Yacht Swagman

Aber Wrac’t to Cameret via the Chanel de Four

13 July 2009 | France
John / Sunny / 24c / F6-7 Sly

We'd both spent time studying pilot books and the Reeds Almanac to make sure we got this passage right, as the Chanel de Four is one of the last two tidal 'gates' we need to get through on our journey this year south to Lagos in Portugal for this summer.

This is the tihrd time we're covering this passage, having completed it in 2004 on our Grand Soliel 42 and also in 2005 on the Hanse, both times in company with Rally Portugal. Those passages were almost races, going direct from the UK to Bayona in N. Spain before heading down the Portuguese coast. This time we've come from the UK sailing alone, and spend quiete some time sorting some boat electric issues in Brittany.

Now we're all fine, and pushing down and around towards Southern Brittany where we aim to lini up with some new sailing pals and escort them across the Bay.

This current days sail is the shortest route between Aber Wrac't and the ports in N Biscay where we expect to find our pals, and avoids the larger seas and heavy ship traffic you'd normally find outside the off lying Ouessant Isles.

We're bashing into a solid SW'ly but the Chanel du Four is wide enough to tack through safely and deep enough not to build the seas too high. And with a trusty chart plotter it is not difficult to see where one is at all times and keep to deep water. Strong tides and exposure to the Atlantic swells often result in steep seas that can get positively dangerous in shallow water when the tide runs against the wind - which is why we are sticking with the deeper stuff.

The guides advised us to ensure we got to the narrowest part off St Mathieu right at the bottom, just at slack tide to avoid the worst of any overfalls. We definately don't want to get there before the tidal flow stops, as this wind against tide in the shallow slot builds huge standing waves.

We left Aber Wrach't under full sail (it was a lovely sunny day) in a building south / south westerly breeze. Not really the wind direction we wanted as we were heading that way, but with a goal of getting to St Mathieu at 2.15 pm and itchy pants making us leave at 9.30, we assumed we'd be able to slow down any time we liked. Got that wrong.

We unfortunately found ourselves in company with a number of other yachts going the same way. And you know what it's like when you get a few boats in the same water space? Yup - it turned into an impromptu race. Meaning we led this disparate fleet into the top of the channel, lee rail buried under water as we creamed along into a 20 knot wind making at times 9 knots over the ground.

Have to say if felt for me like the beginning of the holiday. First time we'd really had Swagman blowing away the cobwebs and hopefully carrying us to warmer climes.

But as we closed the final big lighthouse (and in this region they do big REALLY BIG lighthouses) off St Mathieu, the winds were almost true south, and strong enough to make us tuck in a single reef on our mainsail.

Swagman still charged along being assisted by the southerly flowing tide when we saw this maelstrom of white bumpy water stretched out before us from the lighthouse towards the open seas, like a white surfers wall. We'd arrived just an hour of so early - but there was nothing that scared us from continuing.

We yahooed and held tight as Swagman shouldered into this stuff like a rugby prop forward doing 10 miles per hour - sending huge bursts of spray off her bow as we blasted and bounced our way for what seemed like ages, but in reality was maybe fifteen minutes, came out the other side into what was relative calm seas south of the cape.

Could then have gone and changed my underwear:-)

The seas were still big but not breaking, and the breeze was still up over 20 knots and we knew the seaside town of Cameret on the southern shore of the bay is tucked in under high cliffs and therefore sheltered from SW'lies. It proved too attractive a place to ignore. So we eased our sails, swung the wheel to head due east, and surfed along the swells on a broad reach for another hour before finally fetching up before this pretty little town and it's harbour / marina complex.

The days weather had kept lots of boats at home so the marina itself was full, so we grabbed a visitors mooring buoy off the harbour mouth and settled there for the night.

Did a short run ashore and found some lovely artwork for the new home, ate on board, and were treated to Bastille Day celebration fireworks right alongside us just before midnight.

Today sadly the weather is not good. Wind stronger at 25 knots - still from the SW (the direction we want to go) but with rain showers and grey sky. Plus I'm also having a tricky of a job getting Sue out of bed (she just now demanded another mug of tea). So all in all it's shaping up that we'll not make our next tidal gateway of the Raz de Sein today, so let's stop here one more night and look to move onward when the weather eases.

Here's wishing you all a happy Bastille Day.

Vive la revolution - no worries.

JOHN and SUE xx

Vessel Name: Jumbuck
Vessel Make/Model: J109
Hailing Port: Lymington UK and Calpe Spain
Crew: Sue and John (here crossing the line to win the 2007 ARC) on Swagman
Married 46 years and been sailing for 35 of those. Keen racers and cruisers starting in Australia and now based out of Europe. From 2004 to 2009 we cruised most summer months on our yachts exploring UK to West Med, East Med to Caribbean. [...]
In 2010 tried the darker side with a classic 45' motor launch. It opened up the rivers, canals and backwaters of Europe for a year, but that did not hit all buttons, and yacht racing drew us back. Got a Scow dinghy for club racing in 2011 and called her Billy Can, got a J109 for racing 2012 and [...]
Jumbuck's Photos - Main
Costa Blamca, Spain
19 Photos
Created 23 November 2016
Professional shots taken on the Jornadas Pitiusas Regatta, Balearics, September 2016
22 Photos
Created 10 October 2016
Sold the little Scow to buy this baby for Spain.
5 Photos
Created 25 November 2014
Five days away with Stu and Moira in Spains Sierra Nevada mountains
25 Photos
Created 30 December 2011
From Moret on the Loing to Migenne on the Yonne, via the River Seine
47 Photos
Created 2 September 2011
We were joined by Paul and Pattie, Rob and Gaye for this trip back north down the Loing to Moret.
20 Photos
Created 2 September 2011
Son and duaghter in law Rob and Louise bring out our two new grandchildren Georgina and William for this week long trip north on the Canal de Briare to Chatillion Coligny.
20 Photos
Created 13 August 2011
We stayed a week at this lovely location down off the canal and adjacent to the Loire. Beautiful.
14 Photos
Created 13 August 2011
A week long push south from the medieval city of Montargis to Briare.
8 Photos
Created 6 August 2011
This is where several steams come together and helped them build the Canal de Loing to form a final link between the provincial centres of Orlean and Briare up to Paris. The streams between the houses are why its referred to as a 'little Venice'.
11 Photos
Created 6 August 2011
This was our first experience with a narrow canal - with a 6 kph speed limit. As you slow down - so does the pace of life. It was like we'd entered an inner kingdom sliding south between the two stunning medieval towns of Moret and Montargis......
15 Photos
Created 2 August 2011
Pronounced 'san mammys' this barge working town spans the junction of the Seine and Canal du Loing. Famed as the favoured living spot for English impressnionist Alfred Sisley
12 Photos
Created 30 July 2011
A scooter ride cross country through the forest to the Palace at Fontainbleu
20 Photos
Created 29 July 2011
The final upper reached of the Seine bewfore we turned off and headed south
12 Photos
Created 27 July 2011
A week long slide on the upper Seine in company with a NZ boat
18 Photos
Created 27 July 2011
Our first real country marina with facilities that would blow a family away. Absolutely made for the young - and not so young....
16 Photos
Created 26 July 2011
Back down to Paris to buy some gaz, then up the Seine through the last big locks towards the canals.
6 Photos
Created 24 July 2011
The lower reaches of the Marne as we head back towards Paris
7 Photos
Created 24 July 2011
A short hop really but lovely facilities in Meaux encourgaed us to stop here and repair our generator. Glad we did.
3 Photos
Created 22 July 2011
We were joined by Stuart and Moira on this weeks adventure to explore the 'capital' of the Champagne Region.
23 Photos
Created 17 July 2011
Sailing with Karen and Jake into Champagne country
20 Photos
Created 13 July 2011
The highlight of our crsuie where we stopped over in the centre of Paris - to be joined by Karen and Jake from the USA.
61 Photos
Created 5 July 2011
A seven hour blast at 20 kph in company with Graylian. it was the tide that allowed us to make that speed............
3 Photos
Created 30 June 2011
A ten hour fog ridden crossing - then rolly seas before we got into Le Havre. Sue kissed the pontoon on arrival................ All we then had was a failing impellor plus a crushed stanchion in the first lock we entered...........
10 Photos
Created 30 June 2011
Planning and implementing our cross channel crossing in Matilda
1 Photo
Created 10 June 2011
Shots around the harbour and bars
12 Photos
Created 6 June 2011
21st May 2011
35 Photos
Created 22 May 2011
Re-launch for Easter
35 Photos
Created 25 April 2011
Our home built rowing / sailing / motoring tender
8 Photos
Created 2 March 2011
A month away to Chile walking the mountains and lakes, then onto a discovery ship for a week exploring Patagonia and ultimately, Cape Horn. Best holiday ever............
5 Photos
Created 28 February 2011
From Turkey in May to the Caribbean for Xmas. We left Turkey two up, spent June in Greece with pals Jude and Viv visiting, July solo in Croatia and August in Italy and then Balearics where Seu went home for a week and mate Brian from Oz came for a weeks sailing. Then Sue flew back and Brian home, we sailed through September to Spanish east coast pals then Lagos in Portugal. Refitted boat for Atlantic and grabbed another week home in UK, then sailed in October to Canaries for start of ARC in November. Joined by pal Gerry the three of us raced in the ARC across to St Lucia and led the Crsuier A Div fleet to finish in 16 days 1 hour - and won the Prime Ministers Trophy!
100 Photos
Created 18 January 2011
The journey bringing Matilda from Alkmeer in N Holland down the Dutch canals and rivers, then down the Belgium and French coasts, across the Channel and into Eastbourne and fianlly on to Lymington where we lifted her for the winter.
21 Photos
Created 18 January 2011
After some time back in Europe skiing we returned to Antigua with a family crew and partied hard during Antigua Race Week. Like to tell you we did well, but not on the race course! Too many hangovers and old cruiser sails meant we were simply not competitive - except at the bar!
47 Photos
Created 5 December 2010
Left in April gales to cross the Med with pals Marcus and Gerry and Sue from Mallorca to Turkey so we could join the East Med Rally from Istanbul. Did not make it and linked up at Ayvalik where pals went home. Did the rally double handed for 3 months down Turkish the glorious coast, then Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, back to Israel, inland to Jordan, then sail back to Turkey. All nice. Possibly best year of my life!
115 Photos
Created 5 December 2010
Took our new Hanse 461 in May from UK to Portugal along with Rally Portugal, then onward to the Med and Balearics from June. Fabulous summer with lots of mates visiting with us to really explore Mallorca, Ibiza, Formetera. Brilliant weather, sailing and experiences. Eventually flew home end August having berthed Swagman in Palma de Mallorca where we revisited her several times in the fall.
81 Photos
Created 5 December 2010
Took our Grant Soleil 42 Swagman from UK to Portugal with Rally Portugal. Took race crew with Sue and I across Briscay in F8 n'lies - completed crossing in 3 days 3 minutes - averaged 7.5 knots. Won virtually every leg thereafter despite being only two up. Liked Lagos so did visit Gib and ports along the Algave, returning end August to Lagos where we berthed her............and then sold her once we bought Swagman (11) at the Southmpton Boat Show.
7 Photos
Created 4 December 2010