Maïna Sailing Trip Log – August 2003

Sailing Maina - Pointing Well Up To Concarneau

Sailing Log of Maïna

What follows is the log of our trip to France sailing on Maïna, a Beneteau Oceanis 411. The convention is pretty easy to follow, sections starting with “(A)” were log entries written by Andrew, sections beginning with “(D)” were written by Dad (Jim). Truly an awesome experience!

Also, you will see reference to “bets” between dad and I.  This is an idea we stole from a book “My Old Man and The Sea” where the son and father use large, fake bets to make the trip more interesting. (The book is a good read and I recommend it to anyone who likes reading this kind if stuff, which, if you’re reading this (and like it), you probably do.)

Anyway…on with the show!

21 August 2003 – 1230 – The Adventure Begins

(A) Sitting in the Westerly train station waiting for the train. Hmmm I guess that’s what you do at a train station.

“Where you guys headed?” ”Nowhere, just hanging at the station.”

Yeah right haha…

I guess the train’s running a little late. Dad and I entertained thoughts of going over to the bar next door for a couple of “eye openers” but thought better of it. Maybe not such a bad idea though since it’s 6:30 pm where we’re going. What better way to adjust to the new time zone? I wonder if all train stations have bars next to them. That would make a kind of neat book (and a lot of fun to write too). Take a long train trip and ….accela just went by… would it hurt to get hit by that. Of course TGV can blow that thing away.  Anyway, back to the topic of the train-bar-hopping trip. That would be a pretty neat I think.

22-August – Paris to the Marina

(A) We’re here!  Boy, I need a shower. Ooh, I almost forgot.  What would a trans-continental flight be without a baby crying for the ENTIRE trip? Granted, sometimes it wasn’t crying as much as at other times, but it was always there.  And a baby crying most of the time might as well be crying all the time.   Then the guy sitting behind us, he had a case of the plague or something, he kept blowing his nose and stuff…that’s nice.   But as usual the Air France crew was very nice and the food was good – supper and breakfast.

While waiting at the Mount Parnesse train station a couple of interesting things happened. While Dad was getting the tickets, a nice looking, well-dressed lady came up to me and started speaking in French. “Je ne parles pas Françoise” I replied. So she repeated whatever she has said so I repeated what I had said. This time she realized what I was saying so she tried a third time except this time she just held out her hand and said “Money …. my child”, while pointing to the child strapped into the carriage in front of her. After awhile I managed to convince her I wasn’t going to give her anything.

After that we got a bite to eat and then sat by the “Big Board” waiting to see which track the “St Nazair” train left from. I had to take a leak so I struck off to find a bathroom.


Ahhh, I read the sign and walked to the right.

Confused….hmmm, I suppose that that’s men’s bathroom. I entered the door not quite sure which way to go. I finally saw a sign for “Hommes” and went that way. There was a set of turnstiles there like you see in a subway (should have been my first clue, but I was tired and being a stupid American).  A voice behind me started yelling so I turned my travel-weary body in the direction of the voice to see what’s up. The guy said something in French and, seeing I had no idea what he was saying, switched to English.

“Do you not see the countere? You must pay. You do not know you must pay?”

“No…I mean…Non, Je’n sais pas”.

I think he lectured me for a bit longer, I really don’t remember. I just wanted to go to the bathroom. I eventually gave the lady at the counter a ½ e piece and she handed me back 10 centimes and a token. I turned and went back to the turnstile, put in my token and pushed on the stile to the right. No go!

“Outré – outré!” the voice behind me called.

Ahhh, the other one of course, man do I feel like an idiot (imbécile, crétin), and yes it worked. Anyway, I went in, did my business and got lost on the way out too. This is not going well!  I better just go back and sit down.

Back on the bench…

We saw a dog crap on the floor too (we’ll see another dog do this later). Then me and the old French lady beside me waited eagerly to see who would step in it first.  No words were exchanged, but I’m sure we both understood the game we were both playing.

Travel does strange things to people.

(D) Words from Pop.

We’re floating through the French countryside on a bright sunny day. Ahhh, the TGV; a world apart from the flight with a record breaking 6 hour crying baby. Lunch was jambon and buerre on a crusty petite baguette – and a Lipitor to address all the buerre.

Armed with the knowledge that a cab ride from Charles De Gaulle to Mt. Parnesse was 40 euro we weren’t too alarmed at the seemingly circuitous route the driver took through Paris. But we arrived at 38 euro and had an early morning glimpse of the city without crowded streets. It’s a pleasure to see a population absent the fat families of home.  So, I’m wishing the train good speed as I will be “up $1000” on my bets with Andrew if we arrive within four minutes of schedule.

Oh yeah, another thought from a tired mind. We honestly declared the three CO2 cartridges in our luggage for our life vests and had them promptly confiscated. Two hours later as we watched the safety video showing how 300 passengers could each inflate the lifejackets under their seats by pulling the CO2 inflator, we realized we’d been had!  I hope they sell the right size replacements at the marina or we’re screwed. Two strikes with Frederique – no boots et non flotation.

At 4:16 pm the train stops at Le Croisic, “Sweet” another $1000 in the betting bank but moderated by -$200 because Eric and Catherine were alone to greet us. We make a quick stop at Batz to shower, meet Francois, Lawrence, Eve and Jean; drink a bier and then pile into two cars bound for La Trinity–sur-Mer where we will be introduced to Maïna, our home for the next week. And what a home! She’s nearly new with only three prior trips and she’s well fitted out for cruising.

Francois takes charge of stowing a huge pile of provisions and I wonder if we will be able to take everything. Included, just to highlight but two items, are 12 bottles of wine Uncle Bernard has chosen and 12 dozen eggs which Eric will use to introduce the American breakfast egg sandwich to the French at each port-of-call. Then we’re off to a wonderful dinner of mussels and frites (steak Pouivre for Andrew). At about midnight we return to Maïna, bid farewell to Jean and Francois and begin to plan our first leg. Andrew and I crawl into the port quarter berth. I am tired but unable to sleep.

Oh yeah – Flip, should you read this, we’ll sail with the companionway slats OUT and put the transom seat in the DOWN position in port – there’s actually a slot in the seat section which fits in the rails just for this purpose!

23 August 0700 – We’re on a boat, and it’s Freakin Awesome!

(D) The smell of coffee and creaking of the companionway stairs announces the start of the day. Frederique and I lay out the course to Belle Isle separately and find we agree –nearly exactly.  So Andrew puts the waypoints into the GPS via latitude/longitude and finds that two are fifty miles from the intended location…boy, tough getting used to writing longitudes that begin with 003 degrees instead of 071.

A quick trip to town produces a single pair of sea boots (size 41) which Andrew and I will have to share and hopefully we’ll fool Frederique by taking separate watches if we need to appear properly fitted out. No CO2 cartridges for me but Andrew scores. 1145 and the voyage and excitement begins.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the Charter representative who spoke fluent English (ha-ha) who checked us out. He got our checklist and couldn’t figure out why I kept asking where the fuel/water separator was located. Catherine translates “It’s a new boat so you won’t need one. Just call us if you have a problem and I’ll come out and fix it for you.” C’est-la-vie.

Back to 1145. Fred gives the order to get underway and I back $250,000 worth of fiberglass into the channel – and to the sudden discovery of French sailing psyche. “Gentlemen raise your sails and race to Belle Isle”. Never mind the green crew, reversed buoys, unfamiliar boat (yes, the sail cover does need to be opened and the reef lines eased out).  But we make it to the mouth of the channel in a fresh breeze, with pounding hearts and big smiles. Tensions ebb and flow as we encounter a regatta, lose the wind, gain a current and are startled by a VHF radio which periodically sounds a repeating alarm (we’ll figure out that soon).

Ahh, but the reward is sweet! At a mooring outside Sauzon Harbor we have perfect weather and a good swim – uninhibited people. Maïna has delivered us to a cruiser’s paradise in 3 hours 45 minutes.  What may become the routine of the cruise sets in. Sail, moor, swim, aperitif, “annex” into town dock (annex = dingy), shop for souvenirs and bread, annex back to Maina, wine, dinner, plan for tomorrow, check the Meteo (weather) and to bed. No matter that it is 2400 – 0100!

24 August – Port Tudy, Sauzon – A Dog Craps

(D) Quick entry as it is ten past midnight and we must arise at 0300 for trip to Le Glennan.

First night – windy at the mooring, early departure and good sail in force 4 wind till noon. Then anchor and break for lunch. Then Frederique wants to practice raising the spinnaker (la spi) in light winds and heat. Then to Isle de Groix (just look at Eric’s pictures to see what a cool place this is). To town and an ancient style shithouse (see sketch) which prevents Eric from dumping. But a dog does crap on someone’s annex.  Beer at a great bar – party boat in annex singing great songs while we eat huitres, Country chicken and red and white wines. Plot course on paper and GPS, abed for three hours sleep. “Don’t forget the tale of “The Jesus People”!

Port Tudy - Beverages

(A) I have to expand on the whole dog crap thing.  This was absolutely one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.  We’re just sitting at a table outside the bar, enjoying our frosty beverages, when we see this wharf dog appear and begin to trot around.  This dog actually backs himself up to an overturned dinghy and proceeds to lay a deuce right on top of it!  I wish we had a video of it, because I’m sure no one will believe that it actually happened…but it did!

25 August – The Overnight (sort of)

(D)  At 0300 the neighboring boat has a person standing by for our departure but no plan. A great and rapid exchange in French with Fred has us underway and them adrift at the bow end.

“Too bad for them” says Fred.

We put into a stiff breeze and slight swell and the man overboard light keeps falling and flashing. Andrew at the helm, me Eric and Fred on the winches. Hoist the main, unfurl the Genoa and fall off into an exhilarating 7-8 knot sail. All in PFD’s, harnesses and lanyards.

Our charted course and GPS coincide and we begin to relax. Fishing boats abound and we see a possible submarine appear astern with flashing amber light.  Sunrise approaches as we race to Isle de Glennan for Eric’s planned sunrise photos.  We are to turn toward Glennan at first light and tension regains its hold. Andrew is still at the helm but goes to “triboard” instead of “baboard” saying “There’s combers breaking over there!”

Across the top we practice coming about “Paree a virer” “Envoyez”

Fred describes the entry point and we tack towards “Pei” and the anchorage beyond. Eric gets his photos but confusion on maneuvers results in Andrew coming about much to Fred’s dismay. This was her sailing school and she wanted to enter under sail in grand fashion. But we had lowered sails and motored in.

Perhaps this was a result of language confusion but I think Fred misjudged where we were. We had agreed on an approach but ended up in a blind cove filled with boats. Andrew was cool and we got back to open water.

Couse Into Glenans

(A) Ok, a little more on the excitement upon entry.  I drew an example of the course we took on the way into Les Glenans (click the image at left to see a larger version, I traced it from the Google Map Satellite View).  The top of the image indicates where we came in from, that’s all nice, safe, deep water (we even did a loop while trying to figure out exactly where the entrance is.  One thing we did not want to do was run aground in our nice shiny new boat.

Upon entering we saw a lot of masts so we headed that direction (where the red line juts downward.  The only problem was that we didn’t realize there were two harbors, one that we were entering and one behind that tiny strip of sand which just so happens to be awash at high tide.  This second harbor, the one behind a beach, was our intended destination.  At the helm, I realized what was about to happen (we were sailing full-bore, both sails up and engine off, into a dead end packed with boats).  We were literally forty seconds from either going aground or having it get very exciting as we try tack and jibe our way through a full mooring field back to safety.

I turned hard to starboard, yelled “Tacking!” and pulled a 180.  I remember someone asking me “Where are you going?!”.  “Back the way we came in!” was my reply.  Much to Fred’s dismay, the crew decides to drop sail and continue on power (she was hoping to come in under sail alone like she learned at sailing school, and really who could blame her?  But after a near-grounding, safety was more prominent on our minds).  It all turned out well though.  We found our way around to the other side and found a spot to moor.

(D) First an omelet, then a nap for all. Eric stays aboard for another nap and our shore party departs for a swim and to visit a café for our aperitif (see sketch).

Fred recounts how, when here at sailing school, they could only get to the café for a beer when the tide was low enough to cross the bar. The islands have become a tourist attraction and, like Block Island, several ferries disgorge crowds of people who go to the beach, have something to eat and drink and then return on the afternoon boats leaving things peaceful once again.

{picture off Eric’s preacher dive}

{sketch of Glennan beach}

Most of us, well perhaps not Bernard, feel we have pushed hard enough and would like to chill out here and then head back but Fred has in mind to see Point Raz and Isle de Seine as she puts it “for Eric’s pictures”. We defer decision.

Dog story #2. A family coming back from the beach has a cool dog and also an ankle biter. The incoming tide is rushing across the bar so the guy is carrying the little dog like a kitten by the scruff of its neck. I think he heard Andrew and me commenting, but for whatever reason he drops the dog into the water saying “Je fatigue”.

(A) …cool dog?

26 August – Up The River Without A Paddle!

(D) It rained last night but the dawn breaks clear and breezy as we slip the mooring under sail alone. We tack through the narrow rocky channel and into the open water while others leave under power. Frederique’s reputation is restored at la Glennan Cole Antique!

Our spirits are soon moderated as the wind clocks around and drops to force 1. On with le meteor for an eight hour leg down the coast.  Dolphins and picturesque lighthouses offer moments of fascination as we work our way toward St. Eves and Audienne. As we approach the final set of cardinal buoys (we’re really getting to like these aids) Fred offers up another surprise.

“We go up the river to town to buy fresh fish and baguettes”.

Andrew’s attempt to negotiate a mooring with “We can get everything we need at the marina” bears no fruit. So with me at the helm we proceed up an unknown river with a quick look at the guidebook. The picturesque town is worth the stress but we have only 1 ½ hours as the tide is falling.

(A) In other words…we’re afraid of running aground in the middle of a river!

(D) We shop for supplies and go to the post office. Then Catherine and Fred go to market, Eric for film and Bernard and I to la poissonire for the fresh fish. He doesn’t know what to buy so he lets me order while he coaches me with the language as needed.

The triumphant hunter-gatherer returns from his expedition with a baggette in hand.

Andrew and I get back to Maïna first. A Swedish boat is rafted alongside which could delay us past our required departure time. We’re worried that we can’t communicate our dilemma but we are greeted in English by the woman aboard who says she saw our (American) flag flying.

Time to depart and an old tactic proves successful to communicate my level of stress.

“Fred, you will take the boat off the dock and out while I tend lines”

“I’ve never sailed a boat with a wheel helm.” her nervous reply.

So I back her out and conciliations are offered as we maneuver to a mooring.

Only Eric’s pictures will be able to convey the beauty of this coastline and the natural and man-made features upon it.

Bernard and I forgo the annex trip to the marina for douches and aperitifs in the now cool and breezy evening. I fillet the turbot while he prepares the potatoes for the chowder Catherine plans to prepare. Three Coronas later we are jesting our way across the language barrier. Our annex arrives. Andrew will have to cover that trip and relate the tale of the hot chicks.  Now it approaches 9:30 pm and all is in complete French order. Aperitifs, dejunier and wine late into the night.

(A)  Too tired to write very much. Good food has been constant. I’m not sure which was better, the country chicken, or the chicken pasta meal. I had two big helpings of both of them.. I think the country chicken may take the prize just because the night was good overall. This was when we were in Port Trudy. One that’s pretty cool in that boats tie up to big moorings front to stern, and then others raft up till there’s no more room.

(Editorial note: Apparently I didn’t write down the “Hot Chicks” story, and now, 7 years later,  it has faded from memory)

(attempt at map)

27 August – “The Muntiny on the Maïna” and Onward To Concarneau

(A) This place is cool. It’s just the kind of port we needed after a long and sometimes stressful sail. The day started with kind of rough weather and a mutiny of sorts. We were sailing towards some island to the north and had a couple of “almost broaches” with the spinnaker and accidental jibes.  I was on the mast and spent one terrifying moment hanging on to it, looking at the water racing by below me as the boat heeled over fifty degrees.  After that we decided to force the idea of turning around and heading towards Concarneau as it was > 20 miles away and getting further all the time.  Our captain was not happy about this, but the crew was quite insistent.

Sunset on A Glassy Sea

We ended up having a great upwind sail and actually putting reefs in the main and jib when the wind approached 20 knots. Of course after we put in the reefs the wind dropped to 14 knots, mother nature is always messing with you.

We arrived outside Concarneau just before sunset.  The wind had dropped and the reflection of the sunset upon a mottled sea made for an amazing visual.  The sea looked surreal (perhaps the fatigue was setting in too.)  However, we were treated with this fantastic sunset on the same day we had also witnessed an amazing sunrise.  Perfection!

Anyway, when we finally reached Concarneau and made it ashore I was amazed. This place looks like Disney World I said.  Well, actually Epcot Center Dad added which was actually a better description. I think the thing that makes it seem so surreal at first are these blue neon lights that run along the edge of the wall. They were there I assume to prevent drunk sailors returning from the bar from walking off the edge into the water.

At the end of the wall is the entrance to an old castle whose wall still extends around the harbor and is lit at night. Inside is a street of shops, ice cream stands and restaurants. We stopped for dinner and my steak came very red in the middle (how I ordered it I think) but it tasted so good. It came with fries too which I had been craving for awhile.

Is This a Dream?
Is This a Dream?

Anyway, I really like this town and wish we had a couple of days to explore before we must depart tomorrow, probably for the same harbor we stayed at our first night which is fine by me because they had nice big, easy-to-catch mooring balls. Docking a 41’ boat that you’ve only docked a couple of times before can be very stressful. We’ve had no time to see how the boat reacts in slow maneuvering. Anyway, until next time.

(D) Well Andrew covered the “mutiny” and that part so I’ll comment about the dangers of fatigue. We’re having a great time so it seems strange to realize how tired we’ve become – more mentally than physically but certainly both. Good thing we’ve become a team because we’ve been able to cover mistakes as they’ve come up –plotting errors, winch mistakes, missing cardinals, going the wrong side of a red buoy (not the Americans). I got to the point at the end of yesterday where I was nearly in a trance. We’ve all gotten to feel comfortable in Maina – she’s a fine boat and once we give the Grand-Voile blocks some of the same olive oil we gave the rudder post she’ll stop making so many annoying noises. We spent some time putting things back in order – the boat really got pretty well trashed the last two days.

28 August – Back to the Future

At the helm during a rolling sea.

(A) We had a cool sail…. I mean motor…from Concarneau to Sauzon, a 30 – 40 mile steam.  There were a couple of cool things. One was an abundance of dolphins with one big pod and a number of other small ones. One of the smaller ones hung out for awhile at our bow. I’m not sure if I got a good picture or not – we’ll see. (Editorial Note:  The answer is no.)

There were also huge rollers out in open where we were today, probably 12-15 feet I guess. The peaks were above my head while I was standing at the helm which is a few feet off the water already.  Anyway, these were the largest waves I’ve been in yet (in a boat that’s not a ferry or something) and it was cool.  Any time you’re in a boat looking up at the water you know there are some major forces at work.  You can’t help but gain a little more respect for the ocean and its power.

There’s a hard decision that you have to make while living on a boat. Would you rather have a cool, fresh, damp cabin or a hot, drier, smelly cabin? We aired out all our sleeping bags and pillows today in a vain attempt to dry them, but something still smells funny in the boat. So I would like to open some windows and air out the smell but I don’t want more wet salt air and dew to get in. I guess the approaching thunderstorm may decide for me.

After taking 3 hot showers each, the crew spotted this sign in the distance....

(D) Back to Sauzon and all realize the end is near. We eat dinner at a local café rather than aboard. It was OK but since this was our last night I think the close camaraderie in Maïna’s salon would have been more fitting – besides, we still have 5 bottles of Bernard’s wine!!

Fred slept most of the trip back since we put up the “iron jib” when becalmed outside Audienne. Fred draws no energy from anything but true sailing. So the motor, plus the offshore route offered nothing of interest.  Big swells and pods of dolphin were nice but nothing to see since we were well offshore until approaching Grois where Eric started taking pictures of big breakers with his telephoto lens.

Fred wants “to learn the motor” so we give her the helm once in the lee of Sauzon Harbor. Full astern for 30 seconds – full ahead – full astern. “OK enough.”

29 August – The Final Sail

(D) Late sleep today (0700) as we have only a short sail back. Café, toast with butter and jam and we’re off. Perfect sailing conditions and Fred is at the helm enjoying every moment.  Andrew’s GPS course adjustments take us safely through the narrows and we’re blowing past everything, including a catamaran that should be whipping us. We sail into La Trinite channel under full main and Genoa.

“It is more impressive that way”, says Fred.

Future Sailors Enjoying the Day

Closer, closer, closer and finally down with the sails. On the way in we pass six classes of sailing school flotillas with kids from age 8-9 through teenagers racing annexes, sloops and catamarans. No wonder the concern about image. As Fred maneuvers in the marina however, things are different and Catherine’s call for us to help gets our attention.

Finally, tied up at “M” dock. Bernard produces the bottle he has been saving for a celebration – red Bordeaux, ‘89 I believe. Many a toast to Maina, then beers followed by rum punch. None of us want to leave emotionally (but a shower and a dry bed would be fine). We spend three hours putting Maïna in Bristol condition and unload just in time to meet Jean, Francois, Anne and Eves.

Eve’s first reaction when coming aboard is “It’s a Parisian boat – electronics, electric winches, auto helm and GPS.” But now Fred took issue with that. Like the rest of us she doesn’t want to leave her.

“Tired?” No matter – aperitifs at local café, then a walk to dinner. Andrew and Eric have convinced most of us – Six steak poivre and frites!

During the hour plus drive back to Batz, Fred and I talk about her experiences at La Glennan School.  It immediately becomes clear why she feels and behaves as she does. All the sailing at the school is done under sail alone – no moteur! She’s sailed in and around Glenan in all weather, day and night and up the coast to the Channel Islands, Ireland and England all in a 27’ boat with a crew of 6-7. Their only concerns weather, wind and current. So they sail when they need to no matter the hour and adjust as they go. Whatever it took to beat the weather, wind, currents and the other boats.

(A) We head back to La Trinite to return the boat. Kind of mixed emotions about that. I’m half ready to get off and half wanting to keep sailing. But I know that I’m ready to get off because my navigating is starting to suffer. I think a day or two off with out 12 – 14 hours of sailing would solve that. If there is another trip I’d like to stay longer in port. I bet there’s a lot of cool places to go exploring. Oh, one more thing, we finally found the CD player!!