Wednesday, 11 June 2003

Rock and a hard place

And here we sit in a wonderful scrubbing berth in Lezardrieux working hard with cement and trowel………… but more of that later.
We finally left Cherbourg and headed along the coast toward Cap de la Hague and on toward Carteret. As with many of the harbours along this coast, timing is everything as entry is controlled by a lock or sill. Of course we had our fastest recorded speed ever of 10.7knots over the ground and under No 1, stays’l and main we roared along the coast and down past Alderney before the wind died and then headed us. The last hour was spent plugging into a tide before finally gaining the sanctuary of Carteret. We spent a few days there awaiting an improvement in the weather and met an English couple who come from Hedge End, small world etc. Conscious of the budget we left even tho the forecast was promising 6 or 7’s, with gusts of 8, it didn’t disappoint!  Westerly winds meant Lezardrieux was always going to be difficult and the slow going in the end had us turning south and into Granville. The two problems we had here were: we didn’t really like the look of the place and we had no passage chart to get us there. We managed it with a lot of care and attention to sea states but the whole experience was physically & mentally exhausting. Granville turned out to be a good place, cheap and interesting with a free shower. We bought a passage chart to cover the missing spots.
We left Granville in misty, lumpy conditions and used “Henry” to help us make some progress against headwinds and contrary tides. By late afternoon we’d had enough, despite a visit from a school of dolphins and headed for St. Cast picking up a buoy outside the harbour for a swell ridden night before leaving early the following day for Lezardrieux. The forecast was for 5 or 6 but we left with gentle 3 and sunshine and made good progress despite the headwind. Closing the shoal waters off Ile de Brehat the wind picked up to a 6 with us doing 7 knots + we headed down the south side of Brehat toward the river. No problem picking up the marks and under main and “Henry” we made it into safety, serenity and a peaceful night’s kip, if only that’s how the story went…. 
Tacking across the narrow channel under main and engine we cleared the Rade de Brehat and were NW of an isolated danger mark called Rompa. We’d tacked each time as the depth dropped to 4 metres under the keel only this time I took my eye off the sounder for a few seconds at the wrong moment. Looking back the depth had dropped to 3.2 and as I swung the tiller went down to 2.5…. I was about to shout to Bee that we could have a problem when we heard a crashing sound, felt a lurch to starboard, the bow rose ominously out of the water and all forward movement stopped. The boat tilted upward toward a sunny, blue sky, the stern was a foot lower in the water than it should be, the exhaust note muffled by the water that covered it. Dropping the main, no time for harbour stows now, we looked at each other in dismay. The wind was blowing strongly onto the port bow and if we managed to get off would simply pile us further onto other waiting rocks. A very rapid check below showed no water in any of the bilges but with the wind getting up and the tide beginning to flood we needed to work quickly. The only luck in the whole scene had been the lurch to starb’d as we found we could easily launch the dinghy over that side, away from the wind and waves. Thanks be to Yamaha as without the outboard the whole job would have been so much more difficult. We lowered the Danforth, 10 metres of very heavy chain and 50 metres of line into the dinghy and motored slowly away paying it all out. Tipping the anchor over in a hurried fashion gave me a ripped finger but once back aboard Bee slowly took up the strain and the anchor held. Every time we have used that anchor and combination we have had success but this was the most important to date. We waited. Every few minutes I would go gently astern and in due course we came off. The “only” damage we had been able to see was a long white gash on the keel but how low down we couldn’t work out. Having sorted ourselves out an hour and a half after running aground we set off tentatively up river toward our nights destination. Subdued and dry mouthed we followed the river watching the depth and twitching nervously when it dipped below 10 metres. Had one attempt at anchoring, dragged and picked up a nearby buoy for convenience before eating and DRINKING at midnight. 

The pilot book says Lez has a scrubbing hard...It has. Its free, has both water and  electric laid on and your boat sits on a well drained concrete base. We had to wait until after the w/e as we were still on neaps but 4am on Monday we made our way gingerly onto the berth with 10 cms to spare. We’d met a French couple on Saturday whilst out in the dinghy with Toots, invited them back to Hannah and subsequently been taken out, by car, to a local Chateau and the next port down river from here. Called Portrieux it offers Hannah sized moorings for £250 a year. True you can only get out when the lock gates opens and you are a long way from the sea but it is very tempting. Anyway at 4 am there stood Philippe waiting to take our lines as we nosed into the berth. Over a period of five days we repaired and painted, found one side didn’t take and had to turn Hannah around, more drama and once again Philippe was on hand to lend a much-needed hand. People use the adjacent slipway to launch Ribs etc and seem bemused at the sight of a scruffy couple, watched over by a sunbathing cat, diligently mixing up a batch of cement. Once again John & Minnie have reached out and provided a solution, as it was their donation of quick drying cement that has enabled us to make the repair. Today is, we hope, the last day on the berth. The sunshine is wonderful as is the NE wind, all in all a day to be out and heading for our next destination, Treguier.
A couple of asides. So far we haven’t found French libraries to be as Internet friendly as other countries so emails may be more sporadic than we had hoped.
Toots seems to have adapted well. True, when it gets lumpy she sometimes feels she should be allowed up top where she can demonstrate her balancing skills by sitting on the self steering bracket or leaning over the top of the capping rail. Both these activities leave me anxious and Bee needs to hurriedly sweep her below before I start bellowing. Toots has also started going ashore and seems to spend most of the night wandering in our current berth, chasing bats, eating flies or insects and seems to look forward to the next mystery destination.
We have settled into this trip much more quickly than the Danish one and have, for the most part, enjoyed it more. Hannah goes extremely well and gets lots of attention, including a free nights mooring from one friendly harbourmaster.