Squiffy !

WABI’’’ real time : Anse De Hopital Camfrout north-western France.May 2019

Now , where did I leave WABI’’’ ?

On the beach in the Anse de Berthaume I think !

After clearing the Chenal de Four on the last hint of the ebb that morning I sailed around the short distance from the Pte de Ste Mathieu to the first bay ‘on the left’ outside the Rade de Brest ie the Anse de Berthaume .             I initially anchored there as far inshore to the northern shore as I could and refreshed my memory of the narrow sand gulley that leads onto the beach. I had a very good look at that at low water and worked out my leading mark to guide me in about 2 hours after the next low tide : that I reckoned would be high enough on the beach to land me clear of a zone of larger stones and give me enough time to walk up into Plougonvelin and get to and from the supermarket before she floated again.

On the beach, Anse de Berthaume.


I talked about my new beaching technique in an earlier post : going in with enough way on to land smartly and start to dry out quickly but slow enough to drop the kedge on the way in, lay out the rode and get the boards up before they touched.  I had to be really precise with my positioning too because the sand gulley between the 2 rocky reefs is only about 50 metres wide and I would be dropping the kedge exactly as possible between the 2 ‘arms’ of the reefs.  Earlier on I’d seen a catamaran on the beach much nearer the sailing school several hundred metres away and noted that he must have floated in on a much higher point of tide and landed beyond the complete fringe of rocks there.  I suspect that a lot of the beach there is artificial but he was clearly landed on soft sand when I saw him.  

The basics then : a much longer walk than I was expecting and of course uphill, I had to do quite a big shop all in one go and carry a bag of ice back to the boat too.  I managed to get water from near the sailing school….and just to add that on my previous trip there with the Frances that I developed my ‘French’ technique for getting drinking water.  During the trip I’d often found standpipes with a tap outside places like beach toilets and showers but often where the handle of the tap had been taken off, I guess mainly to stop kids just leaving the fresh water running.  I note that the tap still has an exposed square section which normally the tap-head/handle wheel sits on and it’s a simple enough job to clap a small mole-grip onto that as a temporary handle.  In those days I carried a tender/dinghy, I don’t now because WABI’’’ is too small to stow one and I can often land the whole boat anyway.  I did learn then to carry several small water containers so that I could throw a couple in the dinghy and go and get some water.  I still do that as I find a pair of 5 or 10 litre containers are a lot easier to carry than my main 20 litre tank.

Once I’d floated off again, my timing was pretty close to the mark, I had nearly 4 hours of useful flood to carry me up and through the Gulet de Brest and into the Rade itself.  Once away from the lee of the land and with all my gear back inboard I got all sail on and had a decently fast broad reach all the way up the entrance channel, across the open centre section, past Isle Ronde and into the southern side of the Rade de Brest.  I enjoyed the fast ride with tide so much that I ran past my first planned anchorage and instead ran all the way along that shore until I got to Port Tinduff ( Duffy) and ‘borrowed’ a mooring for the night.  The ‘squiffy’ in the title refers to a small ‘commune’ just before port Tinduff called Squiffiec which name amused me for some reason…..there’s also a bank du ‘Bindy’ and 2 islands , essentially little ‘Bindy’ and big Bindy’….readers of Terry Pratchett might get that one !

Port Tinduff.


The last character to mention at Port Tinduff is ‘Dolf’, not dolf the tiller pilot in this case but Dolf the Dolphin.  On the mooring I was just winding down from the day’s brisk sail when I saw a distinct humped grey back and fin rise and fall close to another boat nearby.  I watched for a while and it was definitely a large solo Dolphin that seems to be a resident of the port.  I watched several of the local fishing boats go in and out and they would often be accompanied by ‘Dolf’ swimming with them.  Indeed when I left ,he (I think solitary dolphins are usually boys) joined me for a while swimming alongside slowly and diving/surfacing each side.



As I write up the post today from the notes in my logbook I’m actually back in the same area as I was then.  For the first time on this voyage I am also writing ‘live’ although I won’t be able to upload the post and add photographs until I am in wifi range….somewhere.  Today I’m on a spare mooring in the entrance to the Anse de Hopital Camfrout having left the Aulne early this morning at high water.  Today iv’e had a light beat in variable north-westerly winds but going into the WNW. What was a clear and sunny start has turned into a cool and grey day with a light headwind. I don’t have a schedule so iv’e just pulled in for a break and I might use the rest of the ebb later on to carry me further west down the Rade De Brest.

Port Tinduff boats.


For the main part of this post today I want to dip into what I have been doing recently within the voyage.  I’ve actually just been having a kind of break inland , far up the Aulne at Port Launay and Chateaulin, that’s given me the opportunity to write, edit and schedule blogs and be at a transport hub to get Jackie back to the UK. Today I’m back on the water again having passed through the lock at Guly-Glas and motored down the Aulne yesterday evening.  Last night I picked up an empty mooring in the river just as it was going dark and the ebb was starting to run hard.  In real time I’m all stocked and stored with enough water, food and fuel for the next 10 days or so of independent cruising and its that, that I’m going to focus on in this blog.



Iv’e had the Liberty now for just over 3 years, done a few trips in her including one previous cruise over here.  That time I did the solo passage from Plymouth to Roscoff, left her there while I went home on the ferry and then we both went over on the ferry a few weeks later to cruise the northern Brittany coast and return to the UK via the Channel Islands.  That cruise was essentially a series of shorter passages between ports and anchorages, and was more like most of the cruising that iv’e done with the boat so far.  What I mean by that is that I normally used to get a few days sailing at one time like most working boat owners except that many of my sailing days weren’t at the weekend and many of them were early and late in the year.  For all of those trips and the previous France trip all iv’e had to do is make sure there’s enough water for say 4 or 5 days, ditto food and a spare can of petrol for the outboard.  I do generally keep more water than that on the boat and for a while have kept a reserve larder onboard so that I can go aboard at very short notice and know that I can make a meal or 3 .

The difference with this trip is that I don’t now have a home or base mooring to return to, don’t like (can’t afford) to be hanging around in marinas and need to be independent of shore facilities for longer periods….and up until this voyage have never done that with this boat.    When I left Calstock I knew that I had enough of what I needed, except perhaps water, for the short day-sails along the coast and the 30 hour + channel crossing . After that  I knew  that I could easily be alongside in either Roscoff or L.Aber-Wrach.  Both have marinas, which , although I don’t like them, do have water and are conveniently near to supermarkets.  

Within this trip, once I’d got the Channel crossing out of the way, I wanted to put WABI’’’ ‘in her element’ which is coastal and inshore cruising and have a mini ‘extended’ and independent cruise and ‘alpine’ style. Now that might be an unfamiliar term to small boat sailors and In fact it comes from long distance hiking and originally mountaineering.   What ‘alpine style’ means is carrying everything you need , usually on your back, for that route…it most usually applies to fast ascents of big mountains or fast pushes along sections of long distance mountain hiking.   In our own hiking days we did that kind of thing , carrying everything that we needed (except for all of our water) for anything up to 10 days on the hill.  I’m not here to talk about long distance, lightweight back-country hiking except that it has had a useful carry-over in skills and knowledge to what I do now.   In hiking it really means that weight is critical and that affects everything else.  


In my version of small boat independent cruising I have just been experimenting with a similar approach which has been to stock and store the boat for the same kind of time and then go off and do a cruise for that time. One of the key differences though is that I also have to carry all of my own water because I can’t guarantee finding drinking water.  Now, as it happens I have been able to top-up my drinking water during the first couple of ‘extended’ cruises but really what that has done is simply allow me to use a bit more….have a more thorough wash and shampoo for example and once in a while wash all the galley stuff in a bucket of fresh water rather than salt-wash , wipe and fresh water rinse.  I haven’t avoided landing either, that’s an enjoyable part of cruising and in fact in each mini extended cruise I have beached WABI’’’ a couple of times and had a walk and explore ashore and if there just happens to be a nice cafe than fine I say !.  I should mention that I don’t carry a dinghy, if I had one I could then cruise in the same way as the pre-marina days, by anchoring close-in and rowing ashore. I did that with the Frances because she was a much bigger boat and carrying a rolled up inflatable wasn’t a problem.

I think that this is very different to what I see most cruising sailors out here are doingtoday as most of them seem to be hopping from marina to marina only and certainly not anchoring out. In fact, from what I have seen during the 2 times I have had to use a marina some of the cruising boats aren’t even set up to anchor at all.  I am either anchoring or being a total lazy-arse and borrowing a spare mooring most nights and of course I have the ability to get into places that the standard ‘marina’ boats just can’t.  It does of course mean that I have to be just as careful with my water as though I was on an ocean passage without a water maker and think about my food choices and storage in the same way and. Then, at the end of the day I have to be a bit old-fashioned about my anchoring. On board I have Peter Cumberlidge’s book (Secret anchorages of Brittany) and he refers back to the pre-marina and pre-engine days of people like the Hiscocks who cruised under sail only in this area.  For this trip iv’e paid even more attention to my anchoring gear and techniques , if anything my gear is over-specification and that seems to be in line with what other long distance and long term cruisers say about the subject.


Water, food and fuel then.   Most readers will be aware that iv’e done a fair amount of long distance ocean sailing and been professionally involved with the running of those boats.  It’s never been my job to do the food buying although it’s usually been my responsibility to deal with the food stowage and definitely with managing the water.  Now of course I’m doing it all for myself.  Whereas it’s an easy proposition to hit a supermarket and buy fresh food for 3 or 4 days it does take a bit more thinking about to eat well for 10 days or more on a small boat like WABI’’’.  My attitude though is that if I can do that out of a rucksack, or even better from a canoe, then I should be able to do it easily with the carrying capacity of the Liberty.    Anyone who follows the blog will have read that I completely emptied the boat this spring, moved weight around for better balance, altered and increased my water capacity and made a new ice-box.    Today, although I will make a couple of comments about food and cooking I’m mainly going to concentrate on water storage and use.

Port Launay.


During the ongoing winter and spring refit I moved my main water storage and added one large container as my ‘main’ tank. All of my water is in portable containers and most of it is stored immediately next to the centreboard case inside the heads compartment.  That just about balances the weight of the 60+ kg main battery which is fitted on the opposite side of the CB case.  That weight then, usually around 120 kg is right in the middle of the boat and all very low down.  

What I am carrying on this trip is : 1 x 20 litre main tank, 1 x 10 litre second tank, 3 x 5 litre ‘day’ bottles and 1 x 10 litre reserve tank. I add that up as 55 litres of available drinking water.  In addition to that, at this stage of this cruise there is : 2 litres of fresh milk in the ice-box and 6 litres of sterilised milk in the under-bunk ‘heavy’ larder and then just 1 litre of orange juice.  I don’t carry beer or spirits, not teetotal but a beer ashore once in a while is a treat rather than a daily habit.  I don’t carry enough orange juice and I have to get into a better pattern of buying it.  The ‘day’ bottles that I mentioned are rather flimsy crinkly-plastic supermarket water bottles that are normally throwaways but in my case are a useful size for the space and easy to carry ashore whenever I land and can find a tap.  Taking 2 ashore with me and filling them as and when I can is a good habit….as long as I remember to take my molegrips or multi-tool !.   I don’t have any form of water-maker, if I were doing genuine long distance sailing I would definitely have one as essential kit and I would be carrying another 20 litre main tank at minimum. I have carried my water the same way on my last 3 boats, in fact on 2 of them I have removed their existing tanks.  I happen to think that carrying water in portable containers, and mainly small containers, allows me to carry them ashore easily for a refill.  The few times I have had to ask for water hasn’t been a problem….no one so far objecting to me filling a couple of small containers.   One very definite marina problem now , especially over here, is that the water outlet next to the electricity points all seem to have the high pressure ‘barb’ connectors rather than a simple tap.  For me that makes it harder, not easier, to access water in marinas…..in Brest marina for example I had to walk up the pontoon and over to the sailing school tap to get water.  

Water hygiene : as part of the spring refit I cleaned out all of the water containers as the reserve tank had got a bit ‘green’.  I then left them half full with a dilute bleach solution for a couple of days ’turning them about’ to sterilise each internal surface.  After that I rinsed and refilled them.  In normal boat use I do that just twice a year except for the reserve tank because I don’t tend to cycle that water through everyday use.  I try and make sure that I empty that reserve container once in a while…often when I do the bucket laundry.  At the end of this year’s sailing I’m likely to leave the boat in France so what I will do then is add some neat bleach to each container to suppress algae ….and try to remember not to drink from them….although to be honest it’s only the same as swallowing swimming-pool water.  

During this voyage so far I seem to have been using a lot more water than I can easily account for and that’s even when I am using all of my normal water saving measures.  A tiny example is that when I make a hot drink I always warm my mug and the ‘waste’ warm water goes straight into another mug in the galley.  At the end of the day there’s usually a mug full so that is 400ml of potential wastage !.  It isn’t wasted because I usually do my teeth with half of that and drink the rest.  It’s possible that I am washing a bit more often than I used to at sea but that’s a ’soogee’ wash and only uses a litre.  Not for this cruise but maybe the next one I intend to monitor my water storage daily just like I used to do as part of my ‘mate’ job.   Here of course water use isn’t that critical because I can find some way of going ashore and getting it….even a marina in an emergency, but I don’t think I will ever lose my ocean habits and maybe I will still need all of those one day.

Food….food is good !.  I’ll just add a comment or 2 about food today and then come back to the subject in future posts.  I fact just writing that reminds me that it’s around about lunch time in WABI’’’ hours so….

Later…ok and that was a nice crumbly centred Brie by the way !

Yesterday was slightly unusual in that I needed to be in town during business hours and that meant I couldn’t go through the lock at Guly-Glas until the evening high tide : the lock only opening for a couple of hours around high water.  After passing through the lock into tidal water again I then had to motor down the tidal Aulne for nearly 4 hours and I knew it would be dark before I got to the place I wanted to anchor or where there is an empty mooring nearby.  Because of that I cooked my main meal while motoring downriver but with the tillerpilot steering.  For the first few miles I had to do frequent course corrections because of the river meanders and couldn’t do much else other than making a brew.  Later on, as course corrections spread out a bit I did the preparation for my main meal and mainly by working in the cockpit.  I don’t ever remember cooking a hot, main meal on this boat while under way, I have made lots of hot drinks and may have done bacon butties once or twice.  On the cross-channel trip the motion inside the boat was so bad that I didn’t even try to make hot drinks during the worst wind against tide sessions.   My current galley is effective at anchor and I can make hot drinks fairly easily while sailing, easier certainly with my modified galley but it definitely isn’t an ‘offshore’ set-up.

In terms of cooking , what I have is a 2 burner alcohol stove and it works well although fuel is going to be one of the major expenses on this trip. I don’t have an oven except that I have a heavy cast iron casserole that I use in ‘dutch-oven’ style for some dishes.  Last night I made my version of the local street dish that I had from a vendor the first day I went ashore : essentially a sausage and potato dish similar to a sausage hash made with a bit of bacon (or Poitrine) in the bottom of the inner pan, then a layer of sliced potato, the sausage and half a chopped up onion thrown in.  To make that I heated the casserole just like I would a dutch oven over a fire or ember bed , turned the heat down and then just layered the ingredients into a dish that then sits on flat stones inside the casserole.  That then stayed on a much lower heat while I got on with navigating the river.  To finish the dish I turn the whole lot out into my square, heavy frying pan and brown off the whole hash, by then the onion, bacon and some of the potato has browned or caramelised and I had that with nearly the last of my pickle….difficult to find here !.   


Now, I’m not trying to make you salivate, it’s a simple dish that went down well on a cooling night.  What I am thinking about is gradually modifying my cookery back towards the kind of thing I did in bushcraft and canoeing and one of the things we often did was to bake our own bread.  We used to do that a lot at sea in my professional days and we gradually evolved our methods and places where we could ‘prove’ the dough, for this cruise I forgot to buy the ingredients but it’s on the ‘to do’ list for when I am next ashore.  Stage by stage I intend to move towards doing that kind of thing as bread is one thing that really doesn’t last long on the boat. Along with that I’m thinking about experimenting with different stoves and fuel types again just like I did in my hiking days.  I could use petrol although pressurised fuel stoves are definitely not a good idea inside a boat : there again they’re not a good idea in a tent either !.  What I am angling towards is wood-gas again as one of my woodgas stoves has been very successful and I could start gathering and processing the fuel aboard the boat.

To be continued.















1 Comment

  1. Alpine cruising and anchoring seems to be the way to go, especially schedule free — retirement has its benefits eh Steve.

    I’m fascinated by how you’re adapting hard-learned lessons from mountain walking and canoe trips to life on a small coastal cruiser, but still with a nod to your days as an ocean-crosser.

    As for a watermaker, most of them seem to cost more than WABI”” 😉 I do like this American solution in a giant wheeled pelican case made of generic, off-the-shelf parts that hook up to a 1600W generator to actually pump the water (but you knew that 😉 Unfortunately the price seems to have gone up since they made the video below but it isn’t that expensive at around £2300 on their website, especially compared to the competition:

    They do do a small fixed “plug-and-play” installation for about £1300 which seems a good price for what you get but hey, what do I know:

    Thanks again for taking the time to pass on your wisdom.


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