Friday, 24 June 2016

Off to sunny Spain

Eddie and Brian duly arrived in St PeterPort Guernsay and after doing the island tour on the service bus for one pound!! a plan was hatched to do an evening departure for Aber Wrach which is a small sheltered town just over 100 miles away and more importantly near to the tidal passage inside Ushant. With high hopes of a nice sail no wind meant us motoring all the way. We had a walk ashore enjoying a really nice meal and a few grande French beers. Next day we could not leave until the tide was favourable to allow us to turn south round the western extreme of France. We enjoyed a ramble in the countryside which was warm and pleasant. Leaving at 4pm it was great to get 3 knots of fair tide down to Anse du Bertheaume where we picked up a mooring before dark.
While the gulf of Brest offered a lot of tempting places to see it was a bit too much of a detour so we planned for the final tidal gateway of the famous Raz De Sein. The Raz has tides up to 6knts and has a fearsome reputation for over falls and all things bad. The tide would not set in our favour till afternoon so we planned a lunch stop on the Isles de Seine. We anchored in the bay of the tiny rock infested island and went ashore to a very pretty but now mostly holiday home village. The Raz with a fair tide and no wind was very simple but I can imagine a SW storm would be very different.
     The famous Raz de Sein Lighthouse                  

Well it was now warm with the sun looking out now and again, long troosers no more as the shorts prevailed despite the peely wally legs. 

We anchored up in the bay of St Evette just outside Audierne. Despite a fair walk we had a lovely lasagne ashore. Short of bread next morning we headed into town which was a long way. Alas it seemed to be some kind of holiday with nearly every shop closed. Using our Del Boy French we were told a Liddles was the only big shop open today, just along the road! Along the road was about another 1 1/2 miles up a hill in a very hot sun. Liddles came good though and well stocked up we tried for a taxi, not today were they queuing in the car park and the store lady could not get one. The thought of the long walk back was hanging over us. We passed a taxi office which was closed but an ambulance depot was next door so I went in to enquire with my best bonjour to date. In a second or two I had negotiated a lift back in a car type ambulance which made Brian and Eddie smile ear to ear!
We left after lunchtime and as we were later than hoped decided on the small rocky islands of the Iles de Glenan. They look very intimidating on the chart but are fine in settled weather. It was busier than expected when we anchored 

Eddie cooked up liver and onions which was very good despite it seeming worryingly tough before cooking. A trip ashore and after a walk round the island found us in a little bar for a beer. The locals were friendly with one who sat holding his pet hen called Bridget. He insisted I hold it for a minute which I did but noticed it would barely make a pan of soup let alone Sunday lunch though I didn't share my thoughts with him! The small islands are home to one of France's most famous sailing school but there appeared to be no courses on at the time.
On again next day to Lorient a busy harbour with a huge marina where we tied alongside. This was home to the German U boats during the war and the servicing facility is a huge concrete structure still intact today. It's mostly being used for a variety of commercial reasons with part of it being a museum. France seems to have a lot of its high performance racing yachts here which was interesting to see. The museum was too,late for us but we nosed about and got the feel of it.

U boat Pens

Next it was down to the inland sea of the Morbihan. We made good speed and got through with the strong tide to pick up a mooring at Anse du Moteno. We could here the tide roaring not far away as it ebbed over the shallow water not far away. Next morning we went with the tide up towards Vannes. There were some tight spots in the channels but well marked.

The Morbihan

Nice little houses

Big tides

We took the dinghy up the last mile of canalised river to the town which actually had a reasonable marina which was kept full by a reported cill. After a trip in the mini train round the very attractive town we headed back in the now roasting sunshine. A quick reactionary 180 turn when we spotted the cill 
Prevented us getting an early bath. The dingy portage was short and we were soon back aboard enjoying the weather. Pleasant walks ashore left a very positive impression of the area. We left next day with a roaring tide through the narrows and headed over to Ile Houat in pouring rain. Anchoring in a big sandy bay we had an interesting beach landing in the dingy with Brian thankfully taking the brunt of the breaking wave! A lovely small village and a nice little pub ended the day nicely.
Quite a boisterous sail next day down to Ile D'Yeu and tied up in a tight little Marina for the night. Clearly these off lying islands are very busy with visitors which is not surprising as they are very interesting and attractive.
With an overnight anchorage at Ile de Re we headed down into La Rochelle next morning. The Marina has more than 5000 yachts and is just huge. We fuelled up and made off into town on the electric ferry boat.
Electric Ferry

The city was great with museums and nice areas to wander around. 

The famous Bernard Moitessier's boat in which he did a record 37455 miles non stop

We spent 3 nights here waiting for good weather to cross the 180 miles to Spain. A fine forecast for leaving early Thursday showed 15knts W going NW then going very light. On the contrary we had light winds all day then it freshened with a reef going in before dark ( 2 reefs in fact) we had up to 37 knots of wind well forward of the beam for most of the night and next day along with a very uncomfortable sea. It was very hard to stay in a bunk and little chance to sleep. No surprise as we were going down the line where Biscay shallows up from about 1500m with under 20 miles to go we discovered the rocker cover gasket leaking which was successfully plugged using the good old epoxy putty. We got in though as planned on time to Bermeo where bacon egg and chips was served up and tasted great.
We stayed a second night and enjoyed exploring the busy town.

A welcome Bermeo

A sunny windless trip of 20 miles up to Getxo just outside Bilbao is where I am now. We visited the city and did a bus tour which showed how Bilbao is a great success as a town which has changed from heavy industry to lighter forms of business. The city is sparkling clean and a joy to the eye. Eddie and Brian's last day arrived and we crossed the top of the Bizkaia bridge which is one of the few bridges of its type left in the world. It has a carriage suspended on wires which travels over the river leaving clear passage for ships. You can get a ticket to walk along the high part which in the scorching sunshine was fantastic, despite it looking a bit daunting from the ground.

We enjoyed the lads last afternoon using the facilities of the Real Club Mertimo Del Arbra which included swimming pool and the most luxurious clubhouse imaginable. A meal in their restaurant and they were off with Ryanair from Santander after 3 weeks of pleasure and pain! Thanks to them both for their enthusiasm and good humour.