|Quay flowers, Chateaulin|
Chateaulin lived up to our first impression of friendliness. Quite a few people paused to chat with us on their way along the waterside and the nice lady at the Town Hall waived the very modest berthing fee because the key we were given for the toilets didn't work, though the one for the showers was fine. We were very pleased to find a Lidl just up the hill where we could stock up some essentials and a crepe stall at the market where we could chomp our favourite galette complete (cheese, ham and egg).
A very interesting and friendly chap, Didier, who had spoken to us a couple of times in passing, invited us to his flat for a glass of vino and a chat. He's Breton, a cabinet maker and sailor, 54 years of age and a widower of 3 years. Children grown and moved away. It was his name day, St. Didier's, and he was delighted to welcome us into his home. When we mentioned that we found the townspeople friendly, he demurred slightly, and it's a point worth making that the French seem to be generally quite reserved. Super polite, normally forthcoming with a smile and a greeting and a few words in passing, but then very slow to move on to the next stage of developing a friendship. So it happens that a decent, charming and skilled person like Didier, living in this over-populated world of ours, can be lonely. We were more than happy to spend some time with him and help him celebrate his name day.
Chateaulin also provided free wifi, and intensive examination of the GRIB files seemed to show a window for progress to the north opening up in about 3 day's time, but first some nastiness had to blow through, as usual. We decided to take the afternoon ebb down the river and spend another couple of nights at the super sheltered anchorage there, placing ourselves in a good position to catch the tide right for our sail out of the Rade de Brest and make the connexion into the Chenal de Four. All very intricate and interconnected.
|Cute Aulne-side cottage|
|Full moon, big tides|
We invited them aboard for refreshments and had a good chat before they headed ashore to try the restaurant (the one building visible nearby). Possibly it wasn't open, because they were soon spotted returning to their vessel. Unfortunately they were soon joined by a French Customs launch and we knew the chances were pretty slim that we wouldn't be next. The Customs lads spent a long time aboard our neighbours' boat and we wondered how thorough a going over we were going to get. We'd heard one or two horror stories about French Customs and, with the boat pretty well stuffed full of gear, a deep search could be a messy business.
In due course, the Customs RIB came alongside. Their craft was almost bigger than Fettler and three of the four burly chaps on board stepped down onto our deck, after receiving permission to do so. They were affable and seemed pleasantly surprised to be addressed in French - a good start. Passports and boat documents out of the way, they asked us about our trip. Seemingly we were flagged up on their computer as we had been in the Azores recently - a classic drug-smuggling route into Europe.
I could see the eldest of the team signalling to the boss with a shake of the head: He'd clearly decided we were clean. Boss wanted to be a bit more thorough though, so Senior went down below and had a chat with Sonja (half heartedly looking under a sail bag or two when prompted by the boss), while Boss himself peered into the cockpit lockers. It was all over within a quarter of an hour, with obvious goodwill on both sides. Senior was heard to say to Boss (in French), "They are what the English call 'cute'."
|Early departure, former neighbours visible at the anchorage|
|Deep in the Rade|
This was only half an hour after low water, but already there were 3-4 knots of current running against us, making a long haul of that mile and a half to Conquet. Once inside, everything was suddenly calm, sunny and warm. We worked our way in amongst the crowd of big fishing boats, looking for an unoccupied mooring, finally settling on one right back in the inside corner by the bottom of the slip. A shouted query to a crab fisherman sorting his catch on shore (aided by his wee boy, identically kitted out in yellow oilskin trousers and blue jersey) confirmed that we could stay where we were without putting anybody out. No charge either.
|Full spectrum of fishing boats at Le Conquet|
It was a civilised noon start to catch the tide up through the Chenal, this time motoring into a very light northerly breeze (forecast westerly), giving us a mostly smooth passage to Aber Benoit. Even under those benign conditions, the spring tidal current produced some impressive effects with rips, races and eddies here and there along the way.
|Rather rocky around the Four|
|Glad the current was going our way|
|Not as nice as it looks in this photo: Aber Benoit|
|On the trot at Paluden|
|We're getting back into the big tides: 7m|