At Anchor and Ashore in

from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...

It's Monday 23 July 2001 and we're at anchor in Camaret-sur-Mer. We're woken at 0830 hours by a knocking on the hull. It's a French official in an inflatable dinghy who hands us an 'Entry Form', which has to be filled in 'maintenant'. We complete the form, showing our intention to stay for two nights, and explain that we cannot pay until we have been ashore to the bank.

He assures us this is not a problem and he will be back later to collect the 133 francs total (about £13) for the two nights - very reasonable compared to England.

The sun is shining so we have a leisurely breakfast, sitting in the cockpit and listening to music on a French radio station.

Time to go ashore. We lower the outboard motor on to the dinghy using the starboard runner as a crane. This works really well but there is still some room for improving the technique.

We motor into the inner Marina and soon find a suitable place to leave the dinghy on one of the pontoons and then head for the bank.

It's closed on a Monday but Dick successfully withdraws money from the 'hole in the wall' using his 'Switch' card.

First stop, the nearest bar for 'deux biere blonde'. We buy two postcards at the bar to send to Mum, one of which is a map of the area and is ringed 'nous sommes ici', and write them while we drink our beer.

We pass the post office on route through the back streets and head out to the local headland 'Pointe de Pen Hir'. We have walked as far as the war museum on previous visits (which we will pass) but have never made it to this particular headland.

the cliffs at Camaret-sur-Mer

We reach the cliff-tops and they are as we expect quite stunning. The views are magnificent and we can see the beaches all around the coast.

This is a local landmark, attracting a number of people and yet there is no commercialism here, no ice-cream vans or cafes.

I'm always impressed by how unspoiled the Brittany coastline is and also how dangerous; there are no warnings of potential hazards; one has to just take care. We notice green and brown lizards darting over the rocks running for cover as we get near.

The countryside is covered with gorse, ferns and pink heather and there are butterflies galore flitting around us.

Dick's toe is still very sore from the 'French Yacht' incident and we keep to the road on the way back rather than the uneven tracks where we have been walking. The houses we pass are all very different and seem to face any direction with no set pattern. I've remembered Camaret well, I've always liked it and it still fills me with pleasure when I walk here. We pass the little pub with the tartan interior (the pub is difficult to see with all the ivy growing over it) and I'm disappointed to find that it is closed.

We head back to Camaret and the nearest bar for some mineral water for me and a beer for Dick, we should know by now how long our walks can be and remember to carry water. There is no excuse because I have started to carry a rucksack on my back. This proved most useful for carrying the bottles of wine we bought at the local '8 au Huit' supermarket. Carrying the weight on your back is so much easier and lighter than carrying by hand.

We bought beer and water (all heavy) and we also bought some fresh sardines from the local fishmonger. We carried our load to the town slipway close to the supermarket, and I waited while Dick fetched the dinghy and picked me up then we headed back to Alacazam.

The weather has been lovely all day and at 2030 hours we settled down in the cockpit to a wonderful meal of grilled sardines with watercress, salad vegetables and a Breton salad (a sort of a fish and potato coleslaw) accompanied by a delicious very flavoursome white wine called 'Coteaux du Layon' (33 francs). We shall buy this again. We relax for a while before going to bed. Dick is already fast asleep but I write up this journal and then watch the stars for a while (they are fantastic) before I too retire for the night.

Tuesday, 24th July 2001

We both sleep in until 0930 hours. I cannot believe how relaxed we are becoming. I potter around doing house (I mean boat) work while Dick checks the tape around the split-pins on every stanchion. He believes that he split his toe by catching it on one of the split-pins.

We go ashore in the dinghy to check out the weather forecast. It is fair but we decide we will stay one more day at anchor in Camaret and set out for Spain late afternoon tomorrow. We walk around to the East Quay to look at the hull of an 'Open 60' class yacht that we had noticed earlier from Alacazam. It badly needs a refit but apparently (according to Derek, anchored next to us) it has been there for a couple of years now in just the same state.

rotting wooden hulks on the foreshore in Camaret-sur-Mer, in Brittany, north-west France

The bank is closed for lunch so instead of changing my English money as hoped, I try out my 'Delta' card in the 'hole in the wall', as for Dick the day before, it easily dispenses Francs.

We decide to eat ashore and take our time choosing somewhere to eat. We feel we have made a good choice when the 'Marmite de Poisson' (a fish casserole with rice and new potatoes) accompanied by a 1/2 litre of red wine and a carafe of water) is just delicious at only 116 francs. The bank is now open and we are pleasantly surprised to find out that the exchange rate is 10 francs to the £ (we had been allowing for 8 to 9). Four more bottles of wine and some fresh vegetables later and we return to Alacazam.

Derek and Alison (from Kalida, the yacht moored next to us) are on board their yacht so we invite them to join us on Alacazam for a drink when they are ready. An hour later they arrive on board to find us both fast asleep in the cockpit (unbelievable).

Derek and Alison live in Gweek, near Falmouth although originally he is from the Midlands and she from Ireland. They had spent some time sailing the Rias in Spain and we went through the Pilot book marking off notable places that they recommended we should visit. Also, in 1994, they had spent two years cruising the Caribbean and the coast of Venezuela and were able to offer some good tips as well as a few good yarns.

We drank a couple of bottles of wine and nibbled a large packet of nuts before they had to leave us (they were dining ashore and had booked the restaurant for 2000 hours). We had enjoyed their company, Dick and Derek having a similar sense of humour and Alison and I agreeing that 'we had heard it all before'! We had a few moments distraction as they were leaving when we spied a nude Dutchman standing in all his glory on the back of his yacht (moored in front of us).

For dinner I cooked a pasta Bolognese followed by a 'Far Breton', my French treat. I can only describe it as an egg custard (without pastry) with prunes. After dinner the 'Motorola' helpline phoned and tried to help Dick with the email problems but unfortunately Dick still could not get it to work.

We watched the sun set; it was really quite dramatic tonight before an early night to bed.

Wednesday, 25th July 2001

Dick got up early as he was expecting another phone call from Derek (the Motorola Helpline) at 0830 hours. At 0915 he had not called but as the Marina fuel barge is only open for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, Dick had to leave to buy fuel.

It wasn't until he had left that it dawned on me that it was only 0815 in England. The fuel is more expensive than Dick had thought at 5.63 francs per litre (i.e. 56 pence) and he bought 120 francs worth. Derek phoned on time and changed a few things on the computer but still we cannot get the email to work. He'll phone back later to see if everything is OK (but he didn't).

I'm starting to get bitten by insects (possibly on board), two bites on my hand and one on my face. I seem to be allergic to bites as one I received on my arm two days ago has decided to turn septic and is looking quite nasty.

We take a last visit ashore for a shower and a beer to use up the last of our French money and visit the hotel in the square that always appeals to us. The owner cannot speak English and even though we explain that we can only speak a little French she manages to hold quite a conversation with us. She and her husband had bought the hotel in 1976 but at the end of the summer were retiring and staying at Camaret which they loved. Her son had married an Italian from Capri and they were living in Margate in England. We explained to her what we were doing and she was delighted that we had retired too.

We had two francs left so bought a postcard as a start to our collection.

'First Time Atlantic Crossing', an ebook by Mary Swift recounting what sailing across an ocean with your best beloved is really like.

First Time Atlantic Crossing

The day-by-day account of a cruising couple's first Atlantic crossing

Download It Here!

We had a quick lunch on board and were just about ready to leave at 1650 in order to catch the tide in the 'Raz de Sein'. Derek and Alison on Kalida were planning to set off to Bayonne at roughly the same time, but at the last minute decided against it. They had even stowed their dinghy away in preparation for the off.

They had only three weeks leave and were suddenly feeling lazy and realized that there was so much to explore in the Bais of Brest and Douarnenez. Their only regret was that they would not meet us on their way back from Bayonne. We exchanged email addresses and look forward to possibly seeing them in Grenada at Christmas.

We were continuing our preparations to leave when we heard a knock on the hullside. Derek and Alison had re-launched their dinghy and rowed across bearing gifts, a bottle of wine, a box of biscuits and an egg timer for the person on watch to use to allow 15 to 20 minutes of sleep. They had sensed that we are committed to this voyage (as they had been) and wanted to wish us well. Such really nice people; I feel sure we will meet them again.

We wave our goodbyes and set off for Spain. I've have put the French books away for a while it is Spanish that I need to learn now.

Next: Crossing the Bay of Biscay

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