Trip on Phoebe starting 2016-06-07 in BSAJuly16
West France Trip 7-23 June – report by Alan Howells
The yacht was ‘Phoebe’, a Bavaria 36 chartered from Plymouth Sailing School and the insurance limit extended as far as La Rochelle which opened up the possibility of a longer than normal cruise.
A rapid loading up of kit and supplies allowed us to get away early evening but the initial breeze soon died and we had to motor. The intention had been to go non-stop to the Ile de Ré but the timing of the tide meant that a stop at L’Aber Wrac’h was in order. Given that we were unsure of the affect of the French fuel problems we took the opportunity to fuel. The latter part of this crossing was in thick fog necessitating a rare resort to the GPS which showed us to be within 3 miles of our EP when we consulted it.
The fog had cleared to the West of L’Aber Wrac’h when we left so we easily made the Chenal du Four but an error in calculation meant that we had to wait for the Raz de Sein. We made use of the rare periods of wind but mainly motored to Ile de Ré in weather more characteristic of a poor English Summer and again there was a point where we resorted to the GPS in poor visibility. The SW current had been rather stronger than expected and we were a few miles south of our EP.
Visibility improved allowing a straightforward approach to St Martin where we were eventually able to enter the inner harbour rafting up on a yacht which intended to leave early in the morning (which he changed to earlier still – rude awakening) allowing us to go alongside and later be rafted by four other yachts. Spent some time on the active waterfront which has ample restaurants and bars and were very grateful when the French won their initial Euro 2016 match or we suspected things would have turned ugly. Can be an expensive place but Le Skipper was a restaurant that gave us a good meal at a reasonable price. Small but good morning market in town but limited range – had to walk about 1.5 miles to Lidl to buy butter and cream etc.
Got some sailing in towards the Ile d’Yeu, where the harbour was fairly full though the island seemed very quiet with lots of unoccupied holiday cottages. Weather remained poor. Some of us took a walk to see a few Dolmens (burial sites) but we clearly did not see the island at its best.
Actually managed some good sailing to Ile de Noirmoutier where again there was little room in the harbour though not a lot of people about. Even though the weather was not great (local and long term UK visitors said worst for at least twenty years) we all liked the island and visited Noirmoutier en Ile (the ‘capital’). Superb meal and service at a restaurant La Bisquine just past the boulangerie.
What eventually became a good wind allowed some excellent sailing to anchor off Treac’h er Gouren at the East end of Ile de Houat for a late lunch and some interesting pilotage under sail through Passage du Beniguet and finally on to Belle Ile where we moored between the buoy and the harbour wall to be joined the following day by plenty of rafting. Again a good but very limited morning market at Le Palais though there were also a range of shops and a small Super U. A visit to the citadel is highly recommended as is a stroll around the remaining fortifications.
Again we were able to sail most of the way to Ile de Groix where the mooring was between two buoys again with considerable rafting. Strong lines, round turn round the buoy hitching eye and plenty of fenders required. Ty Beudeff (a Breton bar known to some of us) was open and now does an excellent if limited range of food with lots of atmosphere. Do not be put off by the décor even a BSA crew seemed over dressed. The proprietor is the daughter of the host we remembered and was astonished when I told her that I had been sitting at a table talking with her father on the night of the fire (on 24th July 2003).
The wind allowed us to sail most of the way to La Foret in indifferent visibility though not sufficiently bad for us to trouble the GPS. The really bad weather of the following day did not spoil the exploration of Concarneau though transport had to be by taxi as the bus only runs during July and August. This does not only apply to the marina but also the local town (a lively thriving place) which is bypassed by the service for ten months of the year! Concarneau is well worth a visit the old town is inside a fort on an island and is very picturesque set in the middle of the large port area. Surprise, surprise, the visitor’s berths were not overcrowded, it might be worth trying to moor with La Foret as port of refuge. [That comment is from Don who did not know that that was how we found La Foret in the first place in 2003. If you buy Jock a drink and take him aside you might persuade him to tell you precisely how the harbourmaster at Concarneau suggested that we go to La Foret.]
Mainly motoring to the Ile de Sein again done conventionally despite poor visibility at times. Just popped in there to look around (doesn’t take long!) and to check the quality of the cider. We were intrigued by the narrow alleyways between the houses. None are straight; they all curve sinuously to make the line of sight very short - a defensive measure against attack, or the wind perhaps?
The passage from there to Camaret was in poor visibility (bad at times) under motor in failing light by a mix of GPS and conventional. The fog lifted a bit toward the end and though we never saw the lighthouse on Pt de Toulinguet the sector light at Camaret was visible as soon as we passed the headland. Took the opportunity for a walk first to Pt de Toulinguet and then past a magnificent beach out to the next headland Pen Hir passing an unusual international memorial to all who died during the Battle of the Atlantic and further on to a 50’ granite Breton Cross near the cliff edge commemorating the liberation of Brittany. A small diversion to a megalithic alignment completed the interest of the walk. Chez Phillipe provided us with a reasonable meal at an excellent price and lovely service.
The return from Camaret started with some beating into a Northerly up the Chenal de la Helle (the wind would have been on the nose for the Chenal du Four) followed by a period of motoring while waiting for the promised F4-5 occ 6, which was forecast by several forecasters, to arrive. Eventually it did giving us a fast very broad reach to Plymouth. Again we were within 3 miles of our EP when sighting the Eddystone and a lot nearer to it than was at first thought. [Two flukes on a single trip?] Soon after we sighted land, we picked up a passenger – a racing pigeon which seemed glad of a respite from flight. It eventually flew off when land was clearly looming.
Total mileage 758
1Jerzy had been acting skipper for a number of the passages including the last which was more than double the distance required for a full Yachtmaster qualifying passage.
2Though we were well outside of the French ‘Season’ it was noticeable that some of the marinas had little spare capacity – Ile de Ré in particular was nearly full at one point and the next stage would have been rafting on the breakwater pontoon. This might cause problems for those going there in the Season.
3Meals prepared on board included (not exhaustive list): Chinese leeks and noodles, fish curry, tortilla Espanola, roast pork, braised red cabbage and celeriac mash, chicken curry, moules au cidre, bhuja, cassoulet, warm tuna pasta salad, tagine and cous cous, soup de poisson, chilli sin carne, numerous salads etc.
4Liquid refreshments included: Ouzo, gin and tonic, an assortment of white and red wines, beer and cidre. Some non alcoholic drinks were occasionally consumed as well.
5Lots of photographs of the trip can be found onand
6Those who prefer mooring to a cleat with OXO rather than XOX might be interested in an actual comparison. We were the first on the buoy at Belle Ile and later joined by two other yachts who did rig lines to the buoy but they were slack and when the wind came up all the load was on our bow line. On attempting to ease this to spread the load I found an OXO. The final O proved to be impossible to release under control and 18 inches of rope shot out instantly managing to rip through a climbing callous on my hand. By way of contrast there were four in the raft on Ile de Groix and a very much stronger wind. Two large yachts were on one side of us and the load had twisted the raft so no load was on the bow line of the smaller yacht on the other side – all was on ours. Polite requests for lines to the buoy had failed so pointing, shouting “cord maintenant!” and hitting our line with my fist showing that it was bar taught eventually did the trick. Again it was necessary to ease our line to allow the load to be shared but the final X allowed this to be done under total control.