Early June saw Robin and JK back on FlyBe and on the way back to Brest. Voltair had spent a week on her own in L’AberWrac’h but now it was time to move onwards and southwards, through the first tidal gate known as the Chenal du Four, and then the second one called the Raz du Sein, thereby arriving in southern Brittany. If you click on the map, a larger version will open in a new window.
For the first few days we were just two on board, then, in Concarneau, Dick and Jane came out to join us. John and Jane went their separate ways home on 18th and then Andrew and Barbara came out to complete the cruise.
Our first job was to get around “the corner” between Ushant and the mainland. This actually proved quite straightforward, which was a bit of a surprise. The wind was from the south, not too strong and we were able to beat right in close under the big lighthouse of Le Four. This is the one you see in all the photos with waves breaking right over it in storms. Not today!
The next tack took us back out to sea. Almost towards Ushant, but not quite, and the tide was carrying us south. A small island called Molene, which neither of us had ever heard of, was dead in front of us, and, in the pilot it boasted of not one but two bars, and a hotel, with a population of as many as 200. By 19:30, we were moored up, and 30 minutes later had inflated the dinghy, rowed to the shore and found the one open restaurant, which had one other customer. The ancient proprietor and his even more ancient mother served us up the day’s special – Langoustine mayonnaise for J, Langoustine flambé au whisky for R. Comparing notes, R won by a long claw, since the rather flaccid and long dead cold fish had been getting more special for about a week!
Early next morning, just as the sun was rising, the fair maid Voltair was making her way back out of the rather narrow approach to Molene, and thence southeastwards through the Chenal du Four to Camaret. Click the "dawn" picture to see the island. We picked up a buoy there and went ashore to plan our next move, and to do a bit of e-mailing. The weather didn’t look at all good for making further southwards progress, since force 6-7 northeasterlies were forecast, and we were reading all sorts of horror stories about the sea conditions in the Raz de Sein if the wind was anything other than a gentle breeze. So we decided to go into the Rade de Brest (the outer bay at least) to spend the night, and then see what the forecast said the following day. The rain and mist set in as we entered the harbour, and we didn’t move from our anchorage in a sheltered bay just south of Pointe de L’Armorique that evening. The ebb tide dictated another early start, and we were back in Camaret by coffee-time. John went back to his Wifi café, the Ar Men, while Robin procured an excellent joint of beef and other necessities, rewarding himself with a café-cognac upon his return. Just across the harbour from the café, the decaying hulks of wooden tuna boats have been run up on the shingle. They have such lovely lines: the photographic possibilities are endless. Click to enlarge the photo
We met another Brit who was travelling single handed in a rather faster craft. He decided to head off half a tide earlier than us, and take the Raz on the last of the ebb around sunset. We decided to take it at the beginning of the ebb the next afternoon, and so were able to have a leisurely start and still be there on time. Were there lines of breakers across the Raz? Did the oranges fall off the vegetable shelf? No! With force 3-4 northerly wind and moderate rather than good visibility, it was slightly lumpy in the race itself, but with hardly a white horse in sight. Having set off on our own from Camaret, by the time we got to the Raz we were in company with about 5 or 6 other yachts also heading south, so we guess we had all read the same pilot book. The first port to the south of this tidal gate is Audierne, where there are about 100 or so mooring buoys well protected from the north, so that’s where we headed. By the time we got there, around 5pm, a front had passed and the sun was out. The number of free buoys was pretty low, and the space between the moored boats quite small. Robin, stomach to deck on the starboard bow, threaded our warp through the ring on top of the buoy, doubled it, and passed it up to me for making fast. Within a minute we were all done, and getting the drinks on the go. What followed was an hour of sheer entertainment as other boats came in and attempted to pick up the remaining buoys. Most had a wife/girlfriend or crewman on the foredeck with a patent “buoy threader”, designed to make life easy for helm and crew alike. Not in this mooring area! The rings on the buoys were about 3 inches in diameter, and were standing up from the top of the buoys another 6 inches or so. Because of the breeze, the buoys were bobbing and rocking nicely in the waves, and time and time again the “stabbers” failed to find their targets, and boats were going round again and again, with helms and crews getting more and more fractious, especially as everyone else was watching them. We were very un-English about the whole thing, and fell about laughing. We even had an English yacht moor right by our stern, who had to have 3 goes, and whose bowman did not take kindly at all to my “cheers” once they finally managed to get a rope on the buoy.
The next day was mostly spent with the spinnaker up as we ran around the very rocky Penmarch peninsular and made Loctudy our afternoon stop. The marina being rammed, and all the empty buoys looking very private, we skirted the really shallow bits in the middle of the fairway and dropped anchor up the river a way, where herons and egrets stalked their prey among the muddy, musselly banks of the river and large clumps of pale green weed decided Voltair’s anchor chain was a good place to be. Ile Tudy is on the east bank, and that’s where we went for dinner, eventually finding a suitable restaurant among the dozen or more that there were in the small village. The meal, taken in the street at the last empty table, was OK, but spoiled by a chilly breeze and slow delivery. I seem to remember England were playing in the world cup that evening, so we popped into a bar for a brandy and watched the second half. At least, Robin did, I fell asleep. England, I seem to remember, lost. When we got back to the dinghy, which we had carried a few yards up the beach to the HW mark, we found it was now about 400 yards from the water, (yes, really, I just measured it on the chart), and we were faced with a mammoth task to refloat it off the muddy, stony, shelly low tide beach. We eventually found a rickety trolley, which might have been for hauling oyster cages about, and did most of the work with that, but still had quite a job to get it to float. Needless to say, neither of us had thought to bring wellies, so we were in a right state when we finally got back on board.
You can download our track and view it on Google Earth. To download the file, right-click on the link Voltair 2010 leg 3 in your browser and select "save link as". This should start a dialogue to allow you to save a file called “voltair2010leg3.kml” to whichever location on your computer you choose. Now start Google Earth on your computer and then do "File: open", find the file you just downloaded and click on it. Our track should then appear on the map and the program will zoom into it. You can then see exactly where we went, and also look at various photos loaded up by other people around the route.
Good luck with this – I’ll add some of our photos as soon as I can. John K