Trip on Hibiscus starting 2016-06-04 in BSAJune16
Bar-to-Bar in South Brittany – 4-10 June 2016 - Report by Gordon Ogden
Boat: ‘Hibiscus’, a Cyclades 43.4.
The trip took place during a period of settled weather, characterised by warm sunshine and very light winds, which resulted in us spending more time than usual eating and drinking! In addition, we were often in shallow water and this all led us to ‘style’ the trip Bar-to-Bar!
We sailed in the Baie du Quiberon, sheltered by the Quiberon peninsula and the string of islands and reefs, including Houat and Hoedic. We visited the Golfe du Morbihan and a significant amount of our time was spent at Belle Ile, lying outside the line of reefs, far out in the Bay of Biscay – well, five or six miles, at least!
The yacht, Hibiscus, a Cyclades 43.4, was based at La Trinité-sur-Mer and I have been pleased with the dealings of the company, CFC. They communicated with me in near-perfect English during the booking process and haven’t, as yet, charged any spurious amounts to my ‘security’ account! One very small issue cropped up as we took over the yacht. We found we couldn’t get any gas to the stove, despite confirming there was gas in the bottle and all taps and valves were open! Something none of us had encountered before … and neither had Jean, CFC’s man on the pontoon … was an isolation ‘button’ on the line, immediately beside the regulator on the bottle! Jean’s boss was called and he put us all ‘right’ on the issue! Press the tiny button and the gas flows!
Saturday, 4 June, dawned with warm, light winds and, after Sue had piloted us, skillfully, down the river we were soon under full sail. After enjoying some lovely, quiet sailing in the bay, we decided on Port Haliguen for the night, on the Quiberon peninsula. John was at the helm as we entered the harbour and were met by the capitainerie launch. Ewart and Sue’s French language skills came into their own – here and throughout the trip. The Visiteurs pontoon looked full, but after a bit of head scratching about our 1.85m draft, we were directed to a vacant berth at the shore end of the pontoon, where John very expertly ‘dropped’ us into the space available. Dinner in the nearby town of Quiberon set the pattern for the week!
Sunday dawned with, perhaps, even less wind, so we planned for the Morbihan and a night at Vannes. High water at Vannes was in the evening, so a relaxed departure from Port Haliguen was in order. The Golfe du Morbihan is a large, inland sea, dotted with many islands of all shapes and sizes. Along the main, deeper-water channels, the tides run very fiercely, especially in the narrow gaps between islands. There are, frequent overfalls, with great swirling patches and very disturbed choppy patches of water. A strong hand on the helm is the order of the day!
At the entrance to the Morbihan, the fairly wide channel to Vannes requires a sharp turn to starboard. Miss it and you go to Auray and not Vannes! There is no turning back against the tide! I got it into my mind that the turning point was a north cardinal buoy, but on arrival, no sign of such a buoy! Well, of course, it was soon pointed out that the turning point was not a north cardinal, but the very large SHM, Grand Mouton and we were approaching it rapidly! What a dope! We made the turn and rushed along the correct channel. In all the excitement, I don’t think anyone noted our ground speed, but it was almost certain to have been in excess of 10 kts!
Going along at these heady speeds, we were a little early on the tide, so we picked up a private mooring buoy for a cup of tea. Sue wondered if we could do some ‘interesting’ pilotage and take a minor channel round the back of some islands just ahead. Now, many readers will know of my aversion to shallow water, but after a bit of head scratching, fiddling with the charts and worrying about tide heights, we set off from our buoy and headed into shallow water – dry mouth and sweaty palms!! All was well; we delighted in the scenery and were soon back in the main channel and deeper water.
The final approach to Vannes is by a narrow channel/canal, through a swinging road bridge and a lock gate. Again, we were a little early arriving and rafted against a boat full of French scouts. Behind us, many yachts were soon crowding in for the bridge swing, so we left our raft and ‘bagged’ our place in the queue. Beyond the lock, which is said to retain at least 2.1 m in the Vannes basin, there is a sign which directs Visiteurs to G & D pontoon, but I’m afraid I became quite grumpy when there was no sign whatsoever of pontoon numbers when we finally arrived in the Vannes basin. We moored our 43 foot yacht on one of the tiny French ‘springboard’ pontoons, found the capitainerie closed and still no indication of pontoons G & D! A Dutchman said he was leaving in 10 minutes, so we headed for his alongside berth, just as a Frenchman decided he’d like the same berth. David drove us on with such a determined look about him that the Frenchman gave way, with a mild ‘grump’! We offered him a glass of wine, but he said he had other business to attend to!
Monday morning found me with an uncharacteristic confidence in shallow water pilotage and, on departure from Vannes, I was soon persuaded to go for an interesting route south of Ile d’Arz and Ile Aux Moines. But all very much out of my comfort zone! Careful pilotage, headed by Sue, brought us through the shallows and back, via a seaplane ‘landing’ strip, into the deeper channels, where we stopped for a coffee break and boat-handling practice for all.
Back through the fierce tides and overfalls and out to sea, in very light head winds, we set our course for the well-buoyed gap in the reefs, Passage de la Teignouse and Belle Ile, beyond. We managed an hour, or so, of sailing on the approach to Le Palais. It was Penny’s turn to get us into the harbour and, after waiting a few minutes for one of the large car ferries to enter, we were met by the harbour launch – and some ‘fun’ began! The main visitor moorings are in the outer harbour, opposite the town quay and just inside the harbour wall. Something must have been lost in translation, because we rigged our lines as we thought we’d been asked and Penny reversed us, expertly, into the mooring space. Waving of arms and French gesticulation suggested something was amiss! Monsieur had decided we should go in bows first! Well, leaving out details too tedious to relate here, Penny drove us in bows first and with Monsieur’s help in attaching our long line to the harbour wall, we soon had a glass of wine in our hands.
David assumed the role of dinghy driver and was soon ferrying parties ashore, lifejackets and all!
Tuesday dawned with some wind! During the night, a French yacht had moored on the buoys between us and the open water of the harbour! And the wind was blowing them further across our line of escape! Realistically, this was our only line of escape – dropping our lines and trying to turn the yacht across and down the wind in the crowded moorings was, of course, not an option! Sue, diplomatically, asked if they could tighten their lines to pull themselves clear of our path, but Monsieur, in skimpy swimming attire, said “non”, rather grumpily, I think. Sue could fill in the detail, but, suffice it to say, she was most diplomatic and they soon moved out of our way. Hibiscus behaved impeccably, reversing us out into the open harbour.
A timely day of wind, NW10-12 kts, if I remember correctly and we planned to circumnavigate Belle Ile. Lovely sailing around the island, beautifully green on the sheltered east side and much more rugged on the west side. We used the engine when both wind and tide were against us and enjoyed a delightful day. Late in the afternoon, we pressed on for Sauzon, at the north-east corner of Bell Ile. Sauzon is a delightful village, with a drying inner harbour/river, an outer harbour with a small number of yacht moorings and a larger number of mooring buoys outside the harbour, in the shelter of a headland. We took one of the outer buoys and sat down to a glass or two whilst the yacht rolled quite a bit in the swell which was working in round the headland. Well, it wasn’t long before John’s G&T spilled onto my trouser leg! A few minutes later, his red wine spilled over my hand, as I tried to catch his glass! I was a bit grumpy ... at the loss of G&T and wine.... well, only a bit! I think it was here we enjoyed a good meal aboard.
In the morning, we all went ashore for showers, but discovered the harbour facilities were dispensing cold water! However, our harbour receipt permitted us to use the campsite facilities at the top of the village, past the bike hire place. There was no wind and the sea was glassy, so, after coffee and croissant, we did some mooring and reversing practice on a deep-water buoy. In the afternoon, we found there were no electric bikes to be had for exploring the top of the island, so we sat in the sunshine with a beer. An excellent, if quite expensive, meal was taken at the Hotel du Phare, beside the lighthouse at the harbour mouth – well-recommended!
Thursday was again windless, so, after a light breakfast ashore and no bikes available, we went for an hour’s walk up the coast towards the attractive lighthouse at the tip of the island, but it was too far to reach in the hot weather. Hibiscus motored us back to La Trinité during the afternoon, in increasingly overcast weather and we had been noting the high, cirrus cloud and threatening weather forecasts for a couple of days.
Friday morning was wet! We fuelled the boat, handed her back over to Jean of CFC and departed for our ferry saying we had enjoyed the best of the weather, some excellent boating and people were already talking of another trip next year.