L'Aber Wrac'h back to England

Dream On
Freddie Alderson
Wed 8 Sep 2010 16:11

The Adventures of Dream On – L’Aberwra c’h


L’Aberwrac’h again


The rest of that day we rested, being a bit bushed after our early rise, and made plans. Given predicted winds were SW 2-4 (not very much) and that we were going to Dartmouth, further from here than Mylor by 19-odd miles, the return journey was bound to be longer, probably 24 hrs we reckoned. In view of that, we decided to rest and re-provision on Friday, and get a good night’s rest before leaving and going through 24 hours, across the shipping lanes at night, with 2 of the crew at less than 100%. We also decided that we should go for a meal on our last night, so that Fred could sample some of the delicious fare on offer.


He and Sarah walked to Llandeda to visit the supermarket for the staples and easy snacks for the crossing. He also visited the butcher from sheer pleasure and likewise the Boulangerie-Patisserie.  And Sarah and I went up later to get postcards and stamps. We got back to have Freddie assail us the second we stepped in the door, with “Bad news, girls!”. It turned out that the BBC had suddenly discovered that there was to be a gale in the Channel that weekend, 5-7, force 8 or 9 later.


We were also puzzled as this contradicted the BBC’s earlier broadcasts and no other website gave any sign of it. The next morning found several English people clustered round the weather forecast at the harbour office, exchanging weather forecasts and all trying to work out what was going on. One gentleman had a contact with the weather forecaster working with an Olympic team, who confirmed the BBC’s prediction, and said it should blow through by Monday.


But we couldn’t believe it! It seemed we only had to say we’ll leave then, and something would happen the night before to prevent us. Personally, I didn’t mind, but I was well aware that the Only Just Able Seamanette was getting quite restless, as she had expected to be united with her dearest one several times already, only to be delayed by something unexpected. She did do her best not to let it show, thought she admitted to looking up flight details. But knowing how she felt, and how patient she had been, I couldn’t help feeling for her, and an atmosphere of frustration and impatience did tend to permeate.


We forced ourselves to go out as planned though we were felling a bit low. To be honest, in the end it didn’t take much as we were pleased to have something to do to lighten the mood. We were eating in the back yard of the restaurant Sarah and I had eaten at before, with the crooked pudding glasses, and we were quite excited to be able to share it with Fred.




The back yard, and (right), the Petit St Jaques, scallops A la Breton, on a circular bed of salt.







During the evening, we had a rainstorm, very heavy with much wind – a foretaste. It blew the sides of the awning horizontally through the gap at the top of the wall behind us, and then the rain could run right off the awning and down on to our chairs. Hence Fred changing places.  And then a lovely sunset.





2 Lovely fishing boats                                                     and the view from the bus stop.


And sure enough, as the weekend progressed, more weather sites began to predict high winds and rain, and we had a dramatic storm Saturday night through to Sunday. It subsided on Sunday evening, and we expected to leave in the morning. The weather on Monday, however, though much better, was still 4,5 and 6 locally and 5-7 in the Channel, gusting higher, with mist and rain, visibility down to not much at all, possibly better on Tuesday. So we would have to see what Tuesday brought. The Not-Able-To-be-patient-A-Moment-Longer Seamanette said nothing.


On Monday afternoon, Sarah and I went to Llandeda, having now finished our last channel-crossing provisions and needing to renew them. We caught the little bus there, and walked back. It was very enjoyable, the weather, unlike the forecast being quite pleasant, dry and warm. Llandeda was charming; a church lay at its centre, a

modern one built round an old bell tower, and the traffic went round it one way, with lots of little islands for pedestrians, and all the little shops forming the outside of the circle. Well, I say traffic, but what I mean when I say

‘traffic’ is a few very well-behaved cars now and then. A fairlu unique thing were the speakers all round the square, playing music, often the latest pop music, background music but somehow of a very unobtrusive kind.



One end of the church                            and the other, with the old tower in the middle.





The butcher, beside all sorts of delights in the meat and sausage line, also had delicious ready made but freshly made stuff - goats cheese tarts, little cheese soufflés, ham and cheese vol-au-vents, which are also Masterpieces in architecture.


The walk back was interesting too. The place names still look more like Welsh or Celtic than French, and we learnt that there is a Celtic festival here once a year with pipes and drums and kilts – the whole shebang and they’re very proud of it. And the countryside reminded me of the Cotswolds, with gentle rolling hills, and lots of traditional charming cottages, with little to spoil the view. Nothing as ‘perfect’ as Painswick for example, but that somehow added to the charm and made them so crunchy. Plus of course the sea views from everywhere.  Also, apparently, we found out later, like the Cotswolds, little building is allowed in this area.








The house numbering was a bit puzzling too; we saw consecutively on the same side of the road – Nos. 287, 321, 357, 261, 267, 105, and 356.  Any postman new to the area must have been very confused for some time. They mostly had reasonable frontage as in above right, but even so it was generally not much more than that. We were stumped as to how that could have come about.


We decided to settle the marina bill and do the fuel on Monday to be ready to depart early on the morrow as soon as tides and weather were propitious. The latest weather forecasts were looking good, SW 3 or 4, 5 later. Eminently Able Saz and Fred went off in the dinghy to the fuel pump to fill the cans, and I went to the marina office to settle the bill.


When I got back they were both standing up in the saloon. From the look on their faces I knew something was up. Sarah said Fred had, unbelievably enough, just ricked his back.  Before my brains got too addled by too many horrific visions of the last time about 2 years ago that he did this and was virtually immobile for 2 weeks, I tried to find out how bad it was. It was bad; he didn’t know exactly how or when he’d done it, but done it he had. They were both standing up as they were trying to find a way to lower him into a seating position that gave him bearable pain, rather than unbearable pain. It was a slow business, and very difficult to know which hold would help him and which hurt.  He was so helpless it required one or both of us to support him for any movement to take place at all. Poor Freddie!  Out came the ibuprofen and painkillers and again, some time later he seemed able to doze. Hardly-Able-To-Speak Saz was nonetheless all attention and a lovely nurse for Freddie.


We needed to re-organise the saloon as it would be impossible for him to climb into our bed as it was raised off the floor. Sadly the pedestal holding up the central table, which should have been easily removed to allow conversion of the saloon seats to a double bed, would not budge. We tried various other arrangements, in the end, turning it and half folding it up and extending the seat by means of boxes and cushions – not really satisfactory but with Sarah’s arm not fully recovered, it was all we could do. We all went to bed, and then he needed help in the night. Sarah, closest to the lounge, got up, and sleeping on the other saloon seat, was there to help when necessary. I got up once for a while and then returned to bed till 4am. Both of them sank into deep sleep by 5am and, with little improvement overnight, I could again foresee early phone calls to medical services in the morning. So I stayed up and very quietly, I began to tidy up. The saloon was much-used during the bad weather, and then made chaotic by our hasty re-arrangements of the night before; not really fit for doctor’s visits, which, clearly, was what I was going to have to try and arrange. Freddie wouldn’t be able to go anywhere.


At 8 o’clock, as they opened, I was at the marina office.  Martin, the young lad who had welcomed us the first time, was there, became quite concerned when I explained the position and began looking for appropriate numbers to ring. Then ‘le Capitain ‘, the Harbour Master, came in and immediately he heard, said not to ring the emergency services, it would have to be a doctor and one that would visit. Then he rang them himself and, translating to me when necessary, asked about the symptoms, consulted with the doctor –echoes of another 3 way conversation involving the phone - and eventually arranged for the doctor to come to the port to attend to us shortly after 10.30.  How kind yet again! Both seemed really sorry and concerned, and immediately, without even being asked, tried to do whatever they could.


I rushed back to get the place a bit more respectable before the doctor came, Sarah went to bed, and I made Freddie as comfortable as possible. At just after 11am, the doctor appeared in a suit with a big case, a portly smallish man of some dignity, serious but pleasant enough. He stood outside the boat till he was invited on, and then we had another of those wonderful 3 way conversations I was beginning to get used to, using 2 languages and hands to describe complicated symptoms. He said it could be a kind of lumbago, that he thought Freddie had twisted his back in doing something and a nerve had either escaped or been pinched. He seemed very professional, with a no-nonsense approach, but nevertheless relaxed and friendly. He charged us 32E for the visit, which we thought very reasonable. He prescribed 5 different sorts of medicines; strong ibuprofen and something to help the stomach cope with it, strong painkillers, something to sleep and some ointment. Then he asked who would collect the medicines, and when I said, I would, he asked how I would get there. He interrupted my reply to say he would take me. Well that surprised me and I think I blurted a pretty disjointed thank you. And he whisked me away to the nearest Pharmacy, which was outside Llandeda. He said, ‘Bonjour’, to all who worked there, individually of course, and told the chemist to serve me and – believe it or not – take me back to the port. The chemist said he was on foot and there were a lot of people waiting. The doctor said ‘Pshaw’ (French equivalent of), he (pointing to another assistant), could take me. When the young man in question said he was on a bicycle, the doctor laughed – this was all very good-humoured – and just told them to arrange it. He then said ‘au revoir’ to everyone, individually of course, and left.


Having been the unexpected centre of attention for everyone at the pharmacy during this conversation, and being somewhat sleep-deprived and feeling ragged in every way, this all seemed a bit unreal with surreal overtones, and  I was happy to slink away till everyone there before me had been served. Then I was served and during that, a middle aged man with a jaunty air and a face that looked as if it had seen life, - and enjoyed a lot of it -, came in. The chemist serving me stopped to talk to him, some lively banter took place and I caught,’ Ce n’est pas gratuit’ at the end. (It’s not free). I wondered if he was a taxi they had kindly called for me. Once served, the chemist did indeed tell me that the gentleman in question would take me back to the port. Along the way he told me we could speak English as he had lived in New Zealand for some years. He wanted to know about all Freddie’s symptoms, and when I mentioned Sarah, all Sarah’s. He concluded it wasn’t tendonitis as there had been no repetitive strain, and wondered if it was a virus. Then we were at the port and I tentatively asked, as he hadn’t mentioned it, if I could pay him something. “Do you want now to insult me?, he  asked in indignation and I felt really embarrassed. But he laughed and said of course not, it’s easy to give me a lift. Somewhat amazed by the continual kindness of these Breton people, I rushed back to the boat and began administering the medicines. It was so nice the see the relief Fred got from the painkillers, which were really effective. They also made him very sleepy and the sleeping pill knocked him out. As a result of which, like Sarah, he rested well, he slept a lot, he was relaxed and he improved day-by-day, moving more easily, able to sleep for longer and by the third night he could climb into bed and he had a really good sleep.


I’d noticed while at the Marina Office making doctoral arrangement, that the forecast for Wednesday, when we would clearly still be here, was for F6 all day locally, gusting to Force 8 and 10. We were in for a blow and we were at present outside the mole and its protection. Also the dinghy and outboard were still in the water. After much thought, I concluded neither Able-to-be-Double-Hard Saz with her shoulder nor I was strong enough to lift the outboard on to the boat. At the risk of pushing it a bit after the kindness already shown by the marina, I felt I had no alternative but to ask if they could come and help us get the dinghy and outboard up and move the boat to inside the mole. I spoke initially to Martin, then the Harbour Master came in and after asking after my husband, said they would be down at 1.30 if that was alright. That was majorly brilliant as far as I was concerned.


And soon we were snugly moored up inside the mole without having anything hairy happening and without having to disturb Freddie, thanks to Martin and Patrice (or Pesquin as Sarah called him, or Stephane, which is what his name actually was, but we didn’t find that out till later.)




   Martin and Stephane sizing up the situation and wishing us well when they’d done it.


On Thursday, Fred tried walking down the pontoon and couldn’t manage it. But on Friday morning, he could manage it fine. That was only Day 4 into his treatment, which says quite a lot for his treatment. Sarah by this time was thinking more seriously about flying home as jobs were coming up and she needed to be there. But she hated the idea of leaving us. The winds and visibility were looking fine for Saturday and no rain, fog or mist. The only thing was we lost the SW and got wind varying between NNE and NNW, which we really didn’t want as that was where we were heading. Anyway, we decided to try and leave on Saturday 8am with the ebb. Hardly-Able-to-Believe-It Seamanette didn’t even dare jump for joy – just in case.


Sarah and I went shopping again in Llandeda on Friday to renew yet again the cross channel provisions. When we had finished, it was really heavy and we thought we’d get the bus, though there was nearly an hour to wait. I think the worry about Freddie all week had worn us down a bit. Then I remembered something about the supermarket taking you back to the port. We assumed a special bus would run maybe twice a day, and we’d probably missed it but I went to ask anyway. I asked a lady working in the stock room and she just said. ‘Straight away’ with a big smile, dropped what she was doing, showed us out to her own car and took us back to the port. She didn’t even ask to see a receipt to prove we were bona fide customers. What a nice place!             


Below, on the supermarket window, you can just about see the difference between Breton (underneath) and normal French –



Freddie had suggested on Thursday going for a meal on the last night, at the place that had cooked a special meal for him when he was ill.  Sarah had also overheard that it was very good for sea food. So we thought we’d better book on the way home as it was Friday. We went in and asked for a table. The maitresse d’y, the boss, who often looks a bit fierce, said she didn’t think so, she was fully booked. We expressed our regrets and she expressed her regrets and explained again, and after a few more similar exchanges, she sat at the table and looked fiercely at her book and changed people’s times and jiggled and sighed and then said she was really sorry she couldn’t do it. So we all said sorry again and then she sat down again and after looking fiercely at the book again, she said she could fit us in on the end of the table, if that was alright, but not till 9pm. We said we would check with Himself and let her know and she gave us her card so we could call. A bit later I went to settle the marina bill and confirmed the reservation then.  When I thanked the marina staff for all their help, they positively beamed as if I were doing them a favour.


Dream, at her new mooring, where we get a whizzo wifi signal, tho it still won’t send the blog;

                                        she always looks so small (in the centre, right) 



– or is that sleek?                                                   This is the little restaurant we are going to tonight.




The sun is setting over the sea as we set off.




There is only one small room below, and one small room upstairs, a tiny kitchen, one chef, who never stops smiling and his sous-chef, Papa. And of course, Madame and a young waiter. But they produce the most exquisite food. And the service too is excellent.



We all had St. Jaques, scallops, as a starter – lightly fried with salad, nice dressing and a strange-looking greyish-purple slice, as in segment of a circle. It tasted very tasty and light and fishy. The

chef explained it was broom flowers’, simmered in the fish stock in muslin with flour, and butter. And set in rounds. Amazing!


Then we had Lobster a L’Amoricaine, and Freddie couldn’t get enough of the sauce. And the lobster was delicious. Able-to-be-adventurous Saz had skate wings – she’d never eaten ray. Neither had we and it just melted into your mouth in a welter of soft creamy deliciousness. Fred has raspberry tart for pud, which he said was more raspberry-ish than raspberries. Saz and I had a great Crème Brulee. Sadly I have few pictures. Saz may have some.







We left, promising to see them next year, when Cheffie promised to give cookery lessons on board, especially if we come in Spring, when he is free in the afternoon. They seemed to enjoy having us there as much as we enjoyed being there.


The next morning no disasters have happened and we set off without incident. The wind is light and warm, the sun is out and is already hot. Everything goes off very calmly and Fred is loads better. So is Able-To-be-Joyful Seamanette.


Patrice/Pesquin/Stephane is out on duty and waves us a merry goodbye, ‘Till next year!’





This little house intrigued us. Set on a small island amongst the rocks near the Ile de Vierge in the approaches to L’Aberwrac’h. It was clearly in good condition and being kept up, but what could it be used for, with its vulnerability to wind, sea, tides and waves?  And how do you land exactly?


Our progress was fine down the Grand Chenal when the tide was with us; then out of the channel we met the ebb going along the coast and it was really slow. There was no wind for sailing, though to our relief there was more Westerly in the wind predicted today than yesterday.  The Lighthouse of L’Ile de Vierge was particularly depressing as we rounded her to the south, East to West, then again south to North, then again as we turned North East. She was always there, on the beam to Starboard, making you feel you’re making no progress at all.


Always-Able-To-Sleep Manette crashed quite soon, in the cockpit. I kept an eye on below, on the chart, did the log and took out refreshments of various sorts at regular intervals. Saz woke up and took the wheel around lunchtime, when I snoozed outside in the sun and Fred snoozed inside. After an hour, I woke up and checked the log etc. then Fred woke up and took the wheel. He hadn’t really been able to sleep but he had rested. After lunch the wind picked up to 3/4, and we were making 7+ knots again over the ground with sails alone. That was better!

Saz slept again till 6pm, which was really good as Fred and I hadn’t been able to sleep, despite trying and it meant we would have someone really awake later on. We still kept our speed up, and the only thing holding us up was the constant stream of west-going ships. As they were in groups of 13 or so all going at different speeds, it meant that we had to keep turning east to stay south of the ship stream till we could spot a break in the line. The tide now with us was also pushing us East, but we figured by the time we got to Dartmouth, it would be pushing us back so it would all work out in the end – provided we could get across fairly soon.




As soon as the sun set, the moon climbed over the horizon on the other side. It was large, almost full and helped to light our way thereafter. And it was bright orange. So the moonrise was quite an incredible sight.


Ever-Able Saz woke up, and for a while, we were all up, the Captain concentrating on his AIS, a bit concerned about our Easterly direction but not overly. I made everyone cocoa – really welcome – and it was harder than I thought it would be as there had been a bit of a swell for some time now. I got very hot and actually began to feel tired. I was amazed at the Captain, who usually needs at least one snooze in the day, usually after lunch. He refused to leave the wheel except briefly, and actually seemed full of life. I was finally ordered to bed at 11.30 and I did sleep, though the slamming woke me up, the moon shining right in across the bed – so bright it was like a spotlight - woke me up, and the waves hitting the foredeck woke me up as they came down through the hatch. But I did sleep, And THEY didn’t wake me up till we were South of Start Point, and it was daylight. So they will have to take the tale from here


Captain’s Log:

When we had crossed from Falmouth to L’Aber Wrac’h, we saw a total of about 18 big ships. Coming back was completely different, four times we encountered groups of ships up to 13 at a time all coming west down the channel. This made crossing northward quite alarming. We can see on the instruments the speed and course of all the big ships, and it makes you even less inclined to try and cross in front of them when you see some of them are doing 23 knots! So each time we met one we ended up, turning east to let them go by, sometimes for nearly an hour, and then dashed north again. We were sailing close hauled and averaging about 7 knots, which is pretty good in quite a lumpy sea. Occasionally we hit speeds over 8 knots which was very exiting. As the wind seemed to be rising a bit then I reefed up about half the genoa which got us back to a more comfortable 7 knots.


As we were waiting to cross after our first group of ships I noticed that there was another pair of ships coming the other way. This was very scary as one of them was headed to exactly the place I needed to be. After some consideration I decided that we could probably just make it across ahead of him and he could make a small course change to pass behind us. Looking at his information on the AIS he was a 60,000 ton tanker 700’ long and doing 18 knots. We are a tiny little yacht of 4.5 tons 34’ feet long doing 6 knots; surely he will spot us and just make a little course change, please. After what seemed like hours but was probably only 10 minutes it was clear that he had changed course just enough to pass behind us. Then I watched him as he passed behind us and could not believe how big this ship was. It seemed as long as the Christchurch by-pass and as high as a twenty story block of flats. I am glad he passed about half a mile behind as his bow wave looked about 20’ high. Some game of chicken, I don’t think I would have done it in the dark.


Fairly late in the night we saw a ship come up on the AIS showing a speed of 25 knots and when we spotted her visually she was lit up like a Christmas tree when we looked up her details it turned out to be Queen Mary 2 outbound from Southampton to New York. On the AIS screen it shows details about the ship including her length. We had seen some cargo ships with a length 0f 800’, for the QM2 it showed her length as 0.186 nautical miles which I later calculated as 1162’; some huge ship.


After the final big crowd of ships, about 4am, we were about 18 miles south of Start Point and I thought things would be simple I went in side for a snooze and left Mostly-Able-Nearly-Seaman Saz on watch. About an hour later she woke me up as it was getting busy again. There was another liner, a tanker and a 90’ racing trimaran (Groupama), all converging on a point that we were heading toward. Once again we had to turn east and wait for them to go by. After that the wind eased off a bit as we came in to the lea of Start Point and we had a nice peaceful sail the last 12 miles into the River Dart. And, because we know it so well, that felt like coming home.


So here we are, back where we were 5 weeks ago, when we were full of dreams and curiosity and excitement and anxiety, with little idea of what was to actually transpire.


But we have a Plan. We are going to go next year at the appropriate time and make it the journey we wanted to have. And there are lots of reasons why the delay can be seen positively. Jim coming is one, Sarah can work and save up. We will have time to improve our skills so Freddie can have proper breaks and we can feel more confident; time to get to know all the kinks, habits and further needs of our newly refitted boat, and have time to, for example read the instruction booklets for some of the new gear. Being able to pack and stow so I can remember what is where, instead of in a chaotic panic, when I’m long since brain-dead sounds quite luxurious. And being able to do lots of little jobs on the boat that weren’t even considered before; and generally get mooring, safety and sailing systems in place. Looked at as a shakedown cruise, our voyage was really useful and successful. We have a lot clearer idea of what we’ll need to take and to know, what we need to practice, what we don’t need, what we tend to eat most of etc. And we did have some wonderful times.


So the winter will be spent preparing for departure late next Spring. And a blog may well appear from time to time. And then it’s definitely ‘to infinity and beyond’.