Saturday 29 – Sunday 30 June
After a lazy morning, we freed the anchor from its muddy bed, and took a calm, muggy ride back downriver back to sea. There we found a pleasant Southwesterly breeze and were able to fly the gennaker, without engine. As the wind veered and increased we were soon bowling along at 7+ knots, but by teatime larger waves were creating surfing conditions, and we changed down to staysail. The stronger wind proved short-lived, and we changed up to genoa, the wind veered some more but continued to ease and we ended the day as we’d begun, with the gennaker – all in the space of five hours.
Approaching the entrance to the River Bélon, home port of one of our Saltimbanque friends from last year in the Baltic Sea, a large yellow helicopter was buzzing anxiously around the headland, and it soon became clear there had been a serious incident on the cliffs: someone must have fallen or slipped, and was strapped to a stretcher, awaiting airlift to hospital – we saw the casualty, with a crewman, being winched up into the chopper. One can only hope for a positive outcome: a timely reminder of the ever-present dangers of even good weather on the coast.
Needing all our concentration to navigate the shallow and impermanent sandbanks on the way to the port, we found a flotilla already tied up on the main moorings after the first bend. A very helpful harbourmaster met us in his dory, and helped us place lines to large fore-and-aft mooring buoys. Unfortunately, these were joined by a length of rope, which the river’s current pushed us onto such that it caught across the top of our starboard rudder. You can guess how that evening’s entertainment panned out [thanks for the warning, girls ?].
Observing the locals’ techniques for mooring in the Baltic last year, Skipper had sourced a large carabiner-type clip, to which he’d secured one of our mooring lines and given it gratefully to the afore-mentioned harbour master, low to the water in his dory and able to reach over to clip it to the mooring buoy. On the Sunday morning, it fell to Mate to reach the release bar of this clip, from our bow a good two or three metres above the buoy, by means of the boat hook, press the bar to undo it, and with the other hand pull the mooring rope back onboard. Fortunately, we were the only vessel on this particular pair of buoys, but in front of us was a raft of four, all of whose crew seemed to be an avid audience at the moment of our departure. A resounding cheer went up when Mate succeeded, much to her surprise, at the first attempt.
Any glory was short-lived however, as she was immediately called back, armed with boat hook, to release the rope once again from under the hull where it lay across the top of the rudder, in order that Skipper could engage the engine and gingerly sound our way back down the channel to sea. The grand finale of the morning was a hail from the coast path, and a delightful wave and beaming smile from ‘la mamou de Saltimbanque’, who had come to see us.
After all the excitement, we managed to hoist the mainsail without stowing the bimini, added the genoa and enjoyed a glorious passage, with a variety of combinations of sails in the varying winds, 17 Miles down to the Baie de Locmalo, on the outskirts of Lorient.