafe du Post has lovely fresh French bread everyday as well a few basic provisions. Basic French style, of course - pate, Camembert, creme fraiche and even the Daily Telegraph!Free wi-fi too, but we got free wi-fi on the boat with our booster no problem.

There is also a sailing school and a dive centre, but as the weather was so awful we did not indulge.
We had winds gusting up to 50kts and rain at times, so we did not do very much.

We walked up the hill about one mile to Landeda to the supermarket, small but a very good range. The little village has a church with a really old looking tower, a butcher, bakery and a couple of cafes.

We had one nice walk along the south bank of the river which was quite sheltered. In and out of a lovely old forest and through wheat and maize fields.

We found a strange boatyard full of old rotting wooden boats, some being restored. We walked as far as the upriver mooring buoys,which is a lovely secluded spot.Very sheltered but there would not be much to do.

We stayed until Monday morning leaving at 06:00 to catch the tide through the Chanal du Four.We thought we could get to Camaret with a window for Biscay be leaving on Tuesday evening down the Raz de Sein.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Stowaway

While tidying up the boat we found an additional crew member aboard.

It appears he has been hiding since Gosport in various places on the boat

After rigourous interrogation (the pictures are too graphic to publish!) he admitted his name was Jon Gale. It appears he jumped ship from 'Crews Control' to escape the Solent and seek fame and fortune elsewhere!

He seems happy on board, and is fitting in well, but he doesn't yet realise that being a 'skipper', things will always be his fault! Skippers always get the dirty jobs to do, pity we hadn't found him before we had to unblock the heads pump!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Foreign lands at last!

Bonjour Matelots and others!

Wednesday 13th June.

Arrived lunchtime in L'Aberwrach, Brittany after a 25hour passage from Dartmouth. Alongside on the visitors pontoon in the Marina. It is an interesting marina with a rock stategically situated near the wave break to catch the unwary! Our friends on 'Sandpiper' we there to welcome us in. They having travelled from Plymouth and arrived the day before.

Sailed most of the way, winds started light at a South Easterly F2 so we motored. Eventually we got a fair WSW F3-4 so we were able to sail. 'Arry coping nicely with the 2m swells and breaking waves we eventually got as we closed the French coast.

Used the AIS for the first time, absolutely brilliant. We picked up most large vessels at around 7-8 miles away, the fishing vessels seemed to have AIS transmitters as well. These we saw about 3 miles away. Really needed it as there was as much traffic as the M25! The real bonus with the AIS is that even those ships we thought would pass close were about a mile away and posed no threat. It was reassuring to note that they do alter course occasionally (not sure if it was to miss us or a fishing boat).

For the uninitiated, AIS is a system that ships use to broadcast their position, their destination, their course and other informstion about the cargo and their size. We have a display that receives these signals and with our position input into it can tell if we are going to collide or how close we will pass. This is shown like a radar picture with us in the middle. A great bonus in keeping safe among shipping.

On arrival we saw l'ile Vierge lighthouse, which at 77 metres is one of the tallest in the world. Not lit as it was daytime but a pretty impressive landmark. The off lying lumps of granite are pretty impressive too and would easily tear apart any ship that strayed.

The entrance to L'aberwrach was made fairly easy by the buoys and leading marks which are clearly visible marking the channel through the rocky entrance.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Away at last

Monday 11th June 2012

We have finally managed to escape the Solent! We set off on Saturday with high hopes of making Studland Bay fot the night and setting off the next morning for Dartmouth.

However, out in the Solent with green waves crashing over the boat, 25kts of wind on the nose, and having to dodge the whole P n O cruise fleet, two coasters, a car carrier and a dredger we decided to retire gracefully to Cowes.

Sunday we slipped at 6:00 am and set off with a resonable forecast. We motored to the Needles and put the sails up. Spent a while sorting out 'Arry the Hydrovane, named after the only other sailor in the family. We had an absolutely horrible sail, strong quartering seas, rain or drizzle most of the day and finally, more westerly wind than predicted.

With the wind on the nose and now pointing at Start point we decided to motor sail the last 10 miles. At least we would arrive with full batteries having had very little charge from the lack of sun over the last 3 days. This charge was not to be, as we discovered that the alternator was not charging, so we went in with no nav lights and using a torch to see the instruments saving the last of the batteries for the deck light and anchor light.

With great relief we dropped anchor at 01:45 in Dartmouth.

Today we have at last got the alternator repaired. With new brushes and voltage regulator we are finally good to go.

We leave on the tide tomorrow bound for L'Aber Wrach in N Brittany, foreign lands at last!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

We are off!

Finally the weather is looking better for a passage west. Lighter winds and a projected wind from the south east tomorrow.

So off to Studland bay today with a passage to Dartmouth tomorrow. We should be in France next week.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Departure preparations

After watching the weather we thought we would be ready for a Friday departure (okay I know the superstitions, Monday is supposed to be a bad day to start a voyage in Portugal, believe what you want!). We shopped until we dropped for final groceries that we won't see outside the UK and final boat bits.

We had  two trolly loads of groceries. Just as we loaded the 2nd trolly load into the cockpit we had a lovely unexpected visit from John & Beryl.We are a lot tidier now, Beryl! As you can see it all fitted neatly in the starboard locker. Note the strange red Marmite jar lids, not to be confused with Bovril.

One of the last jobs before departure was to fit the steering lines and the rudder to our brand new Hydrovane . An easy task so we thought. To our concern the course adjustment mechanism appeared to be seized. Thinking it was just a bit of dirt or salt, liberal washing with hot water seemed the answer. This made things worse!

An investigation via the web produced a 'fix'. This required taking the unit apart -  over the back of the boat! Drifting out the bushes and enlarging with sandpaper.

All now seems well. We just hope this doesn't happen again when we eventually reach warmer climes.

So departure was postponed until Monday, when better winds were forecast.

Sunday was spent on changing the engine oil and final stowing of gear. We were all set to depart Monday morning.

On checking the weather again, we only had a 1 day window before the weather turns foul again. The decision was; a week in Poole, a week in Cherbourg or stay put!

Here we are, dressed overall for the Jubilee, staying put!