L'Aber Wrac'h to Audierne

Dream On
Freddie Alderson
Wed 27 Jul 2011 08:52

L’Aber-Wrach to Audierne 24th July 2011

The forecast is reasonable, the rain and howling wind have stopped and the wind is coming round to the North. Sailing boats are leaving, and yesterday afternoon we noticed the first tripper boat going out that we have seen since we came. Normally this port is heaving with tripper boats, fishing boats and yachts. This is the second day of relative calm on land, and we are hoping the seas will have calmed down as well, as indicated by the weather reports. We decide to leave in the morning.

    Breakfast at the Café du Port, and pool while waiting for the weather.   And here in the outer harbour it begins to clear.

It is however not an auspicious beginning. We are starboard to and facing the wrong way. Other boats coming in to shelter have tied their ropes over ours in a great muddle, and also blocked our route out. When sorting all out their ropes, our stern line slips and we end up tied on only by the bow, with our stern  being blown quickly away from the pontoon. I run to the bow, still attached, and jump off. Sarah throws me a line and we got attached again. The next problem was turning round in a confined space and then trying to estimate whether the gap left by the other boats was large enough for us.

We had been moored  not quite in the corner of an upside-down L-shape, facing south as it were. Though there was not much space, yachts had moored behind us in the corner and then rafted up 3 deep, narrowing the channel considerably, Once we had turned around, we had pontoons to our right, all full, and the mole enclosing all the pontoons dead ahead, lined by rows of rafted up boats, with the channel going off to the right along the mole, narrowed again by the rafted up boats on the mole and on the hammer heads of the pontoons. It was incredibly hard to see and judge whether we would have enough room to get out.

Fred managed to keep her ‘idling’ as it were, as we tried to assess the situation. In the end we called the marina for one of their little welcome ribs to guide us out and move whichever boats were necessary but got no reply. They did in fact send a boat but too late. The French boat that had been immediately behind us saw our predicament and kindly offered to move to our previous spot, thereby considerably widening the channel. Fred decides to go for it and with consummate skill, manages to turn her round that narrow bend and then between all the rafted up boats and out. Whew! Many other owners are on deck ready to help, or fend off as appropriate, and wish us all the best as we go through.

Once in the outer basin, we turned head to wind to get the sails up before getting into the main channel out to the Chenal du Four. It was immediately clear that there was still more wind and sea than we would like, and when the reefing line got stuck, Jim and Sarah had quite a battle to sort it out on the rocking deck.

Then the one delight of the morning. Just as we were set to go, a dolphin came alongside and frolicked briefly as if to say goodbye and wish us well. Much excitement at this, and all too busy/excited to get a pic.

And once out, it was most unpleasant. The swell left over from the high winds and supposedly diminished according to the weather forecasts, was in fact still left over enough to give us a fairground ride. A 3 metre swell going East, a high tide going South and the wind going round Souwest to North caused very confused lumpy seas and waves on top of the swell. Fred became quite exhausted steering through that mess for four hours, Jim suffered from the motion and went below eventually to rest. Saz and the Cap’n suffered a bit, and the Mate, blessed with a non-sea-sickness gene, worried about the others.

Eventually, we got far enough out to turn South into the Chanel du Four, the wind settled in the North West, the sea calmed and the rest of the run was fine, though the wind now F3 and behind us, was not much good for sailing. Our initial plan of anchoring outside Camaret was changed as a) we wanted another weather check before attempting the Raz de Sein and so needed the internet and b), where we had seen yachts anchoring last year in the bay just outside the sea wall, was now covered with yellow swimming buoys and fishing buoys.

So in we went to Camaret Marina and I really tried to give it a fair go. There have been improvements. The office is now open for a reasonable amount of hours, and the shower gate and number pad have been mended. The demoiselle was helpful, in an indifferent sort of way, but told Freddie his card was invalid. When she realised the mistake was hers, no apology came forth. When I mentioned we had had exactly that problem when trying to get the internet last year i.e. valid cards declared invalid and access refused, indifference returned. And we had the same frustrating hour or so trying to log on and the same shock about the expensive charges.

I walked into the town to see whether I had misjudged it. I walked the whole length of the circular front to the supermarket, which I found eventually at the other end. The whole front was jammed with what looked like modern cafes and souvenir shops. They did not have the individual charm of those of L’Aber-Wrac’h, and seemed more like chains, lots of chrome and brass and glass. The people I spoke to were very friendly, and everyone seemed very happy. I guess I may be curmudgeonly, but I do like visiting places where some of their traditional character survives their fight to attract tourists and visitors.


                Two of the line of huge rotting fishing boats at Camaret that line the walk into town.

We spent some time working out our plan for surviving the Raz. I was glad that when I saw the Raz in full  spate, it was on a postcard, and it was after we did it, or we may have had second thoughts.



As it was, it was a beautiful day, sunny and hot with hardly any wind – the promised weather had arrived. A long line of yachts approached the rocks and we were through before we were really aware of it, thank heavens.



After getting through, we anchored up for a couple of hours at St Evette, a small anchorage with a lovely beach, just south of Audierne, while waiting for the high tide to take us in -  a welcome rest, sunbathe and read.

Audierne is a small town and fishing port, that has built a few berths for visitors and dredged its channel to accommodate us. We followed the channel up till it widened into the harbour, selected a hammer-head, and made for it. As we went in, almost every boat we passed gave us a cheery wave – we really felt welcomed.  It was difficult  trying to get on to the berth – wind or tide was pushing us off. Other boats were blocking our view, and we noticed that the pontoon did not have cleats, but loops. That meant someone had to jump off, rather than lasso from the boat. In the confusion, our line of approach wasn’t quite right and we hit some big bolts fixed on the end of the hammer head, scraping off some gel coat. I jumped off, got a line through a loop and had a job holding it. Sarah and Jim were ready with their lines, in the meantime, but the boat was being blown off so strongly I could hardly hold it, and it was too far away for them to use their lines. Fred ask me to try to free up a hand to try to pull it in. I managed eventually but it was a fight. As soon as it was close enough Jim jumped off - and I was glad of his strength – and Sarah got her line on with the help of a resident. Just as we were all tied on, we were asked to move backwards to make room for others – a reasonable request - and had to re-tie all the lines.

But then we were in, having survived the Raz and could finally relax. An Englishman, whose Heavenly Twins was anchored in the harbour, had come to our pontoon to drop off a visitor. He stayed and gave us the lowdown about the town and its facilities and couldn’t praise it highly enough. We noted that Audierne was very pretty and that all the facilities, and shops were just at the end of the of the pontoon walkway on the road that circled the bay, with very little chrome and glass, and lots of enticing titles like boulangerie, patisserie, poissonnerie, papeterie, creperie etc. and we could not wait to taste their wares the following day. Saz cooked a delicious spagettibog, and we went to bed.

Saturday dawned and the Bread Boy (the Cap’n) did not do his duty – a puzzle as normally whatever the weather he dinghies over to the nearest patisserie for fresh bread, croissants and cakes which are his delight. We suspected a tiredness lag.

Later we went to see the Harbour Master, to find he was not in his office at the advertised time, and a bit puzzled we returned to the boat. We were also puzzled by his notice of opening hours, stating that apart

from his official hours, when he clearly wasn’t there, he was advertised to be there “+/- 2 hours in the evening”. And this, as explained by an English couple alongside, was because, as all boats had to come in on the high tide, the evening hours were governed by whenever the tide was high that day.

   Market day on Saturday                  Such a pretty place                           Dream On snuggled in on her berth

Later we realised he is a working harbour master with a working harbour, rather than a commercial marina with staff in attendance. And other duties may call him away. I managed to catch him in the pm, and found he does not have a card machine, and I was short by 1 euro in cash. He couldn’t wait for me to get some more cash as he had to rush off to the market (?) so said I should just pop it in the letter box sometime later. This only added to the friendly, local and laid-back atmosphere we were already beginning to sense.

Lucy had texted asking if we could Skype soon as the grandchildren were wetting themselves in anticipation of being able to speak to us. (A Skype connection allows us to use the laptops to video call, phone or SMS them free of charge, if we can get Wi-Fi). The only problem was – no Wi-Fi was available for  the boat here. There was a café on the front with internet here though. I investigated and the signal was full-strength. I also found out the poissonnerie was only open 2 hours in the am and pm  – our surprise at this was quickly superseded by delight as we realised its opening hours were arranged to coincide with the return of the fishing boats, guaranteeing really fresh fish and shell-fish. We couldn’t wait!  So we arranged a Skype call for 6.30 with Lucy and famille, followed by a visit to the poissonnerie.

The call went well – it was quite amazing to see them all, great to know it was free, and the whole café, who could hear and see us, seemed quite entertained. The visit to the poissonnerie was all that was promised and we got the most amazing selection of shellfish, buying by the handful as we didn’t know what weight to ask for in grams – prawns, cockles, brown shrimp, mussels, langoustines and crab claws – so much I had my heart in my mouth when we asked, “how much?”.  But it was only 20 Euros! Amazing!! Easily enough for 4, only a fiver each, and what a feast. They were thrilled that we were thrilled and a merry time was had by all.

Encouraged by this, Fred decided to visit ‘La Cave’, where, we had been informed by our English friend, was an old gentleman who knew more about wine than anyone and loved to talk. He recommended some wine whose producer he had known for 25 years, and counselled us never to buy wine unless ‘we knew the face behind‘. He also confided suddenly that the only problem he had was with the English. I thought he took a bit of a chance as we could have been English and possibly offended. But as between us we had a large preponderance of Celtic blood of the Scottish, Irish and Welsh variety, we were not offended and he thought we were OK

But we mused again about the Breton affinity with the Celts and negative associations with the English and the French. We wondered if it was similar to the Celtic parts of the UK who often hate to be called English,  are proud of their nationality, and protest against it being subsumed by the larger, more powerful culture. They certainly love the Celts and have Highland-type gatherings for festivals, with bagpipes and kilts and the whole shebang.

Then back we went for a feast, created by Fred. I think the pictures say it all. And off to bed, totally replete.


On Sunday Fred and I woke up to find that we could not see the other side of the river. A thick mist had descended and though it cleared slowly, it was still much in evidence at the harbour mouth when we had to decide whether to go or not. We decided not as we did not want to go out into problems. We later met a very nice couple in a beautiful Fisher called Otter, who moored alongside. They had come in from Douarnenez on the noon tide, and said it had been pea soup out there, visibility down to 400 yds. and without the radar they would never have arrived. So we were glad we called it right.  

We all went for walks, the 2 couples independently, and both ended up walking to the river mouth and enjoying the lovely little town and its views. One of the most striking things was the clarity of the water. And another one was a number of beautiful but abandoned houses, gardens and bits of land with wonderful harbour views, right along the front.

         This we worked out was an former clothes washing place; there were many others in the town, some completely overgrown and abandoned.

                                      beautiful views                                                                                           and completely random things

      This beautiful but abandoned gateway (centre) with clearly lovely grounds inside, whose undergrowth buried various bits of rubbish, including a whole BMW – parts of the town frozen in time.


Amazingly clear water, and a very puzzled Jim, who wants to know where the fishes have gone - soft sand, clear water and not a fish, or water life anywhere to be seen.  

And then back to the boat for a most fantastic curry, cooked by Fred with produce bought at the Saturday market by Gail, fresh and cheap. And again totally replete, to bed.

Monday dawned much the same as Sunday, with the addition of rain. When the harbour master was asked about the weather forecast, his only reply was, “ Pouf!” and a very Gallic shrug. But it is all due to greatly improve tomorrow and we have this on the authority of the harbour master, Monsieur from the bookshop and the man who mends the laundrette.

Anyway, the day began well as the Bread Boy was back and arrived with croissants for breakfast, bread and quiches for lunch. We tucked in. Then I did the blog, Saz and Jim washed up loads and Fred went off to see the harbour master, Alain. In the pm, they went off for a long walk upriver, I did some errands while Fred snoozed and then began the sad saga of the laundrette. We had to do it as Fred had run out of jeans, and we planned to put it on and go for a walk. So off we trotted with a great sack of washing at about 3 pm.

Though I had checked it 20 minutes before and assessed the various empty machines for size, when we returned it was crowded, all the machines were full and there was a queue. We went back to the boat for half an hour hoping the crowd would thin in that time, after which Fred toted the heavy bag up to town again.  It was still crowded  -  Monday is clearly washday for the whole town -  though fairly soon we found a machine big enough that was free. With so many waiting for machines, we dared not go for a walk and risk being late to move our washing on, so we went back to the boat for another half an hour before the familiar walk back.. When we arrived there was a scene of great consternation as the electricity had gone, ‘Pouf’ and repairs were on-going. Fred did not take this news kindly, but as our washing was done, we waited to be able to dry it. After some time, power returned, we were able to extract our wash and then we waited for a dryer.

With all the people in there doing their washing or waiting to do it, and the overcast weather making it very close in any case, the little laundrette was turning into a sauna and Fred had to wait outside to cool down, pacing about with the steam coming out of his ears adding to the general humidity. Eventually, we put the washing in the dryer, and waited to pay, as now the paying machine no longer worked and an old gentleman had it open and manually allocated minutes to each machine. For some reason, he seemed to give us 50 minutes. As it was a large load, we let him do it and off we trotted, job finally done, we thought.

By this time it’s so late, Sarah has to hold supper so we can go back and collect it. Off we go again, a bit early as we are getting a bit impatient now, to find the drying machine is already stopped and disgruntled customers waiting for dryers look at us askance. To our horror, it is all almost as wet as when it went in – has the machine been going at all we wonder? - but we have neither the courage nor patience nor energy to object or even put it on again. So Fred hauled it all back again and this time, being wet, it was twice as heavy. But rather than explode, he finally saw the funny side of it – just another of the thrills of the cruising life.  More laundretting then on the horizon tomorrow before we leave – no chance of drying it on the boat in this weather.


Fred toting the laundry bag up and down, the blue sign of the Poissonnerie just visible in the back ground. Next to it, the Boulangerie, where Fred got the lovely fresh bread and croissants and reduced them all to hysterics. They had asked how well-cooked he wanted his baguette. Misunderstanding, he replied motioning with his arms, ‘A beeg one’. That set them all off and he was known thereafter as ‘Monsieur le Beeg’. They were helpless with laughter all the time he was in there, and probably after he had left. And next to that, ‘La Cave’, where we bought the wine, a tiny place but full of the most interesting bottles where we would have like to have dallied for much longer.


Our little internet café,                     the little watchtower at the river’s entrance, and a partly- thatched roof, the only thatch in town, perfectly done but strangely enough not finished.

Lovely dins of homemade burgers and salad, grace a Sarah, and off to bed as all of us are tired and, after the laundry saga, it is now very late. We all want to be up early as we are getting anxious now about getting further South before Biscay decides to manifest its less benign nature.


Tuesday dawned misty but the sun soon burnt that off; the laundry worked today and dried the clothes completely in less time than yesterday, so after showers and sorting the boat, we are off to our next port of call, Loctudy