It’s been over a week since I last updated this blog, and the main reason for the lag between posts is because we’ve been sailing pretty much non-stop. We’ve been racing against the clock, trying to make as much progress north as possible before the predicted storms came through, and I now sit on board with rain and wind battering the boat, port bound in Cherbourg and feeling relieved for the excuse to take a few days break.
After our overnight stay in the Iles de Glenan, we sailed only a few hours to a rather uninspiring coastal town called Loctudy, where we spent the night. We cycled into town, such as it was, had a lovely meal (I had moules au cidre, for those who are interested in these things), visited the supermarket and stocked up on supplies. The following day we dropped our lines and made our way through the Raz de Sein, which is a passage between the western-most point of France and a small island off its coast, famous for its strong tides and large swell, then found a stunning anchorage where we spent the night.
The following day was a pre-dawn start in order to time our passage with the tides. We spent most of the morning trying to decide how far to go, and in the end we anchored in a river mouth we’d visited briefly last year in order to ride out a storm. I recall it most vividly because we were stuck on board in the driving rain, with no food except tinned cassoulet and nothing to watch but the box-set of The Lord of the Rings. This year we were much better stocked, and the weather was considerably better, although still unseasonably cold, so we were better able to appreciate the peaceful beauty of our surroundings.
Another day of sailing followed, and we arrived at our chosen anchorage late afternoon. It was off a small island called Ile de Brehat, and despite the fact that we were feeling tired, we wanted to make the effort to go ashore and have a look around. And what a pleasant surprise! We decided that this was the prettiest island we’ve visited in France. There were no roads, just footpaths, and the small town centre was about a 15 minute walk (20 minute limp for Nick) away from the dinghy dock. We sat in the small square and enjoyed a drink, then made our way back to the bay just near the boat, and had another drink in the open-air bar overlooking the picturesque pebbled beach. We ruminated that we wished we could stay for another day here, perhaps have a day swimming in the crystal clear water like everyone else, but we had a weather window to catch, so on we went.
The next day we sailed to Guernsey, which was a let down even by our low expectations. The fact that everything was English (even if the Channel Islands aren’t, strictly speaking) didn’t help. We trudged around, visited the pub, bought some food in M&S, had a drink at the pretentious yacht club, and decided that we were leaving. We’d planned to stay for two nights in order to recuperate after 4 days of sailing without a break, but we couldn’t bear it and left for Alderney.
Alderney was pleasant enough. It has a large harbour full of mooring buoys which has a castle at one end and a small collection of shops at the other, a large sandy beach stretching between them. We enjoyed a couple of drinks in the pub before a dinner of fish and chips, then headed back to the boat by dinghy for a sleepless night due to the swell rocking the boat. 4:30am found us awake and we decided to get going for a channel crossing. However, we found that the wind was in a northerly, not a westerly as predicted, and we just couldn’t face it. So we turned east and found ourselves back in France, in Cherbourg.
We’d never heard anything good about Cherbourg and being a major ferry port, it doesn’t have a particularly romantic reputation. So when we tied up mid-morning and our neighbour, an English guy from the Solent who intercepted us for a chat, told us that he and his wife had planned a two-week cruise to the Channel Islands, but were so taken by Cherbourg that they decided to just stay here for a fortnight instead, we were intrigued. Indeed, when we went for a walk into town we were pleasantly surprised. It’s not a beautiful town, but it’s certainly lively enough, and is packed with bars, shops, restaurants, as well as a large outdoor market. We stopped for a coffee and soaked up the atmosphere. We had planned on staying only one night in order to take advantage of our last day of fair weather before a low pressure system was set to sweep in, but instead we just slept right on through our alarm the next morning, deciding that one day isn’t going to make any difference, and we needed the rest. We’re now feeling recuperated: the boat is clean once again, we’ve done three loads of laundry and stocked up in the french supermarket, so we’re now ready to set off once again towards Conyer.