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Piers and Lin du Pré are the owners of the Fleming 55 Play d'eau, based in Beaucette Marina, Guernsey in the Channel Islands at N49° 30’.197 W002° 30’.350.

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Leg 16 – Pornic to La Roche Bernard – 20 August 2013

The falling spring tide would bring today’s special challenges.

The gorgeous 23m yacht Copihue
left Pornic half an hour before us
click to enlarge

La Vilaine River

La Roche Bernard is some 10nm up the beautiful La Vilaine river. Just beyond midway is the Arzal lock and the 1400 écluse would be perfect – if the planning allowed it.

The nav plan

The first challenge was the time to leave Pornic before the spring tide had fallen to a level where the silted marina approach channel would be too shallow for our safe exit to the Baie de Bourgneuf.

The second was the mouth of La Vilaine which has sand bar 2nm long at its ‘embouchure’ reducing depth only 0.5m above chart datum.

Planning showed that if we left Pornic as the latest safe time and kept our speed to 7kts (using one engine only to save servicing time) we’d arrive at the mouth to La Vilaine as the tide was on the rise giving us an extra 1.5m above chart datum. Adding that to the chart’s 0.5m would give 2m. Since Play d’eau’s draft is 1.52m, she’d have 48cms under her keel.

We motored through a shoal (a wobble?) of these huge 2′ diameter jelly fish
click to enlarge

Well, that was the theory which we knew would be subject to many factors such as additional silting, atmospheric pressure, wind effect and so on, but we could test this as we approached the mouth by monitoring chart soundings against the depth sounder. Dead slow at this point just in case.

The weather

A NE F3, clear skies and excellent visibility greeted us when we woke at 0630. Even if the wind had been much stronger it wouldn’t have mattered since the land would be there to protect us.

Preparation included Lin going to the Capitainerie to use their wi-fi (wee-fee) to download emails only to find the Capitainerie wasn’t open but the laundry was. Perching the laptop on the washing machine – ‘le wee-fee marshed’ as they say in French.

The journey

Lin took Play d’eau off her berth at our ETD of 0754 and manoeuvred her towards the entrance. A sharp turn to starboard took us into the approach channel, the depth was just right, and we were into the Baie de Bourgneuf.

Approaching Arzal lock, about half way from the sea to La Roche Bernard
click to enlarge

Travelling close to the Jade Coast our journey took us past the Pointe de St Caldas and into the Grande Rade de La Loire.

Crossing the approach channel to St Nazaire Lin was reminded of her Dad’s involvement on the raid on the lock gates of the Normandie dry dock in WW2. He was on the hunter destroyer, HMS Atherstone, and his account of the Atherstone’s involvement differs significantly from that in the text books….he lived to tell the tale and have five children, one of which, of course, was Lin.

From Point du Croisic with its shoal of jelly fish (or is it a ‘wobble’?) to Piriac-sur-Mer, we passed the small bird sanctuary and mussel farms of Île Dumet to port before heading for the mouth of La Vilaine.

The whole journey was so, so pretty.

’Bonjour La Vilaine’

At her shallowest point, La Vilaine’s sand bar gave us 1m clearance below Play d’eau’s keel. We thanked her.

We entered the Arzal lock stopping before the lifting bridge took our mast off!
click to enlarge

La Vilaine is a beautiful river. Leaving the mussel farms behind and the dark green tree lined banks ahead, we wove our way towards the lock at Arzal.

Arzal Lock

The timing worked. The lock was open as we approached and the lights were green. We entered, stopping before the road bridge which spanned the lock. We looped the hanging chains with our warps and a few minutes later we began the 2m rise.

Given Play d’eau’s air draft, the lifting bridge was raised and we exited.

Arriving

The next 4nm to La Roche Bernard reminded us of the beauty of La Sein when we cruised to Paris in Play d’eau in 2004. For sake of repeating ourselves, the river’s beauty has to be seen to be believed.

The lifting bridge had to be raised before we were able to exit the lock
click to enlarge

Given our length we had to moor on the visitor’s pontoon which itself is moored in the river. Access to the shore is by a small dory and pulling a rope on a pulley system. The 200m journey takes for ever, is hugely exhausting but the macho in a chap prevents fatigue from showing.

The tecky details

Departed Pornic – 0754
Arrived Arzal lock – 1355
Departed Arzal lock – 1415
Arrived La Roche Bernard – 1448
Time on passage – 6hr 54min
Total planned distance – 45.8nm
Tides: Spring
Longest leg – 11.9nm from SE Lambarde SCM to Pointe du Croisic
Tech issues – nil
Incidents – nil
Navigational info: La Vilaine carries considerable amounts of silt, mainly mud. The marker buoys are moved often to reflect this, and the chart bears no relation to reality.

Piers and Lin
From the Nav Table of
Play d’eau
Fleming 55

You can get in touch with us any time by using our Contact Form.

La Vilaine river between Arzal and La Roche Bernard
click to enlarge

La Vilaine river between Arzal and La Roche Bernard
click to enlarge

La Vilaine river between Arzal and La Roche Bernard
click to enlarge

Vedettes ply La Vilaine
click to enlarge

There are some lovely houses on La Vilaine
click to enlarge

The dory links the pontoon with the shore.
You pull on the rope and pull yourself along – exhausting!
click to enlarge

2 comments to Leg 16 – Pornic to La Roche Bernard – 20 August 2013

  • Hil

    Hi Piers and Lin,I am having great fun catching up on your adventures-and what adventures!The jellyfish-a bloom,a swarm,a brood,a smack,a smuck,a stuck,a smuth or my favourite,a fluther! so there!The views are beautiful and what fun to have to have the lifting bridge lifted!(did you have to pay for that?).Lots of love,H x x

    • Hi Hil. I love ‘fluther’. No charge for the liftingh bridge since it’s all part of the service funded by the government as in the UK. Just arrived in L’Aber Wrach’h and may go to Roscoff tomorrow. Will update the website as soon as we have a moment. Big hugs to one and all. Piers

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