First blog post

Welcome to Heydays’ blog which hopefully will take us on adventures as we expand our sailing horizons. We will try to share the highs and lows and hope that friends will share some of them with us.

If you want to read some of the stories from our first year (before the genesis of this blog) we’ll write stuff as it occurs to us in the ABOUT pages…

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Saturday and Sunday 20 & 21 July… sailing home (ish)

As a postscript to Friday night in St Peter Port…the rain lashed down all evening and we stayed tucked up in Heydays having got wet once already. It was a real shame, as there was a water carnival and fireworks as well. We heard the fireworks and a brave announcer trying to make everything sound as though this was the most fun ever…full marks for trying.

Of the thunder and lightening which prompted our detour to Guernsey there was not a peep!

Saturday morning promises a fine sail across to Cherbourg for some last minute booze and cheese stocks and we leave at 7am BST at the head of a small flotilla of boats all hoping to catch the rapid tidal escalator round Alderney to all points East and North. The BST bit is important as initially we found ourselves working on French time i.e. Central European Summer Time (CEST), but with the added complication that some of our phones and tidal almanacs seemed to be giving us tidal info in GMT, BST and even CET. The fact that so many left with us gave us the confidence that we had finally got it right.

Down the channel the wind was gusty and there was a nasty chop, which to those of us used to sailing in the Solent is nothing (almost). Alderney and indeed any land came and went as the visibility closed down one minute and then lifted the next. The steady procession of boats gradually dispersed as the day went on and we rounded Cap de la Hague with a steady SW F5/6, which, despite having wind with tide raised a nasty little chop which threatened our soup! The rain held off, but we eyed the clouds over Cherbourg with suspicion. The outer forts take on a particularly foreboding attitude in this weather…

The clouds chose to off-load just as we entered the outer harbour…this is the real glamour stuff…

And then as quickly as it came, the clouds lifted and by the time we were moored up we were baking in layers of by then completely necessary clothing.

We planned to do some shopping at Normandy Wines who deliver to the boat, then on to Carrefour, then dinner before a kip and an early morning leave for a channel crossing to catch the last of the flood up the Needles channel and home. It turns out that Carrefour deliver to the boats as well, so we had an early dinner of our final French fruits de mer (for now)… or steak and frites. By the time we got back to Heydays our bags of shopping had been put on board and then the 14 boxes of wine arrived and we were complete. We have not had service like this in too many places at home and we were even more impressed at how much stuff we could buy package free . They stock a great range of pulses, cereals, rice etc etc sold loose….

With the wind now easing to no more than F4 with only occasional gusts of 19 or 20kts we decide to leave in the last of the light and maybe even get most of the way across the eastbound shipping lane before darkness sets in completely. Chris and Yee Tak had both been considering going home on the ferry, but stuck with us on this occasion with the promise of a lovely beam reach in a decreasing wind. We slipped our mooring and left France with real sadness but were treated to a fine sun going down over the old harbour…

We usually put in a reef or so at night and this was no exception if we want our female company on future crossings. With 2 reefs in the main and two in the genny, Heydays was making an easy 6 to 6.5kts. The only thing to disturb the peace was a very busy eastbound shipping lane and a large tanker crossing it on a very similar course to us. We have not seen such a large ship doing this before and it was momentarily alarming as it seemed to be altering course to go behind some boats…just like us!

With the excitement past, we slipped into our usual routine of 2 hours on and 2 off and so the night passed with the loom of Barfleur lighthouse finally dipping below the horizon as a wonderful moon rose to take its place…

The westbound lane on the UK side was equally busy and we did a spot more dodging behind boats and anxiously peering at bearings and the changing aspect of the lights as the boats passed ahead or astern of us.

With St Catherines light now visible and the bulk of the big boats slipping silently well astern, the first lightening of the sky signalled the approach of dawn…

and gradually the Isle of Wight began to take shape together with the familiar sight of the Needles to guide us home….

We passed Hurst Castle once more and joined up the dots so to speak, bringing Heydays home exactly 2 months after we left on our Brittany tour. Our final job is to tidy up, stash the wines and make our way back to our mooring.

Our mooring was taken by, of all things, a motor cruiser when we got back to it. We shoved Heydays onto a vacant mooring belonging to another poor soul and called the Harbour master. They said they will move boats around and sort everything out. When asked whether we get a cut of the sub-letting of our mooring, the reply was that the fees “…go into a pot to reduce the charges for everyone”. After a long night sail our repsonse was “Yeah right”

Welcome home! However we won’t leave it there, because this cruise done in stages with biggish chunks of time spent in France, has been a real revelation. The pride that the French take in their public spaces and their apparent willingness to spend on landscaping, sculptures and public art…even if they need more practice in using the often freely available poo bags! The seeming lack of cultural snobbery which prevents many young people from getting out on the water in this country. There, they have a big supply of mostly public owned marinas and moorings which enable people from all walks of like to be able to afford to moor their own boats….and they have vast numbers of very young children out on the water in all manner of little boats. But most of all, the sheer rugged beauty of the Brittany coast…

Friday 19 July… …decisions

Our original thoughts on our final few days of the cruise are to trundle up the west coast of the Cotentin Peninsular to within a hop of Cherbourg before our final push to Lymington and home. the only snag appears to be a wave of thunderstorms hanging around this evening. The squalls and thunder we can cope with, it is just that we don’t fancy slopping around with a big metal pole sticking up in the middle of the ocean while there is lightening around. Call us old fashioned …

We finally, after much vacillating, decide to head instead for St Peter Port, where we can tuck up next to yachts with much bigger appendages. Size really does matter…

We leave St Malo as the sun rises…

…and after negotiating the St Malo rocks and beacons for a final time…

…we settle down for a broad reach across to Guernsey. The sail is unremarkable except for a few drizzly showers scudding past. One minute Jersey and Sark are there and the next it is as though they have sunk without trace.

The final couple of hours see us using the motor to push on ahead of the ebb which runs very strongly through the Little Roussel. Condor and a big cruise ship are the only signs of life as just as we come in to berth, the rain decides to welcome us back to British territorial waters. Glad to be home!

Thursday 18th July… a free day in St Malo

We have planned to have a day mooching around St Malo….after a substantial lie-in. It turns out that there is a big Columbian sail training Barque in port (3 masts, 2 of which are square rigged!) called Gloria.

We wonder, not for the first time, how people managed not to plummet off the top yards in the southern ocean, whist trying to shorten sail with the mast arcing through 30 degrees. perhaps they did and perhaps there were lots more where they came from anyway.

There is some very loud samba, salsa and marimba music playing, together with some very smart young sailors who seem happy to salute scruffy tourists aboard…

The boat is immaculate with the smallest piece of brass polished to within an inch of its life. We have problems with rope on Heydays…

In town we notice the reaction of many young (and not so young) women to smart matelots in crisp white uniforms. Despite saluting, we don’t have the same impact …not sure why.

Lunch in a very quirky restaurant with multi-coloured loo-rolls, the inevitable celtic/breton buskers and great views from the walls…

St Malo is vibrant and there is what appears to be a kite festival going on…

There is a concert of sacred music in the cathedral and we sign up for Gounod’s St Cecile Mass and Bizet’s Te Deum. The cathedral was effectively destroyed by the allies in 1944 (along with 80% of St Malo itself). St Malo as we see it today appears just as Louis 16 had planned it, albeit re-built in the 1950s. The cathedral was fnished in 1972 and is a stunning setting for the music.

On our way back to Heydays we have what is one of the best ice-creams we have had…and another look at the Gloria…

Wednesday 17th July… Treburden to St Malo

We plan to catch the last of the ebb down river just after lunch and so have a look round the little town of Treburden…it will also give the early morning fog a chance to burn off. The inner marina and the sill are clear at low tide….

The town itself is rather nice and well looked after in the way that we have come to expect in Brittany…

The little churchyard has some poignant memorials to past conflicts. The first world war of course, but also a tribute to some local people in the second world war who were apparently deported…

There is also an intriguing memorial to a little lighthouse supply boat in which some people from the resistance escaped to Dartmouth in 1943…

As we take our leave down river, the cragginess of this part of the country shows up starkly and our eyes are glued to the depth sounder…no young men and boys showing off today by leaping from the rocks…just the ever present sailing school boats waiting for the afternoon shift of eager french boys and girls taking on their sailing heritage…

…and of course the ever present old gaffers which the French seem to love…

We wend our way through the rocky (of course) southerly channel past Ile de Brehat, slightly sad that we will not be stopping this time. The island looks lovely with some stunning marbled pink granite…

The day passes on a glorious beam reach. Once past the Ile and the rocks, we set a course for St Malo, with only Cap Frehel to make sure we pass safely to starboard…

We don’t even have to trim the sails until we get past the cap and well into the (yet again) rocky channels into St Malo itself as the sun gradually sinks behind us.

There are not too many days when the wind and tides all conspire to help, but this was one of them and we will savour it and remember it for all the times in the future when we battle a foul tide and unhelpful wind. Brilliant and memorable.

Tuesday 16th July… Treburden to Lezardrieux

We leave Treburden before the sill closes at 11 although it also means that we will be plugging some foul tide for 3 or 4 hours. We could anchor up somewhere but we elect to trundle on, albeit with some 2.5 kts against us. Still…it gives us plenty of time to admire this beautiful and very rugged coastline. The wind is initially non-existent and we take an inner course out of Treburden, threading our way out between the rocks…

Once clear, we set a course to hug (as near as we dare) the coast to minimise the adverse current, but even so, progress is painfully slow. The lighthouses on Les Triagos and Les Sept Iles creep past, but we have another glorious day in the sun, even if we do elect to motor-sail to get a few extra degrees to windward…one of the penalties of a bilge keeler.

As the afternoon passes, the tide slowly eases and soon Heydays is making as much over the ground as she is through the water…and more. By the time we reach Les Heaux de Brehat we are screaming along at more than 10 kts over the ground (10kts is as good as screaming in an elderly Moody!) and we make the turn in towards the Trieux river and yet more rocks. It truly is stunning and although we have said this several times before, we still don’t tire of this remarkable bit of the Brittany coast…

…and at times it feels as if we are completely locked in by rocks…

This bit of the river is marked in a very French way by some of the sternest markers we have seen…but comforting nonetheless.

As we progress further up stream the river becomes a real playground as well as providing wonderful wooded scenery…

The day ends in a slightly less relaxed way as the current, which is running at around 2 kts, runs directly across the pontoons, but at enough of an angle to make our under-writers distinctly nervous. The pilot book compiler himself has T-boned the dock in less than glorious fashion in the past. We creep up to a gap between two shiny and expensive looking boats at a jaunty and slighty inappropriate angle, wondering whether to bail out and find somewhere less fraught, when together they decide to beckon us in and take lines and provide helpful shoves. The expensive Belgian is a bit snooty, but the bloke on the other side admits to having to have two goes at it himself…we feel a bit better!

Footnote: We had intended to have a booze-free day, ever mindful of the dark newspaper articles warning about alcohol consumption in people over a certain age. However our resolve evaporates once we are tied up and relaxing once more!

Monday 15th July… Roscoff to Treburden

Although we are relaxed about timings, we are aiming to get Heydays back to Lymington for the early part of next week…and we want to have time to stock up on some booze from Normandy Wines in Cherbourg! We also want to spend some time in St Malo etc etc. So little time, so many places we want to visit. The added complication is that the wind remains firmly in the east…i.e. where we want to be heading. What happened to the prevailing and always reliable South Westerlies?

We decide that we can put in some long tacks towards Treburden which is just on the westerly side of the Sept Iles. At least we will get some miles towards the east and hopefully leave us within a couple of day sails of St Malo and perhaps a wind change to the west. The forecast is for Easterly F4 (15kts or so) and so we plan to set off with a reef in the main and a roll in the genoa. Having fuelled up and received permission to leave the harbour (so as not to alarm the ferries) we poke our nose outside and immediately decide that we have something closer to 20kts…the top end of F5. A double reef in the main and two rolls in the genoa and Heydays is free of the confused sea just outside the harbour wall and scudding across the waves at around 6.5 to 7kts. We use the engine to gain a few degrees to windward out of Roscoff, but this is good for us, especially close hauled and we settle down to a glorious beat across the bay. Heydays always responds well to sailing more upright and we are close to hull speed anyway. The closer we get to landfall, the more the wind comes round to ease our passage and we are almost able to follow it in to Treburden itself.

Life is tough at times, even though the wind gradually picks up to a steady F6…

The entrance to Treburden, like all the other harbours along this beautiful coast is guarded by some ferocious rocks. Not for nothing is it called the Cote d’Armour.

We pick out the buoys and check and re-check the sill opening times. Within a short time we are once more snug and calm with a strengthening breeze whistling through the rigging.

We take a short stroll around the little headland before dinner…

…and are taken aback by the rugged beauty and strange windblown shapes in the pink granite…

…and another beautiful sunset at the end of a now calm and peaceful evening…

Sunday 14th July… …Bastille Day

We had intended to push on east today, but a combination of fresh easterlies and an artichoke fete in a nearby town convince us to stay.

We get the bus to Saint Pol de Leon arriving just in time for a parade of the various old guilds who we find slightly sinister in their medieval garb with overtones of the orange marches…

But it is all apparently harmless and just a celebration of the artichoke and old tractors…..

…plus an amazing New Orleans style brass band. What they lack in musicality, they more than make up for with sheer panache.

Artichokes are clearly big here and for €13 each we get a big artichoke, some potatoes with sausage and onions, a slab of Breton custard tart, a glass of wine and a cup of coffee.

This fete appears to bring together a big cross section of society with everyone happy to share and eat their artichokes whilst listening to the bagpipes drifting across the square mingling with some avant guard jazz.

Maybe the winds will be kinder tomorrow…

Friday and Saturday 12 & 13 July 2019… …Back on board

Back to the boat  for the final legs home…we think.

The overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo is the start of our journey back to Heydays where we left her tucked up in Morlaix. They are really marketing it as a mini-cruise with entertainment. We forgo the magician though and decide that the restaurant offers a more suitable way of passing the time. Our cabin turns out to be below the waterline and we try to banish any thoughts of the scenes from Titanic where the steerage passengers (now including our Kate) are struggling to get gates open to the upper decks where the high class passengers don’t get their tootsies wet.

The trains from St Malo to Morlaix are the usual classy french efforts where their 2nd class is better than our dearly beloved (not) GWR 1st. Who says nationalisation doesn’t work? Back on Heydays after just over 2 weeks, is like coming home and we get her ready to lock out of the harbour to take the last of the tide down river while we have enough water.

The river looks even better than before in the late afternoon sun and we follow a couple of local boats as we slalom down the very shallow river (even at high tide).  

A Heron eyes us malevolently as we pass. Not sure whether he is cross with us or the egrets nesting just above where he is fishing…

A local sailing boat clearly with local knowledge is sailing through the tortuous route among the rocks and buoys out of the river.

We are slightly more cautious and keep the motor running. However we have nice sail across to Roscoff itself.  There are few merits about Roscoff marina, but we can get out at any state of the tide as we begin our trundle East. Having tried a couple of restaurants, it dawns on us that this is Bastille weekend…we eventually sit outside with some tapas, watching the sun going down and the moon and Jupiter rising above the funfair.

The prevailing easterly is chilly once the sun has gone and we warm up with some crepes and hot chocolate while waiting for the fireworks at 11.30. It seems like half of Brittany has descended on Roscoff for the evening and we have a grandstand view of the fireworks over the harbour if slightly bemused that the traditional folk band sings half its repertoire in English…at a Bastille event!

Monday June 24… Morlaix

We’ve heard good things about Morlaix and so we slip away from Roscoff (loaded with fresh croissants delivered direct to the harbour) for the 10 mile jaunt up the river to the old tobacco town. The river dries almost completely ant low tide and we need to get there in time to lock through into the harbour which is right in the centre of town.

We pass an old fort which was put there to ward off the good folk of Bristol, who apparently had a good thing going themselves in the tobacco industry and were a trifle jealous and raided the town on several occasions in the early 16th century. On one occasion, the Bristolians were found in some woods, sleeping off their pillaging and plundering by the returning men of Morlaix. According to one source, the Bristolians arranged for several return matches, none of which went well for the visitors.

The route up river is well marked and very pretty, even in the grey skies of mid June….

By mid-day we are hanging around outside the lock and soon find ourselves greeted by the cheerful lock-keeper, who once we are through, jumps in his dinghy…

and shows us our berth for the next night or so.

We trundle off in the familiar drizzle to suss out the station for Yee Tak who is due to leave us tomorrow and to look around the town itself. The town is dominated by the fantastic railway viaduct and this is a clue….

to a very steep climb up to the station! This has been completely rebuilt for the new TGVs and is a fantastic example of what can be done with a state owned railway if the political will (and pride?) is there. We have remarked several times on this trip, how the French towns seem to take an enormous pride in their public spaces.

…and once again there are multiple childrens clothes and toy shops which appear to be irresistible to grandmothers…

We wander off round the old town with its amazing original gables and even take a stroll along the walkway halfway up the viaduct…

It is a Monday and most of Morlaix and its restaurants are shut, so our farewell dinner for Yee Tak turns out to be a hotel slightly up market from a premier inn…not quite what we had in mind.

POSTSCRIPT

The weather decides to take a turn for the east and worst in a fairly major way for the rest of the week. Meteo France even suggests gales locally before the temperature heads into the late 30s…and thunderstorms. Our sailing window ends anyway on Sunday and any destinations to the east would entail some uncomfortable beating or motoring into some very lumpy seas and near gales. We decide to leave the boat in Morlaix (snug, safe and cheap(er than Roscoff) and will return mid July to continue east…and home?

PPS. The views from the train as we go over the viaduct are amazing…

Sunday June 23 2019…L’Aber Wrac’h to Roscoff

We decide to give L’Aber Wrac’h a miss and try our luck in Roscoff. While it is a major ferry terminal, it is also a very attractive little town and we decide to make the most of the weather before the winds settle in to strongish (F6 or 7) easterlies from Wednesday onwards.

We resist the temptation to cough very loudly at 6.30am…or to sound the foghorn, and instead slip quietly away into a still but drizzly morning. More motoring! A cormorant is doing its very best to change the north marker into an easterly…an avian wrecker?

We plot a course though the very narrow easterly channel out of the river, seemingly within touching distance of the rocks which seem to be strewn liberally around in a very haphazard fashion.

Once out, we set off for the Ile de Batz and initially plan to take the longer but less rock strewn northerly route round the island. We re-read the pilot book and given the favourable wind with tide once more and excellent visibility, we plot a course through the southerly channel between the island and the mainland.  This require serious buoy counting and we list them all out in advance. We wonder idly, whether Iran will retaliate for the recent US cyber attack by taking out our GPS…although probably not directed at us personally!

The rain is steady as we start the various dog-legs through the channel. The markers are very clear however and we hop from one to the other, again within spitting distance of some very spikey rocky stuff. The only company we have are some fishing boats and the small vedettes which ply between Roscoff and the Island.  The route saves us about 3 miles and the possibility of a deck-full of water in the overfalls to the north. By noon we are moored in the modern, faceless, but otherwise excellent (in terms of facilities) marina in Roscoff…and by 1.30 we are sitting down to Sunday lunch by the old harbour. At 4 we left, telling ourselves that we really should go for a walk. A slow trundle out to the edge of the channel to Ile de Batz confirms that with low water now imminent, there really was no room for error on our way in.

The town is charming with the old harbour and even some petanque…