Saturday, 27 June 2015

Brittany's Pink Granite Coast

Allow me to begin this post with a lament: I’ve been forced to accept that I don’t have the patience or skills to be a photo-journalist, and even in the informal realm of the personal blog, I am woefully inadequate for the task of describing the beauty of the “Granite Rose” coastline of Brittany.  At times, it’s so frustrating that I think I shouldn’t even try, damning the place with faint praise, etc.

Testing the (cold) waters in Ploumanac'h.
We’re currently anchored off the south coast of Brehat Island, one of the jewels of this coastline.  One could walk along its narrow lanes taking photos of one breathtaking scene after another: charming cottages and gardens in full bloom, old stone manors perched on cliffs overlooking the sea, quaint churchyards, old stone walls that wind like scaly serpents through farmland dotted with grazing cattle the same color as the reddish-pink granite along the coast.

West coast of Brehat Island
One of many manors of Brehat.
Dinghy with motor baptism at Brehat.
A local farmer's stand using the honor system:  take what you want, leave your money in the drop-box.
Mooring off Guerzido beach, Brehat.
Rose Granite at the northern tip of Brehat.
The Paon lighthouse, northern Brehat.

One could.  But one doesn’t.  At least this one doesn’t.  After 15 minutes, I realized that the camera was constantly between me and reality, which I found that a bit pathetic, and I had to force myself to put away the camera (okay, it obviously popped out again from time to time, but I can assure you, the above photos are only a measly overview).  How can I enjoy the splendour of the place and at the same time transmit it to friends and family back home?  I can’t, at least not with the time or energy I have at present to contribute to the task.

And with that as an introduction, here are a few photos of our last week of travels, from Trebeurden, Ploughmanac’h, Port Blanc, and Brehat Island.  On the night we arrived in Ploughmanac’h (Ploo-man-ac) we were treated to a fireworks display.  The next morning we learned that Ploughmanac’h had been voted “most beautiful village of France 2015.”  In keeping with my lament theme, I have no pictures of the village since we never actually made it that far.  The port areas were cute and touristy, but the reason Plougmanac’h is so spectacular is the coastline, and I have quite a few photos of that. 

Ploumanac'h panorama (I think if you click on the image you can get a larger version... still new at this.)
Entrance of Ploumanac'h channel.

Trebeurden port.
Port Blanc entrance (yes, there's an entrance, right between those big rocks...)

As far as actual sailing goes, we haven’t done much of that lately.  There’s been no wind for the last week, so we’ve been taking it slow, motor-sailing in 10-15 mile hops, enjoying the scenery.  The light winds will stay with us for another few days at least, and a Brittany heat wave is predicted for mid-week (that means low 80s).  We may celebrate and put up the bimini !

Monday, 22 June 2015

High and Dry on Batz Island

We beached ! 

The anchorage was a bit crowded (a weekend in June on a “must visit” island) and we re-anchored 3 times before deciding where to settle for our first beaching, or drying out.  We arrived at high tide with 8 meters of water, and as the tide went out, we settled into the hard sand / mud mix.  

When we arrived...

...and the next morning...
I worried that we would swing with the incoming tide and end up too close to the beach incline or too close to the small fishing boats next to us, but the anchorage was so well protected that we barely budged.  As Mareda settled, she creaked and cracked intermittently like an old house on a hot day, but the second beaching was quieter… or maybe we were just used to it and slept through it.

With a bit of water remaining from an outgoing tide, we pumped up the dinghy and rowed ashore.  The problem with rowing ashore in an outgoing tide is that you have to wait until the water comes back again to get back to the boat.  We visited Batz for over 6 hours.  We walked all over the island.  Twice.  And had a long boozy lunch.  And waited some more.  We walked out to Mareda but the mud became ankle deep and we had to turn back.  Trying to haul a dinghy back to the boat over the mud would have been quite a spectacle for the tourists sipping drinks on the terrace.

Another beaching discovery:  if you want to flush the toilet, you have to add water from your freshwater tank or think ahead and have a bucket of seawater handy.  The sea-water intake for the toilet is also high and dry.

We’re still in a state of wonder with our new boat and everything she can do.  Having a lifting keel changes everything and opens up so many more anchorage options, especially here in Brittany.  We’re eager to give it another go!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Inside Mareda at Lands End

Greetings from Aber Wrac’h on the northwestern tip of Finistere, or Lands End in French.  We’ve had a beautiful couple of days sailing around the tip of Brittany, including two tricky tidal passages (Raz de Sein and Four Channel) that were unbelievably smooth.  

Local tradition says that when you round the Raz de Sein and align two light houses (the Plate and the Vielle), you take a swig of rum.  Not ones to snub tradition, we had rum from Guadaloupe ready and waiting.

almost aligned...

lined up

aaaaaand swig !
On the day we rounded the Raz de Sein, the French marine traffic control reminded sailors in the area to make way for the Solitaire de Figaro race.  I quickly jotted down the latitude and longitude positions and estimated that they were a few miles west of us.  I couldn’t see them but when I looked at the Automatic Identification System (AIS) on the chart plotter, it wasn’t hard to tell where they were.    

anyone seen the Solitaire de Figaro around here?  (That's us in the Raz de Sein)

We’re really thrilled with the boat, inside and out.  The performance and stability of the boat are really impressive.  With the currents in the Four Channel, we hit 8.9 knots with just the mainsail and the genoa.   

It has taken us awhile to post photos of the interior of Mareda, since I was waiting to have everything neat and tidy.  I realized after 2 weeks of living aboard that things will never be as photogenic as I would like, so without further delay, here is the interior on an ordinary day.

The interior is comfortable, spacious, and chic.  It’s hard to refer to such interior spaces as the galley, or the head, or the cabins.  On Mareda, we have a kitchen, a bathroom, and bedrooms.  The “water closet” part of the bathroom is as big as our wc at home.  The two bedrooms have real mattresses, not foam pads.  We have more hanging space on the boat that in our home bedroom.  The refrigerator capacity is as big as our home frige.  We love having hot water on demand.  We also love our black water tank (means we don’t have to use the public toilets in port anymore).  Patrick’s “home-boat cinema” is impressive, and although we said we never listen to music in the cockpit while underway, we tried out the sound system on the water yesterday and it rocks !  On a sunny day, the solar panels charge enough for the navigation system, the auto pilot, and the refrigerator.  The table in the salon (er, uh…living room) is huge.  We have tons of storage space, although much of that space is underneath the salon seating area cushions and getting to things can be a bit of a chore.

So far, our only complaint about the interior is that the water pump is LOUD.  I don’t know if that’s normal.  We’ll have it checked out at the end of the season.  We’re still having a bit of a problem with our genoa furler.  We can furl it without the winch when there’s no strain on it, but when we want to partially roll it up during high winds, even if we let the sheets out fully, there’s still too much stress on the sail to get it to furl without using the winch.  That’s not great during a stiff breeze.  We’ve put in a call to the boatyard to see if we can have someone look at that along the way in the next week.

Tomorrow we’re headed off to Batz Island where we MAY attempt our first drying-out (echouage) with Mareda.  Unfortunately, we’ll touch down at 11:30 pm and lift off at 6:30 pm, so I’ll have to be really motivated to get out and photograph the event.

Internet is LOWSY and the blog will be delayed by a week or more as I try to catch up when we DO get a good connection.  More updates coming over the next 24 hours while we have a decent connection...

Thursday, 11 June 2015

The first week

Our first week on Mareda has been chaotic, as expected.  With no time to write a coherent missive, here is a list of happenings:

Mareda in Locmiquelic, Lorient
The first time I tried to plug in to shore power, I dropped the electrical adapter in the water and it sank like a rock.  As soon as the horror wore off, I realized it had “SPRAY” marked on it.  Mareda claims her territory.

We realized after our first night on board that we had lots of storage space for clothes, but they were mostly closets rather than shelves.  We didn’t have enough hangers. Return home to buy electrical adapters and get more hangers. 

Seen around Vannes: A traditional Sinagot.
The genoa furler was impossible to roll in without using the winch.  After several calls and photos with Jeanneau, we tried to minimize the angles between the furler, the pulllies, and the winch, with only moderate success.  Epiphany:  what if the halyard is simply winched up too tightly?  Bingo.  Problem resolved.

The gennaker is great fun !  After a few tests, we found that the best way to roll it up cleanly is to sail on a broad reach and hide the gennaker behind the mainsail, then let off on the halyard a bit.  It rolls up like a tight sausage.  We still have a problem with the breaking pulley that is supposed to only allow the furling line to operate in one direction (so that it doesn’t unroll while you’re trying to roll it up).  Forgot to take pictures… next time.

The gennaker !  Ice blue and fire-engine red.
The swing keel hums and buzzes when sailing close-hauled at more than 5 knots.  Other swing keel owners tell us that this is normal. 

The boat is HIGH in the water !!  That’s great while sailing, but in port we’ve got a lot of area for the wind to push us around, which makes things a bit tricky to dock.  And we also learned that it’s best to have the keel down as far as possible for manoeuvres, otherwise you slip sideways all too easily.

I really appreciate the “german” winch system.  We still have to think ahead when we tack or jibe, but the manoeuvres will become automatic with time.  It’s great to have all the controls near the helmsman.  The lines, however, end up becoming a pile of spaghetti if you aren’t vigilant. 

The B&G electronic system (Zeus and Triton) are excellent, too.  We haven’t fully exploited all the gadgets available, but it’s really a luxury.

And the interior is so luxurious it’s almost ridiculous.  We’re a bit embarrassed.  People stare at Mareda when we come into port (just when we’re getting ready for manoeuvres we haven’t mastered).  The downside of all this bling is that it also attracts unwanted attention.  In Vannes, we had a 1 liter glass beer bottle hurled at us.  Pictures as soon as we have time to arrange everything ! 

The lazy bag is not as big as we thought /  hoped, or maybe it’s that the sail is new and stiff.  It’s so high that it’s hard for me to stow it by myself.

Patrick cracked his laptop computer screen and is having psychological difficulties coping without a computer.  We’ll head back to Lorient to repair it before going any further.

And we had our first “too full” incident with the black water (toilet) tank.  The 80-liter capacity goes quickly with 4 people !  The leak was smelly and no fun to clean, just in case you think it’s all bling bling and glamour out here…

Stuck on Groix Island by a gale for THREE days.  But there are worse places to be stuck.

Picnic at St Nicolas, Groix island.

St Nicolas at low tide.

Hiking around St Nic.

We sailed Mareda from Groix to Lorient (7 miles) with 20 knots in the nose and gusts to 25.  With only 1 reef in the main and the genoa at 60% she performed beautifully.  She heeled over onto her chine and didn’t budge.  When the gusts hit, the sails strain but the boat stays steady and the double-rudder system means you’ve always got one well down in the water and you always have good control.