Sunday, 26 June 2016

26 June Final Post

We have arrived back at 'La Base', where we started on 21 May. Berthed south side on Pontoon E at the Port de Lorient Base des Sousmarins. Back to being small fry in among the gods of racing machines.

Orma 60 trimaran pulling down its rigging before heading into the marina
The bottom photo is an Imoca 60 and there are several in this marina, possibly getting ready for the Vendee Globe Race which is sometime in the latter part of the year.

Our last sail for this adventure was from Port-la-Foret and it proved to be a good one for the last 20 nautical miles. We put up the Code 0 and we blasted home passing all the other yachts heading back to port. Move out of the way guys; we're coming up behind you....

Once in sight of the submarine pens, we knew there was little more to do but pull down our gennaker and main sail and tidy BitterSharp up ready for the next part of her life.

At 16:40 hrs and after 2176 nautical miles, we moored up at our berth like professionals. I finally got it together when we're heading back to the mountains!

We have had the time of our lives and learnt a thing or two along the way. 5 weeks of sailing in this fabulous catamaran has just been great. We've had some knocks and dents but she was made for this purpose and not just to be looked at or bimbled around the corner.

Thank you are all we dreamed of and we are sad to say goodbye (for now...).

The End

25 June - Saving the best sail for last

We left Brest on a beautiful morning.  I'd read the Raz de Sein section of the Reeds Almanac carefully.  Tidal streams reach about 6kt there and, more importantly, the sea can create "steep breaking seas and overfalls".  Their advice was "as a rule the Raz should always be taken at slack water".  I'd also spoken to the fella in the marina who's more casual advice was to go with the current to save time.  In order to hit slack tide we needed to leave by 05h00, so I chose the advice of the fella in the marina and set off at a more comfortable 08h00!

As we left Brest I was happy with the 08h00 start, but as we approached the Raz we were somewhat apprehensive.  However, for once the forecast was right - 10kt from the NW (with the current) so we sailed through on a comfortable slight sea.

The 3 lighthouses that mark the corners of the safe passage looked like they had been built for tougher times.

The Ile de Sein looked beautiful in the sunlight, but I expect it's a difficult place to live.

As the take progressed the wind built from 10kt to 15kt to 20kt, always from behind.  The sun was out and we had what was probably our best sail from the Raz along about 40NM of the beautiful southern Brittany coast.

It was all pretty uneventful, marked only by the addition of a passenger for about 10NM.
I was amazed at how calm the pigeon was, staying put even through gybes with the traveller whistling noisily past it's beak.  There was a tag on one leg so perhaps it was a racing pigeon used to being handled.

I enjoyed the sail, adopting what appears to be a particularly gay pose.

We reached Port La Foret just after 18h00.  There were lots of people out sailing, taking advantage of their Saturday.  It looked just a beautiful as the rest of the coast.  We tied up, had time for 1 beer, then the rain came!

From here we close the loop by returning to Lorient.  Just 30NM so it will be a very short sail.  I can remember cruising between Virgin Gorda and Anegada in the BVIs many years ago, when that 10NM leg seemed like a committed long day - how things have changed!

Friday, 24 June 2016

24 June D-day for devastated at leaving Europe

Hi everyone, as this is my blog I cannot let it go unsaid that I am very upset at the close result of the referendum. For me, this is the worst thing that could happen to the UK. I loved being part of the EU.

Back to the BitterSharp blog:
We left Roscoff on Thursday, having had a great time with our friends. Tracey mentioned that the coast of Brittany is also known as the Pink Granite Coast so as we sailed out to sea, I kept a close eye on the shoreline and though I couldn't see the rosy pink of the rocks, I could see that there were beautiful white sandy beaches with hardly any people on them. Not that I found that hard to believe as the weather was a bit dreary first thing in the morning.

Our passage to Brest included a stretch of sea called the Canal de Batz and this next photo is at the start of the canal. The rocks could be a hazy pinky colour if you squint your eyes!

John took these photos whilst I was chained to the galley cooking bacon sandwiches and still coming around as it was far too early for me to be compos mentis...I missed most of the île de Batz.

We had good winds and the tide with us for most of our voyage to Brest and it was warm and with occasional sun. We continued along the Canal du Four, sailing past the very famous Phare du Four, a much photographed lighthouse because of the spectacular swell crashing around it. This is a photo taken from the internet...
Image result for phare de four

On our day, even with a gentle swell, it was still amazing to view.

The Canal was busy with other yachts although most of them were going in the opposite direction to us. It was a lovely passage as it was a short sail, by our standards, just a day sail, quite close inshore, watching the coastline and the small villages by the sea; instead of a night sail, deep at sea with not much to look out for.
We passed a tall ship called La Recouvrance. It is for hire for cruising or events or just local day trips. We passed super close to them so I waved merrily and was met with no responding wave back. I looked in the binoculars for a close up and the passengers didn't look very happy. Hey ho, not everyone can own or sail in a TS42...

I must say that while they look very romantic, I fear that faffing on with all those sails would do my head in !

Nearing the end of the Canal du Four we passed the Pointe Saint-Mathieu which is the last headland to navigate before heading up the Rade de Brest. The white lighthouse structures guide you round the headland but they are nestled in the ruins of an ancient abbey dating back to the 12th century.

We made our way up the Rade de Brest, among the huge commercial container ships being guided into port by tugs and also a lone canoeist, who I thought was particularly brave paddling along where the mighty were sailing. We chose to stay in the Marina du Chateau, which has proved to be a very nice facility with lots of bars and restaurants close by.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

22 June Bloscon Roscoff

Well folks, after 1999 nautical miles and a second English Channel crossing under our belts, we headed into Bloscon Roscoff marina in Northern Brittany, feeling proud of ourselves for our adventures and very happy to be back home in La Belle France. To celebrate, we opened Yvonne and Bertie's kind gift of a very nice bottle of red wine and toasted our success.

It is ops normal to be berthed at the fuel quay as we're large on our beam as well as in length, but this marina is modern and efficient, so we have electricity and not too far to go to the conveniences of the showers and the restaurants.

This photo was taken earlier in the day before the Onassis of motor boats moored up behind us and overshadowed us, but we still get our share of onlookers and people taking photos and even one cheeky chappie reaching in and moving our tiller to cop a feel, so to speak ! The nerve of the man!
If you admire the beautiful rosy pink sunset and then zoom in the photo to see us and the huge motor boat behind, you might be able to tell that it still has all its packaging and that the anchor is still encased in bubble wrap. Not very sea-worthy methinks!

Our friends Miles and Tracey Goff came for a visit today as they were spending a weeks holiday close by in their cottage, so we did our tour guide bit and we caught up over nibbles and alcohol, as is the Lawson rule. They helped shift the boat up the pontoon to make room for the new boat and then we headed off to the old port for a look around and lunch.

It was a 15 minute walk back to the marina and we timed it perfectly in order for the heavens to open and drench us all in seconds. Miles, Tracey and I were ill prepared for wet weather so we had to duck into someone's doorway to hide from the downpour while Mr Lawson, who was properly dressed for the weather, just laughed and took photos...

Our plans are to be up early, circa 7am (yikes) and head off to Brest, which is a short passage of 50 or 60 nautical miles. John has done his tidal calculations because there will be up to 5kts of tidal stream around Le Conquet, so lets hope he's got his timings correct. Fingers crossed for fair winds and following seas....

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

21 June Heading Home

We spent a lovely Saturday in Wales helping John's mum June to celebrate her birthday. Sadly, landlubbing was short-lived and we were back at Portland Marina on Sunday afternoon to a very wet and grey day, which continued on through the night with strong winds and into Monday morning.

We departed Portland Marina and its made to measure facilities (for the 2012 Olympics) to head home. No change in the weather, still raining and grey clouds and lumpy seas added up to a little discomfort but determined to make it to northern Brittany while there was still wind out there.

We had 2 choices of destination. To go to Cherbourg where we could rest for the night or head to northern Brittany which would mean a night sail. We decided to do a night sail as the forecast for the week showed a lack of wind mid-week, so our direction pointed us straight at the Casquets Traffic Separation Scheme which goes round the Channel Islands. The TSS is strictly for shipping and not for pleasure boats so we had to be careful with our routing. It meant being on look out all night between us and making sure we knew exactly where all the container ships were located around us. Quite unnerving as they are huge and  you never know if they are are aware that we are close by as we're so small next to them.

Long night into morning where we bimbled along sometimes with the tides and sometimes not. The coastguard issue a weather update regularly and we are always amazed at how they get it so wrong. We have never yet had wind from the west; it's always on the nose, making us creep along for about 12 hours. 

However, the sun did come out on Tuesday afternoon, which has allowed us to open up the windows and try to dry the boat out and clear the condensation. 

It's always great to look out for the birds and watch their antics

Finally, about 3pm, John made the decision to pull down the Solent and put the engines to work. By this time the sea was like a mill pond and so we are making approx 7kts and able to pass by other yachts, also motoring along.

We are heading towards Roscoff and aiming to arrive about 11pm. 

Tomorrow we are looking forward to drying out a bit more and enjoying a pretty town and coast line. Also meeting up with Miles and Tracey Goff. See you soon xx

Friday, 17 June 2016

16 June - Portland Marina

We eased into Portland Marina at sunset last night.

From wikipedia, Portland Harbour " one of the largest man-made harbours in the world. The harbour was made by the building of stone breakwaters between 1848 and 1905. From its inception it was a Royal Navy base, and played prominent roles during the First and Second World Wars; ships of the Royal Navy and NATO countries worked up and exercised in its waters until 1995. The harbour is now a civilian port and popular recreation area, and was used for the 2012 Olympic Games."

I remember getting a trip in the back of a Royal Navy Wessex helicopter here as part of school cadet trip, when it was a big naval base. Now the only signs of that naval presence are a few auxiliary ships - sad in a way but its current form of Marina and National Sailing Academy is probably a sign of more peaceful and happier times.

There are nevertheless a few large ships outside using the shelter of the harbour.

We can tell we're on the UK south coast because everything is slick and expensive.  We were amazed to see this sign on the pontoon as we rocked up:

Perhaps the most professional and biggest marina we've visited, but also the most expensive.  The waters around seem crowded and every little inlet seems to be packed with yachts.  It's a far cry from the empty spaces further north.  Nevertheless, despite the size of this place, that it was the host to the 2012 Olympic sailing events and the fact that we're adjacent to the UK National Sailing Academy, I'm proud to say that we still dominate the place with the most powerful yacht and, as (nearly) always, the biggest mast!  It's not Lorient, where all of the masts are bigger than ours!

17 June. ..In Portland for the next few days

Hi folks
We will be moored in Portland Marina from today until Monday so if our friends that are close by would like to come for a sail, please get in touch and we'll sort something out 😊
We are zooming off to Wales tomorrow afternoon to celebrate John's mum's birthday and we'll be back on Sunday afternoon.