Yacht Pipit


Last days on the Vilaine and first days at sea... 14th May 2011

Our personal anchorage and wildlife park...

Our last days on the Vilaine were spent anchored just downriver but within sight of Wi-Fi and easy dinghy ride to La Roche-Bernard. With no tides, thick gloopy mud on the bottom (of the river that is, not us!) and about 4-5 metres of depth, it was a perfect anchorage in which Pipit held fast even through a few thunderstorms! We spent the days doing final maintenance jobs readying Pipit for sea again, and the evenings watching myriad wildlife on the river including kingfishers, coypu, possibly two otters (or young coypu, although one dived in an otter like manner), red or black kites (not too sure which, despite trying to identify them with our bird book), herons, dragonflies and leaping fish. We're not sure we actually saw any, but we heard plenty of cuckoos. We had a few thunderstorms, with quite a lot of lightning one night - not a spectacle one wants to see when you have a big metal thing poking up into the sky! A more enjoyable spectacle was the traditional boat rally at LRB with the old port and the quay hosting a variety of lovely vessels of many sizes. We had ringside seats in our cockpit as they sailed past us and a little way downriver, then back again - a shame for the crews though that part of their race was in a thunderstorm and fresh winds and part in a near complete calm prior to the thunderstorm! Needless to say, during the calm, several vessels resorted to additional power in the form of sculling or starting their engines!

During the thunderstorm.

After the storm!

Passing our old friend the stone man...

On Friday night, our penultimate at La Roche-Bernard, we spent a relaxing and convivial evening aboard Seachange with Dave and Iris. They have been a great help with information about LRB since Dave first answered a posting we put on the YBW forum as well as becoming new friends.

Sunday we bade au revoir to La Roche-Bernard to spend our last night on the Vilaine at anchor at Arzal, as we planned to catch the first lock of the day on Monday at 0800 so that we had enough depth crossing the shallow waters at the mouth of the river. We popped ashore to say hello to Bill & Jacki on Virginia R. They had heard about us through the LRB grapevine, so had said hello a couple of days earlier as they motored past en route from LRB to Arzal for lift out. Another lovely evening, albeit later than planned, as their invitation to stay for a cup of tea turned into a couple of bottles of wine and chatting for a few hours about books, history, sailing and of course Cornwall from where Bill & Jacki hail. When we got back to Pipit, we got Nessie the dinghy aboard and lashed down as quickly as we could, had a quick hot meal - some boiled rice and two tins of Marks & Spencer chicken curry that Ann has had aboard for a year for just this sort of 'emergency' were actually quite tasty - and retired to bed.

Oh, and we nearly forgot to mention the anchor painting story... When we spent the week at Arzal marina just after re-launching, one of the jobs we did was to paint a few rusty patches on the anchor with Hammerite. Andy said that ideally, he would like to give it two coats, but time was running short. Ann (and she stresses two things here, firstly that she had an image in her mind of standing in the dinghy with Pipit on a buoy, applying the second coat to the anchor, and secondly, as the words came out of her mouth, she knew there was a flaw in her plan) said, 'Don't worry, that's a job we can do out at anchor.'

A frequent visitor to the Vilaine - carrying sand dredged from the Quiberon Peninsula to Redon.

Another visitor...

Another thing we forgot to mention last time was that as liveaboards, unless you have extremely deep pockets and/or like paying people to do jobs, it's handy to be reasonably competent at things electrical, mechanical and plumbical(?), which fortunately we are, although we're still learning about things specific to boats in general and Pipit in particular. It's also useful to have a comprehensive toolkit - some of the more obscure tools we've used already include an impact driver (and complementary large hammer...), a bolt extractor and a selection of mini-picks (for removing fuel filter o rings upside down).

Monday morning, we weighed anchor at about 0745 and got through the lock with no problems - thanks Jacki for coming to wave us off - no hands caught in the wind generator as we waved back, unlike an unfortunate story we recently heard! As we motored down the channel, small terns of some sort were diving for fish all around us, too fast to capture on camera but wonderful to watch. The wind was SW, so we made long tacks between the coast and Ile Dumet until we turned to head into Pornichet when the wind, as forecast, veered NW, so we ran down toward Pornichet, gybing a couple of times for a better sailing angle.

No problems in the lock - and very quick as it was nearly high water.

Leaving the barrage and fresh water behind at last!

Glad to be at sea again!

We stayed two nights in Pornichet, more interesting than the initial view from seaward which makes Pornichet appear like a Costa del Average resort, with high-rise blocks running along the beach to La Baule. Apparently, La Baule was one of the fashionable resorts which sprang up when the advent of the railways allowed rich city dwellers to build luxury holiday homes along the beachfronts of the Atlantic coast. There are some quite spectacular and beautiful buildings, both old and new tucked amongst the not so pretty high-rise apartment blocks adjacent to the beach and in the back streets.

On Wednesday, we left Pornichet for Port Joinville on Ile d'Yeu. At times, the wind was right behind us and a bit light around lunchtime, so we had to motor-sail, but only for a short while, otherwise having a lovely sail. We plan to linger here for a few days as the island is every bit as beautiful as everyone told us, with coves and beaches that have a remarkable resemblance to Cornwall and buildings painted white with blue shutters and red roofs that make it look like Greece! We hired bikes for the day on Friday and despite a minor fall on an off-road section (serves her right for trying to pull a wheelie...), Ann managed fairly well considering it was the first time, bar one day in 1993 on a bike with no gears and dodgy brakes, that she has been on a bike for well over 35 years. The saying about never forgetting how is true. However, her last bike was a Schwinn 3 speed used on the road, a somewhat different beast to the modern mountain bikes with gears on both handlebars! We had considered buying folding bikes before we left Plymouth, but we're glad we didn't because we don't know where we would have stowed them and anyway, if we had cycled off-road where we did on even expensive folding bikes rather than mountain bikes with suspension we suspect they would have, well, folded, or at least have been very uncomfortable, and Andy would probably still be searching for his jacobs... So our conclusion is that folding bikes would be fine for pottering about on roads and popping to the shops, but if we want to do any off-roading we're better of hiring full-size bikes on those occasions.

More words and photos of the stunning Ile d'Yeu on our next update.

By the way, for those who have YachtPipit as a Skype contact, we've started doing 'mini-updates' in the 'mood' text - don't know why it's called 'mood', bloody software designers... We've also resumed updating the Voyage Map.