Tuesday, 8 September 2015

A Month of Memories - Brittany

 Five Rivers 

Its been just great to spend time so close to nature in the empty rivers of northern Brittany. Often at times of the day not usually spent in such places. Dawn and dusk produce such pretty lighting. Our intention was to visit five rivers to look at the feasibility of buying land near to a spot to keep the boat on the coast.

It seemed so strange to tuck up in bed on an empty stretch of still water. Every night I was floating!

Still no-one here....

At Pempoul we anchored close to the town wall and walked ashore when the tide went out
We squelched miles through this muddy ditch to push the dinghy back out to sea after the tide left us high but not so dry
En-route to Treguier one sunny afternoon...
Flood tide
Ebb tide
At the very top of the river past Treguier
Just so still and beautiful....

Our passage along the Penze

Popped indoors to navigate
Looking terrifically yachty. The
 collar really keeps out the wind

This particular sailing adventure began as we caught a lobster pot an hour out from Dartmouth. It was dark and at first, although we both knew something had happened with the sudden change of motion and loss of speed, we weren't sure what. Then with John looking at the rigging thinking of problems with the sails, I realised although the winds and tide suggested we we still moving in fact we were parked. And the only thing that could park us was a lobster pot. In a metre of swell it took John half an hour to remove it. In the end we had to capture the pot's rope, which was jumping about in the swell, and winch it in tightly in order to keep it still so John could cut it with a knife tied to the end of an oar.

The Trieux 

The Trieux river leads to Lezadrieux. We found a good spot to anchor in an open stretch of water and walked across the peninsula to Paimpol in the next bay to visit friends who had come over for an old sea shanty festival on their traditional wooden boat. Its always nice to see old boats.


River number two led up to Treguier a very pretty town with a cathedral and wooden 16th C buildings. 

We walked to the top of the river to a small village to look at land and a muddy estuary to park the boat should we need to.

We found the only place to anchor meant that we drifted out into the main channel at low tide. This was due to the long fifty metres of line required to hold us in a tide that increased by up to ten metres twice a day. When a Frenchman motored very close by shouting 'c'est fou' (this is crazy) we thought it was time to move on....


Looking out at the rain
We left for the next river but had to anchor at its mouth for the night to wait for high water the next morning. It was a rough night and we stayed alert checking every twenty minutes or so that the anchor hadn't dragged. We had an alarm that would have woken us if we'd moved but after our escapade on the rocks in the Azores we've discovered we're now far more nervous. It's hard to sleep in a boat that's thrashing up and down whilst twisting sideways and hanging on a rope with waves breaking over rocks all around us!

Red scrumpy safe in the river
In the morning we made it into the safety of the river before a gale arrived. We now sit relatively secure with hills to protect us from either side in pouring rain with very strong winds. The boat is steady though, which is nice, and if we break anchor our lives won't be in danger. Rain is forecast for the rest of the week. Hey, ho........

Siffreya suggested if it rains we think of this as a business trip. We have a sum to invest and buying land here by the coast near to where the boat could be kept could be one option. However, the bravado that got John around the Atlantic has waned, and he is now finding the constant need to monitor the health and safety of the boat too demanding. He's dropped his guard. He's rediscovered how it feels to be vulnerable and supported by a house, hot bath and warm stove. Which means he's less keen to buy here as enjoying sailing the boat back and forth was very much part of the plan.
Indoors I do tapestry

Needless to say, the grass is greener on the other side of the English channel and whilst we sat in England researching land in France we now sit in a windy river researching land in England!

Pont Croix

Sat in the mud and rain we decided to hire a car and have a look at the landscape. We visited friends Jeremy and Serena living near a pretty village on the south-west coast and learnt a lot about life in Brittany. They have a beautiful house that they've renovated and now rent which can accommodate 11 guests. They create art, speak French, grow veg, play music and, inspiring for us, seem to have integrated happily into French life.

Serena & Jeremy's Gite 

Jeremy's beautiful paintings

Nantes-Brest Canal

On the drive back to the boat we stopped in the interior forests which are nature reserves and walked a stretch of the canal. We liked the calm and pastoral scenery here.There's intensive agriculture in many places outside of the nature reserves with very little pasture land. This means life in the country side involves a regular spraying with chemicals. The forests in the centre avoid this, but it seems to me that the towns might be much more introverted and less cosmopolitan than the coastal towns.....

Penzè River

We are now high up in the Penzè river. We decided to skip the Morlaix river as it seemed it would be difficult to anchor there. We have been loaned a mooring for a few days ago we can relax about drifting off in the night. I had long trek pushing the dingy back down to the sea yesterday in very soft mud. I sank up to my knees in bare feet. It felt very soft and was quite nice in a way. It's quite magical being so close to the elements and we've had no resident neighbours at all so it's been very private and quiet.

After walking down river to look at potential clear areas so we could wait until the weather changed and sail home we put the boat on a beachy area next to the St-pol-de-leon town wall. We walked to Carantec one day.

Wellies ready

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Azores - yacht hits the rocks

I've just had the most wonderful adventure holiday in the Azores. We woke up with the boat on the rocks one night after thrashing around at anchor in strong winds and swell. We sat up and anchor-watched for an hour or two as the motion was so violent, but then decided to go back to bed and stop being anxious.

After two of the most difficult years of my life by a long shot (although strangely, some of the most exciting too as all went a bit bi-polar) I found it quite easy to think; oh well, we're only going to end up on the rocks not adrift at sea and we'll probably manage to climb out and get ashore even if the boat breaks into pieces. So just go back to sleep. There's an interesting point where it seems as though things can't get much more challenging and I just let go.

We woke to a single bump, then a little later many more. John rushed out on deck then shouted 'get the flares we're on the rocks'. After a mayday call over the vhf radio, then finally setting off a flare (the first didn't work), and dragging life jackets out of deep lockers - after two years we'd become a little complacent and John had stored the spares while single handing - we waited in the dark whilst listening for cracking sounds in our hulls. In fact the sound was more of a rumbling as we surged onto and fell back off the rounded boulders with each new swell. Our companions in the bay heard our call and came and took an anchor into deeper water then came aboard and helped winch us off.

As the aft quarter turned to the shore, due to the bow turning back into the waves, I became aware of its jaming and pounding before rising in the swell and moving ever so slightly into deeper water as the guys were winching. It was the rudder taking the pounding. John is now making a new one in a workshop in Horta. The sea floor was littered with rocks and the anchor chain had become trapped. The rope part normally kept well away from the sea bed became chafed by the rocks as it was held down too low.

Wearing thermal underwear to protect against numerous stinging jelly fish and mask and snorkel to look under water.

John performed a search for the lost anchor the following day. After an initial short lived attempt to look underwater with mask and snorkel whilst hanging over the side of the kayak, he strapped his underwater camera on the lattice flooring in the bathroom. He methodically rowed in grid fashion towing the afore mentioned apparatus behind him before returning to his laptop aboard to check for results. He found it! Then found the chain jammed when he tried to pull it up. The newish anchor cost two hundred quid so it felt good to get it back.

Once the wind had settled a day or so later we went for an afternoon stroll. It was to be a short walk so we left maps, fruit and phone behind. Eight hours later we returned very hungry on shaky wobbly legs. We saw some amazing scenery though....

The Azores are really very beautiful. The people helpful and friendly. And unlike the Caribbean there's plenty to eat!

Walk started at a reasonable angle

View of the boats in the now calm bay

Climbing back down an incredibly steep cliff face

On top of the mountain this beautiful lime green alpine style moss was two feet thick and provided a much needed refreshing drink of water.

Are the trees at an angle or is it me?

We sailed to the next island as soon as the weather was right and looked forward to being inside one of the few protected harbours in the Azores group of nine islands. Horta had super markets, good cafes and plenty of world wide cruising folk to chatter with as well as facilities to rebuild the broken rudder.

We're going to paint the boat red a bit like the ship when it gets back to Totnes. We use household paint and I've found a colour called 'radiccio' on a paint chart. Why does colour bring me so much joy? Also note remaining part of rudder not smashed.

Sv. Persian Lady returning to Europe after a fifteen year round the world voyage helped pull us off the rocks.


Monday, 11 May 2015

Dear John,

Not to be too dramatic or anything but if you're reading this then the good news is you're still alive! I've had your reports via other ships and I'm watching some very nasty weather over the Azores and hoping you don't get caught up in it. A few spring moments of the garden and recent produce for you. 

The willow is growing well.

Lots of lovely asparagus this yr.

Walnut tree coming along nicely.

Still getting purple sprouting.

Parsley in the middle.

For Sif - her tree came back to life.

Did a bit of strimming today and covered the beds.

Pond plant doing well without chickens pecking at it

I bought you a new plant. Its one of those that like the shade and banks. We see it as we drive towards Kingsbridge. It has small purple flowers on a stalk.

This was the reason I started taking photos! I wanted you to see it before the flowers disappear

This used to be brown, I've had the ceramic handles for about 7 yrs intending to put them on this cupboard. I'm also painting the little free standing bookshelf.

The fig was getting a little crumpled in the corner so I moved it under the light and tied it up to the bed post.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Glimpses of a day - Gara Rock


With the rest of my family a long way away, I went for a solitary walk to a place we've all walked together many, many times before.....I miss them a lot! But it was also nice for the very first time, to walk this walk alone. 

I took lots of pictures as I know John will find them refreshing after seeing mostly sand and palm trees since the beginning of Dec. Very soon he heads back across the Atlantic. By June he should be home.

Through the gate
Down past the primroses

Under the wriggly trees

Looking high up into their branches

Past the beaches

Through the trees by the water


Just the two of us......

A rest on the bench
Sparkling water

Clear blue sea....

No iguanas, but we do have very nice beetles
Guess who crawled out of the gorse?

Never mind the sharks, I raise you one adder!! He just slowly crossed my path, no rush. Now, I know what a black cat is supposed to signify....

Beach at Gara - The End