Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Piriac sur Mer

We left La Roche Bernard at 0700 on Tuesday to get the 0800 lock at Arzal. There were only about five boats in the lock but the enthusiastic director of operations was already bossing us all around, rafting people up and yanking on shrouds with his very long boat hook. I am confident that the entire thing could have been done with no shouting and in less time, but it kept him happy.

In almost no wind we motored to Piriac where there is a "flap" to keep the water in the marina at low water. There are lots of British boats here, many of which we have met before in places like La Trinité and La Roche Bernard. Even more excitingly, we have finally met up with Rob and Jo aboard  the Westerly Storm Cyclone of Langstone. This is the Storm which Sam was first able to get onto, back in 2013, when they very kindly allowed us to stay on it overnight in Chichester. Since then, they have been to the Baltic, down here to Biscay, and are heading back to the Baltic again next year because they find the Southern sun too hot for them! Anyway, it was lovely to catch up with them, especially as I don't think that Sam has actually met Jo before.

Piriac is a nice little seaside town, lots of little restaurants and gift shops. It also has this large marina. At the moment (Wednesday afternoon) it's really rather windy in the marina but not in the town.

I am currently dithering about where to go next. Turballe has been recommended by several people and is just a short hop away.

In other news, the Passat will cost €300 for the repair and will be ready on Friday. It appears that there was indeed a problem with the ABS. 

I don't think that Robin reads blogs, so I can probably mention that although I love him, he is a little bit of a mixed blessing on board. He is no longer agile, and his hearing is erratic, so asking him to do something is somewhat hit and miss. He can also fill any uncomfortable silence with plenty of chat. Fortunately, although I don't always take in everything that he says, there is a good chance that he will say it again later on. And his extensive knowledge of boats and boatbuilding does not extend to such modern systems as pressurised water, or chart plotters. I have just discovered that our domestic water pump is leaking, but his guess as to how to fix it it is probably slightly worse than mine. Nevertheless, when he chats to Sam rather than me, the two of them are happy for hours, which is a very good thing. 

Passing the church on the croissant run this morning. There is more sun now although it's still a bit cloudy

Sunday, June 26, 2016

When the red red Robin comes along.....

Day 4 in Redon and we are now graced by the presence of Robin Swift, our crew for the remainder of our stay this time. 

On Saturday I thought we would go out for a drive and use the opportunity to pop into Arzal and ask about moorings. All worked well initially. The capitainerie was closed for lunch when we arrived but that gave us a chance to try the moules frites in the restaurant on site. Then we agreed a contract for pontoon mooring from July 8 to September 1. Then we drove out to look at the barrage. 

Several times recently a whole bunch of yellow warning lights have come on on the Passat dashboard. They include parking brake, which is clearly working, ABS, traction control and tyre pressure. The last made me think this was an electronic glitch rather than a real fault, especially as turning the engine off and restarting turned all the lights off. However this time a scary red light came on and didn't go off. In addition, even gentle braking resulted in a juddering as though ABS was being applied. We crept cautiously back to Redon, slowing the car through the gears and braking as little as possible –something which might have proved impossible on busy British roads but was just about OK on a quiet French D-road. Not an experience I wish to repeat, however.

This morning I contacted our breakdown people and they arranged for a mecanicien to come and look at it. He couldn't fix the car in the car park so it has been taken away on a trailer. 

This is so unfair. I expect problems on our 28-year-old boat but not on a modern, sophisticated car which is less than five years old. Possibly it is too sophisticated for its own good. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Simon's Guest Blog Post

So this is a guest blog and my name is Simon Evans. I have spent the past week on board Kalessin as the much honoured guest of Sam and Camilla.

I should explain that I am a complete newbie at sailing. I did a little bit many aeons ago but that was just in a dinghy. When Camilla tested me by asking whether I had ever been out of sight of land in a boat, I said that I had never even been out of sight of a crisp packet on land.  Or maybe even a crisp.

One of the first things you have to learn when sailing is the vocabulary. For example, a ship is definitely a boat but a boat is not necessarily a ship. A yacht is also a boat, but there are many different kinds. Our kind was for cruising and involved sailors. Imagine that. Except you'd be wrong.

A yacht is a sailing boat, and a sail is a kind of sheet. However, a sheet is not a sail but a rope. A shroud is not used to bury someone at sea but is another kind of rope. Surprisingly, producing a gaff is not a terrible mistake when sailing.

Below is what you or I might call "any old rope", but to a yachtsman it could be shrouds, sheets, or any number of other confusing things:

Continuing my theme, a pontoon is not a card game but a kind of floating boardwalk which allows you to get from your boat to dry land and to which you can secure your vessel. Securing your vessel is done with ropes, or rather, with "lines" and "springs". One of my first lessons was in how to do this.

In approaching a berth, the inexperienced crew member has to be ready with ropes in hand to jump onto the pontoon. Once the yacht is there, it is sometimes necessary to manhandle her into place before tying her down (reality check - not an extract from 50 Shades of Grey). This must be approached with care, otherwise it is entirely possible to find your toes still in contact with the pontoon and your fingertips clutching a polished deck edge and for something that was apparently going swimmingly just a few moments before to start going swimmingly in a quite different sense. If you are lucky enough to persuade the Son of God to crew for you, He won't have this problem.

The confusing language for a landlubber reminded me of a passage in the Hunting of the Snark:

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.

He was thoughtful and grave—but the orders he gave
Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried "Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!"
What on earth was the helmsman to do?

Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
When a vessel is, so to speak, "snarked."

A sailing boat is propelled by the wind. Usually. Actually, a lot of the time (whisper it!) it is propelled by a propeller, driven by a motor. When you need to manoeuvre out of a marina, you use the motor. When you manoeuvre into a marina, you use the motor. When there is insufficient wind, you use the motor. If the wind is against you... Well, you get the drift! To further confuse the uninitiated, on board ship you often have to distinguish between "true wind" and "apparent wind". I think I can explain this by using the very excellent Natalie Bennett as an example. I could use fruitcake instead but it wouldn't work so well.  And it would be an insult to fruitcake.

Out of the public eye, I am told that our Natalie wears a small wind turbine strapped to her head to recharge her mobile. This enables her to continue Tweeting her pearls of wisdom indefinitely. You never see publicity shots of her wearing it of course, as that would make her appear daft. The very idea. But I digress. Let's forget la Bennett's tweets and get back to wind of a different kind.

If Natalie stands still and the wind is westerly, her turbine blades will face west. This is the "true wind" direction. But let's say there is no wind. This would mean no more Tweeting. So Natalie starts to jog in a northerly direction (jogging is an approved green alternative to driving). The air resistance creates an "apparent wind" from the north that keeps the turbine running. If the westerly starts blowing again while Natalie is running, the turbine will face somewhere between north and west and that will be the "apparent wind" direction even though the "true wind" direction is actually cardinal. This is what happens on a boat when it is moving forward.

Here endeth my wind lesson. Given that it features the outstanding Natalie Bennett, it may have been a bit flatulent.

Another step on the steep learning curve for the putative sailor has to do with technology. If you have the romantic notion that sailing is all about a man (or woman) and his (or her) boat battling the winds and ocean wave unaided, you are sadly mistaken. If you think cars are now tech heavy, you have clearly never been on a yacht.  Kalessin has radar, sonar, AIS, GPS, VHF radio, and a host of other acronyms I have forgotten. I don't think there were any heat-seeking missiles but it wouldn't have surprised me. The modern skipper has to get to grips with using all these bits of kit.

I very much enjoyed the time I spent on Kalessin with Sam and Camilla. Camilla has already blogged about the various places we visited so I will confine myself to a few highlights.

I joined the boat in Lorient but we moved Kalessin soon after I arrived to Port St Louis. We had some wonderful sunsets there, like this one:

On our next outing, we inadvertently got in the way of a yacht race. A yacht can lean for a couple of reasons. One is that the guy that ate all the pies is sitting on one side. A boat thus unbalanced is said to "list" to the pie eater's side. But when sailing in a strong wind, the pressure can make the boat lean away from the wind. This is called "heeling". Here is a picture of the racing boats we encountered heeling quite dramatically:

At Arzal, we encountered a major problem. One of my daily tasks was to scout out a suitable boulangerie and then repair thither each morning for the daily bread and croissants. But Arzal marina was a long way from the village and no boulangerie was available. To a Frenchman, this is quite simply une désastre. However, they mitigated the problem with something I have never seen before - a baguette dispenser:

La Roche Bernard was our next stop and was the diametric opposite of Arzal, a charming town dating back to the Dark Ages, with plentiful shops and even an endroit artisanal. Here's a view from the roche across the vieux port and down the Vilaine river:

The final journey up the Vilaine to Redon was almost completely wind-calm. The river has a barrage across it and a lock separating tidal from non-tidal waters. The barrage must slow the natural flow and the combination of this and the lack of wind gave a mirror-like surface to the water and some memorable reflections. Like this:

I have enormous admiration for Sam and Camilla, given the difficulties they have to overcome. As most reading this will know, Sam's stroke has left him paralysed down his right side. Getting about on a modest sized yacht is hard enough for the able-bodied but near impossible with a serious disability. It can only be achieved by effort and unwavering determination, both on the part of the afflicted and the carer. I am quite sure Camilla can easily sail Kalessin single-handed, but doing so whilst also caring for Sam is not really possible. She therefore depends on family and friends to crew, even if they (like me) are not proficient sailors themselves. I feel honoured that I was given the chance to play "first mate" and, for a week or so, help allow Sam and Camilla to enjoy a pastime they clearly love so dearly.

And finally, a few words bringing us back to where we started, on vocabulary. If there is no pontoon berth available to moor to, you might have to use something else. "Lashing a buoy" is not in fact what Mr Bumble might have got up to. Likewise, "visiting the heads" is not coming up before the beak at school, but actually going to the privy on board. All I can say is that I am grateful I never had to get to grips with the seacock.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Viewing Brexit from Brittany

I left the boat at around 0530, French time, to catch two trains and a bus to take me to our car in Roscoff, and then drive it back to Redon. I hoped that if I left early it would be easier for Sam to cope with my absence as he could just sleep for mcuh of the time – although in fact he says he didn't sleep much :(

It was already evident when I left that the Leave vote was winning. I walked though the streets of Redon at dawn with tears in my eyes, grieving for the damage to our relationship with the French (and the rest of Europe of course), and for the division between the Leave and Remain camps in Britain. Already Brexit was the lead in most of the French newspapers on sale at the station.

I caught a TGV to Rennes, a regional train to Morlaix and a bus to Roscoff. It was noticeable that the part of Brittany facing Britain was cool, grey and slightly depressing, although the south had been clear and already warming up in the early morning sun.

On my drive back, the GPS initially took me towards Rennes because I was thinking of a brief visit to Ikea. However, when I spoke to Sam on the phone I worried that he was rather cross and needed me back urgently, so I told the GPS to take me straight to Redon. It took me across country on the sort of roads that used to make up driving in France when I was a child - D-roads across valleys and through forests, through the middle of small villages and medieval towns, and for much of the way with little other traffic around.

And every single thing I have looked at, all day, has made me regret more that the English have chosen to sever their links with their neighbours, allies and friends in Europe.

Whatever the long-term outcome, this has been a bitter and unpleasant campaign. I do have friends in the Leave camp, but I may find it more difficult to respect their views on all sorts of things in future. For me, a vote for Leave was a vote for selfishness rather than generosity, narrow self-interest rather than broad collaboration, and the past rather than the future. And staying at home rather than travelling extensively or working abroad, presumably.

We now have to consider what to do with Kalessin. Once EHIC arrangements come to an end, if they do, I'm not sure if we can risk taking Sam sailing in Europe because travel insurance for him is either unobtainable or prohibitively expensive. He currently has an "EHIC top-up" policy which pays for repatriation but not much else, on the basis that healthcare in France (or wherever) is affordable to us as EU citizens. This may be an argument for leaving Kalessin here for at least one more season, because however fast Gove & co move with Article 50, presumably EHIC will still work for at least one more summer.

Damn, damn, damn. What a sad day.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Considering how behind schedule we have been for much of this trip, it has been really rather rewarding to have a few days of doing exactly what we planned.

On Wednesday morning we left Arzal around 10am for the short hop to La Roche-Bernard. This is the honeypot of the Vilaine, a medieval mini-city on top of a rock with a Vieux Port and modern marina on the Vilaine river. Inevitably perhaps it is full of Brits, with 25% of the boats moored here and a good chunk of the motorhomes in the campsite all belonging to British people. We arrived around 11, in plenty of time to get a berth on the visitors' pontoon. Wednesday was HOT, and i spent much of the day dripping with sweat, which was a bit of a shock. We also had a number of thunderstorms passing by, some of which passed with just a rumble and some black clouds, and some which stopped to dump lots of water on us. We don't usually bother with the cockpit tent when we only stop for one night but on this occasion we were very glad of the additional shelter. I also gave the inflatable kayak a bit of exercise and before getting heated by cooking actually went for a swim. (The water was 22.5ºC which is well above my benchmark).

La Roche-Bernard has one major flaw as far as Sam is concerned and that is the Roche bit. From port level it's a very steep climb by path or road to get to the town, most of which is on a slope. So instead we took the petit train on a scenic tour, including the view from the 1960 suspension bridge, and slightly to his surprise Sam really enjoyed it.

I enquired about leaving the boat during the summer, and not surprisingly the only option is on a mooring. As our friends who hope to use the boat as a holiday cottage may be accompanied by a lady recovering from a cartilage transplant, jumping in and out of a dinghy is clearly not an option. It might also be a tiny snag for Sam.

Up betimes today, as the main constraint between La Roche-Bernard and Redon is the opening bridge at Cran. It opens at 1030, 1130 and 1400 (and other times not of interest to us). As Simon needed to be on a train to Nantes by 1423 we wanted to make quite sure we didn't get stuck on the wrong side of the bridge. We cast off just before 0800, arrived at the bridge about 1015, loitered successfully in 0kt of wind and 0kt of current (what a treat) and were through the bridge by 1036. Then on up to Redon. The Vilaine reminded us of the Saône and was equally empty with stunning skies and reflections.

Kalessin in Redon
The marina at Redon is not really picturesque, with the visitors' berths adjoining the main road, and the capitainerie about 50m away across the channel and about 10 minutes' walk by going all the way up to the lock into the Nantes-Brest canal, across the road, and back down the other side. However, the berth is also less than 10 minutes' walk from the Gare SNCF which is Redon's main attraction for us, and by the evening (at 1830), the traffic on the road has already quietened down.

Simon and I walked to the station and obtained his ticket for today and also a ticket for me for tomorrow. I plan to leave appallingly early to go to Roscoff, collect the car, and hopefully return by lunchtime so Sam is not on his own and awake and bored for too long. At least the car will then be in a better corner of Brittany and close to transport links. Robin should arrive on Sunday or Monday and then we can make plans for going further south for a bit.

Simon got as far as Nantes with no sign of rail strikes. Sadly however the air traffic controllers' strike then struck, and he is in a hotel in Nantes at easyJet's expense, waiting for a flight hopefully tomorrow. One more benefit of EU membership which we could lose if today's vote is for Brexit - as we know all too well having paid for three nights' hotel on Guernsey when our flights were disrupted by snow. Aurigny is not an EU airline and our flight did not start in the EU, so no free hotel for us. Rant over. Simon probably couldn't have got home anyway as the line from Liverpool Street to Diss is currently disrupted by flooding.

Simon said he really enjoyed with his week with us, hooray! Possibly nearly as much as we enjoyed having his company. He has promised to write a guest blog post on his thoughts, so watch this space.

Failed bollard in Redon

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Into the Vilaine

Monday in La Trinité was pretty dispiriting. The wind was probably not as strong as forecast but the rain was considerably wetter and it rained, poured or drizzled for most of the day. I managed to do a load of laundry and not quite get anything dry (I ran out of time and €2 pieces)  which was a nuisance, as it certainly wasn't getting any drier once it was back on board.

Still, I returned to the boat to exciting news. We were moored just across the wave-breaker from another Westerly, a 41ft Oceanlord, Poppy of Orwell. She was originally from Woolverstone, about three miles from SYH, although more recently from Scotland. Anyway her owner Max and crew Martin had invited us on board for dinner. When Sam is involved this is not just a question of tripping merrily off one boat and on to another, it takes Planning.

Around 1730, with Simon's help, we got Sam off the boat and I took him to the disabled shower, which was spacious but a bit dilapidated. We nearly blew everything by having a quick rainy stroll to see some of the many racing boats which moor at La Trinité - inevitably this took us longer than planned.

Anyway once we got Sam on board Poppy it proved an excellent evening with very splendid food, good wine and excellent company. Max is a former FT leader writer and editor of the Weekend FT, with many interesting stories to tell. Martin was an editor at Faber Music, knew my godfather, Dick de la Mare, and had often visited his home at Much Hadham which I can just remember being taken to as a small child.

Sam was very tired by the time we got him off Poppy of Orwell and on to Kalessin of Orwell, but it was a great treat for all of us and much appreciated.

We left La Trinité at 10am and completely unreasonably it was foggy. This is not supposed to happen in southern Brittany, certainly not on the day of the summer solstice. It was a rather dull trudge motoring the 30-odd miles to the mouth of the Vilaine while worrying about whether there would be enough rise of tide in the very shallow estuary. We also anticipated a long wait for the lock at Arzal as we would miss the 1600 opening by 20-30 minutes and the next opening was at 1800. Rather to our surprise, as we motored towards the lock at 1620 it was still open and full of boats. Somehow we were shoehorned in, the lock gate closed and through we went to Arzal marina. In fact we would have had time to continue to La Roche Bernard but I was glad to get a chance to assess Arzal as we may leave the boat here later on. Our pilot book describes it as a bit soulless but I rather like it – it reminds me of a bigger and slicker version of Augustenborg in Denmark, and is equally full of Brits.

Tomorrow, the 4M to La Roche Bernard, and on Thursday morning on to Redon where Simon can get a train (hopefully) to Nantes.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A bit more

Here are some pictures of Port Haliguen, including a rock which I think is the one that Ben scraped his back on in 2006.

Also a small update. I spoke to the lady on board the boat we nearly rafted up to. She said her husband thought (having observed my two 180º turns and manoeuvre downwind into a tight berth) I was obviously a very experienced helm. Ha! Take that, Yachtmaster examiner!!!

Fisherman in the Vieux Port

Haliguen beach

I think that 10 years ago Ben jumped off this rock (centre of beach) into the sea and scraped his back. To cheer him up we collected a little nosegay of flowers, shells and pebbles which lived in a corner of Kalessin's saloon for years

The wrong pontoon in La Trinité

I wasn't super-thrilled by Port-Haliguen, which is bit bleak with not much to see on the shore, although it had some lovely beaches. We wanted to be somewhere interesting and fairly sheltered for a couple of nights because strong winds and rain are forecast for Monday. I have reluctantly concluded that fighting for a mooring on the islands is not a practicable option with one disabled and one inexperienced crew member - we are better off in marinas.

So we arrived in La-Trinité-sur-Mer after an arduous 7-mile passage across the Baie de Quiberon at speeds up to 3.5 knots in the 8 knot winds. Lo and behold, there was lots of space on the visitors' pontoon although some of the spaces were roped off. The one we were in appeared fine, but I had a bad feeling about it. And in fact when the capitainerie reopened after Sunday lunch we were told that it was impossible, there were no spaces, a race was coming in and we had to use Ponton Romeo. We threw off everything and travelled across the marina to Pontoon R where it looked as though we would have to raft up (no access ashore for Sam). However as I was executing an impressive 180º turn to come next to a small British yacht head to wind, Simon, bless him, spotted a small space right at the end of the pontoon. Another 180º turn and we were in, with the kind help of the owner of the yacht we'd planned to raft up to. We are at a dead end here but I dare say someone will turn up to raft on to us eventually.

The downside is that instead of being right in the centre of town we are now a half-mile walk from the capitainerie, most of the shops, the Philippe Plisson gallery and anything else we might want to visit, and quarter of a mile from the showers. At least we are alongside a stout pontoon which should make it relatively easy for Sam to get off.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Into the bay of Quiberon

When we left Port-Louis this morning I had a number of concerns.

(a) Yesterday I saw a lovely French dentist with impeccable English who x-rayed my tooth, diagnosed a small abscess on the bone and prescribed antibiotics. Unfortunately the pharmacie only had one pack instead of two. Would they get the extra pack in by 9am Saturday as promised? Answer: yes they did, and I got to walk through the weekly market on my way to collect them.

(b) Would it be too shallow to get out of Port-Louis at low water? Answer: it was fine and we never saw less than 1.6m under the keel.

(c) Would it be too windy to sail? In fact after an hour or so of jilling around in light winds (which made Simon very queasy), the wind filled in and we were hurtling along at up to 7.5kt.

(d) Would it be too windy to berth in Port Haliguen? Answer: we were allocated a finger but even so it was a tight thing with 18kt of wind blowing us in and away from the finger pontoon, but with three people helping us we did moor up eventually.

Too sleepy to write more tonight..

Friday, June 17, 2016


Two views of Port-Louis
Port-Louis is just across the river from Lorient – not to be confused with Port St Louis where Kalessin spent a few weeks in 2008. We thought it would be nice to move out of the Port de Plaisance in the middle of Lorient, but as Simon is a complete beginner to yacht sailing, to start with a very short passage and straightforward mooring rather than the bunfight of finding a mooring on the Ile de Groix. So we popped over here yesterday afternoon and it's lovely – a medium-sized, sheltered marina attached to a small, classically Breton town, with a large citadel on the river, and owing to a weekend event a large number of stunningly beautiful wooden yachts to admire.

Just across on the next jetty is Cyclone of Langstone, another Westerly Storm and the one we used in 2013 to work out whether Sam could get on and off a Storm, thanks to the generosity of its owner Rob. Sadly Rob & Jo are in the UK for a few days but hopefully we can catch up later in the summer.

Not long before we came out Camilla had root canal work done. It had a temporary filling and the plan was to do the permanent filling when we get home in July. It has been a bit achy but for the past few days Camilla's cheek has felt hot and her throat sore, which is a worry. The forecast for today is mostly NW5 which again is not ideal for Simon, so we decided to see if we could find a dentist to take a look at the tooth, and stay another night. The appointment is this afternoon so we will report back. Our neighbours in a Westerly Konsort say that this is the kind of place you can arrive at and never get around to leaving. We'll see what the dentist says.

Last night we thought we'd eat out and Simon, who speaks fluent French :) asked the marina staff for a recommendation. The place they suggested turned out to be closed. As Terry Darlington observed in Narrow Dog to Carcassone, restaurants in France often close because it is a Tuesday, or a Sunday, or August, or February, or because it is dinnertime, or because the proprietor’s grandmamma is unwell. So instead we patronised an establishment facing the harbour which says it is unique in France in offering 70 different recipes for moules, including sweet recipes with pineapple and cider. Sadly, and I still can't believe this, they had run out of mussels because they had an unexpected run on them at lunchtime. We had the €20 menu with a sardine pate and ling, which was fine, but I felt we should have had a discount for the absence of moules.

Sam struggled a bit with getting back on board. It's a difficult balance. If he stays on board and rests, he doesn't use his legs enough. If he gets off and walks he gets so knackered that getting him back on board is not entirely safe. We have some exercises from his physio and I will get him to do some now.

Fishmonger in Port-Louis

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


For the first time on this trip we are actually where we said we would be on the day we said that we'd be there. This is partly because we wanted to be in a good location for a crew change and Lorient is on the main railway line. However the French also have a train strike affecting random trains. Merci, French people. Simon will join us tomorrow by the hitchhiker's answer to Airbnb, i.e. a liftshare service. Guy and I will go to the station early in the hope that there will be some way to make the two-hour journey to Nantes by 1600.  

We nearly stayed another day in Benodet. The WindGuru forecast was spot on, with strong winds arriving at lunchtime yesterday, easing overnight, but leaving a nasty chop overlaid on the swell. The route from Benodet to Lorient is not complicated  - you leave the Odet river, turn on to 110° and continue for 30 miles, then turn upriver to Lorient. With the wind WSW and almost astern, at a fairly steady 14-18 knots, we sailed most of the way under jib alone. It was great to be sailing after so much motoring but the swell left Guy feeling very queasy. Sam was fine as always, and I used lots of energy hand steering in a corkscrew fashion and surfing down the waves. (Autopilots are not at their best in a following sea because they are by nature reactive, but a human can keep the boat steadier by anticipating movement. Also autopilots can flatten batteries). 

The Port de Plaisance appeared to be crammed when we arrived and we anticipated rafting three deep. Fortunately a young man appeared in a RIB and guided us to a proper space. Last time we were here I remember it being rather empty. Times have evidently changed. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Finally meeting up

After a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing and misunderstanding we finally managed to meet up with Tim and Nick when they arrived in Benodet today. Initially we had yet another problem. Tim damaged his leg very badly in a fall a couple of years ago and couldn't step up on to the boat. So instead we got Sam off and went for a long and relaxed lunch in town, with an assiette de fruits de mer for me, hooray! (Oysters, clams, whelks and winkles, since you ask). Then we walked down to the beach and watched some of 600 kayakers arriving from a trip down the Odet. 

We had an ice cream, another coffee, and then agreed to have dinner on Kalessin with Tim observing from the pontoon. Fortunately Guy managed to lash us tightly to the finger pontoon and Tim was able to get on, and later off, the boat. So we had a pleasant evening. 

Weather over the past few days has been very mixed. We have had lots of drizzle, brilliant sunshine yesterday afternoon and warm-ish greyness today. Tomorrow it looks like being pretty gusty but we are hoping that a short run to Concarneau in the shelter of the bay will be OK. 

Sunshine yesterday afternoon 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Hooray, Benodet!

In 1998 we had a happy family holiday in La Forêt Fouesnant. Sam's mother and brother joined us from Guernsey for part of the time - the last time we saw her before she died. And we went to Benodet, the nearest sizeable town, and went for a ride on the petit train, which played a little song about Benodet. 

In 2006 we returned in Kalessin and had another ride on the petit train - although the jolly song was disappointingly missing. 

So when I planned this trip, Benodet seemed like a good destination for the delivery part of the trip. The delays in Ramsgate meant that Kalessin didn't reach Benodet with the delivery crew - but here we finally are, only four days late. I suppose if the weather had served and we had a super-tough all-pro crew they could have gone SYH - Ramsgate - Cherbourg - L'AberWrac'h - Benodet in just five days, but hey. Anyway we are staying here for three nights, hoping to meet Tim and Nick on Sunday, and stocking up the depleted larders in the Carrefour which is a pleasant 15-minute walk up a little creek. 

The journey here from Ste-Evette was extremely wet, as it rained solidly for six and a half hours, and very boring as we motored the whole way. This is not what we came to South Brittany for. Where is the sunshine? And the sailing?

It's weirdly quiet here. In SYH, or in any Dutch or Danish marina, on a Friday night the pontoons would be full of crews preparing for a weekend sail. Here there are a few quiet visitors, a few quiet birds, and almost nothing else. Perhaps it will be busier tomorrow. 

Camilla Herrmann
07765 157796

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Good and bad in Ste-Evette

The good news is that we left L'AberWrac'h at dawn and went right through the Chenal de Four and Raz de Sein in one go. Our speeds varied from 2kt just south of the Raz to 9.5kt in the Chenal de Four. 

Several disappointments awaited us on a mooring in Ste-Evette, however. Although we had arranged this whole section of the trip around meeting Sam's older sons here, I somehow managed to miscommunicate completely and they booked non-cancellable accommodation in Brest while we will be in Benodet. I can't think how I managed to f*** it up so comprehensively. Sam was disappointed of course but understanding, while I was just desolée, as we say in France. Maybe we will see them on Sunday. 

Then Guy ran out of tobacco, has mislaid his e-cigarette, and taking the dinghy to Ste-Evette resulted in no tobacco at all. So he took the dinghy across to the other side of the bay, walked into Audierne, found a tabac, hooray! and then the outboard ran out of fuel and he had to drag the dinghy across a very sandy beach. He was A Bit Cross. 

The moorings here are meant for boats up to 10m (33ft, ie our size) and are very close together, so we are at risk of crashing into the 40-footer next to us if wind or tide change in the night. Tomorrow, if we are still in one piece, we will head for Benodet, probably in the rain. 

Guy making a Turk's head as we leave the Raz de Sein 

Wednesday, June 08, 2016


Heading out into fog is not a nice experience. Last time we did it, we were at a tiny port on the island of Rugen in the German Baltic and we needed to catch a bridge opening at Stralsund. We didn't realise how thick the fog was until a bird flew past and disappeared less than 20 metres away.

The fog was not so bad today. It fluctuated between 200 and 500m visibility. Occasionally we saw a navigation mark or shadowy yacht. One yacht passed us only about a third of a mile away. We know he was there because we could see him tracked on AIS. But we never saw the yacht itself.

Rocks are quite scary after several years of nothing but North Sea mud. However we stuck to the safest possible route - round the outside of the Ile de Batz north of Roscoff, and in through the Grand Chenal which is wide and deep. As we picked our way up the L'AberWrac'h river, suddenly the vista opened up and the sky cleared and when we came in it was a glorious day.

We bought the world's most expensive hose at the chandlery here. Apparently that was ok, but my attempt to buy boat diesel with my debit card in Roscoff this morning was not. My bank phoned to ask if I was in France and why I had tried to buy €228 worth of fuel. I was a bit gobsmacked by this as I thought I bought about €40-worth, with a different card. Apparently if you pre-authorise a fuel purchase the seller includes a random amount, which was enough to upset the bank's systems. Still, it all seems to be sorted out now.

Tomorrow if the lack of fog continues we hope to go right round both corners (Chenal de four & Raz de Sein) to Audierne. Fingers are once again crossed.

Internet is rather slow here - I was going to add some pics but you may get them later if the speed improves.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Possibly Roscoff

We think Kalessin is in Roscoff. Guy thinks it is because it said Roscoff on the chart plotter as he came in – although he couldn't even see the harbour wall through the fog. And we think it's Roscoff because the GPS on our car says so – although we did a couple of laps of the roads around the port before guessing the one for the Port de Plaisance, because the masts of the boats were also completely hidden in the fog.

Kalessin left Ramsgate on Friday and took 36 hours to reach Cherbourg. From there another 24 hours took her to possibly Roscoff, early on Monday morning.

Sam & I left Suffolk on Sunday and kind Mr Brittany Ferries brought us from Portsmouth safely across the Channel, so fortunately at that point we didn't have to worry about fog at all. We agreed that the best option was to rendezvous with Kalessin and agree next steps, so we drove from St-Malo along some delightfully empty French N-roads, and here we are.

Next steps turned out to be that Chris had a flight booked on Tuesday 7 June, and as Louis was being paid by the day, although we'd love to have him stay on, we felt he might get a bit expensive. We spent Monday shopping to re-stock the depleted fridge, giving Sam a shower in the very splendid disabled facilities (this marina is only four years old) and going out for a pizza and moules in Roscoff. And for Guy, Chris and Louis, relaxing over a few drinks with the chaps on the boat next door while I worried – it turned out they were all still running on UK time and had no idea how late it was.

An aside. Some people prefer to run on ship's time wherever they are, generally BST for us. This makes sense if you are sailing almost all the time and not really interacting with anything time-sensitive on land. However, if you might ever need to catch a train or bus – as Chris & Louis did – I personally prefer to run on local time.

Our original plan was to take them to the station at Roscoff this morning, Tuesday, where they could take a bus which would eventually get them to Rennes and a flight to Southend, then we would jump into Kalessin and head off for L'AberWrac'h, about 30M west. But the fog was thick, all of us were tired for various reasons, we hadn't even finished unloading the car or unpacking on the boat, let alone filled up with water or fuel. We also had a bit of a rush as Chris and Louis couldn't work out why I had woken them so early, when in fact it was only 25 minutes before their bus, see aside above....Anyway, it seemed prudent to stay another night and chill a bit.

As ever there are a few minor annoyances on board. The catch for one of the struts on the forehatch has bust, so it hangs down at awkward moments and pokes me sharply. More seriously the radar isn't working. I suspect a disconnection somewhere above the bloody main cabin headlining, grrr. Taking it down and putting it back is the least favourite job of anyone who ever works on the boat. There's also a bit of seepage around one of the joints on the engine, we think the pipes feeding the calorifier. This is almost certainly a result of the conversion back to raw water cooling – not sure if we should worry or not.

Still, we did get a new gaz bottle today – the trendy chandlery in the marina had run out of our size, but the splendid U-Ship around the corner had loads. I believe we went to a U-Ship in Morlaix 10 years ago and in fact Morlaix is only 10 miles away.

Fingers crossed for L'AberWrac'h tomorrow. And then if, as forecast, Thursday is clear and fogless, we might make it all the way through the Raz de Sein and Chenal de Four to Audierne. I make no promises.

Some of the impressive facilities at the Roscoff marina. Guy now has loads of pairs of clean socks.