We couldn’t leave St Evette until 0915 in the morning as we had ordered a bread delivery to the boat for that time. It’s a tough life! It was a cloudy morning with a forecast of light winds and Jac said that we should need a reef in later at which I fell over laughing. However, after a gentle breeze to start and contrary to the forecast, I hate to have to admit that wind guru Jac was correct. One reef in the sail had us bowling along on our ear close-hauled chasing Kokopelli who had a greater turn of speed than us. We rounded the Pointe de Penmarsh and the wind dropped to the forecast breeze and we were back to the engine again. We separated from Bert and Theresa who went the long way round an Island while we took the short cut, arriving in Concarneau about half an hour before them. The mooring was at the end of a pontoon and very tight but after the antics of the previous day, we were determined that our arrival would be uneventful – which it was, thank goodness. We were sat on deck with our gin and tonics looking smug awaiting Kokopelli’s arrival.
Clock Tower Concarneau
4 Jul 15
Concarneau, (it wasn’t very chilli there) proved to be a very pretty town. The old town was in the middle of the harbour with a drawbridge linking the land to some attractive, narrow, picturesque streets full of touristic delights. Jac and I separated from Theresa and Bert while we restocked the boat and then went for a stroll to see the sights. We wandered through the streets, saw a wedding procession, accompanied by a piper in full highland rig. The Celtic tradition runs strong in Brittany. This was to be our last day with Kokopelli as Bert and Theresa had to return to the UK by 18 July and wanted to start slowly making their way west and north again. Jac and I had to keep pressing on south if we were to reach Gibraltar by 3 Oct. Jac and I also went hunting for a Jolly Hooker but the poorly stocked chandlery was unable to provide one. We met with Bert and Theresa in the evening for a farewell supper, commencing with drinks on board Kokopelli before proceeding to the old town for a meal of steak and chips at a pretty outdoor restaurant. We then went to a concert which was taking place at a makeshift arena constructed in a corner of the old town walls. A mixture of contemporary music was played by some very talented musicians from a local music school. It was a great evening culminating in more drinks on board Kokopelli and a presentation to us by Bert and Theresa of the Concarneau Cup for being the first to arrive at that destination. We feel that this trophy might be hotly contested in the future. We bade a reluctant farewell to our two friends at 0130 with the prospect of an early morning departure ahead.
We left Douarnenez for the last time at around midday and were able to sail, tacking our way towards the Raz de Sein. The wind was blowing a gentle force 4 breeze and we were racing Bert and Theresa, who varied between a few hundred yards and a couple of miles away, as we weaved our way towards the channel. After a couple of hours of fun, we had to use the engine in order to reach the Raz for the safe window and passed that stretch of water with only a gentle swell and no dramas. The rest of the trip to St Evette was uneventful until we reached our mooring. St Evette is a shelter behind a breakwater with no pontoons only mooring buoys, most of those moorings being in shallow water for smaller boats. Having arrived before Kokopelli, we quickly found a buoy in deep enough water and with Jac on the helm, we were expecting an easy arrival. Not so! To the great amusement of a French couple on a power boat moored nearby, the fun started. At the first attempt to hook the buoy I found that it was the weight of a cannon ball with no easy way to connect the line. I nearly disappeared over the side of the boat in my determination to secure the warp. I quickly decided that holding the weight of a 39 foot sailing boat in one hand wasn’t feasible so I let go and lost the boat hook overboard. The hysterical cries of the French couple, “The problem is that it is a French boat” did not help matters as we were obviously providing their evening entertainment. Attempt number 2 with our spare boat hook proved no better but we did manage to retrieve boat hook number one which received a round of applause from Monsieur and Madam le France. At the third attempt with me at the helm and Jac on the boat hook we did manage to hook on, but Jac couldn’t lift the cannon ball more than a couple of inches out of the water. I deserted my post at the helm and between us, we were able to get a line through the loop on the buoy. This received a further round of applause from our neighbours, but we felt that they were disappointed that the fun was over. However, we were in no mood to give them an encore. Kokopelli then arrived and couldn’t find a buoy in deep enough water so tried to anchor. Their anchor wouldn’t hold and we directed them on the radio to a buoy near us that looked a suitable prospect. They had a “Jolly Hooker,” a clever device for securing a line through the loop and made fast at the first attempt, much to the disappointment of our French neighbours! We decided that every boat needs a Jolly Hooker and resolved to obtain one as soon as we could. Meanwhile, someone in trouble with engine failure had broadcast a pan pan call and the lifeboat moored next to us sped off to tow them back to a mooring half an hour later. Bert and Theresa had by this time paddled over to join us and Jac and Theresa applauded the lifeboat crew as they brought the limping vessel home. The Raz was supposed to be exciting but mooring up in St Evette proved to be much more so!
The mooring at St Evette
Bert and Teresa returning to Kokopelli at St Evette
Bert and Teresa returning to Kokopelli at St Evette
The following morning we reported our strange encounter of the previous night to the harbour master. We came to the conclusion that the motor boat had been trying to rendezvous on some nefarious business with the sailing boat that we had seen some minutes before and mistaken us and then Kokopelli for his partner. We were also left wondering whether a customs search on a boat further along the visitor’s pontoon the previous afternoon, together with the presence of three fit looking young men, one carrying a machine pistol over his shoulder had had any connection with our incident.
We all decided that the night was not an option for another attempt and that we would depart in the afternoon of 2 July and make our way to Saint Evette, the first possible mooring after the Raz. We spent the day sightseeing in Douarnenez.
Our first attempt at The Raz de Sein began at 0100 when we left Douarnanez in bright moonlight and calm conditions. As we motored eastwards, mist started to appear on the land which quickly turned to thick fog. Bert, who was half a mile ahead of us called on the radio to say that visibility had dropped to around 60 metres and he was turning round and heading back to the starting point. Jac and I did the same and we groped our way along in the murk using the radar and AIS as our eyes. As we went we saw a sailing vessel cross slowly in front of us before disappearing towards the coast. Then came our encounter with pirates! Out of the fog appeared a ghostly vessel crewed by men with eye patches, yo ho hoeing and swigging rum. I swear I saw Johnny Depp swinging from the yardarm and splicing the main brace. They chased us for a while, but with great British aplomb we out-smarted the blighters to fight another day. Seriously though, we had a very strange encounter with a motor boat who turned all his lights on, including a zillion candle power search light. He came chasing after us and we had to manoeuvre quite violently to avoid him. Eventually, thinking it might be a police or customs boat, we slowed down at which point he sheared off to give Bert the same treatment. After this interlude we carried on back to Douarnenez, initially spotting the green light on the harbour breakwater, only to have it disappear again as the fog thickened. At 0500 we moored up where we had started and compared notes with Bert and Theresa over a stiff drink before falling into bed.
We spent a lazy morning having coffee and croissants and visited the chandlers where I collected some larger scale charts than the Imrays that I had brought from the UK. I also bought some winch grease in a spray can as some of the rigging blocks were complaining. We left Camaret after lunch to make our way to Douarnanez, a relatively short hop from Camaret. Bert and Theresa had long gone so we took a short cut between a rocky island and the land to gain some distance on them. Another sunny day with light winds that again meant using the engine. We saw Kokopelli in the distance with her spinnaker up but only sailing very slowly so we made our way to our destination, arriving about half an hour before Bert and Theresa. We were well down our first glass by the time they arrived! We were using Douarnenez as a hopping off point for the Raz de Sein another piece of water, like the Canal du Four that demanded the utmost respect. This passage needed to be passed at slack water and, to benefit from the flooding tidal stream, low slack water was what we needed. Unfortunately that occurred at around 0400 and we all reluctantly agreed to leave Douarnanez at 0100 to catch the Raz at the right time.
The next leg of the journey was through the fearsome Chanel du Four, a stretch of water between the Ilse de Ouessant and the French mainland. This had to be taken at a particular state of tide so, after refuelling, we left L’Aberwrach in fine weather to make the short leg to the start of the Chanel. A call on the radio from Theresa revealed that we had made a mistake with the change in the clocks from the UK and we were going to enter the Chanel an hour early. In the event it didn’t present a problem and, apart from a sizeable swell at the northern end there wasn’t an issue. Exiting the Chanel we crossed the Goulet de Brest to moor up in the inner harbour at Camaret-Sur-Mer. Camaret is an old fishing port, now almost completely devoted to pleasure craft with the rotting hulks 0f old fishing boats sitting on the breakwater. We tried out a seafood restaurant on the waterfront and dined on plates of moules with frites.
With Jac at the helm we slipped the mooring buoy at 05.35 in the morning and headed south across the English Channel. The helmsman was initially stroppy but a bacon sandwich restored her good humour and we settled down to the long day ahead. The light wind was in a favourable direction for once, but the engine was still in use most of the time. We noted our position in the log every hour but, other than that, there was little to do except dodge the succession of big ships passing up and down the Channel. This is a bit like trying to hopscotch across the M25 but we were lucky. We only had to alter course once to avoid a tanker and threaded our way through an opening between nine big ships heading east without any delays. The French coast came into sight at 19.00 and we finally moored up in L’Aberwrach, and rafted onto Kokopelli a 21.50.
Having met with Bert, Theresa and Kokopelli, the plan was to cross the Channel as soon as possible, but 26 June dawned with low cloud, drizzle and poor visibility. After a short confabulation, we decided that the best course would be to sail further west towards Lands’ End when the crossing would be shorter and the weather the following day hopefully improved. We left Dartmouth in convoy with Kokopelli and managed a bit of motor sailing but, again, we were travelling straight into wind so the sails came down and we motored the rest of the 67 mile trip, keeping a sharp lookout for the numerous lobster pots, (or oyster nets as Jac calls them). A series of fronts were passing through so we oscillated between soaking wet and bright sunshine to arrive at St Mawes and a lovely evening. Jac brought us beautifully to a mooring buoy and we finished the day with a chilli and rice meal to be joined later by Bert and Theresa in their tender to discuss the channel crossing plan the following day.
Morning posed the problem of how to extricate ourselves from the inside of the raft! Number 2 wanted to leave at 7am, number 3 wanted to stay for another day and numbers 4 and 5 were undecided! We decided to leave with number 2 (an elderly couple of sailors whose deck was festooned with pot plants – mint for the Pimms they explained!) We left rafters 3, 4 and 5 to jiggle themselves back into position while I spun us out from captivity (praise be to bow thrusters!!) Fine sunny weather all the way to Dartmouth with light winds and all motor sailing. The highlight of the trip was our encounters with a pod of dolphins which stayed with us for a few minutes before heading out to sea. We reached Dartmouth at 14.30 and filled up with diesel on the refuelling barge before heading for the town jetty. I completely misjudged the tide which resulted in us being set at 90 degrees to the mooring as the stern of the boat was pulled round by the current. While trying to sort out the mess, the bow warp got sucked into the bow thruster which resulted in later problems. Just before we met with Theresa and Bert, Jac slipped on the companionway steps falling badly, hurting her back and knocking her head. As a result, Bert, Theresa, Ali and Pete went out for a meal while I stayed to play Florence Nightingale to Jac.
Looking down the River Dart from the Dartmouth Arms
Kingswear from the Dartmouth Arms
Looking upriver from the Town Jetty, Dartmouth
Looking down the River Dart from the Dartmouth Arms
25 Jun 15
In the morning we said goodbye to Pete and Ali who were making their way back to Levington to collect their car. Jac’s back was still hurting so we spent the day in Dartmouth shopping, doing the laundry and looking for a new hosepipe. (The flexi hose I bought at the Southampton boat show had split at first use). At the recommendation of my old friend Pete Philpott we visited the Dartmouth Arms near the lower ferry, a fine old English pub which has been featured in many films. We spent a lovely evening with Bert and Theresa eating fresh crab on Synergy which Bert had bought direct from the fisherman. The crabs were large and tasty but breaking out the crab meat was a messy business with us all wearing some of it by the time we had finished. It took a further 2 weeks before the final remnants of crab had been expunged from Synergy’s cockpit.
Bert’s boat was now nearly ready to go so we decided to hot foot it to Dartmouth and make our way down the Solent to Hurst Point, the exit to the English Channel. It was a fine sunny day, but once again the tide and wind were not in our favour so it was motor sailing all the way. We passed The Needles where lots of photographs were taken and had an easy run to Weymouth. Entering the harbour we were faced with a tight mooring between two rafts which Peter Sadler negotiated beautifully. Weymouth was tight for mooring space and we soon found ourselves on the inside of a raft of five, an education for Pete and Ali who had not seen rafted mooring before. Getting out in the morning was going to be interesting!