Gladlee of Guernsey

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May 1992 – June 1992

 29th May – 5th June 1992

The weekend spent visiting Rob and Linda in Wakefield, and Julie’s parents on the way back, before Nigel went into hospital to have his wisdom teeth out.  Final planning at the Cruising Association, with some hasty photocopying of charts and pilots (helpful Secretariat lady: “where are you off to, then?” Nigel – proudly – “Gibraltar!”  Secretariat lady “…and then?”) and another expensive visit to Kelvin Hughes for charts (forgot to record that on our previous call there we ran into Jim and Janet van der Rhoehr, on leave from Accra and about to take “American Passage” down into the French canals).   Last minute consultations with James, and the delivery by Emma of his model of the USS “New Jersey” for mounting in the saloon.  And finally came D-Day……

St Katherine Yacht Haven

6th – 12th June 1992  -  Early morning, and a misty drizzle as we headed down the Thames again shortly after 06.00 – with negligible and variable wind for the next six hours the only remotely noteworthy incident was a brief pause off Tilbury to tighten the stern gland packing.  By lunchtime we were past the East Spile buoy, and motoring into a weak foul tide and an ENE wind, briefly freshening to 6 knots or so ( a handsome flotilla of gaff-rigged cutters were doing nicely in the opposite direction).  The eventual drive round the North Foreland into a foul tide was relatively straightforward, and we fetched up in Ramsgate inner harbour at 17.30.

We had planned to meet Nigel Taylor at the yacht club the following lunchtime, but with the dull weather he rang to cancel the date – we said a final (?) farewell to Franz the steward, Dennis Tweddell the Commodore and a few other vaguely familiar faces at the bar, and Nigel stayed on for a couple of hours of the Test Match on TV.  The visitors’ pontoons were quite lively, with groups of French and Belgian yachts over for the Whitsun Bank Holiday, but most of them had dispersed by Monday morning, as we locked out and stood by to fill up at the fuel berth.  The only snag, as we had shopped, showered and generally cleared the decks for departure to Brighton on the south-going tide, was the non-arrival of Ron the Rigger with our storm jib, 130-odd metres of warp and a halyard or two.  He did turn up, just in tome (and minus the try-sail strop which he’d left at home and we left our former home port just before 11.00 in a more or less windless haze.  As far as Dover we ran in and out of fog patches, but crossing the approach routes for the ferries we had a clear view, and visibility was fine thereafter down to Dungeness and beyond – the wind stayed obstinately on the nose, though at least no more than the top of F2.  Between Bexhill and Beachy Head we were careless enough to foul the line of a lobster pot, which Julie freed within ten minutes, and we rounded Beachy Head at 20.00 into a calm sea and pleasant sunset.  Made contact with Brighton Marina at 2145 and berthed without incident shortly after 2200 hrs.

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Brighton receiving periodic visits from Mick, of Felton Marine, who gave the engine a good checking over and replaced the ailing sea-water pump.  A local rigger sorted out  our jammed whisker pole in ten minutes or so, and then stayed for an hour over a beer giving us entertaining non-stop reminiscence and advice from his many years on and off the water.  We were also able to produce an excellent dinner for Barry, Gwyneth and Karen Loadsman, old friends from Julie’s student/badminton days, who were great company on our final evening in England (on board “Gladlee”, at least!)

Thursday morning looked promising as we prepared to leave just before 07.00 – no fog and a brisk wind blowing off the cliffs.  This promptly died three miles offshore, and after two more false starts with the sails (even the ‘chute went up for half an hour) we settled for motoring until 11.00, when another breeze persuaded us to pole out the genoa.  An hour and a half later, though, we were drifting again, and for the rest of the crossing to Cherbourg we had to rely on the engine.  A virtually uneventful passage, with a flat calm once we had passed the half-way mark and only cricket and football on the radio to keep us entertained.  Approaching Cap Lévi we were accosted by a French coastguard cutter, which shone its searchlight into our eyes before presumably deciding that we were harmless and moving off at high speed.  We negotiated our way into Cherbourg harbour without too much difficulty, finding no free berth on the main pontoons in the marina, but a perfectly adequate space on the waiting pontoon just after 23.30.

The following morning we moved on to the main pontoons and were not charged for the night of our arrival (Brighton et al. please note!).  Cherbourg provided pleasant shopping, and Nigel spent some time trying to find a mooring for “Gladlee” on the South Biscay coast of France while we returned to the UK at the end of July – after three long-distance phone calls Port D’Anglet at Bayonne seemed the likeliest prospect, so on that basis we booked ourselves rail tickets.  Quite a crowd of friendly Brits around us on the pontoons (several in Westerlys) – some 75% of the 10000-odd yachts a year visiting Cherbourg are apparently from UK.

13th - 14th June 1992 -  We had had doubts for some time about the accuracy of our steering compass, and we took the opportunity of calm conditions, good visibility and a large-scale chartlet of Cherbourg harbour to swing the compass on our way out – with quite helpful and not unexpected results.  We were over-optimistic in putting the main up, though, since we had a flat calm up to Cap de la Hague and the faintest of following winds as we set a course for Sark at 1100 hours (at least we got the tide right this time!).  An hour and a half later, though, the breeze picked up a bit and we set the ‘chute – a good run over the next two hours to Derrible Point, in spite of some alarming difficulties in identifying landmarks and rocks off Sark.  The anchorage in Derrible Bay was virtually empty, and we tucked ourselves in very comfortably just before 1500 hours.  We had a pleasant wander round the cliffs above before enjoying our first dinner on deck of the year – with the odd guest!

"Gladlee" in Derrible Bay, Sark

Dinner guest

The next day’s passage, to the Trieux river, was not one of our best efforts.  We started off well enough, though in a flat calm, and soon left steering to the Autohelm.  Fifteen miles out, enjoying the hot sunshine and generally not paying much attention, we ran straight across the line between two fisherman’s buoys, trapping the line firmly round the top end of the rudder stock.  With over a knot of tide running it required considerable force to get the line and buoy out of the jam – Julie dived while Nigel rigged lines and hauled from deck level.  After half an hour we freed the line, only to cut it by accident as we tried to retrieve one of our own warps – a depressing result, of which we were rightly ashamed…..  Nigel then corrected our course to steer, neglecting to notice that the new track would have taken us straight through the middle of the Roches Douvres – fortunately we spotted the Roches Douvres lighthouse in time to save ourselves severe embarrassment and a major dog-leg!  As it was we had quite a struggle against the east-running tide before fetching the North Horraine buoy at the outer end of the channel into the Trieux river.

Looking out over the “Roches Douvres”

Visibility wasn’t too good, but we managed to pilot our way into the river without undue worries – the last stretch up to Lézardrieux very attractive with wooded banks closing in on either side.  It was none too clear on arrival where we were expected to park, but we eventually picked up a spare ‘dumbbell’ mooring on the end of a trot opposite the marina – by which time it was past 21.30, and we just had enough energy to eat an omelette before heading gratefully to bed.

15th – 16th June 1992  -  Woken by the harbourmaster collecting his dues, we dinghied ashore after breakfast and climbed the short hill to the village square, a good-looking rectangle of Cotswold-type stone with the church at its head, overlooking the river.  Eventually found a small supermarket and replenished the larder before stopping for a coffee on the way back down to the marina.  Shortly before 13.00 we took the last of the ebb down river and made our way to the entrance of La Corderie, the drying anchorage on the Île de Bréhat, to wait for enough rising tide to take us in – two motor launches from Guernsey also parked there.  Went ashore to reconnoitre the channel and anchorage, finding that there was ample space in the basin at the far end : at half-tide, just after 17.15, we felt our way carefully in and anchored in good shelter from the freshening wind.  Ashore for a walk on the surprisingly densely populated island – handsome little cottages with well-kept flower gardens, and lots of wild flowers along the small roads; a dramatic view across the sound to the south from the little church on the headland above our anchorage.  The plan for the following day was – leave at slack water and catch the whole of the W-running tide to             As we left at 09.00 the wind seemed quite modest, but we found ourselves butting into a big swell as we emerged into the main channel, crossing it to start up the Moisie Channel towards Les Héaux.  The wind was soon gusting over 20 knots from the NE, visibility was none too good, and we passed an Oceanranger (British), which had left La Corderie before us and gestured very clearly that it was unpleasantly rough further on.  We decided to call it a day also, and made our way back into the relative calm of the river, setting the genoa for a gentle run back to Lézardrieux, where we refuelled and were given a pontoon berth just after midday.  (Subsequent advice and experience suggested that we had set out from Bréhat too early, catching the last of the flood instead of the less disturbed ebb up the Moisie channel).

The forecast was for F6/7 later, so we had certainly made a sensible decision – and we learned in the yacht club that evening that Tréguier was in any case full up with a rally of some kind!

17th – 20th June 1992  -  After another day at Lézardrieux the wind was gusting up the river at 25-30 knots, and no prospect of a change for 2-3 days, we decided to venture up the river to Pontrieux, having picked up the HM’s delightful brochure at the yacht club.  Meanwhile we found a couple of hinges to measure to mount James’ model of USS “New Jersey” above the forward saloon doorway.



Going up the river towatds Pontrieux

James’ model of USS “New Jersey”

Leaving Lézardrieux on the evening tide we sailed gently on the genoa up the very lovely wooded Trieux valley, eventually running out of wind at the sharp bend by the Château de Roche Jagu from where it was only 20 minutes or so to Pontrieux lock.  We sat in the lock for 40 further minutes, waiting for other customers (none came), while Nigel chatted to the friendly lock-keeper and we followed the fortunes (or misfortunes) of England and France in the European Cup, courtesy of radio 5.  It was nearly 21.30 by the time we reached Pontrieux quay, helped into a raft outside two uninhabited boats by the equally friendly HM (thrown into total confusion of embarrassment by addressing a well muffled-up Julie as “Monsieur”!)



Main Street

Pontrieux proved well worth the visit, though we had not initially reckoned with staying for four nights, while northerly gales battered the Brittany coast.  Our berth was some way from the nearest facilities, but we had easy access to water and electricity, and the walk up to town provided welcome exercise – an attractive place, obviously taking pride in its designation as a “Ville des Fleurs” (several beautifully kept private gardens, apart from boxes of flowers all over the place).  On our third day we took the railbus to Paimpol – a very scenic ride back down the valley and a stroll round the relatively metropolitan port after an abortive attempt to walk to a north-facing bit of coastline, beers and pancakes for tea before the return journey, and an excellent set dinner at the café on the quayside back at Pontrieux.

21st – 23rd June 1992  -  With the forecast wind at last dropping to F4/5 we (and a dozen other yachts sheltering at Pontrieux) decided to go down river on the morning tide and take a look outside.  After a procession down to Lézardrieux most of the others disappeared into various anchorages in the estuary, and at 1300 we found ourselves off Bréhat in NNE F5, wondering whether or not to go for it.  Having decided in favour we got off to bad start, with the main halyard tangled round the radar reflector again (thought we’d cured ourselves of that!), but eventually we headed down the Moisie channel, well reefed and with the engine ticking over in case of trouble.  At the Les Héaux end of the channel we encountered a very big swell, but soon afterwards we were past the worst and making good ground westwards : by 15.00 we were in sight of Les Sept Îles, taking out the last of the reefs as the wind dropped.

Two hours later we turned SW into the Baie de Lannion, and with the wind now astern we set the ‘chute and goosewinged the main, taking the main down a few minutes later to give free rein to the ‘chute.  Soon after 19.00 we were steering in to the Pointe de Primel, and we picked up a mooring buoy inside the entrance an hour later : it took half an hour of rolling about to persuade us to seek better shelter further in, and we eventually squeezed in to a narrow space between local moorings and two lots of rocks at the far end of the harbour, drying out comfortably overnight.

We had a quiet morning waiting for the tide, having decided not to go ashore (the larder well stocked at Pontrieux) and we left Primel at 12.30 in the same old wind – NNE top end of F3 – which suited us very well for the planned day’s run to L’Aberwrac’h.  In excellent visibility the pilotage towards the Île de Batz was straightforward, as was the passage through the channel between the island and Roscoff (though Nigel gave himself a fright by nearly steering Julie the wrong way round a beacon while concentrating more on photography than navigation!)  Thereafter we had a comfortable sail, with the wind on the quarter for the next three hours or so, punctuated only by a close encounter with a couple of amiable young Finns, who decided to overtake us in their large boat, under spinnaker alone, at a distance of about 30m to windward – then, to add insult to injury, they cut straight across our bow to take an inshore course round the Île Vierge lighthouse (said to be the world’s tallest), we took in the genoa and ran down to the entrance to the main channel in a freshening breeze, deciding not to attempt the short cut from the north (we couldn’t identify the transits before we’d passed them).  Turning into the channel past Le Libenter at 18.15 we had a good 25 knots on the nose, so we started the engine and made our way up to within sight of the main anchorage before getting the main down – the passage anchorage off La Palue looked choppy with F5 blowing across it, so we headed up the river and found a vacant mooring on a trot of “dumbbells” at Paluden, in perfect shelter and very pleasant surroundings.


The channel by Roscoff

Mooring on “dumbbells” at Paluden


23rd June was to be a rest day – not only had we made nearly 100 miles in two days since our extended stay in the Trieux, but it was three years to the day since we had embarked on our first passage in “Gladlee”, and we had logged a mere 33 miles short of 5000 in her (which allowing for a log breakdown in July 1989 probably meant we’d passed the 5000 nm mark really!)  We were woken at an unseemly hour by the HM, who apologised profusely for bothering us for dues, but he was on his way out fishing….  A little later we rowed ashore to the south bank of the river and walked up the hill to the village of Lannilis – a very adequate supermarket, a nice coffee/beer in a bar on the square, and a phone call to James, followed by an even nicer walk downhill.  We made our way over to the rowing club on the other bank for excellent showers at teatime, admiring the skiffs which had completed a row to Plymouth two years before ( a chart and photos proudly displayed inside the clubhouse.  Dinner worthy of the occasion with artichokes, steak, claret and champagne, followed by strawberries and cream.

24th - 25th June 1992  -  A leisurely start down the Aberwrac’h to catch the south-running tide through the Chenal du Four : with a NW3 we had a pleasant sail out, until we eventually had to turn south and the wind dropped.  By 14.00 we had both sails down and were motoring towards Le Four LH – nearly everyone else in sight had given up trying to sail too.  With the engine on we made very fast progress, so decided to by-pass Le Conquet, and after a little research we abandoned Cameret too, and headed for the bay (Anse de Peu Hir) on the south side of the rocky outcrops called Tas de Pois on the other side of the peninsular.  This proved a winner – nobody there except a few campers on the beach, good shelter and a very attractive location, not to mention a couple of hours’ gentle sailing on the genoa to get there once we’d rounded the Pointe de S.Mathieu.

Next morning we set out under genoa, then cruising ‘chute, with a view to catching the notorious Raz de Sein at slack water.  In the familiar NW3 the Raz was very docile when we reached it on time after 2½ hours’ sailing, but unexpected trouble arrived as we emerged south of the Pointe du Raz and tried to gybe the ‘chute – a horrendous tangle round the forestay that took us 1½ hours, much sweat and about a dozen gybes to sort out.  Fortunately no serious damage done, and we reset the ‘chiye, only to make a mess of getting it down an hour and a half later as the wind freshened to a good F4.  Some order returned as we ran down to the Pointe de Penmarc’h under goosewinged genoa, but we had to use a bit of engine to get us round the point and dodge numerous trawlers charging back to Le Guilvinec on the evening tide.  Once round the corner we had the rare treat of the wind on the beam for the best part of three hours, as we sped past our original choice of anchorage, at Lesconil, and headed for the Odet river entrance.  A straightforward entrance took us up the channel past the town, and on to a welcome pontoon mooring (next to another ‘seahawk’, from Wales) in the marina of Port de Penhoul just below the elegant road bridge.  It had been more than usually strenuous 11-hour day, but it was satisfying to have made 60-odd miles, in spite of our various mishaps!

The road bridge from the marina of Port de Penhoul

26th – 28th June 1992  -  The Odet proved to be very similar in character to the upper reaches of the Fal (they do call this bit of Brittany “Cornouailles”), even to the extent that if you go far enough off the beaten track you can find a secluded spot even on a summer weekend.  We found ours a few hundred yards up the Anse de Toulven, off the river not far south of Quimper, after a pleasant drive up past a couple of Châteaux and through some quite spectacular narrows, where we passed a wooden cutter called “Pen Duick” at anchor – was this Eric Tabarly’s famous first boat?




Châteaux on the river Odet

Anchorage up the Anse de Toulven

We assumed that even our drying creek would be quite popular at the weekend, but in the event we were scarcely disturbed at all – it was really hot and sunny for the first time, and we spent the time sunbathing and cleaning the boat, occasionally taking off in the dinghy for bird watching, firewood collecting and photography.  Radio 5, just within reach, kept us up to date with Wimbledon and the cricket scores.  On the Sunday we moved down river to the Anse de Combrit, less attractive but more convenient for an early shopping stop at Benodet – the river ‘en fête’ as we went down, with all sorts of boats on the water, parties in progress at the landing-stages, walkers and picnickers on every rock and vantage point along the way – and, at last, a barbecue dinner.


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