Friday, May 26, 2006

Brittany behind us

We were stormbound in La Roche Bernard for five days, in fact it blew force 11 on the night of the 21st May and Miggy was most concerned that some ducklings she had been nurturing wouldn't survive - but they did. There could have been worse places to ride out a storm than nine miles up a beautiful river in a charming town. A town full of resident Brits most of whom come from Lymington it seems. Martin Nash and Sally Muir, Royal Lym YC members, have a house on the quayand were kind enough to invite us round for drinks where we met Peter and Pam Betteridge, who did a radio course with us, Malcolm and Carole Edge again, Mike and Penny, residents of La Roche Bernard and John and Moira from North Wales.
We nearly killed the aged computer in the internet cafe trying to post our blog! Sally Muir let us do the last one on her laptop. Internet access points in France are few and far between and those that exist possess ancient hardware or out or date software that won't accept memory sticks or CD's, or the machine has been programmed not to accept such things to guard against possible viruses. Hence we have to type the blog at the internet cafe rather than at leisure on or own machine and are generally unable to post photos.

We also got to know some delightful French people. Jean Paul and Annie live in Perros Guirec and come down to La Roche Bernard in their tiny motor boat on the canals from St Malo. We took pity on a young couple, Vincent and Pauline, being bounced about in the waves on our pontoon in their 22 foot Etap sailing boat and had them aboard Bella for lunch. He is a backstage director and she a costume director at the French National Theatre. We hope to see Vincent in Spain as he intends to overwinter in La Coruna.

We had primed you to listen to Miggy on Radio Solent last Tuesday. The interview was postponed a few minutes before the scheduled broadcast time because Julian Clegg had to chat to a guy who had phoned from the top of Everest. The spot is reprogrammed for Monday the 29th May at 0645 BST.

The weather relented somewhat so we left La Roche Bernard, our last stop in Brittany, and sailed for Piriac in Loire-Altantique on the 23rd May. The sail was short and boisterious but enjoyable although motoring down the river to the sea was a bit tedious into the headwind and we were delayed at the lock at the Arzal Barrage for an hour! Piriac is a charming 17th Century hamlet about 10 miles north of the River Loire estuary. It is good to be in salt water again and to see phophorescence at night in the loo! We have eaten well in Brittany with wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits from the markets and shops and a wide range of fish and meat that you do not see in UK. To mention Cassoulet de canard, Coquille St Jacques, St Pierre, Merquez, Beef filet hachè will make your mouth water.

We saw tiny British Storm Petrels on the way to Piriac who skim the waves in search of food, graceful Terns and more funny little guillimots.

We have sailed a total of 545 miles to date around coasts and up and down rivers but still we are only 200 miles south of Lymington! Hopefully our new running log will continue to record our mileage correctly.

We intend to sail to Pornic from here tomorrow and then to Ile Noirmutier and Ile d'Yeu from where we intend to cross the Bay of Biscay to Spain in mid June.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Force 10 in La Roche Bernard

There was great rejoicing, not only by us but by the Harbour Office crew as well, when our Tridata instrument finally arrived from Paris on the 17th of May a week and a half after being ordered. We stayed in Port awaiting its delivery much longer than intended, of course, although we put this time to good use in catching up with the maintenance (Miggy teak oiling everything that didn’t move and Neal greasing everything that did). The Maintenance Schedule is now almost up to date.

We met a Dutch couple, Peter and Lineke Steerenberg who are on the way to La Coruna to overwinter. We hope to meet up with them again in Spain later this year.

Both the late Eric Tabarly’s yachts, Pen-Duick, a beautiful gaff rigged cutter, and Pen-Duick 11, a ketch, were in Port Haliguen. What a tragedy that Tabarly should have lost his life by being hit by the boom (quite near here). Was it complacency built out of experience or a desire to conclude his adventure filled years in a familiar and much loved place – the sea?

Miggy was overjoyed at the size and diversity of the market at the nearby town of Quiberon. The walking over the past few days has taken its toll on her, however, with blister upon blister on her little toe! It is extremely painful and will need rest for a day or two.

Talking of rest we are both reading avidly, a pastime which is new to us. Neal has finished three books since our departure and is now well into the ‘Da Vinci Code’. Don’t worry Johnny we have both read Richard Bewes’s treatise on the resurrection and we are looking forward to find out from Michael Green whether or not Jesus really did have a baby with Mary Magdelene!

We met our first British yacht since leaving Guernsey on the 14th of May. She is named ‘Frosette’ and is sailed by Sir Malcolm and Carole Edge. They are Royal Lymington members and delightful people. We had drinks on their yacht and they had wine with us on ‘Bella’ at La Roche Bernard where we are now, the 20th of May, berthed.

We sailed to the Vilaine River on the 17th of May, went through the lock at the barrage at Arzal up river to this delightful medieval town which appears to be mainly populated by the British. It is said that the Marina here is 30% occupied by British yachts, one of which is ‘Frosette’.

We are now experiencing gales and last night storm force 10 so we are precisely in the right place – up a river well away from the sea! Having said that its pretty rough here in the Marina! More storm force winds forcast for a couple of days.

It was good to speak with some of those at home who we miss so much - Betsy on her birthday along with David and Danny and Marion who were also celebrating birthdaays. We are glad that you are all in fine fettle. We have also soken to Ian and Sue. Thanks, all you are doing is of so much comfort to us – we look forward so much to seeing you in July. And Roger and Sue we look forward to your stay with us in June.

A reminder that Miggy is due to speak on Radio Solent 96.1 FM at 0645 on Tuesday the 23rd of May. This is also Betsy and David’s Diamond Wedding Anniversary. We shall be thinking of you on this momentous achievement.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Winding down - Southern Brittany

Why Port La Foret should have a 1000 boat Marina when it has a natural sill of 0.6m I will never know. The Marina is a stagnant backwater and not worth visiting although we had to to meet the electronics guy to fix our instruments. He spoke good english and was helpful although you have already read the saga of delivery! The town at Port La Foret even conjured up a real transvestite who was doing his/her shopping. Miggy reckoned it was on the pickup trail.

We next went to the Belon river, the place where the best Oysters come from. Considering that neither of us like Oysters, the fore and aft mooring was peaceful. We did not find the Belon river as beautiful as the River Odet but the Odet is exceptional. We met Phil annd Lisa Bennett who rafted next to us in their Southerly 13.5 "Kind of Blue". We had to lend them our dinghy when Phil capsized his delivering the first of his crew to the shore for supper.

The following day saw us in Port Tudy on the Ile de Groix. It was bank holiday sunday so it became crowded with weekend yachties; It is a very small, pretty, harbour and we wondered at the number of yachts that could be crammed in still allowing room for the ferry to turn and dock!
We were entertained by a large resident Dolphin that plays with jet skiers and everything that moves. Miggy had the fortune of a visit from the Dolphin which came right up to the quarter of the boat and had a chat with her. Monday dawned more peaceful, the weekend guys having gone back to work ha! ha!

We hired cycles to tour the island and had a picnic by a small reservoir on the coast. It was idylic with only the sounds of pheasants and a cuckoo. We cycled about 10 miles and felt good and we considered we had earned a meal ashore!

We had a good sail to Port Haliguen where we shall await the package from Paris. Time for rest, scrubbing, cleaning, washing clothes and maintenance as well as reprovisioning the yacht at the local supermarket. Warm weather brought out the bimini ( permanent sun shade fixed over the cockpit of the boat); To our surprise it was holed where the cloth had chafed against the wire backstay on which it is stowed. Miggy spent an afternoon sewing on reinforcement by hand.

Friday, May 05, 2006

24 degrees C

Our passage to the River Aulne was started in virtually zero visibility but we programmed in a load of waypoints (positions to which our electronics will guide the boat) around the Crozon peninsular and into the Rade de Brest. Once in the Aulne the fog lifted and the beauty of the scene emerged. How odd to be sailing up a River with trees and fields in a seagoing yacht.

Having negotiated a lock where the keeper looked so nonchalent that he might have seen British yachts pass through every hour we spent the night 20 miles inland at Chateaulin where the Mairie granted us a free night. A lovely day on the river said Ratty!!!!

Woke up the next day to cherry blossom in the cockpit and the sounds of the market nearby where there was beautiful fresh fruit, veg and fish. There was an English telephone box here painted in proper red.

Next day we motored a mile downstream to Port Launay, a tiny and very pretty village. We had to go to the Mairie to pay our dues and electricity charges of 4.50€ total where we were greeted by the Mayor. Some time later the electricity broke down, as it tends to do in this part of the world, despite all their nuclear power and wind farms, and Miggy trundled off to see the Mayor to get it fixed which he duly did! We were moored on a grassy bank opposite an English B&B just renovated and set up by Susan (Hyacynth) and Ivan.

On the way back down the river early the next morning we spotted an Otter which was as surprised as we were. We had planned to go to Brest this day but changed our minds for a fantastic sail and a prettier destination further south, Morgat. It is actually a posh holiday resort
which is not yet open for the season. After being assured there was Gas a kilometre or two distant up the hill we found none - good excersise though!

An 0700 start next morning we set off south to face the Raz de Sein, a narrow passage between devillish rocks in which the tide runs at up to 7 knots, and where it is said there be dragons! We picked up a bouy at the end of a 55 mile passage at Sainte Marine on the opposite side of the River Odet to Benodet. The following day was May Day and, surprise surprise, France was closed. Miggy negotiated the task of preparing the dinghy and outboard all of which went very smoothly.

We had decided previously that we wanted to sail inland up the River Odet the next day and it was just as well we did because the wind got up from the south which made our mooring untenable. After going aground at our intended anchorage of Anse de Combrit we went further up river and dropped our hook at Porz Meilou. We were the only boat in a beautiful setting with high wooded banks and birdlife - peace!
On our way back to Sainte Marine we saw Miggy's old Sigma 33, now named 'Ysbryd Antur' moored just up river of the bridge at Benodet. We had a visit from Customs in their rib who wanted to see our passports and the ship's papers. They appeared grumpily satisfied and gave us an official bit of paper.

We are now in Port La Foret aftyer a great sail from Benodet. We had not intended to come here but our 'log' (mileometer) is playing up and we need a new unit. The electrician who can supply the new bit has his office here and has undertaken to help us. It will take one week, at least we expect, for the old unit to be sent to Paris and the new unit the to arrive from Paris!! We should be thankful for the efficiency we take for granted in England.