Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

UK to Gibraltar

March to October 2001. Before the Blue Water Rally. UK, Channel Islands, Brittany, The Bay of Biscay, Spain, Portugal, Spain again

Sea Bunny left the UK in early April and spent three months fitting out in Guernsey.  The trip down to Gibraltar took us to the familiar cruising grounds of North Brittany and the new ones of South Brittany.  We crossed the Bay of Biscay from the River Vilaine to Bayona and continued down the spanish and Portuguese coasts.  After passing Lagos in the Algarve we were again in previously unvisited waters.  Leaving the boat in Vilamoura we had a few days with Richards's father and his partner Sybil who were on holiday and a few days exploring the River Guardiana, which forms the border between Portugal and Spain before the final run, via Cadiz to Gibraltar.

Leaving party- March 2001

Leaving party- March 2001

Shortly before setting off we had a farewell party for which our neighbours, David and Elaine, kindly let us use their house as ours had been stripped bare ready for letting.

Empty house

Empty house

The loft was packed with goodies in case we came back quickly.

We have to learn to live together in a very confined space. Not just for several weeks but, if all goes to plan, several years. There is going to be even more give and take for this to succeed.

We moved out of our house on to Sea Bunny on Thursday 29 March 2001, after a hectic two weeks following our return from a trip to India. A large amount of paperwork, most of it destined for the bin, came with us, as we had not had time to sort it out.

Stowing the boat and departure

Stowing the boat

After another frenetic day stowing everything on the boat, we are just about ready to set off as planned on the Saturday.

The weather is not auspicious as it is windy and showery. Family (daughter Catharine, son James with wife Jane and our grandson Josh) come to see us off but others, apart from David Jeffs from Channel Sailing Club, are put off by the weather, probably assuming we won't go.

We do, however, leave as scheduled, but only bound for Port Solent at the top of Portsmouth Harbour. Even this journey is not without incident. Our new engine, which has been running unevenly on the way over, fails as we approach the lock into the marina and we end up across the lock, sustaining some minor damage - not a good start. Over the next few days the fuel system will be extensively modified to try to prevent air getting in. This problem will not be solved finally until we are in Martinique in January 2002!

On the Monday we motor (by car) to Bath to attend the funeral of a close friend, younger than us. We also later hear that another friend, also younger than us, died on the Sunday. No doubt that we have made the right decision to go now, while we can.

With the weather, which remains foul, and the engine problems we modify our plans and take the car to Guernsey on the ferry on Thursday 5 April, returning on Saturday. We finally leave Port Solent for Yarmouth on the Sunday, crossing the channel to a virtually deserted Alderney on Monday and through the Swinge to Guernsey on Tuesday.



Sea Bunny arrives in Guernsey on Tuesday 10 April 2001, having sailed from Yarmouth early on Monday, staying over in Alderney.

Our berth is on a pontoon alongside the wall in the "local" and long-stay Queen Elizabeth II marina, where we remain for over three months, except for a short visit to the main visitors' marina when we host the Hallberg Rassy Owners Association Guernsey Rally in May.

In our berth in the long-stay Queen Elizabeth Marina we grow used to the texture and colour of the wall's stones and the rise and fall of the water according to the height of tide. Birds are, however, confused by the variation of height above the water and fly around in a daze,looking for their nest in the crevices!

In between this and the fitting out, shopping (Susan spends every day for a week in the Alliance cash-and-carry), varnishing and stowing of tins we do have a few moments of relaxation.

After much animated discussion Richard's equipment and jobs lists become a combined list of all needs. Susan quickly realises that 100 "joblets" are equal to one job on the list.

Visits and relaxation

Last riding lesson

Nik, our son, his wife Lou, and our daughter Catharine come to visit and we have two superb days out, including a horse drawn carriage ride to a lobster lunch at La Sablonnerie in Sark (much recommended) and a walking tour of Herm.

The HROA rally is almost a repeat of the same days out - we again go to La Sablonnerie (no lobster though) and to Herm. This seems to be generally appreciated.

We also host drinks on board when the Channel Sailing Club Spring Cruise visits.

The Guernsey observatory, well camoflaged in a wartime bunker, has open evenings on Tuesdays courtesy of the astronomy club. They have excellent equipment and we observe Mercury, the moon and a very remote star cluster.

Initially we try to have a two-day "weekend" each week, not necessarily on Saturday and Sunday. We start off well but as the jobs multiply and time available diminishes this is pruned somewhat!. Wednesdays are generally a part day off as we have horse riding lessons in the mornings and often lunch out.

On Liberation Day (2 days after VE day) we lend our flags of the world for the entertainment in the theatre. There is an excellent firework display.

UK visit

We have a short and hectic one-week trip back to the UK in June, taking the car back and visiting relatives before we leave Guernsey for Jersey, still finishing off jobs.


After a few days in Jersey, still finishing off jobs, we finally leave the Channel Isles on 20 July.

Tréguier to Vannes


We leave St Helier heading for Tréguier. It's a pleasant trip up the river in the evening but there is no room in the marina, so we anchor in the river below the town.

Returning to the boat one evening Susan loses her footing and falls into the water. With a strong tide running it is difficult to recover her. Fortunately the skipper of a nearby boat sees our predicament and comes to assist.

Our passage takes us from Tréguier to Bloscon, the ferry port for Roscoff to pick up Tricia Smith, a potential crew for one of the longer passages, who is joining us for a shakedown. That evening we head back to the marina in Trébeurden - the first place we haven't been to before. Heading west the next day we are aiming for l'Aberwrac'h. Niobe and Caron from the Channel Sailing Club are on a buoy there but there is no room for us so we continue up river to Paluden, where we spend several days fixing cowls, making frames for the gas bottles and sewing.

Moving west we pass down the Chenal du Four to Camaret, where we pick up one of the visitors' buoys and stay a couple of days before moving up the Rade to the Moulin Blanc marina.

Tricia leaves us on the bus back to Roscoff and later that day we are joined by Bill Smith, a potential crew for the Atlantic crossing. After a day shopping and doing jobs we move on towards Loctudy, but make such good time that we end up going up the river Odet and anchoring up above Benodet. More jobs the next day and then on to Lorient, where we berth on a ferry jetty and have to leave by 0800, so we move on to La Trinité sur Mer for a couple of days and then a lovely sail broad reaching in a fresh breeze under genoa, into the Morbihan and up to Vannes, where the marina is in the centre of town, through a lock.

Vannes to La Roche Bernard

Washerwomens' houses - Vannes

Bill leaves the next morning so we are on our own again. After a day's sightseeing, including a trip on le petit train, we head out into the Golfe du Morbihan and anchor off the Ile des Moines for three days of jobs, without going ashore at all.

Moving on again, we leave the Golfe and go into Port du Crousty just outside the entrance. Our friends Barry and Mary, from Channel Sailing Club, who moved to France several years ago, join us for a typical 4-hour French lunch.

River Vilane

La Roche Bernard

After a couple of days we move on to La Roche Bernard, up the River Viliane, another locked river. As we moor off the marina Barry, who is visiting a friend and happens to have the harbourmaster on the next boat, directs us to a vacant berth. The next day Barry and Mary collect us for a tour of the local countryside and a visit to their home at Nazareth. The next evening we join them for a meal at a local restaurant. There are a lot of English boat owners here - it's very cheap compared to the UK. Many of them seem to winter in Spain where they have villas.

We read on the notice board that there is no fuel available at Arzal, the marina by the lock and, as our next leg is across the Bay of Biscay, we need some. We decide to head up the river through rural France to Redon, where there is supposed to be fuel. This is confirmed by the harbourmaster when we get there, but when we are ready to fill up the next day he discovers that his tank is empty.

In Redon we go to the post office to post the back-up information for our UK tax returns to our accountant in the UK. Unfortunately we send originals and do not keep copies. The package is never seen again!

After this 2-day diversion, when we get back to the marina at Arzal there is now fuel again so we stay overnight, filling up with fuel and water before passing through the lock to anchor at Tréhigiuer near the mouth of the river, ready to set off across the Bay.

Bay of Biscay - Tréhiguier to Bayoña

We drop the mooring at Tréhiguier on the River Vilaine at 0955 on Thursday 23 August 2001 for the first long passage of the trip and our first overnight passage of the year. With light winds from the south our route takes along the south Britanny coast close to the Presqu'Ile de Quiberon and north of the Ile de Houat and of Belle Ile before turning southwest.

Our third crossing of the Bay, the first in Sea Bunny, is fairly uneventful, as the other two were. We see dolphins and even some whales. The whales passed some distance behind the boat, too far for a decent photograph.

As we approached the Spanish coast we ran into fog, fairly thick, with visibility down to 50 at times. At first the fog was accompanied by 25-knot headwinds.

The fog remained with us for twenty-four hours, except for a half -hour period as we approached the Ria de Vigo when we could see the light high up on the Isles de Cies. It cleared as we entered the Ria, so we could see the buoys, but not the leading marks, which are well hidden in shore lights (not many yachties see them!),

A few years ago meeting fog after four days at sea while approaching a steep-to coast would have meant remaining at sea until it cleared, as there is no way we could have been sufficiently certain of our position. These days, with GPS and radar we knew our exact position and could carry on with confidence. Even so we were glad it cleared for the final approach.

As we rounded the breakwater into Bayoña at 0130 and were deciding where we could pick up a buoy or anchor until daylight we were approached by the boatman for the Monte Real Cub Nautico de Bayoña (the Royal Yacht Club) asking whether we wanted a buoy or a marina berth. When we opted for the marina we were led to a berth and there was someone else on the pontoon to take our lines. What a service in the small hours of the morning!

After the first real offshore passage we were very pleased with the boat and the new systems. It seemed most of the teething troubles had been sorted out. Well, optimism isn't a bad thing!

Bayona to Nazarre


While we ate quite a lot of seafood on our way down, we never again saw the mountainous platters that were being served up in the restaurants in Bayona.

We spent a week in Bayona before heading off down the Spanish and Portuguese coasts in day sails. The route took us across the border into Portugal to the new marina at Pavoa do Varzim. After a couple of days there servicing the two heads (toilets), when invitations to the crew of other boats to join us for drinks were generally declined when they observed the work in progress in the cockpit! We never knew there are so many bits to a loo!

We carried on to Figuera da Foz and then to Nazare

Nazare is a spectacular town with half of it at the top of the cliffs and the other on a coastal plain. The harbour is on a fault line and we were off soundings until virtually at the pier head. We spent a couple of days there and took in a bullfight with Mike and Jeanette from Dutch Link, who were also to join the Blue Water Rally, and their crew Richard and Fiona. In Portugal the bull is not killed in the ring as it is in Spain. One visit is enough though!

Nazarre to Vilamoura

On down the coast to Cascais to pick up Keith, another potential crew member for the Pacific. On September 11 we got a message on Satcom that the Captain of the Port of New York had closed the port! It was some hours later that we learnt the full horror of the reasons for that closure.

All the American boats took their ensigns down and the occupants became very subdued.

Keith was with us from Cascais, to Sesimbra, where we took advantage of a measured distance to calibrate the log, to Sines and then around Cape St Vincent (less windy than our last rounding in 1996) to Portimao and then on to Vilamoura.

Vilamoura and family reunion

Vilamoura family reunion

Keith left us in Vilamoura, having decided he would not join us later.

We took a few days off to join Richard's father and Sybil in a hotel up in the hills and drove them down for their first visit to Sea Bunny.

River Guardiana

Flag repairs

With the interlude over and having decided we did not have time to go up River Guadalquivir to Seville, we carried on westward along the Algarve coast to Vila Real de San Antonio, the Portuguese town on at the mouth of the River Guadiana which forms the border with Spain.

Alcoutim and Sanlúcar de Guardiana


Up the river we spent a couple of days on a mooring off the village of Alcoutim. Here we have the choice for shopping or restaurants of taking the dinghy 50 metres to the jetty in Alcoutim (Portugal) or marginally further to the slightly larger village of Sanlúcar (Spain). One evening we had dinner with a fellow yachting couple who had experienced the river in flood. Their boat was being swept down-river at 8 knots while motoring upstream at 8 knots until they succeeded in mooring to an olive tree! When we headed further upstream the next day, anchoring in the river in a rainstorm this story dictated against a good night's sleep, given the debris around..

Apparantly both the Spanish and Portuguese opened sluice gates on their dams simultaneously without coordinating their actions.


Ayamonte to Gibraltar


Heading back down river a night at Ayamonte on the Spanish side of the river mouth was followed by a trip along to Mazagon and then to El Puerto de Santa Maria and a day in Cadiz, followed by a day attempting to resolve a problem with air in the diesel lines.

Next was Barbate and another day with the same problem.

Moving on we are off Tarifa when we again have engine failure just as we are crossing the path of the fishing fleet heading for port at full speed and on our starboard side, with right of way. We just avoid them.



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