Leaving Dartmouth early on Sunday a thick blanket of fog filled the river valley and spilt out of the harbour entrance. 45 miles across Lyme Bay lay ahead and as usual the wind was on the nose. After crossing the bay we were undecided about where to stop, maybe Studland Bay or continue on to Newtown Creek inside The Solent. The wind would decide, the faster we sailed the better it looked for heading closer to home.
Visibility was poor on a hazy day it was getting a bit boring with nothing to look at but mist. When suddenly the radio crackled to life with a mayday for an injured diver, quickly followed by a Pan Pan for a small boat adrift in the Portland Race and another for a 23ft motorboat sinking in Poole Harbour. It was all happening for Portland Coastguard.
Then it was all happening for us, less than an hour later a customs and excise cutter appeared out of the mist, circled across our bow and started to follow Taransay as she struggled against a foul tide five miles off Portland Bill. 'not transmitting on AIS' noticed Colin. When a big black rib with 4 men in black aboard launched we knew they could only be coming to see us.
Once aboard the 'Boss' offered us his ID. Colin remarked that it was probably easier to forge an ID than to pinch the Customs Cutter on our port quarter, he took the joke well. Phew! They were disappointed we had 'only' come from Dartmouth. We were not to know that the biggest UK drugs haul ever, found on a yacht off the Isle of Wight, had been discovered only last week. All other questions about drugs, immigrants and vat were answered with out joking and after inspecting the paperwork they jumped onboard the rib and vanished in the direction of Weymouth.
By dusk we were approaching The Needles Light. A big spring tide whisked us up through Hurst Narrows and on to Newtown Creek where we anchored just outside on peaceful Hampstead Ledge at 10pm.
Regretably it was time to head back to the UK and home.
All boats, like us, wanting to sail north from Camaret have to pass through the tidal challenge of the Chenal de Four. When we left Camaret the sun was still shinning, however two miles further on it was not, more fog, not wanting to miss the tide we carried on. The sound of our foghorn was soon joined by many others, all hidden from view, quite a symphony. An hour or so later the fog burnt off a light breeze filled in and it was possible to start sailing.
The shipping lanes were the busiest we had ever seen them, it was like trying to cross the M25 in rush hour. Then we settled into the overnight sail across The Channel.
After 150 miles and 28 hours we moored in Dartmouth
Despite the northerly wind, three days of good weather were forecast. We decided to start making our way back to Portsmouth and of course work.
For 'good' read slightly improved, the first day visibility was down to ½ a mile and it was raining so we diverted to the huge marina in Crouesty. Everybody else had the same idea. There are 130 visitors' berths here and they were full by 12pm.
The following day the sun came out and with lightish winds, we managed two days sailing to the Odet River and on the third pushed on to make the tidal gate at the Raz de Sein by late afternoon.
A beautiful picture of an anchorage off the Crozon Peninsular in the pilot book, all turquoise sea and verdant cliffs persuaded us to anchor overnight even though the rocky cliff just 50 meters away was more imposing than pretty.
Our plan to explore ashore next morning was thwarted when we woke to find misty clouds engulfing the cliffs and Taransay. The fog didn't clear so we moved to Morgat just an hour away to pick up water and provisions. Morgat's wide sandy beach would be lovely in the sunshine.
Another foggy sail brought us to Camaret where the weather improved, as you can see from the photo, the sun was shining just in time for us to leave Brittany.
Well we found the gaz before we left to explore the islands of the Golfe de Morbihan. Imagine a lagoon twice the size of Poole Harbour then add 50 islands and one river to get a feel for the Golfe. Although many of the anchorages are taken up by moorings but no one seems to mind an etranger picking one up for the night.
A week spent wandering around and exploring up the River Auray, following in the footsteps of the writer George Millar, very relaxing. His book Oyster River recounts the summer George and his wife Isabel spent sailing Amokura their 50ft yawl here. George and Isabel sailed without any of our modern gadgets, even thier depth was determined by eye and a lead line.
Our weather has been a mixture of sunshine and showers, maybe more showers than we would like but we are slowly getting a golden glow.
It is Bastille Day, not a day to go unnoticed in France, we have enjoyed two days of celebrations, pagents and fireworks as well as another marche for essential provisions. One item we have had on the list for a while is camping gaz, now the last bottle is being used we really must make the effort to find a replacement.
We have posted some photos to the gallery in the album Brittany 2011
Forecast : 4-5 Occasional F7 gusts with scattered showers
Actual: Occasionally not F7 heavy downpours
Summer in Brittany!
Plan A: Sail 60 miles to the anchorage at Ile de Houat
Plan B: Divert to marina at Port Louis in L'Orient, visit the U-boat pens and markets.
We chose plan B
Our tanks were nearly empty but fuel was available on a quayside that dried at low water. Why not fill up here, we thought.
Next morning on a falling tide we went alongside the quay, even though our depth gauge told me we had a meter of water under the keel we touched bottom. (Colin has since discovered that the offset had mysteriously reset itself from -1m to -0.1m.) I backed up in to slightly deeper water and we filled with diesel.
When we tried to leave, we found that we couldn't. Parts of Taransay were afloat but it appeared the front edge of the keel was not. Later it emerged that the keel was balanced on a rock. Colin managed to push us off by heaving his back against the quay wall, but the front of the keel went immediately aground, and now the bow was leaning away from the wall at an alarming angle. Meanwhile the tide was dropping faster than a lift in the Empire State Building.
We accepted the inevitable, amid helpful comments like "don't stay there, there are rocks" from the local fishermen, anything that could be was lashed to the quayside.
Then our scrubbing brushes were put to good use. Slimy seawater was trickling down my arms when I noticed a little beach bar with flapping orange umbrellas tantalisingly close.
A free scrubbing berth, walk-ashore access, lunch and a tank of diesel not bad for a days work. The trip to get fuel was ¼ mile long and took 7 hours.
Bleary eyed at 5am dawn was turning the sky grey-blue behind the 77 metre high lighthouse Ile Vierge. Dolphins swam alongside as we left Libenter buoy behind heading for Le Four, another big light at the top of the Chenal du Four. Timing is important hence the early start, the currents run too strongly to go against them, at 8am the current at Le Four would start to carry us down the slim 10 mile long corridor through the rocks.
For us the passage was a straightforward buoy hopping exercise on a clear day with little wind. A top speed of 9 knots pushed Taransay on towards the Raz de Sein, renown for its rough seas. The almanac told us we had to pass thorough the narrow two mile wide gate at exactly slack water. Time was tight and the tide turned against us but we were far enough through to make progress and two hours later anchored in sunshine at nearby Ste Evette.
Colin had just joked where are the dolphins? When a fin cut the water ahead and suddenly a pod of mothers and babies were racing our bow. We were sailing downwind in a light north easterly. It was a blue sky sunny day and I almost took off my thermals.
Two days earlier in full foul weather gear our transit of the Alderney Race in wind against tide had been a bit too exciting. Taransay buried her bow in to one green monster and unknown to us sent a pressurised jet of seawater in to the anchor locker then, as we discovered later, out through the sides of the access hatch in the forepeak. An hour before we left Guernsey I found the wet books and water under the bunk cushions. No time to dry out, we were leaving on an overnight sail to L'Aberwrach at the west of North Brittany.
In L'Aberwrach we were offered a pontoon berth where we could dry the books and cushions, before leaving early for the challenging rocky and tidal Chenal du Four and Raz de Sein.
A lively trip from Cherbourg with the wind in the west and on the nose again. Mental note F4 in the Alderney Race, wind against tide, is the most we want. One particularly awkward wave was scooped up by the bow and cascaded all the way back under the sprayhood to the cockpit, some even sneaked in to the main cabin soaking the odd book that had bounced on to the floor.
The trip took 10 hours and now we are safely tied up in St Peter Port, laundry done and a few maintenance jobs too.
Setting off towards LAberwrach tomorrow.