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…

Saturday June 22 2019… Audierne and the big races

Audierne turns out to be delightful with a brilliant Saturday market. we are even serenaded in a very traditional French style as we walk ashore.

We half expected it to be full of the same stalls as in Concarneau, but while there are some similar, none appeared to be the same and Audierne was very much its own character.

One of the highlights was another of the stalls selling a range of hot food…pommes de terre au gratin, ratatouille, veggies, roast meats and lasagne. We decide that since we are likely to be late into L’Aber Wrac’h we will buy some dinner for later and then all we have to do is heat it in the oven.

We have all been enchanted by Audierne and will surely return sometime…

Our plan today is to head for L’Aber Wrac’h via the two big tide gates of Raz du Seine and Chenal du Four. It is slightly less easy than going south as due to vagaries of tides, there is slightly less north going time available in the Chenal than in the Raz. We need to be fairly precise about our timings as we don’t want to end up with a night-time entrance to L’Aber Wrac’h.  The other complication means that we will be leaving Audierne at low water. This is not to be recommended as the channel is very shallow in places and prone to silting according to the pilot books. We ease our way out of the berth and slide past the moored fishing boats as close as we dare.

We can see breaking water ahead near the entrance and can feel Heydays nudge the bottom…we hold our breath, but she shakes herself free and we are through and out into clear open water.

With a full main and a couple of rolls in the genoa, Heydays is nicely balanced for the SE breeze off the land and we head out past beaches and small villages towards the Pointe du Seine and our first rendezvous with some fast water.

Bang on schedule we make the turn for the Raz and once more it does not live up to its reputation (thankfully) and with wind and tide in harmony, we don’t even experience the swirls and eddies that we would expect on a routine passage through Hurst Narrows.

We head out across the bay towards the next headland and the Chenal du Four with a steadily easing wind now dead astern. Reluctantly we make the decision to run the engine to maintain our boat speed and a daylight entrance to L’Aber Wrac’h. The purists and Joshua Slocum himself will be turning in their graves…what’s the rush why not just put into a convenient anchorage and wait for another favourable tide and wind…sadly the modern world is not quite like that and some commitments back home later in the month suggest that we need to be well on our way towards St Malo for ferries etc. Anyway, we are lugging this chunk of iron around the high seas, so it may as well earn its keep…a bit defensive I know but…

Lunch, coffees and the last of the sweeties come and go and then we are starting to feel the strength of the tidal stream once more. We pick off buoys one by one and once again, the combination of wind and tide together mean that we don’t even get our slippers wet.

The oven goes on and by the time we are round the final headland and heading broadly east, we each have platefuls of steaming nosh bought earlier in Audierne. OK, foil trays are not exactly fine dining but this is brilliant.

We reach the entrance to L’Aber Wrac’h right on schedule and motor up river in the evening light…to find a jam packed marina with boats rafted up over 3 deep. This is not quite what we had in mind, as the sound of a disco and very loud voices pierces the evening across the water. We avoid the revellers rafted up and try to find a local’s berth which we hope they won’t be using this late at night. We finally squeeze in (fitting where it touches as they used to say) to a berth slightly too short for us and with our stern provocatively sticking out from the row of little fishing and day sailers. Still, we are in and will happily move if anyone wants their berth…we’ll be away early in the morning anyway.

We ask some passing sailor types what the codes for the toilets and showers are and what is going on with all the boats. Apparently it is the 60th anniversary race from Helston River to L’Aber Wrac’h…and then she says “if you have facilities on board, use them…the toilets are …” she waves her hand in front of her nose. We decide that there is nothing ashore we want and settle down with some booze of our own, wondering when the music will stop. By 11.30 it is still going and we decide that with an early start we may as well try to sleep. They finally turn off the music around 1am. On our way down, we had a nice time in L’Aber Wrac’h and were looking forward to the return visit with Chris and Yee Tak…perhaps another time.

Friday June 21 2019… Concarneau to Audierne

The Friday morning market in Concarneau is wonderful in the sunshine as only French markets can be…

…and we round it off with a late breakfast outside, listening to a decent busker …

We slip the lines around mid-day and push out of the harbour and into the afternoon sunshine…and a wind dead on the nose. With a bit more in it we could have tacked out and round the headland, but we want to be in Audierne before darkness arrives. The pilot warns about approaches after dark and a very narrow and silting river. We don’t fancy a night on a sandbank in the river, so use some diesel to push on.

A huge number of fishing boats (we count 18 at one point) are returning and don’t seem to want to make many concessions to collision avoidance regs as they rush to get their catch to market.

Once round the headland, the wind frees and we have a wonderful early evening sail on the longest day. A small pod of dolphins breaks the surface …

…and soon they are playing in our bow wave and criss-crossing around under the boat. We watch mesmerised and delighted until they either tire of our company or decide to find their fish supper elsewhere.

We are still buzzing as we close the coast andsome fantastic sandy beaches…

We approach the river entrance and have all eight eyes peeled as we make our way up to the little town of Audierne. We expected to find it heaving with Friday night sailors out for the weekend, but instead it is quiet and peaceful, with just the occasional splash as the terns dive bomb into shoals of tiny fish which seem to be panicking very close to the surface.

Tomorrow we plan to pass once more through the Raz du Seine and the Chenal du Four, but the earliest we can leave is around mid-day again and there is a ‘grande marche’ in Audierne tomorrow morning. For now, we are content to sip our rum as the sun goes down on a wonderful little harbour…

Thursday June 20 2019…Concarneau (part 2)

We were up around midnight last night just to have a look at the little area where we are allowed to dry out. The grumpy older man in the capitainerie earlier, was at pains to point out that we are not allowed to do any cleaning…just to look. His younger assistant was much more helpful, pointing us to the best spot and probably wondering when his boss is due to retire. The area we have been shown seems to shelve quite steeply so we plan to try to hold Heydays at a jaunty angle to the harbour wall to give us the best chance of getting at the prop ‘just to have a look’.

By 8.30am we are playing around with lines and are the subject of many conversations and even some helpful advice from the dockside, including the inevitable ‘not sure why you are there, it is much better on the other side’. This latter bit of advice came once we were well and truly aground.

We settled in to do some general polishing while the tide retreated and ended up feeling quite smug with the way our old boat scrubs up.

As it turns out, the prop is not bad at all, but we look very hard at it and miraculously it develops a deep shine and a nice new coat of grease. We pay attention to the paddle wheels for the logs and they turn out to be the root cause all along. Perhaps we needn’t have dried out after all…

With the tide returning, Heydays once again returns to her natural element and we shoot round to fill up with diesel before Chris arrives on the bus from Quimper, having flown from Southampton to Rennes and then trained to Quimper. John has a shave and shower in her honour…