Our Diary News from Camaret, France

Sorry we didn't get a chance to send a general email announcing our departure - we had a few communication problems to sort out. We also had a really hectic last couple of days sorting everything out to get away. Finally, at 10.30pm on 31st July, 2003 we left Hythe Marina for the start of our exciting journey. Rob (Keith's son) joined us for the trip to Torquay. We got as far as Yarmouth (on the Isle of Wight)! We were so tired that we picked up a mooring outside Yarmouth and slept soundly. At about 10.30am we set off through the Needles Channel in drizzly, grey conditions and the headwind picking up from the West at about Force 5-6. Decided that Weymouth was a much better destination than Torquay! Next morning we set off for Torquay in glorious sunshine with Force 2-3 winds. Motored around Portland Bill using the inshore passage - clear day, calm seas, wonderful views. Then sailed across Lyme Bay. Rob caught 3 mackerel which were gratefully received for appetisers! But first he had a lesson in gutting!

Reached Torquay after a lovely day and pulled up against the harbour wall - there to stay for a week or so while doing the unfinished tasks and catching up on some much needed R&R! The weather was hot and sunny - and the holiday makers were out in force enjoying the seaside. Although we had lots of chores/tasks to do, we tried to space them out each day and take a bit of chill out time. Being tied up alongside the main harbour wall made us the focus of lots of holiday photos! It was quite funny being on board and watching/listening to the holiday makers stop and peer at the boat/us. One afternoon (after most of them had gone for the day) I got out my sewing machine and sat on top of the harbour wall plugged into the 240 volts up there to make some canvas cushion covers for the cockpit. Produced scissors, tape measure and thread from my pocket and unrolled the canvas on the ground, measured it and cut it up and sat down on one of those garden kneeling pads to sew. The people walking past kept stopping to look! One old couple watched for quite a time from one of the seats on the harbour wall - and when they got up to go, came over and said they applauded me - and promptly started a little hand clapping. It was really amusing. The cushions look great. We've now got two long "seat" cushions covered in the white and burgundy striped canvas and about 6 square soft cushions. Dresses the cockpit up nicely.

Also while we were there and the weather so calm, we tried out our new storm trysail and track. The track had a snag half way up so Keith demonstrated his nimbleness by going up the mast steps! This proved an endless source of fascination to the onlookers - especially when Keith used the opportunity to change the steaming light bulb! The bright orange storm sail looks great and we've sorted out the necessary sheets, etc.

After a week at Torquay, Keith's longtime friend Richard (and his partner Becky) joined us for the trip to Plymouth. Richard had expressed an enthusiasm for crossing the Atlantic with us - so it seemed only right for him to get a feel for the boat! (Having now had the experience, I'm not sure he's so enthusiastic!) One of the niggling boat concerns we had is that the engine had been going through too much water in the radiator - which could be quite serious. Anyway, just as we dropped anchor at Plymouth, Richard suggested that he call one of his contacts who might be able to help. Luckily, the person he contacted was in Plymouth and said that if we brought the boat into a particular marina within one hour, he'd come and look. So we picked up the anchor and motored around to the marina. The people at the marina said we could only stay a short time because they were expecting all the boats from the Fastnet Race to come in! (We'd joined some of the Fastnet yachts that morning on our way to Plymouth - including Ecover.). The mechanic duly turned up and spent a couple of hours fiddling with bits (as they do) and whatever he and Keith did seems to have done the trick. On the way over to France we motored for some of the way because the wind and tide were against us, and the engine didn't use up all the water and the engine temperature remained correct. So that was a big relief. Also, the guy wouldn't charge us for the work -said it was a favour for Richard and that Richard could make it up in more favours! Great. We took the opportunity while in the marina to have lovely long showers - very indulgent! Walked out very early next morning and picked up a few bits and pieces we'd been looking for at a local marine chandlers and took public transport to an out of town industrial estate to pick up a specialist part we needed. Got back to boat at about 11am and had to be out of marina by 12. Hoisted the rib onto the front of the boat (not hanging off the back for the major passage) and motored to the fuel berth and topped up with diesel. Headed off to France by 12.30pm on 12th August

Sort of started out aiming for north Brittany coast with the possible thought of meeting up with our sailing friends, the Pages and the Browns, who were sailing their boats in that part of the world. But we were a bit unsure about doing that - it was slightly east of where we wanted to go, and their boats are shallower than ours and they have more able bodies on board. The places they were mooring are really tricky navigating to get into and out of - and not all places had enough deep water for us. So we were sort of in two minds. Just off Plymouth we rang them and the Pages were heading to Sark (on way back from France) and the Browns were also heading there (on their way to France). So, in view of the wind and tide and time, Keith and I decided we'd do our own thing. Promptly changed course and headed towards Ushant. There's a really tricky channel to get around the north/west tip of Brittany/France and you need to get to the start of it at the right stage of the tide and follow navigation marks for about 20 miles. The conditions were making steering really heavy work so Keith did that while I got the boat and us ready for the challenge. Made thermos of coffee, got warm clothes ready, tidied boat, etc. Then I worked out the navigation through the channel. For example take course 180 degrees for 5 miles and end up going between two markers, then turn to 158 degrees until you see a particular light off your port beam, etc. Meanwhile the tide is adding to the boat speed and rushing you through the channel. Engine speed about 6 knots, but tide adding 3 knots, so you feel as though you're racing along! We finally made it through to the other end at 11.30pm on 13th August. Then it was just another 10 miles to Camaret - a safe port for boats like us. We got here at about 1.30am and dropped anchor just outside harbour. About 36 hours after leaving UK. We hadn't had much sleep - we both found it difficult with the boat careering around in the difficult conditions - something we'll no doubt get used to as time goes by. However, we celebrated our arrival with a scotch - using Keith's lovely Waterford crystal whisky glasses from BAT.

Yesterday, after a long sleep we tidied the boat decks and below and took the rib into town. Had a lovely shower and meandered down the town to explore. Found a supermarket and stocked up on some wine and beer (we had taken our granny shopping trolley and a luggage trolley with us in preparation). Bought a fresh french baguette, some pate and a fresh tomato and had a picnic lunch on the waterfront. Loaded the shopping into the rib and motored back to the boat! We'll probably go back into town the same way this morning and do some washing at the launderette.

Anyway, we survived the voyage and it hasn't put us off yet! The lifestyle once at a place is fantastic - we thoroughly enjoyed the relaxation at Torquay. Our next main challenge is to get past the Bay of Biscay (we're currently at the top end of it - the stepping off point for the crossing). We're still solving a couple of our computer/communication problems so we'll wait here until they're all sorted (and until the weather forecast is OK) before setting off. After that, we'll be able to relax a bit more.