Friday, June 23, 2017

Back to Camoël

Well, we left Port Joinville as planned at around 7am, and had a long motor in almost zero wind to Piriac. Conditions were hot and calm and in fact I realised that the French forecast included Bancs de brume – fortunately, although I thought I saw fog in the distance, we didn't actually run into any. This time we crossed the entrance to the Loire considerably further out to see, but it's a funny area – last year we ran into thick fog as we sailed towards Noirmoutier, and winds often seem to change as you round the various headlands. I guess it's a large, shallow and therefore relatively warm river hitting the cold Atlantic.

The timing was intended to get us away from Yeu a couple of hours before high water and into Piriac in plenty of time to get over the sill and tidal flap. In fact we also benefited from a fair bit of north-going tide over most of the route and reached Piriac considerably earlier than I expected, just before 1500.

It was nice to be in Piriac, again albeit surprising that there were brilliant blue skies and hot sun – conditions have often been grey and drizzly when we visited. We thought a lot about Rob & Jo from Cyclone of Langstone whom we met there last year when we were sailing with Robin Swift. I wondered about staying an extra day, but forecast conditions seemed very similar on both Thursday and Friday: light winds in the morning becoming NW 4-5 mid afternoon. We can't leave Piriac until there's enough tidal depth over the sill and that would be an hour or so earlier on Thursday, which was a deciding factor. So we chugged out at 1220 or so when the digital tide gauge said 1.9m, and in fact as ever there was actually 30-40cm more than it said.

This time with light winds forecast we had Sam in the cockpit for the first time this trip. It's only 15M or so from Piriac to the Arzal barrage and we did it all with just the foresail, arriving in plenty of time for the 1600 lock at just after 1500. This year the lock is closed all day on Tuesday and Wednesday because of a shortage of water in the Vilaine, which is a drinking water reservoir, and because most yachts need at least half tide to cross the shallow Vilaine entrance, this was the first accessible locking since Monday. Naturally it was rammed.

The rather full lock after the bridge (visible as the yellow structure on the left) was opened and we all moved forward
I may have mentioned this before but the Arzal lock has a distinctly bonkers layout. The road bridge crosses the lock about two thirds of the way along. They leave the gates open to seaward and it fills up with boats, who can all get only as far as the bridge if they have masts, with numerous others hanging around outside. At the designated time, the bridge opens and every boat in the lock then has to move forward so that the tail-enders can get in. Then they close the seaward lock gates, let in the water, open the river-ward lock gates, let out all the yachts going into the river, let in all the yachts who are going out to sea and finally close the bridge. Traffic waiting to cross can easily be there for 45 minutes which is plenty of time to drive round via the bridge at La Roche-Bernard. And meanwhile boats are all banging into each other, being shouted at by the lock keepers and generally having an entertaining time for up to two hours.

Anyway our berth was still free so we slipped in and settled down to relax for a few days. Ben was due to fly home on Sunday and our next crew, Steve Jones, joins us on Friday 30th.

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