Roy's Sailing Blog 2012 / a

Sunday, 22 July 2012

PART ONE (English Channel - Plymouth to Brest Marina and then to Camaret, NW Brittany)

After weeks (months?) of bad weather, boat prepping and incorrect postal deliveries for parts (!) I finally set sail from Plymouth (Sutton Harbour D46) at 12:20 midday on Wednesday 18 July 2012. Unexpectedly, I was joined onboard for the first leg across the Channel by Trevor Rowney - my neighbour at Sutton Harbour who sails a Dufour 325 (Dual Effort). I thought it would be nice to have some company for a change, and he very kindly helped with some last minute cleaning and tidying up (and provided a wonderful a food hamper made up by wife Marijke!) - while I had a last-minute summer haircut and a quick shower!! Of course, it was drizzling quite hard as we left through the harbour lock, and we sailed across the Sound to Cawsand, heading into wind to raise the mainsail. Finally underway, we set a course of 193 degrees aimed to get us direct to Le Four lighthouse (North end of the fearsome Chénal du Four) about 120nm away. It was a bit optimistic, being difficult to hold better than about 175, but we managed quite well and kept pretty close to the rhum line I had put on the chart. Unfortunately, Trevor was clearly not feeling well in the swell - the seas were quite rough and he soon became sea-sick and remained in a bad way for most of the trip, not being able to eat or drink anything for 24 hours...

We continued under full sail for about 7 hours, but, as light began to fade shortly after 9pm (Lat 50.40’N Long 04.25’W) switched to engine and all electronics for safety throughout the night. The sea remained uncomfortably big and I was most grateful for Marijke’s soup and sausage rolls! My new Jefa auto-pilot worked well and the AIS transponder was invaluable at displaying details of the various tankers which emerged from the dark moonless night. At least one showed up as 345 metres long, and another crossed our path (in controlled safety) just 500 metres away! Daybreak was blocked by cloud in the East but eventually there was some sunshine and at 10am we caught first sight of Le Four lighthouse (about 1 mile off the Finistère NW coast of France). Naturally apprehensive of the Chénal du Four, the next couple of hours were dangerously rough, although in rather pleasant weather! However, the narrower part of the Chénal was surprisingly benign and slow - we hit the start of the turning tide and were reduced to just under 3kts - finally rounding Vieux-Moines lighthouse in brilliant sunshine, we headed East the final 12nm into the relatively new Brest Marina du Chateau (2009).

It just happened that the Tall Ships Rally had just ended (sad!) but it meant that there was plenty of space for a nice easy berth alongside - we had made about 150nm in just under 27 hours! After a rather lengthy signing in, we found a brasserie nearby (though many were closed on Thursdays!) and Trevor managed to finally eat a Croque Monsieur and I had a Captain Haddock speciality (local, but rather poor). And so safely to bed - and a calm night, except for the noise of a monster racing yacht berthing directly astern of us at 3am! A welcome cup of Earl Grey tea and a bowl of Oats So Easy onboard for breakfast! We tried unsuccessfully to connect to the water supply - I would need a longer hose and male/male connector. I had stupidly thought it was one hour earlier (!!) and so it was good that Trevor prompted me at midday and we made our way up the hill (past the Chateau) for him to catch the 13:15 bus to Roscoff connecting with the 16:30 ferry to take him back to Plymouth. I waved goodbye to Trevor at the Gare Routière from my Brompton bike and set off to find some shops - a big supermarket for a stainless padlock to keep my outboard safe, and a garden centre for a hose reel and connector - both of which are working perfectly! I used my 8 x 10L diesel cans to replenish the tank with 65 litres and set sail just before 7pm to Camaret - 90 minutes across the bay - to meet up with Allan & Claire Foster (married on 13 July!) who had sailed from UK a few days earlier via Guernsey on Moonstone (their wonderfully self-restored Victory 40) - truly a labour of love!

They are also neighbours of mine at Sutton Harbour - and there is even one further couple from Plymouth we’re hoping to link up with at La Rochelle - David & Beverley Coles on Tumbalong, a Contest 38, who are currently at Les Sables D’Olonne.

It’s now 8pm on Sunday night - closing up a most beautiful sunny day!! Allan & Claire set sail southwards yesterday morning - despite very little wind in the forecast. I hope eventually to see them further down the coast - they already reached Pornic near Nantes this evening (bastards!!)

Finally I launched the dinghy to look around Camaret - such a beautiful old place, despite the remnant evidence and memories of the massive U-Boat presence here in WW2 Battle of the Atlantic. I bought an atmospheric CD set of Musique/Chant/Danse de Bretagne and found French and Breton courtesy flags in the local chandlery - both now hoisted!

I cycled SW to the incredibly picturesque Pointe de Pen-Hir, past the huge granite memorial Cross of Lorraine, the megalithic alignments of Lagatjar c. 2,500BC, and lots of rock climbers on the sheer cliffs!!

Today (still Sunday) has been the time to catch up on repairs and take stock of some damage suffered on the Channel crossing...we were heeling so strongly on a starboard tack for many hours, causing some flooding in the bilge and ripping the portside cockpit dodger. I’ve now cleaned the bilge and removed both dodgers, so our big CREDEAU name is no longer to be seen...the headsail had also caught on the mast foghorn during the night trip, ripping off some of the sail’s UV strip (hope to repair tomorrow with special tape) and sadly completely breaking off and ditching the foghorn! There’s more - the engine warning siren came on (still does - probably a completely damp head unit) and the tachometer stuck on max (now back to normal). Slightly more worrying, when berthing at Brest on Thursday I got a fender stuck under the helm - trapping it completely from any movement, whilst under auto-pilot. The latter is so strong that it has slightly damaged the weaker rack & pinion steering mechanism and there is now a fair bit of ‘play‘ in the wheel. This is not good and could get worse, so again I’ll look at that tomorrow. Fortunately, I have an emergency tiller, in addition to my Hydrovane which can also steer the boat. In fact it is good that even if I disconnected the helm altogether, the auto-pilot is connected independently to the rudder-stock by a drag-link, so, at a pinch in emergency, I could manage between the tiller arm and auto-pilot...but don’t want to think about that anymore tonight! I need to eat, so will take the dinghy in Camaret for a bite and hopefully find an internet connection at the Captainerie (or maybe do that tomorrow!)
Sleep well,