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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, Home port is Darthaven, Kingswear opposite Dartmouth


Plans for 2017

With advancing age we have decided that La Rochelle/Ile d’Oléron is our limit. Much as we love Northern Spain and the Rias we think that these are really beyond our comfort zone. This year will be similar to the previous three years so I will try to say little and keep this log more as a note of where we have been rather than detailed descriptions.

Our daughter, Jayne and family hope to come out to see us at some stage. We may see other family members.


Ports of call

A shakedown sail
St Peter Port
Lézardrieux
Roscoff
L'Aber Wrac'h
Ste Evette
Loctudy
Locmiquelic
Le Palais, Belle Ile
L’Herbaudiere
Port Joinville, Ile d’Yeu
Sables d’Olonne
St Denis d’Oléron
La Rochelle
St Martin
Lea Sables d’Olonne, again
L’Herbaudiere
Piriac-sur-mer
La Roche Bernard


The Yealm and back. 20 April/1 May. 60 miles.

Two very windy sails with winds up to F7 intended to give son-in-law Andy some sailing experience. Also to test the new auto-helm. Being on medication for a health problem the poor lad was sick on the way out so Jayne came on return.

To St Peter Port. 7/8 May. 70 miles.

As ever an interesting trip. Andy came with us to get more experience. Timing of departure was determined partly by his flight booking back to Exeter and his need to get 4 hours’ night experience. We managed both. Departure from the berth was 2315.

Getting off was a problem as the first reef jammed and the main would not go up. That delayed us as we circled in the river for ½ hour or so. I was getting twitchy thinking about tides and flight times although we had plenty of leeway. We finally left the river with a nice wind and clear skies under a full moon. Then the wind dropped and we had to motor for 1 ½ hours. Then it came in as expected from the NE but soon increased to an unexpected 2 reef job as we approached to shipping lanes.

We saw several dolphins and could still see Start Point light from mid-Chanel and ships many miles off. Several fishing boats were quite close but no problems. The west bound lane was OK. All fairly well separated, only one close encounter. The second lane was more congested and needed careful watching on the AIS display. The final ship was likely to be so close that I called him up and assured him that we would pass astern.

Unfortunately, winds were a couple of forces stronger than expected and he did not enjoy the second half. A great pity as he is very keen and did learn a great deal. He recovered when north of Guernsey and watched all the various marks as they flashed by.

Today is Liberation Day and there are market stalls with the awful smell of food being cooked en masse. There is even a small RN patrol boat in the marina.

Briefly we met Denny, off Misty Blue on his way to Lézardrieux. Another pleasure was to meet John and Chris Twigg on Goshawk.

Wisely Denny decided to leave early on the 11th. We chickened out because of the risk of thunderstorms. A bad mistake.

To Lézardrieux, 11 May, 58 miles

This was a Hobson’s choice as the next possible window was some days off and doubtful at that. Winds were very uncertain. There were two possibilities: St Cast about 50 miles SSE or Lézardrieux about the same to SSW. We hoped for the latter.

Leaving St Peter Port at about 10.00 , it looked like St Cast. Then, about three hours out, Jersey Radio issued a strong wind warning – SF F6 later. I guessed that was to be after midnight but could not be sure. It suggested a strengthening SE’ly. At 1345 we heard the full Jersey forecast. Variable but becoming SE 1-3, stronger after midnight. Definitely not good for St Cast.

Four options. Back to St PP; head for St Helier, neither attractive. Bash on hoping for not too strong winds to St Cast or head off about the same distance to Lézardrieux. A S’ly would help and it was the same distance as St Cast. A no brainier. It was a long motor sail. We berthed on the mid river pontoon for the night.

Moral – if you have the chance take it.

At Lézardrieux.

The marina gave us a berth in the bassin a flot, always nice and quiet if a little remote from other sailors. Again briefly we met up with Denny – this time with Julie. No doubt our wakes will cross later.

Not sure when we will leave. We like it here and favourable winds seem in short supply.

May 20th. Watching forecasts, GRIB and Météo France it has become obvious that the 21st is a one day window. We moved out of the wet basin for an early start at daybreak. We will have to buck the tide across the baies de Lannion and Morlaix but hope for enough wind and that the not too strong tide will help. The alternative is to descend the Trieux in the dark.

To Roscoff. 21st May. 45 miles

Left the berth at first light, 0545, got to La Moisie with only 4 hours of west going tide instead of our usual 6 for this passage but it worked well. It was a neap tide but we had the strongest tide just where we wanted it – around Les Heaux de Bréhat. The wind was a F3-4 SE which gave us enough speed to round Bar ar Gall westerly cardinal into the baie de Lannion still with the ebb tide. Currents are not strong across this bay. Even across the baie de Morlaix we only had ½ knot foul tide. We arrived at Roscoff at 1345. 8 hours is about par for this passage.

For the third time this year we arrived just as Misty Blue was about to depart. One day we will get lucky and be able to have a drink with Denny and Julie.

At Roscoff

We have decided to wait here to meet up with our old friends Ross and wei Wei with their two delightful girls. Near catastrophe when we had a blockage in the heads sea water intake. After much fiddling around – even considering asking a diver to go down to clear the seacock, we eventually managed to poke a flexible tube down to loosen the problem and then blew it away with the dinghy pump. A day’s work but it saved a lot of money.

Work on the seacock prevented a visit to Morlaix on the Tuesday. Wednesday is market day in Roscoff so Thursday was the day - until the bus never arrived. We had overlooked some very small print in the timetable. It was Ascension Day!

Ross and family arrived on Friday. Their immediate good turn was for Wei Wei to give us several jars of her home made jam. The second was to take us on a supermarket shop for the heavies.

We also met Brian and Maddie on Dragonstar, our saviours from last year when we had starter motor problems. We also met David and Christine Homer on Noisette, a boat we knew from its previous owner (Peter Nutt.) Another old friend here was David Echlin on HR36, Senninga with a delivery crew on his way to Spain.

Intentions were to leave on Sunday (28th) but the French forecast of averses oranges was off putting coupled with radar and lightning displays. We are staying put.

To L'Aber Wrac'h. 31st May. 32 tmiles.

At last a day with wind in a sensible direction, no storms and good visibility forecast. In the event, we had a short spell of a sailing wind before it dropped off too light. We were met by the boat- lady and shown to a pontoon berth. Ross and family had arrived half an hour earlier and invited us on board for drinks. David and Christine off Quadrophenia joined us.

To Sainte Evette. 2nd June, 58 miles

A frustrating “nearly” sail. The forecasts, especially the GRIBs were promising although Météo France was a little less so. In the event, the wind stayed stubbornly just too tight for good sailing. Best was the last ½ hour. On passage, we were hailed by Osprey, a HR34.

The tide turned fair later than expected in the Chenal du Four. It turned foul earlier than expected in the Raz de Sein.

Perhaps with more motoring, Osprey got to the mooring buoys earlier than we did.

To Loctudy. 3rd June. 29 miles.

After a very quiet night, this was a near perfect sail. It was a near-dead run across the bay to Pointe de Penmar’c. Enough wind not to have to think about motoring and enough not to have to use the spinnaker. After Penmar’c, around all the cardinal marks, the wind gradually increased to a fine reach F6 on the last leg.

The marina directed us to pontoon A where we found a berth by Graham and Anne Wiley on Dione, a HR36. Later, Osprey arrived with John and Sarah Hakes.

We may stay a few days.

At Loctudy.

Sunday, 4th June. Forecasts for Monday and Tuesday are up to gale force on both GRIBs and Météo France. After that, several days of not too strong SW winds are expected. That should let us move on. Meanwhile, there is a good boulangerie, a good take away creperie, an active fishing fleet noted for its langoustines bought from poissoneries on the quay, a reasonably convenient supermarket and restaurants to meet all other needs. We will cope.

We got our langoustines, slightly disappointing because of the strong winds. Few boats had gone out and we probably had the tail-enders of the previous day’s catch.

To Locmiquelic. 7th June. 35 miles

One of our better passages. A broad reach door to door, or, more strictly from Loctudy marina to the river up to Locmiquelic. For once we overtook our outstripped just about every boat in sight, including a much larger HR.

As ever, the marina answered our call promptly and showed us to a berth, taking lines.

We plan to stay a few days waiting for favourable winds to go south. We have one or two boat jobs to do.

The village is far less attractive than Port Louis, a touristy town. There are fewer food shops and only two restaurants, neither remarkable. However, the boulangerie is very good as are the two bouvherie/traiteurs. Above all, we just like the marina far more than Port Louis.

The marina office seems to be the adopted home of a black cat who sits on the reception desk. It is known affectionately as Locmichat!

To Le Palais, Belle Ile, 11th June. 25 miles.

After a foggy (not forecast) start to the day, it brightened up for our midday start. The W-NW F4-5 gave us another fast door to door sail. Being a little early, we had to pick up a mooring outside Le Palais.

Going into the wet basin we asked for 4 nights and were offered a “catway”, that good old French word for a finger pontoon, in the bassin Saline beyond the usual bassin a flot. This is a first for us here and promised to be a quiet few days without the worry of boats coming and going each tide and being in a raft of boats with all the attendant hassle. Also without the interest. Swings and roundabouts although my Three MiFi works pretty well – most of the time.

We were alongside Pennant, a 34 ft yacht owned by French/Americans Gerard and Laurens. They are preparing their bot for a trans-Atlantic crossing to their home in Naples, Florida. We were able to give some advice on Portuguese ports and, of course, weather. We will watch there progress (MMSI 205 414 530.)

Gerard was an Air France pilot but had flown for Air Djibouti in the late 70s. He is one of the few people that we know who had been to Aden albeit after we were there.

The evening before we left, a CA boat, Beryl Grey came in with Roger and Mike. This is a 45 year old Amel ketch. Looks superb.

To L’Herbaudiere, 15th June. 43 miles.

Another door to door sail in a nearly right downwind in mainly an F5 with some F6. The marina boat d us to a berth – necessary because For a usually logical nation, this was unusually arcane.

The nearest boulangerie had rather indifferent croissants and pain cereal. It did have some very good rhubarb tart. You cannot have everything. We just missed seeing our friends on Jinn. They were off the boat when we arrived and left the next morning before we could say hello. We had better success with Denny and Julie on Misty Blue. After three fleeting hello and good byes, at last we were able to meet up for a chat. Like us, they are on the way to Port Joinville for a CA meet.

To Port Joinville, Ile d’Yeu. 18th June.21 miles.

Yet another door to door sail. The wind started about F4, increased to a good F5, nearly 6 with thoughts of a reef. We took a few rolls in the genoa. But it then dropped to a F3-4. The marina were helpful and directed us to a berth where we would be near other CA boats.

At Port Joinville.

The first very pleasant surprise was to berth alongside Jinn with our old friends Mike and Sue. Th next day, HROA members Richard and Jane (also friends of Jinn) arrived. We had the inevitable drinks evening on Jinn.

In the meantime, we spent a few hours trying to find out why the bilge pump was not working. Probably it was because with little water in the bilge, it gets sucked into the pipe which then sucks air.

Cruising Association boats have been arriving mostly finding spaces near other members in the increasingly busy marina. Tuesday evening was a general get together on the pontoon. With a few exceptions, most were boats that we did not know and it was great to see several new (to us, at least) members.

On the second evening, we had pot luck with members bringing along a variety of dishes, totally uncoordinated. Interesting and delightful. On the final evening, it was an excellent meal at the 09 restaurant. The range of members’ boats and interests was fascinating. We went oon bord Tormaline, a 34 ft Pacific Seacraft Pilot owned by David and Carol Steptoe. The boat is a similar size and displacement to Anhinga but there the resemblance ended. We will have fond memories of the event organised by the CA president Judith Grimwade.

Briefly, we met Martin and Barbara on Tui. We were surprised because they were on a Moody 376. Apparently. they sold their previous boat.

To Sables d’Olonne, Port Olona. 24th June. 30 miles.

The day did not start well. I misjudged the wind and had great difficulty in turning the boat round in the slot.Less said the better. Otherwise, it was another good sail door to door. Slightly too much on the beam for the spinnaker. Jinn left after us but passed us – and several other boats. They did used to race Jinn so e were not disgraced.

To St Denis d’Olérom. 25the June. 38 miles.

This was force majeure. We had intended going on Tuesday, 27th ahead of a few days’ bad weather. However, Météo France forecasts were talking about thunderstorms on Tuesday. Monday was a light wind forecast. Sunday had been forecast as a W-NW F3-4. However, the morning forecast was 2-3 with some slight rain at first. In the event we decided to go.

For about 5 hours, winds were too light so we had to motor. Then for the last two hours the sun shone and we had a pleasant short sail.

As usual, the boat boy met us and showed us to a berth. First surprise was seeing a Japanese boat that we had net in A Coruna back in 2010. Later, I was able to speak to Hiro and Kaki before they left for La Rochelle. The second surprise was meeting our old friends, Ian and Bev on Polonia. They are staying here as a good place to be if you cannot or do not want to go sailing. It will be a sociable few days.

At St Denis.

We had been having trouble with the alternator not charging so I was planning to ask for a technician. Kindly, Ian offered to take a look. The alternator was working OK, all connections looked good. Perhaps it was the regulator. However, Ian then noticed a slightly loose connection on the engine battery. Problem, hopefully solved.

Weather!

We had come here expecting three days of bad weather. It was a good forecast. We have had three days of showers sometimes torrential, with strong winds and some violent gusts. We were unable to do much except go for a meal at the excellent creperie nearby. Buses are non-existent until July 10th. “Everyone has a car here,” we were told.

Provisional plans are to leave on Sunday to La Rochelle, then to Les Sables d’Olonne on Tuesday with a short-lived easterly.

To La Rochelle. 2nd July, 11miles.

At last a dry, if rather cloudy day with a good wind, F4-5 on a near dead run to give a fast sail. The marina answered the radio promptly and directed us to a place. It is close to a few shops and the heads.

At La Rochelle

This was our first time in the greatly enlarged Les Minimes. It really is Le Parking Lot. The saving grace is the water bus from near our berth into La Rochelle. Despite the myriads of tourists, it is still a delightful town. The marker is excellent. Polonia followed us in with Ian and Bev so we will not be short of a laugh or two. We did! Then when leaving we met CA members Andrew and Nicole How on their Dragonfly, Vega. They are heading south to Spain.

The US GFS has been consistently promising E’lies for Tuesday and Wednesday so that we should be able to get to St Martin de Re. Meteo France has been saying NW but have come into line now. We may even get three nights there.

To St Martin de Re. 4th July, 11 miles.

wDespite all the concern about wind direction, there was virtually no wind so it was a motor sail. After the cold and rain, we arrived in St Martin in blistering heat magnified by the rather enclosed harbour. A young Dutch couple helped us come alongside - helped by Mike off Jinn with the invitation to drinks with them, which we duly enjoyed.

If was hot, or maybe it is that we feel the heat more than previously. It was also the quietist we have ever been in this port. We made our traditional visit to the best of all ice cream shops and Jennifer did a little shopping.

Before leaving we briefly met John and Caroline Hall on Ceilidh, a large Beneteau.

Back to Les Sables d’Olonne. 6th July, 28 miles.

Because of tide and lock times we could not leave until 1315. The pleasant SW wind during the morning held for nearl 3 hours during which we passed Ceilidh and were nearly matching Whiskey Mac (another 14 m yacht) for speed. Then the wind dropped. Rather worryingly, the alternator was clearly not charging the batteries again. A job for the Volvo agent.

At Les Sables d’Olonne.

First job was to visit the Volvo engineers to ask tor help. Second was to book a table ar Le Petit Louis. Third was to find the large Super U near the W end of the marina. We have always uawd the Carrefours near the E end.

From Marine Tracker, we see that Misty Blue has rives in Quai Garnier. Apparently to pick up some crew so we will probably not see them this time.

The Volvo electrician duly arrived and, after much testing, diagnosed a wiring problem dating back to installing a new battery at La Roche Bernard last year. Connection was intermittent explaining why the Mastervolt was working better at some times than others and that the alternator was charging the engine battery but the domestic battery only intermittently and, sometimes, not at all. He will arrange for the connections to be improved.

Correction to the above: a more experienced technician came and diagnosed the problem as a loose connection to the regulator. He removed the alternator, fixed the connection and replaced e miles.

Back to Port Joinville. 11th July. 30 miles.

To some extent, this was Hobxon’s choice. Wind direction was forecast a SW, a fine reach. For the next week, directions would be on the nose. However, the Meteo France forecast was for SW 3-4 increasing to F 5-6 after midday The US GRIB had speeds up to 17 its so, adding our usual one force, a F6 seemed likely. In the event, once clear of the port, winds were soon F5 and quickly 6. We put one reef in the main and rolled in the Genoa similarly. The wind was quite kind and never too tight so we made good tome, entering Port Joinville 5 hours after leaving the Sables d’Olonne fuel berth - average 6 its door to door. The slowest part being under engine.

At Port Joinville

The reason we came on the 11th was a predominance of N’lies for the next week. We would rather be on Ile d’Yeu. It is not st all clear when we will be able to move on.

Bastille day was rather a damp squib. There were fireworks the previous evening but the day itself was just a normal busy day on Yeu in July. Earlier in the year we had walked from La Meuse to Le Vieux Chateau, a fairly rough walk with some rock scrambling. This time, we went the other way, La Meuse to La Croix. This time the bus to La Meuse went a long way round, effectively giving us a tour of the island. Good value for €2.

So many boats came in on Bastille that many had to go into the wet basin - more than we had ever seen before. The following day was less busy. There were still some in the wet basin but far fewer. Whereas there had been many visitors here in June, we were one of only two or three visiting yachts now.

To L’Herbadauiere 1th July. 26 miles.

This started as a brisk NE F5 and increased to a good 5-6. On the margin of a reef as we were quite close hauled. For a while it looked as though we would reach the Chenal de la Grise, the short-cut to L’Herbaudiere. However, about 3 miles short the wind died away - as forecast but still annoying. We had to motor the last 5 miles.

We were met on arrival and shown to a berth on the visitors’ pontoon. They are very careful to raft boats of similar size.

At L’Herbaudiere

On the second evening the wind was quite strong off the pontoon. This made it difficult for boats arriving to get alongside boats already moored. The boat boys seemed not very experienced but were learning quickly – the hard way.

To Priac-sur-mer. 19th July. 29 miles.

This was another good sail. The forecast was for SW 4-5 increasing 5-6 later. It should have been a reach all the way – and was. However, the direction initially was just not taking us west of La Banche, a significant hazard. However as we approached it, the wind lifted and it worked well. We arrived at about high tide so no problems in entering. The boat boys are very organised here, some of the best. They showed us to a berth and without prompting told us which side to the catway.

A pleasant surprise on arrival was to see Polonia with old friends Ian and Bev. Later, Tui arrived with Martin and Barbara so we had the inevitable, pleasant evening.It seems strange to see that Tui is now a Moody 376 and not a Nicholson.

To La Roche Bernard. 21st July. 16 miles.

In the busy French holiday period, this is always an oasis of peace. Getting there this year was anything but. It is only about 7 miles from Piriac to the Vilaine estuary but we did think hard before leaving. Some stong winds were expected and the river bar is very shallow so a rough sea was likely. The following two days did not hold out any real hope of better weather so we left on a very broad reach under reefed headsail alone and were soon rolling along at well over 6 knots. Then, half an hour after leaving a BMS (Bulletin Meteorologique Speciale) announcing a Grand Frais - F7. Mostly the wind was a good F6 but it reached F7 juat past the bar – we were just about on High water.

The Arzal lock gates were open and we tied up alongside Polonia. On Ian’s advice, I telephoned the marina where a most helpful lady allocated us an upwind berth. A downwind one have been difficult in the strong winds even so far upriver.

It is one of those marinas where you really feel at home.


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