Sunday, 24 June 2018

Ile de Re

The sky was blue, the sun shining, and the sail, a fast beam reach in the 18, gusting 23kt breeze. Avocette was in her element . At 8 ½ kts, the miles wizzed by. It was the best sail of the trip! A Dutch sail training ship waved a cheerful hello as our paths crossed in the shallow channel of Pertius Breton to the north of Ile de Re.

The picturesque St Martin-Le-Re's harbour dries, but there is also the Bassin a Flot which was almost empty when we arrived and rafted alongside a friendly French couple. The lock gates were shut soon after, only to reopen the next day – the Harbour master only works daylight high tide +/- 3hrs. The next day being a Saturday, it was reminiscent of Cowes just before the Round the Island Race. Boats poured in the moment the lock-gates were opened. Chaos was expertly managed by the Harbour Master. The harbour filled. Rafts of five and six boats filled the Bassin. It made Yarmouth on a sunny bank holiday look peaceful!

Ile de Re is very flat. There are probably more bicycles than people, and the beaches are beautiful. Cafes, bars, and restaurants line the quay’s. The smell of Huitre’s (oysters) and all manner of shellfish wafts over the boat – perhaps a glass of Muscadet id called for……

Thursday, 21 June 2018

21 Again!

Gail awakes to find flowers on the saloon table, and a basket of croissant, Danish pastries and pan-a-chocolat – well done John!

Lunch at a Michelin restaurant with our neighbours from Ocean Gem, the boat alongside, as it’s Eileen’s birthday too! To round off the day, as if that’s not enough, John cooks-up a spider crab with fresh oysters for supper! What a day!!

Finally we leave Les Sables, and have a cracking beam reach sail the thirty miles to Ile de Re, a beautiful island just outside La Rochelle.

The Golden Globe Celebrations Start

We sail the rhum-line for La Rochelle, but encouraged by a txt conversation with Robin Knox-Johnson, we change our minds, to join him as he sails into Les Sables D’Olonne for the festivities building up to the start of the Golden Globe Race; a race he originally won fifty years ago.

Frustratingly, the light winds delay our arrival, and after sailing 290 miles across Biscay we miss the parade by two hours, but then that’s sailing for you. That afternoon the festivities start. All the skippers are introduced, their boats are on show.

A pot-luck supper with the Cruising Association sees twenty of us enjoying an evening in the marina gardens.

Friday, 15 June 2018

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on Us!

Whilst John got lost in Luarca, Gail and I tramped the headland around the entrance to Ria de Ribadeo.
Blue skies and warm shine made a wonderful change to the damp and windless days of the last fortnight.

The rugged coastline hides beautiful coves and bays, and all the colours of the ocean floor can be seen through the crystal clear water. On the clifftops, the wildflower meadows are filled with butterflies, swallows swoop low, and swifts wheel and screech overhead. We have enjoyed the northern Rias, but we want to move on.

The winds remain very light, Biscay beckons, and we slip our lines for La Rochelle – in the rain!

Monday, 11 June 2018

After a 350 Mile Beat!

We ticked-off the lighthouses of the north coast of Spain as we worked our way to La Coruna with its big harbour and sheltered marinas tucked away in one of the northern Rias. Securely tied-up in the Marina Real, it was only a short walk into the centre of town. The grand Town Hall dominates the square, from which narrow side-streets, each with a different character, spread like a spiders web, around the harbour and into the town.

Our favourite was full of tapas bars. Dry-cured hams hung from the ceilings. Vivarium’s full of lobsters, crabc, and octopus filled the windows. The buzz of people enjoying a coffee, or cerveza, filled the air.

It started raining 50 miles out from La Coruna. It rained every day. Not heavy, just constantly!!!

We scanned the forecasts. There was no wind to clear the clouds away. There was no wind to sail. Worse, no wind in the Atlantic either. There were three Ocean Cruising Club boats all waiting for the weather to change, for winds to blow us across to the Azores a thousand miles away. We waited.

Time was running out.

We needed to get to Horta by the 18th June for the start of the Centenary Celebrations of Peter’s CafĂ© Sport, and the 70th Anniversary of the OCC. Each day we studied the synoptics and grib files. There was some wind forecast, but it was light, and full of holes, and I didn’t carry sufficient fuel to motor the distances across the windless holes. To make the Azores before the parties ended was looking more, and more, unlikely. Reluctantly, we too pulled out, only Esprit sailed – we wished them fair winds, and headed north-east.

We left the rain in La Coruna, the Ria Ares, just ten miles away was bathed in sunshine - for a short while! It’s regatta in full swing, the competition fierce and friendly.

There has been so much rain that waterfalls cascaded down the massive coastal cliffs into the sea. The great headlands of Cabo Prior, Cabo Ortegal, and Cabo Estaca de Bares, slipped by, as we motored (again) in the light headwinds.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

A 350 mile beat!

A last minute run ashore so Gail could buy herself some wellies – it’s raining, and we slipped the pontoon, and out of the river. Sails up, a broad reach sent us romping, away from the leaden skies, towards Camaret, and France.

A cracking sail. Darkness fell, and the miles slipped by. Plenty of shipping kept the watch alert. Finally the lights of Brittany’s rocky shore loomed into view, and the first light of dawn, the wind dropped, engine on, and the fog descended as the tide lifted us, and sped us, into the Channel du Four. Thankfully it lifted to a heavy mist, as we slipped past the mighty navigation marks to the Rade de Brest, and into Camaret.

Camaret is a delight – when the sun shines – it didn’t! Worse, we needed as much diesel as we could carry for the Biscay crossing, and there was none, we had to sail to Brest for that, but left the next day for Spain.

The Raz de Sien was quiet, and we motor-sailed through, the mighty La Vielle Phare {Lighthouse) close to port, and Ar Men Phare way off to the West, and on, searching for wind. Predictwind had suggested the best route was to head SWfor 75 miles, then SE, until we picked-up favourable westerlies. We headed SW into headwinds. We headed SE, into headwinds. Every way we turned, light headwinds kicked-up a sloppy chop on-top of the gentle rolling Atlantic swell. It was tough going, and we had no option but to motor-sail.
A 350 mile beat is a long arduous battle! Watches rolled by, day’s rolled into night’s. Finally, on the fourth day we sighted the cliffs of Galicia, and slipped into A Coruna, in the rain and fog – with no wind!

Four days later there is still plenty of rain, poor visibility, fog, but no wind to speak of.

To get us off the boat we spent yesterday in Santigo di Compostela. The Spanish trains are clean and punctual. Your ticket buys a numbered seat. The half-hour run was comfortable, and for the most part, the rain spared us.

The old town surrounding the Cathedral is a twisted maze of narrow streets of great granite buildings echoing a distant past. The ‘Catedral’ was big, quite grand, and full of backpackers. On their rucksacks, they each proudly displayed the scallop shell - the sign that they had just walked the Comino Way, a pilgrimage of almost 100 miles.

Avocette Sails West

We slipped out of the Camber, and headed West. The sun was shining; it’s warmth a hope of things to come. Sitting on the tide we slipped past Cowes joining the last start of the RORC Myth of Mallam Race to the Eddistone Light, and stayed with the tail-enders through the Needles, across Poole Bay and along the Jurassic Coast – so beautiful – until we bore away to anchor in Portland Harbour for the night.

Anchor down, supper on the stove, the clouds rolled in. All night the lightning flashed, the showers rolled through. Finally the day dawned, dry, with the clouds departing, and the sun came out. We rounded The Bill, almost able to touch the rocks, and out across Lyme bay.

The sail to Dartmouth was a delight – well almost. A few miles from Berry Head, the fog rolled in. Radar on, AIS in support, it was not until an hundred metres from the entrance did we see the cliffs. Shag Rock, the Mewstone – we never saw them!!!
Paddle steamers and steam trains, their whistles echoing up and down the river, memories of a forgotten past. Pastel-coloured houses climbing the hill. Good beer, good, food, and very friendly natives, make Dartmouth very special, but leave we must.

To France, to Spain, and to the Azores. Adventure awaits.