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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
AR Chaden marker
Ile de Batz channel
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We generally hope to be sailing where it’s warmer so the washes won’t be so cold.
Unfortunately I managed to kill the waterproof shockproof camera after this.
One of the house bank batteries died (it started sulphurating and then wouldn’t hold charge) while on our shore power charger. This forced us to think about the batteries.
We have left the starter battery as it is as this seemed pretty good. For the house bank we now have 4 x Trojan T-105 6V 220Ahr batteries. So we now have 440Ahr capacity (double what we did have). We have built a new battery box to house the extra 2 batteries.
We also solved the problem of how to connect everything to them.
6mm x 25mm copper bar (made from of copper tape lightning conductor) drilled and tapped with M8 brass bolts for terminals.
We need these because we have the following directly connected to our batteries:
One 1 both 2 switch (that feeds everything on the switch panel)
A split charge relay & sensing cables
A shore power charger & sensing cables
Two solar panels MPPT controllers & sensing cables
The alternator & sensing cables for smart regulator
The battery monitor sensing cables
Nothing we think shouldn’t be there but too much to fit onto a single short M8 stud.