Position Report: Concarneau July 8th

We were in Jersey for a week and got lots of work done on the boat. Those of you who have sailed a lot with us will remember the state of the decks: grey teak and crumbling black caulking bits everywhere. Well we mamaged to sand down the decks. Then we filled in the gaps in the teak with fresh caulking and gave the whole deck and edging strips a coat of natural woodstain. The hardest part of the job was masking up each row before applying the goo (technical term that!!). So now we have decks that we aren't embarassed about. The skipper is really pleased and thanks Donal O'Driscoll for his help and assistance.
We evantually left St Helier on Sat 26th June to meet Gerry Jordan and Colm Pattison who were flying in. We started the trip with moderate seas and f4-5 winds. After rounding the Plateau des Minquiers we were close on the wind heading for landfall in France. Our arrival in St Malo seemed to be greeted by half the local population who were out on the water. It is great to be in a country where sailing is seen as a sport for the masses. The state actively encourage it by creating sailing centres and schools in many ports.
We had a night in the modern marina adjacent to the walled city, before entering the sea lock to go into to marina beside the city walls. The city itself was largely destroyed during the war but has to be commended for the beautiful restauration done. A completely walled city which is alive and not just for tourists like us.
From St Malo we had lost Donal. I was sorry to see him go as he has been a great source of advice, stories and encouragement to me over our years sailing together. But his greatest talent is ignoring the skipper when he gets stressed !!!! Anyway we headed west along the north Brittany coast which got more and more rocky. Luckily for us, the navigation was made easy by the abundance of suitably placed markers.

Our first stop was St Quay Pontrieux which was a ghost town when we went for a wander at 10pm. The next day was a 60 mile spin under on flat calm seas as far as Trebuereden, passing the rocky coast near Perros Guerec along the way. The marina was small but nice. We had a bit of exercise hear as the supermarket was a mile away uphill. This only helped us earn a thirst for the first beer!!

A 5am departure was needed for the spin to L'Aberwrac'h on the north west coast. The departure in darkness was very disorientating for some of the crew, but I think I will let Colm tell that story!! After a few hours we had wind and started tacking offshore along the coast with the massive lighthouse of Isle Vierge constantly in our sights. But with the swell rising to 2.5 metres and the tide going against us, we gave in and motored the last hour in to the anchorage. The strengthening winds and swell made the light pontoons unattractive so we secured onto a mooring. This meant the occasional soaking as we went ashore in the dingy, but at least the boat was better protected.
We ended up spending 6 nights in L'Aberwrac'h as a depression off Ireland maintained its presence. But we relaxed on board, watching the Euro 2004 Football at night in the Cafe du Port. On one day we went for a long walk around the peninsula before finishing up in Landeda for a great lunch in a small bar. Siobhan's arrival on July 3rd produced a plan as we went to Brest for the night to meet her and say goodbye to Colm. Brest is a naval city with a massive harbour and was in the process of gearing up for a maritime festival. It is not the most attractive but was good for a day out.
With Siobhan back on board we headed back on the bus on the evening of the football final which we enjoyed in the pub. A 7am departure to go down the Chenal Du Four was not pleasant for Siobhan who had been attacked badly by mozzies so she slept for most of the trip. When we got into Camaret, I was despatched to get some ointment and some device to keep them away at night in the future. It remains to be seen if it will work. Anyway, we had no wind so motored on a calm sea in the sunshine.

From Camaret we motored south to the last tidal race Suckin' Diesel will see for a year: The Raz de Sein. The tide here is squeezed between a long headland and an island, leaving a gap of 2 miles for the current to squeeze through. We got there just before the current turned to head north and so had pleasant coditions, though it can be rough when the current is running hard. Siobhan will tell you of getting wet in her bed when we encountered the current at the end of the Chenal de Four. note to all who sleep in the for'd cabin, keep one eye on the vents overhead, preferably with swimming goggles on
We were able to sail for a couple of hours then but the wind died a litte so we had to motor to avoid arriving in the dark. Luckily for the boat that we did as we got the last cosy berth in the heart of the marina in Concarneau. I say luckily as there was a gale warning being broadcast as we approached.
The next day we awoke to heavy rain and very dark skies. It cleared in the afternoon a little but at about 5pm the forecast wind started to arrive. Within an hour it was blowing a full gale. We were snug on board getting dinner underway, with the skipper adding more ropes and checking all was ok. Many other skippers were out on the pontoons doing the same. Some of the French looked nervous as many of them were unprepared and had poor fenders and ropes. At this stage I was helping a French crew tie up when we saw that one of the main walkway pontoons had broken on one side under the strain of all the boats. The marina was heaving at this stage as we were close to high tide and the water was surging around a lot. I then saw that the main walkway off the pontoons was split in two places. The wind was blowing a steady 40-50 knots with gusts of 65 being recorded in the marina office. At this stage I started to get worried. The arrival of the fire brigade with full sirens didn't help. I started to think seriously of leaving and staying in a hotel when the decision was made for me. A tall sexy female fireperson told me the boats would all have to be left. I informed all the English in the marina as she didn't speak "British". We got our gear and "abandoned ship". I must admit that I was a little worried for her, but I had secured her as much as I could and now it was time to look after ourselves and let her ride it out.
(Johnny, I presume you are referring to the boat?)
That was presuming that the marina did not break up any more !!!!
Anyway, we did what all conscientious crews would do: we got a hotel, had a few drinks, ate a really good meal washed down with some good wine and then we had some more beer !!!! Just to pretend that we cared about the ship, the skipper went back to the marina at midnight. The wind had eased a little, thought the movement in the marina was still bad. The firebrigade had gone and a police car was there to ensure that nobody went back to their boats. At least that meant that nothing would be stolen since we had to leave her unlocked in case the fire brigade needed access.
(Ok, the fact that since I arrived I have been on the receiving end of both a plague of mozzies and storms/flood type dangerous phoenomenon, shouldn't put anyone off spending time on suckin'diesel. just can't wait to see what else happens.....ooh I do love a good adventure
The next morning was much calmer with winds at 20 knots and gusty. Suckin' Diesel was grand except for a window in the galley being left open in the rush. Once the water was cleared away, she was right as rain again. Gerry was the chef at the time, sorry we didn't get a chance to eat your dinner. I am sure we will eat it tonight along with the two nice bottles of wine we had opened in anticipation of our feast. Sadly Gerry is now gone home so it is up to Siobhan and me to eat and drink in your honour. All hail the brave Gerry, hurrah!!