On having Bessie on board…

Let’s not beat about the bush. Pete would rather Bessie wasn’t on board at all. He finds her restrictive, because we can’t make passage with her unless there is a pit stop in the middle of the day. We can’t anchor overnight, as Pete would be the one to row her ashore for the night time pit stop. Both of those we may be able to solve with an astroturf solution, which is the task to investigate before the next trip.

As boat dogs go, Bessie hasn’t made a fuss, but she doesn’t anyway. She has coped with all points of sail, and her least favourite thing seems to be the boom, or the block that flings around on the traveller. That’s pretty understandable. When she first came out with us, she was a bit alarmed at the sound of flapping sails. That is now normal. She is getting more in the habit of lying down to go to sleep – both at home and now on board.

She’s tried to chew at a couple of the lines, but that’s attention seeking behaviour – or rather, her favourite kibble-extracting device. The command of ‘leave’ gets reward. That is no different at home.

She is probably more clingy than at home, but the environment is different. I think the thought of being left on board is an unhappy one. That said, she can’t get up or down the companionway steps. She has to be carried, and at 23kg, that’s quite a load. Mostly it is me that is favoured to do it, as I am the favoured one. She cries when I leave the boat to have a shower. She doesn’t with Pete. A French couple with a basset hound (Bessie’s French bff) use a sling to carry their pooch up and down. Bessie is happy to put her paws out, and has modified it to go on one shoulder, so that she can be tipped up or placed down. She knows what is more comfortable.

The upside of having our Bessie with us. She is a delight (and a scamp), and part of our family. She makes us go for walks when we might now. Her abject pleasure in playing in the water, or chasing stones is a mood-lifter. When she hasn’t seen you for all of five minutes and snuffles and wags her whole back end in her thrill at seeing you is also mood-enhancing.

Her disobedience is a challenge – not in the boat, but around the shore. I keep on telling her that some labradors will never have seen the sea. It doesn’t seem to elicit any proper behaviour. Her pulling on the lead is hard work, and annoying. She does seem to be jumping up less.

Bessie would not do anything other than sleep on my bunk, with me on the first night, and that has been the pattern. She is on the bunk before I’ve got in. Sleeping apart from Pete sucks, but in a small unfamiliar space, it’s a battle we have yet to fight. We will try it on the next visit.

Bessie is more akin to my kind of sailing than Pete’s, for sure, but we have both been impressed with her.

Bessie the boat-dog. Bessie the salty sea-dog.

Port Haliguen, to… Houat (again!)

Port Haliguen to Houat; another day, another bay
17NM
Winds WF2-3

Tuesday 23rd May 2017

This was our last day of sailing on this trip, so we were determined to make the most of it. Beautiful conditions beckoned – blue skies, warm sunshine and a light breeze. We wanted to create the hat trick of the islands off the Quiberon Peninsula, but the breeze that was was a little too unhelpful. If it was a little stronger, yes, or in a different direction. But such is sailing! We were ghosting along at 2knots, which would have seen us arriving at the time we needed to up anchor for home (let alone the range of the dog’s bladder and bowels!), so yet another change of plan. I say that one of the delights of sailing is going with the wind, and so it is. By altering course for a southerly direction, we put the wind on the beam and our speed picked up. Houat it was then, this time the little bay that the flotilla had descended upon on our first day of sailing. It may have looked like beautiful conditions, but that wind was cool, cold even. Initially behind us, with the sails providing full shade from the sun, I was chilling right through. There was a strip of sun on the foredeck, so I took Bessie forwards, but the yankee sheets were slapping us. Not comfortable to me, slightly alarming for a Bessie, and the offset of the sun wasn’t enough. It was certainly a day for a black fur coat.

Lemme ashore!

With the change of course, our anchorage was now an hour away, instead of several. There were three other boats in, and a group of SUP paddle boarders on the beach. By the time we’d faffed and had lunch, the SUPers had left, so once again we had an empty beach. Bessie knows the routines of launching from the dinghy now, and gets super-excited. She leans over the front tube, tail wagging. I had a hand on her, but Pete wanted me to let go to see at what point she’d leap off. With about a metre to go, she climbed onto the tubes and sort of fell in, disappearing under the surface, bounced up by her buoyancy aid. She rolled in with the waves, and scampered about… and then stood as if to say ‘c’mon, don’t dally’. Only we had to haul the dinghy up the beach, as it was a rising tide. We had again found a beach with hardly any pebbles on it. Those that were Bessie rapidly lost, as the sand was so soft that when the sea washed over them, it sucked them under. Bessie grew impatient as we scoured the beach for any stones. Pete took her off the beach for her toileting, but she hardly got a paw off the beach. She came bounding back without him – he’d gone to see what was up on cliff. An old fort, it turns out.

The bay on Houat, Whinchat on the right…

We were thinking about luring Bessie back to the dinghy and to Whinchat, when we saw a customs boat approaching the little bay. It made for Whinchat, circling her. We waved from the beach, but I’m not sure if they registered us or not. We decided to head back anyway, dragging the dog into the dinghy, but the customs boat didn’t wait. We both had the same memory of being boarded on Belle Isle some five years earlier.

The sail back to port was outstanding. Not in the shade, so warmer, was a big plus. I helmed the first few miles, and was amazed to see this would only be about 30 minutes! Swift sailing, just off the wind, with smooth seas. Gorgeous. At the light house, a small course change, but it meant that we would need to make one tack. Bessie, by now, seems to have learned that when Whinchat is tipping up, she needs to wedge in the companionway and lie down. She did get up for a lookout, I wonder whether she could smell land, so she wanted to see if there was any chance of visiting a beach. Her paws are too slippy on the decks so once again, she used me to brace herself against so that she could take watch.

Our arrival into port was excellent, a little less wind eases the drama, and I’d rigged the bowline so that I could leap ashore with midships, and reach for the bow. A chap from the next boat came to help, and kept trying to insist that Pete needed to drive forwards. “He knows what he’s doing,” I said. I watched his realisation as he worked out that Pete was then going to drive astern on the rear spring… Clever, he said. Enough said.

The tasks of the evening were to prepare us for an early departure – boat cleaning and packing up. The latter always makes Bessie anxious, as we think she’s worried about being left behind, so that made for a restless puppy that evening, probably compounded by us going to the little bistro in the port. A lovely supper, overlooking the boats in the marina, just talking about the trip and what’s coming next at home. Being away is great fun, but home is pretty special too.

Two days of shore leave…

Vannes
Sunday 21 May

You know there is a lot of wind, when for the first time kitesurfers were flying in the bay. A brisk easterly, with quite a choppy sea when Pete took Bessie along the sea wall. We decided that it would be extreme heeling, and probably not conducive for one with poor deck traction, and still learning the ropes. Plan B would be Vannes, an hour’s drive away, given the slow road off the peninsula – the French love their motorhomes, moving like white snails, causing the impatient among the locals to overtake in gaps that don’t look possible.

I think the skipper had hopes of getting to Vannes by boat. It may be too long a passage for the sea-dog, but we might try some ‘astroturf’ training before we next come out to correct that. There is a festival in Vannes this week, so Pete wanted to see how the town was preparing for it..

Lunch was the first stop, a hotel’s terrace, in the warm sun. Two courses – mine a crab/celariac combination followed by a Gros Salade. Pete went for tomato/mozeralla and steak tartare. He seems to be over the fact that he was pollaxed by one last summer. Bessie the land-dog was very well behaved over lunch, lying goodly under the table. She used up most of her goodness in that hour and a half, because she was testy for the next couple. Her love of water is almost more than a food driver, so she was pulling to get into the river where the boats are moored. Really annoying, and completely understandable. She didn’t win that one, but the constant straining on her collar, and the heat in the city meant that she was parched. Without a map we were truly wandering through the sleepy Sunday streets, knowing that it was walled (medieval) but unable to find it. And then as happens, we turned down a small street, and found it. Well, actually we found the water, with access steps, so Bessie was allowed down, and drank deeply.

Of course she then didn’t want to come back out. The wide green space surrounding the wall, with pristine lawns and beds peppered with purple flowers had people ambling. The sight of Bessie, tail wagging lazily, knee deep in water, caused most to raise a smile, an acknowledgement of her simple pleasure. Pleasure that would be a challenge to convert to going back in the town, but a trail of kibble eventually lead her out. She didn’t understand that we would stop at the long beach and roll stones for her, again. She doesn’t know her limit on this, so we were more cautious with the roll-rate, but somehow we’d all done 16,000 steps that day. No wonder we were all shattered!

We need to find a vet
Monday 22 May 2017

The priority for the day was to find a vet who would certify Bessie’s passport. There are strict stipulations for her return. She has to have tapeworm treatment (orally) between 24 and 120 hours before returning to the UK. This has to be signed off by a vet, in her passport. We had no idea how easy it would be to make this happen – very easy, as it happens. We had to wait about 30 minutes to see the vet, and he gave her the tablet, swallowed readily by Bessie (true to type!), signed where he should, and sent us on our way without charge. This freed us up to make plans for our departure.. and the rest of the day, as we’d half expected to have to return for an appointment. In the end we decided to hang out on board, taking in a little bit of sun and then a lot of shade, reading and watching life in the marina pass us by.

Another day, another bay…

We took Bessie out for a walk further along the coastline, driving to a headland, where we completed a circular walk. Once again, she loved being on the beach, chasing stones and standing in the waves. Of course she didn’t want to move from one beach to the next, uncertain as to whether her game would stop. Pete appeased her by rolling stones along the gritty coastal path, until she scarpered off down the rocks… On this retrieval, she was back on the lead, the rules when disobedience prevails. She hated it, tugging and pulling, half-choking herself. It was slow progress back to the car, in full training mode, edeging her back in to better behaviour. She drank a whole cannister of water, and collapsed in the back of the car. Proof that enough was enough for our never-enough labrador.

Tomorrow we will go sailing. Last chance for a month 

Port Haliguen to Port An Doro, Belle Isle

Port Haliguen to Port An Doro, Belle Isle
28NM
Winds W-SW 4ish

Saturday 20th May 2017

Pirates off the stern!

Quel surprise! Another morning of nothing-happening-very-quickly. It was 11:00 when we slipped our mooring, again with me on the helm. I wasn’t at all confident about moving off, not because of the whole hitting the stern thing (so over that) but because I was worried that the wind would take the bow, and I would end up leaving Pete on the pontoon. As it was, the wind was kind and had a coffee break, leaving me to gently ease us off, all present and correct. The destination today was to Belle Isle, to make sure that we try and complete the set of nearby islands before we head home. The wind was perfect for this (no coincidence, of course), once we’d settled in a little flukiness when we left Port Haliguen, and had to gybe onto starboard tack, that was it for the passage, a lovely broad reach. Just adjustments of the sails when we altered course. It was glorious sailing, although chilly. I ended up with my hoodie and Pete’s windproof fleece, although I was in shorts and barefoot. It was only when my hands started going numb (the old Raynaud’s phenomenon) that I thought it was time to hand over the wheel. I’d done most of the tricky bits, as we had to negotiate a slim passage through hidden and visible rocks, a series of buoys and cardinals marking the channel.

On Pete’s helm, the wind shifted, of course, to add a bit of south into the mix. Not helpful when you plan to anchor on the southern most tip of Belle Isle… As we approached, Pete was having second thoughts about whether to about and head for the long beach on Houat. We decided to press in as there was no one else anchored there. Always an advantage! It was a stunning spot. A sandy cove, framed by majestic cliffs, and a sparkly sea… albeit a bit rolly. We dithered about what to do, and in the end decided to go for it, despite us being on a lee shore – the cliffs on the eastern side would have ‘cushioned’ us. The beach wasn’t vast, so it didn’t offer a very good opportunity for a Bessie-dog play, but was enough. I cooked up the galettes for lunch, and we thawed out with a cup-a-soup. Hardly champagne sailing!

More dithering as we decided whether to both go ashore, or Pete ferry Bessie and I, or Pete take Bessie. We ended up all going ashore, with Pete waiting by the dinghy. The falling tide on this steeply shelving beach meant that the waves were breaking more than looked from the deck, so once again we surfed in, the wave breaking over the stern soaking all of us. The only one who didn’t mind was Bessie. Once again, she clung to the tubes, and was super excited to get ashore. I ran with her up to the back of the beach, past a family having a substantial picnic, and couples sunbathing (it was warm out of the wind). We scrambled up some stone steps, past a large sign clearly indicating PAS DE CHIENS. Whoops. I took Bessie up the road to the clifftop, not even managing the coastal path, as I had flip flops on. Gah. I wished I’d had my iPhone in my pocket (although it probably would have got soaked, so perhaps not so bad really), as it was a picture perfect image of Whinchat at anchor, in the arc of the cove, her blue hull, the paler sapphire of the sea… Ah. A very proud moment, particularly when walkers were stopping to photograph her. I’ll console myself that we hadn’t tidied the mainsail, so that would have spoiled the effect….

Bessie pulled like mad to get back onto the sand, and was very disappointed that the stone-thrower wasn’t engaging. I ran a little bit in the shallows with her, with Bessie bounding through the breaking waves. Neither Pete nor I trusted her not to invite herself for the picnic, and we were feeling a bit guilty that she was on the beach at all… and then two women with a bouncy dog appeared, the hound completely ignoring Bessie, much to her annoyance that she didn’t have a partner in crime.  We returned to Whinchat, promising her some stone-chasing in the scrappy beach at the marina.

Bessie’s beach, Port Haliguen

Perhaps the sail back was even better, a single port tack, with me on the helm for the first leg, and Pete swapping in to do the remainder. We had both sailed the same stretches of water, albeit with different conditions. For the last long tack home, Pete was sailing ‘full and by’, and was registering speeds of 9knots on the speedo – less over the ground, but a cracking sail. Bessie’s approach to being at 30degrees was to lie in the companionway and mostly sleep. She did look out every now and then, and used me to wedge against. Ingenious!

Mooring was much less farce than previously. Pete had a clever idea to make the most of the one available proper cleat, and the effect was much better. It still involved me leaping off the foredeck, and running a line forwards, but then him reversing against that. With our kick to port astern, it meant that we weren’t fighting to get Whinchat alongside. SLAM of doors, none. Although a lot of sweat and strength to hold the line around a cleat.

There was a spectacular tall ship moored alongside the visitor’s pontoon. A Russian (I won the flag geek award) frigate. We had to google it, but it’s a replica of a 1703 ship, and is a proper pirate ship. We had the best view of her in the whole marina, with plenty of snappers coming to take a photo from our hammerhead – with our stern in photobombing it…

Boating with Bessie has been a delight, and her kind of sailing is mine. I’m not sure the skipper is all in favour of that, with a bladder/bowel range of about four hours (the dog, not me), but that she is a salty-sea-dog is a gift. She makes no fuss, provided she is with her pack, and that someone will roll a stone for her. I keep on telling her that she’s a very lucky puppy.

Port Haliguen to Treac’h Goured, Ile Houat

Port Haliguen to Treac’h Goured, Ile Houat
10NM
Wind S4 backing W5-6

Friday 19 May 2017

In another nothing-happens-very-quickly start to the day, despite the threat of thunderstorms, flash floods and freak waves, we set our sights on an anchorage on Hoedic, the smaller island beyond Houat. At the time we we going to untie our lines, the heavy rain arrived. We waited for the worst of it to pass by, and cast off. We eventually left at 11:00, not exactly a lively start. Again, somehow I ended up on the wheel, but caused the skipper some anguish, as I’d forgotten that boat’s don’t drive like cars, and nearly re-fashioned the stern/pontoon. Some might say it was extreme skill to miss by centimetres, but in truth, I was worried about clearing the stern of the motorboat ahead, and had misplaced the fact that there is a pivot point on a boat at the keel in my mind. Whoops. Almost.

Helmswoman and first mate…

There wasn’t much chance to test the replacement fan, as there was a respectable sailing wind, just aft of the beam, meaning a gentle reach most of the way across the stretch of water between the mainland and the islands of Houat and Haliguen. It wasn’t champagne sailing, or even balmy holiday sailing. The wind was cold, and with the risk of those thundery showers, we were in full foulies – and glad of them! There is a strip of islands off the tip of the Quiberon Peninsula, from the west we could hear the roar of little engines, but multiple. Peeling through the islands and lumps of rocks was a flotilla of small recreational fishing boats. But dozens of them, all zoom-zooming around, bouncing on the waves. Like an advance of baddies in a James Bond movie, except they would been in black. It turns out these were boats heading to the semifinals of some fishing competition… Fascinating.  Nothing else of note except my self-test of sailing accuracy. I was determined to sail to the waypoint, with a minimum cross-track error. That was nearly scuppered by a ‘classic’ twin masted gaff-rigged boat on the windward side, sails up. I made a significant course change to show that I was taking avoiding action… But rather annoyingly, it seemed to be motoring! Naughty. The sails certainly weren’t set for downwind sailing (as it would have been). That cost us a great deal of cross-track error, but fortunately, by the time I hit the waypoint I had it to ZERO. A very satisfying sailing moment. A course change for the waypoint, and more of a beat into the anchorage, bypassing some very poorly marked mussel beds.

I’m not sure if it is Bessie’s confidence that increased, or ours, but she spent most of the passage unleashed. She pottered about on deck, but often either sat besides me, or just behind. She really was very good, and seemed to enjoy it. With the hour of lunch upon us, we decided to head to the ‘big bay’ on Houat. Sailing, after all, is about where the wind takes you. Both of us really fancied this bay, one that we think we sailed by last year with one too many boats at anchor. It’s hard to imagine 160 boats in the bay, which the book says happens in August. Today, we were one of 8. And still some little French boat, with six people on it, anchored on top of us. Go figure.

Bessie bounding merrily after rolling stones….

After lunch, sitting in the sun on deck, pretending the wind wasn’t cold, we launched the dog on the dinghy to take her ashore. She was certainly excited about being in the launch – hugging the tubes with her front legs, and seemingly keen to jump in. I certainly had to keep one hand very firmly on her doggie lifejacket. We’re not really sure if she would have jumped in, but perhaps we should see. She’s not much of a swimmer, but happily stands up to her belly. We surfed onto the beach on a large wave, much to my surprise. We weren’t really sure if dogs were allowed, but were prepared to feign ignorance. Relieved when we saw a lady walking her very well-behaved dog. We just had to navigate the odd small child, but fortunately for Bessie, the best thing is chasing rolling stones. After exhausting her yesterday, Pete was much more cautious about making her run. There was a beach to explore and walk along as well, but Bessie gambled along happily with us, chasing stones whenever Pete threw them for her. She likes to get them, but doesn’t exactly retrieve them back to you. On a beach where there were very few pebbles, it was a supply issue that would have made retrieving better. Another training regime for when we get home. We walked a couple of miles in total, turning before she launched herself in to a flock of chirruping sandpipers. We didn’t want her to cause any trouble, although the dog that we saw passed through them, sending them in a spectacular air display. A small murmuring, but the wing-to-wing formation flying was show-stopping. Bessie missed it all, but it was back to the boat. Getting Bessie back into the launch was easier than I’d expected – no diva strops. She was proper tired.

The sail back to Port Haliguen was a new challenge for our puppy. Beating into a stiff breeze! Bessie learned that her paws don’t grip the deck, and didn’t seem that thrilled by it. She was shattered by her play on the beach, and worked out that the best place was wedged behind me in the cockpit. It seems her legs fit neatly around my seated bum (with me perched/wedged) meaning that she just slept for much of the first long tack to port. Fortunately we weren’t short tacking!

Mooring. Oh my. A strong wind, by now, and one that meant we had to moor port-side-to (our preferred side), but with only one proper cleat, it would be a challenge. If there were doors to open and slam, it could have been a farce. I was immensely stressed throughout it all (particularly after Pete raised his voice at me), but Pete later said that I had done the hard work, getting ashore and tying a line. I had to make a massive leap off Whinchat, and in the absence of a proper cleat, looped the mid-ships through. Some bloke came to take the stern line at one point. Pete got off. Bessie was the only one on board. [SLAM of door.] I went on board for something. And then the boat was blown off, so that I was now on the wheel. [SLAM of door.] Man helping lets go of stern line. [SLAM.] Says we are too close. He walks off. [SLAM.] I am still on the helm. Bessie is whining. We cannot seem to get Whinchat alongside, although we have lines everywhere. There is nothing for it than to take your puppy ashore for a pee, and wish for a beer.

Port Haliguen, Quiberon – shore leave

Wednesday 18 May & Thursday 19 May

The failure of the fan has meant a couple of days in port. Wednesday was one of those days when you really didn’t want to untie a line unless you had to. Rain of monsoon proportions, resulting in appalling visibility. If there had been a log burner on Whinchat, we would have lit it. As it was, there was a dog to walk. We had the cunning plan to walk to the beach close to the old port, and make her run up and down for half an hour. Who knew that most of the beaches have dog bans? We walked further along the coast path, passing sandy beach after sandy beach, all with stern warnings against Le Fido. Bessie understanding none of it, pulling hard to get down to the water. Eventually we came across a beach that had a rough path down to it, without the fierce warnings. There was no fool out other than we anyway, so I’m not sure who would have complained. Bessie went nuts, hurtling towards the sea, bounding in the shallows. We ambled down the path, as she stood, a stance, as if to say, ‘well come on, I haven’t got all day,’. All day, it turns out, she probably could have, as we stood, rolling stones, and she leapt around, no wetter for being in the sea. We, meanwhile, with a lack of motion, felt the water penetrate through to the lowest layer of clothing. Pete’s Rustler jacket threw up its arms in protest; his only long trousers, jeans, not known for their suitability to wet weather. I’d waterproofed my ancient merrels before I left home, but water poured through the laces. My wicking walking trousers clung. Utterly miserable. We’d had enough after 15 minutes, but the little scamp hadn’t. Pete lured her back, but trusted her too much on the recall to sit and wait. After taking the treat, she legged it back to the sea. Same stance. We shrugged and walked off, she held her ground. We disappeared out of sight. Still she didn’t come. I wonder how long she would have held out, but I called her, and she came hurtling up the beach. Probably about the edge of comfort limits for both of us. Wet dog. Wet Mistress. Sodden Master. Straight back to the boat to put on the boat heating and wish that the weather would pass through. An absolute reminder how damp boats can feel. Still, the upshot of the rain is that Bessie’s fur is soft and silken – no longer crusty, salty sea-dog.

We had a switch around of bunks on Wednesday night, Bessie leaping into mine before I’d tried to shuffle in. The wind had built, blowing across the stern, so that the short fetch of water slapped constantly, and with voice, throughout the night. Somehow I managed to convince my mind it was lapping water on the beach. That didn’t work for the dog who decided I needed a wash at 02:30 (she washes during the night), and then wanted the duvet rearranged (trying to nest with it), a tug of war I hardly ever have with Pete! At 05:30 she was restless again, but I managed to clamp my eyes shut as she stood over me. 07:00 she was pawing to go outside. Fair enough. Hello Thursday.

Pete went up to the chandler and established that the fan should be here later. Would that be a Cornish later? Do the Breton’s have DRECKLY? I would begin to wonder. The morning was spent in the service of tasks. Pete finding the excellent bread and provisioning for several meals. After Bessie’s incessant pulling on the lead, I was taking her back to training school. A 30 minute (not very far) walk along the sea wall, constantly stopping, circling her back, sitting, off again.. for a few steps. Then repeat. By the return along the sea wall she was good, really good given her ‘jeunesse’. Where there is a strip of water, or a sandy beach, it will always be work-in-progress. I realised later today that it’s one thing to ask her to stop doing something, but you have to give her what you want as the alternative. She responds well to that. Always rules. 

Bessie takes a break from training…

Anyway. One of the things that Pete said yesterday that made me a bit sad, in the vein of “the damn dog”, was that ordinarily on a damp day, we would have had a long lunch somewhere. That hadn’t occurred to me as a restriction, and I’m always one to try anything. Today we went to Portivy, enroute to the long beach, for lunch., finding a fantastic pub, Le Bateau Ivre. We did exactly what we would always have done, and Bessie behaved impeccably. At least in the pub! She pulled like mad when she saw that we were near a port, a bay and water. I hadn’t had my realisation by then, so she just wound me up, and she got narky as she was choking on her collar. Once inside the pub, she knew the rules (apart from trying to snaffle a fallen frite) and was really good. Kibble-managed, but good.

Portivy, home to a fantastic pub by sea…

From the pub to the beach. The one that dogs are allowed on. It’s on the Cote Sauvage (wild) so the sea was rolling and roaring in, so she had no desire to get wet, but the rules of the game were clear. I had red squeaky ball. No, that is for the garden. On the beach you must roll pebbles. And so Pete did, for about 25 minutes. We nearly broke the dog. I don’t think she’s ever run so hard, and it took about the same time for her heart-rate and breathing to subside. We will have to manage her. She certainly had no diva moment leaving the beach, and walked perfectly to heel. We thought she would collapse back at the boat, but after a short cat-nap, has been content to be on deck. Five hours since we returned, her on the leash, but pottering about the cockpit, occasionally chewing things she shouldn’t, often looking out and about, sometimes sunning herself. Oh my. It’s a dog’s life. I keep telling her that many a labrador never sees the sea!

A deserted beach and a happy puppy… note the threatening skies were north of us!

Anyway, at the risk of this turning into a Bessie-the-sea-dog feature, the chandlers was closed when we returned. And closed each time we checked. At 17:30 Pete went for ‘one last check’, to find him open and shrugging to say ‘what took you so long?’. Anyway, we thought we would be another day in port, which would have grown tedious. As it is, the fan is in, the panel is back in the aft lazarette… but tests to see if it works have not gone well. It is blowy today, which might mean that the engine isn’t hot enough for the fan to kick it, or Pete’s wiring has gone wonky. We have decided to see tomorrow. Yes, we will untie Whinchat and give her a different workout tomorrow. Hopefully not beating everywhere. A little more wind is forecast tomorrow, which will test the saltiness and competence of our very-at-home boat-dog.

The testing of sea-legs (mistress and puppy)

Port Haliguen to Ile d’Houat, Hastellic anchorage
8 NM
Winds SE 2-3, then NW<2

We decided our first day with Bessie should be a relatively short day, a nice sail out to an anchorage, launch the dinghy, launch Bessie and then drift back to port. Some days things go to plan. Some days, nothing happens very quickly. Some days both of those things happen. However, before you can have a lazy day’s sailing, you must make sure you have bread for a lazy day lunch on board, so I sent Pete off to buy some fresh rye bread from Le Boulangerie in Quiberon – it is exceptional . ASIDE: not enough superlatives for this; even Pete favoured it over his much-loved artisan baguette. Thick crust, almost burnt, giving a deep crunch on the bite, and then the softest, richest, earthy dough underneath. Bread-heaven…  Being in France is obviously also about the food and the wine, but we are here primarily to make friends with our Whinchat.

We cast off around 10:30, Pete somehow working the lines (why do the French not love a cleat? This silly, tie your lines through things, no wonder they all approach with a boat-hook!), and me at the wheel! I don’t do the driving! Gentle astern, to avoid mounting the motorboat moored in front of us, and then bow-thruster, a powerful vroooom, and the bow edges to port, and now gently ahead… I’ve driven Whinchat out of a berth for, well, I can’t really remember the last time! Is this a boating first?

Here endeth the moment by moment blow of the sailing antics. There wasn’t much wind forecast, and guess what, the wind that waited for us was on the nose! Long, languid tacks, the high cirro-stratus peeling back to frame us under blue skies. Bessie was unleashed not long after we left port, me on the helm. Pete is braver than I am at trusting her, and as she grew more confident, she wandered forwards, peering over the side. Both of us know that she hasn’t learnt the unpredictability of boat movement (that’s why I wasn’t allowed sailing for a good chunk of the summer last year, healing internal muscles), so with Whinchat heeling, the indignity of the orange jacket faced her. To be fair to her, she didn’t protest, and I wonder if it meant her not being called back, or tethered, it was a good compromise. She sat on the deck, watching the world go by. At some point, she fell asleep, under a shade that we’d created using a seat cushion. As Pete said, it’s not the day for a black fur coat.

Our, 8nm trip took four hours. Not exactly terrific in terms of distance gained, but a lovely, lovely gentle sail. Nothing but endless blue skies, hot sun and a lazy sea. A number of sails peppered the horizon, hardly surprising on such a balmy day, but we soon realised that this was a flotilla, if not an armada, destined for the same shore on Ile d’Houat. In this off-season sailing, would we really share a secluded bay with 12 other yachts? Fortunately they opted for the next one along, our plans having shifted once. It may have been 8NM direct, but we were almost going via La Rochelle… Pete’s original idyll was a long bay on the ‘far’ side of the island, but time was against us, only because there is a puppy who has now woken, is chewing lines, and you have to assume needs to pee!

Bessie isn’t yet used to the roles needed in mooring – whether that is alongside, or anchoring. The mistress on the foredeck to anchor was of grave concern. She was tethered behind the helm with the master, not certain what I was up to. Preparing the anchor… 20m, the master, the captain, signalled for me to drop, but most of the cable ties have been eroded, so there is little but counting the drop of chain going past. It always strikes me as part science, part art. Pete’s sharp move astern secured the anchor into the seabed. A very quick manoeuvre on lunch, not exactly the planned for lazy…  whilst Pete inflated the dinghy. A new adventure for a Bessie. More indignity with being lowered from Whinchat’s deck to the launch via her dayglow boat wear, but she did a fine “Titanic” over to the beach, front paws on the tubes. I undid the clips of her floatation device as we came into the shallows, her tail wagging, I released her leash. She jumped onto the shore, shoulder deep in water. Just about her favourite place, anywhere. Water.

Pete rolling stones for Bessie…

We lost an hour, somehow, on our deserted beach. I thought at first we would be driven off by determined gulls nesting in the cliffs. The frontline having launched to see us off. They soared and swooped, and I (the great bird-phobe) would have swam back to Whinchat, but somehow the combination of man throwing stones for dog, and dog only interested in stones made for a truce. They settled back down, perhaps slightly disappointed not to have engaged in battle. We had gone ashore to ‘toilet’ our puppy, but she would not get out of the sea. The sea is higher in the order in a Bessie-world than treats, although she automatically salivates to a cry of “wasss-is”. Pavlov’s dog and all that. We really do have a water-dog. Pete lured her up the beach towards a ravine, biscuit glued to her nose. When her paws hit the grass – success. We knew then that we’d make it back to port, without incident… But only after we could play some more. It was a job to get her back into the dinghy (hoisted, again), and then on board, where she collapsed, in a soggy, happy state.

The wind had died, and shifted. Facing a longer beat back, Pete deployed the engine for a straight 8NM homewards. The engine is never a quiet option, but then the fan kicked in, with a noise I can only imagine to be like a Dementor sucking your soul. No deadly undoing, but a failing bearing on the fan. Pete told me that most boats don’t have them, and I wished for a spanner to throw into it. A rattling, noisy passage back, with us both resolving that is priority for Wednesday (as it is, heavy rain is forecast, good for boat jobs, and our pink English skin). Thank God it had ceased by the time we approached port (we had slowed in order to make the fan work less, and Pete altered the kick-in temperature); that would have been too much.

We moored alongside perfectly, Bessie secured, and not too much whining as we both leapt about doing the jobs of mooring… always involving much line tying, untying, tightening, loosening…. Until you just think it’s time for a beer. And so it was.

Have dog, will travel… (not on Whinchat)

Monday 15th May 2017

Quiberon

A lot has changed in the last couple of years. Whinchat had her blue water muscles stretched in 2015 when she entered the AZAB. In 2016 we were thinking “Baltic”, but then I went and suffered a spectacular injury (a mechanical one), a collapsed lung, which meant that Whinchat was largely tied up in Mylor. I was on big pain killers and a loss of ‘life’ mojo (let alone a sailing one), but it broke my husband’s heart to see Whinchat swinging on her mooring, growing way too much weed (the voodoo solution having not worked properly all season). In 2017 it would be different, we said.

And then we got a puppy. Something I’d long wanted, and life had a “it’s too short” feel about it. Pete’s parents both died earlier this year, and so we’ve arrived, a little shell-shocked. We are here. We have a lovely boat (still gives me the thrills), in a glorious location, and we have a 10-month-old puppy.

Pete sailed Whinchat out here with Adrian Jones, a great friend (of Rustler fame). It was good in places, and by all accounts, part of it that I wouldn’t enjoy. That’ll be the lumpy seas without sea-legs.

Bessie, the little black scampy, and I were always going to meet Whinchat here. Cornwall to Brittany – a breeze! Until you realise that the dog has to stay in the car during the crossing. Hell, that’s barbaric. I don’t even leave her to go shopping. That realisation (the summer would see us hopping back and forth all the time) saw the 6 hour journey across southern England, and then the 6 hour journey across northern France as the way forwards. Great! 

So, that was that. Already doing crazy things to allow the little black bundle to join in the fun. She’s been out a couple of times with us, and seemed to love it. We think that has a lot to do with where the boss is, she’s happy (that is me, to be clear).

Today has been our first day in Quiberon (where we have a berth for the summer). We have provisioned, done laundry. Eaten gallette and drank cider…. walked for 12,500 steps. Tried to persuade our labrador out of the sea. Tried to stop her eating mussel shells… 

Bessie limitations of Day 1. She can’t manage the companionway stairs. At 23kg, that’s something to shift up and down. When she was small (like less than 10kg), she couldn’t get in the car, so she would put her front paws on me, and I would lift her in. That is the same movement up and down the four, steep steps of the companionway. Her paws on my shoulder, her body flat against mine, my arms scooped under her bum… Princess Bessie up and down the steps! God only knows what getting her in and out of the dinghy will be like, but that’s tomorrow’s task.

The other limitation is that she is so wedded to me (Pete has been away an awful lot with the slow demise of his folks, that I am the constant, the safe base), that come bedtime last night. Yep. Took the biscuits to go to her bed, and then, as soon as I’d climbed into the forepeak, she took a running jump to settle at my feet. SHE DOESN’T HAVE THAT LUXURY AT HOME. Mr H in the servant’s quarters. 

Labrador face wash as a wake up call. Endearing on Day One.