Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Back to Basics

Less than 6 hours after leaving our mooring buoy in the Auray river, we were back to basic sailing:  no GPS, no computer with navigation software, and no toilet. 

The GPS has been having difficulties for a few weeks.  I suspect a bad connection that seems to be curiously affected by the cold and/or humidity.  We managed to get it operational after opening the back panel and blindly jiggling some wires, but it still takes about 20 minutes for it to warm up (?) and get a satellite fix. The computer we took out this week was a back-up computer that, we discovered, didn’t have an appropriate driver for the small mobile GPS.  And the toilet had been showing some early signs of a leaking seal in the hand pump and finally decided the time was right to break down completely.  Fortunately, we could still evacuate the toilet, so we just had to keep a bucket of seawater handy for flushing.

But the good news about getting back to basics is remembering how to navigate without gadgets.  In an area we knew fairly well, with reasonable visibility, and with good charts, a compass, and plotting tools, I had great fun navigating the old-fashioned way.  After a day in port with an internet connection, we managed to download the driver for the computer GPS, but I found that I actually preferred to use the main GPS and charts instead.

The rest of the week was full of lessons and adventures as follows:

We pulled into the lock basin at the port of Le Palais on Belle Ile (a first for us) and were promptly greeted by Gerard, our sailing friend from Vannes introduced in last week’s blog, who was out for a few days with another Vannes sailor, Gilles, a retired French Army colonel. 

Spray double-parked in the lock basin of Le Palais, Belle Ile en Mer.

We spent a lovely evening on board Gerard’s motor cruiser, dining on “French individual reheatable combat rations” provided by Colonel Gilles.  Gilles said our boat was a jewel and he appreciates good Kentucky Bourbon - I liked him immediately.

We rented bikes and toured Belle Ile with Gerard and Gilles, including Port Goulphar with its light house, Port Coton with its famous Needle Rocks immortalized by numerous impressionist painters, and Port Donnant with its large sand beach.

Goulphar Lighthouse, Belle Ile.

Gerard points out the good mooring spots to Patrick at Goulphar.

The Needle Rocks, Port Coton, Belle Ile en Mer.

Patrick: "I want to moor Spray HERE."

The beach at Port Donnant.

Turquoise water amongst the rocks on Donnat Beach.

We got a useful lesson in boat heating and humidity control (not to mention comfort) from Gerard and as a consequence we will soon be purchasing both a small electric fan heater and an electric oil-bath radiator for use in ports during the winter.  

We left the port at Le Palais to head to the island of Groix but light winds inspired us to spend another night on Belle Ile at the port of Sauzon in hopes of better winds the following day.

Our wish was granted to excess:  we left Sauzon for Groix with lovely force 4 (15 knot winds), growing to a bracing force 5 on a close reach (i.e, 20 knots in the nose), strengthening to 6 with gusts to 8 (37 knots) and 3 meter seas underneath the 3 successive squalls that hit us.  A crossing to remember.

Double rainbow after passage of one of the squalls.  Small compensation...

We learned that we need to close the cabin and head doors when faced with 3 meter swells.  The hinges suffered badly.

We rented bikes and visited the island of Groix and its wild south coast.

South coast of Groix.

We learned that we need to revise our estimates of boat speed for a given wind speed.  Spray is much faster than we’re used to and we can get 6-7 knots out of 10-12 knots of wind (especially if we calculate the currents just right…).

Our only companion on the water that day:  a Sinagot, the traditional fishing vessel of the Gulf.