Saturday, September 16, 2017

Stop reading now

Dear reader, if you check this blog in order to read about actual sailing adventures, please look away now. For the first time ever (I think) we have spent two weeks on the boat without going anywhere at all, and have now decided to abandon ship and return to the UK by car.

In the previous post I outlined the forecast we were facing and many of you will have appreciated the delights of the wettest and windiest week we have had for some time. Yesterday, Friday, things started to ease, with winds a mere force 5 or so instead of 6-8 or more. However the wind has gone around to the north, which means that the Chenal du Four could potentially be either an extremely unpleasant wind-over-tide experience or a going-nowhere-for-several hours experience. In any case we have just lost too much time. William, our lovely crew, has a new grandchild who arrived as he was heading out here, and also has to return to the UK to scatter his mother's ashes.

So Wednesday was a day of rearranging and regrouping travel plans. The results were as follows:
  • On Thursday I rose well before dawn to get the first bus of the day into Brest, then trains to Rennes, Lison and Cherbourg, walk to the port, collect our Passat from secure parking and drive it back. Possibly the best bit of the day was my chat with the lady bus driver on the 0547, who wanted to know if it was cold on the boat, thinks Brexit is great, and recommended I read a really interesting article about Germany in Le Monde Diplomatique. Also she thought my French was very good, so she's clearly wrong about many things. Another good bit was a nice walk through Cherbourg in sunshine, and a refund on the bit of car parking I had paid for but not used. A very long day though, covering over 800km altogether, all of which would have been unnecessary had I not tried to do clever and expensive things with a one-way car hire.
  • William went home via Rennes and Flybe to Southend on Friday and is already much missed. We really hope to take him out actually sailing next year.
  • We will leave Brest on Monday 18th by car, stay overnight in Saint-Malo and get an 8am Condor ferry to Guernsey, with the car, on Tuesday 19th. There aren't many crossings that week (none on Wednesday, and Thursday's goes via Jersey which I felt was not a good option with Sam) so our choice was a bit limited.
  • We'll be staying with Robin Swift on Guernsey as he has very kindly offered the use of his lovely accessible bedroom and bathroom.
  • We are coming home a couple of days later than originally planned so that we can see Tim, who returns to Guernsey from his holiday late on the 23rd. So we are booked on a ferry from St Peter Port to Poole on the afternoon of Tuesday September 26th. Brittany Ferries won't give a refund as we have already taken the outward portion of the journey. If I ever do this again I might book as two singles so I can cancel and get a partial refund instead of a lady laughing at me.
  • Meanwhile Louis, who sailed the boat out with Guy last year, is skippering a crew from Halcyon Yacht Deilveries. If all goes well they will leave here around Wednesday and may well get back to the Suffolk Yacht Harbour before us.
I felt deprived at not experiencing the Chenal du Four, so today Sam and I drove out to Pointe Saint-Mathieu, the westernmost point on the French mainland, to look at the view. We had to go around high tide in order to be able to get Sam on & off the boat, so didn't really see the Chenal at its worst. Three heavily-reefed yachts were making good progress southwards and the wave height didn't look bad at all. We saw only one northbound vessel, too far away to identify what it was, but no doubt a fishing boat with 300hp engine. There was a steady NNW4-5, gusting up more in the regular squalls, and I think pushing into the wind would have been a deeply unpleasant experience.

View from St-Mathieu - you can just see the yachts

The lighthouse is open for visits.... but closed for lunch

Chapel with semi-detached medieval gateway
We drove straight back through the middle of Brest, which was quite interesting for three minutes in the middle but otherwise full of concrete social housing and pretty dull.

I'm glad we decided to come to Moulin Blanc. It has lots of pretty surroundings, including the Botanical Gardens which we discovered in July, the beach, and as I found today if you drive through Relecq Kerhuon the old bridge over the River Élorn is still open to pedestrians and cyclists only, which I thought was very creative and gives great views of the Rade de Brest, the pretty wooded point, and of the new bridge.

New bridge (1990s) seen from the old bridge (1930s)
There's a phenomenal selection of marine suppliers within a mile or so, plus kayak shops, sailboard shops, bike shops, bars and restaurants, and Oceanopolis of course, but no supermarkets. I miss the little Épicerie du Port at Arzal. In the daytime there 's always something to watch with hundreds of schoolkids learning to dinghy sail, kayak or stand on paddleboards, and this weekend there's a windsurfing festival at the port end of the marina (probably at least 500 metres away).

Getting Sam on and off the alongside pontoon has proved relatively easy, the berth is sheltered, and it's mostly quite quiet. Except for now that is. Betwen 11pm and 1am on Friday and Saturday nights the otherwise pleasant Tour du Monde bar turns into a massively loud disco. Actually when I say massively loud it has nothing on Vilagarcia which was our worst club music experience ever, but it keeps me awake. Still at least I have updated the blog. It's a pity there's nothing about sailing in it.

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