Altwasser sailing diary

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Cherbourg to Brest

June 4th - June 10th 2003. 228 nautical miles.

Wednesday 4.6.03 High speed Cherbourg to St. Peterport
We departed Cherbourg shortly after noon in a flotilla of six yachts heading west. Some left an hour ahead but despite being fifth to leave, a combination of superior speed in light winds and hugging the coastal back eddy enabled us to round Cap de la Hague well ahead.

Our plan to find a sheltered anchorage off Herm island was upset by two “Securite” safety warnings from Jersey radio. First came news of live guns being fired for military practice. Thirty minutes were spent in vain trying to find the location on charts and pilot books, and a call back to Jersey radio was unanswered. We considered heading for St. Peterport just because lethal weapons would unlikely be fired across this busy port. Then came a second “Securite”, this time for imminent strong winds. With barely time to get three reefs in the main and wrap up half the headsail we recorded gusts over 30 knots and tacking the Big Russel between Herm and Sark, the best access to quiet anchorages, quickly became the long way round to the welcome shelter of St Peterport. Conversations in the shower block revealed that we were not alone at being concerned by the enigmatic warning of live firing.

Once again we beg Royal pardon for flying the Tricoleur in British waters. Geurnsey felt very British. The harbourmaster required a customs declaration, he could not accept Euros, we shopped at M&S and enjoyed sitting in the local C of E parish church listening to a choir practice of unexpectedly high quality.

Thursday 5.6.03 Britain to Brittany
The Channel Islands were bid farewell as Bingo headed South West in a useful southerly wind that annoyingly veered a little too much to the South West. Once again adjusting plans to meet conditions, we changed our destination from Treguier to Tregastel, a more westerly, albeit more exposed anchorage.

About half way, well within sight of the massive Roches Douvres lighthouse, three dolphins joined us. In playful mood they jumped and dived in synchronism at hull speed, sometimes alongside and for a while just ahead of the bow in an aquatic game of dare.

The Brittany coast was bathed in evening sunlight, we threaded between Ploumanac’h and Les (many more than) Sept Isles and tucked behind a few rocks to pick up a mooring buoy off Tregastel plage.

Even the light swell and benign winds caused the sea to break in foam and spray on the surrounding rocks. More interestingly, the swell caused the boat to rock from side to side on its mooring. Our small short wave radio rocked its way into our pea and (lots of) garlic soup and we enjoyed the refreshment of sleep induced by a naturally rocking cradle.

Friday 6.6.03 West from Tregastel

With bright sunshine and southerly winds we decided to catch the tide and extend our plan of two days sailing and one day rest with a third successive day underway. The bay of Morlaix, just east of Roscoff is five miles wide and littered with rocks, the final entrance to the river estuary required threading between rocks and islands, of which the more strategically positioned are mounted by forts. We were glad to enter in offshore winds, with good charts, a well researched pilot book, clear visibility, daylight and without the threat of guns being fired. We imagined the dramas that must have been played out here under less favourable conditions.

Morlaix town is a further (at least) six miles up a drying river and the yacht harbour is entered by lock. Having telephoned before making the late evening trip up river and being told, rather wearily that yes of course the lock keeper would be there on time and yes of course the lock would open, we were welcomed by a cheer from the floating restaurant and a delightfully helpful young harbourmaster who ensured we tied up safely before the evening light disappeared.

Saturday 7.6.03 Morlaix

To add to the impression of friendliness, the restaurant waiter went out of his way to praise our boat, the chandlery searched their stores to give me free a bolt to replace one I had dropped overboard and a retired couple moored alongside, when asked where we could find a supermarket, insisted on driving us there and back.

Sunday 8.6.03 Into the estuary

A Brittany vintage car rally added colour to Morlaix harbour on Sunday morning. We moved down river to the non-drying estuary in preparation for an early Monday morning start for L’Aberwrach.

Monday 9.6.03 West to L’Aberwrac’h

Fair winds and fine weather took us along the coast to the last popular yachting port before Ouessant and the Chenal du Four. L’Aberwrach is a sailing crossroads, with boats going south to Brest and Biscay, east along the north Brittany coast and north 100 sea miles across the channel to Britain. Among the many British yachts here are two brand new Beneteau’s, just collected by their owners from the factory on the south Brittany coast, not entirely without problems according to the owners. Tuesday brought Beaufort 6 and 2.5 metre waves which are bouncing us around a mile or more up river, and so we hope to leave Wednesday.