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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Piriac-sur-Mer - Locmiquelic, Lorient (27 July 2014)

We left Piriac early on an initially sunny Sunday morning. We were now only about 60nm due south of our destination for this leg, but our plans and the geography meant that we would be covering some 130nm in the final week. Our first objective was to enter the Golfe du Morbihan, a large inland sea of over 100 islands. The three mile entrance to the Morbihan is relatively narrow; and with all that water needing to move through the gap it is essential to enter or leave at slack water or with the tide. We arrived at the entrance on schedule about 30 minutes before HW and moved rapidly through the entrance being greeted by a heavy shower. As you move quickly with the tide and there are not only islands but shallows too, you have to be alert to the navigational challenges.
Our objective was to go about 6 or 7nm up the River Auray to the small town of Port Bono. We thought that we might find a mooring there from which we could also take the dinghy to visit Auray itself, which is beyond a bridge with a span 14m above the river (Whileaway is just over 15m from water line to the top of the mast). Bono is a quiet very attractive small town which grew up, like others, on the cultivation of oysters. Unfortunately a disease in the 1950's killed all the stock. We moored in the river near a relatively new high level road bridge which has enabled the old cable stay bridge to be retained for pedestrians.

The next morning we motored the dinghy for about 45 minutes to the very attractive and busy town of Auray. Auray and its adjoining town on the other side of the river are full of old buildings, has a huge market (the day that we were there) and very busy with tourists.

After a couple of nights we decided to retrace our steps to the mouth of the Morbihan and then head up to the main part of this sea (to the south). I noticed when we started the engine the battery sounded as if it was struggling. So in light airs we set off, gently motoring to help charge the battery. When we were at our planned destination of Le Passage I checked the battery to discover that it was still flat. So we decided not to anchor off but head to the safety of the busy Port du Crouesty just outside the mouth of the Morbihan to sort the problem out. The next morning I called at a local electronics dealer at the port. He was very helpful and said that he couldn't promise anything as his technician was on a job and might be tied up all day. But as soon as he was free he would send him over. In the meantime I started tackling the water pump that had also failed the previous evening and discovered a sticky pressure switch that I managed to get behaving again. I had just finished when the technician turned up with his box of electrical tricks. Within 90 minbutes he had confirmed that the battery was life expired, replaced a faulty wire from the alternator and fitted a new battery. Excellent service. By early afternoon we were heading back into the Morbihan to anchor off Ile d'Arz.
This is a small inhabited island that we have walked around before. It was a lovely sunny evening and we watched the locals sailing or rowing their traditional boats (the next morning racing too).

After a walk across the island the next morning we weighed anchor and headed to the other main island, Ile Aux Moines. This is larger and had more visitors. But it has some lovely traditional buildings and is very pleasant to walk round.

We had a mooring and having been ashore for a shower found that a thunderstorm had rapidly approached on what was a very warm and humid day. Although we tried to dodge between the heavy showers we still ended up being thoroughly soaked motoring back to the boat in the dinghy.
Time to leave the Morbihan and our penultimate stop was Sauzon on Belle Isle, another one of our favourite villages. On a beautiful sunny day we picked up a mooring just outside the harbour and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon and evening wandering around and sampling the local sea food and lamb!

On Saturday we enjoyed an excellent 30nm, five hour sail into the Lorient estuary and to the harbour at Kernevel. We had not visited here before. This harbour is on the north bank of the estuary and to enter you pass the submarine pens built by the Germans during the Second World War. They were built to resist the Allied bombs and so are still there over 70 years later! Another pleasant walk along the busy beaches that evening and the next day we just had the final 3nm across the estuary to Locmiquelic. Fate decreed that we had a problem with the sea water intake that cools the engine, to which we were alerted by the high pitched whistle of the engine alarm. We suspect that the intake had been blocked by either seaweed or some plastic but after a hectic five minutes we managed to restore normal service and got to Locmiquelic.
On Monday we were up early to travel home. This involved 5 minute walk to the Ferry; Ferry across the harbour to the Port de Peche; Bus (there within 5 minutes) to the Railway Station (30 minutes, combined ferry/bus fare 1.40 euro); train Lorient to Nantes (1h 45m); Airport bus from outside the train station; flight Nantes to Southampton; train Southampton airport Parkway to Warminster; taxi home! Left Whileaway 0730 LT; home 1530LT, so 9 hours.

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