Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Postcard from Land's End

With temps in the 80s (27 C), winds Beaufort 3-4, and "insignificant swell" we decided to really head north this time, around the French Land's End point (Finisterre) up to the Channel Islands, and possibly to Cornwall and the Scilly Islands if time and weather permit.  We are sailing with another boat (Moody 38) and taking advantage of having an experienced skipper lead us up and around some of the most complicated sailing areas of Europe.

This is also a good thing in that it's pushing us to do longer passages than we normally do if left to our own devices.  Our first day was 60 nautical miles from the Morbihan Gulf to Concarneau, where we met up with our friends.  We managed this in just under 10 hours, averaging more than 6 knots, thanks to our poled-out Genoa.

Poled-out Genoa... worked like a charm !

After a day of repairing (or rather, replacing) the wind speed indicator and recuperating with some beach time and a big ice cream, our 2nd leg of the cruise was 65 miles from Concarneau to Camaret around the Raz de Sein.  The guide book calls this 12 mile passage through a plateau of rocks "delicate", with violent currents of up to 6 knots that can kick up dangerous swells in wind-over-current conditions.  Fortunately we had quite calm conditions and it went smoothly.  We kept with tradition and drank a small shot of rum as we lined up the two light houses, the Vielle and La Plate.

The "rum" line: lining up the Vielle and the Plate lighthouses to enter into the Iroise sea.

Patrick, however, refused to participate in protest of the fact that we had to use a bit of motor to round the point (directly into the wind, of course) and to keep up with our friends who have the advantage of a 50 hp motor to push their 12.5 tonnes of boat.

Today we are nestled in the little Breton fjord of Aber Wrac'h, a beautiful estuarty with free internet.  I even managed a skype home to Florida.

New wind speed indicator from the top of the mast overlooking Concarneau.

Spray as seen from the top of the mast at 13.4 meters.
Lessons learned:  1)  for longer destination-type voyages, it's important to leave earlier than you think you need to.  To make it through some of these "delicate" passages, you have to arrive at the right time.  You can always slow down but you can't always speed up.  (Especially if you have a whimpy little 18 hp motor with a folding 2 blade propellor pushing a 34 foot boat.)  2) Sometimes going against a weak current is preferable to wind-over-current conditions.  It takes some experience to know how much wind-over-current is acceptable in certain passages.  We are very thankful to be following experienced friends !

Following a more experienced skipper:  highly recommended for the first time around northern Brittany !
Some scenes from the road:

Rugged coastline of northern Brittany.

Arriving at Camaret.

Bastille Day fireworks over the port.

Four channel lighthouse.