Our passage across the Celtic Sea from France was easy if a bit frustrating, with light upwind conditions prevailing in the first 1 ½ days. On top of that, the currents on the Quessant corner of France are always a factor, alternatively favoring and impeding our progress to the Northwest.

We left La Rochelle as planned on April 30, with longish hops along the coast of Brittany to the North West.

Leaving La Rochelle's Les Minimes Marina

First stop was the anchorage "La Vielle" on the Southwest corner of Ile de Yeu, next was the old favorite Le Palais on Belle Ille and last was Sainte Marie on the river Odet, just South of Brest.

Le Palais

Sainte Marie

Kincsem has been to all these places before (last fall), but this spring, there were a lot less sailboats around than last fall. Yet we were by no means the only sailboat around and the docks at Le Palais' Basin a Flot (the basin behind the lock) were well occupied. We stayed for a day in Sainte Marie to take care of a few tasks and left the next morning. The wind was light out of the Northwest, exactly from where we wanted to go. We were passed by the IMOCA Apivia, which was making a cool 7 knots in 5 knots of wind, and lost sight of land quickly.

The first challenge one faces when sailing from Brittany for Ireland is the traffic separation zone around the island of Quessant. This zone is intended and mandatory for large ships coming or going to the Bay of Biscay and going to and coming from the English Channel. There are lots of them and the zone is a busy place! On the direct route to Ireland, we would have had to cross the zone, and it can only be crossed at a right angle. Furthermore, in that zone, a sailing vessel may not "impede" the passage of the large ships, which may mean that a sailing vessel has to give the right of way to the ships in the zone. This becomes very difficult if you're going 5 knots and large ships are coming at you from all directions at 15 knots! Bottom line: it's best to stay out of that zone!

So we stayed to the West of the zone on starboard tack for the first 12 hours or so, even if that meant we were pointing for Newfoundland rather than Ireland! Unfortunately or maybe luckily, the wind went to sleep shortly after midnight and for the balance of the night and some of the following day we motored straight for Ireland, away from the zone, sailing only whenever we could get 4 knots of boat speed. Finally, in the early evening of our second day, the wind shifted to the Southwest and increased so we could lay our destination nicely and make good progress. With the shift, we could also head for Fastnet Rock easily and we passed this iconic mark in the early afternoon today. What an experience to do so in 15 knots of wind, little swell and without a reef in the sails!

From Fastnet, it was an easy downwind sail to Baltimore and Ireland introduced us to its own weather by dumping a nice load of rain on us, cleaning Kincsem's decks of salt in the process! But when the anchor fell, the sun came out, revealing a nice looking town with brightly colored houses.


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