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……
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.
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.
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.
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 !?!
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!
Camaret is a lovely little town with a good visitors marina protected by a huge breakwater from all winds except easterlies. We were going to stop for 2 days but ended up staying for 3, mainly as our friends Nick & Carol on “Sea Spine” were heading down. The marina fee was 33.66 euros per night including “tourist people tax” whatever that is ! We met Sea Spine in the middle of the bay and sailed together down through the Raz de Sein in perfect flat seas (phew) into a lovely designated anchorage at Sainte Evette just outside of Audierne. It is possible to pick up a mooring there but the balls are very close together and as there was no wind forecast, we and Sea Spine decided to anchor. The high speed vedettes which are large passenger boats stopped running giving us a very peaceful night. In the morning we noticed we’d swung around over 90 degrees which wasn’t an issue. Our next destination was Port la Foret near Concarneau so we wanted to get going with all of the favourable tide. Nick’s anchor came up BUT ours didn’t! We’d laid most of our chain out as there was plenty of space and due to the tidal range. Unfortunately only the first 10 metres came up and the bow dropped along with the windlass straining. It was clear the chain was caught. We tried many different manoeuvres but in the end I dived down and found a huge rock. In a final attempt, I tried to locate the anchor so at least that could be saved …. just as the first vedette came in creating a huge wake and swell. Decision made on safety grounds & nearly 3 hours, we cut the line losing everything, leaving nearly £2,000 of ground tackle behind. Extremely hacked off but the right thing to do. This was the most expensive free anchorage we’ve ever been to.
Now in Port la Foret we’ve got the replacement chain onboard and the new Rocna anchor should be with us in a couple of days. The marina trolley only just made it with all the chain in it!
The weather has improved and I can officially declare its shorts time !
On a brighter note, Steve & Helen on Allegrini have now left their home port and are on their way ! We hope to meet up in the next few weeks which will be a great reunion. They are also bringing out a new mppt controller for our Rutland ……… more on that in a later post.
Having spent 3 days in Falmouth at a cost of £31.00 a night on a swinging mooring (£21.50 on our anchor!) it was time to leave the UK. Falmouth is beautiful and as the harbour master said, “we are the first and last port in the UK”. We picked a window meaning we had to motor the entire way to L’aberwac’h on the north Brittany coast, a trip of 101 miles which took 16 hours. We were given a word of caution by friends who’ve sailed the area we’re going into to be aware of the atlantic swell which persists even if there’s little wind, as the weather many hundreds of miles away in the open sea eventually reaches the end of the english channel. They weren’t wrong, with very little wind, the initial flat water became a constant 2 metre swell !
We were met by the harbour master in his RiB who pointed us to berth on the outer breakwater visitors section which wasn’t ideal as clearly the French have no speed limits to speak of, together with an unfavourable wind direction making our 2 nights there not as comfortable as we’d of liked. The price for the berth was 38 euros a night including electric, water and the marina facilities…. in our opinion the facilities were less than basic, with no toilet seats and a shower which provided 15 seconds of luke warm water before having to push the button again, meaning we didn’t use them. The tidal range here is huge too at 7 metres!
With a forecast of force 6/7 arriving later on 16th May, we decided with Charlottes’ approval as it was her birthday to leave L’aberwac’h and try to stay in front of it down to Camaret-sur-mer a trip of 34 miles through the chanel de four which is a tidal race through a very rocky section. With just the genoa up, we made good time at an average 7kts, the promised wind arrived just as we entered the marina! We wanted an alongside berth which would keep Silhouette off the pontoon, but with the wind at 25kts she decided where she wanted to go,luckily in a space big enough !!!
It looks like we’re here for a few days to allow the wind and swell to settle before heading on south towards Audierne & Concarneau.
We have also seen another ARC yacht called “Mares Tail” with Jonno & Ethna so introduced ourselves to them and of course had a drink ! They are doing the same as us in taking their time to get to the Canaries, they are doing ARC which is direct to St Lucia but we will no doubt see them again either on this side or certainly on the finish line.
The weather is very slowly improving, but still not shorts weather.