Thursday 28/07/11 Benodet to Audierne

The wind is still in the north west, but at least today it was light again, and the sun was shining. We left Benodet with the last of the ebb and had a day of motoring as far as Audierne. The forecast looks good for getting through the Raz de Sein tomorrow, so we thought it would be worth making some more ground today. The Raz de Sein is another of those ‘oooh you’re going to die’ stretches of water that bring out the pessimist in everyone. It is a narrow rock-bound channel between the Ile de Sein and mainland Brittany which provides a useful short cut and a tidal stream that runs faster than a gazelle. Presumably, like most tidal races, the penalties for getting the tide or the weather wrong make for fighting at best a nasty chop or going backwards and the benefits of getting both right make for a quick trip in the right direction, sometimes at somewhat alarming speed.

We twiddled our thumbs a bit, put the autohelm on and pottered along under engine until we passed the Pointe de Penmarch, one of the big sticking out bits of Brittany. The wind began to pick up a bit and we toyed with sailing. By this stage the steady stream of boats that we’d been passing (going in the other direction, not overtaking. Obviously) began to trickle out, presumably as the tidal gate for the Raz closed for boats heading south. Instead we began to converge with the beginnings of a fleet of traditional boats heading for Audierne. We’d already realised that tomorrow was the first day of the Route de l’Amitie (amitié meaning ‘friendship’), a traditional boat rally from Audierne to Port Louis near Lorient, and it was lovely to see ourselves surrounded by gaffers as we got closer to Audierne.

We had amused ourselves this morning by reading the welcome note in the front of the programme for the Route that we’d picked up in Groix, intending to see if it looked worth trying to enter next year. It started off slowly with some bare facts, and became increasingly impassioned on the subject of the camaraderie between traditional boat owners, ending with the words ‘and when we throw down our anchors in Port Louis there will be one single chain; that of friendship’. And we though it was just an excuse for a piss-up and a sail…

There are two channels into Audierne; a west channel and an east channel, in order to avoid a rock in between the two. Given the direction we were coming from we took the east channel to make for a quicker trip in. A powerboat started to approach us, decked out in flags. Are you here pour la Route? he enquired, with a cheery smile. No, I began, we are not, but we are only here for une nuit, also with a cheery smile. His smile disappeared. ‘The port is fermé. Get out. You must anchor there.’ ‘Ok,’ we replied, somewhat taken aback. ‘We’ll turn across to the anchorage once we’re past rock,’ we said, pointing ahead to the east channel straight in front of us. He shook his head. ‘Non, non. The rock is there. You must go the other side.’ He waggled his finger and began to drive away. We carried on and he shouted back with a look of exasperation on his face, ‘Attention!’, repeatedly. We carried on to the anchorage regardless, through the channel which unsurprisingly was deep and clear of dangers, as suggested by the cardinal buoys marking it. So much for une seule chaine. More like Route de la Superciliousness given powerboat man’s hospitality.

We anchored in a lovely spot off Sainte Evette, over sand and watched more boats come in before going ashore for a forecast and a glass of cider while the sun went down. It’s still looking good for the Raz tomorrow, so we spent the rest of the evening doing a passage plan. Assuming we’ve got our tides right (and we’ve both worked them out separately and they seem to coincide), we’ll make an early start in the morning and be in Douarnenez by early afternoon.

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