Trip on Cleo starting 2015-06-24 in BSAJuly15

24 June - 3 July Brittany Trip – report by skipper Alan Howells

Yacht Cleo, a Bavaria 34 from PlymouthMap Sailing School crewed by Alan Howells (Skipper), Don Hirst, Ian Collins and Rich Trim. Yacht equipped with EPIRB which we did not use!

Picked up the yacht the previous evening and left at a comfortable time for Falmouth, motoring at first and finally sailing. Yacht had been fitted with a new steering compass, which we swung but could detect no significant deviation.

Picked up supplies and fitted mainsail tell tails etc. prior to leaving for a bit of practice sail trimming at various points of sail on way across to HelfordMap for a drink or two and to enter race. Lousy start time (again) of 14:15. I did ask then to rate us without a spinnaker but they said there would be no chance of using one anyway.

We sailed a near perfect race (all on a single tack) and came in 4th from last. The person who denied us a better rating used his spinnaker for 10 hours. There was a good sailing breeze most of the way across but, as is not infrequent for that race, it went light and headed us toward the end. However, for the last mile or so the sea breeze came up and gave us a fast finish enabling us to cross the line a few seconds ahead of the next yacht. Excellent meal in a restaurant in L' Aber Wrac'hMap. Can't remember name, but can describe where it is (close to clubhouse) if you are going there. (Secretary’s note: It may be the ‘Pot de Beurre’ which is next to the Café du Port; we had an excellent meal there once.)

Tide dictated that we left mid-afternoon and did some fast tacking out of the entrance and towards Libenter. This was fun but was not going to get us down the Chenal du Four so we motored and shortly after the wind died anyway as did the visibility. However we still managed to make it to the bottom of the Chenal without referring to the GPS. Visibility cleared near end of Chenal but no one really wanted to motor much further so CamaretMap it was. Nice hot day there and comfortable leaving time the following morning. At 10:00, having done a last run to the shop, I found it already too hot ashore and the few people who were about were seeking shade.

After a promising sail to start the wind died and we tried to motor but the engine would not turn over. A careful examination with a multimeter found that no power was getting to the starter solenoid. There is what should be an easy work around this though the design and location made it extremely difficult to implement. Achieved though, and we motored to LampaulMap (Ouessant). Went ashore for a drink and stroll and stayed the night moored to a visitor's buoy.

Motored out in the morning and onto Molène via the Passage du Fromveur. The tidal stream was just starting but built up rapidly [can get to over 9 knots] which created a requirement for very fast navigation. Visibility good in most directions except towards MolèneMap. However, by getting a fast position fix then looking along the correct bearing with the binoculars I was just able to make out Trois Pierres and approach on a safe bearing. The entrance requires some care but is easier than it looks on the chart. There is a transit with a light on the end of a breakwater and a 'mill' on the South of the island. Unlike the charted transits with Sark Mill or the one at Port Blanc (neither of which I have ever managed to see) this one is actually visible, but consists of a tiny square amongst other buildings. On passing it during a later walk, it is the remaining stump of a small windmill - no higher than it is wide. There are visitors mooring buoys. As with the other offshore islands in the area Molène is very odd. It is about ½ mile square and has a resident population of 231 in winter increasing to 750 in summer not counting visitors. I guess the residents speak Breton as a first language and their French has a very strong accent.

After a few hours we left for L'Aber IldutMap where we spent the night and hoped to get fuel. I suggest visiting this by day at least at first and take great care at low tide - it was falling as we entered. The charted water tower about a mile North is very clear and white but does not look like a water tower - the top is rather narrow rather than a big tank. The chart and all directions in English publications describe a transit on two church spires. When you are on the line the front one is visible between the trees. The rear one is supposed to be 1½ miles further back but is definitely not visible though there is a 'properly shaped' water tower smack on the transit. We passed at an appropriate distance from a port hand beacon and altered course to pass between port and starboard marks to enter the aber. There is a mooring trot just inside, which we eventually used. Creeping carefully between the occasional mark and many moored vessels we found the inner visitors trot but thought better of it and went back to the other one. A good choice in retrospect as we could not get fuel in the morning as further in the depth was 1m unless we were prepared to wait. Leaving at low water left us passing very close to rocks on both sides. The port is surprisingly busy being the largest seaweed port in Europe. [The port handbook (entirely in French and handed to us in the morning just before we left) advises entering on a bearing (same as the charted transit) on the church, which it describes as being difficult to see due to trees. It does not mention the rear church at all which supports our observation that it is not visible.]

We made a quick motor round to L'Aber Wrac'hMap to pick up fuel / supplies and took the Malouine Chenal through the Libenter reef on the way out. Using solely conventional nav we picked up the Eddystone in the morning when our position was no more than 3 miles East of our EP. The promised easterly arrived allowing us to sail the rest of the way.

The Channel Pilot quotes a Breton proverb which translates to:

He who sees Molène drinks his own despair

He who sees Ouessant drinks his own blood

Fortunately neither 'beverage' was swallowed - at least this time!

Plymouth  50.3648,-4.1322
Helford  50.0966,-5.1357
L' Aber Wrac'h  48.5977,-4.5641
Camaret  48.2771,-4.5908
Lampaul  48.4539,-5.1004
Molène  48.4,-4.9551
L'Aber Ildut  48.4694,-4.7566
L'Aber Wrac'h  48.5998,-4.5577