Sunday, 4 August 2013

The French Channel Islands

After a short stop to the French coastal port of St Malo to drop off our crew member (...and to sit out a gale and stock up on food...), we headed back to the channel islands, but this time to the french version:  The Chausey Islands.
The walled city of St Malo

St Servan near the St Malo port.

Gale warning in effect...and grocery shopping.

We were a bit concerned about heading to Chausey since friends had warned us that navigating in the area was quite tricky.  It is riddled with rocks, 10m tides, and stiff currents, and the only clear mooring area, the Sound, is chock-a-block full in the summer.  The pilot guides also warned of strong chop with winds from the south east (exactly what was predicted for the next few days...).  But we were also told that it was extraordinarily beautiful, and with two days of sunny, hot weather predicted, our curiousity won out over our fears.  We arrived around noon on the day after a gale warning and had the place to ourselves !  We were rapidly joined by about 150 others, but there was space for everyone, rafted up 3-4 deep on fore-aft mooring buoys.  With so many large neighbors moored in front of us, we were protected from any chop that came up the sound.  And we weren't disappointed with the beauty, either.

The mooring in the Sound, Chausey.  (Fortunately, we had 3 meters of water even at low tide...otherwise, this wouldn't have been possible...)

The Sound, Chausey Islands.  (We're parked in the back of the pack.)

The Sound, Chausey Islands

The view from our mooring.

Big neighbors.

Our large neighbor found a spot to himself.

Hiking around the island.

Evening beaches.

Spray sandwich, rafted up with 2 neighbors on either side.

But life on Spray is not all fun and games.  We noticed a thick fringe of algae starting to grow on the bottom of the boat at the water line and spent a morning giving Spray a "shave".  In the Chausey Sound (before the 150 neighbors arrived) I dove under the boat with a scrub pad and toothbrush to clean the speedo, lock, and propellor (perfectly clean except for a piece of seaweed hanging on to the support.)  Along with lots of motoring in dead calm weather, we've also had our share of squalls.  Those are never fun but they don't last too long and the fresh water cleans the boat (and our sailing vests...). And we discovered a small mystery leak in the tender / annex that we'll have to inspect closer when we can.

Shaving off the algae whiskers.

Cleaning the bottom.

Manoeuvering during squalls.

Mystery leak in boat tender.
We've now rounded the Cap Frehel on the French coast and are slowly making our way to the tip of Brittany (Land's End).  Yesterday we "amused ourselves" (uh-hum) by short-tacking through the passage between Brehat Island and the coast... a very narrow channel with deceptively strong currents.  We are now nestled down in the river port of Lezardrieux and plan to head out to a mooring off Ile Tome or Perros-Gueric tomorrow.   After that, it's Roscoff, Aber Wrac'h, and rounding the point of Finnisterre.  The weather has been quite nasty for a rounding of the difficult Four Channel and Raz de Sein (3 meter swell and wind in the nose), but it looks like we'll have some good north west winds next week that should help push us along smoothly.  Finger's crossed !