Hondarribia to San Sebastian
23 June 2017
Hondarribia was a nice town. With the combination of interesting local shops and the old walled town there was a lot to see. There also seemed to be few tourists with just locals going about their business.
We spent 4 days in Hondarribia getting to know the Spanish way of life. Excellent fish and tasty tapas. We had tapas each day at lunchtime and again one evening.
For most of the time in Hondarribia it was extremely hot. The temperature was more than 35c most days and no wind at all. Eventually on Thursday and weather broke and it was much cooler.
On Friday, we came around the coast for the short passage to San Sebastian. We had heard that the Real Club Nautico de San Sabastian had built a very small marina for visiting yachts. Luckily as we arrived the launch was out near the moorings and directed us to a berth in the walled harbour. There is now enough space for around 10 yachts.
The number of visiting yachts remains very low on this coast. We are currently in the harbour with just 3 other boats.
San Sebastian is a bigger town than we were expecting. Really tall buildings and full of interesting back streets with lots of character. Friday night was spent walking the streets drinking cool Spanish wine and eating tapas.
The photo above is of part of the small harbour in San Sebastian and there is a good photo of one of the tapas bars in San Sabastian.
Time: 02:00 hours Miles: 13nm Total Time: 164:00 hours Total Miles: 963nm
Arcachon to Hondarribia
18 June 2017
We are now in Spain!
After spending 4 nights in the Bassin d’Arcachon, three at anchor and one in the marina, it was time to move on. This trip would involve transiting the firing range, but it is inactive on a Sunday. The swell was also forecast to be low.
On reading one of the notice to navigators, it was evident just how large some of the missiles are being tested. The report said that one unexploded missile was missing and was over 5.5m long!
It was extremely calm and motoring over the bar was simple despite the various reports of it being dangerous. I am sure it would be a different situation with a strong Biscay swell. The wind was variable and not strong enough to sail, so we motor sailed all the way.
Not many yachts appear to visit this corner of the Biscay coast. We only saw one other yacht all day and only 2 other visiting yachts in Arcachon. This is a shame as it is such a lovely cruising area.
As we got within 30nm of Spain, we could already see the Jaizkibel mountain range appearing in the distance. We finally got into Hondarribia at 10:30pm after a long day at sea. The river here divides France and Spain with a marina on each side. We decided to go on the Spanish side, so we are officially now in Spain!
On first appearances, the town lives up to its reputation of being one of the best in the Basque region. We will stay here for a few days and get to know the experiences of being in a new country.
Time: 13:00 hours Miles: 83nm Total Time: 162:00 hours Total Miles: 950nm
Arcachon Le Piquey to Arcachon Marina
17 June 2017
Le Piquey was a wonderful place and we had three days at anchor there. It had everything you need. A small cale (slipway) to get ashore in the dinghy, golden soft sandy beach to swim from, boulangerie and an épicerie.
We had a BBQ on the boat one night and had an excellent roast chicken from the épicerie another.
Friday was spent on the beach with oysters for lunch at Le Chai-nous. A small restaurant selling oysters from the Bassin d'Arcachon and wine! They were the best oysters this year.
On Saturday, we went across to the marina. This afternoon, the parents of a French colleague at work came on board and then kindly gave us a tour of Arcachon and also the Dune de Pyla. The dune was spectacular, we have added a photo to the photos section. They have cruised this area and Spain extensively and were able to give us some valuable knowledge of the ports we are heading for in Northern Spain.
Time: 1:30 hours Miles: 5nm Total Time: 149:00 hours Total Miles: 867nm
Royan to Arcachon
15 June 2017
We knew the next trip to Arcachon was going to be challenging. There is a shallow sand bar to get over and with any swell the large waves build and break across the entrance. In addition, we needed to leave and arrive in the light as the buoys are unlit in both the Gironde southern channel and the Arcachon. To further complicate matters, there is an air to sea and land to sea missile firing range, covering the approach to Arcachon and onward sea area almost to the coast of Spain.
We spent most of Monday planning the trip. Due to the time of high tide, we could leave Tuesday night or Wednesday morning or wait a further week. The swell forecast was also good for Wednesday morning, so we chose to sail overnight and arrive in the morning.
The final constraint was the Arcachon firing range, which would be active Monday to Friday, but did not start before 8:30am. We would be entering at 7:30am so we were good for an evening departure.
The final part of the planning was to consider what we would do should the entrance to Arcachon be closed due to high swell. In that case, we would have no option but to sail 6 hours out to sea to clear the firing range and then to Spain. It would mean an additional 18 hours.
We left at 6:45pm and motor sailed out to sea for what was to be a long night. Full darkness did not come until 11pm. We started the evening with a star filled sky, but clouds soon started to build and we had several thunderstorms move across our path.
By 6am the light was returning and we arrived at the entrance. The swell seemed low, but a quick call to the very helpful Cap Ferret Signal Station confirmed that the swell was fine and we should enter in 30 minutes time.
We passed the entrance without incident, but it still took a further 2 hours to get into the basin. The photo above is off the Dune du Pilat, the tallest sand-dune in Europe and is over 100 meters high.
We are now at anchor in the basin.
Time: 16:00 hours Miles: 78nm Total Time: 147:30 hours Total Miles: 862nm
La Rochelle to Royan
10 June 2017
We left La Rochelle on Saturday bound for the River Gironde. We sailed out past Ile d’Oleron and down the coast to the entrance of the river.
The River Gironde is a huge river that eventually runs up to Bordeaux. However, we were stopping near the entrance at Royan. The pilot book indicated that the best time to arrive was at low water which means any swell is caught by the exposed sand banks. This seemed to work well, but it was amazing seeing the Atlantic swell which had only been about 1 to 1.5 m pile up on the sand banks. It was difficult to judge but it looked like they were reaching a height of 3 or 4 meters. The waves extending into the channel still made it rough. If the swell had been higher and pushing into an ebbing tide, you can imagine the entrance would be very bad.
We arrived at Royan and were allocated a berth in front of the Capitainerie. Royan is a modern town with large sandy beaches and a large shopping centre. The gardens are really well done.
We plan to be here for a few days until we receive a very low swell forecast as the onward cruise to Arcachon is extremely challenging. There are so many constraints on this next trip, it is almost impossible. We need to leave in the light and arrive in the light due to unlit entrance buoys, very low swell as we will be passing over a bar at Arcachon. In addition, there is a large missile firing range either side of Arcachon, which can prevent access to parts of the coast. All in all very challenging!
Time: 9:30 hours Miles: 57nm Total Time: 131:30 hours Total Miles: 784nm
Ile de Re to La Rochelle
02 June 2017
Today was a short trip around the coast from Ile de Re and into La Rochelle.
There are two marinas here, one in the river which is Port Minimes and Vieux Port in the town itself. We have been here before in 2012 and preferred getting locked into Bassin des Chalutiers in the town. You are a few minutes walk from the shops and restaurants which is great.
This is the furthest south that we have reached in the past, so from now onwards each port will be new.
We plan to stay here for several days to restock and have a good look around the town before moving on.
Time: 3 hours Miles: 12nm Total Time: 122:00 hours Total Miles: 727nm
Ile d'Yeu to Ile de Re
31 May 2017
We left Ile d'Yeu at 10:30am it was a beautiful day with no wind so motored for the first few hours. It's strange to think that we were in the Biscay but the swell was less than 20cm.
Later the wind built enough for a good run into Ile de Re. We slowed down to reach the lock which opened at 7:30pm. We have not been to the Ile de Re before, but the pilot book rates it as one of the best harbours in France.
Coming into a new port for the first time is always unsettling. You have no idea what to expect, what the conditions will be like or where you will be mooring. Saint Martin is no exception and is also very small inside. Manoeuvring the boat into the chosen position with little space is always a challenge.
We moored up against an English yacht and soon after a French yacht moored up against us.
Just behind us is an eccentric crew, who live on Lun II an old Norweigan fishing boat. They sail to Bordeaux and Porto to pick up wine and coffee to sell on the quay. There is also a pet rooster on board that crows at 5am, 6am and 7am, waking everyone in the marina!
Ile d'Yeu is an amazing port and it is a World Heritage site. There is a covered food and fish market and several very posh shops and spa hotels. All in all a very nice place to explore for a few days. The photo above is of the port on Ile de Re.
We plan to move on to La Rochelle in a few days time.
Time: 9 hours Miles: 52nm Total Time: 119:00 hours Total Miles: 715nm
Golfe de Morbihan to Ile d'Yeu
29 May 2017
We left the Golfe de Morbihan at 9am in still conditions and pouring rain. It rained all day until a few hours before arriving at Ile d'Yeu. The wind built and we had a great sail up to the island.
Ile d'Yeu is an interesting island quite different to any we have visited so far. All the houses are painted white with terracotta roof tiles similar to Spain.
We had two nights there. They have a great poisonnerie so it was fish for dinner. We bought some clams for starter and some unusual looking fish steaks. Once back at the boat and with the aid of the internet we discovered that they were shark steaks. Anyway, we BBQ'd them. They were interesting but probably not to be repeated anytime soon. In fact, Bella had some for breakfast!
We have now left South Brittany as Ile d'Yeu is in the Vendee region.
Time: 10:30 hours Miles: 59nm Total Time: 110:00 hours Total Miles: 663nm
Benodet to Golfe de Morbihan
27 May 2017
Benodet and Saint Marine were lovely as usual. It was hot and sunny. We used the time to restock the boat and get the washing done. We had taken a buoy in the river so could get to both towns on either side.
It was particularly busy in the marinas due to a Pogo celebration and we later worked out that Thursday was a public holiday.
Saint Marine had a good photographic display of fisherman who operated sail boats from the 1900's which was interesting.
Friday night was a lovely still clear night.
We set off after filling with water originally bound for Ile de Groix. We were making good progress so altered the plans for Belle Ile.
This plan was changed yet again once we saw a forecast of NE 4 to 6. You are on a buoy in the bay at Belle Ile and would be exposed to the wind from this direction. We therefore decided to head for the Golfe de Morbihan which would be sheltered. We chose a new anchorage to us just off the lee shore of the Iles aux Moines.
There had been a week-long regatta on the island and were treated to the closing fireworks that evening.
We had heavy rain on Sunday so remained on board for the morning and went for a walk into the town in the afternoon. That evening while having dinner there was a huge thunderstorm over the Golfe de Morbihan.
Time: 10:00 hours Miles: 64nm Total Time: 99:30 hours Total Miles: 604nm
Camaret to Benodet
24 May 2017
Wednesday was another long day. We could not leave Camaret until the afternoon tide so did some shopping and left at mid day.
There was absolutely no wind so motored all day. The forecast was for force 0 gusting force 1, but hot sunshine all day.
We arrived at Benodet late at night and went onto a mooring which we prefer doing in this river. The River Odet is a wonderful place. You have Benodet one side, Sainte Marine the other and also a long river to travel up and anchor in.
It's been a hard three days, moving on each day. We will stay here until Saturday when we start moving south. Being later in May and also being further south it's getting hotter. Thursday was 28c with not one single cloud in the sky all day.
Hurray, we are now officially in a South Brittany!
Time: 10:00 hours Miles: 57.5nm Total Time: 89:30 hours Total Miles: 540nm