Up and down the river

Tuesday 31st July 2012

SW F2, with still waters

20NM (Cumulative: 344 NM)

When we got up this morning, it was overcast and trying its level best to rain.  Tiny drops were being squeezed out of the air, and I wasn’t sure whether the rain would come or whether the heat from the land would persuade it to do otherwise.  We were in a quandary about what to do.  Would we go for a walk along the river, head back out to sea or mooch up the river?  At 10:30 we decided that we’d head upstream, as far as the swing bridge.  Pete was determined to sail up, under the yankee, with the wind behind us, it was perfect.  There wasn’t much wind, so our speed wasn’t that great. Eleven miles in five hours isn’t going to win many races! The meandering of the river, meant that at times the wind almost disappeared because of the topography of the land – trees acting as wind barriers, the bends causing the wind to fluke and flap – and also that we had to gybe the yankee to make the course of the river.  All very gentle.  It was remarkable how quiet it was.  There was surprisingly little traffic on the river itself, with very little noise coming from Whinchat.  The gentle drift meant that we hardly made any noise through the water, so most of the sound came from the breeze whispering in the trees, or the reeds along the banks.  The banks were lined with a profusion of people fishing, and there were many watery birds – herons, gulls, and a couple of buzzards in the overhead too. We were certainly the only people actually sailing.  I think this gave Pete a certain amount of pleasure and pride.

The landscape of the river Vilaine is very much like southern England.  Like Kent with a wide, deep river.  Lush undulating hills, speckled with woodland.  Small villages a top the hills, and lots of farmland.  Big hay fields which have recently been harvested, curled bails in neat rows waiting to be collected.

The Vilaine becomes part of the inland waterways of France, and beyond the swing bridge (where we turned back), is the town of Redon.  At Redon, it is possible to then carry on right through to St Malo – without a mast, and with a boat that draws much less than we do.  It wouldn’t be a trip for Whinchat, but I think it would be a lovely trip to do.

On the return, we motored, making a speedier and noisier trip. Of the many possibilities, we decided that we’d anchor on the river.  This caused Pete some anxiety.  There’s almost too much to choose from, as the book simply says that you can anchor anywhere, as long as you’re not in the main channel.  Helpful and unhelpful!

We selected a wide part of the river, and Pete identified a part of the bank that had an inlet.  He carefully checked to see what the depth was, all of 6-7m, and I deployed the anchor.  It bit first time (it’s bound to be thick gloopy mud), and set nicely.  Pete wasn’t convinced.  Not that we’d set, but that we were too far in the channel.  We weren’t, as boats coming either side of us were taking a natural line that we weren’t impeding.  So, at about 18:00, we were all secure – and happily so.  It’s such a quiet spot, and nice to hear the sound of birdsong (other than the crying of gulls).

In view of the savage attack by mosquitoes the night before, our task was to try and make Whinchat Fortress Mossie! I’d found a midge head net in the cupboard, so we dissected that in order to make a screen for the companionway.  We have screens on each hatch, but the main way in is the unscreened, open companionway.  With a few strips of micro pore tape, all sorted.  For the first time, we think we’ve actually made us bug proof.

We had dinner (a delicious steak from the butcher in Piriac-sur-Mer) eating on deck.  Of course the heat of the land had won out over the day, and it was another hot sunny day.  The fair-weather clouds of the day had slowly vanished, leaving us to dine out under a pure blue sky.