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Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter

Paimpol, July 2009

A brief look through Classic Boat’s Calendar page revealed that Paimpol Festival was taking place in two weeks time so that was the party element sorted out! The destination also proved to be ideal because Gulnare had just been sold to Frenchman Christophe in Poole. Part of the sale agreement was that we would get her ‘up and running’, so the return trip would include the Channel Islands and a week in Poole - using Cariad as digs while the work on Gulnare was undertaken - followed by a cruise down the Southwest Coast and back round Lands End to Swansea.

The crew for the trip were duly recruited, James Clapp experienced sailor and expert vegetable grower and Alan Cooper first time sailor (dinner on Marguerite in Falmouth in the 1970’s not included) and master fiddle player. The Monday before Paimpol was set as a departure date from Milford Haven. The long term forecast was not to promising as the wind seemed to be very set in the South West but then out of the blue twenty four hours of North Westerly force 6 appeared which was too good to miss! Arrangements were hastily made to bring forward the departure to Saturday.

During a night of torrential rain and strong winds I began to question the wisdom of my decision, in the morning the wind as forecast went to the North West and we set off on what every one agreed was one of best sails of their lives!

By midnight we were rounding Longships at ten knots on a broad reach with quite large following seas. Cariad had not done this for many a year was loving every minute and so were the crew who had broad smiles on their faces! At this point I made the decision to keep on the same course and head for L’Aberwrach rather than the option of a direct run towards Paimpol. So the sail continued in much the same vein to within sight of the Bretagne coast where the wind left us and we motored in to L’Aberwrach before nightfall. All totally exhilarated!

I had shown the crew a picture of the Libentor buoy off the entrance from a very old pilot book and asked them to look out for it. The next day they returned from walk saying they had found it in the middle of a roundabout!

After a pleasant couple of days in L’Aberwrach - during which in was nice to see Marianne moored in the estuary - we continued our travels with another fantastic sail along the North Bretagne Coast with Southerly force 7 and flat seas to Treguier where we indulged in a now customary Fruit de Mer at the simple but good shellfish restaurant above the local poissinerie!

Next morning we made the short trip to a beautiful anchorage on the Trieux River where in the evening we enjoyed hospitality on the Baltic Trader Ruth where Brittany got it’s first taste of Alan’s amazing fiddle playing!

We awoke to torrential rain for the final leg to Paimpol we were enjoying ourselves to much to care, so spent the day tacking around the Bae de Paimpol hauling out Mackerel as we waited to lock in, while everyone else anchored and sheltered down below! Almost unbelievably this was Alan’s first experience of tacking, as the winds had been so perfect on the outward voyage!

After locking in at Paimpol we were faced with the scene of hundreds of boats vying for seemingly non-existent berths! A rather nerve-racking hour later we were safely rafted up and handed a glass of wine by our friendly Bretagne neighbours! This was to prove a relatively temporary berth - as we had not pre booked - we were rudely awakened each morning and asked to move to a more prominent position once Cariad’s historical value had been recognised!

So began three days of sea shanties, moule marinere, 24 hour drumming bands and some very good music among the numerous Bretagne shouting folk/punk crossover bands all washed down with a great deal of Bretagne cider!

It was my first visit to Paimpol Festival (although not the port itself) but because of tidal restrictions and the nature of the port sailing during festival was not really viable which left a peaceful walk along the coast as the only option to escape the incessant noise!

Having said that it was a fantastic event to which I am sure Cariad will return again. I must mention Alan’s wonderful fiddle playing which always drew a large audience wherever it was heard! On the final day James and Alan had to reluctantly leave to be replaced by Ken and Toby Briggs for the start of the homeward voyage.

After the excess of Paimpol it was a pleasure to retreat back to Treguier for a quiet evening – and more Fruit de Mer .

The trip back across the Channel was dogged by light winds and motoring but didn’t stop the enjoyment of the anchorages of Sark and Bray Harbour in Alderney, Ken got to navigate through the Alderney Race on his iPhone with it’s newly acquired chart system! (The passage had been worked out beforehand!)

The leg from Poole to Plymouth, Cariad’s first trip around Portland Bill for quite a few years I should imagine was a pleasant but uneventful affair undertaken with Ken and John Flint.

Anne Morris and John Bray (both regular Chloe May crew and John a veteran of Roger Capps Scandinavian exploits) joined us in Plymouth. A relaxing sail was had down to Penzance, calling at Fowey and because of the calm easterly conditions a wonderful night anchored off Mullion Cove where Cariad’s crab pots provided us with some crab sandwiches for lunch next day! After dropping the crew off in Penzance Ken and I caught the very early morning tide for Padstow.

A fantastic week was spent in Padstow making the most of the estuary and enjoining coastlines wonderful walks and enjoying a few portions of a well known restaurateurs fish ‘n’ chips! Until I was joined by the original crew James and Alan – now completely hooked on sailing! - and Ken for a short hop back to Swansea with just enough wind for an exciting sail! Thus rounding off Cariad’s first ‘proper’ cruise since her recommissioning.

Cariad had performed impeccably at all times and the confidence she inspired with her abilities bodes well for many future voyages.

A big thank you to all the crew who came along and it would be great to sail with you again.

Cariad’s trip to Paimpol was very much a spur of the moment decision, July was drawing in and I was looking for a good excuse for a cruise with the possibility of a good party along the way!

Paimpol July 2009

Paimpol Festival July 2009

by John Briggs, Photography Alan Cooper