Trip on Phoebe starting 2018-05-10 in BSAJune18
Plymouth to south Brittany May 10 – 20, report by Alan Howells
Yacht Bavaria 36 ‘Phoebe’
And we must not fail to mention our undeclared fifth crew member, who despite being literally green during the entire trip, uncomplainingly gave sacrificial service and is currently recovering on my kitchen windowsill. I refer of course to Basil.
The original intent was for a 21 day trip with a crew of 5 but in the end we were only able to arrange a 10 day trip for a crew of 4. This compressed the schedule and made the whole thing particularly ambitious, however with sterling efforts from the crew it went very well.
Departed Plymouth late afternoon (Thursday May 10th) with a forecast of many significant wind changes for the crossing, The best course we could sail downwind was a little East of South but later the wind shifted and we were then able to hold a course for the Chenal du Four pretty much close hauled making a decent speed for quite a while. The wind had been predicted to veer to the South and increase for a short time before veering further to the West. The veer happened and the increase in speed was rather more than forecast so we ended up making something like due West with three reefs in the main. This was no problem given the forecast further wind shift, but the Shipping Forecast started to be less certain about that and the strong southerly persisted for far longer than the previous forecast. Eventually our longitude was West of Ouessant though a long way North and after tacking we could only have made Roscoff so we added on a bit of engine for a while before the wind both veered (eventually) and died. A little later it increased again and the sun came out giving us a magnificent broad reach to L’Aber Wrac’h where we took the opportunity for a good night’s rest, a shower and a quick beer in the Bar du Port before leaving at midday Saturday to punch the tide to be off Le four at HW Brest. [It is possible to leave later and not punch the tide but we wanted to get the Raz de Sein on the same tide.]
The sea was slight though there was a long Atlantic swell sending spray right over Corn Carhai lighthouse at times. A good Northwesterly appeared as we approached abeam of Le Four so we were able to broad reach the Chenal in fine form and continue to the Raz de Sein. This bit needs 5.5 knots average to work but we were making much more than that so took the opportunity to heave to for a meal before taking the Raz. A long reach at best course downwind took us well South of Penmarch and off out into the bay shortening sail as required. I will try to describe the scene. The sky was quite possibly the clearest I have ever seen with stars clear down to the horizon. The only visible shore light of any description was Penmarch lighthouse far behind us. The Milky Way was a very broad band down to the horizon and the breaking caps of waves covered the sea in all directions made visible against the entirely black sea by phosphorescence. We were surging forward on the swell with two reefs in, with our bow wave showing both solid phosphorescence and the sparkling one. After a few more reaches and alterations of sail plan we arrived at Le Palais, Belle Isle late Sunday afternoon – a stunningly fast passage. There were so few yachts that we chose to moor to two buoys, rather than the wall and a buoy with no rafting.
The passage to Port Tudy, Isle de Groix was upwind, but it had moderated a bit giving us a fine sail. There was ample room to moor, again without rafting, in the outer harbour but we tried the inner (floating) harbour and literally squeezed in next to another yacht compressing fenders but enabling a walk ashore for the mandatory visit to Ty Boudeff for a meal and drinks.
The passage to Concarneau was still upwind though it had become generally lighter and fickle but we were still able to sail most of the way. We stopped for lunch when the wind died completely at Port Manec’h. We drank to the health of Gaugin (up river at Pont Aven), but as that failed to resurrect him we sailed off the buoy to resume our passage arriving off Concarneau in fading light making the entrance a bit of a test. Curiously though most of the restaurants were open during the day they were closed or open only for drinks in the evening. Jeff found Le Croguervol which is a short walk from the marina and excellent with a good food and a highly individual selection of background music.
Again we were mostly able to sail upwind in very gentle conditions towards the Raz, heaving to at the end as we were early. [In retrospect it would have been a good idea to go through early]. At the appointed time we were able to sail through the Raz but with the wind on the nose could not make any real progress thereafter against the tide so motored to Camaret to arrive just has the wind got up to make mooring difficult in a pretty full marina. Unusually, the inside of the wavebreak pontoon was empty so we went alongside there, which was interesting as we were being blown off as we approached. In the morning it became clear why the pontoon was empty. Walking along there was no joining platform between the first two sections though that was a fairly easy step. The next gap required a considerable jump but that was ok. However I gave up when faced with 20’ of open water followed by a vertical wall with no obvious holds. We moved the yacht to another pontoon as there was now ample space – lots of yachts use Camaret as a transit port awaiting favourable tides for either the Raz or the Chenal.
Leaving at 01.00 to catch the tide in the Chenal du Four we motored with interesting high speed night-time pilotage [see separate note if you are interested] until the wind appeared from the forecast North East near Valbelle buoy enabling us to sail nearly North in reasonable style for quite a while until while until the wind veered (the forecasts had been vague) sufficiently for us to aim at Plymouth though it eased gradually. Another heave to mid Channel helped the enjoyment of a supper and a glass of chilled wine with the view of yet another magnificent sunset. Eventually the wind died and we had to motor the final 50 miles to Plymouth.