The Gulf of Morbihan is like a mini inland sea full of islands with 2 rivers flowing into it and only a narrow channel connecting it to the ocean.
With the big tidal range in this area there is a really strong tidal flow flowing into and out of the Morbihan. This is fine as long as you time it right.
We were lazy and just looked at the flow arrows on Navionics (our electronic charts). Turns out they are wrong. When we checked in 2 separate almanacs (Reference books showing ports, tides, tidal flows and other useful information for sailing) and showed the correct information.
Still it was pretty interesting sailing up the channels at about 7 knots through the water and 1 knot over the ground. There were several other boats sailing in as well so it felt like a very slow speed race.
We anchored off of Ile Aux Moine (Monk Island). Then moved to a buoy when a boat left as the tidal flows are pretty strong.
The next day we spent exploring the island visiting the dolmen of Penhap and the Cromlech of Kergonan which date back to about 3500 B.C.
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.
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.
Greedy seagull – Groix
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Pay to haul the boat with a crane, expensive.
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.
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.
Fenders in place and ballast on the side
Enough lean to keep us from going the wrong way
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.