Trip on Freyja starting 2016-07-22 in BSAAug16
Skippered by Peter Wakeling this was a CSSA crew, Clive, Tony, Bill and Richard; two joined in past 3 years, who have sailed with me before. Some BSA members have sailed with CSSA as associate members but that option is no longer available. Anyone interested, I can explain membership eligibility and linked membership. There are boats on east coast, south coast and a new boat in the northwest which I sailed for a weekend from Plymouth in June when it was being delivered from Hamble to Liverpool. All of these do long summer trips.
Vannes, where we were to take over the boat has a gated entrance from the Morbihan and I had realised that our departure had to be around 10 am or not at all on the following day so we booked flights a day earlier (much cheaper on a Friday than on Saturday) and a hotel in Vannes, allowing the Saturday for victualling, briefing and preparation and to look around the town.
All crew met at Gatwick using same flight to make taxi in France convenient and cost-effective. I used parkonmydrive.com which proved excellent and half cost of cheapest official parking options. Met by taxi at Vannes after flight delay of one hour. Discovered that French taxi meters change to a night rate at 7pm so making our trip more expensive than the booked fare - but we haggled successfully to drop the price.
Vannes is a delightful town and worth a visit by land or sea. Our hotel recommended a restaurant in the medieval quarter close by called Le Gavroche. After drinks in a nearby bar we found the restaurant which proved to be quite exceptional, building, ambience, service and food. And even at current euro exchange proved better value for money than in England. It is a gem.
Next day walked to the berth where Freyja was and had brief handover from previous skipper. He and crew did not seem very happy and it emerged they had only managed to sail for 20 minutes in their 10 day charter, suffering from no wind at all, motoring all the way to Concarneau and back.
Decent supermarket a taxi or bus ride away. After all preparation and briefing we explored Vannes and in evening chose a really excellent Pizzeria with a balcony overlooking the town ramparts and gardens.
Departed Vannes on the 1030 gate and bridge opening with forecast SW F3/4 which meant we would not be sailing through the Morbihan or out to Port Haliguen lying SW. We were right on springs and the trip through the Morbihan channels was quite exciting. 8-9 knots stream through the narrows and 4-5 knots through the exit at Port Navalo. Sea boiling all round, wind against tide, boat thrown round at one point. Two DSC distress calls received but others assisting. Arrived Port Haliguen, excellent meal on board.
Left next morning for the Passage de la Teignouse and Le Palais. Timed arrival to enter the Bassin a Flot, avoiding the mayhem in outer tidal harbour. Explored the Citadel with cocktails in the bar terrace of the luxury hotel located within the walls. Tony sourced salmon steaks in the market in the square for another excellent meal on board.
Left Belle Isle with first destination of Ile d’Houat, one of my favourite places via the narrow Passage du Beniguet. Anchored in Treac’h er Goured. Crew all loved it and decided to stay overnight. Dinghy ashore to explore village, few bars, restaurants and hotel. Drinks at lovely bar overlooking Port Argol. Back to boat and another great meal, with such proficient chefs on board. Everyone enjoyed the evening and night at anchor there and voted this the highlight of the trip. My concern there is always the Vent Solaire for which this bay is notorious and which I have experienced at its worst. There was indeed a stronger wind around midnight for a time but nothing to worry about. Incidentally, around 60 yachts anchored around the bay when before the recession one would see five times this number in high season, so plenty of sea room.
Next day our longest leg some 40 nm to Pornic south of the Loire. Wind NW 3/4 on port quarter giving excellent sailing all the way. Timed to arrive bit before LW as entrance silts and not useable around LW springs. Berthed in marina. Walked into town along the river past Bluebeard’s chateau, to Le Moulerie which unsurprisingly serves almost nothing but Moules. Rather small moules though and had much better ones elsewhere.
On to La Turballe, sailing all the way. Given good berth outside the ‘visitors box’ and very convenient.
Departed to time arrival in the river Vilaine, via the narrow Passage de la Varlingue past outlier rocks that have to have sufficient tide to clear apart from the river bar itself. Motored straight into Arzal lock where there was the usual chaos and narrowly avoided being pranged in stern by a large motor cruiser that entered too fast. Pleasant cruise up river to La Roche Bernard and convenient finger berth. Note that despite what the Almanac states the marina will not accept bookings in advance. I tried and was told to just radio in when past the lock. After exploring the town and medieval quarter, drinks and good dinner at waterfront restaurant in old port.
Re-traced the river Vilaine, through the lock, less congested this time and sailing back to La Turballe with NW F3/4 wind to help us. Would have liked to go to Pireac instead but tides were not convenient for a timely arrival at Pornichet following day. Another convenient berth in the marina with easy access to fuel pontoon and dinner ashore near the Fish Harbour. A good meal with wine but the extra glasses of Calvados blew the budget costing 25% of the total price of the meal.
Final leg sailing all the way south to Pornichet, had booked berth in advance I thought but no help on arrival. Eventually had to raft up on a hammerhead – not ideal place for a yacht handover where we leave before the incoming crew arrives. Cleaned and sorted out the boat before farewell dinner in port restaurant. The inside boat said they were leaving at 9am so we were able to slip in alongside the pontoon before leaving the boat.
Picked up on time by taxi for transfer to Nantes airport and on-time flight home.
Generally considered to have been an excellent trip both for places visited and sailing covering 160 nm. We had fine weather and favourable winds on all but two days – both of which involved intricate pilotage through narrow channels anyway - which was most enjoyable. This is a fascinating and varied sailing area.
Freyja moored in basin at Le Palais below the Vauban Citadel