Last stop St. Peter Port
01 August 2016
Last stop St Peter Port.
A 6 am start will allow us a last sail in light winds to St Peter Port, where we hand over to a new crew who will bring her home. It's full of a stink boat rally, but they leave in the afternoon. Exhilaration and lassitude compete in our breasts. The regattas have been all we could have hoped for, some of the passage-making less so. Marcita has been wonderful to us, and we've tried to look after her. This will probably be our last French trip in her, as plans for next year may involve taking Caressa instead. We shall see. A l'eau, c'est l'heure.
01 August 2016
The next stop was Lezardrieux, up another river, but wider, with moorings here and there. We know the tide runs diagonally through the pontoons in the marina, but get into a vacant berth safely. But the harbour master chases us out onto a different one, and as we go astern, the current catches us and we power out luckily without a scrape. Crab linguine in the harbour bar does the business.
Calculating the course to get to Sark is a navigational challenge. The tides round the Channel Islands might have been designed to ensure you get it wrong. The wind is dead astern, so we have to gybe up there, and the predominant tide is easterly, but calculating how far to go on each gybe to ensure we arrive uptide while rolling from side to side is interesting. When we can see Guernsey and Sark it gets even more interesting, as the chart plotter tells us that steering straight towards our goal will not achieve it. Anyway we get there and pick up a mooring in Greve de la Ville. But we're very close to a 48 foot Grand Soleil, and at 5 in the morning we're woken by a bump. No damage, but again I'm on anchor watch. This time they realise the mooring is too small for them, leave, and I go back to bed.
Sark is amazing. An enchanted Isle. Flowers everywhere, silence from the lack of cars, and La Seigneurie garden a paradise of horticulture with wonderful scents at every turn. Like I suppose all enchanted isles it's suffering unemployment and depopulation, not helped by a feudal governing family using their feudal powers to enrich themselves at the expense of the islanders. We rent bicycles and go from end to end admiring the views, the rocks, and the wild honeysuckle which wafts us along. We love it. Especially the treat of a lobster at La Sablonnerie.
26 July 2016
We decide to have an easy start and head for Camaret, just around the corner. It's a resort town now, but like Brest, was heavily bombed during the war, and you can still see the gun emplacements on the cliffs with the little bunkhouse for the crews. You imagine a summer's morning like this, but after a raid, with the towns on fire, the dead and wounded, and the destruction of buildings. Now it's time for the Chenal du Four, with a favourable Spring tide, but quite a lot of mist.
We arrive at the Pointe St. Matthieu and find ourselves beside 2 other little classics similar to Marcita. It's always reassuring to arrive at a tidal gate and find other people there at the same time. We are swept along at 7 - 8 kn, very fast for us, and the harbour master at L'Aberwrac'h finds us a smooth berth. It's a wild-feeling place at the corner of Finisterre and always significant for British yachties as it's the cusp round which everything turns.
In order to continue, to Roscoff or Morlaix, we must leave at 4 am, which is not met with shouts of glee by the crew. Ian and I pick our way out between large rocks looming in the half moonlight. It's as well to try and avoid ones like the picture. We haven't done a detailed pilotage plan, relying on, we count, 8 chart plotters on various devices on board. They don't let us down, but the wind does, and we end up motoring most of it. The next question is whether we can get up the Morlaix river in time for the last lock of the day at 1130, or whether we should opt for the more certain entry into Roscoff. Ian's asleep, and I decide to try for Morlaix, knowing that if we miss the lock we risk going aground on the way back down the river and spending the day on our side, hopefully not on a rock. We get there with 5 minutes to spare, and berth comfortably.
26 July 2016
The sight of so many so different craft is extraordinary. Ashore we go on tall ships and wonder at the gigantic rigs; we speculate as to the original purpose of the local reconstructions of working, mainly fishing boats. We imagine the harbour in the 1880s when it was full of 800 sardine boats, and consider what going to The Grand Banks for 6 months at a time to fish for cod must have been like. Standing in a barrel lashed to the side of the goelette, handling a line with 100 hooks, and hauling it in in the freezing cold. Or taking the dory out in fog to do the same thing, and often not being able to find the mother ship and dying of thirst in a boat loaded to the gunwales with fish. Or being left there over winter to guard the shed, with the guts of thousands of fish rotting putrid at the water's edge.
We sail out into the harbour, and watch the raising of the gaff mizzen on a tall ship. Twelve young persons hauling on each halyard, and each pull raising the gaff a matter of inches. On the mainmast of another, with 6 yards, 3 men sitting on the top yard, hundreds of feet above the deck, and they're swaying from side to side in calm waters. We try and imagine doing that in an Atlantic gale. Form plus function equals beauty. But some of the yachts were clearly designed with beauty at their heart.
Amokura was here, but we missed seeing her. We hang out with Auk, our friend from many previous Brittany festivals.
My companions are keen to leave to visit the other lovely towns on this coast, so we decide to leave tomorrow. We must catch the beginning of the flood up the Chenal du Four, and the spring tide will swoosh us all the way round Portsall to L'Aberwrac'h.
Parade of Sail
20 July 2016
Parade of sail
Today is the big parade to Douarnenez. A thousand boats converging on two headlands, Toulinguet and the Tas de pois - the pile of peas - half a dozen rocks out into the sea like the Needles. As usual I am in a nervous state at the close proximity of so many boats, but we're all going in the same direction, and it turns out ok. The largest concentration of boats is round Hermione, a replica frigate which occasionally fires off a broadside, terrifying all and sundry. When we reach Douarnenez bay the fleet spreads out, as we have to tack in. We manage to find a mooring buoy, and go ashore for supper, agog at the number of tall ships on the dock and in the harbour. All is lovely, shanties everywhere, and we turn in, exhausted, but thrilled to have got here in one piece and on time.
At 5 am there is a bump on the stern. We've dragged our mooring onto two French boats sharing a mooring. We argue a bit about who it is that has dragged, but eventually we have to admit it is us. So I sit on anchor watch until the tide turns at 7 am. We decide to rig a kedge to keep us on the buoy but further away. By mid afternoon the next day the kedge has also dragged, but we spot a hefty looking buoy nearby, but not in our sector of the moorings. We moor up to it, and wait nervously to be kicked off but we're not. So a pleasant night.
And we're still on it, with the number of boats apparently decreasing as the week goes on.
The band tonight was Lunasa, a vigorous Irish band who are friends of our band in Dartmouth. They play a storming set to throngs of happy and dancing sailors, and I go to bed with that sense of cheerfulness which a dose of diddledy-dee always induces.
Ian, Marcita's owner, arrrives this afternoon, so the decks must be swabbed, and the boat dressed for his arrival.
It's hard to get a photo to convey the spectacle of a thousand boats on the water together, so you'll just have to take my word that it was a once in a lifetime (every 4 years) sight.
Sent from the Bripad
Brest day two
17 July 2016
Brest day two
I've always wanted to go up the Aulne river to Chateaulin, 14 miles up. And the gigantic crowds and general mayhem, combined with convenient tide times, suggest today.
We sail quietly across the Rade, and get gently swept up the river.A lovely peaceful drift, in contrast to the frantic pace of Brest. We lock into the canal that Napoleon built to get to Nantes, avoiding the permanent English blockade outside Brest. We go past the beautiful Port Launay, with a hotel with famous food, for the practical reason that Chateaulin has wine, women and song, oh sorry that's Brest, I meant food, water and diesel.
We raft outside a French designed classic, similar in lines to Marcita, and I jump into the canal for a relief from the scorching heat, which makes Marcita's brass bits too hot to touch, even at 6 pm.
There's some sort of festival on, with food and music on the opposite bank, so we're off there. I've had moules frites for the last two nights, one delicious, one horrible, so something else, please.