Well, we won’t be setting off across Biscay this weekend, that’s for sure – the above from Buoyweather relating to where we would be roughly 24 hours after exiting the Rade de Brest for a crossing. In fact, looking at the longer-range forecast, it may be some time before a window appears. Windfinder’s week-ahead forecast has, over the past few weeks, been reasonably reliable in showing the general weather patterns for the North Atlantic. Looking at this, and guessing its impact on the sea state, I can’t see the swell in Biscay even starting to moderate until, at the earliest, towards the end of next week following a reduction in wind speed (and more mixed weather pattern across the Atlantic) on Thursday 14th.
As a result, while I will carry on monitoring the weather on a daily basis, we don’t anticipate making passage for a week or more. In the meantime, we can play and explore in the Rade de Brest which offers shelter from the swell in the Atlantic as well as areas which are sheltered from pretty much any wind direction. We have spent the past few days tied up to a mooring buoy at Lanvéoc which the almanac said would cost €10 a night, but we have not been charged for despite speaking with the harbourmaster on the slipway yesterday evening. Lanvéoc is a small village, large enough for a bakery/butchers/local shop etc., but not much else in the village itself. I get the impression that the area is fairly well used by tourists in Summer from all of the signs about local walking routes, and the size of the campsite/slipway/other facilities. But, they must be Francophone tourists as, refreshingly, we have not heard a single word of English from anyone.
We moved over to the entrance to the river Aulne this morning to an anchorage which from the charts looked very sheltered and from the maps looked to offer plenty of walking opportunities in nearby woodland. It’s certainly sheltered from wind in most directions, but the currents in the area confused us when anchoring – we set it three times, as the first two ended up with us drifting too close to some nearby moorings. I think we are in an eddy at the corner of the river which means we are lying at a different angle from most of the moored boats. Anyway, we are comfortable as well as secure now and, as always, have set the anchor alarm on Charlotte’s phone which will make an ungodly racket if we drift more than 30m away from the anchor’s position. We’ll pop out in the dinghy either later or tomorrow to explore the local landscape a little, and probably take it up-river past the ship graveyard to see what is in that direction, too – we can see one rusting naval vessel from here and there are a couple of others just around the corner.
This weekend, we plan on visiting a marina for a couple of days – probably the Marina du Moulin Blanc which as well as the normal marina facilities and shelter, from our point of view, has the huge advantage of an aquarium practically on site! Being in a marina also gives us the opportunity to do a few other things which, until we are set up properly on the boat, are easier at a marina.
Firstly, we can fill up the water tanks – we have around 400 litres of storage in epoxy-lined tanks in the keel which we use for everything except drinking and cooking, because we have not cleaned them out properly yet. And 40 litres of drinking water in two jerry cans. We won’t have to fill the tanks in future as I have “nearly” installed a reverse-osmosis watermaker – hopefully we can find the couple of hose clamps and adapter I need in the chandlery at the marina.
Secondly, we can catch up on the laundry. We have a small vertical-load washing machine on board, which does a decent job of washing and spin-drying 3kg of washing at a time, but we have not kept up with the washing over the past week and with the rain forecast, drying it all on board would be awkward. We might well have been able to do the washing at a campsite by the beach at Lanvéoc, but after a couple of French-speaking missteps yesterday (my ignorant Englishman’s French in response to the harbourmaster, with the odd bit of Spanish thrown in by mistake; and needing hand-gestures to ask how much we had to spend to use a credit card at a shop) we didn’t feel like trying to explain that we live on the boat offshore and could do with using a washing-machine. Lesson learnt – even if we only plan on being in a country for a few days, we will do a bit of language learning beyond the pleasantries.
Thirdly, we can fully charge the batteries, which seem to be losing charge at an alarming rate, from shore power. I will also take the opportunity to test their usable capacity after a full top-up, as I get the feeling from the discharge profile that they are old and might need replacement. We should be able to last, running a fridge constantly, charging laptops, and using LED lighting, for over 2 days without any charge – but at the moment it seems we need to run the engines to charge the batteries daily, even with a small wind turbine and a couple of 80w solar panels chipping in. There is a problem somewhere – well, several, from the antiquated fridge with insufficient insulation to the fact the wind charger and port alternator are on a separate negative connection to the batteries (which doesn’t pass through my battery monitor making estimating remaining charge difficult), to the batteries themselves. I have a jobs list.
Next week, I suspect we will take the opportunity to try out a few more anchorages around the Rade, or take a trip up the River Aulne or Élorn both of which are navigable for some distance, especially given our shallow draft. From the charts and Reeds Nautical Almanac (which we have on our navigation laptop) we can see plenty of anchorages, some of which turn out to be crammed with mooring buoys but in any case, they offer places to stop for a night or two at low or no cost. Add Google Earth to see the lay of the land (and clusters of anchored yachts in locations not shown on the charts) and some judicious use of internet searches and we can see that there are plenty of places for us to go in this sheltered cruising ground.
So, while we might tell people we are arranging to meet that we are “stuck” in the Rade de Brest due to the weather and don’t know where we will be in a fortnight, yet alone a month or beyond– it doesn’t really feel like being “stuck” at all, just like the start of our exploring …