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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! 🙂

Day 8: Saltash to Falmouth

Day 8: Saltash to Falmouth

We originally planned on heading to Falmouth on Day 6, but ended up in Saltash instead avoiding some weather.

This was the first day that we experimented with weather routing using Fast Seas. You can read a bit about weather routing on Wikipedia, and can take a look at us chatting away about Fast Seas weather routing for Nic 38s on the owner forums.

We had 3 different routes planned with a set of parameters that we were at that point unsure of.

  • Optimistic: Based on a theoretical good into wind angle of 45 degrees. This would take us around 8 hours.
  • Pessimistic: Using a polar that we created from what we thought our actual sailing performance was from back in 2020 and 2021. This would take us around 18 hours.
  • Middle ground: Based on a theoretical “normal” into wind angle of 60 degrees. This would take us around 12 hours.

So quite a range of times.

Each route took us right out into the channel, and with a single tack back all the way into Falmouth.

We went for it, planning for all 3 (or other eventualities), and the middle ground route ended up being roughly what we achieved. We were sailing on our closest point of sail the whole way with 1m swell from the west and 15-25 knts generally from the west.

In the image below you can see the middle route we managed, as well as 2 way points indicating the tack points of the other 2 routes.

Due to the single tack the voyage was quite pleasant 🙂

We headed to a marina, as we had a wedding to attend and wanted to keep Hannah safe and out of the way of others. We arrived in the evening so spent that evening on a visitor pontoon rafter up next to a very lovely yacht that had just come back from the Azores.

So many boats anchored up hiding away from the winds to come.

On day 9 we moved to the inner harbour of Port Pendennis Marina. Exciting day as we took Hannah over her first sil and through a swinging bridge.