30 May 2017
48° 35' 99.40N
004° 33' 49.80W
L'Aber Wrac'h, Finistere
There was a mass exodus from Roscoff - at least 8 sailboats all in a line negotiating the Canal Ile de Batz which at high tide was no where near as scary as it had looked the day before when the tide was at it lowest. I must mention that all ports, rivers, channels and major rocks are exceptionally well marked and whilst we are not becoming complacent, we are doing OK and our confidence is building daily. A 31 mile passage around to L'Aber Wrac'h with wind from the WSW F4-5 meant some sailing, some motoring and quite a lot of tacking. It took us 8 hours and we motored along the river towards the marina but chose to pick up one of the visitors buoys just outside as it was so peaceful and pretty and neither of us fancied being squashed in alongside other boats. As with Roscoff, L'Aber Wrac'h is a strategic port, due to 24 hour access in all states of tide and in most conditions. It is also the key port in which to start your run through the Chenel de Four, another stretch of water with a fearsome reputation, but is the key gateway to South Brittany. The boats that also left Roscoff with us are here. It was a lovely calm night, very quiet and still, and we got a great nights sleep. We needed to be in the marina next day as Andreas had a couple of days work to do and for that we needed shore power and WiFi. The Port Control rib came out to us at 9am and she - yes - she - (very rare to have a female bossing visiting yachts but what a super gel she was ! ) said she had a nice spot for us in the marina and guided us onto our berth which was very close to the ramp which led up to the facilities - perfect. There is not a lot here other than a few bars and restaurants and a couple of sailing schools. There is however lots of activity with kids learning to dinghy sail and kayak and also a fleet of small fishing boats that are very busy. It is incredibly peaceful, the scenery is lovely and it has a nice vibe. I like it very much and could quite easily just hang out on a mooring in the river for a few days. A steep uphill walk to the next village - Landèda - got the heart rate going, stretched our legs and gave us some amazing views of where we had just sailed from, with a stop in the supermarket for some essential supplies but foolishly we had forgotten the trolley so had to lug it all back down to the boat. Won't do that again!!! Next day Andreas cracked on with business stuff and I gave Stiletto a much needed shampoo and washed some very grubby fender socks and generally gave her the once over. I happened to glance up and spotted a serious set of masts approaching the outer pontoon of the marina. I couldn't see the main body of the boat but figured it must be something big and very old. Within minutes of her arrival, there was a massive explosion that almost scared us witless, which in actual fact was her firing her cannon, announcing her arrival. Further investigation revealed it was the Corsair named La Grace, that we had seen docked in St Malo. Such a beautiful ship and just looking at her conjured up some very romantic scenarios. We don't know where she was heading - the next morning she was gone. Friday was pretty much a chill day with another walk up to Landèda for a visit to the boucherie and supermarket - this time we remembered the trolley. To our amazement, both the supermarket and boucherie were closed for lunch, re-opening at 3pm. This is something that takes some getting used to but is very much the French way. Everyone has a proper lunch break. We could so learn from them!! So we settled ourselves in the local cafe and while we waited for the shops to re-open, over a coffee, we got chatting to a lovely couple, both in their 70's who are also touring the French coast but in their motor home. We call it 'land yachting'.
Our plan was to head for Brest on Saturday and hang out in a couple of the rivers for a few days before going into the marina on Thursday so I wanted to make sure we had enough fresh meat and milk for at least five days at anchor. I have to tell you of my joy at shopping in really top dollar butchers. My French has improved and I managed to buy all that I needed without making a fool of myself. The quality of the meat was outstanding - and the very best bit? NO PACKAGING!! We bought 5 days worth of meat and a few extra bits from the supermarket and headed back to Stiletto. Earlier in the day we had noticed a lot of activity around the marina with crews arriving and preparing for what seemed like a big race as there were some pretty impressive sails being put on board, and on our return to the marina the activity had really ramped up. We discovered the race was the 'La Transmanche' from L'Aber Wrac'h to Plymouth and back, a round trip of 220 miles and the start time was 6pm that evening. So, as previous racers ourselves we simply had to watch them all depart. We got ourselves a spot on the breakwater which gave us a view of the Channel but within minutes the rain started, visibility was virtually zero and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to head off in those conditions. All those rocks!!!! Oooh no thanks. We watched the first fleet of boats tacking up and down the start line waiting for the final signal from the committee boat and we were both reminded of the Round the Island races we had taken part in over the years - the adrenaline rush, the fear but also the excitement all mashed up together. Then suddenly the horn sounded, the genoas went up and they were off, tacking their way down the channel. There were 3 fleets of boats which, from what we could see, were 2 fleets of double handed crew and one of multiple crew. With a 10 minute gap between each fleet they were all gone by 6.40pm by which time the visibility had improved. Next day was Saturday. We had checked out the weather forecast and could see that Monday was going to be pretty horrid. Very strong winds and lots of rain. So we made the decision to leave L'Aber Wrac'h on Saturday morning and head for Brest but would stop off and overnight in a lovely bay that we had spotted on our chart and that would offer great shelter for the night before heading for two rivers in the Rade de Brest that we were keen to explore - as we do like a nice river!!!
Song for this post: Fool on the hill by The Beatles
Thought for this post: The Corsair moored up in the river. We could have been transported back 300 years - in the time of the privateers
Highlight for this post: watching the race fleets heading off with wistful memories of our past round the island racing