The Bay of Biscay '17

Suwena's Passage in the Bay of Biscay

  • Posted on: 20 May 2017
  • By: Eve

When we launched Suwena for the first time in 2011 we could not have imagined that seven years later the spring launch would happen in Roscoff on the coast of Brittany in France. Unusually she was wintering two years at the same place and we are now eager to continue our adventures southwards.

This summer we're sailing in the Bay of Biscay. Among sailors the Bay of Biscay is known for rough seas. This must be due to parts of the continental shelf that extends far into the bay, resulting in fairly shallow waters while the depth in the middle of the bay is close to 5000 metres. The shape of a seabed in combination with demanding weather patterns of the North Atlantic creates challenging sailing conditions. No wonder why this area is known for rough seas. However there must be some extra spices in these horror sailing stories as the best sailing area of France with beautiful islands is on this coast. Let's see what we think after the summer season ;-)

There is a proper boaters' highway across the Bay of Biscay. From the north-west corner of Brittany of France to the north-west corner of Galicia of Spain the boats are shuttling between North-Europe and South-Europe. Beeline distance is about 300 nautical miles and the crossing of the Biscay takes more or less three complete days depending on the boat and weather. We plan again something different and will spend two months instead of three days in this area.

After sailing around the corner of Finistère starts 200-mile long cruising area which some say it is the best in France. It includes several inland seas like Bay of Brest and Gulf of Morbihan. There are many interesting islands as well. Our target is to find as white sand as in Caribbean and we should find it on Îles des Glénan. While talking about sand near Archachon should be Europe's highest sand dune: 110 metres.

In addition to popular islands like Belle-Île-en-Mer, Îles des Glénan, Île de Groix and Île d'Yeu we plan to explore the west coast of France from north to south. For sailors the most known area must be Vendée as every four year the round-the-world single-handed non-stop race Vendée Globe starts there.

In July we plan to sail in the waters of North Spain. The Bask Country of Spain is said to have the best tapas in the country and as desperate gourmets we just have to go for sampling there.

From Bask Country we continue to Asturias and later to Galicia where Suwena will stay for the next winter.

Galicia is famous for its rías. On the merciless coast of the North Atlantic the rías offer sheltered sailing and safehavens.

We are really waiting for the departure and the summer. It just feels right to explore the coast of Biscay in France and Spain. We'll again see and experience new places and their local culture.

Roscoff of Brittany

  • Posted on: 24 May 2017
  • By: Eve

Last Saturday when we were walking back to Suwena enjoying the lovely summer evening, Andrus recalled how he was "driving" around Roscoff on Google Streetview three years ago while pondering would this be a suitable location for wintering Suwena. Last two weeks we have been busy preparing her for the summer and it was time to reward ourselves for completing all the chores by having an unbelievable delicious seafood pizza in Marie Stuart pizzeria. We enjoyed every bite, as soon it will only be a memory after leaving Roscoff soon behind.
Roscoff in Brittany
Roscoff turned out to be an excellent location. The marina has rather new, very strong pontoon berths. The swell enters the harbour only during the north-east storms. Our lines had survived from wintering in good condition. Of course we had protected the mooring lines with rubber hoses both at the cleats on pontoon and on Suwena's line guides. Last fall Andrus cut one-inch thick water hose to pieces for protecting the lines and they have worked rather well.
The Roscoff marina in Brittany
Visiting yachts in the Roscoff marina
We kept Suwena in water for the whole winter but still the deck was in rather good condition, not too dirty. Of course there was some green growth on the teak but after treatment with Patio Magic it was like a new again. Also interior was completely dry. It rains a lot and winter gales are common in this area but you wouldn't notice she have been in the water all the time. We had closed the boat as tightly as possible even closing all heater outlets and we left dehumidifier into the galley's sink. The boat was even drier than during the summer!

The staff at Roscoff marina is really friendly and fortunately we could use English as our French is non-existent beside a few words. The facilities are also very good. Clean showers and toilets are always important for boaters. There are also several good size washing machines. Washing Suwena's lines was effortless if you do not count pushing the cart full of lines uphill during the low water :-) Btw the linen washing bags with zips for Suwena's lines are just perfect. Many thanks for Mari!
Eve washing the lines of Suwena
During both the springs we have lifted Suwena to the hard for a few days. The travel-lift service in the harbour was very professional and everything was always on time. Only surprise for us was that the bottom wash was not included. Everywhere else the washing has always been part of the lift out, however here you have to get it from somebody else unless you have a pressure washer yourself. We already have way too much different devices onboard and we do not fancy carrying pressure washer around.
Suwena is ready for haul-out in Roscoff in Brittany
It helps to shorten the endless queue of chores that there are two chandlers in the Roscoff marina and both of them are selling a little different stuff. Service was good and our orders were processed quickly. Only thing was that not all of our spare parts arrived before our departure, you can't always win!

We left our liferaft for servicing during the winter and expected it to be waiting for us when we returned to the boat in May. This was not the case, spare parts for this model of Avon liferaft were not available anymore and it become unserviceable overnight. There was no other option than to fork our some hard currency and get a new raft. This time we bought Sea-Safe liferaft. We chose the model which is self righting in case it opens upside-down in the water.

Our spring chore list was quite long. It included things like washing and polishing the boat, engine maintenance, checking the rig, sails and onboard equipment, cleaning all cupboards, washing the lines, fenders and dinghy etc. - just to mention a few.

Fortunately all onboard equipment seemed to survive the winter. Only the wind sensor that had broken already last summer was still waiting for repairs. We could see the wind speed but not the direction. Andrus has already checked the wiring on previous summer and it should be fine. He has also cleaned the corrosion from the connector on top of the main mast. It seemed that the problem is inside the wind transducer. Raymarine is selling only new complete transducers costing about 350 €. After searching in internet Andrus found somebody in the UK selling Raymarine spare parts on eBay. The replacement circuit board cost only 100 €. On the first climb to the main mast Andrus fetched the wind transducer and replaced the circuit board. On the second climb he really hoped that the problem was in the board as otherwise it would be much bigger project. Yeah, now we have a full wind data again. Even if the board nor packaging had Raymarine logo it looked like original and it's functioning excellently.
Andrus changing the wind transducer in Roscoff
There is a ferry port next to the marina with regular service to the UK, Ireland and Spain. However the marina is behind the second breakwater and thus ship's wake do not enter at all. The ferry port livens up this small town quite a bit. Roscoff like other coastal towns in Brittany are French holiday places. For example there are countless holiday rentals everywhere. Even if Roscoff seemed quiet on Streetview and there are only 3600 people living there it is still quite alive with all the crêperies in the center.

There is a small supermarket about 2 km from the harbour and of course a few bakeries as we are in France after all. More shops with hypermarkets are in the nearest town of Saint-Pol-de-Leon that is 5 km from Roscoff. We rented a car for the spring period. It helps managing all the spring maintenance and getting spare parts, not forgetting bunkering of Suwena. We usually fill her with food supplies for about a week so in case we stay at some anchorage for a longer we're in no hurry for reaching grocery shops immediately.
The center of Roscoff
Eve sampling La Belle-Iloise fish paste
Always when we're replenishing her stores we remember our spring in Kappeln. We were just carrying the whole summer's supply of toilet paper to Suwena and a fellow boater at the neighbour berth asked, "Do you have diarrhea?" After getting a carload of stuff onboard we still have to find storage for each container and bottle. I was joking to Andrus that "At least we have quite a few vegetables. Do you remember the Germans in Troon when they were pushing a cart full of beer to the boat and there was one huge watermelon on top of the beer cases?" The German guy just grinned and said to us: "This is our vegetable."

There is also an old harbour in front of the town center. The new marina is a few kilometres from the center next to the ferry port. The old harbour dries during the low water. It is also a nice way to visit Roscoff if you can leave your boat standing on keel leaning to the quay.

Suwena is now clean and tuned, ready for the adventure on the coast of Biscay. When letting go the lines on Monday morning with the Sun warming nicely it was time to wave goodbye to Roscoff and the north coast of Brittany.
Suwena is ready for the summer cruise in Roscoff
Suwena in the Roscoff marina in Brittany

Île de Batz 14.5.

  • Posted on: 27 May 2017
  • By: Eve

At first the bridge astonished us with one end on land and another end descending into the sea. But at the low water on Roscoff waterfront you'd get an idea. The bay in front of Roscoff dries partially at the low tide and the bridge enables the ferry to pick up Île de Batz passengers at any tide. I must say that its quite creative solution.
Sea bridge of Roscoff
Ferry connection between Roscoff and Île de Batz island
Île de Batz is located just in front of Roscoff and already last year we intended to visit there. But the time in Roscoff have been spent around the boat maintenance. When the chore list was halfway done and there was a beautiful sunny Sunday we finally visited there.

It only takes about 15 minutes for reaching the island of Batz by ferry. There are about 500 permanent inhabitants and the rest of the housings are holiday rentals like on many other French coastal islands.
Center village of Île de Batz island
Village on the island of Île de Batz
Lighthouse on Île de Batz island
Altogether we had just over 10 km hike around the island. We were mostly on the coastal path but of course we had the mandatory stop at the crêperie in the middle of the island. The first crêpes of this summer were delicious no wonder that Brittany is famous for them.
Beach of Île de Batz island
If you like water sports in tranquil nature then this island is a good destination. There were kayaks, sailing dinghies, boats etc. for rent on the sandy beach. I could imagine that the summer weekend would be passing quickly on the island of Île de Batz.

Brest 22.5. - 24.5.

  • Posted on: 28 May 2017
  • By: Eve

For a long time Suwena's summer voyage started in warm sunshine when we cast off the lines in Roscoff on Monday morning. Hopefully this is a foretell that we have a warm weather for the whole trip. To be sure however, we have planned generous weather allowance in our travel plan as during the previous summers we have got stuck in harbours due to the heavy winds quitea few times.

We departed in windless weather towards west and the town of Brest. We used our iron genny for most of the 70 nautical mile leg. At sea there were about 10 yachts on a way to west and around the cape Finistère. At a times there was some wind and each of the boats tried sailing in turns but there was just not enough wind there.

The most challenging point of the route was Chenal du Four that is a strait between north-west corner of France and Île de Ouessant or the island of Ushant. The current runs fast in the strait and during the spring tides can reach up to 9 knots. Thus its better to time the arrival with current and wind working from same direction, otherwise there would be quite a ride on standing waves.

The town of Brest can be reached by passing the mile wide strait of Goulet de Brest. There are two marinas in Brest. We selected Marina du Château that is closer to the centre. The other is Marina du Moulin Blanc that is located five kilometres from the centre next to the Océanopolis aquarium. The latter should also be prettier. We however wanted to stay closer to the centre and get ourselves acquainted by walking around the town. Thus Marina du Château was more suitable for us. Unfortunately it is located between military and commercial ports so the view is not the best in the world.
Suwena in Marina du Château in Brest
Brest was bombed completely flat during the Second World War except a very few buildings and it is rebuilt after the war ended. Architecturally Brest is a little boring. Only the Brest castle, Tanguy tower and old buildings on Saint-Malo Street have survived.

There are stairs from the marina to the upper level of Brest. We headed first to the Brest castle. Only the eastern part of the castle is open to the public and it contains National Maritime Museum. Other parts of the castle are still used by French navy.
Brest Castle
The exhibition was well organized and it describes the history of French navy and exploration fleets. The tour was winding on narrow passageways, up and down between towers. We could also really notice that we had arrived to the wine country as the French exploration ships were bunkered full of wine. Other ships and castles we've visited earlier have always calculated the seaman's daily rations in beer but here Breton sailors had one litre of wine per day only.
Andrus in Brest Castle
Brest and Tanguy tower
Eve looking at sailing cloth of the sailing ship in Brest Maritime Museum
Next to the castle there is rue de Siam street with the shopping and restaurant areas. We also took a nearby funicular across the river for looking at the old houses from the 17th century on rue de St-Malo. After a short walk we took a tramway back to the Siam street and we only had one more task in Brest; buy some fresh baguettes and croissants from nearest bakery. We were eager to depart on the same evening for spending the next days on the anchorage of the river L'Aulne.
Rue de Siam, the central street of Brest
Funicular in Brest
Rue de Saint-Malo in Brest

Rade de Brest 24.5. - 26.5.

  • Posted on: 29 May 2017
  • By: Eve

Rade de Brest is landlocked sea that is located on the northern coast of the Bay of Biscay. Most sailors on a way across the Bay of Biscay stop in Camaret-sur-Mer on the coast of the Atlantic just in front of Rade de Brest but never enter there as it is a bit out of the way from their route. We were already in Brest and after passing the breakwater we arrived to the waters of Rade de Brest.
Suwena departing from Marina du Château in Brest
Rade de Brest is vast water area with the size of 180 km2. Totally six rivers are empting into Rade de Brast and there are several islands as well. The land provides shelter from the Atlantic swell but of course the 6 metre tide is changing the water two times a day.
Rade de Brest in Brittany
Its waters are also rather deep and therefore there are a lot of French navy vessels. There are also shipyards building both the military ships and submarines.

The military presence can really be seen. As we were departing from Brest a navy ship requiring some room for manoeuvring greeted us and we had to wait for its arrival before passing the breakwater entrance.
Suwena gives way to French navy in Brest harbour
Nowadays this area is also a popular sailing and boating area due to its sheltered waters. In addition the first heatwave of the summer was coming and we wanted to relax after all spring chores onboard. The deal was made and we quickly steered towards the river for forgetting all the chores and just enjoying being aboard.

When we approached the River of L'Aulne we raised the sails continuing upriver. The feeling was in the sky as the temperature was still 26 degrees in the early evening. Water was purling under Suwena's keel and sails were pulling us when we were sailing on close reach quietly. Our departure was a bit delayed and we lost half a favourable tide with current starting working against us about half way. This was not a problem, we could enjoy the evening for longer :-)
Suwena sailing on the river L'Aulne in Brittany
We passed several anchorages and mooring fields. Most of them are drying during the low water. There would have been some anchoring space between drying bays and deep river but our destination was Terenez. Andrus was googling this area in the winter and found a local council decision for building a mooring field of over 50 buoys on the river L'Aulne near the island of Terenez. We were a little excited waiting would there be any buoys or was it still a plan? Suddenly after passing the abbey we could see them. There was space for small boats until 14 meters.
The river L'Aulne in Brittany
Suwena moored next to the island of Terenez in Brittany
Making fast to the buoy was an interesting exercise. There was a thick mooring line and smaller trip line fixed to it with a shackle. The problem was that there was no loop for passing our own line. Also the shackle was almost full from buoy's mooring line. Andrus managed to hold us next to the buoy and I was hanging over side trying to squeeze our line through the crowded shackle. I really wondered, is this real? Next day the local yacht with three brisk young men arrived and after trying several times they gave up and left. Hopefully the installation is not still final or there might not be so many visitors here. On a shore the dinghy dock was complete and there was still some ongoing constructions.

Next to our anchorage was the graveyard of military vessels that have become a sight of somekind. Next day we put dinghy to the water and went exploring around and looking at scenery. The pine trees on the island of Terenez were smelling cosily. Many people had picnics' on the riverbanks and boats were shuttling both up and downriver continuously.
Military ship graveyard on the river L'Aulne in Brittany
Eve exploring the river L'Aulne in Brittany
Military ship graveyard on the river L'Aulne in Brittany
The island of Terenez on the river L'Aulne in Brittany
Restaurant on the river L'Aulne in Brittany
Finally it was also a day for inaugurate our boat barbeque. It has always been too cold or too windy at the anchorage or grilling have been prohibited in harbours. Now it was only the 25th of May and we were barbequing onboard; How good is that!
Andrus barbecuing at the anchorage of Terenez island in Brittany

Camaret-sur-Mer 26.5. - 30.5.

  • Posted on: 1 June 2017
  • By: Eve

In the morning we sailed down the river L'Aulne to the coastal town of Camaret-sur-Mer. We had favourable current with us for the whole 17 nautical miles.

When we arrived Caramet was already full of boats. The atmosphere was international with visiting yachts from several countries in addition to French boats that we holidaying there.
Suwena in Camaret-sur-Mer, Brittany
Vauban tower in Camaret-sur-Mer, Brittany
Graveyard of fishing vessels in Camaret-sur-Mer, Brittany
The beach of Camaret-sur-Mer, Brittany
Camaret-sur-Mer, Brittany
Camaret-sur-Mer is one of the main harbours where many start their’ crossing of the Bay of Biscay. The marina was very busy. Yachts were arriving and departing around the clock. Some made last minute repairs while others checked their rig aloft and still others just enjoyed the sunshine.

For a long time we had not visited a marina with pontoons having loops instead of cleats. Our mooring lines are rather long and it was quite a job to get each of the 20 metre long line through the ring. At least there was no need to exercise that day :-)

From the pontoon there is a ramp up to the breakwater which was surprisingly narrow. There is just over a meter of walking space. It must be quite an experience when in a storm with heavy rain and wind you return from the cáfe and ávec back to the boat.
Eve on the breakwater of Camaret-sur-Mer marina in Brittany
One of the best things in Camaret are of course the trekking paths that go around the Crozon peninsula and have scenic dramatic scenery. The trekking path starts from Camaret and goes across the cliffs following the coastline. The footpath is rather narrow and partially rocky, only thing was that the coastline was tens of metres below us. Andrus said "I can feel the butterflies in my stomach when half a metre from the path is a direct 50 metre drop to the sea."
The view from the Crozon peninsula in Brittany
Trekking path on the coast of the Crozon peninsula, Brittany
When we arrived to the Atlantic side of the Crozon peninsula we could see the magnificent Plage de Pen-Hat beach. The swimming was strictly forbidden but there were quite a few surfers. They were surfing skilfully on the waves and there were also some youngsters learning on how to dive the wave for getting further to the sea.
Andrus at the Plage de Pen-Hat beach in Brittany
Surters at the Plage de Pen-Hat beach in Brittany
If we continued on the coastal path we would have eventually ended up on the other side of the peninsula and the town of Morgat. Visiting Morgat was one of our alternatives because of the famous caves but we have to leave something for the future as well.

Like elsewhere in Brittany, Camaret is full of seafood restaurants. The waterfront have a long line of establishments serving everything from mussels to seafood platters. We also had to taste some seafood from John Dory to scallops, yummy!
Camaret-sur-Mer, Brittany

Îles de Glénan 30.5. - 1.6.

  • Posted on: 4 June 2017
  • By: Eve

The Isles of Glenan, one of our most sought after destinations this summer, was next after Camaret. Glénan is a place for settled weather because its anchorages are rather unsheltered in strong winds and high seas. We had eagerly waited for windless weather window for visiting Glénan and staying there for at least a couple of nights.

The lack of wind meant we had a motoring day when we weretravelling 50 something nautical miles from Camaret-sur-Mer to south. This was fine for us as it promised lovely time in the archipelago.

We timed our departure so that we'd have a favourable tidal current in the next strait that is famous for strong currents. So did several other yachts as well. No wonder, as at best we had six knots of current with us and Raz de Sein almost flied us and the flotilla of other boats to South-Brittany.

Îles de Glénan consists of nine islands in addition to several islets and rocks. There are several anchorages and a mooring field between the islands. We wanted just to relax at anchor.

The five entrances to the isles of Glénan are shallow and it's best to arrive above the half-tide. Also the water between the islands is quite shallow. Mostly the depth is from below two metres to half a metre. In addition there are large areas that dry completely on low water and are suitable for anchoring catamarans and other yachts that can take the bottom.

Our draft is 1.9 m and we calculated carefully what is the absolute minimum depth for us at present tide for not causing an embarrassing scene.

We calculated that at minimum we need 2.5 metres of water, as there is always some swell at sea. From our 2.5 m minimum we subtracted the lowest low tide of the next few days that was the 1.3 m. After this we added the current tide level from the chartplotter. The tide was at +2.4 m. All together we were ready to drop the hook as soon as we were happy with the location and there was at least 3.6 m of water on our depth sounder. Finally we anchored in 3.9 metres on the north-east side of Île Cigogne island and Suwena for sure had some water below her keel during the low water.
Anchorage of the isles of Glénan in Brittany
Anchorage of the isles of Glénan in Brittany
Suwena on the isles of Glénan in Brittany
On the Glénan islands everything have something to do with the sea. There is a diving centre on the Saint-Nicholas island as Glénan is famous for its clear waters. There is one of the most famous sailing schools of France on the island of Penfred. Centre Nautique des Glénans (CNG) was founded in 1947 and it is one of the first and the biggest sailing schools in Europe.

Bananec, the sister island of Saint-Nicholas can be reached on foot only during the low water when the sand tombolo between the islands is revealed for a few hours. When we arrived there by the dinghy for wading before the water retreats we found that the others had the same plans as well. The dinghies arrived from yachts together by tourists from vedettes on a daytrip from the continent.
Tombolo of the isles of Glénan in Brittany
Andrus on the Glénan islands in Brittany
Eve on the Glénan islands in Brittany
Tombolo of the isles of Glénan in Brittany
From Île du Loc'h we found an amazing sandy beach. The sand was so fine and the emerald green waters were as crystal clear. It was the 1st of June and it was also a time to have a first swim of the year in a 19-degree water. Now the summer has really started.
Sandy beach of the isles of Glénan in Brittany
Sandy beach of the isles of Glénan in Brittany
Eve swimming on the isles of Glénan in Brittany

Sainte-Marine and Benodet 1.6. - 3.6.

  • Posted on: 9 June 2017
  • By: Eve

The weather forecast was showing cooler weather with some showers. We had an appetite for chilling out for another couple of days. The river Odet located 12 nautical miles north from the Glénan islands looked appealing. For sure it is always warmer inlands than at sea.

When slowly navigating out from the Glénan islands there was suddenly a call for Suwena on channel 16 in Finnish. S/Y Ilo had noticed another Finnish flag. It was nice talking with a Finnish crew sailing in these waters. What a rare event indeed.

It have been said that the river Odet is one of the most beautiful rivers in France. There are two marinas at the mouth of the river: Benodet on the eastern side and Sainte-Marine on the west riverbank. Both the marinas had visitor's pontoons and mooring buoys laid out along the river. As the river was supposed to be beautiful we were interested in a mooring at a quiet river bend. We found one after passing both the marinas and under the bridge.
The anchorage of Sainte-Marine on the river Odet in Brittany
The anchorage of Sainte-Marine on the river Odet in Brittany
The mooring was really tranquil. The dense forest started on the riverbank, birds were singing and every now and then there was a fish making a flop in the air. Time was passing slowly as we were relaxing in sunshine between the showers.

We took our dinghy and went exploring the towns on both sides of the river. Saine-Marine is a traditional fishing village with few restaurants and Benodet is a small town with a waterfront promenades. We were really happy that we chose peaceful nature at the mooring instead of either of the marinas.
The village of Sainte-Marine in Brittany
The town of Benodet in Brittany
Several vedettes were passing Suwena ferrying tourists upriver on day cruises. From this we also got an idea to make a river cruise of our own before continuing our journey.

From our anchorage there would have been 8.5 miles to the next bigger town of Quimper. The boats with masts must stay at the anchorage about half a mile before the town because of the low bridge. We turned our bow back towards the sea a few miles earlier and enjoyed the river scenery once more.
The river Odet in Brittany
The river Odet in Brittany
The river Odet in Brittany
The river Odet in Brittany
The branch of the river Odet in Brittany
The river Odet in Brittany
There were others enjoying the river as well. Smaller boats were used for fishing, tourists spent time on cruises, canoeists were training in kayaks and other boats were just going both up and downriver.

There were several really beautiful anchorages on the river that the pilot book recommends as well. We were close to anchoring again and staying on the river but Concarneau was already waiting.

Concarneau 3.6. - 7.6.

  • Posted on: 11 June 2017
  • By: Eve

Concarneau has made its living from the fishing industry for hundreds of years and the town is still the third largest fishing port in France. We have really noticed the scale of the fishing, as there is a myriad of fishing boats everywhere, the chart on AIS looks like a bee swarm on the move and VHF is filled with calls to Pêche (fish) this and that.
Fishing port of Concarneau in Brittany
Andrus in La Croisière restaurant in Concarneau in Brittany
In Concarneau we were most interested in the medieval fortification. Ville Close has been standing on its own island next to Concarneau since the 14th century. The walled town is without doubt Concarneau's most popular tourist attraction. The summer was just starting and the streets were already full of people strolling happily along the narrow streets sampling from many restaurants and little shops. We walked along the whole rampart and climbed to the defence towers where we could admire the scenery. Most memorable was the entrance tower where the drawbridge is still used for entering the fortress.
Concarneau in Brittany
Ville Close, Concarneau, Brittany
Ville Close, Concarneau, Brittany
On our arrival to Concarneau the marina was already full of yachts. Fortunately one of them on the visitor's pontoon hammerhead was about to leave and after waiting a few minutes we made her fast next one of the towers of Ville Close. The youngsters were having fun by bravely jumping from a shooting hole at the height of about 10 metres to the water. It felt almost like they were jumping on top of us as the splashes came so close.
Suwena in Concarneau in Brittany
The fishing museum, Musée de la Pêche, in the Ville Close exceeded our expectations. As a fishing town they really managed to present the history of fishing from pre-historic fishing gears to nowadays fishing fleets. The small-scale models were showing a lot of details. The best of the exhibition was visiting onboard a 34 metre Hémérica trawler at the museum's pontoon.
Eve in the fishing museum in Concarneau in Brittany
Hémérica was trawling on the North-Atlantic through out days and nights in 1957 - 1981. The ten strong crew was sailing for 300 days every year two weeks at a time until 40 tons of fresh fish was stored in 40-kilo baskets in ship's cold storage. When the catch was retrieved, gutted and stored it was time for returning the catch to land. Next departure was only 48 hours away.
The trawler Hémérica in Concarneau in Brittany
It must have been unbelievably hard work because in Hémérica, like in many other ships of that time period, the trawling net was brought back onboard from the side of the ship. Also the fish was gutted and cut on the deck regardless of the weather before lowering down it to the cold hold.

Another interesting vessel in the museum was the jangada-boat, indeed. It is made from the wood without any metal parts; its structure is completely put together with joints and lashings using ropes made of hand-woven fibers. As an anchor there was a boulder in the wooden cage. Jangada is the historical Brazilian fishing boat. To our surprise it has quite a modern design with lifting keel, flat bottom, open transom and self-standing mast.
Jangada boat in the fishing museum in Concarneau in Brittany
Concarneau is also a base for the Glénan's sailing school. On Sundey the 25 school boats arrived at the same time. All boat decks were full of actions as the students of all ages were following the last advices of the sailing instructors. Sails were bent properly and the boats made fast carefully. After all the storm was about to arrive.
The yachts of Glénan's sailing school in Concarneau, Brittany
The harbour was full to the last berth as the yachts were arriving from the sea before the strong wind's arrival. We also got another yacht rafting to us. We had already added snubbers to our lines but still we had to add a few additional springs due to another boat alongside of us. The south-western swell enters the marina of Concarneau and we wanted to be prepared. Finally all the yachts were riding up and down the swell in the pontoons while the wind was howling constiously at 33 knots.

The few windy and rainy days passed quickly in the harbour. We acquainted with many nice people from other yachts when we all visited to each other's during the rain. The athmosphere was international when we chatted with Swedish, Swiss, Irish, British and of course with French sailors. Especial thanks to Crystabel and Richard for an amazing evening.

Beware of Electric Winch!

  • Posted on: 13 June 2017
  • By: Eve

When we were specifying Suwena and making decisions about various onboard equipment we were warned that electric winches are unreliable. Now in the seventh summer it finally happened!

After departing from Concarneau I was still coiling mooring lines and Andrus was eager to hoist the sails at the entrance of the harbour. For genoa sheets we have Harken 60 electric winches. The control buttons that we mainly use are made by Harken and are located next to the winches. In addition there is a second set of buttons on the control panel next to the helm that Andrus can use while steering Suwena.

We've had a couple of problems with the same panel while furling the sails. Andrus has opened it and checked all connections making sure that there is no moisture inside. However there have been no actual faults found.

Now however the genoa sheet winch stayed on and there was no reaction neither at control panel nor at Harken's own switches. It was terrible. The banging noise and cracking filled the air when the winch was pulling genoa tighter and tighter.

Andrus was on a way to shut down the power of the deck hardware but in a panic was unable to find the right switch. He only had time to shout to me: "Get out of the way quickly!" We both took a quick dive behind the pilothouse as everything happened only in a few seconds while the banging and cracking were continuing. The winch was pulling the sheet tighter and tighter. We were only waiting for which breaks first? Does the sail tear, sheet break, fuse blow or the winch turn into metal scrap? Finally the sheet let go with a big bang a few meters from the clew. Then finally Andrus found the right switch and powered down the madly rotating winch. The breaking load of our 16 mm genoa sheet is about 5000 to 6000 kg.
Sheet broken by electric winch in front of Concarneau in Brittany
It is a real wonder that nothing else went broken. Only the sheet was hard as a stone after such a stretch. Even if there is still enough length we have to replace the sheet.

It could have been much bigger accident as we could have been hit by a whipsplash from a breaking line. We only got frightened but I must say that we had a spaghetti legs for some time.

It is really a full truth that do never ever use electric winch for getting a person aloft!!!