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Summer Cruise 1991 - Salcombe to Brittany

John Perry - 1991

For a summer break in 1991 I chose to repeat a previous single handed trip to the Channel Islands but with the hope of including some of the spectacular North Brittainy coast. If you plan to sail a dinghy to the channel islands and beyond then Salcombe, Weymouth, Poole and the Western Solent are possible starting points, the first two of these giving slightly shorter crossings. There is about 90 degrees difference between the courses to the channnel islands from these various departure points, so with a roadworthy dinghy there is a good chance of avoiding a beat accross by selecting the most appropriate departure point according to the wind direction at the time. After hearing the weather forcast I trailed my boat down to Salcome, arriving at dusk.

The launching ramp area at Salcombe is floodlit and so it was not too difficult to get away in the dark. There always seems to be a mountain of stores to unload from the car and pack in the boat. This time I did not leave much behind but I did take some things which were not used including a large supply of tinned food much of which I brought back unopenned since there were plenty of opportunities to shop locally. I did take my Seagull outboard with me on this trip, mindful of the fact that I had to be back at work after my two week holiday.

In the morning I had to spend some time seeking local advice as to the best place to leave the car and then I set off about 11-00am. I anchored off the beach near the SW tip of Guernsey at about 09-00am the following day, having had an uneventful passage in light winds. I motored with the Seagull outboard for the last few hours since it became calm in the early hours of the morning. I had originally intended to arrive at Guernsey by the Little Russel channel on the East but then as I approached Guernsey I changed my mind and motored down the west side of the island so as to shorten the next leg which was intended to be to Brittainy. The point where I anchored was sheltered by the extensive reefs arround the Les Hanois lighthouse and was used for moorings by local boats. I went ashore and spent the morning sleeping on the beach, oblivious of the fact that I was lying on hard lumpy stones. In the afternoon I went exploring by foot and aboard the rickety local bus. 

Next day I made an early start for Lezardrieux on the North Brittany coast. The forecast was 1 to 3 westerly and hot and sunny, just about ideal. Unfortunately, about 8 miles south of Guernsey I was stopped by a fishing boat and told that my boat should not be so far out at sea. The fishing boat departed but returned later, the skipper having contacted the coastguard by radio. He said the coastgaurd were concerned about my saftey. They also wanted to know numerous details about who I was, where I worked and where I was going. I avoided saying I was going to any particular destination, partly because I did not have an exact destination in mind at that time and partly because I was worried that stating a destination could lead to big problems if for some reason I later had to change my plans. After a long delay for more messages and telephone calls to my place of work in England to confirm my identity the fishing boat eventually went on its way, leaving me sailing slowly south accross a calm blue sea. The wind did pick up in the afternoon and I sped into the entrance of the River Trieux with a flood tide which carried my up to an anchorage close to the suspension bridge above Lezardrieux, passing numerous small rocky islands and sandy beaches as I entered the river.

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The suspension bridge above Lezardrieux - some of my older photos are a bit faded!

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Pontrieux

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The 'lagoon' within Isle Brehat at dusk

Lezardrieux was as far as I had ever intended to go and I was there just three days after setting off. Even so I was a little anxious about the distance to get back and so I allowed just one day to explore around Lezardrieux and to follow the River Trieux up between steep wooded banks to the head of navigation at Pontrieux. This is an interesting old town about ten miles inland. After a quick walk into the town I sailed right back down the river to anchor off Isle de Brehat, a rocky island in the river entrance. This island has little holiday houses, a sailing school and pubs but no roads, just small footpaths. I was invited to a party on another anchored boat from the UK. The owner, who knew the area well, showed my his charts and pointed out places to visit. As a farmer and a yachtsman he took a keen interest in the weather and his weather predictions for the next few days were accurate. Late that night the return trip from his yacht to my 'yacht' in my toy inflateable dinghy was a bit of an adventure, perhaps I need a tender just a few inches bigger.

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Sailing along the Britany coast

For the next two days I wandered in an Easterly direction, close to the shore for most of the way so as to see as much as possible. The coastline is mostly clean sandy beaches and rocky headlands. There are a number of small harbours and natural anchorages as well as the large port of St Malo. I stopped overnight in an anchorage below an impressive castle on a headland. On reaching the Baie du Mont de Michael I left the coast and headed NE towards Reganville on the Cherbourg peninsula. In doing so I passed the 52 islands of the Chausey archipelago, an area I would have liked to visit but as always on these trips I distance still to go to get home was always at the back of my mind.

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Waiting to enter Reganville

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An unstable looking ruin at Reganville

The consolation for sailing past the Chausey Islands was that Reganville was nicer than expected - a sandy drying estuary and a small unspoilt village sleeping in the sunshine. I arrived at low water and had to anchor on the sands a long way out and wait until dusk for the channel to start to fill. I was then guided in by the tricolour leading light, using the engine since I had already set the tent on the boom. It's tricky seeing where you are going motoring with the tent up, but just about possible in calm weather. The white sector of the leading light was very precise, just a few yards one way or the other changed its colour. When I woke in the morning the estuary had dried again to an ankle deep channel in which a few locals were shrimp fishing using nets on broome handles, as I remember seeing long ago at Herne Bay in Kent. I spent most of the next day taking a walk ashore then left late on the ebb, tacking against a Northerly wind. The coastline was now low lying with a continuous sandy beach and a few holiday villages but no harbour for the night. The chart showed a large drying estuary at St Germans and I thought that this might be a harbour but arriving at low water and in twilight I found no way in. After some sailing arround in circles and running agground on the shallows I just dropped the anchor behind a sandy spit projecting from the beach and had a reasonably still night.

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The breakwater at Carteret

In the morning the breeze returned from the SW and I sailed quickly to Cateret, a small fishing harbour and seaside resort on the south side of a steep headland. I arrived for lunch then spent the rest of the day looking arround. I watched a catch of crabs being unloaded from a modern looking fishing boat into two refrigerated lorries.

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The harbour at Dielette (before it became a marina)

The next morning I continued North, passing a nuclear power station then stopping for lunch at Dielette, a small harbour protected by a massive breakwater (now a marina). From here I headed west, crossing the Alderney race which seemed rougher than on previous occasions, probably due to the tide as much as the wind, then I anchored near the beach in Braye harbour, Alderney.The harbour master and coastgaurd at Bray were unhappy about the size of my boat (too small) and the lack of modern equipment, particularly VHF radio. I knew that there intentions were good but some of their comments could be rather discouraging. I was also told that I had been lucky not to have been stopped by French coastgaurds, apparantly people had been fined for being in French waters with an unregistered boat. (My boat is now registered under the yacht registration scheme but on future trips to France I was not required to show the certificate to anyone). I spent two days on Alderney, waiting for a forecast blow of wind to arrive then pass over. I liked the island and did some walking in the rain which made a change from the beautiful sunshine during the rest of this holiday. I was glad when the wind started to drop and I could plan for departure at first light in the morning. A lot of other yachts had a similar plan and I left harbour in a convoy of England bound yachts. I headed for Weymouth, arriving fifteen hours later which is good for my boat. Finally I travelled back to Salcome, collected my car and then the boat and drove home.