Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Brittany Sailing

I have not blogged lately since I was on a one week RYA Coastal Skipper Course in Brittany. I had a great time and learned a lot - although I still have to sharpen my recognition of all  those day shapes, sounds, lights etc.  Admittedly, we rarely encounter minesweepers where we race our Lasers, but from now on I will be prepared to instantly recognize the dayshapes and lights of one (my alert readers will certainly recall that they are three all-round green lights or three balls, one at the foremast head and the other 2 at the ends of the fore yard) and casually announce to the other racers - "Ahoy, mates, that is a minesweeper bearing down on us - ColRegs note that it is dangerous to approach closer than 1000 meters."

Although I learned a lot, most of it had nothing to do with a Laser.  Our boat had 2 sails and all sorts of lines, sheets, halyards, pennants, etc that you don't see on a Laser.  In addition, we had to pay close attention to water depths because pulling up the centerboard was not really an option - since it is solid steel and permanently bolted on.  One advantage for the boat however is that the sails can be lowered and furled without removing the mast.  It took some getting used to.

We sailed out of Vannes, going through a gate in a highway that is opened only at specific times into the lovely Golfe de Morbihan and then around the Baie de Quiberon,  Sauzon on Belle Isle (pictured above), Isle de Houat, Isle de Groix, Lorient and lovely places in between. The sailing is really great - nice wind, and mostly protected from the Atlantic swells. The weather was, of course, a bit different from Abu Dhabi and on 2 days we wore foul weather gear. We had one day of Force 5 with gusts to Force 6 and sailed with 2 reefs.

Dave, the instructor, was a Brit who created an RYA school in Brittany 2 years ago with his wife and and he was a very good instructor.  He had a habit of coming up with little quizzes all the time and one that I particularly remember was "what are all the ways of communicating that you are in distress"?

We got most of them, but he had to help us with one (paragraph (h) of Annex IV of the ColRegs):

  • flames on a vessel (as from burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.)

Apparently the flames and accompanying dark smoke make a great signal, if they are properly confined to the aforesaid barrels and don't set the boat and sails on fire.   Not so sure that would be a good one to try on a Laser.


  1. Sounds like a great place to sail - were the tides "interesting"?

    1. It is a great place to sail - the Golfe du Morbihan is lovely and the tides are indeed "interesting". Not only are they quite strong in certain areas, but with the swirling around they sometimes catch the unwary in a countercurrent and on a light wind day that can be fun to watch. We were sailing in close to neaps so the tides were not at the most dramatic.

      Also, fun to see how some of the obviously knowledgeable locals manage to sail against a strong tide by staying very close to shore in the shallowest water possible.

      And using the secondary tidal ports is an interesting exercise - the principal port for the Golfe de Morbihan is Port Navalo at the entrance. Vannes, which is less than 10 NM away (as the crow flies) has a difference of 1 hour 55 minutes in the time of tides.


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