Cruising to Saint Malo & Navigation

Trip Start Jun 05, 2009
Trip End Aug 21, 2009

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Flag of France  , Brittany,
Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leaving Cherbourg

Yesterday was such a nice sunny day that I was hoping it would last, although I knew it wouldn't. The ocean looked a lot calmer today even though the wind was still blowing at about 9 knots from the West. Today we were scheduled to cruise from Cherbourg, around the tip of the peninsula past Guernsey and a few dozen other islands in the English Channel to the port in Saint-Malo. It's become a tradition now that whenever we leave or arrive in a port, marina or harbor that my dad and I, and any guests will sit out on deck. This morning was nice enough that as we eat breakfast on the upper aft deck, the crew cast off the mooring lines and "set sail" (in our case, sped up the motors) and began our voyage. After breakfast my cousin, Wesley, and I went up to the sun deck where we checked our email and surfed the web as we pulled out into the channel. Once out in the channel further, it began to get cold so we decided to fill up the hot tub and soak ourselves warm again. It fills up and heats up fast, so in no time we were chatting about our adventures over the past week and watching the beautiful Normandy countryside slowly pass.

Still too cold for Water Sports

Once we made the turn to head south into the bay, the sea was beginning to look quite calm on the lee side of Guernsey. Since Wesley had grown up with about every engine-bearing toy imaginable, he was anxious to get out and show me his skills. But with the weather being bad since he arrived, we hadn’t had the chance to. We wanted to pull out the two jet-skis and ride along as the yacht continued its course towards Saint Malo, still several hours away. The Second Mate was at the helm and she called the bosun to prepare to launch the jetskis. Then she nearly stopped the yacht as the bosun began the launch. The tenders and the jet skis are stored in the garage, is located on the lower deck, above the waterline, and between the engine room and the stern deck. In order to get anything out of the garage, you first have to lower the large bulk head, kind of like a swinging garage door that open out and down, instead of up and in. The bulk head then creates a platform for the tender to be launched from. Once Wesley and I were standing down on the platform , feeling the wind and watching the waves put up over the platform, we quickly changed our mind about jet skiing today.

Hanging out on the Bridge

So, now what to do. There is plenty to do in doors, but it was beautiful outside so we wanted to stay for the view. We decided to hang out in the Bridge, which is where the Captain and the crew operate the yacht from. There are many monitors, controls and gauges everywhere. I’ve never really spent much time on the bridge, but with the most commanding views and a large red leather couch, it didn’t take long for us to settle in. The captain was taking care of business in his office and at the helm was the Second Mate. She is from South Africa and has spent most of her life living beside the ocean and on boats. She seemed kind of shy to me and was usually quite quiet. Wesley, like my dad, is always very social so it didn’t take her long before they began talking about growing up in South Africa, being a female sailor, and growing up black in a post-apartheid South Africa. It sounds like a serious talk, but it wasn’t we were constantly finding things to laugh about and just having a good time.

A Class in Modern Navigation

Eventually we got onto the topic of how she was steering the yacht since we hadn’t seen her actually touch the wheel yet the yacht had done a series of turns. She asked if we wanted her to show us how it all worked, which we eagerly agreed to. Everything she showed us was all connected to the navigation software. The screen looked like a nautical chart and all the sensors on board were connected to this computer. It was connected to the GPS, Global Positioning System, wind sensors, thermometer, barometer, and radar. They every three hours they would receive an updated weather report that would also be loaded in to the software. This was enough information for the navigation software to follow the yacht as it moved across the sea and to predict what they yacht would do in its environment. From creating a “track” on the software, the yacht could adjust its steering and speed to stay on the selected course.

She then taught us about weather, wind, tides and currents and how these factors affect the vessel. No wonder they had to have so much training and experience to do their jobs. They made pulling into little ports look so easy. I had no idea that they were contending with tides, currents and wind as much as they were, as well as other boats around us.

Mont Saint-Michel

What an incredibly unique place. When I heard we were going to yet another church, I wasn't excited in the least. But while we were driving up to it and saw it ahead of use, I quickly changed my opinion. There was a lot of the usual tourist stuff but it wasn't hard to get away and explore the island via narrow lanes and hundreds of steps. The abby courtyard was a nice quiet retreat and the entire place was enjoyable to climb around and explore, although somewhat exhausting.


We explored Saint-Malo this evening and walked out to the end of the jetty. This walled city is beautiful and an enjoyable place to visit.
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