There are two marinas in Brest……Marina de Chateau and Le Moulin Blanc. We were in the Chateau which is only 3 years old, has excellent ‘free’ wifi, water and electricity and is in the town, rather than a 20 min bus ride away. We took the bikes up the hairpin hill into town and went to an amazing supermarket where we stocked up with food and wine. The french have a completely different approach to food…..we bought a live crab from the fish counter tank for our tea and then cycled back with it scrabbling around in the bag. In England the animal rights activists would have pilloried Asda for cruelty to shellfish!

OnThursday evening another british boat pulled up behind us. A 41ft, US designed 1970s old gaffer style ketch. We took their lines and then went aboard to take a beer or two with them. Malcolm and Clare are the owners from Rye. Neal,a Canadian, and Graham joined them in Brest having flown over in Neal’s plane. They are headed in the same direction as us so we may meet up with them again. They made their way into town to look for food and we made our way back to the boat to cook our crab. We had left it hanging over the side in a bucket, surrounded by hundreds of grey mullet that seem to flourish here.

Despite the best efforts of both Dawn and Steve to let us know, we failed to check our messages soon enough and unfortunately we didn’t realise that Loïc, a friend from Brighton, was in the Moulin Blanc marina getting his icom fixed and so we have narrowly missed meeting up with him …… maybe we’ll meet up further south.
We left Brest on Friday morning and set off for Benodet, via the much demonised Raz du Seine, a notorious race between the island of Seine and the main land of France.

The Raz du Seine. The French go in for multiple lighthoues!

The Raz du Seine. The French go in for multiple lighthoues!

There is literally a lighthouse…….a house with a light on it!…. on the island marking the western edge of the race.

The Houselight

The Houselight

For once we got the tides right and came round in smooth seas and motor-sailed on into the top of the Bay of Biscay. There was a small flotilla of yachts heading in both directions to make the Raz within the tidal slot. While crossing the first bay a pod of dolphins swam towards us and played in our bow wave for a good 2 minutes

Dolphins under our bow

Dolphins under our bow

Action shot of 'dolphin's breath'

Action shot of ‘dolphin’s breath’

The coastline of Brittany is strewn with rocks and shallows, but with the iPad and the Chart plotter, we have been able to negotiate our way quite easily, although it was a relief to arrive and make our way up into the Odet river to wait out the force 6/7s that are forecast at the weekend. We entered on a flooding tide and shot up to our mooring with 5knts of tide under us.

View of Benodet from our mooring

View of Benodet from our mooring

We took the dinghy ashore to Sainte Marine…….very chic quaint.

Sainte Marine

Sainte Marine

A French couple we met said it was a bit like Salcombe…… we didn’t realise they meant the prices!
We had a pleasant evening promenading along with all the holiday makers and ate ‘al fresco’ at a Creperie. We must get the ingredients so Marcus can whip up a mix for us…..yes we have got his crepe pan onboard, along with the 2 omelette pans and fish kettle!

On Saturday we went over to the opposite bank of the river and strolled around Benodet. This is clearly a town of holiday homes for the rich from Paris. It is well manicured

A 'tidy' 'oliday 'ome

A ‘tidy’ ‘oliday ‘ome

….. not quite so chic as Sainte Marine, but still €6 for a beer is a bit steep.
In the afternoon, when the tide turned, we took the dinghy up the river to explore our way up to Quimper which is 10 miles inland

On the way up to Quimper

On the way up to Quimper

Shallow water, but a good view of the cathederal

Shallow water, but a good view of the cathederal

Plenty of fish in the river

Plenty of fish in the river

After a quick drink in a very ‘local’ cafe we caught the tide back downstream back to the boat to sit out the next couple of days of wind and rain.

Between the thundery showers

Between the thundery showers

Time to get a lot of odd jobs done…… Marcus used his dremel to shorten the outboard throttle extension. A big thank you to Ian for making him get this ‘wonder tool’. Fender socks were made, the aft cockpit was scrubbed and tidied, darning of jumpers and flags completed and we watch French Kiss……you may not know the film, but if you’ve ever been to the restaurant or spent any time on the boat, you would definitely recognise the sound track!!!

On Monday we took the bus to Quimper for a closer look at the town

The town centered around the Cathederal

The town centered around the Cathederal

In the evening we went over to Sainte Marine and these two english lads from a Dufour 54 who were trying to get money from passers by to ‘buy their mother some flowers’

Trotters Independant Traders

Trotters Independant Traders

They had all the patter of market traders, but with very up market accents! They kept us amused for ages trying to sell shells and stones from the beach for E1 each! and getting people to put money in the ‘statues’ hand…….British eccentrics in the making!

On Saturday, after spending the morning getting the watermaker working (far less of a job than we had been lead to believe!) we went to The New Inn for dinner and met Caroline and Ben who were here for her birthday weekend. Ben had been a chef (a recurring theme!) and Caroline works in PR, so we had a lot in common. They must have thought we were stalking them, because we met them again on Sunday, when we returned to settle the tab we forgot to pay on Saturday!

On the way back to the boat we stopped off at ‘Mad Fish’, a Moody 38, and spent a great couple of hours learning about the realities of going to the Caribbean and got loads of tips from Russel and Emma. They have just returned from a year away and are hoping to do it all again when Oli and Nathan have finished school.

On Sunday morning, Yoann, from ‘Uekla’ the Mousquetaire, swam over to see us. He was diving off the rocks looking for crabs and lobsters.

Yoann popped up like a seal to pay us a visit

Yoann popped up like a seal to pay us a visit

It turns out that he used to be a chef too! He is planning to build his own boat and has learnt a great deal by renovating his 1970s Mousquetaire Club. (Ours was a Classique with a lower freeboard)

Yoann and Pierre on 'Uekla'

Yoann and Pierre on ‘Uekla’

On Monday morning, just before we left, Yoann and Pierre arrived to say goodbye and give us a bottle of wine to open on the equator.

Wine delivery service!

Wine delivery service!

They then set off to do a spot of fishing around Cromwell’s Castle

Pierre checking the outboard

Pierre checking the outboard

We lifted our anchor at 1500 and set off around the north of the islands bound for Brest. We were planning to head straight down to Portugal, but the winds are too light and in the wrong direction, so we have changed our plans again.
About 3 miles out we had our first sight of a pod of dolphins and two of them came over to play!

In sight of the Scillies .... our first dolphin playing in our bow wave

In sight of the Scillies …. our first dolphin playing in our bow wave

Shortly after we saw a classic boat with full sail up. As we got closer, we realised it was ‘Grayhound’ and called them on the VHF. We have arranged to meet up somewhere in Portugal to give them back their cork screw that we managed to walk off with!
We decided to do 3 hour watches through the night, motoring all the way. Thank goodness for the AIS as it was foggy and even when we knew a boat was there, we couldn’t see it! One very large tanker diverted to avoid us as we were crossing the shipping lane.

After a less than restful night, we decided to divert to the Ile d’Ouessant (Ushant)

Ile d'Ouessant. An island of rocks and lighthouses

Ile d’Ouessant. An island of rocks and lighthouses

……..and picked up a free mooring buoy in Lampaul harbour.(We later found out why they don’t charge)

After lunch of Moules Mariniere and frites, we strolled into the town to buy a courtesy flag. There were no Tricolours, so we got a Breton flag on a stick from a beach type shop which I have cut, sewed and hoisted….. It does the job!

We had intended to have a nap and then go back ashore, but unfortunately the Honda outboard that got us over to the island at lunch time, decided to pack up when we wanted to return to the boat, so Marcus had a little gentle exercise rowing us back to the boat. Another job for Marcus the Mechanic!
We spent a very roly night on the mooring (hence being free) and so decided to leave Lampaul and head for Brest and a Marina to refuel with diesel and have a comfortable night’s sleep. Other yachts followed us out, including ‘Brighton Belle’ who is part owned by Hilary, our Yoga teacher from Brighton!
After negotiating a pretty volatile race off the south west of the island, the seas calmed, the sun shone and we were sailing along at 6 knots.
This IS the life!

We have been here for over two weeks and are reluctantly planning our departure before the weather in Spain and Portugal deteriorates. Looks like we’ll be leaving tomorrow, Monday. We have started to feel like we live here!

One of the main competitive sports on the islands is gig racing and the weekly gig races attract crowds of visitors. These are fiercely fought events for hard men and women. The distances involved are 2 to 5 miles and the sea is not always calm. Our friend, Steve, is the coxswain of Czar, one of the Tresco and Bryher gigs.

Steve and Czar getting ready for the start

                                Steve and Czar getting ready for the start
Czar on the far left being 'nobbled' by the opposition at the start

Czar on the far left being ‘nobbled’ by the opposition at the start

On Thursday we went over to St Martin’s by dinghy. It took us nearly 2 hours to get there and, once we had drained the water out of the double shell hull, we came back at 13knots in 20 minutes.

St Martins is a peaceful and unspoilt island with a Lower Town, Middle Town and Higher Town with no more than a hundred dwellings in total!

St Martin's sandy bay

St Martin’s sandy bay where we landed

We went to Higher Town to try Adam’s Fish and Chips ……

The view from our table

The view from our table

Adam goes out in the morning and catches the fish and cooks it in the evening ….. the chips are made from potatoes grown behind the restaurant .. Fantastic.

We had a bit of an adventure yesterday, Saturday. We set off in strongish winds in the dinghy, bound for St Mary’s. Once out if the shelter of Tresco, the full force of the wind and tide hit us, quite literally, in the face! We arrived in Hugh town wet and bedraggled. We had to collect our post and the Pilot books we’d ordered for Spain and Portugal and the Atlantic Islands from the Harbour Master’s Office. We then went to the only supermarket on the islands to stock up with food before the 3 day passage we are about to embark on.

The return journey was a little less wet with the wind and tide going in our direction although the wind was even stronger. When we got back to our mooring the boat wasn’t there!!!! It was moored to the ferry buoy about 50m away from where we had been anchored.

One of the neighbouring yachts told us that Island Kea had been the highlight of the morning. She had started to drag her anchor shortly after we had left for St Mary’s and was heading slowly, but surely towards the rocks. The neighbouring yacht and two other yacht crews, had managed to get a long line on to the big ferry buoy and attach it to the bow to hold IK off the rocks, but she was too heavy for them to haul out. They then managed to get the Bryher jet boat ferry to nudge IK out to the buoy, while they winched her.

We arrived well after the event and after a quick ‘gratitude tour’ we got on board and had to work out how and where to move to. We decided to go to the mouth of the sound where there is more water to ‘swing’ on a longer length of chain. Having released ourselves from the mooring buoy, we hauled up the anchor, which had a tree trunk’s girth worth of seaweed wrapped around it and trailing half the length of the boat. There was no way of hooking it off with a boathook …. it was out with the diver’s knife and hack at it ’til it released it’s grip on us.

We re-anchored with all our 60m of chain out and nervously watched to see that we were holding.Once happy, we had a sociable time delivering beers and heart-felt thanks to our ‘saviours’. They were only to pleased to have helped and all felt it genuinely could happen to anyone and helping us was like ‘money in the bank’ for the day they may need assistance! Thank goodness they were aware of what was happening and were resourceful and quick thinking enough to work out a rescue plan!

Today’s lesson learned …… when the wind changes direction and strength in a crowded mooring, move to less populated water where there is more room and put out all the chain!

Our first contact with islands was Henry, Tresco’s Harbour Master. He was extremely welcoming and even after we moved from his moorings to anchor, he offered us the use of his shrimping nets for a spot of shrimping.

The Master Shrimper

The Master Shrimper

After an hour and a half of rooting under the sea weed at low tide, we had caught enough for a small sandwich!…… there is clearly more to the art than we imagined. On our way back we got a few more tips from the locals as they saw our paltry catch and it appears that Henry, the HM, must have taken a shine to us, as he doesn’t offer his shrimp nets to anyone! We returned the nets along with a couple of bottles of beer and will hopefully have better luck next time. We cooked the shrimps and shared them with Terry and Veronica, a couple we met on the boat over to St Mary’s, who come to Maggie’s Farm, on Tresco, every year. They were impressed with the boat and were absorbed by our whole plan. Lovely people with open hearts and minds.

The fruits of our labour!

The fruits of our labour!

The Grayhound was anchored in the sound and we realised we had seen her last year in Plymouth. The owner, Marcus and his wife Freya live aboard with their 2yr old son Malachy. What a coincidence!

Grayhound at anchor

Grayhound at anchor

Marcus had built this Cornish Privateer in 18 months, from old drawings and plans and timber that he begged borrowed and stole!. He is now taking paying guests and is planning to follow the same sort of route to Barbados as we are. We spent an afternoon visiting aboard and I’m sure we’ll meet up again en route.

Grayhound under way

Grayhound under way

We rescued a ‘damsel in distress’ who was having trouble with a day boat she’d hired and that led to us being invited to dinner the following evening at their holiday cottage. It is great to meet enthusiastic and interesting people who totally get what we are doing. They sadly had to leave before they could visit us aboard.

Anna and Steve are a local couple who we met at Nicky and Nigel’s dinner party. Anna runs the Tresco Gallery and Steve is Tresco’s Game Keeper. They had never been on a yacht before, although Steve has lived here all his life and Anna for the last 30 years. They were delighted to come aboard for the evening and see their island from our perspective. We learnt a lot about island life and the problems of conservation. We all decided that we are blessed living the lives we’re living!

Steve, from Brighton, emailed us to say the yacht Rafiki, which has a blog that he follows, was moored near us…… You can’t hide when you’ve got AIS!

We pootled over to say hello and invited them aboard that evening. What a great family. Rob and Cally had taken a year out to sail with their two children, Emily(10) and James(9), to the Caribbean and back. They are having a ‘swansong’ visit to the Scillies before selling the boat and returning to ‘normal’ life for the next 10 years for the children’s education. They plan to spend the intervening years finding the perfect boat and then following us! The children were delightful company and have clearly gained immeasurably from their year away.

Life is good here in Paradise!!

Cromwell's Castle from our Tresco mooring

Cromwell’s Castle from our Tresco mooring

The Scillies are still magical. The pace of life  is relaxed and there is no need to lock up as there is zero crime here. The community hall on Bryher is left open and unattended all day for islanders and visitors to use if the wish …..  I had a ‘tinkle on the ivories’ and we played table tennis and pool!

Low water shows how careful you have to be when anchoring

Low water shows how careful you have to be when anchoring

It was great to revisit Bryher after nearly 30 years and see just how little has really changed.

The School House where we spent our Honeymoon, with 24 children!

The School House where we spent our Honeymoon, with 24 children!

The rocks behind the School House

The rocks behind the School House

We have no internet unless we go to the main island, St Mary’s, but we managed to see the Wimbledon final which was being projected onto a screen in the ‘pavilion’ at the New Inn on Tresco. Very posh and polite company, applauding both chaps when they played a good shot.

So far we have ‘done’ Bryher, Tresco and St Mary’s. If you have never been here, then you are missing a delight! When the sun shines it really is like being in paradise.

BRYHER
Bryher has a totally laid back feel to it and is practically untouched by the modern world. Life is governed by the tides and there are 3 different landing places depending on the state of the tide. Church Quay near high water, Anneka’s Quay (built by the Challenge Anneka TV programme)from high to mid water and Rushy Bay, where visitors walk down a plank onto the beach at really low water! There are no artificial ‘visitor attractions’ here, but people have created their own Bryher style quirky landmarks.

Cairns placed on posts Bryher .... just because you can!

Cairns placed on posts Bryher …. just because you can!

Ta Da!

Ta Da!

The island is clearly loved and cared for by the families that live here.

A garden on Bryher

A garden on Bryher

There are a handful of cars on Bryher and the other vehicles are quad bikes and tractors.

All visitors to the islands expect to walk when they get ashore. Those staying on the island arrive by boat from St Mary’s and we watched as their luggage/camping gear was moved up the beach to the tractor and trailer by the passengers.

Human Chain of visitors to off load the luggage

Human Chain of visitors to off load the luggage

On the whole everyone is friendly and cheerful and enter into the way of the islands. There are one or two, with more money than manners, who can’t grasp the concept of ‘tide and time wait for no man’ when arriving late for the boats that ferry people between the island!.

TRESCO
Tresco has a completely different feel to it than Bryher. It has been developed over the last 30 years and a lot of very tasteful Time Share accommodation has been built. It is spotlessly clean and with golf buggies for transport it reminds me of ‘The Prisoner’ and Port Merrion…..no large white spheres rolling down the roads though!
Tresco is famous for its Abbey Garden that has plants from all over the world.

Yes, this is still in Britain

Yes, this is still in Britain

Tresco Abbey Gardens

In the ruins. Tresco Abbey Gardens

The Abbey ruins

The Abbey ruins

Christmas tree with its own star on the top!

Christmas tree? with its own star on the top!

Weird and wonderful flowers

Weird and wonderful flowers

The birds are incredibly tame as they have no predators, except the gulls that eat their eggs.

Road Runner Guinea fowl

Road Runner Guinea fowl

The Scillies are reknowned for the number of ships wrecks and some of their figure heads are restored and housed in Valhalla, in the Abbey Gardens.

Marcus admiring the Busts

Marcus admiring the Busts!

A delightful sculpture called Tresco Children.

A delightful sculpture called Tresco Children.

View from Samson Hill on Bryher. We are anchored out there to the left of the rocks

View from from Tresco. We are anchored out there to the left of the rocks

At last I have managed to find reliable wifi on Tresco in The New Inn. Life can be so hard!!

Dunmore East proved to be an excellent port while we waited for the weather in the Scillies to improve.

Dunmore east. Tucked in behind the Lighthouse

Dunmore east. Tucked in behind the Lighthouse

In all the almanacs we are warned that the harbour is not ‘yacht friendly’, but they were written before the advent of ‘Happy Harry’ the new Harbour Master. We stayed for 4 extra days on the leisure boats pontoon and met a variety of sailors who moored against us……. Alan, a single hander from Conway in a 32′ Macwester, who is taking time out to sail to the Med or until the money runs out!

Alan leaving Dunmore East

Alan leaving Dunmore East

…..3 lads from Strangford Lough circumnavigating Ireland and a boat being crewed by John Welling, who we knew from Brighton!! ……small world!

We left Dunmore East at 1400 on Thursday last, waved off once again by Libby.

A last sight of Hook

A last sight of Hook

This time we were really on our way.
The Atlantic swell and westerly winds meant that we had a boisterous time for the first 15 or so hours. Both of us felt queasy to begin with, but found our sea legs by nightfall and enjoyed our first phosphorescent sea. One of the pleasures of being well away from land are the sunrises and sunsets.

Sunrise half way to the Scillies

Sunrise half way to the Scillies

 

Dawn after a rough night.

Dawn after a rough night.

We arrived in dead calm under motor. Just off the Scillies we saw some sunfish. They are a strange sight as they swim on their sides basking in the sun, flapping one fin in the air.

Sunfish basking in the sunshine

Sunfish basking in the sunshine

As we approched the islands became clearer and we steered our way through the swell into Tresco Sound

Scillies ahoy!

Scillies ahoy!

…..where we picked up a mooring between Bryher and Tresco. We wanted a carefree night without having to worry about the anchor. En route we had a repeat problem with the stay sail furling gear and had to wind the sail in by hand when the winds were calm enough. Perhaps it was a good thing to go wrong before venturing on to Portugal and while we are still in home waters where we can get parts posted to us.

Our mooring from Fraggle Rock Bar Friday evening

Our mooring from Fraggle Rock Bar Friday evening

Aaaaah! Sunset from the pontoon

Aaaaah! Sunset from the pontoon

We have finally managed to leave the ‘comfy shoe’ of Waterford.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Saturday we made off with my sister, Libby, onboard

Libby, Dancing on the Deck!

Libby, Dancing on the Deck!

and caught the tide down past her village of Passage East, to Dunmore East. What a difference the sun makes to a place.

Sunny Passage

Sunny Passage

Dunmore East

Dunmore East

Our plan was to refuel in Dunmore and then sail to the Scillies on Sunday/Monday, but we’ve decided to stay here ’til Thursday. There is a force 8+ forecast for Tuesday night down there and we didn’t fancy having to do anchor watches on top of watches on a 24 hour passage.
The new HM at Dunmore East is actively encouraging yachts into the harbour and has set aside a couple of pontoons where fishing boats aren’t allowed to moor.
Once again we’re in the right place at the right time. The local Sailing Club had it’s summer BarBQ yesterday and we got to meet some locals, (who if they don’t know how to fix a thing, they know at least two people who do!) and enjoyed the best steak and tasty creative salads we’ve eaten in a long time!

Life is good.