Repeat of previous log that had missing pictures

Dream On
Freddie Alderson
Wed 1 Sep 2010 16:20



The Adventures of Dream On - Christchurch to L’Aberwrac’h, and then ???


Well, sorry about the long gap. The optimistic words ‘to infinity and beyond’ seem to have landed back to earth and transformed themselves into, ‘To L’Aberwrac’h – just possible, but somewhat doubtful regarding the ‘beyond’.


The crossing was fine in a way, in that nothing did go wrong, and we did get there. It was mildly annoying that the wind, when it rose above force 2, was directly behind us. This meant that while we had the sails up we had to keep the engine on and it was a slow voyage – 21 hours. Cross seas, resulting from the leftovers of squalls to the East and West of us made it a bit uncomfortable– but the approach to L’Aberwrac’h, reputedly complicated and possibly a bit dangerous was in fact quite uneventful and clearly marked. We had no details about the new marina, but it was actually great. A little rib came out to meet us and show us where to berth, and give us all the details about facilities, which were all you could want. We were grateful to have arrived in one piece and to have showers and rest etc, so huge sighs of relief all round.

(Captain’s note – Thank goodness for AIS which shows on the chart plotter the position, course and speed of big ships. We encountered probably about 30 ships going up or down the channel as we went across and the AIS made dodging round them so much easier and less terrifying).


              Last sight of the Lizard                                 Big ship on a choppy sea



               Sunset over the last bit of England       The first sight of France next morning




                               The rocky coastlines approaching L’Aberwrac’h



The left hand pontoon at L’Aber                      Sunset over the marina



The harbour from the hard                            the pontoons from the hard


Some issues emerged at L’Aberwrac’h. One was that we are all in a slightly nervous state regarding the boat and how confident we can be in her. To have spent so long and so much money getting her ready and safe for ocean crossing and to have had so much go wrong in such a short space of time leaves us clutching each others’ arms and whispering, ‘What’s that?’ every time there is a slightly unfamiliar noise. ‘What will be next to go?’ is the common feeling of the crew, with the faint hope that the captain knows better and this is just our inexperience showing. When it’s clear the captain feels the same, not surprisingly, this feeling translates into a big question mark about the voyage itself. The realisation  that, should we have gone straight from Dartmouth to L’Aberwrac’h, the pole would have come off mid-channel, possibly in the shipping lanes, leaves us feeling very vulnerable. This, combined with the awareness of how much later we now are, and how much the budget has suffered from the marina fees and the repairs at Dartmouth, puts our question mark in neon lights.


And in the event, just as we are trying to reassure ourselves that the worst has happened and nothing else can possibly go wrong, several other factors are added to the mix, and rocked us on our feet a bit. We’d hoped for better weather and an easy and fairly quick passage down the coast of France but low cloud, mist and rain descended the day after our arrival at L’Aberwrac’h (to be known henceforward as L’Aber), and we were assured by the marina office, local fishermen and other locals that you should absolutely not attempt the Chenal du Four, the next part of our passage, especially for the first time, in poor visibility due to the many outlying rocks and hazards. This weather persisted on and off for 5 days.


Also, the Captain finally admitted, brave lad, that the tummy bug he had suffered in Dartmouth, had not gone away, and he had been suffering from his own version of seasickness ever since. Clearly the subsequent stress, and the cross seas and boat anxiety had done nothing to alleviate his condition. In the 10 years I had been sailing with him, sometimes in worse conditions that we had had, he had only on 2 occasions had a mild episode of seasickness, so we felt it could not just be that. And in fact, he spent those 5 days in L’Aberwrach in bed, hardly eating and even having to forgo a delightful meal we were all looking forward to in a charming local restaurant. And, aficionado as he is of fine food and especially French cooking, this meant he was really unwell.


The boat itself made her small contribution in the following way. A few hours after we arrived, 2 marina staff in their ribs arrived to explain (luckily I speak French, rusty after 30 years but I can get by) that there was a Regatta that weekend for the Race des Abers, loads of boats would be arriving and they would be rafting up several deep. They felt we would be better placed outside the pontoon arms on the opposite side to where we were, out of the way. As they guided us to another place labelled forbiddingly, ‘ACCOSTAGE INTERDIT’, where they assured us we would be left in peace, the boat added its little bit of mischief. A tiny spring on the stern drive, essential for keeping it in the water and reversing, decided this would be a fine moment to join in the proceedings and parted company with itself, leaving us without any control, flailing about next to the pontoon and several other boats. Embarrassingly, the two ribs had then to push and pull us onto the pontoon so that we could moor up and, still tired from the overnight trip, we just moored up and decided to think about that one the next day, which was a Saturday. Why is it always at the weekend or at midnight that things choose to go wrong?


The next day, we learned that L’Aber is a tiny village, basically one street about 500 yds long, and while not having a grocer of any sort, it does have facilities for sailors, tho some are about a mile outside the village itself. So we tramped about the various workshops and boatyards, looking with faint hope for a replacement, which had to be an exact replacement or it wouldn’t work. Luckily for us, they are open till 6 on Saturdays, but unluckily for us, no-one had the right size spring.



The road to the boat workshops past the slipway next to the marina & back with no result.


There was no-one available at the factory in England till the following Tuesday, so we unpacked all tools and bags of spares and screws and nails, from all the crevices and hiding places, to see what we could find that might help. And believe it or not, in the last bag of all, a big bag of totally mixed up stuff left by the previous owner in a very dark crevice we could only just reach - we found one - and it was in perfect condition!


We had by that time, on advice from one of the marina’s rib-men, phoned a boatyard in Landeda, a village a couple of miles away. This yard dealt with all their outboards and out drives and he thought they might help. Indeed they sent down their engineer to see what he could do and he arrived in just 20 minutes, just after we found the replacement. He put it on for us, was charm itself despite his wasted journey and would accept no payment. Amazing!

So that was soon mended and reinforced by the Captain, who has Skills with String.


However, the feeling of ‘yet another problem’ rather overshadowed the relief of its relatively easy resolution and did not really reduce our general lack of confidence in the boat. I do have to say though, that that was her last frolic, and since then, she has behaved absolutely perfectly, just like the lady we always thought she was. Fingers crossed, what?


While we were waiting for Fred to feel better, Sarah and I did some exploring, and had some nice times. We did go for the meal in the restaurant, which was in a covered terrace at the back, full of flowers and was totally heavenly. Feeling somewhat sorry for the poorly Captain, stuck “indoors”, we felt fresh food would be better for him than boat stores, and with the help

of the restaurant staff, took him back a few tasters.



The food; St Jacques, a local         Veal in another great sauce

speciality – scallops in a

delicious sauce
the setting



     Sarah’s ham and goat’s cheese salad                strange pudding glasses allowing you to                       

                                                                                  Really scrape it all out


We discovered the Café Du Port has delicious French bread delivered every day, though for groceries you do need to go to Landeda. This Sarah did very adventurously by herself, and successfully with very little French, managed to grab some essentials. We had provisions aboard, but of course, bread, milk etc tend to run out. Sarah loves fishing and talked to local fishermen, who helped her adapt her fishing bits to suit local conditions. And at the weekend, the Regatta was amazing. Spinnaker after spinnaker appeared on the horizon, and the yachts, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time, French and English, entered the marina – so many they were rafted up 5 deep inside the marina.



The atmosphere was great. On the hard standing by the marina office, rows of tables were set out, the yacht club bar was open to all and apparently always is, there were 2 live bands, a whole pig roast and other delicious food and drink. And everybody just sat down and ate together in the open air overlooking the pontoons and harbour until the early hours. Unlike many other marinas, the festivities involved the whole village and it was easy to get to know people, everyone was so friendly and relaxed. It was such a shame that Fred could not join in but lay languishing on the boat. We didn’t just abandon him, but he insisted that we enjoyed ourselves as much as possible, while he tried to get better in bed.





Yes really 5+ deep                 fishing with her fishing friends   total - but happy - chaos



The band getting ready on the hard                a scene from Sarah’s walk to the shops


On another evening, we went to another little café with an incredibly tempting menu, and again we felt some fresh food would be good for Fred, if he could get it, and keep it, down. We explained that Fred was ill and asked if they had anything on the menu that might suit. They prepared a medley of easy to digest delicious titbits, including his favourite, fresh winkles, and agreed to let us take it to the boat on their crockery, for his delectation. And this, even though they don’t actually do takeaways, were overrun with customers and had people waiting. But everyone was very good-natured about our unusual request and just seemed to want to help. The food went down very well with no apparent ill effect. What service and what kindness! We were to meet with incredible kindness from these Breton people later in our journey, but back to the present.

(Captain’s note – I have remembered all my life with great fondness eating Winkles with my granny from a barrow in London, but have never seen them since. So after 50 plus years it was brilliant to have them again and just as good as I remembered).


On day 5, with the weather and tides appearing to be propitious, we needed to take stock and had a boat conference. While Fred was better, the problem still lingered. He did not feel able to deal with any further boat problems, and the relatively inexperienced crew, which meant on long passages, he was basically on duty, even when resting, all the time. Though we had been on the wheel for much of the channel crossing, in any doubt we had to wake him up, to check the lights we saw, or the speed and direction of approaching vessels. Without the boat problems, his illness, and the constant delays, we could have gained the experience needed to lessen his load. We had been unable to get that in England before we left as planned as the boat wasn’t finally ready until so late that we had had to leave immediately, and even then, we left a month late. He also would have had a chance to get to know the boat better since the refit. In the 2 years we had had her before the refit, we had had hardly any problems with her. The now-much-increased lateness also meant that we would not be able to explore France, Spain and Portugal on the way down as we had wanted, and further, might have to travel in unsuitable or at least uncomfortable weather on the way to keep to our timetable. So sadly we had to face the horrible and unwelcome conclusion that the Voyage, as we had wanted it, would in the end have to be cancelled.


We considered other options, but Sarah, who had left behind the delight of her life on the promise of going to the Caribbean, and with the hope of his possibly joining us in the Canaries, did not feel that mooching around the coast of France was a viable alternative and a good enough reason to be without him for so long. The final conclusion was that we should return to England, do a lot more sailing, and set off in good time next year, better skilled and prepared and with Jim, who has the extra advantage of being a) young, b) very strong c) Sarah’s other half and d) very nice.


But before we totally abandoned everything, we felt we wanted to do just a little bit of exploration of the French coast, get to know Brittany a bit better and give ourselves a chance to sample some more delicious French cuisine. And then return well in time to miss any bad weather late summer might have in store. So we decided to go down to Camaret, and either go a bit further or explore Brest and the Rade de Brest, a huge estuary, with rivers off.


And so on the 5th of August we set off for Camaret.


Camaret and Brest and the infamous Chenal du Four

Well, the passage out of L’Aber was as easy going out as coming in. Visibility was good, though it was still cloudy, and there was a big Atlantic swell, which crossed with the tide and wasn’t very comfy for Fred, who was not entirely better. But with Freddie helming, Sarah’s young eyes on lookout and First Mate on the charts, telling her what she had to look for, with the chart plotter as backup, we went down no problem, and arrived in Camaret at 7.30, having left at 12.35. The winds were again virtually non-existent, sometimes actually getting up to force 3, but in our slightly insecure state, maybe that was for the best.

(Captain’s note – the coast of North West Brittany is pretty terrifying. It is littered with off lying rocks and has fearsome tides. The Chenal du Four which goes inside the Ushant islands is particularly scary I would not like to have done it without GPS, chart plotter, Sarah’s eyes and the navigator.



Camaret was not quite the delightful little place we expected. We had little niggles I admit but they always look bigger, when you’re tired. To get to the marina office, we had to negotiate the old harbour wall. This was crumbling away in some places, was 10-12 foot above the water, had no railings and the safe side of it was taken up with fishermen and their equipment, which in and of itself can be a hazard. The harbour office was shut, and is only open a few hours a day, so we could not register or find out about facilities and there seemed to be no-one around to help. We walked a little way towards the town and finally found the showers and toilets. They were down some narrow stone steps, under the old and famous Vauban Tower – more like a dungeon, which they possibly once were. Though they had a lockable door, and a keypad on the outside, the latter had been disabled and the former was locked open. So they were accessible to the public, unlike most marina showers. The shower part had clearly been updated a bit, but the entry was shabby and dirty, and we were further put off by seeing what we assumed were 2 local lads doing their business against the wall outside.


The harbour wall at Camaret


Going a bit further into the town, we saw the restaurants and shops we had heard about, but, so unlike L’Aber’s totally unspoilt and quaint charm, they seemed to be the completely modern sort you can find anywhere in Europe. The town is a little walk from the marina, and granted we didn’t explore further and perhaps give it a fair shot, but we were tired and discouraged by what we had so far seen. Back on the boat, we tried to log on to the internet (free and easily available at L’Aberwrach), again to be frustrated. Error on page repeatedly, card out of date for my card, bank refuses payment for Fred’s card – both are totally valid, and it’s very expensive when you do finally succeed. So not very happy bunnies at Camaret, and we decided to leave first thing for Brest.


The journey to Brest went smoothly, a mere 2 hours 20, and Goulet de Brest, the narrow entrance to the estuary, notorious for its tidal races, presented no problem. We had to keep out of the way of the very fast ferries, and the many yachts, some of whom did not seem to be acquainted with the Colregs. The navy base was quite impressive, and the Marina Moulin Blanc easy to find, modern and again with free and fast internet. Unusually, they do charge for showers, and the water is turned off after your allotted time. Fred and I showered aboard, but Sarah was caught short in the middle of shaving her legs!


An impressive racing trimaran    a boat towing a ??????? on a tyre ????????


The first day, being hungry we went to the nearest Bar-Restaurant, which turned out to do mainly snacks – very acceptable and always served with salad, but none too exciting. That night though, we discovered another restaurant right on the front, a large modern one that was totally amazing, the L’Aise-Breizh. The first thing was that, though large it was packed, and we did not have a reservation. The really friendly maitre d’y assured us he would find us a place and did within 10 minutes. The food was to die for, and since I did not have room for my favourite, grilled sardines, after the entrée of stuffed artichoke hearts, we made a reservation for lunchtime the next day as well. But what was so amazing was the service. The restaurant had about 150 seats, the waiters and waitresses were actually running with the plates in their hands, (and arms) to try and get everyone served, but at the same time, they all looked completely relaxed, always had a ready smile and came to the table immediately if you caught their eye for more than half a second. They even had time for little jokes and comments. It was truly amazing and we felt England has such a lot to learn.

After lunch the next day, we realised that we hadn’t even tried the Moules a la Bretonne, a speciality and a favourite of mine and Sarah’s. So we decided to really indulge ourselves and eat there again that night. Everything was up to expectation and they were really pleased to see us again. Good memories to take away. 



Sarah losing me at         where they amused the kids by     with a proper commentary done

a little boat show            letting them race little boats           by the above gentleman


the restaurant in Brest overlooking the marina          Recognise this face


       Walking back to the boat afterwards           And there she is.


We found it interesting how much the Breton language looks like Welsh and all the signposts have place names in French and in Breton. Even the French is slightly different to normal French. They are very proud of Brittany and positively glow if you say anything nice about it. We felt positively obliged to buy a Breton flag to fly on the starboard spreaders.

We had heard a bit about the Oceanarium in Brest, and decided to pay a quick visit on Sunday morning before we left for somewhere else. It was quite amazing, with a huge variety of marine life from different areas of the world. It was divided into Polar, Tropical, and Temperate zones. Our visit was a little rushed but we got lots of photos and videos of all the different creatures. It was definitely a worthwhile stop. We also learnt that penguins are very tricky to catch in a picture, much quicker through the water than one might think.   









They actually pump the water straight in from the sea for all the fish tanks, and then adjust it to the appropriate temperatures for the appropriate zones.


We wanted to explore a little bit more, and looking at the pictures in the pilot book, a place called Port Launay looked really lovely. It was a lovely old French village situated right next to a very windy river, called the River L’Aulne, which led off from the south side of the Rade de Brest. The river was so small and windy that the chart plotter couldn’t cope and for the last 10 miles, it looked as if we were sailing across land.


So the next day we set off for Port Launay. This will be in the next blog and here are some more strange marine creatures