The wind and storms had arrived overnight, making for a very sticky night. Not pleasant. It meant that no one really moved very quickly, and we begun to wonder if the French boat would stay attached to us? They moved off late morning, when all the storms had cleared through.
Bessie always is unsettled when we pack, and does her best to ensure that she isn’t forgotten. Sits on bags, fusses, and generally paces about. She had to go for her vet’s appointment so that he could watch her eat a worming tablet and stamp her passport. We were charged this time, which is fair enough really.
It was only when we were packing up that Pete checked the ticket, that he had booked (for the avoidance of doubt). Our ferry crossing wasn’t for Wednesday, but Thursday!!!!! That was going to cost him an extra night in a swanky hotel, and me the hassle of rearranging a John Lewis delivery for Friday. We still don’t really know how he managed to do it, but it didn’t really matter. Thankfully.
One of the things that has amused us constantly over the two trips that we’ve made, is the attachment between Bessie and a 3 year-old basset hound, called Lanzarote. We thought she was called Lancelot (because of the heavy accent) and that’s what we call her, even though it’s not a girl’s name.
Bessie and Lancelot adore each other, and Bessie always tries to entice her into play, even though she’s not really allowed to. Bessie towers over her, but Lancelot’s paws are huge, and she biffs at Bessie. We have to walk past Lancelot’s boat every time we come to or leave the boat, so Bessie is always looking out for her, and sometimes Lancelot shook her lead to come and find Bessie.
Anyway. We left on time as we’d booked a hotel for our last night, getting us someway towards Le Havre and a chance to explore some of northern Brittany – and Normandy (so it turned out).
Monday 17th July
Anchorage south of the entrance to Gulf of Morbihan
In some ways it was amazing that we untied Whinchat at all. The chap on the British boat said that storms were coming, with strong winds, so he was heading into the Villaine for cover. We were obsessively checking the weather, not really finding evidence to support his claims. The clouds that hung heavy in the morning were burnt back by the sun, and there was a nice breeze. We had the task of taking Bessie to the vet to get her passport stamped and signed off, but had to make an appointment for the following day.
At noon we decided to just go sailing… but with a dog to toilet as well as the usual faff involved in preparing the boat for sea (stowing everything down below, taking the covers off, taking the tent down) it was another half an hour before we set off. It was a ‘and now for something completely different’ location, not Houat, but further down the coast, to an open bay a few miles south of the entrance to Morbihan. I had the helm out, and it was delightful sailing, trying to pinch the wind to make the waypoint, and avoid too many tacks. The wind was blowing about 14 knots, so Whinchat was flying along, in full sail, more or less in the right direction. One small deviation for a fishing boat trawling a net, and that was it… until we had to tack into the bay to find our anchorage. There was no one else there. Not really surprising as we later worked out.
The bay was very gently shelving, at low depths, which meant at 5m, we were miles off the beach (well, not quite, but..) meaning it was too far to go in the dingy. Bessie wouldn’t get a run ashore. The other thing was that there was a plague of bugs that descended, from the teeny-tiny, barely can see, through flies, ladybirds and the occasional big bugger that looked pretty hairy. I spent the whole of the journey back flicking a towel around trying to persuade this invasion to go elsewhere. With not being able to ferry Bessie to shore, we had to try to persuade her to swim. That hadn’t been a problem before, but it seems our Bessie isn’t so sure about swimming. Pete got onto the dingy, and hauled her down, so that she be tempted in, but not really. Pete lowered her into the water, and she made frantic paddles to get back in. Somehow I thought it would be a good idea if I went for a swim, to see if she’d swim with me. Well. I lowered myself into the cold water, and channeled my inner-Penny to be brave, and swam over towards the dingy. Downwind. Easy. Pete said that Bessie jumped in when I was near, and she did swim towards me, but then tried to use me to get out of the water. I could feel her scraping at me, pushing me under. For a few moments it was terrifying. I really thought she could have drowned me. It seemed ages until she stopped; Pete said she swam back to the dingy, where he lifted her in. I swam over too, heart racing, lungs heaving, and clung on until I’d composed myself. Whinchat was floating, only about 20m away, at the end of the dingy line, but it was a massive effort to swim back against the wind. I was very happy to cling on to the swim ladder. If I am to swim in Greece, I need to get some swimming practice in!
With us all back on board, there wasn’t much point in hanging around collecting more bugs, so we upped anchor and set sail.. for about 20 minutes, until the wind died. Pete reported zero wind and zero speed, so with a dramatic flourish, he fired up the engine. Whoops. 90 minutes of motoring to get us back to the marina. The wind dying wasn’t in the plan. The upside was I could open all the hatches and flush out the bugs that had found their way down below, the downside was obsessive watching of the oil pressure and temperature gauges. The nani engine got us back to port, where we were staggered to see even more boats than over the weekend. How did that work? Once again we were approached by the Accueil boat and asked to have someone raft up, saying that it was the last place in the marina… Ah well.
The weekend was one when we didn’t quite get going, or the weekend didn’t. Running the engine for a total of 40 minutes had provided more evidence that we have an oil leak, and the skipper knows which part of the engine it’s coming from, due to some clever membrane he lined on the bottom of the engine housing. It doesn’t make it any better! There was little wind on Saturday and we didn’t want to run the engine for more than was necessary. So the weekend was a little unsatisfactory, and poor old Whinchat became the floating cottage. Provisioning (we were even too late to make the Saturday market in Quiberon), laundry, reading, avoiding the sun… with a little entertainment in the mooring show as boats poured in during the late afternoon. They were rafted four out on the visitors pontoon, and rather surprisingly, the accueil boat asked (sort of) if we would take someone rafted alongside. We tried to protest, but without much success, as a small British boat headed towards us. It’s a tricky one, and will prove to be a downside of being on the hammerhead when we’re not there over the main summer sailing period. It’s not really what you pay for a berth in a marina. With some additional 50 boats overnight, it meant pressure on the showers/loos… Sunday morning I wasn’t going to chance it, so was in the shower at 07:00, after having toileted and returned the dog to the boat… Sunday passed in much the same way, without the chores, but with a good lunch at the restaurant in the marina – good food, terrible (surly) service. It was too hot to take Bessie very far, as the decks were burning under foot, so we rolled some stones on the scrap of beach in the marina and lazed around some more. The marina emptied during the day, and was reset to more normal visitor levels on the Sunday evening, so it must just have been a public holiday thing. Or so we thought.
From the environs of La Rochelle, we drove north, edging into Muscadet country to meet Cathy and Simon for lunch in Clisson. We swapped car descriptions, and arranged to meet around 12:30, not realising how impractical that was. Clisson wasn’t a slip of a place, with a market square, but a thriving historic town, complete with a partly ruined castle, old stone bridge and Italian architecture. A stunning little town, that we didn’t really do justice. Doris (the SatNav) had plopped us the wrong side of the river, in the new town, when we wanted to be in the old town, so we abandoned her in favour of following road signs (how conventional), ending up in a car park at the back of the castle. Everywhere was ‘disc’ parking, so Pete went in search of where to buy one, and came back €4 lighter. We wandered around the scrub of land (hardly a park) around the castle, marvelling that we could indeed have been in a Tuscan town, before dropping down to the river, Bessie once again trying to throw herself onto the bridge to see/get to the water. Cathy then phoned to say that they were in town, but had no idea where they were. We darted up some steps, and waited near the Tourist Information Office, where they eventually found us, having scaled the same steps. Lunch was the only order of the day, our chosen place being a hotel’s terrace near the river. We spent a convivial couple of hours catching up on each other, and news of mutual friends, half an eye on the clock, so that we didn’t incur the wrath of the town’s towers. With Bastille Day approaching, Clisson was seemingly to go into lock down that day, and we had minor worries that our car would be the wrong side of any barriers. We needn’t have worried. We left Cathy and Simon having fixed for them to come sailing on Whinchat, a prospect that we all looked forward to.
The journey north to Quiberon was terrible. We’d left Clisson about 15:00, into the early-leavers for their Public Holiday. Somehow we didn’t arrive back at the port until 20:00. OK we stopped at the supermarket to provision, and stopped for 30 minutes on Bessie’s beach, but the rest of it was due to extremely heavy traffic, with one particular stretch warranting a Doris-diversion (the most pleasant part of the drive). The ‘you have arrived’ beer on board was extremely welcomed.
Sailing – guess where… to Houat!
We told Cathy and Simon not to rush, as we’d fallen into a pattern of not doing anything very quickly in the mornings, although not exactly being lazy either. We both love breakfast, and the routine of buying artisan bread at the bar has fallen to me (mostly) since Penny left. Another 1000 steps to add to the daily count is a bonus. Cathy and Simon were held up in horrendous Quiberon traffic, and arrived around noon, so we just about let them stash their bags below, then slipped the lines and set sail.
A glorious sailing day, with enough breeze to fill the sails, and lift Whinchat to a comfortable cruising motion and speed. At least, that was on the way to Houat. Simon helmed all the way, obviously thrilled to be given the chance. More swapping stories of friends, and reflections on what was moving around us. Our destination was the big bay, sheltered from the winds, but instead of being one of five boats this time the public holiday had brought everyone out… I estimated 70 boats. Pete selected the anchorage, and took the helm from Simon to park… deciding to moor in front of a rather striking gaff-rigged boat. Good job he did, we wondered if we were moving against it, but no… it was dragging its anchor and disappearing with the stiffening breeze. No one evidently on board. We watched a drama as a grey-hulled sailing boat, with a sizeable crew, went alongside it, and seemed to put someone on it to anchor again. They turned back to sea, but the boat then drifted again… and very sportingly, they headed back towards it.
Pete and I had to take Bessie ashore, so we missed some of the drama, instead bouncing on a rather under inflated dingy, with a very excited puppy. The combination of those two elements, and the said stiffening breeze meant that we were completely soaked. Cathy and Simon had made the much better choice of lying in the sun and drinking white wine!
The sail back to Port Hailguen was insane – hanging off the wind, blowing at the top end of a F4. Cathy asked me when we reefed, and I gave her a slightly puzzled response. “It depends”. On this tack, with the wind 20 knots over the deck, we had the main and yankee – not the stay, so technically reefed. At 25 knots, Pete put up the running back stay, but still Simon had control. Whinchat got a bit frisky towards the end, when Simon said he was hanging off the rudder, but Pete spilled some of the main, and it was again fine. Decks got washed, the dog had to be tethered, and persuaded to wedge… but all great fun. Mooring was soooo much easier with four on board, and Simon did the most gazelle like leap to get ashore. We were secured in record time. Engine used for about 45 minutes in total; oil leakage, yep, not ideal! Cathy and Simon stayed for a drink and then took to the roads back to Sainte Nazaire. I hope they thought the escapade worth it, we certainly loved seeing them, and what a way to spend Bastille Day.
With Whichat with restricted options, and a couple of meh weather days, we decided to head for La Rochelle, to see a man about a boat. In fact, it was to see a factory. Here comes the long story, and diversion, probably more interesting than an account of the factory tour!
There are different types of boats for different people and for different boating needs. I’ll say it again, we have a ‘go anywhere’ boat, but Pete doesn’t have a ‘go anywhere’ wife. We have Whinchat, a reasonably fast RIB at home, and a small clinker-built sailing dingy that Pete has built as retirement project number two. The French marinas are full of these ‘shed boats’, to coin Penny’s phrase. Little, weather-proof pootlers, for sitting on, fishing or ignoring. Pete has been rather taken with the look of a, not insubstantial, shed-type boat. A Rhea. Turns out, they’re made in La Rochelle, and so, this is where we had a ‘why not’ moment, and decided to venture to on a non-boating-boating activity. It also turns out that La Rochelle wasn’t ‘just’ a couple of hours away, but 300km! So, we packed an overnight bag!
We had a ridiculous tour around La Rochelle, which Pete was determined to do. We’d left a little bit late, it had taken 3 hours, and we were due in Rhea ‘after lunch’. At 12:30 we were stuck in the outskirts of La Rochelle, in a queue, heading for ‘the old port’. We sat in more traffic, couldn’t find a parking space, and with various roads shut in the centre, sent Doris (the sat nav) into meltdown. We ended up having lunch, a picnic lunch, in the carpark of a massive E Leclerc. Not a gastronomic highlight!
The rather wonderful Florian, of Rhea, gave us a couple of hours of his time, talking about the company, the boats, finishing with a tour of the factory… all including Bessie. It was a really engaging couple of hours (I know!). The philosophy of Rhea is very similar to Rustler. They over engineer the build slightly, to give quality and robustness. They care about the small details. Much of it is hand-finished. They make 70 boats a year, on a small workforce, having suffered hugely in 2008, when the world’s markets collapsed. The original design was for a fisherman, who wanted a traditional fishing boat, but smaller. The 750 was born, and the range stems from this. As Florian says, it has the outline of a boat that a child would draw. I think this lends a certain charm and affection. Do we want one? That’s the simultaneous equation of boats, but it would certainly be more grandchildren friendly, dog friendly, more sociable space and mean that I didn’t have to wrestle with Kevin’s ridiculous cover. I came away impressed – and with more of a taste for one than I’d arrived with, albeit considering the Rhea rather attractive as boat sheds go.
The rather wonderful Florian had booked us into a Chateau that we’d driven past on the way to La Rochelle, and were we ever glad! We took the suite, with private garden and jacuzzi bath, because we could. The little terrace near the reception was a little tatty, and there were kids toys dotted around. First impressions count, and I was beginning to wonder the wiseness of our choice, based on something we’d passed at 50kmph. The lady, owner we think, was equally tatty, and we were comforted at least that shorts might be OK to wear for supper (that’s all Pete had, albeit a clean pair). The suite was divine, in a converted barn, lovely stone built, with chunky, heavy furniture, and tasteful decorations. A find. The booklet in the room was very fierce about taking photographs and putting them online, so there is an oddness to it, an eccentricity. The food was lovely, home cooked and honest. It made for a wholly enjoyable evening.
I have an on-off relationship with Facebook. I love the ‘social network’, of friends and things they are interested in… most of the time. I can’t bear the advertising, and the click-bait stuff, and the way it directs your feed. However, I am loving it on this Wednesday, as friends, former Yacht-club fellows saw that we were in the area, and had a bit of trouble (on a conversational post of another friend), and offered to help. We ended up arranging to meet in Clisson on Thursday, and then for them to come sailing on Friday. Good old Facebook.
Thank goodness for the internet, and the ferry! I had upon the idea of taking the ferry to Belle Isle, and within 15 minutes, we’d found the ferry times, and booked our tickets. We went to bed more cheery to have a plan than otherwise we might have done. Not sailing, but still boating.
Sunday was the first of a few days of major step count, some 17,000, and in flip-flops that’s quite punishing. I have trainer envy, but that is another story. Sunday was a baking hot day, with the sun already fierce when we walked to Quiberon. Bessie wasn’t the only one trying to find every scrap of shade! With enough time for a coffee at an unremarkable beach front cafe, Pete went to collect the tickets. It had all worked, including one for Bessie ‘un chien ordinaire’. We wondered what she had to do to become extraordinaire… Clearly they hadn’t met her!
The ferry ride was pleasant, the breeze providing welcome relief from the heat, although Bessie took to the shade under the chairs, where she could supervise anyone going into a picnic bag. She barked at a baby, not quite toddler, who was being ‘walked’ by his mother, his hands high. Fortunately no one bothered, although I was. Bessie will have to go back to the dog trainer, but that’s another story too.
The ferry deposited us into Le Palais, town with an impressive citadel, and series of harbours. The pilot book warns of the chaos of Le Palais, but at noon on a Sunday morning, it all seemed quiet. The ferry manoeuvred in a space that was only a little bit longer than it to get alongside the dock. I guess if you’d arrived at that time as a visitor, that would be a bit stressful.
Le Palais was as I’d remembered it, these series of connected harbours. The outer, with the ferry port, the second harbour, mostly with local boats, and then the inner harbour, accessible only when there is enough water (tide) so that the lock can be opened. It was rammed. We circumnavigated the harbours, stopping to marvel at the spectacular – not sure quite what the word is. Not flags, not quite bunting, but a series of wonderful fish were flying across the streets. Penny appeared out of a shop exclaiming that they were €80 each! Handmade then! We didn’t work out what they were there for, other than to look rather spectacular.
We treated ourselves to a commissary lunch, mourning the fact that we weren’t boating. Pete and I both remembered we’d had a great lunch before, and I was convinced it was the place we went for, sitting on a terrace overlooking the inner (not locked) harbour. Le Odyssey. Turns out I was wrong (it happens), but it was superb despite not being the place.
We rather needed to walk off the excesses of lunch, but didn’t really want to go into the citadel again, and Penny wasn’t bothered, more keen to find a cove to pass the time of day. They’d spotted one to the west of Le Palais on arrival, but we failed to find it as we walked the coastal path. Bessie was a nightmare, as all she wanted to do was find a way down to the sea. We kept on walking around small headlands until we found a beach that we could go down to. There were no fierce ‘no dog’ signs, so we took Bessie to the far end, where Pete rolled stones for her. Penny, not having her swimmers, sat on a rock and negotiated with herself as to whether she could swim. She fashioned something decent out of a scarf, and managed it. Swim count being maintained!
After the hot walk back to the town, it was time for our ferry back to Quiberon. Bessie and I both slept on the return, restoring enough energy for the walk back to the marina. 17,000 steps in a black fur coat is almost harder than in flip flops…
Monday 10th July
Monday wasn’t as successful as Tuesday. Some days just go like that. Pete had spoken to the factory, so was feeling a little more optimistic about the engine even if I wasn’t. There was also a lot of wind forecast, not ideal conditions for a Penny, our novice sailor. We ended up heading to the ‘savage coast’, to Port Ivy to our lovely Bateau d’ivre for lunch, and then walking along the coastal path to the fortress that sits along the causeway, close to Bessie’s beach. Pete and Penny had secured a table outside, unfortunately in full sun, so it was hot. Bessie also was a nightmare, as all she wanted to do was head for the water… so lunch wasn’t relaxed, in fact, it was extremely unrelaxed, and I was glad to finish. Then we had an unrelaxed walk to the fortress, as Bessie was just pulling to go into the water. I walked ahead, as Pete struggled to keep her to heel. On the return, we walked along the sand, despite it being no dogs. From the fort, there was no signs to say ‘no dogs’, and there were so few people on the beach… and she just chases stones… and we clear up any mess. Bessie is hardly much of a threat to cleanliness or disruptiveness. With that out of her system, she was much better behaved when back on the path.
Pete dropped Penny and I in Quiberon, in order that we could go shopping and do a little provisioning. It is the first time that I’ve been actual shopping/browsing (other than online) in ages, and I have to say, it was thoroughly enjoyable. We both came back with a couple of parcels, and I am tempted to go back before the trip is done. If only to get a couple of breton shirts!
Another 17,000 steps, in a different type of flip flops. My feet feel like they are as stiff as the tarmac. Not used to walking in towns. Dreaming of trainers…
Tuesday 11th July
The strategy of the day was to be a little more flexible around Bessie, so that we would get the best of her, not the worst. She needed a stretch and a run before being asked to sit near water! So, the day began in its leisurely way (buying bread and croissants at the local cafe) before Penny packed up and we headed inland. It was a grey day, so not one to be boating anyway. Or that’s what we told each other, particularly when it started raining.
Auray is the closest large town, right at the top of the long peninsular that points towards our home port for the summer, Quiberon and Port Haliguen. We’ve passed it a few times on the dual carriageway around it, and stopped for fuel, but it had never occurred to me to be a place of certain charm… and it has charm, even on a cloudy day. But first, we needed to exercise le chien, and with the windows of the car down, Bessie could smell the sea as the land narrowed around the causeway, sending her into a little frenzy. Does she know the road? When we turned off at the little roundabout, she went NUTS. She loves a beach! We walked for an hour, under grey skies, but with the tide almost fully out, it was gorgeous walking on the cool, damp sand, the conditions making for an almost glassy reflection. I wished I had a better camera, but the iphone6 does a reasonable job.
With Bessie suitably exercised, we continued to Auray, arriving at the respectable hour to find lunch. Penny and Pete had done the research, and we needed the old port to find the ‘interesting’ bits of the town. After circumnavigating the town, we found a huge carpark, and had one of the last spaces. From its vantage point on the side of a hill, all we needed to do was head down to find the river, and hopefully the old town. As it was Penny’s last lunch with us, we said she had to choose. Luckily, she chose an exceptional terrace restaurant, on a refurbished quay, with views over the old bridge. We had a very well-behaved dog, so the whole experience was excellent.
From lunch it was a gentle meander around the battlement that climbed steeply away from the water. Bessie tried her best to leap in to the river, but we took her into the streets behind the Town Hall. Auray boasted some up-market shops, and we were curious as to why this little town had such prosper. Penny and I could both have spent a small fortune on nic-nacs, and to my regret, I didn’t buy a rather funky reversible skirt. I don’t know why I didn’t! We were all running out of steam (another 17,000 step day), so Penny told us to drop her at the airport so that we could head back to Whinchat and make plans. We had already decided that Wednesday was looking like a poor-weather day, and so we were going to see a man about a boat. In La Rochelle.
We’d made Whinchat ship-shape, squirreling all things that might fly about the cabin into lockers, and I’d toileted the dog. Long faces when I returned; there is a problem with the engine. Oil and water where it shouldn’t be. Penny, Bessie and I sat in the cockpit, whilst Pete tore apart the engine housing trying to work out what had happened. The Capitanarie provided him with a list of marine engineers, but in his heart, he knew that he only wanted the factory back in Penryn to look at it. Gary in particular. Pete went to see the local chap listed, but was alarmed when he wanted to take the boat out of the water, and then the engine to assess it. With the factory shut until Monday, we needed other plans…
Saturday Pete lost to waiting for the local pirate, in case he found time to come and poke his head around the engine, so I took Penny to Bessie’s beach for a long walk, and then another beach (not on the Cote Sauvage) where she could have her swim. Penny’s routines are impressive, if simple. She could continue her morning yoga habit, as I produced a yoga mat (doesn’t every boat have one?), and she had decided after the swim on Friday, that she would swim every day. Both made her extremely happy.
So, for the second time in Whinchat’s lifetime, we have engine trouble. The last time was in Brittany too, but that was solved by an oil filter change, although it took me a while to trust it. This one, well, we’re not so sure. Possibly a head gasket, or a sump gasket. The latter being much worse. On Monday Pete spoke with Adrian/Gary at Rustler, and she does need to go back. Gary said that we could use the engine in small bursts, getting in and out of marinas, but not to motor anywhere…
Friday 8th July 2017
Port Hailguen to Houat,
No wind and then WNW 4-5
A day of two completely contrasting passages to and from the anchorage. With Penny on board, the skipper has decided to give her a range of sailing days. Friday’s was going to be day-sailing out of Port Haliguen for an island anchorage, with a trip ashore in the dingy. The outbound was a straight motor, as there was barely a breath of wind. The becalmed conditions were mesmerising; glassy seas, the seam of sea and sky blurring in a blend of powder blues. So mesmerising that my helming wasn’t altogether straight, as I simply kept getting lost in the seascapes. It made me think of ‘calenture’, the word that has inspired a story in me. It refers to the delirium that sailors can experience, particularly in the tropics, in becalmed conditions where the low rolling sea appears like rolling hills… and they throw themselves in, some disappearing. It wasn’t my delirium, but I had a sense of how the sea might charm and fool, like a watery version of the sirens calling sailors to their doom.
The motoring meant that our speed was constant as well as our course, and we had the quickest passage to Houat, ever! We were on the anchorage for 11:30, opting for the western end of Houat, the lovely bay that we’d visited before. I wonder whether Bessie recognised it as a place that she’d been before. She was certainly pacing around the deck when we’d arrived. She proved Pete wrong on several occasions over a few hours. She will never jump off the boat. She will never try to swim to shore. She will never actually just leap from the boat. We reflected later that she was like a child, testing boundaries, verging on the edge of wrecklessness, with no idea of the consequences – would she be OK? Either achieve it, or be rescued. In each of her missives of the day, she had to be rescued, in a slight panic.
Bessie had been held by Penny whilst I cranked out the anchor chain, but released her. She was mithering around, and the next thing I hear is Penny’s cry that she’s jumped off the boat into the dingy – the dingy meaning going to shore. Then there was a splash, and the sight of her dayglo buoyancy aid, little black head bobbing, disappearing to the shore. I watched open-mouthed. Pete fetched the oars, and was about to go in the dingy after her. Bessie must’ve decided that it was too far, as she was frantically paddling back to the boat, at an impressive speed. Pete didn’t have to row away, as she came back, a little alarmed, and then couldn’t get back into the dingy without being lifted by the handle on the back of the buoyancy aid. It’s a good job that she likes wearing it; we think she could have swam without it, but it has proved invaluable in the space of a couple of hours at hauling her out. She then sat on the dingy, waiting for us to go ashore.
All she wants to do is play on a beach. To be fair, we all did! Pete took it in turns to row us, firstly Bessie and I, and then Penny to shore. The beach was gradually filling up with families, laden with picnic hampers, so we kept Bessie to one part of the beach, uncertain of which pull would be greater – a jambon baguette or a pebble. Always the pebble.
We left the beach and scrambled up through a sandy path to walk out along the headland, Bessie leaping about, desperately trying to find her own way back to the sea, not really interested in the abandoned fort, half-decrepit, its rusty cannons peering over the battlements. We roamed around, seeking shade, before heading back to the beach, of course the wee Bessie leading the charge.
Penny said that she was going to swim back to the boat; I thought this sounded like a good idea. We both edged into the water, past a young French woman shivering. I’m not sure whether it was the sight of her, or the reality of the icy grip of the water easing its way up my body. I managed hip height, and thought about the inevitable gasp that my body would do… and what that might do to my psyche. I had an internal tussle, whether I would be strong enough to swim that distance anyway, let alone in cold water. Prudence won, and rather reluctantly, I decided to allow Pete to row me to the boat with Bessie. Penny beat us to shore, saying it was wonderful. A part of me regretted not being braver.
We had lunch on board, and then settled down to relaxation… only that wasn’t true of me, as Bessie didn’t conk out but prowled the deck, taunted by the cries of the gulls on the cliffs and in the water. Chase-us, chase-us, chase-us they seemed to goad her. She whined and grumbled. She won’t jump in, Pete said. She did. She swam around the boat, turbo powered, back to the dingy, where she dug at the water to clamber on board, failing. Panic flickered on her face, before Pete’s hand reached the buoyancy aid handle and hauled her back. We left shortly after then, tethering her very firmly to Whinchat, partly as she was not to be trusted to leap again, and partly as the wind had arrived, and it would be a beat back to port. Oh lovely sailing wind, how we missed you. Direction, not the most helpful, but lively enough to fill the three sails and power us along. I helmed for a while, but it was too chilly, so I was happy to be winch-wench and tack the boat and the dog.
The only additional faff in mooring was that when we were inside the harbour, Pete decided that we needed to be starboard-side to… so that meant a rapid-re-rig of the mooring lines and fenders. “I’m not quite ready,” I said to the skipper as I caught the pontoon approaching out of the corner of my eye. “I can’t stop now,” he replied. Thankfully there was a young lad there to take our lines, although he was trying to hold the bow against the wind with the bowline and the midships, now a forward spring… not using the cleat. Anyway, I was very grateful for his help, as it would have been rather untidy without it.
Penny declared it a perfect day. A good job for her sailing experience, as we haven’t untied Whinchat again. There is another ‘grand problem avec le moteur’, so we are port-bound until we decide what to do.
Another couple of days of not-sailing, adding to the rather low sailing-yield of this trip. A week away from home, and all provisioned out. Laundry and shopping were the order of Wednesday – and preparing the fatted cow for Penny’s (Pete’s sister) arrival.
One of those frustrating days, with not quite enough to do, meaning that time went elastic. The forecast was for thundery showers, and in my walk to put the laundry on, I wondered at the merits of choosing the day. (Photo above). In fact, just when I’d hung the washing over the rails, it started raining. Pete, on lookout, had spotted a market in the old port, so we headed over, just as it really did its best to get the washing back to ‘rinse’ condition. We carried on, arguing with Bessie that she couldn’t go to the beach. We managed to fill a shopping bag full of lovely fresh yumminesses… olives, filet of cod, cheese, speciality smoked pork filet, sausages and the sweetest melon.
Pete was in a funny old mood, and didn’t really know what he wanted to do. Sailing, obviously, but that’s not really possible with the rails loaded with drying washing. We ate lunch on board, and he went off to the supermarket the other side of Quiberon (not rated very highly for fresh stuff) whilst I took Bessie for a bit of beach time. I am certainly not the best stone-roller.
The sun had won out in the afternoon, so we lounged in the cockpit, supervising the boats coming in to moor up for the night. By then the wind had completely vanished, and so it was proper hot. Burny soles of feet on the teak deck hot, with the faint scent of singed wood in the air. Definitely not the day to be wearing a black fur coat.
The evening called for a couple of beers in the bar at the back of the marina, where we chatted to a two couples on their summer cruise out of Hamble. I’m not sure that it did much to ease Pete’s ‘mood’ (too strong a sentiment, but I can’t think of a tone-down word) hearing of where they’d been, reminding him that we were not-sailing, despite him telling everyone that Whinchat was a floating cottage for the summer. You can’t do everything, and Mr Toad is a worthy name that Pete’s sisters have for him. Because of his love of toys, and cars, not because he’s reckless. Of the latter, quite the opposite.
We promised each other that we would go sailing today, although through various iterations. Plan A was to head towards Port Louis, but I pointed out that if the plane was late, we would be on the wrong side for the ferry, and therefore that would get complicated for collecting Penny. Plan B was for a marina in Lorient, but I’m not sure why we went off that. Plan C was actually to have a giddy day sailing out from here, anchorage and back. It would mean that Pete had to rise earlier (as Bessie and I are usually up before 07:00), but manageable.
Unfortunately the weather gods had other ideas, with Port Haliguen shrouded in a damp, clinging mist, more cloud like in nature. There was little breeze, but what there was, pushed it through the forest of masts in pulses, making an eerie sight. Even the automatic lighting thought it was dark enough to illuminate. Mist. That was not in the plan. Pete was up early, and shook his head at the sight. A bloke a couple of boats down told me that it would clear at 10:00, “gone,”. It was more like 14:00, and by then we were on Plan D. We walked Bessie along the harbour wall to see what it was like out at sea. Murky, with no wind. Pete’s least favourite sailing conditions, so not a day to venture out in.
Plan D was walking the birthday girl on her best beach, and then a decent lunch. Plan D worked very well, as we had just about the last seats in Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat), just a wonderful little bistro. Funky decoration to make it charming, excellent service, and great food.
So, another reminder that you sailing comes with its challenges, its lows, but that you have to roll with it. Plenty of boats moved today, and the visibility was good enough (a mile or so), but without the wind, you have to say, what is the point? Tomorrow we are hoping for better. Our evening brightened in the form of Penny arriving, a true ray of sunshine, with stories of Pete’s sisters. A lovely evening with conversation that rambled, forming plans for the following day. Whinchat has surpassed Penny’s expectation, particularly when I produced a yoga mat… every store cupboard should have one!
Port Haliguen to Treac’h er Beniguet, Ile Houat
Tuesday 4th July 2017
E 2-3 dying, and then swinging through to W2-3
Smooth, sparkly seas
It’s always a good day when you see the sun rise – not as in watching the dawn (that would be ridiculously early) – but watching the sun climb over the sea wall. That was 06:45, when Bessie whined to be let out. When the day is that inviting, with a lovely breeze setting the marina flags fluttering, it feels rude not to sail. After the inevitable faff, we set off about 10:30, Whinchat’s mooring lines having set rather after 5-6 weeks in position. The lines were stiff, and grubby. Two minutes in, and grubby transferred onto me. Unimpressed (girl). Bessie was happy to be back in her dayglo buoyancy aid, which she seems to wear like a badge of honour, and seals her further as a wonderful boatdog.
The wind wasn’t all that; unhelpful direction for seeking out an anchorage on Houat, and decidedly fickle. I had the first helm, but the lingering cold got the better of my sinuses. There is only so much fresh sea air they could withstand. Much better to repose in the cockpit and slip into a gentle sleep, the sound of the sea lapping at the hull. Bessie and I had the same idea. What wind there was faded, and approaching the rocky outcrops to the western end of Houat, Pete deployed the engine. It comes to something when he gives up on the wind.
It seemed that anyone out on the water today had the same idea for the easterly wind; the sheltered western end of Ile Houat. There were 15 boats already anchored, probably half the amount that you’d see in August. We edged between a couple of yachts, but the anchor didn’t set straight off, earning the ‘meerkat’ reaction of the folks on the boat off the stern. Time to try again. We hauled anchor, and tried again. After a little bouncing, the rochna set, but we were lying at odds to everyone else. The Skipper already stressed. With the dingy still to inflate, and a dog pacing the decks, it didn’t do much to lower the cortisol levels. I was convinced she needed to poo (exploding bowels earlier – was that too much information?) I made lunch when Pete toiled on deck, but it was unsatisfactory to eat. We decided, in barely a few words, that I would stay on Whinchat and Pete would ferry Bessie ashore. I baked in the sun on board, as Whinchat shuffled about on her anchor (along with everyone else), and Pete suffered on shore. A rogue wave caught them as they landed, tumbling Bessie into the water (apparently she loved it), and soaking Pete. He rolled pine cones for her for a while, but she refused to poo until he’d walked her off the beach (no-shoes Pete; retrieving a poo in the prickly scrub grasslands at the back of the beach). I watched them, Bessie tearing up and down, and Pete now trying to entice her back to the dingy. Nope. Not having any of that. I watched Pete stomp towards the dingy, as Bessie retreated up the beach. Even I said ‘little minx’. I must’ve been distracted, as the next thing I saw was Pete upending the dingy, the engine and oars on the shore. Bessie still some way off. And then, I saw he had her in the little dingy, paddling off the beach. No. Not paddling, but rowing. What had gone wrong with the electric engine? Pete didn’t really know, but they returned, hardly friends. Whinchat had swung around, but not in any risk of bumping our neighbouring boats.
It can only be described as a wholly unsatisfactory stop. Pete and Bessie full of sand, scattering it about the boat. Pete needed to completely change his clothes, all soaking and stiff with sand. The treat bag contained welded kibble and sand, like cement. It was a relief to leave. Pete sullen. Bessie sparko. Fortunately the wind was perkier, and a little more helpful in direction, for the return to port. Pete helmed all of the way, easing his mood, as I joined Bessie in a long afternoon snooze.
On a day when things could have gone from bad to worse, the marina hadn’t let out our berth (my fear) and we did a near-perfect mooring. Near-perfect? I’m not sure how we could have improved it. It was under complete control, no fuss, no raised voices, nothing damaged. No. That’s perfect. Let us be kind when kind is due. Sadly we noticed a munch near the port-bow. Nothing of our making (you would know), so we can only assume that someone has taken a chunk out of it. There has been some stiff winds whilst we were back home, and the French and mooring, well, since my observations of a few years ago… nothing much has changed.
Back on board, and provisions were at the ‘fridge food’ level. Just about enough to make a meal, but very ‘ready, steady, cook’. Fortunately there is always chilled wine to help reflect and make sense of the day.