We'd planned to have just the two nights in Camaret but the weather had other ideas. Storm force winds were again forecast for Biscay so we stayed on an extra night. We woke this morning to lots of swell. The boat was bouncing around and it looked like we'd be stuck again.
It had been gradually dawning on us that to make it down to the Med before the bad weather we would have to get round the Bay of Biscay a lot quicker than we would actually like. Short hops and staying in each place long enough to get to see a bit of the area would be the ideal but it's just not realistic. So it looks like we're going to have to have either a lot of long travelling days or short jumps without any time to actually see where we stop.
We've decided to try the long travelling days, at least at first, as there are limited places suitable for Seren Mor in the area. So the next stopover point would be Benodet, some nine hours away.
When the forecast came in it was for improving conditions. We'd exhausted the delights of Camaret and were ready to move on but it is a very sheltered harbour and if conditions are rough in there, what would it be like out at sea? We were also on a precisely timed schedule as this stretch of the journey involved going through the infamous Raz de Sein. To get through safely we needed that brief period around high or low tide known as slack water or the currents can be severe. When Carol had gone through on Wildbird she'd described it in her blog as being like an old fashioned twin tub washing machine.
So this was our dilemma. Do we trust the weather forecast (which has been known to be wrong) and make a run for it or wait for conditions to improve and miss the slot? In the end we compromised and decided to leave it as long as we could then go out and have a look. If we didn't like it we'd come back.
The wind was on the nose and, as timing was critical, we motored as far as the Raz but the weather did seem to be improving. By the time we reached the Raz there were half a dozen boats biding their time to go through. Then it was like 'follow the leader' and we went for it.
I don't want to say it was an anticlimax because I'd had quite enough adventure for one day. Certainly we'd timed it just right and we went through like a dream. Then, like we'd gone through some sort of portal, the sun came out.
Tired as we were, after arriving in France yesterday we felt too het up to sleep so launched the dinghy and headed into town. There was no where obvious to moor and no sign of other dinghies so we took a chance and tied onto a shaky finger pontoon next to a small boat that didn't look like it was going anywhere fast and hoped for the best.
It was lunchtime by now and the harbour side was lined with customers enjoying a glass or two in the restaurants. Whilst tempting we didn't think we'd appreciate joining them particularly as we realised we weren't exactly looking (or smelling!) our best. After about 30 hours without sleep mentally we weren't exactly alert either and that combined with the loss of our land legs meant we were staggering, tripping and falling off kerbs. I think we would not have enhanced the reputation of us "water gypsies".
We thought we'd be better cutting our visit short and settled for a baguette, a pizza slice and a chocolate éclair which we ate sitting on the harbour wall. We headed back to the boat to crash out for a couple of hours and decided an early night was called for after cooking a curry and celebrating our journey with a bottle of cava.
The weather had changed this morning but we still felt we needed to get out and took a walk on the cliffs above Camaret. Although the rain didn't make the pavement restaurants as tempting we still decided to have lunch out. This is where my French really let me down. Most of the menus were a mystery to both of us. So we had pizza. I know, I know. It was just easier and anyway it was pizza "but not as we know it"! I did get to try some French out though - I bought stamps at the post office and asked where I could find an internet cafe at the tourist information office. Actually, I'm sure their English was better than my French but they humoured me. I have to start somewhere.
The internet cafe wasn't open until 3.30pm and as we have to go back I should be able to download these last two entries later today. You never know there might still be someone out there reading this!
O.K. Corny title I know but very appropriate. We'd effectively been storm bound in Plymouth since our aborted attempt to cross the channel on Sunday but we'd been avidly studying the marine weather forecasts with every new bulletin that came out. Wednesday and Thursday looked good. Neil plotted the course and studied the tides coming up with a plan to leave on Wednesday at around 9am aiming to reach Camaret by 1pm the following day.
So we made our ham rolls (again) and battened down the hatches, slipped our lines and we were off.
The wind was perfect - about a force 5 and on a beam reach headed for France. We left the clouds of Plymouth behind and literally headed into the blue.
It seemed ages before we lost sight of land but, as we passed the Eddystone Lighthouse, Neil commented that would be the last land we'd see until France.
The wind was quite well set and after a short period of dodging fishing vessels we were able to set the auto pilot who we nicknamed 'Archie' for some reason. Archie became our third crew member and was absolutely brilliant, really taking the pressure off. We had to keep an eye on the helm, of course, and set the sails, reefing in when it got a bit gusty but it made for a much more relaxing experience. It was striking that we were in the middle of the sea just being blown from one point to the next by the wind. It felt like Seren Mor was in control and doing a great job.
We crossed the shipping lane just before nightfall. It was a bit alarming to see these huge tankers and us crossing them at right angles. But actually it was very uneventful. Neil was really calm pointing out how they were going to miss us which stopped me panicking!
After that the tedium set it in. It was dark and incredibly damp but thankfully the rain held off. We were motoring overnight so we could recharge the batteries and keep the auto helm working.
We both piled on extra layers to keep warm and took turns to grab some sleep whenever we could. That didn't amount to much, though, as the motion of the boat threw us about and everything in it was rattling and banging despite our best efforts to secure it all. The hardest bit was using the toilet. Now I don't want to go into too much detail here. All I will say is I had to allow about half an hour to get through the layers whilst being thrown from one end of the boat to the other!
I managed to get some sleep just before dawn and when I went back up into the cockpit it was a glorious morning with blue sky, light breezes and a calm sea. Neil had the sails up again. A lighthouse was behind us and the French coast clearly visible, scattered with windmills.
About three hours later we made our way into Camaret-sur-Mer and immediately found a buoy to moor to. We were anxious that it wasn't a visitors buoy so, using my school girl French, I called the port authorities to see if we were ok. Having asked "Parlez vous Anglais" and got a positive answer we are now booked in here for two nights.
We had an uneventful crossing. That is the best that anyone can hope for. Thank you Journeying God.
We're stuck in Plymouth again. The weather was stormy yesterday with winds of force 7 to 8. Normally we would not have even considered going out, certainly we weren't going to attempt France. However, Neil was approached by a very keen young lad, Tom and his father Rich, who wanted to go sailing rather than shopping. His dad, Rich, is very experienced and agreed to come out with us as well.
It soon became clear that Tom was also a gifted young sailor. The two of them were soon managing the sails while Neil had the helm. What an experience! We were well heeled over most of the time but Rich kept her controlled and we were achieving speeds of well over 8 knots with well reefed sails. He'd warned us we would get wet and the waves were literally crashing over the cockpit. I was certainly scared at times but found it absolutely thrilling. However, I certainly wouldn't want to repeat it on our own though! It was a good experience should we be caught out though.
The Genoa took a bit of a bashing while we were out yesterday, though. The furling rope came loose and we've had to get the rigging service based at the marina to have a look at it. Fortunately, they were able to come out to us pretty promptly and don't think it will be a problem.
So all we're waiting for now is the weather. It's still too rough and wet out there today but looking more promising for tomorrow or Thursday. Time to catch up on the washing and provisioning.
Well - no, not France. Plymouth in fact. We keep getting drawn back like a magnet.
Our extra crew member joined us last night, slightly earlier than expected but that was all the better as we had an early start today. Nice bloke, very keen. Enjoys dinghy sailing and is thinking of buying a boat and wants some sailing experience. Great for us too - an extra pair of hands and an extra person to take a watch when crossing the channel seems like a good idea. He also speaks French much better than either of us.
We were up at five to check the Navtex (well Neil was, to be honest - I made it soonish afterwards) with the plan to head for France around seven. The forecast was reasonable if not perfect as the wind was pretty much on the nose and some rough seas were possible. As it was another beautiful sunny morning we set out with the intention of checking the seastate and if ok head for France of if too rough head for Fowey.
There were certainly some big waves but the boat seemed to be riding them well and the motion wasn't too unpleasant so we progressed on the France route. About four miles out our extra crew member could take no more. He went very grey, took a couple of Sturgeron and promptly used the bucket. There was no way he was going to make it to France. We tried to let him make the decision to turn around as it was obviously a big step for him. At least he's discovered that sailing is not for him. I'll leave him anonymous.
We'll check the forecast again tomorrow and take it from there. It appears we'll be doing the crossing just the two of us.
04/07/2009, Newton Ferrers
We made it back to the Yealm yesterday after a truly unpleasant journey from Plymouth. The rain started again just as we were leaving and just carried on relentlessly in a dull, soaking fashion for the rest of the day. We were wearing the full wet weather gear, which seems to be generally referred to as "oilies" presumably from the time when it really was oiled cloth. This saved our clothes but what do you do with wet oilies and lifejackets? We hung them in the heads which is what usually happens but as this is not exactly a big space it meant we got soaked every time we went in there. It made me realise how difficult it could be in bad weather. The hot air heating system, the eberspacher, is very efficient at heating the boat so we would be comfortable from that point of view as long as we have diesel and the system works. But there's nowhere to hang wet clothes near the hot air outlets and no radiators of course.
However, we were otherwise very comfortable once we'd moored up. It wasn't really cold and we'd planned to eat on the boat that night anyway so we just settled in for the night. The electrical work we'd had done in Plymouth meant we could use the television from the batteries. Although we couldn't get a signal we could watch a DVD which was the point of installing a TV in the first place. It turned out to be one of our latest nights yet. We didn't get to bed until after eleven! Before we went to bed we went up on deck for a short while. It had stopped raining but mist hung over the river giving it a desolate feel. It seemed almost abandoned with just the occasional car headlights on the shore and laughter echoing eerily in the distance. We felt very privileged.
Today's weather couldn't have been more different with blue sky and light winds. We walked around the other headland to Wembury Beach through National Trust land. There was also a National Trust Tea Room! This meant I finally got the first, and probably last, cream tea of our time in the West Country.