Saturday, 29 January 2011

FRANCE – North Brittany Cruise -2010

FRANCE – North Brittany Cruise -2010
The club Summer Cruise was to be a mixture of Normandy, Brittany and The Channel Islands, with a number of boats going in the same general direction with different plans in mind.

Friday 30th July
With an afternoon start, a number of Tudor boats descend on the harbour in a move to the down harbour moorings for an early get away. Kadeena, Good Year and Kindred Spirit share a buoy, with Dream On, Saltair, Muffin III and Kristina on another. I gather there were night-caps on both rafts, but all crews retire early to rest as the departure time is very, very early.

Saturday 31st July
All boats are underway by 0315 hours. The '0' stands for 'Oh my God it's early' and we motor-sail into a F4 across to Bembridge Ledge in the darkness. Dawn breaks as the swell sets in down the back of the Isle of Wight and it is apparent that the very lumpy conditions are causing a degree of discomfort on a number of boats. In turn, Good Year, Saltair, Dream On and Kindred Spirit turn back. The crew of Kadeena consider it, but decide that turning back will probably be worse, especially as the tide would ease in an hour or so. As predicted, the conditions ease substantially and the remaining boats enjoy six hours of excellent progress. Some fog is apparent and we try to stay in sight of one another, but Kristina is slightly behind and not answering her radio. Thick banks of bright green seaweed add to the fun and the tide turns again with France in sight. We all arrive in Cherbourg in quick succession after a 14 hour passage. Kristina's radio silence is revealed. A skipper overcome with nausea answered his radio at exactly the wrong moment and rendered it unusable, until it could be thoroughly cleaned and sterilised! A short while after the arrival in Cherbourg, Kebo and Celtic Lady arrived. Those that could get ashore discussed the next day's passage plan.

Sunday 1st August
All five boats depart around midday for St Peter Port. The departure was timed to coincide with the most benign conditions at Cap de la Hague and the Alderney Race. We managed a brief sail before it was apparent we needed to make better progress. Terry and George were proved right and the passage proved to be plain sailing. The Alderney Race was almost flat calm, with just a gentle swell setting in from the west. The usual radio traffic is joined by Atropos, also en route to St Peter Port. After seven hours, we join the raft at St Peter Port and venture ashore in a dinghy for a meal and a stroll. We agree that we will wait another day here as the remainder of the fleet had set off for Cherbourg on Saturday.

Monday 2nd August
The crews of Kadeena, Muffin III and Kristina embark aboard the Travel Trident 5 for a day exploring the paradise island of Herm. With picnics and cameras and the promise of a fine day, we followed the coast path circumnavigating the island. Stopping for lunch in Shell Bay, we watched with amusement as a variety of boats entered the bay only to be put off by the underwater dangers slowly revealing themselves as the tide fell away. The island hostelry provided suitable refreshment in the form a 'Liberty Ale', a Channel Island brew perfect for a sunny day. Later, back in St Peter Port, Good Year, Saltair and Dream On arrive and we all ferry ashore for another meal at the Riva Bistro overlooking the harbour. Dream On report a fouled propeller midway across the channel.

Tuesday 3rd August
No rest for the wicked if we are to get to Brittany; at 0550 hours we all depart and head south west for Paimpol, passing the Roches Douvres light-house. Progress was slower than expected as we did not get as much tidal assistance as expected. Dream On caught themselves another prop nest. Once it was apparent that we could not make Paimpol, we eased off the wind toward St Quay Portrieux, a further 20 miles away. We were able to enjoy a sail though for a few hours in wonderful conditions, arriving in port ten hours after our departure. Three long legs in three days had left all crews a little weary so we were glad that the next few days would be short hops around the Bay de St Brieuc. Resting for two nights, we enjoyed a meal ashore at the marina restaurant and crews settled down for the evening. Kebo arrived too. Kadeena hosted a bit of a games night for Good Year, Saltair and Dream On. Others went to listen to a live band playing nearby with hospitality aboard Kebo after. George does enjoy a tot of Whisky!

Thursday 5th August
With a late morning start, six boats depart with trepidation to Le Legue. Tidal constraints limit our options and all pilot books agree that Le Legue will be a disappointment. In two hours, we enter the river and proceed into a large commercial lock. An hour later, clear of the fishing port, we are alongside an old stone wall nestled amongst yachts in the upper reaches of the navigable river. An enormous bridge spans the gorge high over our heads but we are all very pleasantly surprised to find the pilot books are out of date. We find a friendly, quiet and attractive port with a choice of restaurants and an amendable harbour master. George negotiates a 50% rally rate; the harbour master goes on to book our berths at the next port for us. Another fun meal ashore followed by a night-cap aboard Saltair.

Friday 6th August
In the afternoon, we all depart for Dahouet, just a few miles northwards around the bay. After only two hours, we negotiate the rocky channel and are shown to our berths; a Tudor-only raft in the marina basin and a comfortable spot for two nights. On the second day, the crews of Kristina and Kadeena follow the coast path northward to the main town area, dodging light rain showers. After several pavement cafes, we catch the free bus service back to the marina. Boats are hosting meals for each other. Kebo has found us again!

Sunday 8th August
We all depart together for St Cast, a new marina a few hours eastwards and around Cap Frehal. Only one pilot book even shows the marina as being there. The coast line is somewhat rocky, with a fairy tale castle to boot. St Cast though is a typical modern marina, almost devoid of ambiance. There is a charity event on the quayside for Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer, the French lifeboat service. We walk ashore in to town for some exercise and refreshment, later all meeting up for a meal in one of the quayside restaurants. The main benefit of St Cast is its position and all states of tide access. Kebo has plans to visit St Malo, but generously surrenders a bottle of red for the long awaited wine tasting evening.

Monday 9th August
With some rain forecast for the next day, we depart in beautiful conditions for St Helier, passing west of the Minquiers Plateau. With conditions favourable for a sail, we make a good speed northwards but as the conditions ease and the speed slows, we break out the mackerel feathers, hauling in five fish over the course of an hour. The east-going tide stream now threatens us with the looming rocks of the Minquiers so out comes the spinnaker to gain some speed. After nine hours or so, Good Year, Dream On, Muffin III, Kristina, Saltair and Kadeena are alongside in St Helier for two nights and of course, the rain arrives. The mackerel are devoured aboard Good Year. On Tuesday, Kristina and Kadeena go shopping, with entirely different aims, of course. Liz and Jayne find department stores; George and Neil find Liberty Ale. Later we regroup and find everyone else too. Our evening meal at Hector's Fish and Chip Restaurant is made more interesting by our chatty host.

Wednesday 11th August
A fairly early departure sees all six boats squeezing through a gap between two rafts, only inches wider than the largest boats. Our effort is rewarded by further delays caused by the arrival of two ships in the outer harbour. Eventually, we are underway for Carteret, taking the Violet Channel and passing near the Ecrehou islets. The five hour passage passes without incident and we are guided to our berths in the marina. Most of the crews trudge around the coast path up to the light-house and back, assembling again for refreshment at a beach bar. We take the advice of the St Helier chip shop owner and are not disappointed by the meal we have at La Kalakiki restaurant on the fishing boat quay.

Thursday 12th August

After a two hour hop, we are all alongside in Dielette. Atropos and Celtic Lady are present, but we have just missed Lesser Stint and friends. Kebo is still in St Malo. At last, with as many boats present as we can manage and on the last day of the cruise, all crews are invited aboard Kadeena for the wine tasting event. It was amazing how far we could stretch 7 bottles of wine! Everybody enjoyed themselves. It needed a tie breaker quiz to find the winner as Sandra and Chris Collins had both managed to pick the right wines. Chris was the eventual winner. George proved himself to be a card carrying member of the Campaign for Real Ale, by coming joint last. We all dine ashore at the Moules Tent, now 'upmarket' and in a porta cabin. Great food, great value and great company though.

Friday 13th August
Perhaps not the best date to depart for home, through the Alderney Race, but a necessary one. Spring tides against a northerly wind make for an interesting passage. Radio silence follows as all crews find something solid to hang on to but, 45 minutes later, we are cast out at the other end and normal radio chatter resumes. Carol remarked, "That was the longest 15 minutes I have ever had" but it can't have been too bad as conversation quickly turned to frying up breakfasts! We took advantage of the big lift of tide but the weather became quite squally as the afternoon wore on. We entered the Solent in darkness and picked our way through an outgoing stream of yachts, all flying spinnakers. Within thirty minutes of each other, we were all on moorings in the lower reaches of Langstone Harbour, for a late dinner and well-earned rest.

Saturday 14th August
Most boats return to their moorings, but Good Year and Kadeena fancy a curry in Ryde. Who said the cruise was over? We had logged 381 miles and seen a lot of new places. We now needed a holiday to recover....

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