Cruising Logs: 2005: A Cruise to and from La Rochelle.
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Sunset off Finisterre

How  often  does it happen that at the beginning of a cruise  one has  the luxury of fair winds and warm weather forecast for the foreseeable future. Yup , it WAS too good to be true because whilst a lovely hot NE wind was beckoning us to sea,  Festina was firmly ashore with us beavering away at the ding in the keel  received courtesy of the St Malo rock.  By the time we were back in the water the wind had slackened, but there was just enough to take us across the Channel to the shipping lanes under a shy kite.  The forecast was for slightly stronger winds down the French coast – so we motored south with the west going tide before being able to spinnaker through the night again en route for the Chenal du Four.

  This was about as gentle and pleasant a 2 handed passage as it is possible to have, dribbling along in light airs during the day but making better speed at night, superb sunsets, companionable meals, undisturbed sleeps and gentle watches.   The wind finally came ahead some 30 miles from La Rochelle and we arrived there 3 and a half days after setting out, totally relaxed and somewhat unprepared for mooring smack in the middle of a vast city wide rock concert!

  It was an exhilarating place to be.  The streets heaved with people intent on partying until the early hours, every street corner had a new band or some sort of entertainer, and the cafes and pubs never seemed to close.  Lynda flew in for our second night there, but by the next day we were craving a bit of peace and quiet so slipped out for a brief sail to St Martin on the I’le de Re. This is as nice little harbour as we are ever likely to find, full of nice restaurants, and gateway to a flat and sandy cyclist’s paradise which we explored the next day.    

This was not going to be a lazy holiday. If we were to get home in time to do the Fastnet we would need to keep moving, so after a mornings cycling we were back under way again, to windward, en route to Yeu.  The wind was now NW, and quite fresh so it took us a full 10 hours, beating all the way, past les Sable d’Olonne and into a very crowded port Joinville where we tumbled gratefully into our bunks.     Yeu was another cyclists paradise, , much hillier then Re , and with a fabulous rocky Western coast complete with secret harbour and grim 12 th century castle.  


A Grim 12th Century Castle
The afternoon was memorable because of tea taken with Roger and Francoise Lehmann in their lovely cottage hidden down the tiny foot lanes of one of the villages, and a trip to quite simply the best poisonierie in the world back in Joinville - a prodigious cornucopia of fishy food.

But there was no rest that night.  We slipped out at dusk and beat our way north into a freshening breeze, arriving at the well remembered anchorage of Treach ar Goured on the eastern side of Houat in time for breakfast.  


Although it was sunny, it was cold in the fresh wind so  we deployed the igloo and snoozed our way though the day,  enjoying the beauty and shelter of what must be one of the best anchorages in Europe .   The meteo predicted a brief spell of windless sunny weather and we decided that Houat was the perfect place to enjoy it, so the following day was spent  sunbathing , swimming and exploring the island .  

Sadly , such sybaritic behaviour was short lived ; our time limit was looming , the wind had returned  and next morning saw as on the wind again and beating out of Quiberon Bay , past  Groix and anchoring to the East of Penfret, the eastern most of the Iles de Glenans.  Next day brought Spring tides and rain , neither of which showed up  the Glenans to their best advantage, so we decided to press on. Despite an initially light ,wet S wind, this was one of the most  prodigious days sailing I can remember – taking the tide 120 miles all  the way to the anchorage off Roscoff at  an astonishing average of  8 knots over the ground. Sheets were cracked until just short of the island, the wind was offshore so the seas were flat, and so what if it was raining from time to time – it was simply a marvellous passage that in a stroke brought us to within 150 miles of home and meant there was no longer any rush.   And that was just as well because the next morning was wet and wild ,so we stayed snug in the igloo until the arrival of a cold front in the afternoon which blew us at high speed and  under much reduced sail to Treguier, averaging over 9 knots.

The conditions couldn’t have been more different 24 hours later as we slowly threaded the rocky Passe de la Gaine past les Heaux to Brehat . I became the butt of much teasing on this passage  as I hoisted the kite without tying the spi bag on – thus proving to all and sundry that I shouldn’t venture onto the foredeck.  
The tides were still enormous, which posed a bit of a problem when it came to picking an anchorage for the night. After much huffing and puffing we anchored in the Rade de Pomelin which at high water seemed to be an open roadstead, but at low water was the merest puddle surrounded by a moonscape of rocks.  
The next morning the weather was still unsettled and  not conducive to going ashore, so we had another fast passage to St Peter Port , reaching in torrential with all crew firmly below for 90% of the trip! The rain lasted well into the next day when we pottered over to Sark , dried the boat out in the evening sunshine and explored the anchorages and footpaths  to the north of  the Gouliot passage. Despite the continued grim forecast our passage home was fast and dry – 12 hours from Sark to Hurst and spi up all the way.  

  This was a good humoured and enjoyable trip in which we discovered that with Festina, we can cover a good daily mileage even when the weather is not necessarily favourable   -just what we had hoped!


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