Rias !

Our time in Gihon was somewhat mixed. Much cooler than France with cloud cover all the time and the most expensive port to date at 55 euros a night… ouch! no wonder they don’t have many visitors.

We met Tony & Sue sailing “Mirabella” and had a couple of evenings together with them and Allegrini. One night we went ashore to a backstreet tapas bar where the locals go & consumed many beers and tapas & the bill confirmed this ! . There was a big fiesta somewhere one night with music pumping out until 6am. I was awoken at 5am to see a young couple skinny dipping off the finger pontoon we were tied to…. only then to see them both boarding Silhouette. Presumably they were looking for somewhere to sleep… or not !!! Needless to say they weren’t expecting me and left rather quickly to find their clothes 🙂

I needed some hinges, hasp, screws & bolts to fix the new doors we had made…. try asking for that in Spanish when you can’t and the shopkeeper can’t speak English…..  gotta love the Iphone ! Whilst I was practicing sign language, Caroline & Charlotte were boarded by Spanish customs who politely checked passports, insurance & ships papers.

Next port was Ribadeo 65 miles away. With light winds we finally agreed to fly our 145m2 spinnaker which is pretty big. Ours is a bit of a hybrid as mentioned previously so we can fly as a spinnaker or cruising chute, raised it looked great and the speed improvement was instant. We had hoped to anchor off but the swell had other ideas so back into a marina again.

The town was up a very very steep hill but what a surprise. The marina was so quiet but the whole town was out in fancy dress having a fiesta to celebrate the Spanish who set off to Cuba and made their fortunes. I think they just like having fiestas !!!

We only stayed in Ribadeo for 1 night as free anchoring was within sight so headed off to Viveiro which had a beautifully protected anchorage off the beach and behind a huge breakwater….. free anchoring at last! The town is about 1 km from the anchorage so our RiB & 15hp outboard came into its own perfectly.

A couple of days later Allegrini & Mirabella caught us up and we went into town for beer & tapas and were “treated” to a heavy metal/punk rock band playing in the square, really loudly. We also commented on the amount of locals all dressed in black leather with interesting slogans about death! The following day we realised Viveiro was holding Resurrectionfest 2018 and the whole place had gone rock mad. The venue was right next to the anchorage and judging by the sound checks, was not a place to stay… no offense to KISS, Prophets of RAGE & MEGADEATH along with the other 100 bands !!!

Caroline’s Iphone could’ve done with a bit of its own resurrection after she dropped it in the sea by the dinghy dock! We thought it had been stolen but Charlotte saw it in the water 24 hours later when we returned to the dock….. no amount of rice was going to resurrect that!

After 4 days we left (as did Allegrini & Mirabella) along with pretty much everyone else and sailed to Cedeira, a ria 35 miles to the west, quieter with even more protection. We arrived with 25kts and overnight the wind increased to 40 knot! I stayed in the cockpit all night as did most other boat owners with 1 yacht dragging at 1am and taking 3 attempts to re-set. The valley creates its own wind acceleration zone and is mentioned in the pilot books, we just didn’t read it !

Cedeira is lovely, as usual with lots of tapas bars and a good supermarket, we would’ve stayed longer than 2 nights but needed to push on to A Coruna as Caroline and Charlotte need to do a quick 3 day return to the UK before we head off to Portugal.

Here’s some non specific photos of the Spanish coast & for those of you interested, the current score on the fishing front is a big fat ZERO !!!

Biscay crossed

Our arrival in La Rochelle meant there was time to do a couple of jobs which involved tearing the cabins and cockpit lockers apart. Fortunately Caroline & Charlotte had flown back to the UK for 8 days so no worries about living in a mess with 3 on board!

Our ais has been very intermittent and I traced it to a faulty vhf cable. Our ais has its own aerial mounted on the arch rather than a splitter to the masthead vhf aerial, so running a new cable around the lockers and under the port aft cabin was no small task. Whilst in a mess, I also changed the wet exhaust hose which was going soft. There are always jobs to do on a yacht, the plan was and is to stay on top of them rather than let them build up.

The Minimes marina in La Rochelle is huge with about 4500 berths, the visitors section had a lot of Fountaine Pagot catamarans all brand new although there was plenty of space for us. One day we were talking to a couple on a new cat and they had completed a circumnavigation some years ago. It turned out they crossed the Atlantic in 1995 in company with Colin & Penny (my uncle & aunt) and remembered them well. We gave them their details to get back in touch…..  what a small world we live in!!

We made 2 purchases whilst in La Rochelle, 3 fold up bikes giving us more flexibility and we finally committed to ordering a watermaker.

This took a great deal of thought and research on which make & model along with location to go for. In the end we decided on the type we first looked at 2 years ago, Rainman. I will dedicate a page to this once its been working for a while giving all the pros and hopefully few/none cons. For now we have the 230v high output which provides 100-140 litres an hour, which is huge!

With Caroline & Charlotte back on board, we were looking for a weather window to cross Biscay, not helped by the fact that only 1 of the 2 boxes which make up the Rainman had arrived… British customs held one box up as the 2 jars of pickling powder which looked like a lot of white powder got flagged ! After numerous calls and emails to Dave at The Wetworks it arrived with 4 hours until our planned departure… phew!

In company with Allegrini we left La Rochelle and headed south west in the direction of either Santander or Gijon, a final decision of which port to be made after 125 miles. In the end it was a no brainer and we all agreed to push on the extra 5 hours to Gijon saving a 14 hours sail from Santander along the coast to Gijon a few days later. So this was our longest passage so far of 255 miles with 2 nights at sea.

Low swell and very little wind meant motor on for most of the journey but Biscay has a reputation so we accepted motor on over strong winds and big seas. We did see a large squall, tracked it on radar and managed to skirt around it which was good practice for the Atlantic, & the sea was soooo blue too. This picture of Allegrini shows how lucky we were with the weather when crossing the continental shelf!

We’re now in Gijon for a few days and will head off for Ribadeo on Saturday as there is a favourable wind to sail there. The weather is colder here which just doesn’t seem right now we’re in Spain !?!

Bit shallow here !

The port website in les Sables d’Olonne  said they were closed to visitors due to the golden globe event, so we had to bypass it and go straight to St Martin-de-Re instead. This was a journey of just over 50 miles which was yet again a motor sail apart from the last 2 hours when a lovely breeze set in allowing peace and quiet. Allegrini decided to while away some time so we had 2 quiz games on the vhf, one on british tv and the other on weather…. we really need to brush up on our general knowledge !!!

The approach to St Martin was a first for us. If a chart shows white turning blue there’s water there all the time, if not there’s nothing or less than nothing (raised areas). This meant we could only enter approximately 1 1/2 hours before a good high water due to our deep keel. The reality was we knew we’d be fine ( allegrini went in first 🙂 ) but …..

What a lovely port we found on arrival, extremely tight to get in though, we were directed to berth next to a beautiful Hallberg Rassy 46 which the owners had just sold and were praying we didn’t hit them. They must’ve been worried seeing us approach with our huge anchor pointing straight at them until the last moment ! The gap was about 50 feet so we literally shoe horned ourselves in between the other rafted out yachts.

The fee here was 43 euros a night so the prices are starting to increase !

I was going to post some pictures of the town, but with the very kind permission of Steve & Helen from Allegrini, we have added their video into this post. They have a camera at the top of their mast which captures beautifully us and other boats moving/leaving and some great shots of the port. Take a look at their blog www.allegrini.co.uk 

Leaving St Martin just before high water we headed off to La Rochelle which will be our base for 2 weeks to do a little maintenance and restock ready for our longest sail to Spain. I wanted to know what the thick black line was between the Ile-de-Rei & the mainland. It turned out to be a 30 metre high bridge which we were going under…. yet another first. Here’s how it looked as we went through, bit close from our perspective but there was at least 10 metres to spare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s only one thing to do after a cracking sail and arrival in a new port……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medieval Vannes

The pilotage getting to Vannes was certainly challenging, and the narrow canal taking the final stretch was not without comments and expletives, especially as boats were coming in the opposite direction and there was only just enough room! That said, what a special place Vannes is. A beautiful city dating back 2000 years with a very proud history. Without doubt our favourite place so far. We stayed for 3 nights at a cost of 40 euros a night, it was funny being moored in the city centre with so many people walking by. We are also declaring Vannes the city of fit people, there were so many runners and groups exercising we were tired just watching!

We took a road train as a sightseeing trip with commentary in english which was well worth the price of 6.50 euros each and a great way to see so much, including the old washing house by the river which was where all the clothes were cleaned within the fort.

We could easily have spent more time in Vannes but really needed to start making tracks towards La Rochelle as Caroline & Charlotte have flights booked to return to the UK for 8 days. A stopover once again in Crouesty just outside the tidal effect of the Morbihan and we headed off with our cruising in company yacht Allegrini to Ile d’Yeu in the Vendee region of south Biscay. There had been winds of 25-30 knots the day before which we knew would create a swell but thought it would’ve died down after 24 hours…..  or not !!!

The wind had died off for 8 of the 10 hour journey meaning we had to motor sail yet again, but the 3-4 metre swell we encountered reamained with us! The picture is Allegrini and we all agreed on the radio this was something we’d just have to get used to.  The approach to Ile d’Yeu was strewn with lobster pots and a very choppy side wind making the seas even livelier until past the breakwater. The marina was very busy but we managed to get a good spot by reversing half way down the marina channel to a hammerhead berth. Allegrin weren’t so lucky having been directed to a really tight area next to a swiss yacht who refused to take their lines and was completely unhelpful. Eventually Allegrini moved to another berth near us and away from the idiot. We now all hope one day he needs help coming into a berth and gets the same treatment.

French sailors

The french are a seafaring nation and sailing must be second only to football (they don’t play cricket very well and rugby doesn’t count!). There are so many singlehanded sailors on the water, and they know what they’re doing….. until they stop sailing and enter harbours. Once in the harbour they abandon the helm and prepare fenders and shore lines oblivious to all around. We saw one poor motorboat hit three times by three different boats in one day, Allegrini was hit by a yacht “not under command” scratching her hull and we had a yacht hit our bow, get caught on our anchor which ripped out their safety guard wires. Two days ago I helped a motorboat come into a berth behind us once he’d bounced off the yacht behind, he just said “pas de problem” (no problem) tied up 2 lines only and buggered off on a bicycle!

But they’re not all the same, we saw a 32 foot catamaran shoehorn itself into a 34 foot space beautifully.

 

From here we may try to get into Les Sables d’olonne for a night before reaching La Rochelle but the Golden Globe race buildup is there and berthing maybe difficult.

 

Stoned !

After 4 days in the Morbihan, we moved into Trinite-sur-mer where we would meet up with Allegrini. The capitannerie staff were the most attentive we’ve come across, not only showing us our berth but actually running ashore to take our lines!

Steve & Helen turned up the next day and came alongside us, which was the only place we could be due to our size. Even our boats looked small against the 130 feet racing trimarans docked nearby. One passed us three times last week in very light winds doing over 20 knots and looked effortless.

We all had a day trip to see the standing stones of Carnac, a 4,500 year old site of thousands of stones all pretty much in straight lines. I can’t imagine the reason for doing it, or how many years it took, but it was certainly impressive.

The marina fee was 38 euros a night which now seems to be pretty much the going rate here in France, not cheap but certainly cheaper than the south coast of England.

As we left Trinite-sur-mer I decided to put out the fishing line with some feathers on. About 30 minutes later whilst I was down below the strike mode activated sending the line screaming out with Caroline & Charlotte shouting at me to get on deck. Allegrini was quickly called to say we were slowing down to bring in our first fish/fishes so they turned around to photograph everything. It was lashing down with rain and so much line went out it took about 20-30 minutes to bring our catch to the surface, I was knackered by this point. As our catch came close the radio conversation changed from encouragement to laughter………….   despite a valiant effort I can confirm the 15lb of seaweed got landed onboard!!!

After the laughter faded, we continued through the Morbihan up to Vannes, a city up a very narrow river/canal where we will stay for a few days as there are very strong winds forecast.

The channel is shallow and once past the swing bridge the river is only just wide enough for 2 boats to pass each other. Berthing right in the middle of the city is interesting and certainly not quiet, but the views are beautiful.

Dolphins !

With our anchor replaced, it was time to leave Port la Foret which in the end was an 8 day stop over. The french appear to have their own timetable when it comes to delivery, had we known how unreliable it was we would’ve ordered directly from the UK with a 3 day guaranteed slot. I guess we’re going to have to get used to a more laid back approach from everyone…. difficult after so many years of next day delivery! The marina is home to some serious racing yachts, this one was lifted up for a quick look at the keel then floated again, the money that must’ve cost! Fees during May are at 50% off so each night cost 25 euros which was excellent especially as the shower facilities would put many in the UK to shame, and the onsite bars and shops were great.

As we left the heavens opened and visibility was reduced to only about 1/2 mile but cleared up until we approached Kernevel marina in Lorient. Not too much to say about the place to be honest as it’s all rather industrial with old German submarine pens dictating the skyline. Our main reason for stopping was because there was an e’Leclerc supermarket about a 20 minute walk and we needed to stock up on bits…. so much so that we had to taxi back!

We stayed 2 nights and then set off to Crouesty. About an hour out a big RiB came tearing out to us with a blue light flashing ordering us to channel 9 on the vhf radio. South of La Rochelle the French have a huge missile firing range, unbeknown to us there was another just south of Lorient and we were heading straight into it!!! The forced course change was meant to be as 2 hours later we were treated to our first ever pod of about 15-20 dolphins who came to play. The are a lot of videos and photos on the facebook section at http://www.facebook.com/sailingsilhouette and are well worth a look. Such magnificent creatures and so intelligent, we can’t wait to see more in clear waters.

Crouesty is a huge marina and we were lucky to get a space rafted off a motor yacht at the top of the marina. Also the Beneteau Barracuda fishing boats had a huge meet taking over the whole visitors section which is why there was no space. Here we encountered our first dinghy dock and I can confirm it is 16 paces to an intermarche supermarket. So close and handy that we decided to stock up on heavy items like beer and wine!!! Picture the scene as we arrived at the checkout with 200 euros of important goods and have both our payment cards declined! Extremely embarrassing and later we found out Visa across europe had crashed.  Charlotte to the rescue with her HSBC card ….. phew!

We’re now anchored in the Morbihan which is stunning. We plan staying here now for a few days and will meet up with Steve & Helen from Allegrini on Thursday, no doubt for a nice cup of tea !?!

We all remember our 1st time !

No not that “1st” time, the other 1st time !!!

We were introduced to sailing, as I’ve said before by my uncle Colin & his wife Penny aboard their yacht “Baneile” a Shipman 28. We eventually bought Baneile from them when they upgraded so she was our 1st …… you get the idea!

So here we are in the marina in Port-la-Foret and there’s a Shipman 28 opposite us. We haven’t seen one since we sold Baneile way back in the early 90’s bringing back many great memories. As luck would have it the owner was onboard so I popped over for a chat. It was easy to see the years had not been kind to this yacht and she needed a complete refit from stem to stern. The owner was sat in the cockpit with a huge baguette in one hand and a bottle of rum in the other. I asked him how long he’d owned her and in his best English he said ” 6 year, I ‘ave lot woerk to doo, but looke ze sun iz ‘ere so I sit wiz my lunch”.

I think his project will never be complete……Gotta love the French!