Monday, 4 July 2011

Wendy’s Diary: Saturday 2nd July

Wendy’s Diary: Saturday 2nd July
We stayed in L’Aber Benoit until Friday. The weather has been warm and sunny but with a slightly chilly northerly/sea breeze. We took the boat up the river as far as we could go, it is similar to the Helford, with tree lined banks.
Having had 5 days of “being away” John spotted a slip that was perfect for scrubbing the bottom, something we did not get around to doing before we left. So we tied up, waited for the tide to go out and John first scraped, then pressure washed the hulls (yes we did find room to bring along the pressure washer)! Six million baby barnacles later and she was in much better shape for sailing. In the mean time I had the lovely job of cleaning out the unpleasant but necessary task. I also did my first load of hand washing..and the weather was perfect for drying.
We found our first boulangerie, but unfortunately for John it did not sell the Far Breton that he has hankered after since his last visit to Brittany. It did however sell some very tasty bread which went down very nicely with some pate.
On Friday afternoon we decided to head for the seas again as the weather appeared to be perfect for a trip south. We headed for L’Aber Ildut, but gave up on sailing when the wind dropped. On entering the very pretty natural harbour we found there was nowhere to anchor. A local fisherman called us up on the radio and suggested we pick up a buoy , and he promptly came over to join us.
 He showed us his days catch of half a dozen Pollock and asked if we would like one (as a gift). We readily accepted and he then very professionally filleted it for us and handed over two very large fillets, telling us to wait 24 hours before cooking it as it would taste better. It went straight in the fridge, and a round of beers came out to make the necessary room.  We chatted for around an hour and the fisherman (Jean) realised he had missed the tide to get home and asked John to drop him off in our dinghy. A small return for the dinner he had provided.
Early this morning on the turn of the tide we headed out of the harbour again (before the harbourmaster could charge us for the buoy – a mere coincidence honest!) and down the coast to Brest. It was a beautiful day again but with only a gentle breeze so sailing without the engines on was rather challenging. I missed the bulk of the run down through the Chenal du Four whilst catching up on some lost sleep. Not long after I got up, a pod of dolphins came and joined us. This is the first time I have seen dolphins properly, certainly the first from Freya Frey. In crystal blue waters they swam round/under and in front of the boat, ducking and diving as they went. It was a truly amazing sight to see and we took lots of photos and film.
The Rade De Brest is a large natural harbour, not that different to Plymouth in its natural form. John was amazed by the number of WW2 gun emplacements there were along the entrance, they just went on and on. The sea became flat calm and the sail into Brest was lovely, we had the fish donated the evening before along the way which was (in John’s words) very tasty (in my words) OK!
There are 2 rivers that flow into the Rade de Brest and we chose L’Elorn to explore first.  The pilot book told us that if we went right up the river then there was a swinging bridge bridge that was opened on request when you ring in advance about a mile before the very pretty town of Landernau. On cruising up the river we kept a close eye on the channel markers – I was on the helm and spotted two red marker buoys ahead and couldn’t work out which was the nearer. I asked john and he couldn’t tell either. As we got closer it became apparent that they were actually level with each other – aghh where is the channel then?? My thought was to aim between the two and the water was getting scarily shallow. John on the other hand had enough river sense to realise one had come adrift and was clearly in the wrong place and so I quickly changed course and steered around the other. 
Our next problem was that our chart did not go this far up the river, so knowing when we were “in advance” was rather difficult, so we decided that we would have to wait until we saw the bridge and then ring.  As soon as it appeared, I rang – only to get an answer phone message to say try again later.  I tried again a couple of times but still the same message, so we tied up to a conveniently placed wall outside what turned out to be the local sailing club.
We got our folding bikes out instead and cycled the last mile to the town. It was a very pretty town, one worth a stroll round by foot rather than by bike.  One of the things we wanted was WIFI access so we stopped to ask a young couple if they knew if any of the bars in town had it. The image in my head of a nice riverside bar, glass of French beer or wine and download a few emails, it sounded a nice way to end off the day. The couple suggested a bar which we thought they said was called Magdalen, back close to where the boat was tied up, next to the local Intermache . So we cycled back the way we had came, up into an industrial estate and there we spotted the bar with WIFI, not Magdalen, but MacDonalds!!
We found an outside table – next to the children’s play area rather than the river, and listened to their shouts and cries and we munched our way through our Big Macs.  We did the necessary with the WIFI which took much longer than we thought before heading back to the boat. We arrived to find the tide had gone out further than anticipated and top of the boat was now sitting about 6 feet below the top of the wall, her mooring lines like violin strings. We spent around 10 minutes trying to work out the best way to jump down without landing on a solar panel, John took a well judged jump down and landed safely. When he loosened the rope at the front, the boat dropped around 6 inches.  Unfortunately the cleat at the back had started to lift out of the deck and he had to cut the rope free – so an important lesson for us.
During the last few nights I have been feeding the mosquitoes rather too well, John not quite so much, so found the mozzi net and lamp and turned the cabin into a mozzi free zone before turning in.

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