Go Whinchat!

Belle Ile, Pouldron – Port Louis, Lorient

Thursday 9thAugust 2012

NE F4 with glorious seas – ‘un peu agite’

31NM (Cumulative: 521 NM)


We had an alarm call at 07:15, because in my reactivated role as weather girl, it was my job to get up and listen to the VHF weather broadcast at 07:33.  We’d both actually woken a little earlier, because we could hear the wind whistling, but in peering above the burgees flying weren’t showing so much wind.  The forecast had modified slightly, and if it were to be believed, it promised to be an excellent sail.Our destination was Lorient, and required us to go one of two ways around Belle Ile before heading broadly north to the coast.  Pete called the course based on the weather and what we thought the wind was doing.

The plan was to up anchor at 09:00, and according to the ship’s log, we hauled at 09:02… Without incident!  Pete was determined to raise the mainsail as quickly as possible, and left me bouncing a bit on the bow as he headed to the wind.  No stopping him!  The penalty of this early manoeuvre, was that it put me on the helm, and with a wonderful wind coasting us out of the little cove, we were picking up speed.  We had the wind off the beam, so we were on a broad reach, which is a great point of sail.  No real danger of an accidental gybe (and with 16-18 knots true, then that’s a potential for damage to the mast).  We had two of our sails out, and were motoring along.  I swear I could hear Whinchat humming with delight.  We were making eight knots over the ground, which is fantastic speed for us.  All this with a clear blue sky, the sun rising ever higher behind us, and benign seas.  We charged down the same coastline that we’d travelled along yesterday… but then it took two hours to reach the lighthouse, but we made it in about 30 minutes!  Woooooooo….

We rounded up around the headland, Pete giving me an approximate course to head, which put the wind on the beam.  Even better!  We were tanking along, and it was such fun.  Whinchat was just leaning into the sea, sails billowing, perfectly set so that there was no resistance on the wheel.  She was so easy to control, and it was giddy and giggly to be helming.  Such a privilege.  I wanted to pick off a French yacht that I’d been watching ahead of us, and as we glided past her with ease, I decided that Pete had better have a helm, in case the wind died.  He’d’ve been so sick to have missed out on such an awesome helm…. Although, to be fair to him, he does take delight when I’m clearly loving the moments.  He’s active on watch, because things happen more quickly, he was giving advice about what was ahead, who was coming at us, and more importantly, the presence of lobster pot buoys.

Despite the occasional horrors and bleurgh days, I really enjoy sailing.  Perhaps that comes as a shock, I don’t know, I don’t re-read the entries.  I certainly wouldn’t keep on doing it, despite the love for a good man, if I didn’t like it.  However, when days, or periods of sailing come along like that, it’s so exciting, so refreshing, so much fun, and for those moments, you, or I rather, want to keep on having more experiences.

Anyway, I’m pleased that the wind didn’t fade away for Pete, as he continued to drive Whinchat on a cracking sail.  The wind started to fade a bit, so I hauled the stay sail.  We powered on.  I would love to see what we look like on the water.  I know the 42 is a gorgeous boat, and against the backdrop of so many white hulled boats on the water, she must be a head turner!

After a period of 45 minutes, he passed the helm back to me, the wind having dropped a little, and by now we were set on our 20 mile course across to Lorient.  I don’t remember experiencing anything like it, but we sailed into a wind hole.  From about 12 knots to nothing, it was like having the brakes put on!  The sails flapped.  I checked the course in case I’d had a (rare ;-)) moment of lapse of concentration and had gone wildly off course, but no.  I was the constant, the wind wasn’t.  I kept on looking at the wind vane on the mast, which was circling (never a good sign), and wondering when to deploy the 50 metal horses….  And then, slowly, the wind emerged.  Like it hadn’t left.  We mused that there must be things that cause a gust, because you can see them coming across the water, but what causes a wind hole?  It wouldn’t be the only one that we experienced that day!

We certainly lost speed as we headed north, as the wind faded (as forecast).  No matter, we had left early.  But when Doris is predicting an ETA of 2 hours, and then it diminishes to 5 hours…. Then Pete and I need to negotiate!  The sea was becoming more and more glassy, sure sign that the wind was dying on us.  When the speed dropped to less than crawling pace, the engine was fired up.  We motored for the last couple of hours, as the coast of Lorient, in all of its seemingly concrete mass, loomed ever greater in front of us.  It is a victim of its past; Lorient’s west bank was largely destroyed during WW2, with the exception of large concrete bunkers for the submarines, meaning that the city today is nothing remarkable.  Our destination, Port Louis, on the east bank, remained largely intact.  Our landmark was a large citadel, to which we had to tuck behind.

Despite all my intentions to be more “French” about mooring (I still have to get to this blog, so little time…. 😉 ), I was jittery about getting into this place.  Pete sensed this, so we dropped the main a good 20 minutes before we needed to, placing ourselves in the “so” British camp.  All fenders out, lines set….

We were greeted in the marina entrance by two very pretty French girls on a RIB. I think Pete would have followed them anywhere, but the sensible question they asked of us was, “what is your beam?”  They then pointed us to the widest spot in the marina, on the inside of the hammerhead, next to another British boat.  We’d seen them before, as they’d followed into the lock on the Villaine, and we’d snuck into their spot as they left Roche Bernard.  Murray and Liz, thank you so much for your help on berthing us.  The wind was cross, and the very lovely French girl sweated us on the stern – if only they really understood the mid ships!  I couldn’t get off the boat as the wind was pinning us, but slowly, we edged in.  It has to be the very warmest welcome we’ve received anywhere; the girl that directed us in was so lovely.  The marina didn’t feel that full, and didn’t do that night.  The French want to anchor out (with 50 others, making like a marina), so the berths were easier to come by than we imagined.  We weren’t to know that!

We wandered into the town, oh what a pretty place, and picked up a few provisions.  We stopped for a beer in the most delightful place. A café come bookshop, which had a garden with tables, so we sat out.  It was really different – certainly compared to where we’ve been in the last weeks.  It wasn’t quite a pub garden, although that might go someway towards it.  We felt like we were in someone’s rather overgrown back garden.  The lilac trees had gone over, roses were heavy on their stems, and even I reckoned it needed a good weeding (which gave rise to horror views of the garden back home….).  We were in a little walled part of another world, and so unlike the view of Lorient that we’d had as we’d approached.

We ate on board, and just as the sun was setting, our neighbours banged on the hull and invited us in for drinks.  We had a really lovely couple of hours onboard “Déjà Vu”, a restored 38ft trawler yacht, based out of Mylor! Such are the strange things.  The world is big and small at the same time.  We’d had a brilliant day, and Port Louis was feeling like exactly the right place to be.