a travel log
From France to Scotland by sea.

Friday, October 25, 2002

In the coming weeks I'm going to be sifting through many of the pictures of the trip, and assembling some slideshows. Can't promise a date... but check back once in a while!
9:20:54 PM    
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Finally, after having had a little time to get my land legs back, I'm posting to this site! I've just added a page entitled "My Crews" - a page with a picture of each person who joined me on my trip. Each one made my trip special by their presence.
9:15:57 PM    
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Thursday, September 26, 2002

Today I posted the final update to the Map of the Trip.
2:59:47 PM    
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Monday, September 23, 2002

We have arrived! Departed Camaret at 9:10 yesterday, arrived at Loctudy at 1:30 AM this morning. Distance: 37 NM. Conditions: weak NE wind until about 5PM, followed by 15-18 knots up to our arrival. Sea state: slight. Moon: still practically full. Sun: all day!

Camaret in the morning light...

Yesterday was a fabulous last sailing day. Departed after a breakfast in a café in Cameret; we left a little late, and the wind was too weak, so we motored our way to the Raz de Sein, the last big point of land we needed to pass before heading home. We got there about 10 minutes too late: the reverse tidal currents had started, and no matter how much we tried, we simply could not go against it; we decided to wait out the tide in the "Baie des Trépassés" (the bay of the dead); it was a perfect shelter, and after lunch we read for a few hours before we had to head out again.

I found 2 books that explain the name given to the bay, each has it's own interpretation. The first claims that this bay was the site at which the bodies of deceased Druids were cast to sea. The other claims the name comes from the many wrecks lost on the Raz, as the bodies of those who perished were washed upon the bay's shore... The conditions we had made it hard to imagine the bay in any other setting, but given a good westerly gales this place would of been indeed very dangerous.

The "Raz de Sein" on the second attempt!

At about 5:30 we headed off, passed the Raz de Sein without any problem, and sailed our way down to Loctudy. The night was splendid, with the moon rise around 9:00. The night navigation was a real pleasure: going from mark to mark in the night, searching the horizon for the distinct flashing lights indicating their position.

Last sunset at sea... for this trip

Before going to bed I spent a little time sitting on deck under the moon... it's been 100 days since I left Loctudy; I managed to sail 1700 miles (nearly 3150 km), and see places and things I'd only dreamed of...

So what happens to this log now? Well, in the coming days I'm going to be posting many things to this site: the completed map of the trip, pictures of my numerous fellow travellers (many people have been asking for this, rightly so), and various other things... So stay posted for a few more days!
10:37:19 AM    
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Saturday, September 21, 2002

Departed Newlyn yesterday at 10:45 AM. Arrived in Camaret today at 1:30 PM. Distance: 125 NM. Conditions: perfect. Esterly wind 12-18 knots all the way, moderate seas at first, becoming slight; cloudy and misty sky clearing just in time for the moon rise, and it has been clear skies ever since.

Here is picture taken the night before our departure; it is the view from the cockpit, looking aft. You can see the fishing boats, moored 6 deep. On this night we were the middle of 5 boats.

Around midnight, the night before our departure, we heard the deep rumbling of the lifeboat pull into the harbour. Lying down on my berth I could hear they were coming our way, so I climbed on deck. They were towing in a 6.5 meter sail boat, a small racing machine which had had a problem at sea.... the skipper had been at sea for 4 days, presumably training for an upcoming race. He took a nap, and was hit by a container vessel... As one of the life boat's crew and I agreed, the skipper has someone watching over him... Apparently his sail caught something on the container ship, and pushed his sailboat around so it didn't hit with full force.

Here is the sight in the morning...

After our first attempt, we anxiously surveyed the sky before leaving; the clouds were still moving pretty fast, but as we sailed out of the harbour conditions looked better: Winds did reach 20 knots at times, but the average was closer to 15, which is manageable. The seas had also calmed somewhat, and so we were on our way, heading almost due south.

Having someone on board for such a crossing certainly eases the stress level, although it does imply more organization in terms of managing what needs to happen when (who sleeps when, dinner, keeping track of progress, where the snacks are, etc...). The crossing was very smooth; the first main event was the moon rise... full moon, and the clouds just cleared in time. It was like we had a spot light on us for the entire crossing. Our shadows were quite clear on the white fiberglass hull, and the moonlight gave the sea a dimension it did not have in my previous crossing.

Moonshine on the deck

The other events, we must of had about 10-12, was watching out for huge fast moving tankers and commercial vessels motoring up or down the lanes of the TSS (Traffic Seperation Scheme). The TSS is composed of several lanes around the tip of Brittany (near Ouessant - Ushant in English), and serves to organize the traffic. Each lane has a direction, and all vessels must stick to it. It helped us as we knew which side to look when crossing each lane. The only difficult thing to ascertain is their speed. Some take a while to get closer; some lights barely discernable one minute will be 1/2 mile of us within 10 minutes. (which feels very close, given their size). Only once did we have to tack our boat around and move away a little while a tanker steamed accross our bow.

Had another pasta dinner (cannned tuna+garlic+olive oil+grated cheese...), and snacks throughout the night. Dad took the first watch until about 2:30 while I managed to get about 1 hour of sleep. I took over until about 6:30, as the sky started to get brighter.

First sighted land at about 8:30 (The "Four" lighthouse); sailed around the St Matthieu point at about 10:45, and slowly made it accross the bay to Camaret under slight head winds (engine on).

St Matthieu Point

Arrived in Camaret under a hot hot sun, managed to get the boat cleaned up a little, get the papers, and then both napped for a good few hours...

Tomorrow will be the last leg of the trip. Our plan is to leave early, around 7:30, to catch the tides going our way. Should arrive in Loctudy at some point in the afternoon...

Will certainly be strange to turn the engine off that last time. It's now been more than 3 months since I've left, and I've sure gotten used to this lifestyle! A few books, a good irish whiskey, some good and varied company - what else does one need!
6:25:40 PM    
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Thursday, September 19, 2002

Back in Newlyn! Set sail around 5pm, with the idea of sailing through the night, and arrive near the french coast at day break... sailed out of the harbour, only to find a good F6 wind... Decided to sail for an hour. The wind did not let up, so rather than have a rough night, we decided to head back for some warm dinner, and set sail earlier tomorrow. We could of sailed today, but the weather sounds smoother tomorrow (F2-4), and at this point, no point pushing too hard. Weather has been dreadful today, with rain most of the time. Not cold wind, but steady. So hopefully my next update will be from France!
8:02:53 PM    
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Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Moored in Newlyn. No sailing today.

Last night, at 5 PM, went to pick up my dad at the train in Penzance after a day spent walking around and discovering Newlyn and a good fish dinner in Penzance.

The last time I'd been here I hadn't investigated that much, as B and I were getting ready for a big sail, so we really stayed to the boat. This time, however, I've been quite won ovver by how beautiful this little harbour is, what a fun town Penzance is, and how nice everyone is. (and how many art galleries I've found!)

Here is a picture of the boat, moored next to a couple of fishing boats. To get ashore we have to climb accross these steel moutains covered in oil, fishing gear, paint... not a clean business!

A little backstreet in Newlyn. For a long time, Newlyn has been a little fishing village, and at the time these houses were built, cars were even considered. The little back streets were covered in flowers, and many alleys had local beach stones as pavement.

On the way to Penzance (a 1 mile walk), a bowling green that was absolutely packed.

Today, my father and I spent the afternoon visiting Trengwainton Gardens. Here is a picture ot Trengwainton House. The entire site is simple beautiful; coming here in Spring must be incredible!

Finally, tonight, we are back on the boat - spending time relaxing, reading. Will start making dinner in about 1/2 hour: mozarela+tomatoes+basil, then pasta.

Tomorrow, still uncertain as to the plans, will depend on the weather. This morning the forecast was calling for F5-6 winds, and even visiting the gardens we could hear the winds pulling at the trees. The sea looked quite rough... tomorrow the forecast is for lesser winds, so we might leave. If not, we will probably visit a few more local sites before the final crossing.

So much fun to be ending the trip with my father, who was with me for the first few days more than 3 months ago!
6:53:30 PM    
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Monday, September 16, 2002

I've crossed! I'm in Newlyn, Cornwall. "Slightly tired". Only numbers for now, I'm going to put my hourly log here tomorrow.

  • Distance: 150 nautical miles. (277KM)
  • Time: 34 hours
  • Sleep: about 4 to 5 hours, no more than 45 minutes at a time (usually 30 minutes)
  • Average speed: 4.4 knots
  • Max wind: 27 knots... (F7), average wind speed was probably 18-20
  • Percentage of the night accompanied by dophins: about 50%!

As you can imagine, complete exhausted, so will complete this entry tomorrow. A german sailing boat that accompanied me for the last couple of hours has just moored next to me, and offered me a beer. I took a few pictures of their boat, about to show them. They managed to go up to Scotland this summer...

added on the 17th The following from the ship's log book:

10:15 Leaving Kinsale; misty morning, very little wind so far

10:40 Out of Kinsale river; 5 knots of wind, from the north-east
11:00 Current position: 51 deg 40.026 N, 8 deg 29.463 W
12:00 No more land. Short nap on deck; hands are cold. A few minutes ago heard a series of deep foghorns to starboard. No ship in sight. Still a little misty. 10 knots of wind, from the NE. Slight seas
14:00 Doing 5 knots; 15 knots of wind, from the NE. Sea slight. Just had a steak and canned peas for lunch. Able to read a little more of "The Corrections"
14:35 Reduced the mainsail by 1 reef. Winds gusting to 17 knots.
15:00 Have covered about 20 miles so far. Current speed 5.2 knots. Winds 14-17 knots, NE. Current position 51 deg 26.85 N, 8 deg 05.75 W.
15:10 Winds increasing to 19 knots. Rolled in the genoa to first reef mark
15:40 Just spotted Kinsale Gas field platforms ahead. Changing course to go around them, to the North

17:00 Passed Kinsale Gas Field. Still cloudy, slowed down a little because of having to avoid the gas fields
18:20 I'm off the chart! (I don't have a chart that has the entire crossing, just one of Ireland and one of England. I know for a fact that there is nothing between the 2, but still feels a little strange). Still 106 miles to Longship lighthouse; just heard on the news that the Rainbow Warrior is not far, waiting for the ships carrying the MOX back to England. May cross them later!
19:00 Sky clearing a little, mist mostly gone, but still overcast. Doing 5 knots, 17 knots of wind. Passed a fishing boat to starboard. About to get weather report, then it's dinner (Cassoulet!) Current Position: 51 deg 15.074 N, 7 deg 42.802 W.
19:40 Slowly getting darker. Winds at 20-23 knots, reduced the mainsail by 2 reefs, the genoa by 2 as well. Still doing 4.5 to 5 knots. I just put the nav lights on; hands and feet cold
20:00 98 miles left!
21:00 Winds shifting from NE to E-NE. Sea now moderate, with waves about 1.5 meters in height. Occasional slamming.

21:30 Nearly dark; napping on deck. Moon is bright behind clouds. Moon rays coming down through the clouds. Very beautiful, but strong winds make contemplations short!
22:00 Speed 5.2 knots. Winds steady at 20-22 knots. Had to undo one reef on the mainsail, because can't get the boat to go enough into the wind, due to sail shape. But the engine on as well because the autopilot doesn't have enough control. No change in speed observed, but the boat is keeping it's course
23:00 Nothing special. Listening to a little music on the iPod; caught myself whistling... must not do that!!!
23:30 Dolphins! Hard to say how many, but probably 2-3. Quite beautiful playing under the green nav lights. Just when I was feeling a little tired and down. Good to have companions. Very dark now; can still see the horizon line but sea is pitch black.
00:00 Nothing special. Doing 5.5 knots. 20 knots of wind. Dolphins still with me
01:00 Sky clearing
01:45 Left clouds behing me. Stars very bright! Passed a boat on startboard. More lights ahead. Looks like a shipping lane from here.
02:00 Winds down to 15 knots. Sea easing a little. Still some ships around; having a 2nd wind, had a cereal bar
03:00 Getting colder outside. Going to try a short sleep inside. Speed down to 4.6 knots
04:30 Winds at 17 knots. N-NE. Few clouds. Few ships on port side. Now 4-5 dolphins. Managed to sleep 2 x 1/2 hour. Was very hard getting up, but feel better for having slept. Figured out why the dolphins like me so much: The forward nav light are helping them see fish in the dark water, so they are having a meal on me!
5:45 First signs of day approaching. Horizon getting very slightly lighter.
07:00 Winds up to 18-22 knots. Imminent sun rise. Too tired and too much wind for this to be a big relief. Have stopped the engine, autopilot working fine on it's own. Still doing 5.1 knots.
10:55 LAND! Wind really picking up, now 22-25 knots. Managed to sleep about 2 hours in the last 4, by small naps. Very tired, but excited I can know see my destination (if still many hours away).
11:50. Winds reaching 27 knots. 2 reefs in the main sail, 3 reefs in the genoa. Still doing 5.1 knots. forecast called for 3-4, occasionally 5. I've had 5-6, with now gusts at 7. Hope it does not get much higher.
13:00 Wind down to 22 knots. 14.5 miles to Longships (lighthouse at Land's End)
14:40 Weather Forecastfrom Falmouth Coast Guard: E to NE 4 or 5. Slight to moderate seas.
Passed Longships lighthouse

19:30 Arrived in Newlyn, Cornwall. Last 5 hours were slow; had to put engine on to go up-wind, E, to Newlyn. Was accompanied by a German sailboat for the last few hours. They are sailing quite beautifully, and going the same speed as I am. Last few hours felt endless; felt so close, but took so long!

8:44:46 PM    
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© Copyright 2003 Thomas Degremont.

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