A 'Misainier' sails past the Old Semaphore, Benodet, South Brittany
Looking back on our sailing season finds a pair of rose tinted specs firmly in place. We had a fantastic time at Easter exploring Poole Harbour and enjoying the fine weather, summer in Brittany was equally enjoyable but the weather was more unsettled. A theme that has continued in to an early autumn for the UK.
In a year when it took a week to cross The Channel to Cherbourg due to strong winds we explored further than ever before, reaching the Gulfe de Morbihan in South Brittany. Taransay transformed into a submarine entering the Alderney Race, a flashback of a mesmerising jade sea sweeping from bow to sprayhood still haunts our memory. On a quieter day flying the cruising chute from Guernsey to L Aberwrach with the Dolphins and their young calves at the bow was inspiring. The 4am start before an exhilarating passage down the Chenel du Four and Raz de Sein was followed by an enforced delay when the boat accidently dried out on the quayside at Ste Evette. What did she think she was doing.
Now I've started the memories keep coming, a rainy night sheltering up the Odet River moored in the shadow of a fairytale chateax. An idyllic anchorage at Treach er Goured on Île de Houat that turned in to an uncomfortable lee shore at 2am. The muddy scramble to launch our dinghy after lunch in Saint-Goustan on the Auray River and anchoring under the cliffs on the Crozon Peninsular, to finish a foggy passage up the Chenel du Four, what a year.
Finally, after enjoying our fair share of sunshine and showers on our return to England her Majesty's Border Agency welcomed us with a personal visit five miles offshore at Portland Bill.
On the 30th October Colin and I will be giving a short presentation on North Brittany at the Cruising Association's HQ in Limehouse, London as part of the Northern France and Channel Islands launch day.
Returning from South Brittany after an unsettled early summer cruise we are pleased that August is not over yet. There may still time to recapture the benevolent weather of spring when at Easter four nights at anchor in Poole Harbour was exceptional, as was the beach BBQ in Worbarrow Bay. We are looking forward to sailing in our home waters during August and September whatever the weather.
More photos from South Brittany will be added to the gallery soon, to receive a prompt when we post just click the 'Like' link on the page 'Taransay Mhor' in facebook.
Remember Practical Boat Owner in September, our feature on last years cruise to North France is appearing as 'An autumn cruise to Brittany'.
The American magazine Cruising World will be printing another of our articles based on the galley refurb, in the 'Makeover and Refits' section, also in September 2011. In Cruising World's July issue we managed to get Newtown Creek included as one of 12 Top Spots for a Summer Sail.
Now we are due back at work the sun is sparkling on an aquamarine sea.
Shallow Newtown on a spring tide makes for interchanging views. Mudflats and an ancient training wall at low water then at high the sea stretches clear over the wall and banks making The Solent and Newtown look like one big lake.
Taking advantage of the fine weather we caught up with cleaning and airing out, we are still drying the forepeak from the big waves in the Alderney Race over a month ago. There was no need to leave the boat for entertainment, plenty was provided by one or two boats coming in for the night and running aground at low water while sniffing out a berth. The few deep pools were popular but you had to get in to them first. Fortunately we had plenty of choice and were able to spend a comfortable night afloat.
At The Folly, on the River Medina above Cowes, next day we bumped in to our friend Alan who had a problem at the top of the mast on his boat. Colin took a bit of exercise and climbed up to fix a new shackle and block to the topping lift (the rope that holds the boom up). It was sunny and hot again. We almost put the sunshade up, I did say 'almost', this was the weather we had been promised in South Brittany.
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.