Friday 08/07/2011 Le Palais, Belle Ile to Le Rocher, Auray River

Today started with the unfamiliar but thankfully not completely forgotten routine of working out tides. It must be the first time in nearly two years that we’ve actually had to entirely base when we leave somewhere on the tidal streams. We left Le Palais this afternoon and were happy to find that our calculations worked perfectly to get us through the Passage de la Teignouse and into the Baie de Quiberon in time to arrive at the entrance of the Golfe de Morhiban at around slack water or just as the flood tide was starting. Every pilot book we have warns about the tides in the Golfe de Morbihan. Although the range of the tide is no more than at home, the streams are very strong and the tide at the entrance to the golfe can reach eight knots at springs. Luckily our arrival has coincided with neaps (i.e. weaker tides) so the current is not so strong. None the less you’re advised to keep your wits about you, pick a day with good visibility and work out in advance the marks and buoys to tick off as you pass them while you’re dodging thousands of other boats out sailing / waterskiing / fishing / all three all at once.

We did all that, saw the weather forecast and left. We were due to have a fresh wind behind us and sunshine interspersed with scattered showers as a small low passed over us. We went under headsails alone and steamed across through flat water into the Baie de Quiberon. Unfortunately the scattered showers arrived in the form of torrential rain which started shortly after we left Le Palais and continued basically for the rest of the day. Fortunately we were both in an excellent mood and so it all became quite funny.

Our entrance into the Morbihan was not quite as we had expected. My vision of a glittering inland sea dotted with uninhabited islands and beauty interrupted only by the high adrenalin factors of six knot tides and M25 levels of other traffic on the water turned out to be grey and empty.

But this was actually quite nice. We could see quite enough to navigate safely and although we were being constantly rained on, we were the only ones being constantly rained on. Nobody else had ventured out in weather like this, so we had the place to ourselves. This made life much easier. There was no sign of the tide on the water as we sailed into the entrance and if it hadn’t been for the massive discrepancy between the log and the plotter (which show our speeds through the water and over the ground respectively) I would not have believed we were moving much at all. As it was, with the wind eased away to very little we were making about two knots through the water, but with the tide we were doing six knots over the ground. This is as slack as the tide gets round here I think!

We turned into the Auray river, where the streams are weaker, passing the point where the tide is strongest on the way. A noise behind us made us turn our heads and we saw that the source of it was the tide increasing as it flooded and boiling the water until it hissed like a hot kettle.

The sky began to clear and we had a peaceful sail up the river until we picked up a mooring buoy in quiet surroundings near Le Rocher and changed into dry clothes and slippers, lit the stove and listened to Desert Island Discs.  I wouldn’t have changed a thing.


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