07/27/2009, Loctudy N 47,50 W 04,10
Neptune is on our side again... We spent two nice days in the beautiful Camaret at the extreme point of the Crozon Peninsula. We played tourists, hiking on the trails of the mighty cliff almost at the point of Penn hir, we went down a pristine beach borded by high cliffs filled with mussels colonies at their bottom. To make the Raz, between the point of Brittany and the Island of Sein, we have to depart at 11 am to be at slack water at the entrance. It is a very dangerous place, a string of rocks which extends for several miles. As a short cut, for smaller vessels, there is a passage which needs to be negociated carefully with the tides. We did well, because it was a very smooth passage close to the very impressive lighthouse "la Vieille". We continued toward Loctudy after passing the Pointe de Penmarc'h, turning East and having a wonderful ride under sail. The entrance at night in the small harbor of Loctudy is a challenge, but again, the tide was with us and after some stressful moment finding the right spot, we took a mooring buoy.
Alarm rung at 7AM (Tides- tides, remember?). Breakfast, and then over to the fuel dock to bunker diesel and fresh water, then off at 9 with some 20 other boats that had been waiting for this opportunity to go south. All of us motorsailing in a convoy against the last two hours of incoming tide, to get through the Chenal with a following tide. Needless to say, the conditions can be extremely nasty, and even dangerous there with winds against the tide.
Chenal du Four (four=oven) is the inshore passage between the mainland and Ile d'Oessant. to go inshore saves some 20 miles and avoids the heavy commercial traffic in the Traffic Separation zones that meets outside Ile d'Oessant. The Oessant (Ushant in English) is one of the most infamous shipwrecking areas in the world. From the western side of the island there is absolutely nothing except the open ocean until the US east coast on the other side of the 'pond'.
Today, with the sunshine and the calm seas, it was a child's play to go through the well marked and quite wide channel.
After successfully negotiating it, we turned eastward after Pointe S:t Mathieu towards Brest. Viewing the map of Brittany, it looks like a Dragon's head facing the Atlantic Ocean. l'Aberwrach could be the eye of the Dragon, the Chenal du Four part, the nose, and then a divided penisula outside Brest could be the tongue. We anchored for the night outside Camaret sur Mer, on the top of the tongue.
The next step will be to go through the Raz du Sein (the jaw of the dragon). A short, narrow passage that should be navigated in settled weather AND at slack tide. This means that one has to plan the departure, the speed with regard to tidal streams, to pass the Raz within a timeframe of one hour. Interesting! or? Slightly scaring aswell, but it saves 20 miles offshore since Ile de Sein has offlying rocks and dangers many miles to sea.
So tonight we will do our homework with the charts, the divider and the tide tables to get it right for tomorrow.
The picture today shows 'La Vieille' (the Old) north of l'Aber Wrach, arguably the highest lighthouse in the world
SW winds, gusting to Force 7 (25-30 knots) kept us below deck almost ll day. At high tide, 8 PM (spring tide again now with a range of 9 meters and current of 3,5 knot) the wind had decreased so we could row ashore. We took the opportunity to go for an evening walk of three hours along the river before returning at sunset.
The forecast is cheering us up at last, with promises of a high pressure system settling down (?) over this area for a few days, providing light air and sunshine for a change. The reason the marinas and anchorges are far from full is due to the poor weather until now this summer.
Since we learnt the lesson by now, that here, a good weather window means no wind or even weak head wind (!)
we are getting ready to go south through the infamous 'Chenal du Four' tomorrow.
Another 'step' this time to 'lAber Wrach' almost at the western point of the Northern Brittany peninsula. Aber is a Breton word that means the same as 'fjord' or 'ria' (spanish). A river estuary that got it's characteristics from the ica age.
A beautiful, protected little town, with a Marina bulit in 2007 and bars, restaurants and all the boat associated shops. A very busy saailing school too.
We choose to tie up to a visitor's bouy here too, not for free though- we had acess to the showers and other facilities, and used our inflatable dinghy to get to shore.
Today we passed the 1000 miles mark on the GPS since we left Falsterbo.
Yes, we did row ashore yesterday, and walked around the town for a couple of hours in search of an nternet café (since there were no signals strong enough for the Wifi antenna to provide a reliable connection) we had a two km walk to town. A very nice town, beatifullu situated at a rocky little peninsula. Just the fact that we found it to be beautiful despite that it was drizzling all day long goes to tell you somethiing doesn't it?
We couldn't find any wifi, and only after asking around, did we manage to find a small supermarket to get provsions for the next few days. We also got a recent weather forecast at the 'capitenerie' so all is fine.
BTW, regarding forecasts in France, we usually manage to hear one at 7.40 AM on the VHF and another at 11.40, but then nothong more for the rest of teh day. One of life's unsolved mysteries...
Since we are now about to become truly experienced in sailing the tides (with some help from Reed's Nautical Almanac and a Scottish couple we met on Guernsey) we are now to enjoy coast-hopping the 'local' way.
This means to leave port with the tide, go on to the next port/anchorage which should be reached before the tide turns i e 5-6 hours later. Doing so, one can make a 40-45 miles passage in 5 hours. The tidal streams along the coast are anything from 2-5 knots. Needless to say, going against it doesn't make much sence as we noticed outside Cherbourg.
This morning we left with the tide, and the local sailors who went out a couple of hours and then turned back to port again, for the next stop at Primel-Tregastel. A small port with no facilities for guesting yachts. As many of these small, nice villages though, they had a number of 'visistor's bouys' where one can tie up for the night free of charge. We reckon they did this to keep 'guests' away from the wharf, where the local fishermen's vessels lie alongside and from the oyster beds aswell.