En route to Les Sables D'Olonne

Dai Williams & Caroline Gibb

Sitting here in the monsoon rain (16 Sep) and cancelling our 0530 hrs departure for Pin Mill we thought we would start to record some of the highlights of our 1995 trip to South Biscay.

In summary we logged over 1300 Nautical miles and visited forty odd harbours marinas in forty-eight days.

It all began in the rain leaving Paglesham, loading up six trolley-loads at Wallasea in the rain, departing 13th June at 1300 hrs just after the rain (13 must be lucky). Tess was now six inches lower in the water due to two bikes, one generator, one barbecue and life's little luxuries such as tea bags, and ginger beer, dozens of charts, pilot books, golf umbrellas and twenty-five gallons of diesel completed the manifest. Note. French diesel is filthy and currently about 2.60 per gallon versus 1.05 to 1.10 in UK - essential to filter fuel going in your tank.

We took the ebb (HW Burnham 1321 hrs) down the Crouch, rounded the North side of East Barrow to Barrow No 7 then SW Sunk Beacon into Black Deep Nos 9 & 10, thence south of Long Sand to No 9 Edinburgh. Then N Edinburgh channel to Tongue Sand Tower, E Margate, west of Elbow and arrived Ramsgate entrance at 1905 hrs - 6 hours 5 minutes without rain. Tied up hurriedly on pontoon in South side (not the new pontoons now on NE side of harbour) departed for our favourite Thai restaurant near Royal Temple (Nok Chui). Excellent cuisine but do ask for MILD versions which they will provide for any of their dishes. The medium variety is a sure cure for frostbite.

Our next objective was Eastbourne which being sixty miles distant it is not possible to carry favourable tide and the total trip took 12 hours 35 minutes. This is a very pleasant marina (lock in 24 hrs) with good views of the north side of the Seven Sisters (we always count eight!). Very helpful and pleasant staff and the best toilets and showers you will find including (top priority!) sockets for ladies' hairdryers. There is an ASDA nearby, reasonable restaurants and cinema but Eastbourne is at least 2 miles away.

Next day (15 June) we had a very pleasant sail to Brighton in 3 hrs 30 mins. (Log reading from Wallasea 119.7 NM).

Spent the evening with lifelong friends who joined us from their home at Horsham. Next day exploiting our knowledge of the marina and Brighton we hopped on to the free marina land train to 
join Volk's Electric Railway which runs along the beach (past the one for Naturists) to Brighton Pier - we finished up where we started still in the marina after a circular tour "we don't go to Volk's until July" said the lady driver.

We always enjoy Brighton and this was no exception - the flamboyant Lanes, (but note oysters at Wheelers' 25 per dozen compared with 4.90 Orford and 2.50 at fishmongers at Crouesty near Gulf of Morbihan), our favourite Italian restaurant Donatello's in Brighton Place (5.50 for 3 courses) and second hand book-shop in Duke Street!

Sat 17th June - RAIN and WIND - try to watch Rugby World Cup but delayed by rain!

Sunday.- Eventful trip to Cowes via Looe channel, 8.5 hrs and cumulative log 167.2 NM.

Monday. - Lunch at Royal Corinthian (Island Sailing Club closed for food on Mondays) - lovely beat to Yarmouth after lunch - not for the first time in the Solent we seem to outfoot and outpoint most craft outpointing a 70 foot plus Victoria! Yarmouth 8.00 per night.

Tuesday 20th June. - Ashore by water taxi, 60p, to second hand book-shop and find Fiona Grafton's "Cooking Afloat" after 8 years search! With W wind forecast we head for Studland bay - 3.5 hrs on the nose motor sailing but worth it. On hook in bay and peace after the skiers go home.

Wednesday 21st June.
0840 Weigh anchor - no wind - motor sail 55 miles and 10 hours to Braye (Alderney). Water taxi 1 each way. Good meal at Harbour Lights pub.

Thursday. 22nd June - Wind NE 4-5, 3.5 hours sail to St Peter Port. Excellent meal at "Waterfront" restaurant next to Royal Channel Islands YC. Excellent facilities in marina - hair driers provided free.

Friday 23rd June.
0430 Leave St Peter Port. Interesting to find that friends in "Blue Moon" in a Maxi from Salcombe who sailed east of Roches Douvres made up time on us compared with our route west of Roches and we arrived together at Lezardrieux. Marina fee 98 fr, approx 12.90.

Saturday 24th.
0555 s tart heading for new marina at Trebeurden. 
1025 Chateau Costaeres at Ploumanach abeam. 
1100 Barometer fallen to 1024 mb. 
1230 On pontoon Trebeurden - 6.6' over sill at HW -3.5 hrs

If you are about to eat do not read on - we had an excellent Frits de Mer except I had a big live pink slug exploring my dish! obtained 40 fr discount.

Sunday. Crossed Lannion Bay and Roscoff and Ile de Batz came abeam at 0910 hrs 
1330 Off L'Abervrac'h 
1415 On mooring (white for visitors) at La Palue - free taxi ashore on the hour. 
1800 In Yacht Club - screaming kids and pompous Brits - very disappointing.

Monday 26th
0605 Leave L'Abervrac'h heading for Chenal du Four. Wind NE but only force 2-3 and only slight swell. 
0755 Le Four tower on port beam. 
0900 Barometer down further to 1022 mb. 
0955 Abeam Pointe de St Mathieu at southern end of Chenal du Four and decided to head for Douarnenez bay. 
1030 La Parquette abeam - spiral black and white stripes 
1225 Around Cape Herre 
1315 In marina at Morgat - logged 435 miles since Burnham. This turned out to be one of our favourite harbours - a beautiful beach - good shelter, 24 hrs access, picturesque caves, excellent restaurant at reasonable prices. (La Grange de Toule Boss with garden). Dinner in evening 74 fr and 13 fr wine.

Met and made good friends with skipper Jim Lewis, Mike, George and Dennis from Royal Falmouth YC. They lent us a chart - could not get the one we wanted in either Morgat or Crozon after a 3 mile hilly cycle push and ride. The French only buy one chart every 20 years - they say the rocks don't move!

Wednesday 28th June
1000 Commence preparations for passage through the notorious Raz de Sein.
1135 Clear Morgat - weather light with easterly wind.
1245 La Vieille on starboard beam
1515 La Platte on port beam
1715 Audierne - on mooring in 25'. Lovely evening - little or no swell

0845 Slip mooring
1120 Around Pen March headland
1341 Karek-Greiz (ugh) buoy.
1545 On mooring Benodet after trip up beautiful river Odet - logged 500 miles. Good meal on front (La Voile d'oro).

Friday 30th June
Ashore for shopping and lunch.
1405 Slip mooring.
1725 Tied up in La Foret - 25 years after first visit. Excellent creperie and Cidre Le Foret Fourneant.

0615 Le Foret
0730 Le Dragon port beam.
1140 A4 Port hand mark Lorient channel.
1245 Lorient - Kerneval marina.
1330 Cycle to restaurant (down channel) - super views across channel to the south and super cafe for Crepe St Jacques and Crepe Chocolat and lemon with Cidre Feroniere (135 fr). Join in wedding reception - great music in the open air.

Sunday 2nd July
0640 Leave Lorient
0700 Heavy overhead thunder, rain and fog - vis 100 yds. Decca and GPS tell "porkies" - cannot locate next waypoint so go on reciprocal bearing and locate starboard hand mark in edge of channel.
0735 GPS recovers and we get quick visual on identified rocks and proceed seawards. I still believe the very heavy electrical disturbance affected GPS at the height of the storm.
1015 Quiberon town on beam.
1125 La Teinnouse - clearing many narrow channels.
1330 La Trinite after 2 hours pleasant sail - nearly rammed 3 times by French boats and once by a Brit during harbour entry. Town too crowded and noisy and oysters in market much too expensive.

Leave La Trinite and reach Port de Crouesty near entrance to Gulf Morbihan in 1 hr 50 mins. Best meal yet in La Marina restaurant, 6 oysters, grilled Tuna with Ratatouille and tomato mousse, grilled sardines, jacket potatoes, chocolate mousse. raspberry mousse. coffees and pichet of house Rose - 98 fr.

Tuesday 4th July
0845 Leave Crouesty for Pornichet.
1425 Tied up in Pornichet. Many shops in marina, mostly shut. Ghastly French toilets.

0830 Leave Pornichet for Ile de Yeu.
1430 Tied up in marina Port Joinville 146 fr!!! - the harbour is considerably cheaper but usually crowded. Nearly all the cars we saw were mini size or smaller - very basic and of unknown manufacture.

Thursday 6th July
0915 Leave for Les Sables D'Olonne.
1730 Tied up at Les Sables after spinnaker run and total log now 675 nautical miles.

To be continued!.