Saturday, December 3, 2016

September 2016 - Galicia, NW Spain

We were sorry to leave France, but it was time to move on.  The 336 nm route runs SW across the Golfe de Gascogne (aka Bay of Biscay in English).

This body of water is known for very rough seas due to it's shape and location, the shallow shelf that extends outwards, so that big ocean swells really pile up when they run into it.  And there are various coastal currents that change with the tide, So there were a few unknowns to be prepared for.  Therefore, we chose our crossing time with great care.  Winds were light and seas were calm, so it was a moderate and easy two day passage. 

We made landfall in a quiet bay in the Ria de Cedeira.  The scenery is spectacular mountainous high cliffs, with lighthouses and misty clouds blowing over.  It was hard to get a good photo, so I borrowed this one from a land trip site online.
Cabo Ortegal

We hopped along the coast to La Coruña to meet some other boats from OCC, the Ocean Cruising Club.    La Coruña is the site of the Tower of Hercules, a lighthouse built by the Romans and added to over the centuries. Unfortunately, it was foggy....  

At the base of the tower:  Minute Man or Don Quixote?

The coast has many rias, or bays that were great anchorages with charming small towns along the way.  One of several stops was Finesterra, a village on a point that many pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela visit, after Santiago, if they feel like walking another 50 miles or so.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

August 2016, continued - La Rochelle

Like many coastal river ports, defensive towers were built in ancient times.
August 21st - Continuing our route south, the rocky islands and inlets gave way to lower and sandier shore and islands, with few good sheltered anchorages.

After a couple days, we arrived at La Rochelle, the end point of our French cruise.  It is a major sailing center and a busy tourist destination.  We splurged on the marina for a week+ and used our bikes to run over to the picturesque and busy old town.  At the marina, there was a well stocked mini market, a superb boulangerie/patisserie and lots of good restaurants.  Oh yeah.... it was great.  The weather was hot during the first few days, but very comfortable at night.  
Lantern Tower

The marina holds 2,000+ boats, but most aren't very big by US standards, so the marina itself is fairly compact.  Here is a fleet of 30+ 1-design boats for big group outings, team building and the like.  As you can see, there wasn't much wind that particular weekend.

The French are very gung-ho about sailing:
Sailing school sign

 There is lots to see and do in the charming town:
the Municipal Market, after closing  

Waterfront Restaurant
Full of tourists, and seemingly hundreds of restaurants

something for everybody

We were really sorry to leave at the end of the month, but it was time to move on.  We were planning to joint an OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) cruise in La Coruña, in Galicia, in NW Spain.

Friday, November 25, 2016

August 2016, continued - Le Golfe de Morbihan

Le Golfe de Morbihan, one of our main destinations on the French coast, is an enclosed body of water sprinkled with islands, quaint villages and oyster farms, in south Bretagne.  The islands ressemble the San Juan Islands in Washington.   
The current rushes through the narrow entrance and shallow channels scattered through.

We rejoined our kiwi friends, Ross and Ann who we met at Roscanval near Brest.  So we had a few days good company before setting off on different courses for a while.  Much of the area is very shallow and with strong currents, so it was challenging to find a good spot to anchor. 
 Locmariaquier village at low tide

 We found a workable spot behind a small island with an abandoned house.  It seemed incomplete, but would have been a pretty château style home.

Oyster farms
and a garden cart....


Thursday, November 24, 2016

August 2016 - France, continued - Les Îles Glenan et Portivy

Les Îles Glenans are a cluster of rounded rocks with some beaches a few miles offshore.  They're a favorite local boating destination and were chock full of boats of all kinds over a holiday weekend.  They are very low lying, so it's hard to get good photos.  Despite how crowded it was, we found a peaceful spot to anchor.  One difference we noticed from US and Canadian cruising, is there are many fewer dinghies buzzing around, which is much more pleasant.  And of course, many fewer big powerboats sending big wakes into the anchorages.  Add French food and wine: life is good there.
Huge sailing school fleet of cats

 It was mobbed...
At low tide, waders cross between two sandbars

The islands have also had defenses on them for eons....

A few more miles south, after an unremarkable stop anchored off Île de Groix barely protected from the ocean swell, we found a beautiful spot all to ourselves in the sheltering arms of Portivy.  Again, it's hard to get good photos of these low lying rocks, but the sunset shows up well.  Followed by fireworks late that night, which turned out to be a common occurrence.
So peaceful, until an outdoor concert started on the beach and the fireworks....

August 2016 - France, continued - Morgat and Concarneau

Bretagne has a scenic, rugged coast line, punctuated by numerous bays for anchoring. 

Our first stop after the Rade de Brest, was Morgat.  It was several miles around the Crozon Peninsula to get there, but we ended up an easy bike ride from our prior stop at Roscanval. 
Low tide

Morgat sits on a pretty and protected bay.  A longtime fishing village, it was taken over and developed in 1883 by Armand Peugeot, as a summer holiday resort for his employees.  So there are many beautiful late 19th century homes in the town.

It has great modern amenities as well: 

Busy sailing schools

Just plain pretty
The sunny, mild weather continued as we rounded the infamous Raz de Sein.  The strong currents were turbulent and we could imagine how rough it could be in stormy weather.  There are many famous calendar photos of these lighthouses inundated by big breaking waves.
Our destination was Concarneau, a beautiful old town with a lively Fishermens' Festival underway.

 It was thronged with tourists.
There was a snug anchorage close by so we could easily get ashore by dinghy.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Breton Bread and Circuses

The Port of Brest sponsored some evening entertainment over the weekend, with some imaginative diversions.  Here's an example:

These guys are milking the cow and powering the carousel
I don't remember what this did.

But here's the result:

August 2016 - Crossing the Channel and our first week in France

Gentle Reader, At long last we'll fill you in on our summer cruise along the Atlantic coast of France.   By now, it's ancient history and some of the photos were already on Facebook, but it was such a wonderful cruise, why not relive it.

After a lovely 10 day visit to Cornwall, we crossed the English Channel from Plymouth to Brest in  NW France. (Well, really it's in Bretagne, or Brittany to English speakers.
 It was an easy, overnight crossing, due to calm weather.  However, it is a very busy shipping channel,  And great care and attention is required.   Here's a screen shot of ship traffic on our plotter:  The lines are ships' tracks in one direction.  There's whole other set going the other way.  The small arrows are predicted wind direction and speed. Once we crossed this mass of ships, we had to do it again for the inbound traffic lane.

Anyhow, we arrived safely in Brest Sunday morning.  Marina du Château staff were very thoughtful and add the US flag to the array when we checked in.  It was a very nice gesture.  As you can see, there are many countries represented.  There is an old fort and museum remaining that overlook the harbor.
We spent several days at Marina du Château.  Checking into Customs and Immigration was perfunctory.

Our friends, Catherine et Pierre, who we met in the Bahamas live nearby and gave us a warm welcome.  Pierre took us to the chandleries and supermarket.  One main problem to resolve was cooking gas.  Portable gas tanks are not refillable in France, and the standard fittings are different than our American ones.  So Pierre got us set up with Camping Gaz bottles, hoses and regulator.

one of several memorials to US troops
It has just a few historic buildings left because it was extensively bombed in WWII by the Allies.  The Germans were occupying the town and had an important submarine base nearby.

Brest is a wonderful town.  They try very hard to keep it clean....  This is a reminder to pick up after walking the dog.

 After some catastrophic modern shipwrecks that cause huge oil spills, the French posted some gigantic remorques, giant tugboats to rescue ships in distress.  They can tow container ships.  The Abeille Bourbon was so big, it was hard to get it all in one photo.  It was open for public tours, and was really impressive.  Anytime there is a gale, the ship puts to sea to be ready for an accident.  I guess the crew must have cast iron stomachs.

The harbor, the Rade de Brest, is a wonderful, enclosed, deep body of water surrounded by small villages.  Perfect for cruising and a submarine base.    We were underway when a sub was being towed out, and the Gendarmes came around and very politely asked us where we are going and please to clear the way.  We could overhear them on the radio to other boats, and they were as polite with all boats.

During WWII, Germany had a navy base and a submarine base in the city.  The surface ships were moored in the river and this section of town was obliterated by allied bombing.  The locals joke that they bombed everything but the submarine pens. The bridge in the photo below replaces the famous Pont National that way destroyed during the war.

Here is large piece of art from the town.  If you look closely, you can see plants growing out of the metal tree.