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200 nautical miles of Brittany Coast

by Maree & Phil 7 Jul 05:01 UTC

It was not all clear skies, calm seas and nice sailing winds in a perfectly functioning boat but we will not dwell on the less than perfect days as we update you on of our recent passages and stops as we continue to explore the Brittany coast of France.

Tréguier, just 15 nautical miles from our last stop is a small village located off the coast inland up the river Jaudy. We had ideas about anchoring in the river near the town rather than using the marina however both shore banks along the river are fully occupied by commercial oyster beds, leaving minimal options to drop the hook other than in the high flowing current so we ended up in the marina for one night, and then anchoring out near the river mouth the second night. The town is on the side of a rather steep hill (a bit of puffing required to reach the cathedral and town square). The buildings are all quite traditional and aged, such a pleasure to look at and find all the truely unique shapes and decorations which are hidden in the build. The 14th century cathedral honours St Yves, the patron saint of lawyers.

Another short hop of 20 nautical miles brought us to the mooring buoys outside the town of Perros-Guirec for two nights waiting out a sloppy sea state and moderate/strong winds without actually making it into the town. The "free" (no cost) mooring buoys are really actually waiting buoys for vessels waiting on the tide to get into the town marina which is only accessible at high water, but we found ourselves without desire to enter another marina and sat out the wait on the buoy. I would be omitting the truth if I said it was a comfortable two nights and one day. It wasn't any where near the worst we have had but each turn of the tide the swell and current was rocking the boat on the beam (side) making it really unpleasant for the 2 or so hours it took to settle into the new flow. I found myself having to concentrate on my breathing almost meditating through those hours reminding myself of all the good days and great times we have, as by the third tide change I was asking myself why I was living on this damn boat and not home in Australia, sleeping in a real bed, earning an income and living comfortably. Yes, I lost my way for a day!

Next stop was Roscoff 24 nautical miles away. This is a ferry terminal for passenger and vehicles between France and the UK as well as Ireland. We were not sure what to expect, and were imagining a bit of a regional centre and maybe a modern type of town, however were pleasantly surprised to find other than the ferry dock itself Roscoff was actually still just a quiet, small fishing village, full of traditional stone buildings, a church and drying harbour. We were a 15 minute walk from the town centre and foreshore as the new marina was built out past the ferry terminal. The new marina is impressive, with great pontoon's and good facilities including daily bread and pastry delivery to the marina office – but be warned of the current running in and through the marina when berthing, they have a marina rib/tender to help if needed and we watched him have to bump a few boats around that arrived mid tide and were going off track in the current. We are starting to see the same half dozen English boats every few days or few stops that are also exploring the same coast we are, and people are surprised when they discover we are Australian not English. We planned to only stay the one night but ended up staying two due to thick fog and reduced visibility the following day.

L'Aber-Wrac'h was our next stop 35 nautical miles south-west. We waited until mid afternoon before departing Roscoff for slack water to leave the tidal marina, We came out of the marina and through the ferry harbour to be met with a rather fierce wind and 4 meter swell to ride and hand steer through for the first 30 minutes before passing the surrounding islands and settling into our heading which then meant taking the swell on the beam (side on). Despite moderate to ok sailing with the wind, it was a very uncomfortable ride in the sloppy sea state. There seemed to be a three way slop with the wind and tide at times taking the bow one way and the stern the other, and as the wind dropped the constant slop and grab of the main sail and slap of the head sail as it filled and then slackened. It is hard to describe and not pleasant to experience, but for hours on end of your body is lurching in all directions and then moments later the feeling of all your internal organs and fluid catching up, almost creating another wave inside your body in contrast to the waves in the ocean. It was a relief to enter the calm of the river Wrac'h early in the evening and pick up a vacant (and payment free) string mooring, which is a buoy fore and aft with a line in-between (covered in seaweed and muck) that gets hauled on deck. We didn't go ashore and we certainly didn't pick up a marina buoy as they were just as expensive as a marina berth. We just enjoyed the tranquil evening and very still night, a relief after the constant movement all day.

The following day saw a lot calmer seas, the swell having subsided and a very pleasant sail of 38 nautical miles to Camaret-sur-Mer near Brest. The day involved passing down through tidal race of the Chenaux du Four and with good planning we hit the race at the right time to take the tide down through the channel and had a uneventful even enjoyable run through the race. We sailed right into the bay of Camaret-sur-Mer almost right to the anchorage and mooring buoys out from shore where we furled the head sail and went to start the engine before dropping the main sail only for the engine to not start. I let the air out of the main sail slowing us as much as possible, almost to a stop but still at the mercy of the wind and tide as I kept us away from the rocks and the moorings and stressed while Phil calmly went below to the engine and after a tense few minutes trying every trick he knew he had it going. We then decided to pick up a morning buoy rather than anchor just in case this engine turned into a real issue and we were unable to start it again. Investigations into the engine turned up empty handed and Phil couldn't identify the issue or the solution neither could we replicate it, frustration was all that was to be found.

The engine kicked off without complaint the following morning and we used it for 15 minutes to motor out of the moorings before raising sails in nice F5 winds slowly dropping during the day later making our way to the lovely sandy beaches of Sainte Evette 30 nautical miles away. Again we had to time the passage to pass the Raz de Sein which is a critical tidal gate meaning we had to hit the pass at the right time, and once again the Captains calculations were spot on. The wind become very light later in the journey, not enough for the head sail but ideal for the gennaker (light weight head sail), so we got all the gear out, installed the rolling fuller down the port side of the deck, got out the gennaker sail and started hoisting it behind the head sail. As I was raising it on the halliard I said to Phil, this is really stiff and hard, to which the response was; "put some muscle into it and stop complaining", being suitably chastised I gave it a couple of strong pulls before stopping and declaring that no, it wasn't me being weak something was definitely wrong, we took a look, it looked ok at the mast but then out behind the head sail where the sail was rising up (still furled thankfully) the halliard had twisted and twisted and twisted on itself into a tight awful mess with the sail up to the first spreader. It was wound tight and we couldn't get it down (or up) and so ended up securing and tying it all off where we could to stop it flapping around and motor sailed the rest of the way. Once anchored off the beach and Phil got kitted up in the harness and I hauled him up the mast (as far as the first spreader) to retrieve the twisted halliard and bring down the sail. It was a relief that it was easy to fix, and further more we were appreciative of a calm anchorage to got up the mast. We spent two nights anchored off the beach, and enjoyed time on the sand walking the beaches and also took the dingy around to Audierne in order to make the 6km return walk to the supermarket for supplies.

The passage to Loctudy 30 nautical miles away was fruitful as we managed to catch dinner along the way in the form of 3 mackerel and an 80cm Garfish. We anchored up the river and didn't go to shore, leaving the following morning for the short 13 nautical miles to take us to Concarneau.

Concarneau just a short 13 nautical miles away (with 5 fish caught en-route) and was an exciting stop as it was our rendezvous with fellow Aussies Kris and David on Taipan, whom we had previously met in Antwerp and then spent 2 months with in Ipswich UK over winter. We arrived at the marina and tied up on the visitors hammerhead in an attempt to reserve it for Taipan (they are a bigger boat at 15 meters long and getting a spot for them isn't always easy). We told the marina of their pending arrival and the marina requested for us to move into a finger berth, no problem, however we went to move and low and behold the engine wouldn't start! And this time it wasn't starting for love or money. Almost an hour later Phil still couldn't get it going, and the marina staff came along and tied us off to their tender and physically moved us. We were both a little stunned and helpless, but appreciated them getting us into a secure berth where we could continue to stress and swear, yet be secure and not have to move or be in the way. And of course once we were settled and tied off Phil turned the key just to try and you guessed it, it started!

We were both excited to see Taipan come in later that afternoon, fantastic to see Kris and David again, and we made a celebration of it, eating, drinking and catching up well into the night, even influencing 3 young British Doctors off the boat next to us to join in, ensuring they were sufficiently briefed on everything Australian by the end of the night, or was it early the next morning...

This article has been provided by the courtesy of SV Red Roo.

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