Marine Jottings – Milford Haven via the Scillies to Camaret
At sea again at last! The last week in Milford Haven (MH) is the longest either of us has ever stayed in a marina. That’s six whole nights from 6 to 14 August. While our sojourn there was a necessary evil and provided a ready supply of mains water, power and mod cons ashore, it didn’t feature in our original plans. We were really lucky, though, to have been able to berth at Neyland Yacht Haven, as we met a number of people who had decided to shelter in Dale Bay (at the mouth of Milford Sound), either on a moored pontoon or the local moorings, and they had a wretched time, even suffering damage to their yachts.
Thursday 14th August dawned clear, but still with a SWly breeze blowing up the main channel. By the time we were off Dale Bay, there were significant waves, but once clear of MH the seas have slowly subsided. We had one really heavy shower, with wind around the cloud, and then nothing, meaning action was urgently required to roll the genoa and prevent the main fouling itself on the backstay. As expected the wind is insufficiently strong to enable us to sail, so we are motor sailing towards the Isles of Scilly with an ETA of round about dawn on Friday.
Apart from a few tankers making there way to and from MH, for company we’ve had a number of schools of dolphins, and hundreds of Manx Shearwaters. These beautiful birds elegantly skim the waves, with their wing tips only fractions of an inch above the water as they fly across the sea.
Away to our port side we clearly saw Hartland Point in Devon, and cumulus cloud marked the rest of the Cornish coastline towards Lands End.
The Isles of Scilly are dangerous for sailors in bad weather because while there is some shelter everywhere, nowhere provides total shelter from any wind direction. Our original plan was to make for New Grimsby Sound, the entrance to which is unlit but it has moorings between Tresco and Bryher and we’d stayed before in mid June (seems a long time ago!). But even with the brightness of the night sky in an almost full moon, and an ETA of 0200, we finally shelved the idea as taking an unnecessary risk (phew!). Instead we altered course around the Isles, and anchored temporarily but safely at 0400 opposite Hugh Town.
By 1000 we’d weighed anchor and sailed north in a freshening southerly, picking up a mooring buoy as per the original plan between Tresco and Bryher and in time for lunch. Last night we had gusts of 30 knots, and this morning, with more bad weather approaching from the Atlantic, it was time to take the opportunity to move south as quickly as possible. The plan is to head to the west of Ushant, and then head east for Camaret, a fishing harbour we know well. There is sufficient shelter there to sit out the forecast strong winds.
As I write (16th August), it’s just coming up for 1700, Elaine is sleeping before coming on watch at 1800, the wind has gone round to the west as forecast, and is averaging 17 knots. With the mainsail and jib we are powering along at around 7 knots with 83 nm to go to our next waypoint south of Ushant. Pipistrelle sails beautifully in these winds, and it is a joy to stand in the cockpit watching her pick her way over, round and occasionally burying her bow into waves!
After a largely uneventful night passage, but finding the Pride of Bilbao (Ouzo fame) coming fairly close to us off Ushant (or Ouessant in French!), we arrived at Camaret after a 23 hour passage. Vive la France at last! The outer marina was full, so we berthed on the outside of the wave breaker. While it was calm when we arrived, we had not appreciated that by high tide the next day once the wind had increased again to 30 knots from the SW, there would be considerable swell with the associated surging. We finished up with 10 lines holding Pipistrelle to the pontoon and all fenders over the side.
On the plus side we managed a shop by taxi at Leclerc at Crozon some 10 km away, and also met Richard, Angela and their son Oscar from an Oyster 46 (Sophistikate), who are sailing to the Canaries to take part in this year’s ARC. We also had a very enjoyable final evening with drinks on board Sophistikate and then ashore for a meal with David, Becky, son Jordan and Molly the hound from Chilli Oyster, who are also taking part. Also in the party were Dennis and Sadie from Guernsey who have crossed the Atlantic 4 times, but on this occasion are heading for Majorca in their Moody 54. Believe it or not they were interested at one time in buying Pipistrelle but fortunately we pipped them to the post! All three boats were waiting for the next weather window to take them direct to La Coruna in Spain, while we take the more scenic route and get there in shortish hops. We wish them safe and enjoyable sailing.
In Camaret we also renewed our acquaintance with Derek Ide on Fearless who we’d met 2 years ago while anchored on Azrar III off the island of Houat near Belle Ile. He’s on his way back to Southampton for a few months before heading to the Caribbean mid November where he has his second yacht – all right for some! We hope to catch up with him in the UK before he sets off.
After another night of listening to the grinding of warps against the pontoon, but finally being rocked to sleep by the motion of the waves, we slipped all the lines early this morning (Wednesday 20th August). After anchoring in the bay for about an hour to enable us to tidy up what seemed like hundreds of metres of rope, checking the forecast, and having a well earned breakfast we decided after all to take the opportunity to head the 70 nm or so south through the Raz du Sein towards Bénodet. We’ve now been through the Raz five times and had never seen it so angry and dangerous – we kept our distance to ensure a safe passage. Trying to hold the digital camera still enough while on zoom and bouncing up and down was quite a challenge – result below, but at least it gives an impression!
As we approached Pointe du Penmarc’h initially we were headed towards a huge flock of gannets, some 300 birds, which had spotted a large shoal of fish, and in their dozens were diving for the kill, and then sated, were resting on the surface until we approached. Shortly afterwards we were joined by a school of dolphins. These led the way around the headland and were with us for some 40 minutes. It is encounters like these that make sailing so enjoyable.
And here we are now anchored in the River Odet in warm, bright sunshine, – the bikini has made it out of deep storage at last and the shades are at hand! We’ll be getting the bimini out next!