Note: This log of Tiger Lily's first long trail was originally published in the Swift 18 Newsletter No 19 - December 1986
It covers the South Brittany sailing areas of the River Villaine, the Morbihan and the offshore islands of Houat and Hoedic.
When Tiger Lily's hull was still cans of resin and before she was even ordered we had dreamed of taking her to Brittany. We bought her on the assumption that she would provide us with holidays abroad. However it was Paddy and Sue's description of the June 1985 Swift expedition which inspired us, provided many useful details and encouraged us to make the dream come true.
Tiger Lily's crew were Alan(Skipper), Heather (first mate), Helen (port hand aged 13) and Liz (starboard hand aged 13)
A week before leaving Tiger Lily sustained a bent spreader but this was quickly put right and 1100 Sunday 3rd August she was finally packed and ready to go. The crew gained some extra sleep before leaving at 1630 in time to catch the 1915 Portsmouth/Cherbourg ferry.
Monday 4th August
At 0100 a French customs official waved us onward without even a glance at the SSR, Crew competence certificate, insurance etc. TL was on the road south bound for Foleux on the River Vilaine. Dawn was breaking as we came down the hills towards Redon and by 0615 TL was avidly admiring the sun as it cleared the early morning mist from the mirror like river surface at Foleux. She was so keen to taste the water that she managed to get launched by 0840 before allowing the crew any rest. A few hours later SEA JAY, a cabin cruiser belonging to my bother was spotted coming down river. TL and SEA JAY had previously cruised together in Poole Harbour and the greeting in deepest Brittany was reminiscent of 'TIGER LILY I PRESUME. Both crews made the acquaintance of Andre and Francoise Lebeau, the very friendly owners of the creperie and Andre showed us where we could leave the car and trailer safely for two weeks. Foleux and the Creperie were so inviting that neither crew wanted to move for the rest of the day. Much development is occurring at Foleux, the Creperie is new since last year (the old building demolished and a brand new one built in April-June), the marina is expanding rapidly and now there are pontoons across the river. During the short time we were there a new road and car park were built on the other side. There is a Chandlery - very useful but we hope that this rapid expansion does not spoil the charm of the place.
Trail Distance (Cherbourg-Foleux) = 177 miles, Days run = 20 Meters
A leisurely sail down the river, beating into a light and fluky F2 wind gave us time to absorb the beauty and serenity of the river. TL was re-supplied at La Roche Bernard, crews showered and then on down to Arzal.. The marina looked exposed to the NW wind and we retired to 'Swallows and Amazon' inlet about 1 mile upriver on the north bank, just right for inquisitive children in inflatables.
Days Run = 12 nm.
We had planned on splitting company with SEA JAY but the SW 5-6 winds and the 'houle' (swell) heard on French weather forecast were not favourable for leaving the Vilaine. The 'Meteo Marine' is broadcast at 0655 and 2000 on long wave (164 KHz) - we used the trick of tape recording it and then replaying the tape until we could decipher the details (listen for area 'Ouest Bretagne'). Because of the dismal forecast we returned to La Roche Bernard where the 4 children enjoyed the piscine (swimming pool) whilst the adults sampled the delights of the town (see Newsletter No 15, page 9 for a description). We all voted for a return to Foleux to further explore the creperie menu.
Days Run = 9 nm.
The weather outlook improved and so SEA JAY departed upriver bound for more of the French canal system. Soon after TL slipped the pontoon under sail and headed back down river for the open sea. After a stop for lunch at the inlet we tied up on a pontoon at the modern Arzal marina (north bank). There is now much development with four large chandleries displaying their wares Some time was spent watching the lock operations and assessing the anchorage down river at Vielle Roche. We decided that Port Camoel across the river from Arzal and above the lock looked more comfortable and we motored the short distance. Our road maps of Camoel were not up to date and we spent an hour that evening on a long walk. Eventually we extracted ourselves from the countryside, crossed the barrage and enjoyed wonderful galettes and glaces at the Arzal marina creperie.
Days Run = 11 nm.
Friday 8th - Local HW (0826, LW 1442 Springs)
The 0655 Meteo Marine gave no more mention of 'grande houle' (large swell) and after slipping at Camoel we arrived 10 minutes later at the lock- Locking in was simple - in fact being HW springs we went UP to the sea. Breakfast was completed at anchor just east of Trehiguier. At 1040 we cleared the river entrance and TL was glad to see the distant horizon. The crew had demanded sun and-sand for this holiday and both were available on Penestin Beach, just south of the river entrance. Lunch was taken at anchor within swimming distance of the beach - some intrepid crew made an exploration ashore to view the caves and population. Anchor was weighed at 1415 and we looked forward to a beat westwards in a F3. Man Overboard practice took up 45 minutes but the skipper forgot that by now the river had started flooding and further westwards progress was getting harder. 'Puke' (the crew's name for the engine) was entrusted with getting us round the corner (off Les Mats before we reverted to beating. The transit for the central pass to Penerf was spotted at 1855 and we made for the entrance. The westerly wind caused us to anchor off Cadenic in circumstances similar to those encountered by last year's expedition.
Days Run = 19 nm.
Saturday 9th. Local HW 0900, LW 1528 (Springs)
Following a favourable Meteo Marine forecast we motored the short distance to Penerf for supplies. Some dubious water was obtained from a hand pump on the quay, so we used 'Aqua Tabs' Petrol was only available 5kms out of town but the local Yamaha agent had 2 litres which we bought. Departed Penerf river at 1015 (Pignon Tower) and rounded Penvins buoy at 1040. With a SSE 2-3 we got 'Roger' (the autopilot) out and enjoyed our drift westwards, taking lunch! whilst he took the strain. The first mate's practice three point fix resulted in a perfect point on the chart much to everyone's amazement. Puke helped out when the wind died to zero for a time. The Morbihan was just beginning to flood when we arrived at the entrance and we decided to use the engine to go up to Auray. Just after overtaking a British yacht, 'Poohsticks' we managed to acquire a lump of seaweed round the propeller. Clearing this only took a few minutes but involved a few wild manoeuvres in front of Poosticks as we unfurled and furled the genoa. The mooring was on buoys fore and aft just down river from the quay at St Goustan, the old quarter of Auray. This is a very pretty and ancient place but we were disappointed not to be able to find the water tap on the quay - instead we filled the water containers at a local garage where we obtained petrol.
Days Run = 25 nm.
Sunday 10th. Local HW 0945, LW 1605
The plan was to leave Auray at 1330 on the ebb, so as to be at the bottom of the river at low water and then use the flood to make Ile Aux Moines. However we arrived off Le Greguan tower about 40 minutes early giving us adverse tidal streams. Puke helped us get round the southern end of Ile Longue but we then decided to dally awhile by sailing round the north side of Gavrinis. By 1630 the tide had turned giving us a very pleasant run up towards Ile Aux Moines. After dodging a Vedette (passenger ferry) or two we made the small 30 berth marina. Our luck was in an we picked the only pontoon berth available for the night. The children were soon off to the sandy beach over the hill (about 200 meters).
Days Run = 13 nm.
Monday 11th. Vannes HW 1223
A total absence of wind and the necessity of reaching Vannes before the lock closed brought Puke into his element. However he did manage to tangle with some more seaweed. After a little skirmish round Arradon we moored at Vannes at 1040 in time to sample the atmosphere of this cathedral town. Time was spent shopping, showering and writing post cards. The first mate celebrated her birthday in style that evening in a little restaurant close to the quay (Les Canotiers).
Days Run = 6 nm.
Tuesday l2th. Vannes HW 1305
Tidal considerations required a departure about l200 so part of the morning was spent visiting Vannes Aqauarium - a little expensive and only moderately interesting (it is down by the Vedette terminal). Lunch was taken anchored off the Ile de Boedic. We had no definite plans for a destination that evening and as the wind was light and variable the photographers were launched into the inflatable whilst TL sailed round and round having her picture taken from all angles. Later on rounding the SE corner of lle d'Arz the navigator lost the channel but TL soon picked up her centreboard and with a little help from 'Puke and a squint through the hand bearing compass we avoided an inadvertent drying out. The night anchorage was just off the slip at Le Bourg on the east side of Ile d'Arz a place visited by last year's expedition.
Days Run = 9 nm.
Wednesday l3th. Local HW 1156
We sailed off the anchorage using sail alone but watched another British yacht try the same thing with nearly disastrous results. Decided to sail the southerly route round Pt de l'Ours, Ile Govilan and Pt de S. Nicolas in order to time our arrival at Jumet (a tidal bottleneck) at slack water. After Jumet the wind had strengthened to SSE F5 - time to set a reef. We left the Morbihan at 1315 on the first of the ebb but encountered some steep seas (wind over tide) just off the entrance. The trip round to the River De Crac'h was ideal, starting close hauled and ending in a run right up the river to La Trinite. Having moored on the visitors pontoon (first behind the breakwater) we sighted a large grey inflatable containing three men sporting 'Douane Francaise' tee-shirts approaching TL's transom. They demanded to see our papers - the SSR was handed over hut they wanted to see our 'entry certificate'. Calm was restored after mentioning 'La Remorque' (trailer), 'Cherbourg Car Ferry' and 'River Vilaine'. TL was then duly issued with the appropriate slip of paper. La Trinite, whilst still one of the French yachting meccas, has been spoilt somewhat by the tourist industry! with cheap trinket and post card shops.
Days Run = 16 nm.
Thursday 14th. Local HW 1247
The plan was to anchor for lunch off one of the Carnac beaches and then proceed to Fort Haliguen on Quiberon - the problem being that the chart stated that anchoring was restricted near the beach by yellow buoys. At l305 we dropped the hook amongst a number of other yachts at the east end of the main Carnac beach. A shore party went to investigate and returned having walked the whole beach sampled the ice cream and declared that every second person was British. We weighed anchor at 1520 and set a close hauled course for Port Haliguen arriving at the Pontoon D'Accueil (welcome pontoon).
Days Run = 10 nm.
Friday 15th (Neaps)
Today was going to be a rest day, soaking up the sun on the beach about 200 metres south of the marina. We awoke to driving mist and retired back to bunks. Shopping, reading and enjoying glasses of wine with the couple on 'Lady Grey of Rame' a Contessa 34, seemed to be our main activities that day. Two burly French Customs officers arrived but our magic slip of paper from La Trinite did the trick - however Lady Grey alongside was given quite a grilling. As it was a local festival day we were treated during the evening to a fireworks display on the quay. Many local boats added to the sparkle by letting off red parachute flares.
Saturday 16th. Local HW 1442
Lady Grey departed at 0930 so as to catch the tide at La Teignouse. After changing money at the PTT (all Bureau de Changes were closed) we slipped 30 minutes later and a NE 3-4 wind gave us a good reach for the Ile de Houat. The wind was clearly a compromise between the French forecast of NW and the British forecast of SE for Biscay. The beach just east of the harbour on Houat looked inviting and, hook down (we could see it in 2.5 metres of water) all crew leapt overboard for a quick dip before lunch. A scouting party scaled the hill (En Tal) and declared that the beach on the far side was much better. Within half and hour we had repositions TL on the other side, having been 'buzzed' by a fishing boat (fishermen and yachtsmen in France are not the best of friends). The chart shows the beautiful south eastern beach (Treac'h er Gouret) as a prohibited anchoring zone but there were at least a hundred other yachts anchored - all bigger than TL. The sun god having been satisfied by 1700. We weighed anchor and with a following NW 1-2 we drifted slowly over towards the Ile de Hoedic. With the genoa poled out goosewinging style it soon became apparent that because of the strong transverse current our ground track was at 45 degrees and we were heading off broadside towards Belle Ile. Puke came to the rescue again and we soon anchored in the mouth of L'Argol harbour on the north side of Hoedic. Being Saturday the harbour was too crowded with other vessels for us to find a better spot and at 1900 the NW wind was too light to cause much concern. The pilot book did warn of something called the 'Vent Solaire' but we did not pay any attention to it as we were too keen to explore the quaint island and its mysterious fort. By 2130 the wind had risen to F4-5, was still increasing and a fair chop was being driven into the harbour mouth. We had no other choice but to stay put and luckily the wind veered slightly towards the SE enabling the eastern breakwater to give us a little protection. It seemed that many local French yachts had been caught unawares also as they had a most uncomfortable night right in the harbour entrance - we only had a moderately uncomfortable night.
Days Run = 15 nm.
Sunday 17th. Local HW 1656
Closer reading of the pilot book in the morning revealed that the Vent Solaire 'blows very freshly, causes a rough sea and continues until 0800'. The Meteo Marine forecast was satisfactory except for the wind direction of NE which was our intended direction. However the longer range forecast looked like worsening so we decided to head back. towards the mainland. With two reefs set we left harbour (wind NE 4-5 and rough seas). We soon noticed that TL was not sailing well beating to windward and we shook out a reef. After half an hour we decided that the rough seas were causing excessive strain on the boat and we resorted to the valiant Puke. As a treat Puke was allowed to run himself dry (in order to see how far he could go on one tank. Two and a half hours later he stopped. The wind had disappeared but the sea was still rough. Puke was given a full lunch and entrusted with two more hours of work by which time we were south of Penerf and the crew were shouting 'PUKE OFF'. With all sail raised a calmer sea and the last of the flood tide we made good progress towards the River Vilaine. That night we anchored just below the lock, opposite Vielle Roche, just in case we decided to have one last beach day at Penestin.
Days Run = 25 nm.
Monday l8th. Local LW 1148
The morning forecast was not good and we had been right to, make for the mainland yesterday. At 1020 near low water we locked in at Arzal. The sluices opened and we were unexpectedly thrown around by the swirl of water. Our stern rope was not effective because of the height of the lock and with everyone desperately holding onto the port side ropes. TL was canted over so that the centreboard nicely caught the water up welling from below. We had only just previously lowered the centreboard - in hindsight it would have been better to have kept it raised, had a more effective stern rope and then kept TL better balanced. Luckily no damage was sustained. Today was our 'skipper training day' with the crew each taking it in turns to be skipper. Helen took the boat off the anchorage, into and out of the lock, Liz took the boat up the river and onto the pontoon at La Roche Bernard. Provisioning completed, Heather skippered the boat back to our favourite inlet for the night, mooring on posts on the bank.
Days Run = 9nm
We left the inlet at 0950 bound for Foleux with Helen as trainee skipper for the day and arrived at 1240 in time to sample some more of Andre's galettes. A trip to Redon in the car completed the afternoon. Our evening meal at the creperie was excellent with Andre giving us free aperitifs and a present of a bottle of Muscadet - we promised to recommend his creperie at Foleux to all Swifties.
Days Run = 9 nm.
Although the slip at Foleux was fine for launching TL, it was a little steep and contained one or two potholes near the bottom. We had therefore decided to recover TL on an ideal slip at Arzal. The skipper was promoted to commodore and delegated to transfer the car and trailer to Arzal, whilst the new skipper, Helen, took TL down river. The commodore dropped the trailer at Arzal and then returned to La Roche Bernard in order to take some overhead photographs as TL passed directly under the suspension bridge. TL was moored safely at Arzal at 1325 (well done Helen and crew). In the afternoon we took the opportunity to view Le Croisic, Le Pouliguen and Pornichet harbours (La Baule) by car.
Days Run = 10 nm.
After an early breakfast we started recovery at 0910 and were ready to roll by 1110. Recovery (and launching) above the lock has the advantage that the trailer is immersed in freshwater and avoids the need to hose off sea water. The journey to Cherbourg took six and a half hours and included a stop to tighten some loose trailer wheel nuts (beware !). After an evening meal in a Pizza house we boarded the car ferry at 0145 and were back home by 0734 the next day. Trail distance (Arzal-Cherbourg) 190 miles. The holiday was such a success that we are already planning on taking TL abroad again next year. The Baie de Quiberon and the Morbihan are ideal cruising grounds for SWIFTs and for those contemplating a trip here are some of our statistics:-
|nautical miles (straight line distance, excluding tacking)||200|
|Miles trailed (home-home)||415|
|Miles driven without trailer||150|
|Car ferry (car, TL, 2 adults, 2 children)||£231|
|Extra Insurance (car, medical etc.)||£50|
|Outboard fuel used (5 gallons)||£12|
|Meals out (10 evening and 2 lunches)||£200|
|Marina fees (8)||£32|
|Miscellaneous (Souvenirs, Post cards etc.)||£80 approx|
|Admiralty Charts (Nos 2353 and 2358||£13|
Pilot books l. North Biscay Pilot, Adlard Coles 2. (Brittany and Channel Islands Guide, David Jefferson) - loaned from public library. Paperwork - passports, SSR, RYA Certificate of Competence, Insurance (only ever asked for Passports and SSR
We hope that other SWIFTS will go to Brittany and have an equally enjoyable holiday.
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