Alderney to L’Aber Benoit, Northern Brittany
After spending Wednesday 3rd June preparing for our departure from Alderney, doing laundry, purchasing a new kettle (my Le Creuset one having rusted completely inside!), food shopping and other bits we were ready to leave on Thursday.
We were planning to leave at midday so had the morning for showers, I prepared a chili which would just need heating up later and final shopping of fresh foods. Neil was up early and was bashing about and bringing me tea to get me up. I couldn’t see the rush and didnt want to get up as I hadn’t slept well. At some point through the night the swell was coming in sideways to the boat and the noise and motion kept waking me up.. It was 7am and even having showers first the food store didn’t open until 9am. Neil then realised that he had already moved the clock on the weather station to French time so it was an hour earlier than he thought. Needless to say I went back to bed for a bit with my cup of tea. After showers, shopping and using the wifi at the sailing club, Jake joined us just before noon at at midday we released the mooring ropes and were off. It was a bright sunny day and we all started the trip in shorts and jumpers.
The first part through the ‘swinge’, a tidal body of water between Alderney and Burhau island was great. The tide and the wind had us flying down at 6-7 knots. Certainly flying comparitively compared to our speed during our first passage. The afternoon passed pleasantly enough and once through the swinge Jake persuaded Neil to have a go at getting ‘Lewis’, the self steering system Neil had built during the winter, working. I sat at the helm while they fiddled for over an hour. However, despite the wind being astern (from behind) again they got Lewis working and therefore no-one had to helm for just over an hour when we had tea. When the wind direction changed though, Lewis needed re-setting. For the night though they decided to steer manually. Although still sunny, it was cold so we had all resorted to our coats and sailing trousers.
I went to bed about 9.30pm after leaving a bag of supplies for the night shift (snacks, hot flask, Red Bull) and left Neil and Jake to it. I didn’t fully undress so just got under the blanket on the bed and left all my gear and lifejacket close by. I plugged my earphones in and one of my audio books and kind of slept until about midnight when I wanted the loo. I put my coat and lifejacket on and went up. It was dark and Jake was at the helm and Neil was asleep in the watch berth. Jake said that the wind had died almost completely and that he was having to tack to keep us moving. I got back into bed and plugged back in. I didn’t really sleep again until dawn as the motion of the boat in a sloppy sea was unpleasant. I saw the lightening of the sky before I slept.
I then got up at 7am. First thing I heard was Neil saying to Jake, ‘the GPS says we are going the wrong way again’. WTF! Jake realised that the wind was so light we did not have enough momentum to push us against the tide and although we were pointing in the direction we wanted to go, south, the tide was actually moving us backwards, north, back towards Alderney. The engines were put on to push us through. Bright moment though- I had just joined them in the pod when I spotted dolphins. There was a small group of about 4 or 5 and they swam with us for about 10 minutes or so. We probably weren’t going fast enough for them to want to stay longer. A lift to our mood which was needed at that point.
After making Neil and Jake some toast, I went back down to our berth and sat on the bed reading, writing or listening to my audiobook. Again I was not enjoying the passage at all. I did move at 12.30 to make some lunch, cheese and pickle rolls and I took mine back down with me. By now it was raining as well. Neil and Jake had the engines on and one sail up and we had sped up to 7knots again. Neil asked me to come up kitted up when we were about 3 miles off our destination, l’Aber Benoit on the northern coast of Brittany. The weather had improved, the sun was out, still the cold wind, and we motor sailed towards the coast and a mooring.
We motored up the river and picked up a mooring around 6pm French time. 28hours, yes even longer than the last passage, since leaving Alderney. Neil and Jake tidied the boat and I made us some dinner which we ate in the pod with a well earned beer. Despite the cold wind, the pod is warm in the sun and we can enclose one or both sides against the wind. Not only is it the steering pod, it also our conservatory where we can eat or read, a work shed for Neil as well as the watch berth.
Annoyingly, for me, Neil said that we were actually closer to Falmouth, as the crow files, here at l’Aber Benoit, than were in Alderney. What’s that wll about, we have sailed for days and yet nearer home than before. Dam that pesky crow
I had been thinking about the Bay crossing and whether or not I wanted to do it. Generally not but then I thought how pleased I’d be to of done it at the end (even if I don’t actually do anything but make it across having read my entire library) and what an experience to bore the god-children with for years to come. I asked Neil and Jake if it would be a problem if I kept to my cabin during the crossing. Not saying that I will, but I needed to know that they would be happy to sail between them and not have to rely on me for anything. They said they’d be fine. The point of Jake joining us as experiend crew (although it turns out that this crossing is Jake’s longest ever passage. My sail from Falmouth was longer than his own longest trip) is so that Neil could sail without me needing to worry about having to.
We turned in about 8.45pm
Saturday 6th June
Neil was up just after 9am and I followed not too long after. We had our breakfast but heard nothing from Jake. At about 10.45 I asked Neil if Jake was still on board. Neil gave him a knock just before 11. He had slept like a log he said. A lovely sunny day again but still that cold wind. It is very pleasant here. Reminds me of the river Helford or Restrongruet Creek. A couple of locals in a rib came over to say hello and to welcome us and ask about the boat. Jake and Neil were tatting with jobs on board. As the tide went down, it revealed what I think are oyster beds right behind us. We are on spring tides and the tide went very low. So much that we were resting one side on rocks and listing to starboard (right) until the tide camne back up. Nothing in the pilot book about the oyster farm or the moorings during very low tides. Lucky we were a catamaran. A monohull would of heeled right over. Lucky we didn’t anchor in the spot the pilot book suggested as that is right over the oyster beds.
There are lots of boats moored on the river and lots of free moorings at the moment. There were quite a few people on the boats which is great to see. Nothing around though on land (according to the pilot book). Just houses, the oyster farm and a small boatyard. Some of the houses look great. Large patios and gardens sweeping down to the river.
Neil started working on the steering block after tea and what he hop dd be a quick adjustment took a couple of hours. Then when he finished and went to the loo, he realised the fan had stopped working on our composting toilet. A critical bit to stop it smelling and keep it dry. Some of the spray from the waves had got in. Luckily he had a spare computer fan which he then spent an hour modifying to fit. He eventually came to bed at 10.45pm. Luckily this time of year there was still some light although the temperature had dropped to 7degrees with that wind as well it was pretty cold outside.
Sunday 7th June
Passage planning for Jake and Neil.. Our next trip is about 50 miles around the corner but is very dependent on tidal streams and geting times right. We are heading to Sainte Evette where we can refuel, shower, do laundry and get ready for the push across Biscay from there.
After a lunch of home-made pizza, we nipped ashore for 20mins to get rid of rubbish and have a quick walk before we lost water for the dinghy. L’Aber Benoit had some really pretty cottages and houses. Right on the quay was a stone built cottage which looked as though it was near the end of a renovation. It had the most fabulous cottage flower gardens front and rear. Poppies, lupine. Loads of varieties in all colours. Beautiful.
Not a late night as we were planning to leave at 7am Monday for the next leg of our adventure. I did make some bread ready to make sandwiches in the morning.