Benny and the Saints.

WABI’’’ real time : alongside the marina in Benodet.  Well that’s this week’s confession out of the way : it’s a bit like sailing a ‘nice little Westerly’, or riding a Harley…ok as nobody sees you doing it !

I tried, honestly, but without a dinghy the only way I could work out to get ashore here and walk up the supermarket was to go and tie-up at the marina.  It’s not so bad, a bit busy on the outside visitors berth and it’s a total sod to get on and off the pontoon sometimes. At certain states of the tide the flow is diagonally on to the visitor pontoon….the one time I came alongside here with the long keeled Frances 26 I physically couldn’t budge her off the pontoon when I tried to leave and I totally squashed one fender.  Just earlier and I was watching the local SNSM ( Lifeboat) come in and even they made a pigs-ear of it…..enough to make a good RNLI cox’n weep !.  Iv’e done most of my jobs, water, shopping and so on, had a walk into town and now I’m ready to go except that the tide isn’t and iv’e paid for a night here so I’m getting the maximum use out of their wifi to upload and schedule the next series of posts.

I had a walk around the marina just because I’m here and had a slack half-hour.  Most of the boats are as dull and uninteresting as acres of white GRP can be.  There are a couple of very fashionably wide-sterned,square-windowed and ‘chined’….. ‘copy’ boats, after that it was a case of “move along folks…..nothing to see”.  I couldn’t find a single boat that I actually liked except for the rugged looking alloy ‘Ovni’ which looked like a tank compared to the fashion boats.

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A nice surprise here as I sailed past the marina a couple of evenings back is that Oliver and Marie are alongside with ‘Joititude’.  I got a cheery wave as I swept past majestically under sail : ie barely under control in the strong flooding tide.  We caught up this morning and compared notes on our respective Raz passages.  He says that they had quite an easy time through there with a neap tide and no great wind problem…..must have been before my passage.    They are visiting a couple of ports on this coast and then they leave for Spain.  Although we are both very limited in each others language the gist of what he said is that the Raz can be a problem in a nor-westerly with a swell, which is exactly what I had.

Today at the marina I had a chat with the pleasant and helpful port captain about leaving WABI’’’ here for the 10 days that I will need to get home and back at the end of August : he says a temporary berth or mooring should be ‘good to go’ and he just needs the dates.  That’s good because I can travel to and from Quimper and that’s the same line as Jackie travelled on from Chateaulin. I’m going to be staying around the Odet for a good week at this point as this is where Jackie joins me for a couple of weeks.

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For the main post today I’m almost writing in real time because, for the first time, I’m actually working on the blog of where I am rather than making notes and drafting the post some days and ports later. In blog time I sailed across to the Odet river just a couple of days ago from Loctudy and sailed straight upriver to the great hidden anchorage in a small bay called the Anse de Combrit.  I anchored not far inside there when I came here first with the Frances 26 but couldn’t get very far in because I couldn’t work out where the narrow channel ran.  This time with WABI’’’ I did work it out and ended up at anchor in a small pool between wooded banks.  The ‘Anse’ does go even further inland and once I leave the marina I’ll be heading up there like a rat up a drainpipe.

Anse de Combrit

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In my logbook I often abbreviate place names or give them a name of my own, sometimes based on their ‘Mac-word’ name.  Benodet becomes ‘Benny’, Loctudy as ‘Trudie’ and so on and so forth.  The reason that the title is as it is , is because there are 2 towns at the entrance to the Fleuve Odet : Benodet and Sainte Marine thus Benny and the Saints. 

Unfortunately the way I have it in my mind is also associated with music : on this trip I seem to have had odd snatches of music caught in my mind at the strangest of moments.  All the way across the channel I had Oasis and ‘Don’t look back in anger’ going round and round and round again….and I don’t even like Oasis.  In Port Launay it was  Bob Marley and ‘Jammin’ quite naturally and here it was ‘Benny and the Jets’ all the way in through the crowded and busy entrance.  I made the entrance at peak busy time on a sunny Saturday afternoon when it seemed that both towns were out playing on boats, paddle boards or just out on the several beaches.

Sainte Marine.

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Sunday was a bit odd too…..I came back downriver to see if I could pick up any wifi anywhere, I couldn’t even get a hint of a sniff at the marina in Benodet so I motored across to the marina off Ste Marine and just about got a signal there but too weak to upload any photographs.  At one point I moved right up to a mooring off the town square , there I could just about log on and get messages but nothing more that that.   There seemed to be a lot of goings-on going on around the quay : first there was what we call the ‘bingly-bongly’ music that they play at wake up time on the ferry…..except that this lot also had the Breton bagpipes going.  If you’ve never heard the Breton version of bagpipes all I can say is “don’t bother”….it’s truly awful.   However after that had gone around and around and I’d been trying to upload a blog draft for about half an hour there was a big announcement and luckily the ‘music’ stopped.  Maybe there is only so much pain that even the locals can deal with….however.

There was also some kind of demonstration going on, not in a ‘Gilet-Jaune’ kind of way but in the way of something being demonstrated.  As I was watching , a young woman in wetsuit swam a short distance into the inner harbour….almost inside the town square….she climbed into a moored RIB and then threw a mannequin overboard.  Next thing is she gives a whistle and out swims ‘Fido’ or whatever the dog is called…looked something like a large golden retriever.  Anyway, it seems that ‘Fido’ is some kind of rescue dog, not in ‘rescue dog’ sense but like a mountain-rescue dog except that this one doggy-paddles up to the casualty, grabs them by the scruff of the neck, or wherever, and starts towing them towards the shore….how odd !.  Now, I really do ‘get’ mountain rescue dogs, for a start they have built-in 4 wheel drive , a good one can sniff out a body on a mountain or in a snowdrift ,but I just don’t see why you would train a dog as a rescue-swimmer.  Although dogs can swim and do swim they aren’t particularly efficient swimming animals……even humans are better especially if trained and even more especially if they’ve got fins on.  

The entertaining side for me was the thought of going for a swim ‘au naturel’, as I do, and being ‘rescued’ by an over enthusiastic and over-grown puppy , and of course it begs the question “what would fido the rescue dog get his teeth around” ?.      I guess I’m going to have to learn the doggy-French version of ‘I don’t want to be rescued thank you all the same’ !

So anyway, lets do a little micro-cruisers guide to the very lovely L’Odet-Fleuve

The entrance is simple enough and well marked, the only significant hazards being first : the rocks off the western side , rocky plateau extending out from the Pointe de Combrit marked by the delightfully named ‘La Potee’ ( obviously the ‘Potty’) and a rock to the south of that called ‘La Rousse’.   To the west of that is a long area of beach stretching almost across to the Loctudy side : Plage de Treven…’trev’s beach then.It is possible to anchor off the beach that side and off the beach in the small bay to the east of the entrance channel as well and that is one called the Plage du Trez.  On the east side of the entrance off an area of rocks called the Pte de Benodet is a rock called ‘Les Verres’…..then right in the middle of the entrance is a well marked rock called ‘Le Four’.  On my Imray chart C37 the area to the north of Le Four (Anse du Trez) is marked as an anchorage and I have anchored there in the Frances : it’s a fun place to anchor and hang out on a sunny Saturday.

Entering the river, it seems quite crowded and narrow especially on a busy Saturday when everyone is on the water.  There are moorings both sides right down to the entrance : the Vedettes that run trips up the river tend to moor and enter/leave their quay on the Benodet side and there is a small ferry shuttling to and from Benodet and Ste Marine.  The marina and town of Ste Marine comes up first on the left , going in, and the visitor quay is their first pontoon. Tidal flow can be strong in the entrance : I sailed in with a light south-easterly and had to be very conscious that I was often being swept towards moored boats.  There is plenty enough channel but the shape of the river and the position of moorings does seem to create a cross-tide problem.  That’s is most noticeable just upstream on the Benodet side at the marina, technically the Port de Penfoul, where the ebb noticeably runs strongly onto the visitors pontoon….as I have said before I found that I was strongly pinned on there once in the long keeled Frances.

The marina at Sainte Marine does have a visitor pontoon right on the outside in the main flow of the river.  I didn’t even attempt to get alongside there on the first day because there seemed to be some sailing rally going on and the whole pontoon was ram-packed with high sided white plastic.  I did try going alongside about a week later but found that the pontoon is too high for WABI’’’, I think she would just get pushed under the lip with the tide.  A nice old duffer (British) in a larger cruising boat did invite me to lay alongside but to be honest it was as easy to go over to Benodet where I know I can go alongside the visitors pontoon.  Later, while I was hanging around the river for a few days I did get alongside an inner pontoon which was still a bit too high for WABI’’’, I went ashore to do some basic shopping but couldn’t find anything except for the one boulangerie….bars and cafes a plenty but not much of practical use.

After the Benodet marina (Port de Penfoul) the river starts to narrow and the river is then crossed by the high road bridge, the Pont de Cornuaille,  That’s the only bridge across the river right up to Quimper.

Pont de Cornouaille.

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Anse De Combrit.

For me the first real place of interest is the bay and river of the Anse de Combriit which is the first major entrance off the Odet about a mile further upstream of the bridge. There is a shallow and muddy bay on the right (Anse de Penfoul) just before the bridge, I had a look at that and it would be feasible for a boat like mine to dry out on mud although there is a lot of boat debris around the sides.  I used the Anse De Combrit as my base when I came here in the Frances, anchoring quite near to the entrance on the northern side.  That time I couldn’t find the channel into the title river but could see a shallow bay further in where there seemed to be a larger yacht moored and drying out at low water.  I didn’t find the channel that time and I think my main mistake was not scoping out the channel at very low water, with the dinghy perhaps, when it would have become obvious where it goes.  Now, with the Liberty I am a lot more confident and familiar with poking up narrow and shallow channels because usually I’m not worried about grounding.    The first time I came back out of the Anse de Combrit was at almost dead low water just off springs and I still had 4 feet under the boat at minimum in the narrow channel.

In the Liberty I sailed and then motored up the channel of the ‘Anse de Combrit’ until it opened out into a small wooded pool running north to south before it turns west again.  There is a small group of moorings there and just enough space for boats like mine to anchor….there is more space to anchor In the shallower west-going section although I didn’t use that for my second visit due to a fresh westerly wind blowing against the flooding tide.

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The Anse de Penfoul, where the marina is ,by the way, if followed along it’s southern side from the port, leads directly to the Carrefour supermarket which is just past the head of that little bay…..about 10 minutes walk from the marina and nicely shaded by trees.  The second place that’s really useful up there is a very nice boulangeriie. 

As a side note there are areas of moorings almost up to the Anse de Combrit and then again immediately upriver to the north where the river passes an impressive looking Gothic-Breton chateau. My chart shows 3 distinct sections of the river there as anchorages.  I anchored in one section once just off a small bay called the Anse de Kerautret.   On the interesting boats front there is a relatively famous ex IOR 2-tonner called ‘Midnight Sun’ usually moored just upstream of the bridge and the sister-named boat to my own ( SABI’’’) a chunky steel double-ended steel cutter is there.

‘SABI’…...I would !

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Before our ‘carry on up the Fleuve’ journey let me just say a few words about the two towns and the services/practicalities.  As I mentioned at the start , both Benodet and Ste Marine have marinas and each has a long visitor pontoon.  Iv’e tended to use the Benodet (Port de Penfoul) side purely because I know where the supermarket is just 10 minutes walk from the marina.  There is water and power on the pontoons, loo’s , showers and a laundry up by the Capitanerie.  While I was alongside the marina I had a chat with the ‘Capitane de Port’ about the possibility of having a short term mooring or pontoon berth to leave WABI’’’ in August when I travel back to the UK.  He seemed quite ok with the plan so lets see how that works out later.  What I will say is that there is a genuine fresh fish seller just near the waterfront and they very kindly helped me out with a full bucket of ice completely free…..nice one guys.  I did look but a lot of what they sell, still wriggling, I am allergic to and I don’t know my way around the local fresh fish.

The town of Benodet is about 10 minutes walk back along the waterfront , as you would expect for a busy holiday and seaside town it’s full of restaurants, hotels and such-like.  The main services of the town are a short way up the hill : 2 Banks, Pharmacy etc…..the port captain gave me the local visitors guide to services, mainly in my case for a taxi….anyway and as it turns out , Benodet has 1 dentist, 2 doctors and 2 psychologists….should you be in need of one after the trauma of the Raz !    Sainte Marine has a very attractive area just around it’s small harbour/beach and that is well covered with bars and cafe’s but doesn’t have much in the way of practical services…..although a nice place to get coffee or lunch.

Ok then , lets carry on up the Fleuve

After the moorings to the north of anse de Combrit the rivers starts to narrow, then gets a lot narrower in a gorge-like section and does a hard left then right until it opens out slightly.  There is very little visibility around those 2 corners and the vedettes seem to need a lot of space so beware !.  Just beyond that are more moorings and apparently an anchorage at Porz Meillou on the east side.  Moorings certainly although when I went through there the tide was flooding hard with about 5 knots on the mooring buoys so I didn’t even give that a go.  The next ’normal’ anchorage is off the west bank at a place named Les Trois Tourtres….I definitely anchored there in the Frances.  Much more interesting to me now is a small side channel that I didn’t explore last time just back a ways on the east side which opens out into 2 creeks : Anse de Toulven and Anse de St-Cadou.   The entrance is very narrow and because of the high flow across it I had to take it boldly, at speed.   It’s the sort of entrance that really deserves some video or at least photographs but I didn’t have a hand spare : one on tiller and one holding chart.  However once inside the narrow, rocky channel it quickly leads into a useful shallow bay on it’s south side where I anchored.  Above that the creek does a left/right and then splits into the 2 smaller creeks already named. Once I was in the first open section I was completely surrounded by wooded banks and completely alone until the little wooden boat came in and gave me some useful pictures of the place.

‘Corentin’….Lugger going upstream at the narrows.

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I had a second look at the section of river around Les Trois Tourtres where I anchored in the Frances because I might have needed to anchor there in some very heavy weather that was due to blow through. I found one area that I thought would be ok at the south end of that small section right in the entrance to a very shallow opening in the trees.  I didn’t try to anchor there because the tide was still running fast and I reckoned I would be better off over in the completely sheltered pool just inside the Anse De Toulven.  I know that gets more of a write-up in the blog because I did it ‘real-time’ during the storm that came through.    After that section of river it opens up into the wide and shallow Anse de Kerogan , in the centre of which is the channel up to Quimper.  I had a look around the shallow anse de Kergoat as there were a couple of areas on the west side that I thought would make neat little anchorages : they probably would although they would definitely dry out.

Anse de Toulven…..and one of only 2 visitors while I was holed up there just leaving the anchorage ‘pool’

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A day or so after the storm blew through I motored up the channel into the outskirts of Quimper until I was stopped by the first low bridge which only has 5.8 metres clearance.   I did find a floating pontoon on the west side just after port Corniguel that might be part of the sand-barge quay.   I can’t see any reason why a boat shouldn’t go alongside there as there was one very rough old sloop sitting on the inside berth…what I couldn’t work out was any way of getting from that pontoon onto the river path which seems to start a hundred metres or so upstream.  The quay itself might still be in use by sand barges, it was certainly when I came here last but I didn’t see any barges up or down this time.  There are some moorings just to the south of the road bridge and a small slipway on the west bank.  I didn’t pull in there as there are much nicer spots downriver. 

Another of the odd little goings-on is that there seemed to be a lot of activity at a riverside pontoon area on the east side almost opposite port de Corniguel : there were lots of cars, vans, trailers and such like and lots of people milling about.  I thought it might just be some Sunday afternoon activity until I was moored downriver about an hour later and then literally hundreds of paddlers came past on and in everything from paddle boards and sea kayaks to one man outrigger canoes.  I can’t tell if it was a race or rally of some kind but all of the participants had numbers : at one point I saw a number in the high 200’s come past and then a moment later no 450 !.  Some of the front runners were pretty good paddlers….as for the rest !….all I can say is that some sharp words were exchanged when more than one of them banged into WABI’’’ .

Lugger ‘Corentin’ alongside the marina at Ste Marine…..that bowsprit is longer than WABI”’ : I wonder if they get charged for it ?

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