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North Brittany
-- June 5th to 16th, 2011 --
From Guernsey to Sainte-Marine in the Odet river, 2 weeks from rock to rock pushed by the flow.
More pictures can be found on the page “Pictures”.

From Guernsey to Sainte-Marine in the Odet river, 290 miles.
Our stops, click on the names for more details:
Sark (on a buoy)Paimpol (marina) Trieux river(on a buoy)Port Blanc (on a buoy)Tregastel (on a buoy) Trebeurden(marina and buoy)Aber Wrac'h (on a buoy) - Aber Ildut (on a buoy) - Sainte Marine (marina)
5th June 2011 : Guernsey – Sark (7 miles)
After a full day in Guernsey dedicated to sleeping and updating the website, we set off to Sark, the small island nearby. The wind is quite strong but the visibility poor and we’re not sure to actually see the little path between the rocks, before the cliff… But the clouds open at the last minute, unveiling a perfect mooring zone in the “Havre Gosselin”, where buoys are very well protected by a very big (and very close!) cliff.
Saltimbanque with his Tibetan flags by the cliff.
It was a short trip – 1h 30. We immediately transform into hikers and climb ashore to discover the island (under the rain, mainly). Yet the views are breathtaking! The island is quite well preserved and the economy based mainly on tourism and a few farms. No car, only tractors in the fields as well as converted into taxis for tourists.

Yes sure there’s a special climate here !

The rocky coast of Sark.
We are taken by the variety of flowers, birds and beautiful landscapes – always with a view on the sea. We must apologize to our Dutch friends here, jullie weten het hoeveel ik (Laure) van Nederland hou… toch is de kust hier onvergelijkbaar mooier!

Shortly before 5 pm we feel “tea time” coming and look for a café. They all seem to be closed on a Sunday afternoon. In the end we step with our muddy shoes into the bar of a 4-star hotel and enjoy a “cream tea” (tea and scones) served in delicate porcelain.

Mooring in the Havre Gosselin, well sheltered fromNortherly and Easterly winds
6th June 2011 : Sark – Paimpol (57 miles)
Leaving Sark early in the morning to make the most of the winds excepted to decrease. A good couple of hours on automatic pilot, Camille napping and Laure reading. Then the wind dies out and we send up our biggest sail, the big spi! Its 75m2 take us at 5 knots on the surface in a true wind of 7-8 knots – not bad isn’t?
Taking a good picture of a spi is impossible – not enough distance to see it all in one frame.
We play 4 good hours with the giant colorful balloon. Unfortunately it works only with wind coming from behind, and at some point we have to take it down and set our course closer to the wind if we don’t want to land in Normandy.

Barges used for the oysters culture in Paimpol.
So we reach Paimpol’s bay around 7 pm and drop the anchor to wait for the tide to come in and the water to be high enough for us to get to the harbor. For the first time since the start, we have had a quiet trip, with no big wave and no sudden heavy rain, it feels great! While the night is falling we make the last miles on the channel and enter the harbor with the last rays of light coloring everything in red. Splendid!
To get in the harbor, there is a lock. Lock maneuvers used to be a stressing time for Camille, but now we are not impressed any longer: in two years in the Holland we developed a routine. Camille steers and gets closer to the wall, while Laure passes a long rope tied at the back of the boat around a ring, a ladder, a rope of anything that looks like somewhere you can tie a rope to. Then Laure gives the end of that rope to Camille and calmly but quickly walks to the front, grabs a second rope and pass it around the next ring. At that point we stop the boat pulling on both ropes at the same time. Easy isn’t? Life is a matter of coordination...
7th June 2011 : Paimpol (0 miles)
A day in the harbor. Paimpol is close to my heart (Camille). I have been sailing in the area for more than 10 years, mainly as sailing instructor, of course I love the place! Not only I have friends here in the Glenans association, but I also love the landscapes, the typical rocks and other features of this unique place... Since we arrived yesterday and saw the first rocks I greet them all with an enthusiasm that leaves Laure perplex. How can you actually feel such a link to a landscape? Well, just come around and see, maybe you understand...
10 meters tide, navigation in Paimpol must be accurate. Amusing detail, in Paimpol's channel Saltimbanque floats at the height of our 2nd floor in Rotterdam...
We stay one day in Paimpol. This is actually legally the “home port” of Saltimbanque (as we have a Belgian flag we could choose the home port). Day dedicated to laundry, groceries, diner at the “creperie”. We’re just back in France after two hours sailing abroad, that’s worth a toast!

Saltimbanque in its home port !

The Channel into Paimpol at low tide : you see why you have to wait another couple of hours...
8th – 9th June 2011 : Paimpol – Trégastel (60 miles)
Sailing in North Brittany you have to take the tidal currents into account. Indeed, 10 meters of water come and go every 6 hours, that’s a lot of cubic meters! So we play with the current during two days...
We leave Paimpol of the 8th in the afternoon with a good westerly wind (5-6, gusts at 30 knots). Once out of the bay we start in the passage called “Ferlas”, small straight between the continent and the isle of Brehat. It’s not wide (1 mile), the current is strong, and of course the wind in our face, forcing us to tack between one rock and the next. Luckily Camille knows every single rock by heart and we make it safe and sound to the other end. There we get a little bit upstream into the Trieux river and pick up a buoy to wait for the wind to calm down a bit.
Ok, so we tack between the yellow tower and the rocks, right ?

Trieux river
Midnight, next tide and better wind, we get out of our hiding place and set our course full West. Nice night shift, if you except the two showers soaking us through in the morning. Well, it rinses the sails and rain packs. So long as the current is with us we sail, and as the tide changes we hop into our next hiding place between the rocks, Port-Blanc. We pick up a buoy and sleep for 6 hours, until the next tide… that’s a good optimization isn’t?
6 hours later it is 1 pm, perfect time for a quick breakfast before setting sails again in a nice 3 beaufort wind. We pass by the “7 islands”, such a beautiful group of rocks where birds nest and live. Camille can’t get enough of her pink rocks. At the end of the day, we reach Tregastel. Two freshly fished mackerels make our diner and we enjoy the visit of an old wooden boat entering all sails out in the pass. Just a perfect evening!

The « Saint Chirec’h » entering into Trégastel

« I count to 3 and I throw the head of the mackerel, watch out...1...2... »
10th – 12th June 2011 : Trégastel – Trébeurden (11 miles)
Early morning trip under a heavy sky. That’s a race against the storm: will we get to the harbor before the rain gets us? In the end we do and are almost dry when we reach Trebeurden!
This is a typical nasty looking cloud. When you see this, you bring some sail down before the gusts coming with the rain take you down.
At the visitors’ pontoon Saltimbanque seems to be the only non-British boat! If the French have taken Guernsey, the English got their revenge in Trebeurden! There we are struck by a moment of truth: the English look so terribly English - as much as us French look French (and the Dutch look Dutch just as much)… this might be somehow simplistic, but in the end you know in which language you can address your neighbor and discuss the weather forecast!

Saltimbanque used to stay in this harbor when we were living in Paris. This is a well-known place and we enjoy seeing again well-known faces and landscapes – and above all picking up some winkles and delicious clams from our well-known beach!

When it rains...

Ile Grande... Brittany is just beautiful

The basin afloat in Trebeurden

13th June 2011 : Trébeurden – l’Aber Wrac’h (61 miles)
Not too much of an interesting day: wind, waves, rain straight into our faces… the weather forecast had promised: “the wind shall veer to the North in the afternoon”. They had omitted the exact time. 16h32 precisely, the wind turns from 40°, allowing us a direct route to the Aber Wrac’h. We enter the Aber as the sun is going down, shedding a warm glowing light on the rocks, the sea and the sky blended into one shade of light grey. In this splendid area we will not stay more than six hours nonetheless, just the time to pick up a buoy and get a short night sleep, as usual...

14th June 2011 : Aber Wrac’h – Aber Ildut (20 miles)
It’s a day without wind, a day for Nestor (our faithful engine remember?). We want to reach at the western end of Brittany the river Aber Ildut. To that end we need to negotiate a bit with the current: “So if you take off at 5h30 in the morning then I will be with you all along. The first 10 miles are on me, they’re for free!”. Ok, this is a decent proposition, worth setting the alarm clock a bit early on that day. Nestor needs to power us on 10 miles only.

We pass by the rocks of Porsal and the Four lighthouse and reach the Aber Ildut at low tide. It takes some imagination to see the small harbour hidden behind this rocky coast. But there is one… the entry is not wide though, but quite well indicated by a green, then a red, and finally a couple of green / red poles. The real danger is an annoying rock at 0,6 m above the 0 of the charts just aligned with the main channel. After the first couple green / red, you need to stay a bit more on the Southern side, deviate from the simplest linear course, keeping the lighthouse aligned with the second red pole just at the entrance – that is to say, if you manage to spot it on the rocky background...

The lighthouse at the entry.

Aber-Ildut river
Once beyond the rocks guarding the entrance we discover a splendid little river, quite similar to some Irish landscapes I would say. Green and yellow pastures overlooking blue water boarded with small villas hidden under green trees and flowered gardens. You moor on lines, one buoy at the head and one at the back. Visitors take the line G. We immediately fall for this charming location, and even more for the nice hosts. The harbormaster is helpful, the lady from the shipchandler gives us her wifi key and compares the weather charts with Camille while Laure is updating the website. We can only recommend the “Gulf Stream” creperie, run by a smiling lady cooking, serving and chatting along with usual clients at the same time.

Iroise landscape...

This boat fishes algaes actually !
Quoting our sailing guide the Pilote Cotier: “that would only be a shame to miss on such a stop only to want and pass the channel of the Four in one run.”
15th -16th June 2011 : Aber Ildut – Sainte Marine (74 miles)
We want to try and pass both the Four and the Raz de Sein on one tide. Those two places are the two western points of Brittany and tidal currents are very strong. Better be at the right time and go with the flow. But that’s not so easy, as you also want to avoid the strongest of the current, which when confronted with a Southerly wind can raise a rough choppy sea. (and guess where the wind is blowing from at the moment...)
So here are the elements of the problem we need to solve: let us consider a first tap, called “Four”, starting to run at 17h30 with a stream varying from 1 to 5 knots. Let us consider a second tab located 20 miles further, called “Raz de Sein”, which stops running at 22h30. Finally let us consider a boat sailing 4,5 knots on average. Calculate the time at which the boat needs to leave the Aber Ildut? (And what is the age of the captain?). Luckily for us we were allowed some documents for that exam. After two hours scratching our heads in front of the charts, the tide calendar and the nautical guide we found the answer: 15h. Or 2h30 before high tide in Brest.
Saint-Matthieu point, where tide curents can reach 6 knots.

Tévennec island at the entry of the Raz de Sein passage.
Here we go, we pass the first barrier (Four) just at high tide as expected. Glued to the helm we don’t let go of anything, tacking as close as possible of the wind in some growing waves coming from the West. Finally we get to the second barrier a short hour before the end of the window. Keeping rather on the outside as the current changes earlier at the coast, we get on the last drops of favorable current to the other side, South of the 48e parallel, where we can hope not to be sucked again into the passage by the current now in the other direction. We did it! Four and Raz de Sein on one tide, that’s possible! And as a topping of the cake we celebrate 1000 miles sailed since we left :o)
Then comes the night shift. Rather pleasant at the beginning under a bright moon. The wind increases, so do the waves. As we reach the Penmarch point there are fishermen boats everywhere and an overfalling swell forcing Laure to stick to the helm. Camille in the meanwhile is juggling inside between the few indications on our sailing guides and large scale charts scanned on the computer – as we don’t have a detailed map of the area… We meet our first “flying fish” on the way: it’s a suicidal mackerel that simply jumped on the deck to land at Laure’s feet. Nice intention to offer itself as our breakfast, but it is 3 in the morning and we are fighting waves and charts, so not really hungry. The fish shall live.

In the end we reach the Odet river as the sun goes up – and we start this nice new day by going to sleep!

Just arrived in the Odet river, welcome in South Brittany !
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Your messages:

Sylvia - 29/06/2011 16:59:16
Hoi girls, lang niets gehoord van jullie. Nog aan het zeilen in Brittany en al aan het voorbereiden van het feest? Hier alles prima - vandaag laatste badminton avond/toernooi. En misschien vrijdag weer zeilen - iets minder avontuurlijk dan bij jullie, maar goed - jullie kennen mijn eigen zeilkunsten... ;-)

Remco - 29/06/2011 15:49:31
Ik zie dat jullie meer klaar kunnen maken dan crepes, die schelpjes lusten wij ook hoor....

Nog bedankt voor jullie lieve kaartje

Louchats - 22/06/2011 23:57:52
bluffant! phtos et récit...

Gab - 19/06/2011 22:35:58
J'avoue, je n'étais pas encore venu sur le blog, c'est impressionnant!!!
Bonne route et bonne mer!

la mamou - 19/06/2011 09:05:29
Ha ! Ces rochers ! Ces balises ! Toute ma jeunesse y reste accrochée ...
Départ de l'Aber Ildut à la voile ...
Magique !
"au petit jour , on quittait l'Irlande , et derrière nous , s'éclairait la lande ..... "
Trois quatre requins dans les cailloux de la passe pour souhaiter bonne route ...
Ils y sont toujours ???

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