On this page
A straightforward, day to day account of what we have done during the current year's cruise. What we found may help others. I hope that anyone interested in the area will cherry pick rather than trying to read from start to finish.
Our boat is a Hallberg Rassy 34, Anhinga. This year it is crewed by Frank and Jennifer Singleton,
Plans for 2014
The Hallberg Rassy Owners Association is 25 years old this year. To celebrate we are having a rally - St Peter Port, St Helier, St Malo from 24 to 31 May. Our plans are to join the rally, then head along the Brittany coast and southwards to parts of France that we know and love.
St Peter Port
St Quai Portrieux
Port Joinville, Ile d’Yeu
Les Sables d’Olonne
Saint Martin de Ré
Saint Denis d’Oléron
Ars en Ré
Back to Les Sables d’Olonne
Back to Ile d’Yeu, Port Joinville
The Vilaine and la Roche Bernard
Back to and at la Roche Bernard
Back to Locqmelic
Back to Sainte Marine
Back to Audierne
Back to L’Aberwrac’h
Back to Roscoff
Back to Lézardrieux
Back to St Peter Port
Bacj to Dartmouth
At Dartmouth, 29 April to 19 May
Fitting, getting nits for the boat, computer problems, seeing family all seemed to fill the time pretty well. Then, the weather became fine and settled with winds to light to sail.
As the rally dates approached, so the weather became extremely difficult to predict. On 19 May, the forecast for 20 May is for a light S, probably too fine to sail. Do we try to motor sail for about 7 or 8 hours before it lifts us? Or do we head for Portland on Tuesday, overnight there and take a nice looking brisk E wind?
To St Peter Port, 20 May. 71 miles.
The wind started by being favourable and the GRIB forecast was encouraging. In the event the Met Office was rather better. We had to motor sail for several hours.
Curiously, the Digital Yachts AIS/GPS had been working the previous evening but, on departure would not connect to the iPad iNavX nor to the OpenCPN on the laptop. Feeding data into the rather elderly Raymarine GPS is not too easy. All the signs were that the DY box was working but not transmitting to us although it was transmitting an AIS signal over the radio. We were tracked all the way across.
That evening we stayed on the waiting pontoons rather than enter late evening. The very friendly boatman escorted us into a berth the following morning. There we were met by other HROAs who had arrived earlier.
At St Peter Port, 21 to 26 May.
Weather is mixed with some very heavy overnight rain on Thursday (22 May). Also the easterly is bringing a most unpleasant swell into the harbour once the sill is covered.
Currently spending time on domestic matters and writing an article for YM.
After a rather wet day, we had a pleasant evening at the Guernsey YC; a good meal in pleasant company.
The marina is as friendly as ever and the free WiFi was good and pretty reliable. My only problem was trying to send a document to YM. It just seemed to get mangled up. Eventually, I pasted the whole doc into the email, including pictures. I hope that has worked.
At the suggestion of Ian le Maitre, a Guernsey member of the HROA, we visited Castle Cornet. We had never been there before and wondered why. Worth every bit of the £8 entry.
A pontoon party was a nice end to the day. It was followed by a very wet night. The Jersey forecast was for isolated showers; maybe they were but one was slow moving over St Peter Port for several hours.”
To St Helier, 26 May. 23 miles.
We had to leave the harbour around 0630 to get out whilst we could cross the sill. The rain had just about stopped.
Best time to leave for St Helier is around low water – 1130. Going the wrong side of the waiting pontoons, we grounded but the mud was very soft and we could just about drive off.
The passage was one of our best to St Helier. Getting the tide just about right we were doing up to 8 knots over the ground on a broad reach approaching la Corbiere light and over 9 on the fine reaching leg to St Helier.
Entry was easy. Mooring was straightforward.
At St Helier, 27, 28 May.
The free WiFi is not bad although, as last year, I found that MailASail’s WiFi Bat was a great help. It may be that screening by other boat masts gave too weak a signal at the chart table height.
To St Malo, 29 May.37 miles
After overnight rain it was a dull misty start. Due to some finger trouble, the GPS was not connecting to my iNavX plotter. Playing safe, we did not wish to use the Red/Green passage and took a slightly longer route. The day improved as we approached the NW Minquiers NCM.
After that, it was plain sailing in a good wind. Unluckily, we just missed the lock opening with most of the fleet. Three of us brought up the tail. The fleet was moored alongside the wall, three of four rafted our,
At St Malo, 30, May.
Friday was a good day. Sunny, warm out of the wind. During the morning, we had an excellent conducted tour of St Malo. The lady was born of Jersey parents, brought up in Plymouth but had clearly adopted St Malo as her spiritual home. She had a good, clear speaking voice, was a mine of information and had a good sense of humour.
Marco Thyssenn had promised a light lunch at the Yacht club. Certainly it was not heavy but we did keep wondering about the evening meal. Two courses, both good, wine and coffee at €25 each!
The final dinner of the rally was the Hotel France et Chateaubriand in the Restaurant Panoramique. The views from here over the whole harbour and approaches were magbificent. The meal was another good experience.
To St Quai Portrieux, 31 May, 32 miles
This was another good fast sail, this time sunny throughout. St Quai Portrieux was as pleasant as we remembered. My call in French was answered in rather better English and we were shepherded and helped into a berth.
After coffee and a G&T we explored the town. It is a rather spread out and quite small. Strangely, we only found one (rather good) boulangerie about 15 minutes walk, near the Bureau de Poste. There is a Spar by the harbour.
There must be more, surely?
We tried to find a post box but the only one was at the Bureau de Poste. Having gone there we decided to explore a little further and found the main shopping area some distance from the port. Probably about 20 minutes walk.
Returning we went a much longer way via a coastal footpath. Pleasant but a fairly strenuous walk as I was carrying the shopping.
Later, we found an excellent produce market right by the marina. Mondays only, which is why we had never seen it before.
For €26 a night, including the free WiFi, it is good value. Slightly annoyingly, using the WiFi, you have to log in after each half hour after logging in, whether or not you have been using the system.
Lézardrieux, 2 June. 19 miles
Little wind, less than the F2-4 as advertised by Météo France and north rather than west. A dull day. Near low water we picked our way through the southernmost Ile de Bréhat passage. As we arrived it started to rain – quite heavily.
The marina answered promptly and we got a berth on the first pontoon. €26 a night with free wiFi. Water in the showers was some of the hottest; €2 for 7 minutes makes it worth sharing.
This is an old stamping ground of ours. The many islands and rocks in the approaches make it most attractive. The town is small, basically, one high street but everything that you need.
The next problem
To get to south Brittany means going through the Chenal du Four Tides through here are strong and forecasts for the next week are mainly south – ie on the nose and sometimes strong. Roscoff and l’Aberwrac’h will be our stopping places and we will have to think carefully about how long to stay at each.
To Roscoff, 5 June. 47 miles.
The wind was light easterly, marginal for the spinnaker as we had to make 5 knots to get to Roscoff on the tide. So, we motored for about 5 hours until we had a good enough sailing wind. Maybe we were chicken and should have tried the spinnaker.
Got to Roscoff just as a large cruise liner was leaving. That caused a little mild excitement.
The marina is nearly completed, everything new and ultra modern. A little antiseptic.
On arrival checking on the nearest supermarket – one we had used last year – we were dismayed to found it had been “blown down” in last winter’s storms. That makes the choice of what to do waiting for favourable winds through the Chenal du Four rather problematical.
Roscoff was not easy shopping in June; it is more difficult now. In July/August there is a free bus to the town and supermarket. L’Aberac’h is difficult at all times; 2 km uphill to a Spar.
The walk to the old town from the marina is about 10 minutes, but nearly another 10 to get to shops and restaurants, We did not see a general food store (alimentation); plenty of boulangeries/patisseries. A boucherie. There must be more.
We lunched at a restaurant where all the light fittings are made from aluminium cookware. Certainly interesting.
Not having a French bank account, buying Gbs for my 3G dongle is not easy. SFR and Orange France have very few shops, mainly in larger towns. As a result we are surviving on WiFi. This has been free so far but of variable bandwidth. My antenna plus amplifier has avoided some frustration.
At Roscoff after logging on, you have to log on again after an hour whether or not you have been on-line. At one place it was every 30 minutes. Taken together, a fair amount of patience is needed.
Waiting for weather and tide
As provisioning is a little easier than at L’Aberwrac’h, we are watching forecasts and tide times carefully. It is all a matter of compromise. Wednesday, 11th is looking good for the Chenal du Four although tide times mean an early start. Sunday, 8th is looking reasonably good for getting to L’Aberwrac’h. Just hoping it all works out OK. Shopping there involves a 2 km uphill hike. At Roscoff it is more like 1.5 km on the flat.
To L’Aberwrac’h, 8 June. 33miles
Tides meant an afternoon start for |L’Aberwrac’h. After a fine start and not long before planned departure, we had two thunderstorms that made us suck our teeth a little.. To go or not to go, was the question.
In the event we went. Winds were disappointing with more use of the motor than the forecast suggested. There was quite a big swell running making the short northern entrance through the rocks around La Vierge Lighthouse difficult. We took the safe option and went round the rugged rocks.
The biggest plus is that the WiFi is both free, as it has been so far, and good; the best to date.
The downside is provisioning. Just about the only food here is a limited supply of rather indifferent baguettes. As we plan to leave on the 112h, just possibly the 11th, we are going to have a stiff uphill walk.
We met up with Geoff and Jackie Orr on the HR372, Jackanory (what else would it be called?) Kindly, they gave us half of their baguette as these were sold out.
Otherwise, L’Aberwrac’h is in a rather wild area, “sauvage” would be a good French word.
Bit the bullet and walked to Landeda village, an unnecessarily long walk along busy roads. We found a short cut on the way back - a cycle track signposted to the port. At the port end, it gave another destination - not Landeda. Far more pleasant, no cars just a nice country walk.
Some 20 or so years ago, we bought a painting be a local artist, Sophen. This time we had an excellent meal at a restaurant overlooking the entrance to the port. The plain wooden tables all had individual paintings of the local sea-scope by Sophen. Apparently, it is the daughter of “our” Sophen. Charming, nonetheless.
Tomorrow, Thursday, 12th, we intend to leave on the early morning tide to get down to the Raz de Sein for the slack water , important for this notorious passage. We should then reach Audierne but, probably just too late to negotiate the river up to the village. Time will tell.
Met CA members, Tony and Judy on their Westerly Corsair, Windeye. A solid boat, but not as much as the Westerly Vulcan alongside us. Same length as us but looks twice as heavy.
To Audierne, 12 June. 52 miles.
We left l'Aberwrax'h about 2 ¼ hours after Brest HW hoping to be able to carry the south going tide as far as the south of the Chenal du Four. About half way down the wind dropped to become too light to sail and we put on the motor rather belatedly. Also the tide turned sooner than the almanac said so we had a couple of hours motoring against a stream up to 3 knots.
Once out of the Chenal and into the Iroise, the stream was about ½ knot and we were able to sail reaching the feared Raz de Sein just as the tide turned and then had 10 miles fast sail to Sainte Evette, the bay outside Audierne where we picked up a buoy for the night.
We entered the river about an hour after HW, at about 0630. Two yachts were just leaving so that we had a berth alongside the pontoon. The harbourmaster recognised us from last year and as friends of his predecessor. Shopping is just about the easiest of anywhere with all that you could possibly want clustered around the harbour within 200 metres of the end of the pontoon.
We still rate it as our favourite port in France – between Honfleur and Menton! The only drawback Is no WiFi in the marina. Just a pity that wind forecasts dictate that we will have to move on tomorrow, probably to Sainte Marine.
To Sainte Marine, 14 June. 35 miles.
This was a good day’s sailing around the Pointe de Penmarc’h. We have been around this headland many times but rarely as quickly as this. It is often one of those headlands that you never seem to get round.
Approaching the river Odet, the wind dropped. Headed and strengthened again. A call to the Capitainerie got a quick reply and we were shepherded to a berth.
A Mooring mess-up
Perhaps a Berthing B***s up would be a better description. The (French) boat after us did not call and had no help. The skipper mad at least 8 attempts to get alongside the end of the pontoon because he tried every time to come down-tide. At one stage his crew (wife?) leapt onto the pontoon but could not get a line attached. He sailed away and tried again and again. Finally they managed it without damaging their boat, anyone else’s boat or themselves. Miracles do happen!
Winds are not promising to move on for a few days. Strong easterlies. But, we will see. It would have been better, domestically to stay at Audierne but more difficult to move on.
We had some fine but quite windy days here with a little too much east in the wind for a comfortable passage to the Lorient area. Sainte Marine is quiet, laid back but with excellent free WiFi. On Monday, WiFi everything is closed –boulangerie, the one main shop and most restaurants. Like most rivers, there is always something happening.
To Locmiquélic, St Catherine’s Marina. Locmiquélic, June 18. 42 miles.
Winds were forecast to be and were NE 4-5 with a decrease around midday. We had to put in one 4 mile tack but even gentlemen have to beat sometimes.
It is a marina that we know and like. Some of the best showers just about anywhere, even Spain. Shopping I not great but more than adequate. The same is true of the WiFi. We will stay here a day or two enjoying the peace and quiet couple with wall to wall sunshine.
We met old friends, Neil and Bron Eccles on their Moody, Cutaway, now based at Locqmelic; not a bad place for a permanent berth. They were doing some work on their boat repairing steps down to below, changing some instrumentation and a little pulpit repair.
To Etel, 21 June. 11.5 miles.
With an easterly wind and neap tides this was an opportunity to visit Etel with its ferocious entrance. The sail there was a fast reach under headsail alone. On approach, we called the Semaphore station who talked us in over their ever-changing bar. Most helpful.
The marina was equally as welcoming – indeed most marinas on this coast are, but Etel was just a bit more so. Maybe because this is an adventure for most visitors. We were last here about 20 years ago so it was an adventure.
When last here we were surprised at the lack of food shopping in the town. Several boulangeries, a boucherie and a charcuterie (now closed.) This time we found a small but well stocked Shopi supermarket close by but nothing else unless we missed a trick.
To Port Haliguem, June 23. 22 miles.
This is a port that we visited many years ago. The main reason, this time, was as a stopping off place before l’Herbaudiere, a port that we have never been able to visit for various reasons of weather, tide, other priorities.
This time it was a lady who talked us out of the Étel river and over their bar. After that it was a painfully slow sail until we had to motor to get there in the light. It was a mid afternoon high tide for leaving Étel, At Port Haliguen, the marina staff had gone home but we got the last space on the long visitors’ pontoon.
At Port Haliguem.
To L'Herbaudiere. 25 June. 41 miles.
This is a port that we have not been into before. The approach can be difficult and it is all too easy to get stuck.
It was a mixed day’s sail. Sunny throughout, wind enough to sail with at times and not at others. On approach we called up and were told where to moor. Apparently the normal visitor’s pontoon is being refurbished. We had to squeeze onto a rather too short length of a hammerhead. We were promptly rafted outside by another yacht.
We have had slightly mixed views about L'Herbaudiere. It is a large port with an active fishing fleet. There are more large motor boats than we have seen for a while. Shopping is close with most needs readily available.
To Port Joinville, Ile d’Yeu, 26 June. 28 miles
A difficult decision. We would have liked to have seen more of L'Herbaudiere. Tomorrow looked like being windy and in the wrong direction. Saturday is uncertain.
In the event, we left. Motored for about 1 ½ hours and then had a fast sail in a F4/5 with some F6. The main problem was the uncomfortable short swell that often occurs in the fairly shallow stretch of water.
As at L'Herbaudiere we had a quick and helpful reply on VHF directing us to a berth. As usual we were helped with people taking lines. One was Ian Miller. We have met Ian and Bev before – here, I think. Apparently, when we were manoeuvring in, Beverley commented that I looked very sprightly for an 80 year old! I had to tell her that she underestimated my age. Oops!!
Had a couple of very social evenings with Ian and Beverley, joined by David and Annie on their Ovni.
The big disappointment in Port Joinville was that the lady who made crepes was not in her usual place in the market. Quel catastrophe! They were the best we have ever had and it was a joy to watch them being made.
To Les Sables d’Olonne, 30 June. 29 miles.
This started by being a good sail although the wind was rather too tight. The excitement came just as we were trying to head as high as possible. Bang! The Genoa then started to come down rather rapidly. Sailing was out of the question unless we were to be arriving very late, so it was motor on time.
We prefer the large commercial. Civic Port Olona to the other, Quai Garnier. Although the latter is nearer the town centre it is also rather noisy with disturbance from fishing boats and dust from a nearby brick or stone works. Port Olona is fairly close to a large and good Carrefours. In any case, there are several chandlers, electronic workshops, engineers and, importantly for us, a rigger and sailmaker.
On arrival, the first person we met was David who kindly offered Annie to be hoisted up or mast to bring down the Genoa halyard.
First job was to get the Genoa problem sorted. Was it a sail problem or a rig one? Rather than impose upon Annie, Jennifer volunteered to be hoisted up so we had the sight of an 81 year old winching up his 78 year old wife nearly to the mast head.
Getting the halyard down we saw that it was a sail problem dating back to having to have a modification done when we bought this Genoa. We took the sail to the sailmaker close by the head of our pontoon. We have had work done there before and they seemed pretty competent.
This is a good place for getting jobs done . The sailmaker did a good, quick and sensibly priced job of our Genoa. On previous visits, we have had other work done here of a similar quality.
There are also several chandlers. This gave us courage to do some remedial work on a blocked valve into the holding tank – necessary if using the toilet at night in port. As ever small jobs on boats become big ones – lengthy ones, at least. Having disconnected some pipes, we could not reconnect them and then could not disconnect another pipe. All this on a hot day. The plumping is all beneath the floor boards in the main locker.
A meal out at Le Petit Louis restaurant helped repair equanimity. Despite change of patron since we last ate there, it is still the only restaurant where we like to eat near the marina.
To Saint Martin de Ré, 4 July. 24 mile.
The US Independence Day. Bastille day to come!
The forecast was for a strengthening wind, up to F 5 but from the north making it a broad reach. In fact the wind got up to a respectable F 6. To keep speed down we used just the Genoa and even then took in some rolls. Eventually with the wind hitting F 6, we had a tiny scrap of sail and were doing up to 5 knots.
Timing was a slight problem as high water was about 2200 so that the lock would not open until 1900. Waiting at anchor on a buoy outside would be unpleasant but we did not want to be too late.
In the event, we got it nearly right and had 15 minutes waiting time to get fenders and lines in place. As usual, the harbourmaster was helpful and understanding. We called out “trois nuits, s’il vous plait.” He gave us a place that might be difficult to exit but did not have other boats rafted alongside. No moving, no clambering over other boats and nobody tramping over ours. Just the need to use our bow ladder as in the Mediterranean. The only problem is that we are a little less agile.
Now for the best ice cream in the world and some really good galettes and crepes.
The ice cream is still as good. The market is high quality with an excellent cooked food counter. Somehow we did not see the famous donkeys that we have seen in previous years.
I would have stayed longer but Jennifer worries about too many ice creams. In any case, Sant Denis d’Oléron beckons and a lighter wind is expected after two rather rumbustious days. We missed out on the galettes and crepes but our next port is good enough.
This is another place with free WiFi. That seems to be one area where French marinas excel.
To Saint Denis d’Oléron, 7 July. 16 miles.
The wind was certainly lighter but not a good direction, so it was a 3 ½ hours motor. Nice enough with plenty of sun even though the wind still has a nip in it.
The marina was as welcoming and friendly as ever. Possibly surprisingly, but maybe because of the recent strong winds, there were far fewer boats on the visitors’ pontoons than we have ever seen here.
Every day is market day here; so, tomorrow is market day.
It is like being back among old friends. The market is as good as ever and the boulangerie excellent.
First surprise was meeting Beverley and Ian who had been heading for Spain. Rather late they had a change of heart and came to St Denis. We had a good meal at the nearby restaurant/creperies. Later we also met HROA friends Richard and Jane on their HR37, Musketeer.
We had often thought of going to Marennes – not by boat as it is up a rather narrow, shallow canal with uncomfortably low overhead cables. There is a twice a day bus to la Rochelle from St Denis going via Marennes and Rochefort. One and a half hour journey gave us a good view of d’Oléron. The lady bus driver showed great skill in manoeuvring her bus around some very sharp corners. How she missed some bollards was a mystery.
On arrival we headed for the marina, interestingly rural. We then made a navigational error and walked round the marina rather than past the lock and along the canal. As a result we missed the famous oyster fishing port. We did see the pleasant small town and had a good lunch. It may seem an odd thing to say but the pommes frites were outstanding – the Bistro by the covered market.
We will probably be leaving tomorrow, Saturday, 12 July. Our time here has been characterised by sunny weather but with strong, cold winds. [<<]]
To Ars en Ré, 12 July. 28 miles.
There are places that a cruising sailor just has to go to even if only to dine out on the story. Bigger in Sardinia was one; Ars en Ré, Ile de Ré is another.
We have been past here many a time but it has never been the right time. There is a 6 mile drying entrance and we can only enter or leave with big tides giving enough depth for our 2 m draft. That means that we are looking at a fairly big spring tide. This year we had the right conditions. Ian and Beverley had left the day before and we knew they liked the place.
We left St Denis on the early morning high water and had a gentle sail to an anchorage opposite la Pallice where we had a late breakfast cum lunch and waited for the north going tide to get is to Ars en Ré about an hour before high water. It all worked well with a beat in a F4 to 5.
Entry was more straightforward than the pilot books suggested. It is well buoyed. We were directed to raft along another boat overnight but the harbourmaster said that he would try to find us a better place in the morning.
At Ars en Ré,
This must be one of the quietest marinas surrounded, as it is, by flat marshy areas. Quite rural but active in a sailing sense. On the way in we saw many boats of various sizes and shapes. Areas of landlocked water are used for starters in such as Optimists and sailboards.
We had cycled here previously from St Martin and knew that the town is a pretty quiet place, tourists apart. We knew that there it has a good produce market. We were totally unprepared for the covered market. Over the years, we have seen many of varying sizes and quality. Many have been good but nothing to compare with the Ars en Ré one. Superb is the only description. If you were caught by neap tides and had to stay for a month, it would be no hardship, especially for anyone who likes a wide range of good French food.
July 14 passed fairly quietly apart from a noisy firework display the previous evening. The market was as active as ever, probably more so. The main marina is a short walk from the town but peaceful. There are few seagulls but we have seen many egrets. Waking in the early hours, Jennifer saw many rabbits. It is a great place for a rather wild walk around the marshes disturbed only by the many bicycle riders.
It is necessary to avoid being neaped here. We would liked to have left on Thursday (17th) but the harbourmaster advises Wednesday. We think that he may be being a little cautious but are not inclined to ignore his advice. A pity with so many tempting products on sale. On the other hand, perhaps for the best! Winds are good for getting back to Ile d’Yeu on Thursday but not after that.
Back to Les Sables d’Olonne, 16 July. 23 miles.
The forecast easterly held for a while but we had to motor the last hour or so. It was very hot and the forecast is good for Port Joinville, Ile d’Yeu tomorrow but not good thereafter.
Such pressing needs as clothes washing will have to wait. We would rather stay a few days on Ile d’Yeu.
Back to Port Joinville, Ile d’Yeu. 17 July. 27 miles.
The forecast did not quite come up to an easterly F4/5. That is now it started and we were thinking about a run just under Genoa. In the event, that is how it started but later we had full main and boomed out Genoa. We even contemplated the spinnaker.
Just as we approached Port Joinville, the wind pepped up to a good F5. This made manoeuvring into a berth difficult, not helped by a boat boy who was clueless. We are stern to in a raft of six boats. Exit is totally blocked. Weather looking uncertain so hope that we can get a finger berth tomorrow.
The first plus was that the lady who makes some of the best crepes ever was back in business. We bought four and told her that she had been sadly missed.
It is difficult to say which island we lake best. All have their charms and plus points. This time the marina is remarkably quiet for late July. But, busy or not we always like being here.
We took the little bus to La Meule, a delightful small harbour too shallow for us. After lunch we walked along the coastal track to La Croix for the bus ride back.
These drivers are amazing. On the journey out, there were two cars parked opposite each other. Everyone held their breath as he squeezed through. On the return, I was near the front. I am surprised that he actually missed some of the cyclists. Any parent riding the bus would think twice about hiring a bike for the children or, even, themselves carrying a baby sear or trailer. Still, we heard of no fatalities!
We are in a period of predominately northerly winds. Whilst it has been fine and sunny, it has always been cold. We have been waiting for winds to let us move on from Ile d’Yeu, delightful though it is. In the event we could probably have gone today but tomorrow (Wednesday) looks much the same. northeast winds initially but going northwest with the large scale sea breeze effect.
Hopefully, we can use these sensibly to head north-westwards to get north of Ile Noirmutier, then bear off to head for the Vilaine or Piriac on the north westerlies. That is the plan but plans of mice and men …….
Whatever, we never like having to leave Ile d’Yeu. It seems to have something for everyone. Great sand beaches but with rock pools; good cycling – buses apart; good walks to suit all ages – reachable by bus; pretty good shopping although no really good charcuteries.
To The Vilaine and La Roche Bernard. 23/24 July. 58 miles
The forecast, for once was spot on. We left with a good F4-5 north-easterly. That took us north of Ile Noirmutier and across the entrance to the Loire. Around noon the wind died and headed. We motored, so did boats coming in the opposite direction. After nearly 2 hours, when we had to bear off for the Vilaine, the wind had backed to northwest giving a good F4 and a fast sail to the Vilaine entrance.
We had thought about Piriac but the tidal coefficient was not particularly high and the window of opportunity quite short for the approach channel and the entrance. Perhaps when we leave.
Up the Vilaine to the feared Arzal lock. Perhaps luckily, we were just too late and it was full. It meant a 2 hour wait but it was not crowded, everyone was helpful and pleasant; the lock keepers did not appear so we had none of their usual shouting that only adds to the confusion
Through the lock and a short motor to a peaceful, rural anchorage for a quiet if warm night. It had been stifling in the lock.
The following morning, upriver to la Roche Bernard. The marina was full due to a rally but they said that there would be places later in the day. We used their waiting pontoon whose connection to shore is a dinghy on a continuous loop. A long pull, as it was on the wrong side.
Then off to market, Thursday is local market day and a good one too. New since last year is that the rather miserable Shopi has now been replaced by a Carrefours Express.
We got a space in the marina after lunch, codes for WiFi and toilets/showers. Normal service resumed!
This must be one of the prettiest towns; it is rather like one huge flower garden. Their display of pictures is as imaginative as ever with large photographs mounted on huge tripods and other supports all around. The theme seems to be a technological one this time. Again, not a single one had been vandalised.
Ian and Bev had suggested a good creperies, la Belle Epoque, up the high street. Certainly good and inexpensive. Main course, galettes of course, sweet, wine, coffee and tip for €20 each!
WiFi went berserk for virtually a whole day but seems to be up and running again. Probably going up-river to Rieux, tomorrow, Sunday. Maybe no WiFi, only email, if as last year.
To Rieux, July 27. 15 miles
This was a gentle motor upriver, through the lifting bridge at Cran. We timed it just right for the 2 o’clock opening.
Rieux was its usual ultra quiet self even though there were more camper vans and tents in the campsite. Despite it being right in the holiday season, one of the two boulangeries was closed for two weeks. The other closed on Monday, as both always do. They are the only two food shops in the village. The only other shop is a pharmacy. How locals shop is a mystery. OK, with a car but what about the oldies.
Rather in the same vein, the creperies at the campsite/moorings was closed for three days over the weekend. In these parts, family life is more important than serving paying customers. Life here is just so relaxed.
Here we met Kevin and Sue on their catamaran, Rum Tum – a nice name for a cat. They are on their way slowly southwards, very slowly apparently Also Dieterma and Etta, German sailors approaching our vintage. They spend a great deal of time here. Briefly, we met Richard Stevens on his catamaran, Opus. Richard is a well known UK principal race Officer. Between all of us the world has been put to rights. In theory, at least.
Worryingly, somebody broke into the campsite office and stole the week’s takings. Not the kind of thing that you expect here. It can only have been someone staying in the campsite or on a boat. Who else would know when to do such a job?
We took the opportunity to give the outboard some exercise going upriver until near Redon. Saw plenty of herons, a kingfisher and a coypu. You get quite a different view low down and close to the banks. Richard Stevens said that he was going via the canals on to Nantes. Looking at the canal lock off the river it was hard to imagine his catamaran getting through. However, he had come down from St Malo via the canals so knew what he was doing.
Back to La Roche Bernard., July 30. 14 miles.
Wednesday is now market day in Rieux. It was small but reasonably good apart from no dairy stall.
It was a quiet motor down the Vilaine, a pleasant river. The marina found us a berth on a private pontoon. Quiet – apart from some rather noisy late at night motor boaters.
The Thursday market at Roche Bernard was good but, of course there are two good charcuteries, good boulangeries as well as the two Carrefours. We did not go hungry!
To Haliguen Anchorage, August, 3. 41 miles
It is always difficult to leave Roche Bernard. We can well see why some people leave boats here and some even settle down and live here. But, go we must. We have ideas on Locmiquélic,, a good place for provisioning and we need a good washing machine. It is rather too far with adverse winds for one sail so we decided to have a break at either Le Palais or Port Haliguen. It would only be one night do anchoring off seemed the sensible option.
Motoring down the river is always a delight and the lock although full was easier than it can be. At the mouth of the river we were still undecided, ii was going to be a beat to both in quite a pleasant westerly. A short period of southwest winds settled the issue. About a mile short of the marina in the baie de Quiberon it is nicely sheltered from any Atlantic swell, the bottom is good thick mud. The wind was going to drop so we had a quiet night.
Back to St Catherine’s Marina. Locmiquélic, August 4. 29 miles.
With light winds we had to motor from the anchorage and around the south of the Quiberon peninsula. Seeing someone with a cruising chute gave us ideas about trying the spinnaker – even though we knew that the wind was forecast to go more westerly and increase.
We did try – for about 10 minutes. Then the wind did as the forecast said and down it came. It was then a nice steady reach and a run right up the river to the marina.
By that time the wind had increased more than forecast and berthing was a slight problem.
Although they replied to our call on VHF, in the event they were too busy towing a boat so that we had to fend for ourselves.
Still, we are in, safe and sound. Now for a quiet day or two before on and back to Ste Marine.
Back to Sainte Marine, 7 August, 41 miles.
WE had intended leaving on Friday, 8 August but forecasts were not good. A wet day with, according to Météo France, winds increasing to F 7, grand frais. The GRIBs also had a wet day but not so strong winds and better directions, The GFS also had Saturday as a good day with southerlies, not too strong. Météo France had strong north-waterlines.
Following my advice to others, we took Météo France forecasts as being the more likely and, left rather hurriedly just after noon on Thursday, , 6 August even though we would have to motor sail to arrive at a sensible hour.
In some ways, it was a bad decision. Although visibility would have been poor, winds on Friday were not as strong as the French had said; further, by Thursday evening, the French forecast for Saturday was for southerly – as the GRIBs had said.
In some ways, it was a good decision, as winds after Saturday were going to be strong or unfavourable. The poor Météo France forecast got us to Sainte Marine, letting us have a day to relax before moving on to Audierne, Move we would have to because of the GRIB forecast of unfavourable winds for the next week. Audierne is a good place to be weatherbound- except there is no marina WiFi.
The passage back to Sainte Marine was no problem. The wind was always not quite on the nose so that it helped a little. Also, there was not much sea running. Sainte Marine was full so we had a quiet night on a buoy moving to an alongside berth in the morning.
Next, for one of our favourite ports, Audierne,, especially if having to stay a while.
Back to Audierne, 9 August. 32 miles.
The forecast, at least the US GRIB, was basically good. For two or three days it had been saying light southerly, becoming west to southwest and increasing to a moderate F4. The southerly was a bit lighter than we had hoped so it was, as seemingly so often, a motor to past Pointe de Penmarc’h Météo France did not get it right until the day. Before they had been predicting northwester lies.
Timing was just about right so that we entered Audierne at high water slack. There we met Clive and Jane from the Helford River on their Westerly Fulmar, Haquanage. We quickly found that they are great friends of Ross and Wei Wei, longstanding friends of ours ex Australia and Taiwan, no living in Falmouth with their two children and Gemini, their boat. Apparently, Gemini is currently in Loctudy – like us, waiting for the weather.
Forecasts are very uncertain and favourable winds are hard to come by. How long will we stay in Audierne? No matter; everything needed is to hand. All, that is, apart from wiFi in the marina.
To Camaret, 14 August. 27 miles.
To some extent, this was force majeure. The forecast was for west to northwest 4 or 5 although rafales were mentioned with a swell up to 2 metres. It would mean motoring to the Raz de Sein with the possibility of a rough ride through the Raz. A small French boat had come through on Wednesday evening and said that it had been exciting! Waiting to Saturday would give us a better sail but leave us in Camaret with the choice of going on immediately or waiting there for some indeterminate time.
We decided to go for it. We had a squall just leaving the Ste Yvette anchorage and nearly turned back. However, the wind eased a little and eventually backed a little so that we sailed the last mile through the Raz which was a gentles as we have ever seen. It. The rest of the sail was fast on a broad reach. We had one or two more squalls, one just in the rather narrow Chenal de Toulinget. We dropped the main and completed the last mile under headsail alone.
In Camaret, we rafted alongside a HR352 with one man (a Belgian sailor) and his dog, a territorially inclined Alsatian. Every time we crossed his boat he put the dog down below as a precaution. They had just arrived after a three day crossing from A Coruňa. Man and dog had had a hard time with very strong winds.
Clive (met in Audierne) had been a Scotland yard DI. Our Belgian friend had worked under cover for the Belgian police. Are we being got at?
Back to L’Aberwrac’h, 16 August. 29miles.
As often is the case this was a difficult decision. Earlier forecasts had NW winds, not strong but not good for going north up the Chenal du Four. The day after, ie the 17th, had a better direction but stronger, possibly uncomfortably so.
However, the morning forecast had winds westerly, even SW but light. On the basis of taking an opportunity, even not an ideal one, we decided to go. After motoring to Pointe St Matthieu, we sailed quite well initially but increasing slowly. Before the Le Four lighthouse, the wind dropped away and, despite a 2 knot tidal current, we had to motor the rest of the way. At least it was a sunny day albeit, as so often this year, not warm. We rafted alongside a British boat for the night.
The harbour boat kindly helped us to a finger pontoon with a good view down river. The wind increased and we were glad that we came when we did.. Boats on the outside of the marina were having a rough time and were being helped to come inside.
Like so often, staying in a place for a few days you find attractions not experienced previously. We remember L’Aberwrac’h] from many years ago when it was really just a port of passage. Clearly, to many, it is still such. Staying here as we did last year for a 2 or 3 days and this year for 5 days we have got to see more and learn more. Like all harbours there is always something happening; the UCPA sailing school was particularly active. Fishing boats, local day-boats and visiting yachts were continually interesting. We saw the square rigged Stavros Niarchos come in followed by another tall ship, the three masted Fara Avis(?).
Our stay was made more enjoyable when we heard that our 9-year old grandson, Ben, had won the end of season 9 and under British tennis championship – the highest ranked 16 are invited to take part. He beat players that he had never beaten before and lost only one set in 6 matches
Provisioning is easy with a short bus ride to Landeda (3 minutes) or a longer one (7 minutes) to Lanyllis. Landeda is fairly limited but adequate with 2 boulangeries (one excellent), boucheries/charcuteries and a small but quite good supermarket. Lanyllis is a larger town. The market (Wednesday) was excellent with good fish, dairy produce, vegetables, cooked food including crepes, etc. Apart from bread and croissants there is little provisioning at |L’Aberwrac’h. There is an excellent chandler.
There is much to do with walks, boat trips to Le Vierge lighthouse and meals at the local creperies. We liked the Captain best of all with its superb view over the river, the first rate galettes and crepes. A minus for the marina is that the WiFi is erratic. On two days we never even saw the network. At other times it was abysmally slow; occasionally, it was excellent
Back to Roscoff, 21 August. 29 miles.
This was a quiet sail. We used the passage out of L’Aberwrac’h past the Petit Pot de Beurre tower; then motored for an hour or so until the wind picked up enough to sail. As it was a quiet, and on a rising tide the Chenal de Batz created no problems. The marina answered promptly and we were shepherded to a berth.
The Casino supermarket is still not open again after the winter storms. However, there is now a small alimentation at the marina with most basics. We walked into Roscoff for some food shopping. As pleasant as ever.
Back to Lézardrieux, 23 August, 49 miles.
Times of tides were not ideal if we wanted to depart and arrive at a sensible time of day. In the event we had to motor for the first couple of hours against the tidal current across the Baie de Morlaix. After that it was a dead run and the question became whether to use the spinnaker or not. Winds were expected to reach F5 at times and it was rather a disturbed sea. Caution dictated a poled out Genoa although it was a bit slow at first still being against the current..
In the event, the wind increased a little and we were doing up to 6 knots through the water. As the flood tide set in we were getting up to over 7 knots over the ground reaching a dizzy 8 knots past les Heaux lighthouse.
Despite some objections from the first mate, we used the Moisie Passage, well marked and safe enough near high water, which it was. It was when we turned to go up the river Trieux that it got a little exciting. Météo France had well predicted the increase to “parfois 5” over the open sea but not the F6 up the river. However, approaching Lézardrieux the trees cut off the wind and we were able to get into a marina berth with no problem. A marina boat met us after a prompt call on the VHF.
The big improvement at Lézardrieux is a laverie right by the marina. Jennifer was duly grateful. We had a meal at the Auberge de Trieux, a Michelin restaurant. It was good but not great. Nevertheless, we wondered where in the UK you could get such value: An aperitif, three course, wine and coffee all for under £35 each.
Back to St Peter Port,, 28 August. 52 miles
We had agonised over this passage for some while. There are significant dangers right on the line from Lézardrieux to St Peter Port, the Roches Douvres plateau. There are also very strong tides. The forecasts had being consistently for strong winds but a day of SW F4-5 becoming 3-4 was an offer that we could not refuse.
It started well, sailing down the Trieux, getting our timing right. The leg to the west of the plateau went well although we were taken a little further west than expected. As we changed course, a large shower nearby gave a marked increase in wind. The decision to put in a reef quickly became one to dump the main until it slackened. It never really did. The rest of the passage was under Genoa alone, largely 0ver 5.5 knots, touching 8 at time, the wind was mainly F6 with a touch of 7. There was a swell, up to 2 metres but a fairly kindly sea. Rounding SE Guernsey, we even managed to sail right up to the harbour. Under 9 hours for 52 miles door to door is good enough for anyone.
Review of the forecasts
The Jersy forecast was
Southwesterly 3 to 4, veering west for a time early evening, increasing 4 to 5 towards midnight.
Météo France for Cap de la Hague to Pointe de Penmarc’h said
secteur Sud-Ouest 4 à 5, mollissant 3 à 4 en fin de journée.
Best of all the UK Met Office often maligned shipping forecast
Wight Portland Plymouth
South or southwest 4 or 5, increasing 6 at times.
Now we await Our daughter, Jayne with family, Ben and Jessica.
After meeting them on the Condor ferry – 21/2 hours from Weymouth, we visited Castle Cornet and saw/heard the midday gun. After some walking around the town we had a meal out although two very tired youngsters could hardly do it justice.
Next day we joined the trippers to Harm, sand castles and a brief dip (children only) in the sea. Then it was a good fast sail to Sark, Dixcart Bay. A little more beach then a walk up to the village for the obligatory scone and cream tea. The anchorage suffered from swell OK most of the time but uncomfortable around high tide. The children were quite oblivious to it. Then a motor sail back to St Peter Port Jayne and family returned to Weymouth by Condor.
Back to Dartmouth, 3 September. 74 miles
The forecast was NE 4 to 5 but with poor visibility. Tides were fairly extreme neaps allowing a slightly early start relative to tides through the Little Russell. Then it was a fast sail with much over 7 knots. About 10 miles short, the wind decreased. We could have sailed and still made good time but it was going to be dark when we arrived. Speed was kept up by a “coup de moteur.” Our berth was free. Door to door, just under 12 hours was pretty good Even faster than last year with a slightly stronger SW wind but a rougher sea.
Now for the inevitable tidying up, cleaning and general boat maintenance.
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