Back in La Rochelle

The sailing season of Kincsem is now over. I had a great time with my old friend Christoph Huss from Munich and new friends Tom and Adam from the J105 fleet in San Francisco, who all joined me in Brest for the sail back to La Rochelle. While we did visit some of the places I had visited on my journey up to Brest, we saw a lot of places that were new to me as well.


Our first stop was Camaret where we had to spend 2 nights to wait out a "coup de vent" with some impressive gusts. It was also the place where I chose a not so good restaurant based on Google, which caused me to remember that I have the Guide Michelin app on my phone. All subsequent restaurant choices were much better, culminating in a one star place in Port Louis!

We were a bit worried about the dock which didn't have any strong pilons ...

Hike to Pte du Toulenguet

Our next stop after Camaret was Sainte Marie on the river Odet. Strong northerly winds were forecast - perfect for the long sail. We would need to leave Camaret before sunrise to make it to the tidal race at Raz de Seine at slack water before the North going tide set in against the Northerly winds - but then, when was slack water? My C Map plotter was telling me one thing and Adam's Navionics app was giving him a time 1.5 hours (!!!) different! According to Adam's app we would have 4 knots of current against strong winds at the time when C Map was showing slack water! Well, cross checking C Map against other sources we determined that Navionics was wrong and the actual conditions we encountered confirmed that.

The lighthouse "la Vieille" marks the Raz de Seine

Sainte Marie is a charming, quiet holiday place with a long visitors dock on the river. There are a couple of small hotels, two restaurants on the harbor (one listed in the Guide Michelin but without stars) and a Michelin one star restaurant. Across the river is the much bigger Benodet, a bustling place with many hotels and restaurants. What is striking is the number of boats moored here on the river. There must be close to 1000 boats on the various docks of these two little towns.

We took the dinghy for 9 miles up the river to the next larger town, Quimper. We found a beautiful un-spoilt river, with many more boats moored everywhere and the odd chateau throw in. Apparently the Spanish armada in the 1600s sailed up the river albeit not quite all the way to Quimper and built some sort of camp there, but we did not find their landing site. On the positive side, we did manage not to run out of fuel on the way back to Kincsem which was a bit of a concern ever since we checked the fuel level when we got to Quimper ....

Seahorse can go .... Doing 16 knots!

Anchor left by the Spanish armada

Arrived in Quimper; time for a "pression" (draft beer)

Next stop: La Foret, well established marina which is home to a lot of race boats. We were moored right opposite to the two IMOCA boats of 11th Hour Racing and saw several other famous boats and countless Beneteau Figaro 3 boats in the harbor as well. Concarneau was on our list of harbors to explore because of its medieval fortress and town. Unfortunately, the visitor docks were already shut down for the winter so we decided to take a taxi over from La Foret. The place was a bit touristy but not overly so - at least in October.

Entering La Foret here was Paprec Vabre

This is the new boat of 11th Hour Racing

The famous boat of the great old man of IMOCA racing, Jean Le Cam

In Concarneau

By now, we were enjoying the benefits of a stable high that had established itself over the Bay of Biscay and which would give us beautiful sunny days and modest breezes for the rest of our trip. This made it possible to anchor at Penfret, one of the Iles Glenan which is a major sailing center during the summer. But summer is no more and all we saw was an impressive number of dinghies and beach catamarans secured against the winter storms behind the only bushes to be found on the island.

Ile de Penfret

Some excitement was had the next morning when I wanted to start the watermaker to make some water and charge the batteries - it started fine but shut down after 30 seconds every time. Error code 7: no water flow. It would have been easy to check whether there was in fact no water coming out of the exhaust but I decided instead to check first the impeller, then the heat exchanger for blockage. Much fun was had sucking up most of the salt water in the cooling system with the shop vac and spilling the rest over the engine room! But no, neither was the problem and so we finally checked the exhaust - yes, water is flowing so it's the flow sensor that's not working. So here it paid off to have an electrical engineer by the name of Adam onboard. Adam downloaded the service manual for the generator and tested the sensor per the instructions. Finding that the sensor indeed wasn't working Adam then determined that it was easy to fix the problem - just disconnect the wires. Bingo, problem solved and we have a generator again - although we now need to check the water flow at the exhaust to make sure it's being cooled.

The next harbor was not to be: The two handbooks I'm working with both said Port Tudy on the island of Groix was too small for Kincsem but on the chart I had seen two possible places for us to moor. So I thought let's have a look as the island was supposed to be charming .... But the two dock heads I had seen on the chart, which were in fact big enough for Kincsem, were unfortunately occupied by other bigger vessels so off we went to Lorient, a few miles north. Rather than moor in Kerkevel marina, we went across the river to Port Louis where we found the last place on the visitor dock. The place is much more attractive than Kerkevel but the highlight was definitely our visit to Avel Vor, a one star restaurant. Ours was one of three tables occupied on a Thursday night and we thoroughly enjoyed a veritable feast at a price not more than that of a merely good restaurant in San Francisco.

Fois gras starter

Art at Avel Vor

The next day we set our course for another challenging harbor: Le Palais on Belle Ile. The outer harbor has some iffy moorings where you tie up between the mooring and the harbor wall but we were aiming for the inner harbor behind a lock. Making contact with the harbor master by telephone actually worked and our timing was good: the lock was opening in a few minutes. So soon we were guided by a charming young woman on a rib into the inner harbor and tied up at a floating dock inside the basin a flot. The place was spectacular!

Le Palais Basin a Flot

The next day we decided to embark on a 7 mile hike along the steep, rocky shore to the next town, Saucon which has a harbor that dries at low tide. Little did we know that the 7 miles came with hundreds of meters of upslope because the trail dipped down from the top of the cliffs to the beach for every little inlet, requiring a 50 meter hike up from the beach every time. There were many inlets ... Saucon was again worth the visit, so was the trip around the island back to Le Palais on the island bus. The church group which joined for the last few minutes actually started singing on the bus - although many of them did wear masks as required .... When we came back to the boat - Saturday night - we watched with great interest how many boats could be stuffed into that little basin a flot - I don't want to imagine how this place looks like in August!


Saturday night in Le Palais

After two nights in Le Palais, we had a nice upwind sail to Ile Houat where we anchored on the South side in a bay called Beg Salus. Ile de Yeu was next - this time the anchorage at the old Castle on the SW side of the island, made possible by the Northeasterly winds and a lack of any of the normal westerly swells. A nice spot spoiled by some ugly temporary huts ashore.

Le Vieux Chateau on Ile de Yeu

In Les Sables sur Mer we were allocated a spot on the Vendee Globe dock! The minis I saw in September were gone but instead we could admire a few IMOCAs and four boats that will participate in the singled handed Golden Globe Race in 2022. This race is for boats designed before 1989 and the skippers can only have equipment that existed at that time - i.e. no GPS, no electric autopilots, no Grib files and satellite weather forecasts. We spoke with one of the skippers, Arnald Gast, who seemed a bit apprehensive about his upcoming adventure. His only experience so far was sailing to the Azores, but neither single handed nor in his GGR boat. I can understand the apprehension .....

Golden Globe racers in Les Sable d'Olonne

The last day of sailing in 2021 was another beautiful fall sailing day with light breeze which had us fighting a foul current for much of the day. But a good time was had by all, particularly at the end when we got to race an IMOCA. He beat us 7 knots to 4 knots if you can believe the AIS!

The bridge to Ile de Rhe around the corner from La Rochelle

La Rochelle

We sailed 3842 miles this season - no bad for a Covid year! The longest leg was 1350 miles non-stop. There were 11 friends and family on the boat this year. I hope everyone had a great time!


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