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Cruise 2 - 9 June 2023

Roscoff to Bénodet

Author: Roger Allen

Well done to the Rescue Crew! With BB fixed and waiting for us in Roscoff, we set off by train from Nantes when a slightly surreal situation arose. Turns out the Rescue Crew would be in Rennes changing trains at the same time as us on their return journey! In true BB fashion we all squeezed a quick coffee into 10 minutes before setting off in opposite directions. 

Greeted in Roscoff by a waiting Pascal, we went through the usual routines as we settled in, bought supplies etc. Pascal had already found a restaurant for supper as was to become the norm; did us proud with his recommendations!

Smiling couple in cockpit at sunset

Catching the tide in the morning, we had a pleasant shake-down sail to L’Aberwrac’h. Remarkably, the wind was from the east, and it was to remain so throughout the week. Perfect for sailing, but the chill required full wetties! It was important to position ourselves for the first of our tidal gates - Chenal de Four. Skipper and mate made the art of navigation seem easy ... whilst Pascal and I pulled the odd piece of string when required.

Next day, we had a reasonably early start and set off to catch the tidal gate for Chenal de Four. Bit warmer today, so jackets were discarded but we still needed wetty trousers. Wind behind us again so with the tide. The speed of the current was impressive as we zipped through like a cork, and the sea was smooth as a dream. BB, as you would expect, was sailing beautifully on a broad reach as we headed south. Two hours after getting through the Chanel de Four, we found ourselves dropping anchor in Anse de Pen Hir just off Plage de Veryac’h. There was high drama ashore as we came in: some poor soul had taken a fall down a rock face when first one, then a second, rescue helicopter arrived and they were eventually winched up in a stretcher. 

Now for a delayed start. Essential we hit the tidal gate for the Raz de Sein whose reputation goes before it. Conditions at lunchtime were ideal so we sailed off the anchor, poled out the genoa and set off goosewinged. We kept this sail plan for much of the day. Gradually, the wind built with the diurnal effect until we had close on 20 knots and BB started to lift her skirts - great fun!!

Heavy seas breaking against rocks and the Raz the Sein lighthouse

Then came the Raz de Sein and I am delighted to say it looked nothing like the picture above. The water was boiling around us with whirlpools and upward surges but, in that context, the water was pretty calm. I don’t think any of us would have fancied going through this race in other than benign conditions. There were enough other hazards around as it was!!

We passed through without incident and dropped anchor mid-afternoon in Anse de Cabestan.

Day 5 and we’re heading for Benodet. We tried to sail but there was just not enough of a breeze so motorsail it was. By now we were becoming used to much milder weather, leaving the smell of suntan lotion in our wake. Times were hard but, someone had to do it! ‘George’ (as the autohelm is affectionately known) was kept quite busy throughout most of the day and served us well. Finally, we motored in and tied up on the visitors’ pontoon. The tide here runs very strongly which was to prove very useful later and, fortuitously as it turned out, the views were good…

Twilight shot from Benodet marina upriver towards Quimper

Next morning, with plans to take advantage of a fair tide, we were up and raring to go. “Start the engine!” was the call.  “Beep beep beep…”  followed by complete silence. The engine was not interested! With a sickening feeling, we realised that BB’s engine problems had returned. Initial checks showed that, sure enough, no diesel was reaching the injectors. As you could expect, as well as the sky and sea, the air became blue.

Not to be downhearted, we decided to bin any attempt at repair for the day - Skipper had a plan… Quimper was ‘only’ about 7 miles or so away. “Let’s get the dinghy out and catch the tide!” he called. Sure enough, we found ourselves in the tender driving all the way to Quimper on the incoming tide. 

Just under 2 hours later, we arrived. One of us (me) noted that, as the water was heading downstream, this part of the river in Quimper could not be tidal. Pascal disappeared to sniff out another high-quality restaurant whilst the rest of us explored. 

After a really pleasant meal (thanks Pascal), it was time to go back to BB. Lo and behold, the non-tidal river had risen (oops!) to the point where, to get under the bridges in town (just enough clearance for the outboard), we had to lie down in the boat. 

Accompanied by much hysterical laughter from the crew, we scraped through. We carved half an hour off our upriver time, with the dinghy doing 8.3 knots over the ground on not much more than tickover!!

The less said about the next two days, the better. The earliest a French diesel engineer would be available was “sometime next week”, which had the forbidding familiarity of the stories we had been told in Le Havre (I was on that trip too). Luckily, we found that BB had a diesel ‘fairy’ on board aka Skipper Stewart. Over the next two days, the ‘fairy’ could be heard grunting, panting and cursing (and was that crying too?) for around 12 hours each day. No truth in the rumour that we locked him in there! 

Skipper working in engine compartment

With a double-jointed back and triple-jointed elbows and in uncomfortable heat, he first removed the defective pump...

Skipper holding fuel injection pump

...and then slotted the new diesel pump into place and buttoned everything back together. It was now late after this extraordinary effort and Stewart wisely decided to delay starting the engine until the next day to enable him to think everything through afresh, recheck all connections etc. Accordingly, the sun was finally declared to be over the yardarm - rather later than normal!

Next day, with bated breath and tense expectation, buttons were pressed and…the engine purred into life!!! Thank you ‘fairy’!

About the author

Roger Allen

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