Saturday, September 10, 2016

In memoriam: 43 miles under sail

My uncle Luke died peacefully at around 11am on Friday.

I don't remember that he was ever a sailor or interested in boats. Nevertheless we celebrated his memory with an astonishing nine-hour, 43-mile sail, using the engine for only a few minutes at each end, and arriving at Arzal exactly on time for the last lock of the day.

We considered the option of going to Pornichet for a night. Pornichet is a large and reportedly boring marina at the extreme eastern end of the trendy development of La Baule. I thought it would make a reasonable one-night stop, but although the sailing weather for Friday looked good, the weather on Saturday looked windy, grey and wet, so we would have had to spend two nights. We programmed it in as an option but thought we would carry on if we could.

As ever, getting into the Vilaine was restricted by tide. There was really only one lock which might work, the 2000 lock, which meant crossing the shallowest part of the estuary just before half-tide. It's almost neaps, with a tidal range of only 1.7m, so there is no time when the channel actually dries, but also no time when it's particularly deep. There has been a drought in the Vilaine and they have now stopped opening the lock at 2100 - when it would have been dark anyway.

The wind was forecast to be "secteur ouest" from the delightfully vague Meteo France, but when we left Pornic just before 1100 it was really SSE. You can see from the map below that this was perfect for our initial course which was just north of west... and then somehow the wind followed us all day so it was either a broad reach or the wind was astern. Our speeds were modest, although approaching Le Croisic for a while with both wind and tide in our favour we made more than 6 knots. But every time I thought we would have to give up and motor the wind picked up just enough to keep us about 4 knots, and the GPS mostly gave us an arrival time just before 2000.

So it all worked out beautifully. We crossed the Vilaine estuary with at least, ooh, 1.5m under our keel at all times. We dropped the main and sailed smoothly up the river with the genoa and the tide, and reached the lock at 1955. We could even have sailed into the lock if Ben and I hadn't wimped out. And thanks to tremendous organisation en route, we were able to enjoy a salade niçoise almost as soon as we arrived.

Today has been a sad, windy, rather grey day with rain at the end. We will need to return home early for the funeral on the 21st. What a good thing we got here so smoothly.

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