A swinging time in Tregiuer
We had a relaxed start in Roscoff, munching on croissant, relishing the simple beauty of a scheme that delivers your previous nights' order to the marina in paper bags. Bless the French and their love of their daily bread! We were waiting for the tide to set east and at 10:30 we topped up with fuel and steered Amelie off the fuel pontoon and out of the protective harbour walls. In the estuary, we flipped around into the westerly force 3 and hauled the main, topsail and jib, bearing off to sailing north and east around Les Trepieds, Les Triagoz and many Grande Roches. By lunchtime, the wind had dropped to a force 2 and, with a swell from the north west making us pitch fore and aft slowing us down, we were forced to put the engine on to make Treguier ( 48° 51.2N, 3° 10.9W) by the evening.
We'd had dreams and alternative plans of possibly anchoring up in Port Blanc (48° 50.6'N, 03°19.0'W) or under Les Sept Iles but, with the swell direction running straight into the entrance of the anchorage of the former and the rolly seas and already busy anchorage of the latter, we continued on. Anyway, we had a date with a lock gate in Paimpol and we weren't about to be late.
The tide, squeezed between the mainland and Les Sept Iles, got a hydraulic boost and we rode it like a conveyor, picking up boat speed but decreasing our apparent wind even further. All sails work to the apparent wind speed, the relative speed of the boat and the wind; with eight knots from the stern and already travelling at five knots with the engine, the extra shove from the tide reduced the apparent wind down to a rig-flapping zero. It was time to haul in the mainsheet and admire the view.
Running downwind, we didn't notice the wind build initially, but with increasing force and waning tide we were able to sail once more. As the light was beginning to fade, we turned between granite sentries down the approach transit, pilotage notes in hand, to follow another set of barely visible transits: orange mark in line with white house with orange buoy in the upstairs left-hand window with the flowery curtains...You get the picture. The other thing about going downwind with an increasing wind strength, is that when you turn to go up-wind again, you suddenly realise you might be a little over canvassed, but go up-wind you must, because the pressure needs to be out of the mainsail to be able to drop it. With this in mind, together with the unfamiliar and winding entrance channel, we furled the jib and dropped the topsail and mainsail after turning past the green lateral buoy, Petit Pen ar Guezec.
The hunt for a place to anchor is always a fun one; the requirements are that you drop it in shallow enough water such that you have enough anchor chain to put out a length of 4x the maximum height of tide, in enough water not to dry out when the tide drops, on a windward shore where waves won't build that could otherwise break out your anchor from the seabed which is selected such that your anchor will be able to bed into it, and away from other obstructions like boats that you will swing into as wind and tides change while you are slumbering.
The tidal ranges in this part of Brittany rival the Bristol Channel, and we were there on a particularly big set of spring tides with a range of 11.9m at nearby St Malo. At low tide this means you have a lot of scope or length of chain lying on the sea bed creating a large area over which your boat could swing. Things get even more interesting when the tide is pushing you one way and the wind another... We motored around to find a spot that seemed to fit the bill, dropping the anchor around the 3m contour line to the side of some boats on mooring buoys and, with an 8.2m range of tide, put out 45m of chain and lit the anchor light. We spotted Overlord, one of the windfall yachts, anchored in the middle of the river further upstream and I wondered whether that was a bit cheeky, anchoring right in the middle, before heading down for a late dinner.
We awoke the next morning to feel the boat swinging a little from side to side and got the coffee on. Nick needs a 3 cup minimum before action in the morning but, with the turn of the tide and a shift in wind direction to oppose it, we were soon dancing a right ol' jig. Amelie was wandering left and right, bullied by both forces. After Amelie nearly poked one with her bowsprit, we decided it was a good time to go. In fits and starts, we gradually won back the 45m of chain, often with just one of us winding while the other steered us away from more close encounters of the expensive kind. It's worth mentioning that the hand-spiked windlass is a joy to use, but 45m is a lot of chain to wind alone.
We had not been able to check the weather forecast the night before as the beautifully peaceful river was devoid of noise, phone signal and VHF reception so the weather was worse than we expected. Granite is a very dense material. Motoring out of the entrance, it became apparent that we couldn’t take the shorter east going channel as the tide was falling and we were rightly worried about running aground. We had to force our way out of the main channel against the waves, the previous day’s swell having been overlaid with wind driven waves and an opposing tide. Having struggled to haul the anchor, we hadn’t hung around in the river to haul the main, and now in the entrance channel we were bouncing and rolling all over the place. There was no way we could haul any sails here. A threatening black cloud on the western horizon soon arrived and flung rain and hail at us, visibility reducing to a few hundred metres. Yet, Amelie and her engine did us proud and kept us going around the northerly cardinal, La Jument des Heaux and on around the corner into Lezardrieux, with waves rolling us gunwhales to gunwhales. It is 5 NM as the crow flies, but our voyage up and around was closer to 19 NM; we joked about the need for more canals.
The weather lifted as the cold front passed and we wended our way through a tapestry of tidal channels under the Ile de Brehat in sunshine, sheltered from the swell. With a little sigh of relief, we dropped Amelie's anchor close to our friends, Phil, Liz and their adorable dog, on Our Boys, their strikingly yellow Looe Lugger, and set to a little lunch while waiting for the tide to prove us enough water to get anywhere near to Paimpol.
Cue: Anchor hauling take-2 and then with many-a-sailors-concern of crossing a sea of green on the chart, we fathomed our way in amongst the channels that mark the entrance to Paimpol and the Fête des Vieux Gréements. We were cheerily serenaded by French musicians on a boat and applauded by the folks lining the walls of the lock gates. Both boat and crew were a little bemused by the attention but very pleased to have arrived in one piece, and even more pleased to be allocated a space for Amelie immediately next to the quay. A perfect spot to invite folks aboard to visit our exhibition and open day, hurrah!