As usual, I’m writing this at Christmas to summarise our sailing season. This will be the last time we post a blog, as Grey Wanderer is now with her new owners. We will miss her.
Grey Wanderer spent the winter of 2021/22 in the club yard near our home. Annual maintenance was completed, and she was re-launched in April. On the 25th we sailed her down to Gosport, and then returned home for a few days before setting off across the Channel. The plan was to return to the Channel Islands and North Brittany, to visit some old favourite places, and try a few new ones.
May 1st found us in Cherbourg to witness the annual workers parade. This was our first time with the new post-brexit immigration formalities. It was all fairly straightforward, albeit that you now have to enter and leave via a major port.
From Cherbourg we took a six hour sail down to Guernsey, and then a few days later on to St. Malo. All this of course required “checking out” of the EU and then back in again at St Malo. But once we’d worked out where to go, it was fairly easy. We locked into the Basin Vauban under the old walled city and enjoyed revisiting after many years. It bought back memories of being there with our kids on a previous boat 20 years earlier. From St Malo we made the trip through the Rance tidal barrage to the rural peace and tranquility of Plouer.
It was around this time that we started talking about what was going to come next in our sailing plans. This was our 9th season with Grey Wanderer. Did we still need such a big boat, with extended live-aboard capability, for the type of sailing we were likely to do in the next few years? After some debate, sadly we decided that this coming winter would be the time to seek a new owner for her.
Onwards from the Rance to St Cast, Portrieux St Quay, and the beautiful old town of Treguier.
So far, the weather had been kind and mainly in the east. But a change to stronger South Westerlies found us struggling against a rough sea state to round the next headland and continue west along the Brittany coast. Invoking “plan B.” we turned back and entered Lezardrieux. The marina there has been transformed recently, probably due to the need for wind farm vessel moorings. The whole place seemed much better than I remembered, and we had a nice few days there while it blew a bit.
I’d always wanted to visit the Ile de Brehat, so the visitor’s buoys at Corderie were the next stop. This is usually a very popular spot, but by using the Ovni’s shallow draft, we were able to find a spare buoy quite close in. We went ashore in the dinghy and enjoyed walking on the island. However, we were amazed by the number of people in the town square who had presumably arrived by tourist boat. It was quite overwhelming. Like being in central London!
Leaving the tranquility of our buoy on Brehat, we took the “back door” passage via the Chenals du Fertas and du Denou to Paimpol. This is one of those classic Brittany harbours where the tide recedes so far at low water that you can barely see the sea from the harbour wall. All very idyllic except for being directed to a berth within about 10 metres of a quay-side fun-fair, and having a self induced anchor chain tangle to sort out……
Then back to the huge marina at Portrieux St. Quay, where a fleet of the famous “Pen Duick” yachts, as skippered by French sailing legend Eric Taberlay, were on display to the public. All seemingly crewed by young people.
Our next stop was Binic, where we enjoyed the street market, and managed to recreate a photo from 20 years previously by mooring in the same place.
Down in the bay of St Cast lies Dahouet. Pretty, small, and with a narrow entrance. Not to be attempted in strong on-shore winds. We’d never been there, and as the weather was on our side again, it seemed like a good idea. Not much room, but definitely worth going.
Another place we’d always hoped to visit were the Isles Chausey. They sit north east of St Malo. We took in St Cast (again), St Servan and Granville before going there. Absolutely stunning. The fore and aft moorings are maintained by the local yacht club, no charge, you are just asked to leave the place as you found it. Our immediate mooring neighbour turned out to have been born in a village on the Rance where a friend of mine lived for many years. So it was nice to chat to him about sailing in the bay of St Malo and the Rance. The islands reminded us of Scilly. We saw dolphins on the way in, which just helped to make the whole visit very special.
Soon it was time to return to the mainland to get our passports stamped before leaving for the Channel Islands. We returned to St Servan to do this at the St Malo ferry terminal.
We had been warned that St Helier Marina, in Jersey, was temporarily closed, and moorings were in short supply. They weren’t wrong! We had one, mercifully quiet, night in a ridiculous 7 deep raft-up, and left next day for Sark. (I noted that the port authority hadn’t reduced the mooring fees whilst the marina was closed….)
We spent a scenic, but very rolly, night in Harve Gosselin, and then on to St Peter Port on Guernsey. We stayed on Guernsey for a week. Riding our bikes around the small tranquil lanes, getting lost, and circumnavigating the island by bus.
There was just one more stop, Alderney. We spent 6 days here. We’ve always loved Alderney. We rode on the little island train, walked, ate and drank well, and enjoyed ourselves before finally setting off to catch the big tidal push from the race towards the Solent again. By now it was the end of June.
There were a few friends and family outings during July and August, while we sought out a new owner for Grey Wanderer. We expected her to be on the market for a few months, and then maybe to sell over the winter. But thanks to the demand for Ovnis, and the good work of the UK Alubat Agents, Northsea Maritime, a deal was finalised by early September.
She’s been a fantastic boat, our home for extended periods, and a means of travel and adventure. We’ll miss her. She sails on under a new name and an Australian flag. Her new owners David and Frederieke have already sailed her to Holland, and have very exciting and ambitious plans for her future. We wish them the very best!
So that’s it. Another great sailing season, with some new destinations explored, but the end of an era for us, and maybe the start of some new and different sailing adventures !