Tender

We spent a while deciding on what tender to take. Read lots (probably too much) about different options.

We wanted something that would last well and take the abuse that we would throw at it. Its not that l’m not careful (mel will disagree) its just that I have a habit of using things quite hard.

Inflatable: Most common choice. Easy to stow if you have enough locker space. (not already filled with sails, ropes, jerry cans and a folding bicycle. fabric will degrade in the sun and it will get a hole it at some point.

Hard dinghy: Cheap, bombproof, rows well, but where do you put it? We don’t want davits on the back. Our friend Chris had a Portland Pudgy. Great tender and doubled as a life raft so you don’t have to carry and pay for both. Unfortunately we we don’t have anywhere it would fit. (He used davits but said he would rather  not have them again for ocean crossings).

Folding/stacking: Seem to offer the advantages of the hard dinghy (except price) but fold up so that they can be stored. We measured up and couldn’t fit a stacking one in a sensible way on the foredeck in front on the baby stay. We have a solid vang so it couldn’t go behind the mast.

We liked the idea of the hard dinghy but couldn’t make it fit. So decided to try and find a folding one. We bought a 2nd hand 10ft Portabote on ebay. Picked it up took it down to the boat and decided that it was going to be just too big to assemble on the foredeck. Fortunately we managed to sell it for what we paid for it.

What we finally ended up with was:

New Tender - Seahopper
Seahopper Scamp

A Seahopper Scamp.

It is a folding pram type dinghy. 8ft long and folds to about 12cm thick.

We have tried it round the harbour. It rows really well (I didn’t think i could row and have had lots of friends laugh at me trying to) and puts along with our 2.5hp outboard. We could get a sailing kit for it if we wanted to but not going to think about that yet.

It fits down the side of the boat along the guard rails and we can put it together on the foredeck.

2.5hp honda out board from our old shared boat. On the back of the boat with the cover made by my mum. Testing in a wheely  bin after we serviced it.

Glénan Islands

This is a small group of islands about 10 nautical miles south of la Foret Fouesnant and Concarneau. It is home to the famous french sailing school Les Glénans, which started up after the 2nd world war to help young people learn to enjoy life again. It is now the largest sailing school in France (and Europe?)

It is a beautiful archipelago that gets pretty busy with tourists coming across on ferrys from the mainland, yachts and motorboats, all visiting the pristine sandy beaches within the shelter of the surrounding islands.

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Ile Gigogne, with old fortification.
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Rowing between islands, forgot to fill up the outboard
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Ile St Nicholas. This sand spit disappears at high tide on springs
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Track sailing in.

We sailed all the way to the anchorage, ok the engine was running just incase we needed it as it was pretty tight and there were millions of dinghys everywhere. And we didn’t drop anchor under sail as it was busy and we want space to mess it up in private when we try doing this for the first time.

It was also low tide and we had about 20cm under the keel at times, when our intermittent depth display was showing or when I ducked below to check the repeater downstairs.

It is all pretty flat once you are in there and I kept a look out from the bow when it got really shallow. It looked only about a meter deep through the super clear water but we didn’t touch.

It makes the sailing much more interesting when there are islands, boats and shallow bits to constrain where you choose your route. The early Les Glénans boats  sailed round here and across the channel with no engine (maybe they had a smaller draft though). It was nice to follow this tradition rather than motoring.

 

 

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First test of the new BBQ

New Stern Gland

We thought we had sorted it in Morlaix and it was dry for a bit but it was still leaking. Time to sort it properly and change it.

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The offending stern gland (black seal) on the left and engine coupling (green/rusty) on the right

 

If you don’t know what the stern gland (stuffing box) is then you’re probably with most of the population (worryingly probably including some of the boating population). It is a seal that fits around the propeller shaft, allowing it to turn freely but not allowing water in. There are many types, ours is a dripless one that apparently should last for many years with minimal maintenance……

When you remove the old stern gland you are effectively opening a hole in the bottom of the boat, below the waterline.

We could see 3 options:

  1. Pay to haul the boat with a crane, expensive.
  2. Change it with the boat in the water, possible and we were seriously considering this option. We watched someone else do it on a you tube video so we knew what we were doing.
  3. Find a good harbour wall to dry out against and change it between tides. This involves getting the boat to lean against a wall while balanced on its keel.

We went for option 3.

Someone else had tied up the tide before and the bottom looked like a sandy muddy mix, not rocky.

We stacked everything easily portable and heavy along the wall side rail and tide a halyard to the shore to make sure we weren’t going to tip away from the wall. We used our overly large supply of fenders and fender board to keep her off the wall

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Low tide, Mel cleaning the propeller
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Low tide, Dan still slacking with the camera while Mel does all the hard work

 

We had to take the coupling off the engine and then take the flange off the end of the shaft to get the old seal off and the new seal on. We had sprayed the bolts the night before to help us out and it came off the engine with some big spanners and a bit of effort.

Once we had worked out how the coupling actually held onto the end of the shaft we had a much better chance at getting it off. The video of a guy taking off a brand new coupling from a brand new shaft didn’t really give us the flavour.

There is only so much force you can feel comfortable applying before you start to doubt that you are doing it the right way and not about to break/bend something that will be very expensive to fix.

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Puller to remove the coupling (It came with the boat, we originally weren’t sure exactly what it was for when the old owner pulled it out of his car and gave it to us).

The video of the guy sweating for 4 days over his cramped in an awkward position gave us hope that we just needed to try harder and we were doing it right.

It didn’t come off on the first low tide so we were going to be against the wall for another day.

Some spray, some bigger leavers on the socket and some more effort and with a big bang, off it came.

After that swapping the stern gland was easy and straight forward.

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New seal going into place. (the red plastic bit is to protect the lip seals)
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New shaft seal in place

With each tide we were more relaxed about resting against the wall. Reducing the ballast a bit and adjusting it forward so we stayed slightly more upright and not needing to touch the line lengths. We always made sure that one of us was there as we touched though.

Other jobs we got done

We managed to get a bunch of other useful jobs done at the same time:

  • Checked there was no damage after our mud exploit.
  • Cleaned a large family of creatures from around the log that had made it their home since the Morlaix mud and stopped our speed sensor working when we stopped for a night.
  • Cleaned same creatures out of our engine cooling water intake.
  • Cleaned some weed off the propeller (we were not sure if the lanolin we put on helped of not).
  • Checked all of the anodes.
  • Gave the waterline a good clean.
  • Took our Genoa (fore sail) up to the local sail maker to fix the small rip in the UV strip. http://www.lebihan-voiles-france.fr/contact/1 They did a fantastic job, at a good price, ready the next day and checked over the rest of the rest of the sail for us with a few extra stitches here and there.

Unexpected benefits

It is really sociable. We met loads of people who just stopped for a chat.

When you are out on a buoy or at anchor you can be a bit isolated from the other boats and people around you. Which while it’s nice and private makes it much harder to meet new people.

When we finally left our wall spot we headed up the river and moored next to Graham and Fiona in Wild Angel and stopped across for drinks.

We even nearly joined them to sail back across to England on Wild Angel as our dates looked like they were going to match.

Bastille Day

There is always great fireworks displays on the 14th July. We just needed to make sure that we were near a reasonable sized town. We headed for Benodet.

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Fireworks
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Fireworks

We had anchored up off the main beach. As the evening approached our anchorage got busier and busier. Turns out they were all there to see the show and we were in the perfect spot. We had expected to row to shore and join the crowds on the river bank but we sat on the bow with a blanket and beer and watched the fireworks over the water.

 

Historic note.

Bastille day is a celebration of the French revolution and is celebrated on the day of storming the Bastille in Paris. In truth this is only just the very beginning of the French republic and an end to the ruling by the monarchy and nobility who inherited there positions through birth. It was another 4 years before King Louis XVI lost his head. And a lot longer before France saw peace again.

Morlaix – L’Aber Benoit – L’Aberwrac’h

We had left Morlaix the previous day to make it easier to catch a fair tide down the coast to L’Aberwrac’h.

We had stopped here on our previous visit during our shakedown trip and loved it. Not the marina near the entrance that we bypassed but further up the river at Port de Paluden, tucked into a nature reserve. We were even organised enough to let them know that we were coming as we wanted to leave the boat there while we visited Mel’s sister in Paris. (also at €50/week or €100 per month it was the cheapest place we were going to find and worth the extra hassle of an extra bus to Brest). We also hoped to catch with Jean-Marie and see how he was getting on with his steel boat renovation project.

I left Mel snoozing in bed while I had my usual pre-departure faff. Slipping the mooring buoy and motoring off shortly after dawn with almost no wind.

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Dawn departure from the Rade du Morlaix

We had chosen to pass through the channel of the Ile du Batz. This can be quite an interesting bit of navigation when the tide is low and you are sailing. It also makes the passage about 6 miles shorter. I’d made sure I’d read all the relevant almanach sections before hand not wanting to repeat the Morlaix entrance but with rocks. I was however stressing over nothing as the channel is well marked and at high tide all the rocks are well below the surface (rather than hidden just below the surface).

As we headed out into open water the wind picked up to time gentle 9 knots. Perfect time to try out the Gennaker tucked into the cockpit locker that we hadn’t even had out of the bag.

A Gennaker is an asymmetric sail a little like a spinnaker but the base of the front attaches to bow of the boat rather than a pole. This makes it much easier to gybe short handed (don’t need to swap/mess with a pole on the foredeck) and gives it a slightly larger range of wind angles that it will fly. But it’s not so good dead down wind (or that’s what our internet searching had told us, we had never looked at it, never mind flown it or even used one on another boat).

3 corners labelled T, C and F. Attach one to the halyard one to the sheets and one to the tack. Hoist it and hope we guessed right.

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Ok we got it wrong the first 2 times but here is the Gennaker up and flying.

Lovely to be cruising along at 6 or 7 knots when we would have otherwise been doing 3.

We need to find a better way of attaching the tac to the front of the boat though. We attached it to a combination of the pulpit (guard rail at the bow of a boat) and bow cleats. The pulpit is not designed to take sail loads, although it worked for for short periods in light winds and calm seas.

We stopped on a Buoy at L’Aber Benoit for the night. It looked like a good anchorage and was recorded as this in our guides. But as we keep finding, everywhere we might have dropped the hook is already full of moorings. I guess that’s the problem of being here in peak season.

We hopped round to L’Aber Wrac’h the next morning.

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Dawn fishing boat, entrance to L’Aber Benoit

 

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Lighthouse on l’Ile Vierge
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Petit Pot de Beurre, Entry to L’Aber Wrac’h. I have no idea how the french choose the names for their buoys and markers. Seems it is from what is on the breakfast table.
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Stand up paddle boarding. 10 kids on a giant board.
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Family of Ducks just before a seagull swept down to try and steal a duckling. I guess it’s more natural than eating leftover takeaway in the town centre.
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Balloon over Mooring at L’Aber Wrac’h

 

A language note

“L’Aber” means the mouth of, e.g. L’Aber Benoit, the mouth of the river Benoit.

This is the same way as it is used in wales, e.g. Aberystwyth, Mouth of the Ystwyth.

Testing the Mud

We decided to head up to a town called Morlaix. In the past this was one of the most important ports in the area.  There was a thriving tobacco trade with a huge factory employing 1000’s of workers and local produce was distributed by rail across a huge viaduct spanning across the valley.

It has a tidal river entrance with a lock at the top and a floating harbour.

Drying river, floating harbour, historic tobacco trade, large impressive bridge. We could almost be heading back to Bristol.

Morning coffee
Early morning coffee

We had a slightly later than planned start as when I turned on the windlass and pressed the up button, nothing happened.

Ok no problem we have a manual option, we need to test it properly anyway. It is slightly bent but looks like it should be fine.

Doesn’t work at all. Its bent and this means the ratchet bit just slips off (we have an old Goiot windlass and I had contacted them to try and get a replacement but they didn’t have them anymore). Another job for the list: make a drawing and get one made.

A bit of fiddling with the connections and the windlass was working again and the anchor came up.

Heading up the river, beautiful morning. No longer on a rising tide but should still have time to make the last lock.

 

We come to a slow smooth stop….

Hard reverse, we move a back a bit but not enough, and our propwalk pulls us the wrong way.

We are stuck.

Commence a couple minutes of cool headed critical thinking of how we will overcome our current situation (read as running round the boat wondering what we are going to do and achieving very little)

A call to the harbour (about 600m further up the river, but round a corner) doesn’t lead to any help  but certainly gives the guys on duty some amusement for the day.

Looks like we were here till the tide comes back in and floats us back off.

Cerise, wallowing on the river bank - there is about 1.2m of keel sunk into the mud
If we had told everyone we had a lifting keel then we might have got away with people thinking that we had done it on purpose.
Adjusting the Halyard on the Shore Line - MUD
Connecting the halyard to the shore line to help make sure we stay upright (playing in the mud)
Dan Trying to clean his feet and the keel track into the mud
Keel trail in the mud and trying to wash my feet when there is no water nearby

So we made the most of the day. We were stuck in the sun, healed over less than 5 degrees and we got a stack of jobs done* and the inside of the boat cleaner than it had been in months.

*including the windlass which had corroded wiring on the switch to the point that it fell appart in my hand.

The tide eventually came back in. We had a 2nd shore line rigged to a post on the other bank to pull ourselves out.

Unfortunately other boats kept coming up and down the river before the tide came in enough to lift us off. However we are very thankful to the one that stopped and helped pull us off.

Once off we carried on up the river and in through the lock to be greeted by the friendly jesting of the harbour officials.

 

So what went wrong?

We didn’t read the pilot carefully enough so weren’t looking for the transits (Andrew’s crosses onshore half hidden behind the bushes)

If we had been on a rising tide it simply wouldn’t have mattered as we would have lifted off a few minutes later.

What went right?

We secured the boat as best we could and prevented her healing over so there was no damage and we had a nice comfortable day.

We laughed (very hard) at ourselves which made it fun and we just felt stupid.

We got loads of jobs done while we waited for the tide.

We met the legend Andre Gentil.

We have finally left!

We have finally left!

We left Torquay on Sunday 3rd with my mum and hopped across to Dartmouth with her, to give her a taste.

Arrived there to a beautiful sunset.

We spent a couple of nights there, mooring up the river in Dittisham waiting for a storm (force 8) to pass. Then crossed across to Brittany last night with a rather rough and bumpy force 7 and 4m swell which cerise took in her stride… Only throwing the Coffee tin and a few other bits all over the floor. Both washboards were in to help keep the water out.

It was definitely a fast crossing and if we’d waited longer we would have had slightly lighter winds and smaller seas but wind would have been dead on the nose the whole way across.

A good test and has given us even more confidence in our boat.

Think we’ll wait out for a better weather window next time.

Now safely anchored up in the Morlaix river mouth and will head up to the town with the tide tomorrow or the day after depending on pending thunderstorms.

Took some photos of the crossing but and the sea mostly looks almost flat in them.

Certainty not how it felt.

English Channel waves