6 June: wet and windy in the Morbihan
Our attempt to claim Ile de Brannec for the Crown failed as we were deterred by a sign telling us it was all jolly private. Looked quite dull anyway, close up. The return passage across the narrow channel to our anchorage under Ile aux Moines proved more exciting. A strong tide runs through there and just as we entered the race, the outboard motor gave up. Fortunately, it was only a short row back to Escapade - just long enough to ponder that shiny new 10hp motor again… On arrival back at ‘Mother’, I took the cover off the miserable little piece of Japanese wizardry, only to discover that I had failed to switch the fuel back on after the landing on Brannec. So actually, the thing did quite well to get us halfway home on a thimbleful of petrol in the carburettor! Order restored, wallet intact.
Ile Brannec: still staunchly French.
Twenty minutes later, we landed on mainland France about half a mile south of our anchorage – at a place called Anse de Pen Castel. There were a couple of locals literally scraping a livelihood in the sand, raking for clams. We enjoyed a couple of hours walk along a splendid coastal path, around a couple of bays holding oyster beds and yacht moorings, beneath majestic, ancient cedar trees, past wildflower meadows and a profusion of holiday homes, all with the shutters closed. Plenty of people walking though: the coastal paths are well maintained and blissfully free of litter, mountain bikers and horse riders. We reached the village of Kerners, sleepy but reminiscent of Cawsand in many respects. Apart from the absence of Stephen Michael’s village shop or the glorious Devonport Inn… in fact, no sign of any retail activity at all. So we set off back to the rubber boat with our shekels intact, lamenting only the lack of a suitable patisserie to compensate for the calories burned in preparation.
Sleepy, scented village life…
We returned to Escapade just in time: within half an hour, the skies darkened and the wind got up to a steady 20 knots. We had expected this, so we hunkered down to see what would happen. Gradually the mooring buoys around the anchorage filled with boats seeking refuge and the rain set in. By late afternoon the wind was gusting to 35 knots and we were slowly but surely dragging our anchor into the moorings.
Throughout the Morbihan, that the tide runs strongly in the deeper water. Around the edges of the islands and the mainland there are good spots to anchor, in shallower water and out of the tide. Over the years, many of these spots have been filled with permanent moorings of various sizes and shapes, leaving the space available for anchoring reduced to a narrow strip between the deeper, fast moving water and the permanent moorings. We knew that our anchorage would be quite exposed to a southerly breeze, but once the wind veered west at around midnight, we would be ‘snug as a bug’.
The problem was that the wind was pushing us out into the tide. This caused the boat to yaw and try to sail off the anchor. The water was only 8m deep, but I had 55m of chain out and we were edging closer to a rather smart British yacht on an adjacent mooring buoy. No option to let out more chain (the first reaction to dragging) as this might cause us to tangle with the other boat and then the host of others behind and inshore of us. So we started the engine and weighed anchor. We moved it 50 yards up wind (and down tide) and put out 70m of cable, with the boat lying back into a space between adjacent moorings. All fine for a couple of hours, but then we gradually edged out into the stronger tide and the whole thing started off again. We tried again six times over the next four hours as the weather got worse, before finally giving up and crossing the harbour to where we had been walking earlier in the day. Here, the wind was blowing off the southern shoreline into a much wider channel, so if we dragged, we would not interfere with any other yachts. As it happened, the yachts on the moorings here were quite a bit bigger than we had seen elsewhere and there was a spare mooring buoy. Nothing to lose by picking it up: if we dragged it to seaward because it was too small, we could always try anchoring – and if it held us, life would be sweet.
Well, I have to report that life is sweet. The buoy held fast. I’ve no idea what the wet end is attached to, but we did not swing into the other yachts at slack water and as you can see from the photo at the top of this article, there’s plenty of clear water astern. The wind is now merely a steady 25 knots. The rain has stopped and it has been a glorious sunny day. After a rather disturbed and very wet night, a chance to recuperate.
Tomorrow the weather is due to return to ‘warm and sunny’ so we plan to return to Belle Ile for a couple of days and perhaps spend the weekend in La Trinite and Carnac. We are starting to look ahead to our passage down to Gijon in Asturias, Northern Spain. It’s about 250 miles from here and not substantially different from La Rochelle, so a passage of no more than two days assuming we can time it to catch favourable winds. Timing is everything in this game. Now, where’s my watch?