The chart state the following about the “Raz”.
Le Passage Du Raz Blanchard Est Deconseille Aux Navires Qui Sont Pas A Destination Ou En Provenance Des Ports Des Iles Anglo-Normades, Des Ports De La Cote Francaise Entre Cherbourg Et Ouessant Ou Des Routes Cotieres D’ouessant
It basically translates to “if you are not from around and don’t have to go to the channel islands it’s not recommended to sail here” and the main reason is that current is one of the highest in Europe and can reach up to to nearly 12 knots depending on the coefficient and time of the tide and that combined with several overfalls in the area it should be enough for any skipper to stay awake during the crossing.
Log date: 6 sep. 2020
Route: Cherbourg – Roscoff
Time: 11.00 2020-09-05 – 18:50 2020-09-06 ( 31h 50min )
Distance: 161 nm
Average speed: 5,1 knots ( Max 12,7 knots )
Wind: 0 – 20 knots
Weather: [X] Rain, [ ] Fog, [X] Sunshine, [X] Cloudy
Temperature: 16 °C
Cherbourg had a great marina that was well protected and close to the town. The town itself wasn’t the most picturesque, as the other french towns/cities we visited so far it had its share amount of restaurants and coffee shops but it lacked the sweet feeling of a place where you would like to stay for an extended period.
We met an old British gentleman that spent most his life on boats in the area and he was kind enough to help us plan the route to our next stop in Roscoff. The “issue” with our trip was that we had to cross the Channel islands to get there to benefit from the current in the area, that wouldn’t have been a problem unless the currents that we have to use wouldn’t have been among the strongest in Europe and the planet. The area we planned to cross was mentioned in the offshore yacht master study material as a place that is well known for its overfalls and races. Lovely…
The old sea dog, told us to exit the Cherbourg western outer wave breaker at Cherbourg high tide and make darn sure to be at the Raz Blanchard at high water Dover to get a smooth pass with a lot of extra speed. It was a good plan, that failed due to head winds and a ton of tacking. (Red’s note: Sooooo very unusual…)
We arrived about an hour late to the Raz but the crossing wen’t more than well, we made almost 13 knots in the crazy current and sometimes the water was almost boiling around us from the current the only thing we could do was so try and steer the boat somehow in the direction we would like to go but the current didn’t really care a lot so we were happy that the current agreed with our final destination for once.
But then the wind changed. When we left we had the wind from NW instead of the promised N so we had to tack but our plan was to sneak through south of Alderney and north of Guernsey (the red line) but as soon as we were next to Alderney the wind changed to W (WTF!!!) headwind again. And with an insane current from E to W and wind from W the waves became quite interesting pretty quick. The ride south of Alderney was pretty much like getting into a small pedal car surrounded by 100 bumper cars driven by 8 year olds high on sugar while someone is throwing buckets of water in your face.
We quickly realized that we either needed a bigger boat or a new route, we took the blue line instead and lost a few more hours but at least we had both the wind and the tide on our side for some time.
When we got closer to Roscoff we lost almost all wind and the one we had had turned even more and was dead on from the SW (the direction we headed) and at that time the tide had changed again and was also agains us. We did good speed in the wrong direction, with the engine running we kept us in the same spot for hours while trying to move slooowly forward.
But eventually when the tide began to shift again we got some speed and could head for Roscoff that we reached 32 hours after departure, the trip was planned to take about 24-26 hours. Crazy tired due to lack of sleep and hungry like a pack of wolves since we missed dinner due to the waves the other day we moored the boat after a 161nm trip that was expected to 120.
A few minutes later our newfound Norwegian friends from SY Ticora III ( http://syticora.com/ ) came by and invited us for dinner on their boat, we were told that they had followed our endeavours and guessed that we were tired and hungry after the trip. They probably saved our lives that evening, if you ever read this YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!
It was by far the worst crossing so far, if we exclude the thunderstorm mid august, but it was so worth it. We made a stunning 12,7 knots of speed and that alone made it worth it and on top of that Roscoff is just a gem on the northern French coast. A really small and super sweet old town that is just a 10-15 minutes walk from the marina and it’s filled to the brim with small shops and restaurants.
We spent a few days in the area, walking around enjoying the surroundings and doing some maintenance on the boat, Mia did a great job cleaning the waterline that had begun to grow a tad of green beard and I finally got around to ensure that the salt water cooling system got a redundant seacock to get water from in case of failure.
And of course we managed to get some decent food in the area, this time a few slices of fantastic pizza and a sweet burger, and some other stuff as well.. 😉
Bottom line, if you are ever in the area Roscoff is more than worth a few day stay.