Port du Blanc in Brest is a large modern Marina and home to a large sailing school. We found the people here extremely friendly and many spoke good English, (we are trying to use our French honest). The cost of the Marina was very good value compared to the Irish/Scottish Marinas and there are no extras, electricity, showers, good wifi all included and the efficient laundry machines much cheaper too. We liked this place but ended up weather bound here rather longer than we would have liked.
Every morning we would awake to the excited voices of school children in canoes and sailing dinghies passing by on there way out for instruction. The scale of the activity has to be seen to be believed.
We had just caught up with the jobs and some remaining admin in time for Gillian and Graham to arrive. They had driven all the way down to Plymouth, then taken the overnight ferry to Roscoff followed by trains and buses to the Marina in Brest; quite an adventure. Really great to see them. They had however left the good weather in Scotland. We had had a couple of nice days, but as soon as they arrived it went downhill. Cold and showers which developed into winds and heavy rain as the week went on.
We did enjoy a good wee sail, albeit upwind against the tide, to Cameret where we lifted a buoy to stay for a night. After a futile attempt at fishing we prepared to go ashore in the dinghy. The outboard flooded for the second time to poor Vaila's frustration anxious to get ashore! Our old orange tender is on its last legs, it's been covering all our clothes in orange dye and is leaking and generally falling to bits. This experience outlined its unreliability as a tender since it cannot be rowed efficiently. This coupled with the fact that handling it aboard, due to its weight, is bordering on the dangerous, we resolved to get on and shop for a more practical tender.
For the night we went alongside the pontoons in Cameret. Graham said it was just like Tobermorry painted houses and all. We walked into town past a film set, with armed security guys! and the rotting rusting hulks of fishing boats from an era when this was one of the main fishing ports in France. We had to imagine just how ideal the clean turquoise waters and beautiful beaches would be on a sunny day!
The weather would not let us carry on south, so we decided to return to Brest which offered more to keep us all busy for the next few days.
While Gillian and Graham explored the castle, maritime museum and fine seafood restaurants of Brest, we discovered a new Inflatable dinghy in one of the fancy boat showrooms. It was an ex demonstration model which was in a forgotten corner upstairs at an excellent price so we bought it and they agreed to deliver it the next day. I also procured a new needle valve for the outboard carb which had been sticking and that seems to have done the trick there too!
All too soon they had to leave for the journey home, but only after treating us to a dinner of the most superb mussels, except that is for Yvonne; Whilst she is now a proven sailor, braving the Channel, she still can't quite face a bowl of mussels, so instead had the "best fish supper ever" - not the way the French menu described it, but bob on!
Next step South and then East through the Raz De Sein. This passage requires the right weather and we now have that forecast so we should make good progress this next week and hopefully get into the better weather at last.
The Dublin experience was great, Laura accompanied me on the 20 minute train trip to the centre and then the bus tour round Dublin and then did the same with Mum the next day - just less Guinness, more shops!
Malahide itself a vibrant community and a good stopover.
The weather picture was settling and although it remained unseasonably cold we had a very stable window to get seriously south.
Laura however had to fly back to get on with her busy life, she had been a huge help to get us this far in so many ways.
We finally left Malahide on the afternoon of Thursday 30th half an hour before high tide and still only had a metre over the beach.
This was to be the first of three massive overnight voyages of about 120 miles each. What that means in sail cruising is 20 hrs plus of committed sailing. Covering such distances is quite beyond either of our previous experience. The previous legs had been long days, and of course we had extra crew. These journeys however would entail complete nights with no choice but take on negative tides and currents, and with very few options to change the plan should the weather change or any problem arise.
The first of these legs was to Milford Haven on the south west corner of Wales, 120 miles. We sailed initially but eventually had to motor most of the way. Much of the time against a negative tide in the St George's Channel (the bit of the Irish Sea between Ireland and Wales); a really long slog! It did however give us a chance of monitoring the shipping in the dark using our Radar.
As a small yacht it's really your responsibility to avoid the big ships and the fishing boats that are out there night and day, a whole different game in the dark.
There is not a lot romantic about this sort of sailing, you basically wrap up really warm, feed yourself snacks and treats, look out for ships lights and track them on the radar for hours on end taking shifts to rest - but its rarely proper sleep. You do get to enjoy the sunset and sunrise and the stars all of which at sea is awesome also the luminescence in the wake of the boat - need to see it to understand that.
Tired we arrived at Milford Haven at 2pm on the Friday. It is a very busy industrial harbour but just at the entry the little village of Dale has a good anchorage, a lovely wee place.
We anchored here for the night and then set off in the next 120 mile leg to the Scillies just after lunch on the Saturday. This was timed so we could arrive at the traffic separation zones at Lands end in day time before approaching the Scilly Isles.
This was a classic sail. Sunny but still very cold we had 15 knots of wind on the beam from the outset. 7knts without effort Malibu really getting into her stride.
Dolphins!!!.... can't describe here just how amazing an experience this was. First time we have ever been joined by lots of dolphins for a party on route. These guys know how to party!........We have the photos and video and will bore anyone who will listen next time we meet! Just fantastic.
Another long hard night and finally arriving in Hugh Town, St Mary's at 10.15 on the Sunday morning.
Delightful place and well worth a longer visit. Still cold for us, and the Girls telling us Scotland is enjoying a hot spell, clearly we have taken the weather with; the wrong stuff!
We have had various technical problems along the way (which I may blog about some other day) but the worst occurred in the Irish Sea when the cooker had a gas leak and has now been condemned. So we now were left fighting poor Internet connections to try and arrange a new cooker, meanwhile eating out.
It was going to be France before we could replace the cooker, but it had to be a certain size and spec and the delivery coordinate with our constant movements; Laura to the rescue! I struggle to order a beer in French without pointing, so her linguistic skills came to the fore and she arranged for the right device to be available for us at Brest, our next port of call.
Another long haul across the English Channel. The longest so far, across one of the worlds busiest shipping lanes and at night. The wind had gone to the East and so was not so useful but nothing was forecast to alarm us.
We were now in almost a routine with these night sails and although Yvonne was not looking forward to it but she was coping with the tasks really well, quite the seasoned sailor. Just as well since the journey was very uncomfortable and long. The wind waves from the north east meeting massive Atlantic swell making for a confused sea.
We managed to sail most of the way just using the engine for some of the time to ease the motion. A few weeks ago such a journey would have had us both seasick, but we were now resigned and in tune with the rhythm. Malibu has done it all before and takes it in her stride.
We passed through the shipping lanes without any problems seeing far fewer ships than we expected and eventually after a very long hard uncomfortable night approached France entering the Channel du Four on the North West corner of Brittany at about 9am. Mist obscured the land so we were very pleased to have our chartplotter and radar to assist. Respect to the navigators of old doing these passages, no wonder these corners are littered with wrecks!
A pleasant sail down the channel and into the Rade du Brest in the sun to arrive at the Marina at Brest, Moulin Blanc about 6pm, or rather 7pm French time. 141miles.
That's 375 miles of sailing in the last six days - 3 nights at sea. We've now settled in a lovely, very reasonable priced Marina in Brest for a few days. The cooker arrived as planned and is now fitted, best of all we had our first meal out, and you know what its been worth it! Looking forward to Gillian and Graham arriving Saturday for a week- but the forecast is for Scottish weather €#%€¥#!!!
Bangor was a good place to get stuck. We needed the rest to reorganise the boat and catch up with the house sale admin and banking through wi-fi. We were however well ready for getting on south and the relatively settled weather picture for the weekend gave us the chance.
Saturday we were up and out the marina for 6.45 to get the best of tide south. Idea was to get to Ardglass for Saturday and then Dublin on Sunday. We motored south against a very light breeze with the tide helping us along up to 9 kts so decided that we should keep onto Malahide. This was 80 miles or so - a very long day, but enjoyable until the last few hours when the wind and waves from the south made it a hard slog.
In checking the detail for Malahide I realised that our arrival time would not make the entry possible since the channel goes across the beach with barely a metre at low tide! Plan changed to Howth;(yes Alan you told me so). This proved to be an experience! After a 13 hour journey the last few hours of which were hard work we had to navigate a tight entry through port and starboard piles at near low tide, most of which were bent at 45 degrees. Yvonne had been allocated a berth over the VHF which turned out to be very tight and at first attempt we were blown off the pontoon by the wind which was typically quite strong at this stage. A second attempt assisted by a couple of lads from a neighbouring boat made us secure for the evening.
Although we were tired, Howth yacht club, who operate the marina, looked worth a visit and we enjoyed a few drinks with friendly local members. Laura struck up conversation with a couple who turned out to be seasoned long distance cruisers who had sailed the Atlantic Spanish and Portuguese coasts; a font of information.
On the Sunday morning the sun shone and the marina was alive with activity. All sorts of boats from optimists to sonatas and larger keel boats were joined by canoes and pleasure trip boats making for a spectacle for the masses of pedestrian sightseers.
The weather outlook for our next massive hops south was not encouraging so we decided to stay a few days in the Dublin area and Malahide offered a much cheaper option.
We set off from Howth at high tide Laura at the helm, and we now understood why half the port and starboard markers were bent- most of them are completely underwater at high tide and so your likely to hit and bend them!
A short downwind sail in 18 knots of breeze, very pleasant in the sun past Ireland's eye (see photo above). Now at high tide we still only had a little clearance over the beach into the small Malahide estuary. The beach was busy with Sunday day trippers who were paddling only a stones throw from us as we entered, a very strange sensation.
So we are here in Malahide, a small seaside suburb of Dublin, great atmosphere lots of pubs, restaurants and shops. 20 minutes on the train to central Dublin. A good landing!
To all my wonderful friends and family, a million apologies for my self-absorption over the last few months. Nothing could prepare you for the craziness of emptying your home (of 19 years), all the nightmare administration and making Vaila fit for travel- not forgetting the actual prospect of sailing away! It is a great comfort that the loveliest family have moved into our home, and both of our girls have been so supportive and encouraging which we have hugely appreciated. So now on with this new life!
Hello interweb, I am Vaila, the bricks and mortar of this family. One of my humans thought it would be a great idea to let me have my say on this here blog. My sister disagreed, but with little else to do I have convinced her to be my scribe. I only hope she manages to capture my style. So far on our adventure I have to say I am rather impressed with the variety and quality of sleeping spots; I can pretty much make myself comfortable wherever I please, with no protest from the humans. Perhaps they are feeling guilty for denying me my garden facilities. I went for an entire day and night without going to the toilet. Where is the SPCA? I have my rights you know. The silly humans thought they could have me doing my business on a mat like a badly trained puppy. The horror! So I sat tight in my bed and let not a morsel of food or drop of water pass my lips (or teeth. Do dogs have lips?) like Ghandi, but much fluffier. But then the lady human brought me water from the fridge, and who could refuse such a luxury? Thankfully we reached land just in time. Je vous aimez, pontoons.
Anyhow, the floating house is serving me well, with lots of windows to stick my head through and the like. Best of all, my humans can't go very far so I can easily keep track of them all, which is a load off of my mind. They sure are a handful for an old lady like me!
Finally escaped. This last few weeks have been hectic! Clearing the house and garage, moving some to Edinburgh, with countless trips to the dump and charity shops it felt it would never end!
Our intention had been to do some trial cruising in Scotland, before the big move south. However with the house completing, it took priority. Fact is the weather would not have encouraged us anyway. The administration of moving address, banking and getting the boat documents etc up to date was endless and frustrating. Fortunately Laura our youngest daughter was available for a couple weeks to help assist as delivery crew for the initial long legs of the journey.
So with farewells completed we set off on Monday 20th May and Motorsailed over to Arran anchoring at Kings Cross. Lovely evening sunset to remind us of the beautiful Scottish scenery we are leaving behind.
We had been encouraged to get on the way by a prolonged period of Northerly winds which were initially predicted to be relatively light for the week. By Tuesday it became obvious that they were going to become increasingly strong.
Set off 6.30am on Tuesday morning motoring in five knots of breeze but soon the NW wind established itself and we enjoyed a brisk broad reach with just the genoa down past Ailsa Craig the newly overhauled Hydrovane controlling our track for a while. The sea built as the day progressed to become quite uncomfortable in the North Channel. We reefed the Genoa and motorsailed over to Bangor by mid afternoon, the first sixty mile leg completed.
Although we had no major problems, the journey was not comfortable. The boat having absorbed so many of our possessions it got quite a stir below. We could see that we needed to spend a bit more time on stowage. I also amused the crew by losing my balance and launching two cups of tea around the cabin when a roll coincided with stepping into the companionway. We realised that Yvonne and I were rusty not having been sailing since last August. Thankful that at least Laura had been sailing recently in France and was keen to get back there.
Bangor Marina is very nice and secure but we set off early on Wednesday with Malahide, just north of Dublin, in mind. Out only ten minutes we received the forecast on VHF which increased the wind strength expectation up to F7 in the afternoon and F8 later. This was reinforced by the 27knots we were getting instead of the 18 predicted at this time of day. So although the direction was generally favourable I decided an 80 mile leg was daft, so we promptly turned about and returned to our secure berth in Bangor to sit out the gale and so the opportunity to start our Blog........