Don’t trust the Buoys

That was exciting. Not in a good way.

It’s a little bit windy here in Peniche harbour at the moment.

We are about level with where Portugal is written.

The buoy that we were securely tied to just started dragging.

Engine on.

Ditch the buoy leaving one of the lines behind on it.

Engine on Max to motor back up the harbour.

Drop the anchor.

We are now safe and secure.

Turns out we are now right in the middle of the harbour fairway. Will move again when its a bit calmer and daylight.

Did I mention its dark and raining.

Fortunately we are sheltered from the waves breaking over the harbour wall.

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Groix

We dropped anchor off Port Lay on the North coast, Sheltered from the SW winds.

The following morning we rowed ashore into the tiny harbour of Port Lay.

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Port Lay – Groix

From here we set off to walk across the Island then round the south eastern end.

There are cars on the islands but in general you can walk down the middle of the narrow country lanes with no fear of being run over.

 

On the walk we spotted a few other potentially good anchorages.

Returning to Cerise in the evening we discovered that the swell had picked up and the wind shifted enough that she was bouncing around all over the place.

It is pretty interesting trying to get out of a small dingy onto the the back when you are surging up and down by a several feet.

The anchor was holding fine but it would have been very uncomfortable to stay where we were. (we were moving around more than when we crossed the channel in the force 7.

We upped the anchor and motored down the coast to Porth Koustik.

It was starting to get dark and the anchorage was pretty busy.

 

First drop of the anchor outside the main field of boats. It didn’t catch (1st time our rochna hasn’t set first time, I think the bottom may have been a mix of sand rock and weed and a bit to dark to see where we were dropping.

Spotted a dolphin hanging about one of the other boats anchored up.

We wondered if the bottom was better further across where the other boats were so moved into a likely spot. Anchor set but a little close to a lovely wooden boat behind us. Decided it was close but far enough (maybe 20m) distances always look closer from the deck anyway.

Haven’t really got the hang of picking a good spot amongst other boats when its busy yet.

Woke up in the morning about half a boat length from the other boat!

It was very sociable as we could chat directly to the other boat which you can’t normally do when anchored up but I did apologise for ending up so close and we moved into a space when a few of the other boats left. Their engine had packed up on their cruise so they were continuing with just sail for the next week.

But before we could move, there was the dolphin we had spotted the night before right there next to the 2 boats.

Some of the guys from the other boat were in the water swimming with it.

It was a sunny day but still a bit morning fresh but I wasn’t going to miss out on a chance to swim with a dolphin.

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Dolphin and Mel – Groix
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The Dolphin it seems lives in that area and plays with all the boats. It comes and greats all the new boats coming in, swims around with anyone who wants to swim and set off with any boats that leave to say goodbye.

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More seagulls using our tender as a roost/toilet

When we left the next morning the dolphin came out with us. Swimming right under our bow so close that we could hear its tail knocking on our hull as it swam. It stayed with us for about 5 minutes until it turned on its side, looked right up at us, nodded its head twice as we waved down to it then it turned around and headed back to the other boats still anchored up.

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dolphin under the Groix

It is pretty hard to explain the magic of being so close to a dolphin. It feels way more than just experiencing being close to a beautiful intelligent wild animal. It lifts your whole mood and fills you with a feeling of joy.

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.

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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

Scilly Isles

We had a great run across from l’Aberwrac’h to the Isles of Scilly.

Passage plan 20 hours.

Passage 18 hours but only because we hove too for 3 hours about 3 miles off so that we could approach in the daylight.

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Dawn Approach
Proper sandwich with the last of the baguette
Last of the French Baguette

Its a much easier passage from NW Brittany than trying to sail West from the UK south coast.

We anchored between Gugh and St Agnes. A beautiful bay that felt more like the Caribbean than a group of islands off the British coast. The sun meant we could have a cold swim/wash. The first since leaving the comforts of Torquay marina.

In the caribbean already (Scilly-Gue and St Agnes

Mel - Swiming in the Sscilly Iles
First swim from the boat. Definitely not warm but good to have a wash.

We generally hope to be sailing where it’s warmer so the washes won’t  be so cold.

ScillyStone HorseSeagull perchScilly beach landing

Unfortunately I managed to kill the waterproof shockproof camera after this.