Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bom Natal, Merry Christmas !!

Who need a laudromat when you have a viking at hand swallowing his pride as he decides to do the laundry on my birthday ? A night rain filled up the dinghy and what more fun to wash the bed sheets in it ! A foam bath could be next but the sun will have to reajust its thermostat. We also are victims here of a cold spell that freeze Europe. No ice or snow, but rain and wind and temperature below normal. Merry Christmas to my faithful readers and friends.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Alvor déja vu

Alvor.. déjá vu

We are still waiting for the new dodger (spray hood) but we have definitely discarded the first sail maker, the one we waited for during 2 weeks... He has simply and shamelessly doubled his first estimate. Another british sailmaker has been recommended to us and was definitely more reasonable and agreedable. Since he has to order the Stainless Steel tubes and fabric, we have to wait another 10 days before completion. Alvor is only 5 miles away and it is a good change in scenery, close enough to come back for some fitting sessions and final installation.
Two years ago if someone had predicted I would come back to Alvor I would have shrugged in disbelief certain I would never again see this little village after an unscrupulous skipper (see entry "a little set back, November 2007) dropped me off on the pier.
It does not bring back bad memories though. Instead I like to think that without this rather unpleasant experience, I would never have met Magnus and Röde Orm. The anchorage is popular for shallow draft boats which can careen on the sand bank. The laguna entrance is shallow and narrow, barely marked by 2 buoys. Entering at mid flood is the best to spot the sand banks and stay in the channel. The anchorage is totally protected and lot more crowded than I remembered it. Obviously a chosen and cheaper place for some to winter their boats on mooring balls. The village is less genuine and more touristy than Ferragudo and the Brits seem to have taken over. Most are thankfully back home to their northern gloom. There is too many cafés and restaurant targeting the british community for my taste, but a lot are closed during the off season. The locals seem overwhelmed by the invasion and are more reserved toward us, the foreigners.
Notherless it is quiet with the nice surronding of dunes and cliffs with the Monchique mountains as a background, no cities or big resorts in view. The village seems to have survived the oveflow of tourists and keep some of its originality with its old houses and steep streets and a lovely church. We enjoy the nice modern swimming pool, two steps from the anchorage.

Friday, November 27, 2009

nosing around...

The sign that we have over prolonged our stay here is that today the leader of the village mutt band a.k.a "the rag" allowed us to pet his bushy rasta coat. He had ignored us totally before. In his little dog mind, he just thinks he gave us today resident status...

There is always half a dozen of mutts from the village trotting back and forth down to the waterfront where action is.

Small, result of endless mixture of breeds, gentle and pacific there are part of the village life as much as the fishermen mending their nets on the pier or the elderly men who sit at the terrasse of the cafés. I could even say irreverently that they look alike : husky, skin of hair seasoned by wind and sun, sociable, modest, they enjoy life at peace with their surroundings and neighbors.

Locals, dogs, cats and humans live in a fragile harmony since generations but will that be compromised by an ugly project of resort/marina on Ferragudo shores ? Where will go our little mutts do their mishief or the elderlies for their daily walk if not on the marshy shores which are menaced by the project ?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chilly mornings in Algarve....

Silves and its fortress

Portimaõ was a premeditated long stop as we plan to have a dodger (spray hood) made, but it became longer than predicted as the sailmaker who is supposed to make it is now delivering a boat from the UK and has been delayed by bad weather in Biscay.
By avoiding the marina and the sterile and tacky touristic resort of Las Rochas, we find the area pleasant especially where we are anchored in front of the charming genuine little fishing village of Ferragudo on the east side of the river Arade.
Zephyr left for the Canary islands and as we wait for our canvas guy we plan to go on to Olhaõ and Faro, then to the Guadiana river. Though the nights are getting colder (9-7 celsius) and we almost regret our decision to stay around for winter, decision dictated by the logistic of going back North beginning of summer and leaving the boat somewhere around here for a few weeks. But the sun is still shinning and warm, and the region worth while discovering.
The Algarve, poor region of Portugal discovered a new gold mine with tourism. The northerners, mostly Bristish, German and Dutch are invading the region bringing inflation, bad taste and a certain arrogance in big contrast to the gentleness and low profile of the natives. But here, the excesses of tourism are not too obvious and the spectacular coast is preserved and the off season calm.
We pay a visit to Silves a former important urban center for the ancien islamic Gharb Al-Andalus during the 10th to the 13th century. Surrounded by orange groves the city is dominated by the Almohad forteress built in rusty red colored adobe bricks. The ruins of the Almohad palace, its gardens, baths and impressive water cistern give us an idea of how this mighty palace must have looked. The charming city nowdays indicates that the Algarve was never a rich region even under the Arab dominance who imported the art of growing citrus and irrigation system to this bare and arid land.

Ferragudo at dawn from the cockpit

Monday, November 2, 2009

toward the Algarve coast

Röde Orm and Cape Saõ Vincente

One always have preconceptions about commercial harbors, especially when looking at a chart. They do not incite you to prolong your stay. But Sines is worth knowing. It is a petro chimical harbor but also a very charming city which is the birth place of Vasco de Gama. It kept its authenticity without the touristic glittering part. It is modest, simple and sympathic. The walled old city on the waterfront is a place where we like to wander. Its people are very laid back and nice and always helpfull.

The anchorage in front of the beach between the two jetties is often rolly with those southerly winds that bring the swells in pass the long outer jetty of the comercial harbor. We wait three days before the northerlies winds come back. We leave with a cloudy sky and very weak winds despite a high pressure. We have to motor three quarter of the 63 miles. We pass the mighty Cap Sao Vincente under sail before turning at right angle east toward the Algarve coast. We pass the second point, Sagres where we anchor in a wide bay in company of Zephyr. The capes and cliffs are impressive vertical walls, becoming shadows of black forteresses and mighty castles under the moon light. We dine in the cockpit as soon as anchored, the air is warm and Magnus cannot keep marvelling at the wonder of dining outside on november 2....

entrance of Rio Arade, Portimaõ

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Time to move on

Lisbon kept us in her web and it is leisurely that we enjoy Cascais anchorage which off season is calm exept during week-ends when the local fleet sails in for a few hours before going back home.

A southern low front gave us excuses to prolong our stay and we indulge in another visit to Lisbon and its maritime museum.

Wait for the perfect northerly breeze is out of question. The forecast calls for southerly, very weak during a few days still and we are becoming itchy to go on our southerly route. So it is time to haul the anchor. A dense fog on the Tajo entrance and along the coast is the result of the humid front that we had. It clears up after 2 hours but the wind is less than 5 knots as predicted. Sesimbra is only 20 miles away so we motor and it is the excuse to give a good charge to the batteries. We drop anchor close to Zephyr once again, since we follow the same route. It is a very active and lively little fishing harbor and all night long the small colorful fishing boats keep coming in and out escorted by a cloud of loud shreaking gulls. The high cliffs dry and bare offer very few harbors along this coast. Sines is the next one and this time we have the chance to sail for a while before giving up half way. A very impressive long northwest swell lift mountains of water before crashing with tremendous splashes along the coast and at the end of the broken old jetty of the commercial harbor of Sines.

Royal galleon at the maritime museum

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A walk in the past

Sintra at 15 kms from Cascais is the witness of the extravaganza of wealth during several centuries of power starting from the moors in the 8th century who installed a mighty forteress up hill. Their influence is reflected in all the old buildings of the city. Its centuries old mansions are a reminder of a city of power and other houses built later in the 16 and 17 th centuries show how Sintra became a resort summer place for the royal families when the power definietely was transferred to Lisbon.
The Royal Palace is an extraordinary proof of the massive moor influence with its delicate and subtil architecture, arch, tiles and fontains. Used as a royal palace from the 15 th to 16 th century, parts have been added, modified to suit the fashion of the time. Tiles and colors of moors style is mixed with the flashy gold trimming and painting of the 16 th century. It is regal for the eyes and imagination to walk through the huge palace and its numerous rooms which is a showcase for priceless pieces of furniture. Two enormous chemineys, quite incongrous have been added by one of the king to air the pristine huge white tiled kitchen. Everywhere in town the eye is sollicited by a beautifully tiled wall, an old roof a sinewy street and the luxurious vegetation. Of course, we wander in the back streets around the old town where we found some well hidden villas and mansion of the last centuries with rich gardens guarded by big stone walls. Down the valley the vegetation is mixed and very rich. The forteress de Los Moros above seems to guard this little paradise.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Sailing for me is also and mainly discovering new places, playing at exploraters in a world where there is nothing new to discover. Certainly, for me Lisbon was anything but new since I have spent 3 weeks at port 22 years ago ! But I rediscovered it with great pleasure walking for hours from the flashy imposing Belem, through the more popular and blue collar Alcantara neighborhood to the old and timeless Lisbon and its maze of steps and narrow streets. I was a poor guide to Magnus though since I could only rememeber the places once we were already there. It was hot and the cobblestone streets and sidewalks hard on our feet. We enjoyed the tiny old fashion shops and as usual ended up more than once in the ever popular hardware stores full of treasures. Lisbon is one of the most agreable capital I have been to. its atmosphere is more of a village. We don't feel the stress and maddness of a big metropolis. It is old fashion, anarchist in its lay out. Old and timeless in its old neighborhoods up hill dominating the harbor. Modern part of the city.. do not know, it is not in view anywhere.. We walked from Belem and its impressive monastery which now harbor museums. The water front is huge and airy with wide as boulevards cobblestone sidewalks, gardens, plazas and parks and the either present mighty statues of a king or explorer. Then we strolled down the more modest and popular back streets of the commercial harbor to find ourselves all the sudden in the seclusive embassies quarters up and down hills before arriving in the heart of Lisbon, to the huge esplanade with its wavy pattern of two color cobblestones. It is closed to traffic and it is the showcase of select shops, numerous bars and restaurants. Just a few steps to the right up the hill and we found ourselves climbing steep staircases above the red roofs along beautifully tiled walls where the old timeless Lisbon hides its heart. it is a pleasure to get lost in purpose in all the sinewy stairways and streets to discover the soul of a village called Lisbon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

south run

The winds veered north after the southern blow that kept us in port. It is time to continue our southern migration. We left Lexoeis with a calm weather. The swells have come down and Magnus is happy to hoist the spinnaker which has seldom being hoisted. It will push us for 10 hours when during the night, the wind picks up to a steady 15 knots and as my watch starts, I rather have it down. Even with the main reefed we keep going at 5.5 knots as the wind strenghten to 25 for some time before coming down again. The sea is manageable and the Aries can steer at last with only the main sail up on the downwind run. A second reef is even taken without slowing us at all. No traffic on the coast, not even fishingboats. How strange ! but peaceful with a starry sky and a yellow moon. We arrived at 4 pm at Cascais this old resort town at the entrance of the Tejo river which leads to Lisbon. It is saturday and lot of local boats are anchored in front of the town and its beaches. We meet again Zephyr, the 42 ft elegant classic sloop and its two energetic and enthusiastic young owners Colin and Steve. We are down to latitude 38 and it is hotter and the sea water is even warmer... 66 F. Still too cold for me though.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A taste of Port...o

Listening to the wind blowing through the rigging and grinning our teeth at the whistling of the neighbor's windgenerator, we feel lucky for being in safe harbor tonight. A south wind blows 25 to 30 knots and a good amount of rain already soaked several times my laundry trying to dry on the line. We left the Ria de Vigo, via a little stop at Bayona, on its south side to get some diesel with the last north wind, very weak to none before the arriving of a low pressure which brought us the first bad weather in six weeks.
Lexoeis is a refuge harbor with a marina squeezed at the end of the commercial harbor protected by a huge jetty. Dirty and smelly so close to the fishing harbor, it has however a certain appeal if not charm. It is more lively, actif, more genuine than the usual marina, far from any upper class or nouveau riches ambiance. And then Porto is not far, 5 km and we can forget the sordid surrounding of the marina. It is the third time I come to Porto, 22 years in between. ..Nothing have changed really downtown. We stumbled over huge plazas with mighty sculptures of some saints or forgotten explorers, churches at every corner. Having a glance at the Douro down ill, we decided to get closer to it and took one of the multiple narrow streets which end up in winding steep steps, over 6 century old, wondering what we gone find round the next curve. One run down façade of a former mighty house joins a neat typical ceramic tile wall from the next house as old as the steps themselves. We soon arrived at the water front where the majestic Eiffel bridge steps over the river Douro. The laundry dries hanging from the balconies just above the head of the tourists eating at the terrace of restaurants. The small non appealing little restaurants which advertised economic menus at 3 euros are back to back with the more select ones offering to the tourist the same menu twice or three times the price.
The cellars of Port wine are a big touristic attractions now days and I have nostalgic memories of some visits at Sandeman Port cellar where the wine was largely offered for tasting with no charge. Without my parents noticing it at first, I also tasted some nice vintages...I was six years old. Now the tasting is not free in most of the big houses. But, why paying when that can be found free some streets up the hill in another big cellar where it is harder to get so less visited by the mass. We always prefer back streets to the more flashy touristic streets of a big city.
So we had our free visit and free tasting in the cellars Croft. And a dish of the day at 3 euro 50 with some crisp vinho verde in front of the river close to the big Sandeman Port cellar was perfect. Porto has charmed me once again. It is a town full of treasure at each corner of its sinewy streets. It is lively and its people genuine, friendly and welcoming.
Meanwhile as we are stuck here by the weather, we use the advantage of a marina, the electricity, to start some improvements to the chart table, redesign it to fit the computer safely.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Farewell Galicia

Ciès island anchorage

We are almost through with the Ria's cruise. Galicia offered us some very nice anchorages in the 10 rias visited. The last ones, the largest were different but not for the same reasons. Arusa, huge was mostly a mussels farming ground with commercial and fishing harbors and cannery industry. Pontevedra with its nice beaches a tourist playground set in a beautiful large ria protected by the island on Ons, a national park. We have prefered the smallest one with little fishing harbors where we could anchor behing a jetty or in front of a little marina or yacht club where we could row to fill up some water jugs. We were lucky to have a splendid weather since one month. Hot, sunny, but windless.... But the big cloudless blue sky and calm waters compensated this. The only downside to Galicia, is the water temperature... no more than 62 F. What a pity !!
Vigo is the last of the ria before Portugal and its less friendly coast. We anchored out at Ciès Island protecting the ria from swells, and we are waiting for the return of the wind in some numerous little anchorages in front of a cove or beach on the north side of the Ria, just in front of the big city of Vigo.

Monday, September 21, 2009

the biggest Ria, Arousa

The giant high is welcome of course, but it is blocking all the wind. We try to hoist sails as much as we can when we see wrinkles on the sea surface... Lot of work for nothing, most of the time. Though the swells disapeared, which is good under those circonstances when no wind conterbalance the boat... The Ria de Arousa is the biggest, more than 10 miles deep and the mussels industry is very important. Almost all the shores are blocked by mussels beds. We anchor at Carminal, a little town protected in a bay. A commercial wharf hosts two small freighters and a small marina lays on the other side in front of the fishing harbor. The anchorage in front of the beach is deserted, we set our anchor in the middle. The small city is not touristic at all, but very active with a fish cannery. The old part of the city hides itself behind the water front. Some small shedded plazas are surrended by numerous bars all occupied after the siesta hours. We arrived around 8 pm and a little fair was going on, with musics, attractions etc... then at midnight, a very nice firework started just a few hundred meters in front of us.... The fiesta went on until the first hours of dawn...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On the other side of the known world....

On the other side of the know world...

The weather is wonderful this morning : sun, calm sea, the swells are in vacation, but the wind also. A few puffs of wind let us hope for a nice breeze as we leave this very nice anchorage. We pass Cap Finistere under a beautiful sun and we enjoy this new mile stone in our voyage. From now on, we will be heading south. We enter the narrow Ria de Corcubion, tucked behind Finistere. It is a fishing harbor, without any touristic or cruising faciities, as most of the small Rias. We are the only strangers, the red ketch among small fishing boats in the anchorage. As we walk in the sleepy village on this nice Sunday afternoon, an old lady stopped us and asked us where we come from. Sweden ! very far, very north !! If I could almost look as a Galician woman, Magnus would have a hard time hiding his nordic origins... We can tell that there are not so many tourists coming to visit Corcubion... St Jacques de Composte is not very far, and is the place people go see. We won't.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On our way to the Corner of Spain

Cape villano

Fog, of course this morning, with all the humidity of yesterday... Though it seems to clear up on the ocean. But no wind, and swells always. And of course, the fog was just waiting for us to get out of the ria. We have to navigate with the radar until we arrive in view of the breakwater in the Ria de Camarinas. It is a splendid bay, with calm water in front of a small city. The calm is a relief after the swells and the sun shows itself, enough for us to dry our damp clothes. There is 4 others boats anchored in the bay that could easily harbor hundred more boats without problems. We are a few miles from Cap Finisterre, where we will turn south. We just passed cap Villano and are in the Costa de los Muertos. What stories are behind that name !!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Ria hides another one...

entrance of la Coruna harbor the tiny fishing harbor of Corme

This morning, as we leave the anchorage, we almost regret to have indulged ourselves yesterdays with 3 little beers on our neighbor's boat, celebrating a birthday. The young crew of the nice classic boat from Guernessey follow the same route and we have once seen them in Vivero. Though, we did not drink more than 3 little beers, this morning we have to fight nausea with bananas and sandwiches right away... No wind, and a big swell, 3 to 5 meters according to the local weather station. The sky is grey, and rain showers in the forecast. The 32 miles without wind under the rain tossed around by the huge swells are not very pleasant. We enter in the Ria de Corme under the rain which keep pouring all evening long. We are the only boat anchored inside the breakwater in a small fishing harbor very charming, though we do not see much of it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

toward la coruna

The Ria de Ares north east of La Coruna welcomed us during 5 days. It was such an agreadable and well protected place that we did not feel like going to the big harbour of La Coruna. But the fresh water foot pump started to act up. With no replacement kit and no new pump, we had to go to the city to get parts. We anchor behind the huge breakwater which protects us against the wind but also the swells. It is deep though, 60 feet, very close to the wall, with possibly foul bottom as it said on the Guide. The old city is busy with big restoration projects everywhere. The architecture and structure of the old and new city is very anarchist with a rococo begining of the century style. There is a very active spanish energy off the well respected siesta hours of course... We have to walk few kilometers to find the proper store, order the pump which arrived the next day. Meanwhile, some nasty grey clouds and showers pass by.

Hercule's tower, the oldest lighthouse in the world

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

the Rias ballad....

Slowly, the Galician coast drifts on our portside. We move on unusually calm waters that th

e wind has forgotten for a little while. The lack of wind is not in our favor, but the calmness of the water is apreciated. We already have experiemented the heavy swell in a rough sea by force 4 to 6 wind as we left Ribadeo and Vivero. This morning we left the Ria de Cedeira, beautiful wooded ria with a protected anchorage. Vivero was bigger, less protected against the swell but we found refuge behind a tiny islet close to shore. The little coves nested below the cliff look like the ones in Brittany. But here, the coast is elevated, and behind the mountains Cantabric are not far away. The water

is cold, and the night saturated with dew are getting colder. The days are still warm and sunny and very apreciated. The fog is a risk and this morning it waited for us a few miles from the coast. The radar is on.... Cabo Ortegal, the

northest cap in Spain is passed, Cabo Finisterre is the next, an important crossroad, since we will sail south after rounding it.

And as I write this using the power provided by the engine.... Magnus caught his first fish on this boat !!! A mackerel, tiny but soon 2 others caught on the same line are added to it to make a very nice dinner.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2 months, already

Ribadeo marina where we spent 4 days, waiting for more favorable conditions.

A little look back considering the crossing of Biscaye was a major step south.

the first one was the North Sea and Channel with its fog and traffic,

the second was the coast of Brittany with its open ocean, rocky traps and considerable tides.

the third the Bay of Biscaye which is always remembered for its bad seas and dangerous breaking waves. during gales.

Since we do not want to strand ourselves in a tight schedule we did not manage too badly waiting for the right weather windows, in this quite rotten summer. Most of the time the wind was too light and from the wrong direction, but since the good weather windows were unusually short, we just went when no lows were in sight.

July was lousy, cool, cloudy, rainy sometimes. It is not before the second week of August that we felt summer and relaxed more, enjoying more.

We had expected wind in the North Sea, they were none, just flat sea and fog. We expected an heavy ship traffic, they were some yes, mostly seen of the radar, but never frightening or putting us in any harmway since we stayed clear of their lines. We expected even heavier traffic across the Channel, as people fear it so much, they rather go via Scotland and Ireland. The traffic in fact was sparse and the wind still absent.

Brittany's waters were negociated with much care respecting the tides and numerous rocks, choosing good weather, though in this case, it did not bring much wind...

The Bay of Biscaye from Brittany to Spain, if carefully planned is nothing more than 300 miles of open ocean. We started close haul for a while with a light wind, then as the wind veered, we continued beam reach as it became force 4 to 5, then to 6 the last day and night. It is important to favor west for 70 miles to clear the continental shelf, where heavy swells can be dangerous in rough weather. The weather pattern varies a lot and changes fast, but with a window of 4 to 5 days, it is not a problem. The arrival on the Nothern coast of Spain can be more challenging as very common heavy swells rise great seas and obstruct some of the not too easy entrances of Rias. The moutains Cantabrico in Asturias and Galicia create some termical wind patterns than can be surprising if not aware of them. This coast is not to be taken lighty, though the sun and the warmth let us think we are in gentle seas. None of that, the fierce Atlantic come rushing from its nearby 5000 meter depht on to the cliffs of Galicia and Portugal. 3 to 5 meters swells are not uncommon, no need to mention their size during a force 7 on up. I have experimented it once, it is enough ! So beating to windward with more than force 4 is out of question on a 32 ft.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

open ocean

a last treat, some wild oysters we picked up, a last taste of Brittany, wild and salty..

A good weather window cannot be missed, northerly winds coming with a good old high pressure are here to stay a few days. We leave for 286 miles of open water crossing the Bay of Biscay which have its reputation.... But the odds are good, and a "jolie brise" takes us at a fast pace away from the continental shelf. Röde Orm rides the swell and offer us a smooth rides over a force 4 to 5 beaufort almost close hauled for a while. The movement of the boat are astonishly comfortable considering the agitated sea, and the spray over its deck seldom. The wind is agreeable this time, and a soon north westerly then north wind settled under a starry sky. It even became force 6 as we approach the spanish coast, forcing us to take 2 reefs, just to slow down trying to avoid a night arrival. The boat keeps a good speed, and we have to face a night approach. Ria de Ribadeo has an easy entrance and with the help of GPS, and radar, we soon are anchored in a little bay, which protect us from the heavy swell than can develop on this coast. At 4 o'clock, tired but happy, we secure everything for the night and just drop to bed, having just guest the surroundings by its shadowy contours.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Belle Ile, our last taste of Brittany

Higher, mighter, Belle île (the beautiful island) stands between the mighty Atlantic and the Brittany coast to protect her from the big swells. With westerly winds, there is some anchorages along the leeward side. There is always a little cove of golden sand accessible by dinghy and the coastal path which runs all around the island on top of the cliff, has access to allow us to go to Le Palais, the main harbor, 3 kilometers away. We rent some bicycles. I have bicycled already once during a few days all over the island, but I never get tired of it, enjoying every little hamlets, wild fields and wooded valleys. The island itself smells of wild flowers, of tides, it tastes of salt, of raw oyster. its micro climate allows some very mixed vegetation unknown elsewhere. Its wild coast surrenders to the Ocean which keeps beating her, shaping her, the mighty cliffs hide some tremendous caves where the waves crashes like geysers, exploding in a tremendous thunder roar. As we come back to the boat at dusk after a wonderful day and a good pizza in town, a very hidden wish come back from the secret part of my mind, a forgotten desire, an unaccessible dream. To own a tiny little granit house where I could come back to for a while, to feel, to smell, to taste Brittany, to enjoy the ocean from a base, still surrounded by the Ocean which have carried me away so many time. A so well known melancholy and nostalgia have woken up those last weeks in Brittany. But it is here in Belle île at the eve of departing for Spain, that I feel it to an extent I never felt before. So long Belle île, Kenavo Houat.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

off to the islands

The peaceful pace of the river bewitched us a little and almost reluctantly we got ready to pull up the anchor after a full week dedicated to some little projects, purchasing of some stuff at the two chandleries and have even a repair done on the bow roller. La Vilaine wanted us to stay longer too as a thick fog surprises us the early morning of our departure. We almost missed the 8 o'clock opening of the lock waiting for the fog to lift. But the boat make up the decision for us. As we pull up half of the chain, we realize there is no hope to see anything for a while, so we abort everything and as the water is so still do not bother to add more chain,. Nothing to do but go back to bed for a while.... As I check for some break in the sky, I realize that Röde Orm despite the perfect stillness has drifted gently toward the shore. A pale light gives us some hope, and we decide to go, following the other boats in front of us in the lock. The fog lift at the approach of the sea and a splendid weather smiles on us, sunny, warm, but very calm. A very slight breeze encourages the captain to hoist his spinnaker, he had done it just once before ! It is a good exercice, even if it last a too short moment. Very soon the bright sail hangs shamefully, as a bed sheet on a drying line....
Houat, the little island south of Belle île offers one of its beautiful anchorage to us, but also to 60 or more other boats on this beautiful sunday.... Most of them will go back to the main land in the evening. Houat (the duck) has kept all her charm and it is a privileged place with its little carless village. An out of time place, untouched even if tourism takes over during 2 months of the year. I had loved this island at first sight 30 years or so ago. I came back several times and found always the same attraction. And as if I had lived here in a former life, I feel attracted by the island, wishing to stay for a season, for even a full winter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

in land Brittany, always close to water

We spent 3 days, in Rezé my home town enjoying life, good food, good wine and family..And then, without any break, we went right to my cousin's Creperie "la Gavotte" on the Nantes to Brest Canal (Quily, close to le Roc St André) and enjoy more food and family. I had promise Magnus the best galettes in the world, done the traditional way with a Sarrazin flour milled the old fashion way. And do not forget the artisanal cider, brut and smooth. The deep Bretagne is there, along the canal with its little village, granit, flowers and water, and what more, even the sun is there !

Roc St André on the canal Nantes-Brest

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Toward la Vilaine (the ugly), though beautiful river

Here you have to deal and cooperate with the sea and the weather. It has been too early to leave with the tide in the morning to deal the treacheous chenal in the dark and too late in the afternoon to go somewhere before dark. So today, we got up at 5 waiting for day light to leave before the tide turns again. Soon we can leave safely to avoid the sand bar and to be able to see the chenal. The long westely swell welcoms us, but the wind is in vacation too.... We motor the 40 miles to the entrance of the Vilaine River to Arzal where we pass through the lock. Up the lock, the river is domesticated and not affected by the tides. It is wide and deep and we can anchor in very nice and peaceful little place along the sides. La Roche Bernard, 3 miles and a half up river is a very nice little town which has kept all her originality when in the 16th century, this harbor on the river was a very busy building ships for the East Indies Company. It is where we will meet my parents.

Friday, July 31, 2009

did we deserve Le Pouldu ?

You have to deserve Le Pouldu as said Jean, Michel and Annika's friend and neighbor. I guess we did... On the river Laïta, which runs to Quimperlé, Le Pouldu is a very small harbor accessible only at high tide. Its chenal is narrow and shallow. On one side, the beach and rocks, on the other one a moving sand bar. Finistére on portside, Morbihan on starboard. At the village, a "deep water" chenal allows to moor boats on mooring balls, on line. It is a trap since we have to count on the tides to leave and also on good weather since waves can break on the bar at the entrance. We stay 4 days, 2 more than expected, but Michel and Annika make our stay the most agreadable inviting us in their nice home right on the cliff above the beach. We make some trips to Lorient during the interceltique festival, to Merrien and Doelan, two little harbors extremely charming at the mouth of small rivers. Everyone in Le Pouldu welcomes us warmly and that

compensated greatly the hardship of getting in and out of this tiny harbor...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Les Glénans

The sun shines, the sea is flat and pleasant but the air is still too cold for the season. We motor lazily(batterie charging, since the regulator for the solar panels is broken..) We anchor at Penfret the eastern island in a small nice anchorage near a white sand beach nested between rocks. The colorful little sails of the boat from the famous Glénans sailing school brighten the emerald clear water. We hike a long while on the tiny island gathering some shell fish for dinner and watching with dismay a canibal seagull eating alive

one of her own... Disturbing sight. Life and death go on even on this beautiful morning.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

friends and plans....

Strong winds, and gust to 6 and rain keep us in harbor. It it not a weather to enjoy the islands of Glénans. Our friends from Falsterbo (Annika, swedish has a house in Höllviken) came to visit us. Michel, breton has a family house in Le Pouldu, not very far from Lorient. They drove us to Pont l'Abbé up river from Loctudy where the sun came back after our visit to the museum of the Pays Bigouden (the region around Pont l'Abbé). They invited us to visit them in Le Pouldu on the river Laita. It is a good refuge, but the entrance has to be managed at high water plus or minus one hour.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Raz de Sein, another famous rocky trap...

Neptune is on our side again... We spent two nice days in the beautiful Camaret at the extreme point of the Crozon Peninsula. We played tourists, hiking on the trails of the mighty cliff almost at the point of Penn hir, we went down a pristine beach borded by high cliff filled with mussels colonies at their bottom. To make the Raz, between the point of Brittany and the Islandof Sein, we have to depart at 11 am to be at slack water at the entrance. It is a very dangerous place, a string of rocks which extends for several miles. As a short cut, for smaller vessels, there is a passage which needs to be negociated carefully with the tides. We did well, because it was a very smooth passage close to the very impressive lighthouse "la Vieille". We continued toward Loctudy after passing the Pointe de Penmarc'h, turning East and having a wonderful ride under sail. The entrance at night in the small harbor of Loctudy is a challenge, but again, the tide was with us and after some stressful moment finding the right spot, we took a mooring buoy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The can be redoutable Chenal du Four

To reach the lighthouse of the Four at the entrance of the 12 miles chanel we have to arrive at slack to benefit from the change of tide. We leave Aber Wrac'h at the end of the high tide with a great blue sky and a bright if not warm sun at 9 am.

It is a noisy but peaceful trip under motor in the wide well marked chenal. We see Ouessant and Molène islands and we can have a test of its temperament when at St Mathieu Point, the water suddendly became very agressive. Short breaking waves tossed the boat around for 10 minutes, then calmed down again. No need for a storm to disturb those waters. a simple fresh wnnd against the tide can lead you in serious trouble.

A stop at Camaret at the tip of the Crozet peninsula is a perfect rest. We anchor in a fairly large bay in front of a Vauban fort, The Raz de Sein this second Breton Cap Horn is only 18 miles away. But we enjoy Camaret another day, hiking the hills toward the mighty rocks

Friday, July 24, 2009

Land of the Sea

The wind is favorable enough as the tide pushes us in the right direction. We sail and enjoy almost 5 hours of it close to the wind. We enter the very small entrance of Primel Tregastel where we moore at a visitor buoy. It is a fishing harbor mostly with a big wharf and a few buoys. It is absolutly pristine with its big sharp rocks guarding the entrance like knights in armour. We are in spring tides and magically the landscape

changes as the tide rises more than 32 feet !

We won't go on shore, as we leave early in the morning. We decide to go between Roscoff and Batz island through a narrow channel. Reed, the British nautical almanach fills us with cautions and advices almost scaring us to attempt anything out of the main chanels. But it is simple, straightforward as the chenal is well marked ant it is a pleasure to speed at 7 knots so close to this very cute island. We sail only for a too short time though, We have to motor to reach Aber Wrac'h before the reverse of tide. We decide to go through the chenal de la Malouine, one of the 3 which enter Aber in between rocks. This one is more direct for us, but according to Reed risky.Well, in fact there is no problems with good weather and visibility. not a big deal at all !! Aber Wrac'h is a very attractive place nested among green cliffs, oyster farms on either side showing only at low tide. We moor at a visitor buoy in front of a new marina and soon, despite of the still strong current of a spring tide, we row to shore. The coast of Brittany leaves with the rythm of the tides, landscape change every 6 hours, new colors, new odors. We come back from the village up hill with our newly bake bread, cheese and saucisson. The shorline has disapeared the water has risen more than 30 feet again. Strong winds are forecast for tomorrow, so we will stay in port.

I will sleep in Brittany tonight....

The trail of low pressure does not seem to slow down between. Between two, a weather window opens but the wind is still south west but light enough. We leave Guernsey for Perros Guirrec 50 miles south west. We have to motor more than we wish to reach the harbor before night. The weather welcoming me back to Brittany is typical : drizzle, low and perturbated grey skies. The sharp rocks which lay far into the sea rimind us constantly to be very careful with our navigation. We take a visitor buoy in the well protected anchorage behind the mighty Tomé island and in front of the green cliff of Pointe du Château. Without an outboard, rowing the dinghy is a challenge when negociating the tide and the wind. We are always too far from shore (tidal range). We manage it without any problem, Magnus loves to row ! Perros Guirrec is a charming village very Breton, with its sturdy granit houses with slates roofs adorned by big bushes of hortensia, our breton national flower. Tourism does not spoil the coast which is protected, no high building, no flashy hotels, the nature surrounding looks almost unspoiled in its raw beauty.