Ille d'Houat

It's Saturday and all of France is here! There must be 75+ boats here in the anchorage on the West side of this little island in the Bay of Quiberon. Ever heard of it? Neither had I. But the beach is great and a mile long and the island attractive. But the thing is: it's not about the beach. There are probably about 50 boats below 30 feet here. They mostly have 4 or more people aboard, and those above 30 feet (not a lot) had more than 4! So we likely have several hundred people in this little bay in late September. The water is still 20 degrees so people jump in. There are windsurfers, foiling kite boarders, dinghies zipping back and forth, the works. People in France takes their weekends seriously!

At anchor at Treac'h er Gourhed on Ille d'Huat

Last night when we arrived here, we were the fourth boat and the third Amel! But that was Friday night and not a lot of more boats came. Good thing because it was not a pleasant night, with Kincsem doing 2!! 360s during the course of it and a lot of swell and wind. A small low went right over the top of us and moved back and forth for a while! I had to coach one guy who was intent on anchoring next to us and couldn't get his anchor set because he kept going astern at 2 knots with the anchor barely touching the bottom. Well, after a lot of "plus de chaine, plus de chaine" and gesticulating, the anchor had a chance and the boat didn't crash into us all night!

I keep saying "we" and "us". Well, it's Kincsem and me for this little cruise to Brest in Bretagne. I've always wanted to single hand the boat and it's really not an issue with all the gizmos and electrical winches. The one thing that has me worried is: how do I dock this thing if I have no one to take my dock lines? Well, so far, I've not had to face that issue much because I've only docked once, in Les Sables D'Olonne, the world capital of single handed offshore sailing (that's their mantra). The Vendee Globe single handed, non-stop around the world race starts and ends there, every 4 years. When I called them up to make a reservation, the main harbor told me that they were "closed" (???) until september 22 because they were receiving boats for the Mini Transat. That's a single handed transatlantic race for Minis - 6.50 m (yes, 21.6 feet) long racing machines which starts people off on the road to the Figaro (32 feet or so) and ultimately, the Vendee Globe (60 feet). The other harbor, the Quay Gagnirt, said that they most likely would be full because of some weather they were expecting but I could give it a try. Be sure to call us an hour before you get there so we can organize help for docking.

Well, it's not like there are a lot of alternatives within a few miles so I left La Rochelle early and got to Les Sables around 2 pm. Of course, the harbor master is out for lunch and there is no response to my VHF and cell phone calls to get that help organized. So into the harbor we go - it's that long river like entrance which is lined with hundreds of thousands of fans during the Vendee Globe starts and finishes, whatever the time of night, but there were no fans in sight. Just some small motor boats that tried to make me change the autopilot settings while I was putting on the fenders!

A mini being towed in the long entrance

So I get to the Quay Gagnier and discover the long visitors dock has one opening - between a motor condomaran and a race catamaran. Not big exactly but maybe big enough for Kincsem. This is confirmed by a willing helper from a 30 foot motor sailor who, together with his wife, is interrupting his lunch to take my lines. Well, with their help we didn't hit either the boat in front or back. But I kept wondering how this would have played out in 20 knots of wind ....

Challenging dock space in Les Sables d'Olonne's Quai Gagnier

I had a chance to see the Minis at the Olonna port. There were lots of them!

The pics below speak for themselves, I think. They are really tricked out ballasted dinghies. And looks at those plumb bows - I guess it's all about getting on a plane in as little wind as possible. After considering it seriously for a long minute, I'm sticking with Kincsem, though. And I won't put foils on her either!

This last one has foils - including on the rudders!

So I'm now starting to explore possible anchorages as alternatives to marinas. Anchoring on Kincsem means pressing the "anchor down" button sufficiently long so that the desired chain length appears on the read out. (Truth be told, I also need to deploy the snubber and the anchor ball ....). Much easier than manhandling heavy lines and fenders and dealing with absent harbor personnel. So far, the record has been great. First anchorage was on the beautiful island Ille d'Yeu.

Anse des Vielles on Ille d'Yeu

Second is here, the anchorage on Ille d'Houat, which is actually called Treac'h er Gourhed. That must be Breton. Earlier today, I went shopping by dinghy to Port St. Gildas, the only town on Ille d'Houat. Reminds me why we have a great dinghy - it was 2 miles each way and quite a bit of swell and wind, but no problem! Didn't even get wet!

Port St. Gildas

Returning to Kincsem in Treac'h er Gourhed


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