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Ushant - Inside or out?

Joined
20 Mar 2017
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78
Afternoon all,

We’re taking our boat from Falmouth La Rochelle in just under three weeks’ time (fingers crossed, this trip has obviously been a bit stop-start of late). It’s a one hit journey south but we’ll be taking our time on the return (I posted about that last year: Falmouth - La Rochelle with a month to get back ).

I’m beginning to consider the route south in more detail and note that there seems to be a considerable difference in opinion where Ushant is concerned, particularly whether to take the outside track (west) or the Chanel du Four on the inside. I’ve done this once but we were on passage from Bristol - Gib and were miles out to the west. I was leaning towards the outside route for the following reasons, but interested in opinions.

The westerly route -

Pros:

- Fewer tidal gates to time for

- We’ll be well clear of the nasty rocks

- Possibly less chance of poor vis

- I want to be well west of the Raz de Sein so this puts us in a good starting position

Cons:

- We’ll be cutting the TSS and ITZ relatively fine, though not actually entering either

- We’d make up a few miles over the inside track though it’s pretty negligible

- I suppose we might lose the benefit of some calmer seas in the lee of the islands

- We’d also lose the benefit of a fair tide if our Chanel du Four timings were spot on

The return trip north will definitely be via the Chanel du Four as we’ll be taking in Cameret and L'Aber Wrac’h.
 
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RobbieW

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On land for now
The conservative in me baulks at those crossing angles just E of the TSS. The other pluses would probably win out though as you want to do it one :) 2 to 3 days with decent breeze ?
 

dom

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OP,
Done this many times (albeit from Solent) and my advice would be to plan for both then go with the flow. You simply won't know where efficient routing will take you, especially in variable winds and/or with wind on the nose. If rough, stay outside, no question as the question of shelter is iffy at best and nasty seas can surround any safe pools.

Then again, if you see a perfect tidal opportunity opening up, if the seas are calm(ish) and if the crew fancies a break from the monotony of open sea, then the Chenal and Raz make for a wonderful scenic diversion, especially on a fine day when every manner of French craft is out and about! On the other hand, if you know the waters well, are light handed and feeling knackered, then perhaps stay out.

Whatever you want really; it's up to you.

That said, I would strongly advise fitting an AIS transponder - I know some here disagree - and in ADDITION I would fit/carry a decent radar reflector like an Echomax 230, or even better, a transponder. It can be like crossing the M25 outside Ouessant there and while technically outside the TSSs you need to be seen and seen well enough that a radar operator accurately discern your speed, heading, etc.

Fair winds and wishing you a fab crossing ! :)
 

doug748

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Plymouth
I think conditions on the day might dictate, a SW wind may be right on the nose for Ushant. Personally I would be aiming to go inside anyway, with guile you can tailor your arrival for a fairish tide and once through the Four you should be able to time the Raz for the next one.
There is nothing really to hit in either place except buoys and marks, there is more interest though and the seas will be less in fair conditions.

If it were motoring weather I might consider rounding Ushant just for the visit but as you don't want to stop that's out.
.
 

doris

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19 Jun 2001
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London
If the wind has left you in the Channel as you close Ushant the channel south of Isle d'Ushant is big and and easy way to duck a lot of traffic. Through that and then south and you almost have the best of both worlds.

In fact thinking about it, although I have usually stopped at Camaret or Brest, to plan to go into the top of the Four then out S of the Isle might be a good idea regardless. We went through that gap on the way to La Corunna last summer.
 
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dom

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If the wind has left you in the Channel as you close Ushant the channel south of Isle d'Ushant is big and and easy way to duck a lot of traffic. Through that and then south and you almost have the best of both worlds.

In fact thinking about it, although I have usually stopped at Camaret or Brest, to plan to go into the top of the Four then out S of the Isle might be a good idea regardless. We went through that gap on the way to La Corunna last summer.

Excellent tip if the wind is dying and the tidal gate is opening. The Passage du Fromveur which passes south of Ushant transaltes from Breton as "great current" and can run up to 9kts at springs. A great moving carpet if timed right, but can cut up even on calm days when a west setting tide encounters a significant SW swell. There was apparently a time the UK/Spanish Ferries required Coastguard pre-authorisation to sail it!

Ferries ply it all the time now as of course French yachts have always done. But it's worth being careful as with the Race of Alderney and other tidal races. And on a big tide, once you're in, YOU'RE IN 😬 :)
 
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Sybarite

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I've done that route about a dozen times and I have always taken the inside Chenal du Four and Raz de Sein. I haven't worked it out but as one must turn eastwards towards La Rochelle after passing the Pointe du Raz, I think you would be adding quite a bit of distance when passing outside the islands.

Also the way is badly paved west of Sein and you need to give it a wide berth. The lifeboatmen say 15km...

On a long trip such as you are planning I think it's worthwhile waiting a few hours for a tidal gate if that is necessary.

Only imho.
 

Koeketiene

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24 Sep 2003
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Brittany
Did the trip with previous boat in 2016.
Opted for the inshore option.

Crossed from Falmouth to L'Aberwrach and overnighted there.
Two days later we caught the tide and raced through Chanel Du Four with half a mind to stop at Camaret.
However, we were well ahead of schedule according to my calculations so we just kept going a nearly 7 kts.
About half a mile short of Raz du Sein we ran into a brick wall. Speed over the ground dropped from 6.k kts to 1.2 kts in less than 30 sec.
Even with the engine, SOG was never more than 2 kts.
Anyway I am nothing if not stuborn.
Pressed on and completed the trip L'Aberwrach -> Benodet in just under 17 hours.

So, yes, you can try to 'do' the Chenal Du Four and the Raz du Sein on one tide , but I wouldn't advise it.

Will be doing the same trip in the new boat in a week or two.
 
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trialframe

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4 Nov 2003
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190
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Weymouth UK
We've done that trip twice in our displacement Nordhavn - 6.5kn cruising speed. Left Falmouth around 10pm to pass to the west of the islands in the light. Hardly saw any traffic & it worked out well for us. Anchored off Ille D'Yeu for a few hours to get the timings right & then arrived at Ille de Re around 56 hours later.
 
Joined
20 Mar 2017
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78
Thanks everyone, some interesting points raised. It sounds as though either options are viable so we'll decide on the day. Our boat transmits and received on AIS, we have radar and a reflector so I'm happy with our own setup.
 

Fr J Hackett

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Grenoble
Done it several times from Plymouth and Falmouth, non stop I always chose the outside of Ushant , if stopping and time was not of the essence I chose the inside route. Neither is problematic.
 

Quiddle

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Eastern Atlantic seaboard
I've done that route about a dozen times and I have always taken the inside Chenal du Four and Raz de Sein. I haven't worked it out but as one must turn eastwards towards La Rochelle after passing the Pointe du Raz, I think you would be adding quite a bit of distance when passing outside the islands.

Also the way is badly paved west of Sein and you need to give it a wide berth. The lifeboatmen say 15km...

On a long trip such as you are planning I think it's worthwhile waiting a few hours for a tidal gate if that is necessary.

Only imho.
Also done it many times, always down the Le Four which is the route the UK-Spain ferries use unless the weather is so snotty you wouldn't want to make either passage in a smallish yacht.
 
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