Trip on Le Trek starting 2008-06-22 in BSAJuly08

Ten days in Brittany – report by Jock Playle

Tony Hall and I joined our former work colleague Gordon Hughes aboard his Moody 36 DS “Le Trek”, along with Ted Chubb, our skipper when we all started cruising in the 1970s. Our plan was to make for the N Brittany coast from Plymouth via Dartmouth and Guernsey, sail west along the coast to Trébeurden, then back to Plymouth. We planned to spend two nights and a day in each port visited – this might seem a bit leisurely, but we though it quite reasonable for a crew with an average age of 69½.

We arrived at PlymouthMap in the afternoon of Sunday June 22nd. After provisioning the boat, we considered the forecast and decided to change our plans and leave next morning direct to St Quay. We had planned to sail to Dartmouth on Monday, then make an early start on Tuesday for a daylight sail to Guernsey. However, the forecast for Tuesday was for light southerly winds, and the prospect of a 5 am start followed by 16 hours motoring into a head wind, then a night sail to Brittany, didn’t appeal, so we decided to make use of the forecast SW wind on Monday to sail direct to Brittany, heading for St Quay as a port with all-tide access.

We left at 9.30 on Monday and sailed for 8 hours in a light to moderate southwesterly, until the wind dropped and we had to motor/sail. By 5 am on Tuesday the Roches Douvres were abeam, the wind picked up from the east, and we sailed to St QuayMap arriving at 0930, exactly 24 hours for the 121 miles. This was a landmark (seamark?) for me personally, as it was my 80th Channel crossing, the first being from Lymington to Cherbourg in1974.

Our main problem during this week was that the high tides on the Brittany coast were around midday. This meant we couldn’t leave one tidal harbour and reach another on the same day – we had to use an all-tide harbour, such as St Quay or Tréguier on alternate days. We had hoped to sail to Binic, but took the easy option, thus saving two days, of going there by bus during our day in St Quay on Wednesday. There is a bus run by the local council along the coast from Paimpol to St Brieuc, with a flat fare of €2 for any journey.

On Thursday we left St Quay for PaimpolMap, leaving at 0800 to make sure we made the midday lock opening. We arrived at 1155, sailing in a good W breeze to start with, then motor/sailing, then sailing again in a rising westerly wind. After nothing but warm sun so far, the next day in Paimpol brought some light rain – the only poor weather we had all week, unlike Bristol just 200 miles to the north. During the morning we bought some oysters for lunch. Unfortunately I had the only bad one which attacked me viciously 3 hours later, and I was out of action until the next day. Luckily we were moored very close to the marina facilities.....

On Saturday we left Paimpol on the first lock opening at 1130, heading for Tréguier. We had a W breeze at first, then it veered NW and increased to 17 K so we tacked past BréhatMap to the Passe de la Gaine approach to TréguierMap. The tide was still ebbing when we arrived at 1800, and we were lucky to find just one berth available on the downstream side of the visitors’ pontoon, allowing us to head straight in into the tide. We ate on board – strangely I passed on the oysters, bought in Paimpol before we left.

On Sunday we found the wonderful traditional chandlery across the river from Tréguier to be closed, and we had to amuse ourselves at a nearby car boot sale. In the evening there was just one restaurant open near the marina – the Swiss mountain-themed St Bernard, rather strange for a port in Brittany but quite good.

On Monday we left Tréguier at 0900, just before HW, and sailed against the tide to Trébeurden. There was no wind at first but it picked up from the NE by mid-afternoon and we sailed down the inshore passage into TrébeurdenMap at 1720. We were disappointed to find that the restaurant by the marina, the Creperie des Isles, which used to be family-run and served good simple meals as well as a very good breakfast, now seems to be part of a faceless chain, with unfriendly waiters tapping your order into a touch-screen gizmo then serving indifferent food – and they don’t open for breakfast. We had, however, decided to celebrate our last night in France on the Tuesday with a blow-out at the 4* hotel Ti al Lannec, at the top of the hill above the marina. Here we had a fantastic meal, at a cost, but this did include copious wine and armagnac.

We had planned to leave Trébeurden on the Wednesday afternoon, but given the forecast for strong northerly winds on Thursday we decided to leave at the end of the morning tidal window. The marina sill is an automatic counterbalanced device which opens and closes over a period of time. We knew it would be fully closed by 9.15, but weren’t sure of the latest time we could leave for our draft of 1.9 m. I went to ask at the marina office and had a rather bizarre conversation with the lady there. After looking up the tables she told me we needed to cross the sill by 8.15, then said we could leave that afternoon after 1300. Oh, she said, but where are you going? Plymouth, I replied. Oh, that’s a long way, you’d better leave in the morning! Did she think we were going to sail over 100 miles to get home for tea?

Anyway, next day we duly left at 0800 with a helpful westerly breeze and a distinctly unhelpful 2m swell on the beam. By 10 pm the wind was up to over 25K, and the lumpy sea on top of the swell meant no-one got any sleep that night. This boat sails very well on mainsail only, so we rolled away the genoa completely and continued more comfortably toward Plymouth on full main at 6-7 K on a beam reach. When we passed the Eddystone in the early morning the tops of the swells were breaking. As we approached Plymouth the sky was lit up from west to east by flashes of lightning, with heavy showers. Welcome back to England! We berthed at Plymouth Yacht HavenMap at 0550, just under 22 hours for the 107 miles, and a cracking sail if a bit bouncy.

Altogether we were away for 10 days, sailing for six of them, and covering a total of 320 miles.

Plymouth  50.3648,-4.1322
St Quay  48.6479,-2.8202
Paimpol  48.7822,-3.0428
Bréhat  48.8539,-3.035
Tréguier  48.7872,-3.2215
Trébeurden  48.7716,-3.5861
Plymouth Yacht Haven  50.3586,-4.1215