Brest to Bristol

M5 motorway bridge, Avonmouth, Bristol.

M5 motorway bridge, Avonmouth, Bristol. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Landsat 7 image of the Bristol Channel

English: Landsat 7 image of the Bristol Channel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flying from Leeds Bradford is always a pleasure. Whether morning or night a Guinness and a bacon sarnie are vital to the beginning of every delivery. There is nothing better than small airports,  5 mins through security…10 mins onto the plane. Two airports, Southampton then Brest within a few hours.

John, owner of Bristol Steel Yachts, met us at the airport in his Peugeot 306, you’d never imagine he was who he is. Extremely grounded, very straightforward and ‘normal’. Perhaps there are more people in the yachting industry that are like us, but its rare that we meet them. Anyway, he talked us through the approach to the Avon and Bristol on the drive down to Marina du Chateau, quickly, he obviously knew it extensively.

“You’ll be alright in Bristol Channel, but you’ll run aground in the Avon”

Wow, we knew this would be tough, but hearing this from John confirmed everything. There is only a few hours of the day you can approach Avonmouth. Even then, its tough to get to. You’ve got to be at Culver Sands at exactly HW-3 Avonmouth. That way you approach on a rising tide and gives you time to get up the river as as far as the lock. The entire river dries out, so its imperative you get it right, missing the lock can be a big problem.

Departure time at Brest is also governed by a tidal gate.
To get through the Chanel du Four you need to leave a Brest 2 hours before LW Brest (7am French Time for us) . This gives you advantageous tide all the way through, however it does make passage planning complicated going forward. There’s a right time to get to Lands End and only one time to get to Culver Sands.
With our departure time set, tidal strategy became a lot more complicated.

Luckily, from Brest to Lands end is about 24 hours at 5kts. This put us at Lands End  at HW Dover HW-3. This when an in inshore backeddy begins setting North. We were 2 hours early, but two hours gained is two hours gained. We struggled against the tide for a few hours then began  to slingshot around the Cornish Coast.
And what a slingshot, averaging 8kts we moved up the coast.
We could be at Culver Sands a tidal gate early!!

Its on that morning that we came face to face with the reality of life at sea. You just simply can’t go to the shop when you want or need. Out of rolling tobacco, there were no options. We just had to live with it.
Douglas and I both bit our lips. THIS WOULD BE TOUGHER THAN EXPECTED!
Head down, concentrate on something else!
Well Luckily, we had some of the toughest nav in the world to deal with! The tidal range at Avonmouth is 2nd highest in the world.

Regardless of on board sniping, thanks to the distinct lack of nicotine, we kept pushing hard. John mentioned  that “Hartland Point is a Bastard” to get past. Sure enough it was!

3-4 kts of tide against made it impossible to get to Culver Sands for the new target time (3am). We missed it by only 2 hours!!!!!!!

Now came the unenviable task of waiting around in the Bristol Channel until the next window. 10 hours from then!
We put the bow into the most prevalent force, the tide, the engine in tickover and proceeded to wait it out.

We made sandwiches with the rest of the food on board and cleaned everything twice over. Getting the yacht clean and ready for the owners is part of every delivery and this was a handy opportunity to get it done whilst on passage.

Gliding towards the Avon at 10 kts was quite an experience. Approaching a 1/4 cable wide entrance with 5-6 kts of tide ripping through was quite exhilarating. I decided to put the bow into tide and try ferry glide in, this would reduce the speed and momentum of our 30t yacht as we approached.

All that was left was the motor up the river Avon, a lock, parking and then handover. John and Di were delighted with the way we handled the delivery. And I look forward to future business with them.
Of all the complexities with sailing a 60ft Gaff Cutter the one thing that stood out to us was not the complicated running rigging or long keel. But the paraffin stove! Getting it alight was probably the biggest challenge of the whole thing!


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