The Return II – L’Aber Wrac’h to Falmouth

Wednesday 23rd July – Thursday 24th July

104NM (1414 NM)

Passage weather had forecast that the wind would turn northerly later in the day, which would be very unhelpful for our return. The met office seemed to indicate it might stay NE which would be just about ok. No meaningful swell was forecast, good news.

We didn’t particularly want to arrive in Falmouth in the dark, even though I know it quite well now finding our mooring on a dark night would be tricky. So we planned to leave about 14.30. In fact we both got a bit tired of the wait and asked the French boat rafted outside us to move at about 12.30, which they did with good grace even though not long before we had said we wouldn’t be going until a bit later.

As a diversion, and to use up some time, we had a little amble up the river as far as you can go (a road bridge stops you going any further). From the chart it looked rather a shallow and narrow channel, but in reality there was much more space and even a couple of visitor buoys at the head of the river. It was very peaceful and reminded me very much of the Fal, though not quite as steep sided.

Shortly after passing the marina again on the way to the river mouth, it was up with the sails and off with the engine. We were leaving in the midst of a stream of gaffers, which made for a great sight. At this point we had about 15kts of wind from ENE and Whinchat was revelling in the conditions. At the mouth of the river we turned north and the gaffers continued west along the coast. Unlike our departure from Spain it was not much more than an hour later that the coast of France slipped below the horizon. The wind was already beginning to back so by this time we were close hauled, occasionally water gushing along the side decks, but also breaking over the bow as we hit a bigger wave. The swell wasn’t that much but at 1-2m was bigger than anything seen on our Biscay crossing.

We safely crossed the main shipping lane with nothing really coming that close to us, and being able to keep a careful watch on everything with AIS that tells you how close a ship will pass. You pick them up on the system long before you can see them and it makes life a lot less stressful. The wind backed a bit more as I handed over to Tom for his night watch (we were back on the same pattern as across Biscay). I’d barely closed my eyes and dozed off than the engine sprang to life and the noises coming from on deck told me Tom was furling the staysail and the yankee. We would be under power for the rest of the trip.

I took over at about 02.00, the light from the Lizard lighthouse was clearly visible and we were seemingly surrounded by other boats, some on AIS and others not. Tom just went to sleep! A bit like an exam question I came upon a trawler (green over white) and a tug pulling something with the tow greater than 200m (three white lights). That one came quite close and of course I had to make sure we didn’t get between the tug and what it was towing. Its hard enough judging distance at sea I find and close to impossible in the dark. Then there were anchored tankers and a couple of yachts too. As you might imagine the time passed quickly.

As dawn broke we were off St Anthony’s Head with the familiar lights of the Fal estuary coming into view. We moored on the outside of E pontoon in Mylor (not my best bit of driving but at 05.30 not many people to see) and it was time for a couple of hours sleep before a well deserved “Full Cornish” breakfast at Café Mylor with Jules.

In his week on the boat Tom had done more sea miles than Jules in the previous two months. We had enjoyed warm weather, calm seas, good food and excellent chat, all a great pre-amble to next years AZAB.

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