Trip on Sea Essay starting 2012-07-14 in BSA2Aug12
This 11 day trip was on the Civil Service Channel Sailing Division Dufour 405. Two BSA members, myself and Pete Ashworth who was making his return to sailing following health issues .Three other CSSA members aboard. This yacht had been sailed down to La Rochelle previously and this was the first stage of the delivery back to UK ending at Lorient. The time allocated for this trip allowed more freedom to explore the places visited.
This trip consists of 325 nautical miles first going north as far as Piriac-sur-mer (just south of The Vilaine river in the Bay of Quiberon, then west to Lorient. We were lucky in having winds from the south generally nice F4 until we reached Piriac where we turned west and the wind kindly veered round to the NE. So good sailing all the way except the last day’s hop when the wind died down as high pressure settled with hot sun , when we had to resort to the ‘iron topsail’. Overall our consumption of diesel was minimal. I’ll focus on the places visited.
La Rochelle – arrived in early evening on Easyjet flight from Bristol, last plane in before little airport closes at 1930. In time for dinner and Bastille Day celebrations including fireworks. French celebrate their national day in style. In 2010 a hurricane struck La Rochelle and boats in the inner harbour where we were moored were flung into the streets of the town. No sign now and difficult to believe it happened.
St Martin-de-Re – easy hop out to Ile de Re for shakedown cruise. St Martin is delightful port to stroll around with many quay-side restaurants and traditional market.
Bourgenay – about 5 nm south of Les Sables d’Olonne and with more character, small seaside resort, found excellent restaurant just up the hill from quay. We had found the washboard lock had broken so could not lock the boat. A special Dufour lock required. Could not locate a Dufour agent in Bourgenay but walked to the only chandlery at 0830 next morning. Not yet open (this is France) but eventually the bossman arrived and took us to his reception desk. He picked up phone with left hand and we guessed he was phoning Dufour to get a replacement lock (The Dufour yachts are constructed close by Les Sables d’Olonne so might only take an hour to get part delivered.) In middle of call he stretched out right hand under counter and picked up the very lock we needed. Guess he holds a stock of these to hand.
Ile d’Yeu (Port Joinville) - a 40 mile leg, stayed two nights. Hired cycle for the day 20 km around the island. Delightful island, further offshore than the others and therefore has a more unique character. Lovely beaches and perfect for exploring by cycle.
Pornic – back on mainland, a lovely harbourside town with Bluebeard’s castle overlooking the harbour. Bit of a walk from the marina but it is a walk of particular beauty. We planned to leave after early lunch to go to Piriac-sur-mer, another firm favourite, but this was right on low water springs and outside the marina entrance went firmly aground. The channel has silted more than expected though on further investigation found a note in the Pilot that silting might be a problem on LWS which we had missed as we had always regarded Pornic as an all-tide port on previous trips there. Decided to wait for tide to float us off though we could have asked the Capitainerie to tow us off as they had already done for another yacht. Delayed over an hour this had the effect of making our expected arrival at Piriac rather late on a falling tide (and for dinner). Piriac is a half-tide harbour with a flap gate at the entrance. Channel across drying rocks is definitely not the place to get caught on a falling tide. We played safe and made for La Turballe which is all-tide harbour only few miles short of Piriac.
La Turballe - this is a combination of a hectic fishing harbour, a marina and a beach resort. We decided to leave next morning at 0500 to arrive at Piriac at about 0700 just after high water.
Piriac - we arrived after pleasant trip through the dawn and sunrise with the whole day to explore this town which we had first visited last year. It is possibly the most attractive place to visit on the entire Atlantic coast of France. A gay atmosphere (meaning happy and care-free in case someone misunderstands this word) with flower-bedecked lanes, musicians, a display of vintage vehicles, lovely beaches - it is a delight. Departed next morning on the tide going west.
Ile Houat – lunch-time anchorage in the much admired crescent bay at the east end of this small island. Pleasant swim in water temp 21C under blue skies. Then up-anchor heading for Belle Isle.
Sauzon - Belle Isle is the largest and most populous of the off-shore islands in these parts. Sauzon is a half-drying picturesque harbour on the north coast, smaller and more attractive than Le Palais. This was my first return to Sauzon since 2003 when we encountered the Vent Solaire. This is a cycle of land and sea breezes, but rather unpredictable. Off this part of Brittany it has the unusual characteristic, after a completely calm evening, of starting a violent blow from the north around midnight which lasts some 2 hours in the small hours. Although rafted inside the harbour we had suffered quite severe damage (a yacht moored outside was flung high onto the rock)s. Although somewhat nervous about re-visiting Sauzon which is open to the north and therefore exposed to the vent solaire fortunately there was no repeat. Good meal at Le Phare hotel on balcony overlooking harbour.
Port Tudy – harbour on Ile de Groix a few miles offshore from Lorient. Another attractive island to explore. Most facilities are in Le Bourg, a fair walk up hill from the port where the choice of restaurants seems to be getting less and there is almost nothing else. Must not forget the famous pub (Ty Beudeff) though, and we had to sample their calvados after a really excellent al-fresco dinner on a glorious sunny evening. Next morning short motor over to Lorient (little wind for first day in entire trip but become very hot).
Lorient – re-fuelled at Kernevel (not possible elsewhere in Lorient) then up channel to centre of Lorient to town marina where we were given a convenient berth for the handover. Relaxed all afternoon as it was too hot to do anything, then drinks and dinner in the evening alongside the harbour (better value and quality than expected in town centre). Most of us had never used this small central marina before but it is very convenient for station, shops etc. Depart 0730 next morning for station after cleaning and tidying the boat.
TGV Train to Rennes (This was the fastest train and also the cheapest???) Flybe flight to Southampton, then train to Bristol from station just opposite the terminal. There is an hourly service to Bristol and I had pre-booked tickets. The selected train mid-afternoon cost £17 but those before and after cost between £45 and £63. Rail fares are just baffling.
It was very noticeable how out of season everywhere looked despite this being the height of the French vacances season. I have never seen it like this at end of July when restaurants as well as berths are at a premium. Port Tudy is usually so full you can virtually walk across the harbour across the rafted boats and you need to arrive early for a berth, but this time it was no more than half full. Best restaurants found in Port Tudy (superb), Bourgenay and Lorient but reasonable food and prices throughout.