Day 50.

Actually Audierne.

The title photograph is of a Bolger ‘Chebacco’ I saw in Audierne harbour.

WABI’’’ real time : at anchor Anse de Combrit, Fleuve Odet, Southern Brittany. 

In real time it’s day 50 of the voyage and I have just anchored in the first of the places that I really wanted to get to and that is the river, the Fleuve Odet, at the mouth of which are the towns of Benodet and Sainte Marine.  This is for me a small accomplishment with WABI’’’ as it represents also the furthest I ever came with my Frances 26 which was a much more capable sea-boat and it means I have been through the Raz de seine with this boat.

Aside from that it feels as though getting past the Raz and then Pointe de Penmarch was a bit of an effort : I was pretty tired after the 2 long days on the water.  This morning I piloted us out of the very shallow Anse De Combrit, one of the shallow inlets off the Odet Fleuve, at almost dead low water and motored the short distance down the Odet to take a look at a small bay near the marina where I might be able to beach WABI’’’ to a stern anchor and shore lines when I have to leave her to get home next month.  

Right now I am putting a lot of time into the blog work, transferring my text onto the website, editing and adding photographs and then uploading/scheduling the posts.  I’m trying to get up to having 3 or 4 weeks posts actually scheduled at which point I will have posted everything that I have worked on so far.  The last part only works when I am in wifi range : here that means sitting almost next to the wifi hub in the capitanerie (Benodet) and didn’t work at all in Audierne which seems to be off the wifi network entirely.   I’m surprised by how much time and how much battery life it takes to upload the new photographs and edit online…I wouldn’t even like to imagine how long it would take to upload video, I don’t think it would be do-able at all while I am out here.

Of minor ‘noyance’ (boaters expression similar to ‘dischuffed’) that there doesn’t seem to be any working wifi as well today so I can’t upload and schedule the next 5 blog posts, when I do get a connection then there will be several hours of work to do…..first world life problems eh ?

Audierne outer harbour and that Chebacco again.

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The ‘actually Audierne’ title is because I had intended to write my own mini cruising guide to the port in the previous but one post and then ended up talking about something else entirely : situation normal here eh ?.   This, then might be the first post in my actual micro-cruisers guide to south Brittany.  It might seem a bit tongue-in-cheek but I am looking at south Brittany from the viewpoint of a micro-cruiser/trailer sailer and seeing what might work for a boat trailed here rather than brought here ‘offshore’.  I happen to think that south Brittany might be a good cruising ground for a boat that could be trailed here so I am looking at it all with that in mind.  Having come through the Raz de Seine in a small boat I wouldn’t recommend it but do think that bringing a boat over here on the Ferry might work very well.

Aside from a briefcase-load of Imray charts for the Brittany coast I don’t have any cruising guide to the area except for Peter Cumberlidge’s book ‘Secret Anchorages of Brittany’.  I like Peter’s book a lot because he clearly has made the effort to cruise this entire area in his gaffer ‘Stormalong’ and in traditional cruising style ie sailing and anchoring rather than marina-hopping, which seems to be the norm now.   Last night I read up his account and description of where I was ie the Anse De Combrit , a shallow bay and creek upriver of the big road bridge over the Odet.  In his book Cumberlidge says to anchor in the mouth of the river pretty much where I saw an oddly rigged catamaran this morning as I came out. 

With the Frances 26 I went in a bit further than he suggests but i couldn’t find the channel up the winding creek itself.  Last night, coming in at high water I went straight in and up to a small, relatively deep pool after a turn in the creek and stayed afloat…down to about 4 feet at low water this morning.  Anyway, it made me realise that Peter was of course writing his guide based on sailing a deep keeled boat : after 3 years of sailing this boat I know I can go much further into rivers and creeks and if I need to can dry out on the mud or just stay afloat in about a foot of water.  Why I mention this is because in Audierne I found the best thing to do was edge into shallow water at the head of the moorings, as close to the beach as possible, to get out of the swell coming into the outer harbour and generally because I can poke into, and dry out in, creeks that deep keeled boats can’t.

The harbour at Audierne is then the first reliable shelter after passing the Raz de Seine or the one that you’re most likely to depart from when going for the passage from south Brittany . According to Peter Cumberlidge there are 2 anchorages between the Raz and Audierne, one a small cove quite soon after the Raz and then a more open bay a bit further east.  I had intended to poke into both and anchor in at least one of them to have a break and make a brew after my tussle with the Raz : that should have been on the cards because the wind did start out in the north west.  By the time I had made the passage though the wind flipped around into the WSW and increased such that I had brisk running conditions along the coast and that both of the anchorages were then exposed. I could see fishing boats on moorings in the first cove and they were bouncing around a bit : as I had sail on and plenty of speed I just kept going.

Post edit .

On the return trip we bypassed Audierne and sailed into one of the bays that Peter Cumberlidge mentions : the Anse de Cabestan and anchored off the beach. Wind conditions were completely different in that we had a strong offshore breeze which made for a good overnight stay and also meant that we were closer to the Raz for our very early start the next day.  In the Anse de Cabestan I anchored in about 10 feet over clean looking sand with a fresh breeze from the north which seemed to be at least partially a thermal breeze as it died down overnight.  It’s a lovely looking beach there and we were hot after our passage so we took a very cool dip off the stern ladder.

Anse De Cabestan.

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Audierne then is just over 7 miles from the Raz de Seine and is easy to access from offshore.   There is a reef which breaks just to the south-west of the breakwater and a drying rock which also breaks just outside that.  The other hazard is the area of reef called ‘La Gamelle’ to the south east of the harbour.  There are leading lights for going in at night and the ‘Gamelle’ reef is well marked by cardinal markers too. 

For the outer harbour and anchorage there is a long outer breakwater leading out from the western side and then 2 smaller jetties inside that : one of them also having the slipway for the old lifeboat station.   Going around that side, the west side, of the harbour there is then a further short jetty/breakwater with an area of beach to either side.  Of note : quite a bit of the beach has a fringe of drying rocks, when I went in close to anchor I had a really good look in the clear water to see what I was anchoring over.  That’s one small advantage with my stern deployed anchor in that I can put the boat exactly where I want it and anchor without having to run forward and start to deploy the anchor : one notable problem with the Liberty being that the bow will blow off downwind really quickly : what I do most often now is to anchor with the mizzen up which holds the bow up and then helps me to make a stern-board to set the hook, easy to do all that straight from the cockpit.

That first night I anchored at the head of the mooring field up in the north-west corner of the outer harbour, at low tide I had about 6 feet under the boat and over clean sand with patches of weed.  Something I have noticed during both times that I have anchored or moored in the outer harbour at Audierne is that it can be a rolly-poly place when a swell gets around the outer breakwater…I think that can happen as soon as there is any south in the wind.  The wind was definitely in the south west for my second night and although light made for a disturbed night : one thing I must try and deal with at some time is making a flopper-stopper for this boat as I did with the Frances and which I used many times during that cruise.

Audierne inner harbour, main quay.

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I have often seen Audierne described as a bit of ‘nothing’ place : even Peter Cumberlidge calls this piece of coast a cruising ‘no man’s land’.  I never went into the actual port, the inner harbour, with the Frances but then when we came to the area on a road trip we had a walk around the town and out along the port breakwater to the harbour and really liked it.  This time I thought I would make the effort to visit the port by sea so on the next morning I motored up the narrow channel just to the east of the port breakwater and went into the actual port itself. 

According to my chart the entrance channel is maintained by dredging but it is continuously silting up again.  As I motored in there was a large working barge with a digger operating off the front and weirdly they were just scooping sand out of the channel and heaping it to one side….not for example digging it out and moving it away.  All I can think will happen is that the new piles that they heap up will just spread out again like so many sandcastles in a rising tide….hey-ho. 

Dredging  (and making sand-heaps) in the main channel.

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The channel runs past the Fishermans co-op and quay on the east side and then shifts over and up past the main town quay on the west bank.  The larger fishing boats obviously tie up there alongside the town quay but there is then a small marina just for the smaller fishing boats : I guess the local crab and lobstering boats.  After that there is a small leisure marina and that’s about it as the next structure is the road bridge.   There aren’t many berths and there isn’t a specific set-up for visitors : I get the impression that they don’t get very many visiting yachts although I did see a few dinghy/tenders going up the channel from moored yachts.  

As I motored slowly in that late morning the marina harbour master waved me to a berth, took my lines and then said to come up the office at some time . I wasn’t planning to stay overnight, just long enough to top-up water, go for a coffee and a walk around and maybe do some fresh food shopping. By the time I got ashore there was nobody at the office so I just went and had coffee at the excellent cafe/patisserie on the harbour front.  By the time I’d done that most of the town seemed to be shutting down for the extended lunch so all I had time to do was buy some bread and a couple of slices of pizza from the bakery further into the small town and by then everything really had shut.  I checked at the office several times, and in fact right up until way after the notice on the door said that they would be open…..but…nope so the marina didn’t get a few Euro’s for my short stay.

Town quay and the excellent cafe/boulangerie.

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Some practicalities then : there is water and electricity on the pontoons, not that I needed power. I never did find fuel but then I wasn’t really looking for it.  There is a small supermarket in the town square and apparently a larger one half a K out of town.  In town there are several very good bakers, choice of cafe’s and bars and a profusion of hairdressers….seems to be a France thing !.  I did notice a self-service laundry.  The marina office does apparently have showers  but because there was nobody around I didn’t get to see them and, after all, I’d had a wash at least during the week before !.   There is definitely a bus service through there that goes to and from Quimper which is the main transport hub and I know there is a rail service to Brest from there.  I guess that it would be possible to leave a boat in Audierne, if there was space and catch the bus to the SNCF (railway) at Quimper. 

On a personal note, something I was taking an interest in during our road trip and now during my cruise is whether it would be feasible to launch a trailer-sailer in the places that I go.  In Audierne that would be a definite yes as there is a slipway in the harbour and then a larger one out in the main harbour.  Something I also noted that there is a large parking area set aside for camper vans right next to the harbour so I can’t see any reason why a towing vehicle and trailer couldn’t be left there. 

My main objection to that idea would be that there isn’t much for a dayboat to actually do at Audierne , certainly when compared to Loctudy or Benodet. After Audierne it seems a long passage around to the first viable anchorage and port going west (Lesconil) which, I think, is a much better starting point for a small boat. Lesconil also has a lovely anchorage off the beach in the right wind conditions.     The latter 2 ports, Benodet and Loctudy I would definitely take a trailer-sailer, dinghy or dayboat to as they both have very nice river systems for sheltered sailing and good overnight anchorages that aren’t ‘rock and roll’.

The Bolger Chebacco  again .I think….neat !.   I think this is the chine plywood design which I never liked as much as the ’round’ one but now think looks really nice. When I saw this, stern-on first time I thought that it looked very modern…just like one of the wide sterned and hard chined modern boats I saw in Benodet.   Although unlikely , if I built a simple boat it would most likely be a larger version of this.

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