After 32 days away from Peter, I finally made it back to the boat. Both Stuart and Jonathan were still there and it was great to be back home again.
Jonathan left the next morning and Stuart had decided to stay on with us a bit longer. After all, we had to go further South or West…
The weather gods were not kind to us at all: strong winds, big waves and currents. The last obstacle for getting further south is the Pointe de Raz. A Raz is a narrow area between the main headland and an island (in this case Ile de Seine). Lots of water is forced to go through this narrow passage which creates very strong currents and foul water. Four times a day, when the tides are changing there is a 30-minutes window - a slack period - where it is safe to sail through this Raz as it is at its calmest. As we go south we need a northern wind, which is not very common at this time of year. Right now, one low pressure after the other comes in from the south west, and as hurricane season on the other side of the Atlantic is still very active waves have thousands of miles to build up until they reach the northern French coast.
For two days we kept looking at the different weather models as well as using a number of different weather Apps such as Windy, Predict Wind and Windguru. Not a single positive note to report.
But we didn’t want to give up straight away and decided to go to Camaret sur Mer; only an 11 nm sail and still at the edge of the bay of Brest. The wind forecast was 20-22 knots and the tide with us.
We set off, small main sail and full Jib (the Jib we have is a so-called self-tacking jib which makes tacking – changing direction – very easy). Half an hour into the sailing and we had to do our two tacks. After the second tack the water had become very disturbed and agitated and the boat was pushed around heavily. Meanwhile the wind had increased and I started to feel somewhat out of my element. Probably because I never counted on it that a pleasant sail would turn into a challenging situation. Luckily both Peter and Stuart were up for the challenge and after 20-30 minutes of pressing through the narrow passage of the bay we got through it, with the help of the ship’s motor and the sea state improved quickly. Pfff… time for me to get back in the cockpit and breathe out again… Engine off and back to sailing.
We moored up in the small marina of Camaret sur Mer. A small quaint village where many Parisians have a weekend home and even more come out for their summer holidays. The cliffs, hills and beaches are wild and breathtakingly beautiful - you can tell that the climate is fully in charge here.
A couple of sailing boats did the same sail as we did and we chatted with them about how they did. All with the same answer: “pas plainsant”. Not very pleasant in plain English.
Basically, we made a mistake. We were so focussed on having the current with us (about 2 knots) that we totally forgot that both wind and wave direction were exactly from the opposite direction. This all created the bad sea state… You can say that we have learned a good lesson and we were lucky that it was only for a 20-30 minutes.
The plan was to stay in Camaret for the next couple of days and wait for a weather change that would allow us to get through the Pointe de Raz. Deep down we all knew that it was highly unlikely, but hey… you never know. The weather further deteriorated, the waves were 5-6 meters high at open sea and through the narrow passage of the Pointe de Raz 4 meters plus. After two nights in Camaret a 4-week lockdown was announced. Stuart’s decision whether to stay on and wait for that perfect weather window or not, was taken by the French government, and he booked his flight back to the UK.
We all thought it was better to go back to Brest as the marina and the area would give us more comfort for the coming weeks and Stuart had a an easy 15-minute taxi ride to the airport.
This time we made sure that both tide and wind direction were with us and we enjoyed a fast sail back to where we started three days earlier.
Some last advice from Stuart !
Peter’s mooring was perfect. Stuart invited us for diner. Not easy to get a table on the last evening before lockdown as many restaurants were fully booked! Luckily, we did manage to get a table at the fourth restaurant that we visited.
We said our goodbyes to Stuart and are sure that our paths will cross again.
For us...we are moored up tightly for the next four weeks whilst enjoying the Autumn storms.