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Adams Blog: Sailing month 1

Adams Blog: Sailing month 1

This is a bit of a recap, and behind where we are at the present day, but it includes a nice map of the whole journey in the first month as well as some thoughts on what it may have been nice to change.

Today we counted and we were sailing for 16 of 30 days in the first month, and that included spending ~4-5 days at a wedding in London!

Day 31-34: Biscay, from France to Spain

Day 31-34: Biscay, from France to Spain

Biscay was the biggest crossing in the first months of the trip. As the crow flies the bay is around 300 nautical miles wide. Our channel crossing from the Isles of Scilly to Brest was closer to 100 nautical miles.

As the crossing was going to take a few days, the main task in the days and weeks ahead of setting off was finding a weather window that both provided wind for sailing and a bit of comfort too (not too much swell).

The window we were aiming for primarily had a north or northwesterly wind around 10 to 20 knots with 1.2 to 1.7m swell, but also had a high pressure passing through the bay around the evening of day 33 which would give us a big lull before some easterly wind to finally bring us to A Coruna, Spain.

We used Fast Seas weather routing to come up with the initial route, and we used our Garmin InReach throughout the crossing to update this weather routing, and also to get weather updates. The route remained mostly the same throughout the crossing, although we ended up crossing in around 20 hours less than the initially predicted 3 days 12 hours. (Very satisfying).

Throughout the crossing, we literally saw hundreds of dolphins, too many to count, in 10s of different pods throughout the various days.

As we were far ahead of schedule when making landfall we got to our anchorage at around 3am and anchored in the dark.

Waking up around noon the next day, according to the plan we would still be sailing, but instead, we headed to the beach to relax.

Day 30: Brest to Crozon

Day 30: Brest to Crozon

In order to shorten the Biscay crossing, similar to our thinking when leaving the Isles of Scilly, we wanted to get as far south as possible without actually entering the bay too much. We looked at our options and the time that we had before our weather window and decided to aim for Crozon.

This was a short hop down the coast, but we were beating into the wind to get out of Brest which took quite some time.

Here is a funny-looking rock that we went past…

Rock between Brest and Crozon

And once anchored, here was our delicious dinner!

Oceanopolis, Brest

Oceanopolis, Brest

The marina that we moored at when arriving in Brest gave us a free ticket to Oceanopolis, a nearby Aquarium.

We took this opportunity to have a day out on land.

The aquarium was about an hours walk from the marina, so we stocked up on icey cold water, and started walking amidst a bit of a heat wave (around 30 degrees Celcius).

Our walk took us along the rest of Brest harbour, then along a busy-ish road with a cycle path, and eventually through an industrial area until finally reaching Oceanopolis.

The aquarium is split up into 3 main different zones. Tropical, Polar and a zone for the local area.

There were penguins.

Lots and lots of penguins.


The cutest of sea otters.

And of course, small fish pretending to be Nemo.

While browsing the shop we found a very cute seal which is now part of team Hannah Penn (also known as Team Saily Mc Sail Face).

Keep an eye out for this cute one in photos to come.

On the way back we tried out a french bike rental app called Donkey republic.

Not many bikes available that worked, most parking places would generally have 5 or so bikes, but only one that wasn’t broken / that you could unlock.

This shortened the trip back quite a bit. Very glad the bike was electric assist.

Brest’s International Maritime Festival

Brest’s International Maritime Festival

We arrived in Brest after our Biscay crossing on Bastille day totally by accident.

Delayed due to COVID-19 Brest’s International Maritime Festival was also happening at the same time after being delayed by a few years.

This meant that not only was the marina in Brest quite full, but also the whole harbour area was extremely busy with classic yachts, ships, music, food and drink.

A tall ship in the harbour of Brest during the festival

As we were walking around the festival we kept hearing bagpipes in the background and wondered where they were coming from.

We ended up at the music stage, but there were no bagpipes to be seen initially.

It turns out they were warming up around the corner, but of course quite loud as bag pipes generally are.

When they came to perform, the band was not only made up of bagpipers, but also people that seemed to be playing what looked like a small clarinet, but it turned out to be (we think) a set of practice chanters.

All quite loud, but also enjoyable.

We walked past what seemed like hundreds of food establishments, all of which were jam-packed.

Eventually, we settled on a pizza place right next to the marina jetty that Hannah was moored up on.

They let us know that firework would be happening at around 11pm, so we set on a bench across the road, and waited both for the fireworks and our pizza with some drinks in hand.

We captured the climax of the fireworks display for you to enjoy.

The restaurant forgot to bring our pizza out (probably distracted by the fireworks) but we collected it shortly after they finished, and headed back to the boat, warming it slightly and then devouring it at about midnight.

Day 24-25: Crossing the channel to Brest, France

Day 24-25: Crossing the channel to Brest, France

We originally considered crossing straight from the English mainland to Brest but decided to head to the Isles of Scilly on day 20, a decision we are still happy with as the Isles of Scilly are beautiful. If anything we wish we could have spent more time there.

The crossing was once again planned using Fast Seas weather routing, you can read more about the plan vs how it happened in our post to the Nic 38 owners group.

After our little morning wake up we set off around 8 am. The plan was for the whole route to take a little over 24 hours, so an 8am start meant we would arrive during the day to Brest.

The whole track was around 140 nautical miles, took 1 day 5 hours with an average speed of 4.7 knots.

It’s always hard to put across what sailing out to sea is like in words, so here are two short clips from different points in time during the crossing.

As we left the Isles of Scilly the sea was extremely flat, as the isles were protecting us from the swell.

As we gained distance from the Isles the swell started to pick up a bit. Here is a video from 14:30 on day 24, 6 hours in.

As we got further into the channel the swell continued to build slightly, and in this clip from 22:44 on day 24, you can see some more rolly larger swells.

Crossing the shipping lanes is always a little bit of fun, especially in the channel where they can be quite busy. You can actually see a large container ship in the background on the video above.

AIS is invaluable here, as all the large ships are required to transmit their location (lots of small boats including Hannah do too). AIS data is displayed within the Navionics app that we use for navigation. Below you can see 2 ships in the channel, their track for the next 20 minutes, as well as where we are.

As we approached France, we put our courtesy flag up (thanks Syliva for hand sewing them all) as the coastline was lit up with lighthouses (very hard to take a picture of). For anyone that doesn’t know, the courtesy flags are a small flag for each country for use when you are in their waters saying that you agree to abide by their laws.

We had to navigate through a rather tidal channel called “Chenal Du Four” which is around 14 nautical miles long and narrows down to roughly 2 nautical miles.

As planned the tide was in our favour, whisking us toward Brest adding around 4 knots to our speed. The top speed on the crossing as a whole was 11 knots over land.

The final part of the passage took us into the entrance to Brest where we tacked all the way up to the rather larger harbour, within which sits Marina du Château.

Initially, our call over VHF to the marina told us there was no room on the visitor pontoons as there was a big event going on that day. We needed to enter the country and the EU so we negotiated a short stop on the fuel pontoon for us to visit the immigration office that is only a 4 minute walk away.

Upon returning the staff had found a place for us within the marina using the spot of another boat that was away for the month, so time to relocate. Our marina track ended up looking a little like this.

Once moored up, we started to relax in the midst of the heatwave, making use of the new handmade wind scoop for the forward hatch (thanks Sylvia).

As mentioned above, we arrived amidst a festival, it also happened to be Bastille day, but we will write about that in the next post! 🙂