17 August 2022

Atlantic Crossing Complete!

So, we did it!

After a very slow and rolly and foggy last day at sea -- actually, the worst day that we'd had on the passage from the Azores -- we had to decide whether to enter the Brest inlet in the middle of the night, or to either stay out at sea for the night, or maybe try to anchor in a cove outside the inlet.

In the end, we decided to just go for it. The inlet looked relatively easy, and it would be great to be in the protected waters just outside of the Rade du Brest, which is a big bay inside the inlet.

We tried to time our arrival at the inlet for slack tide, but ended up arriving early, but the current was only 1 or maybe 1.5 knots, which we could run against, though it slowed us down a bit.

Did I mention there was fog? Oh yes. Just to make the entry into one of France's busiest ports more interest. Fog. At night. And you wonder why I have grey hair.

But we had the AIS and Radar (added to Petronella before we went to foggy Maine for the first time), and in the middle of the night, there were very few ships or boats going in or out. The only significant one was a "French Warship", as it was described on the AIS. We never saw it in the fog, so don't know if it was a patrol boat or an aircraft carrier. It did look big on the radar, though.

And we were contacted on the radio by "Brest Approach Control", like we were an airplane approaching an airport. They wanted to know "What are your intentions?"

I was surprised but glad to hear from them, because I worried about sneaking into the country at night and anchoring somewhere. So I happily told them we had a reservation at the marina in the morning, and intended to anchor overnight off the Roscanvel Yacht Club, just around the corner from the inlet.

The young man on the radio was very nice and told us to "have a good night!"

Ah, civilization!

So, we puttered slowly into the anchorage, with Helena on the bow with our brightest flashlight, looking for crab pots or whatever else might ruin our last day, but she didn't see a thing in the fog. There were two boats anchored near the yacht club already, but they had generously left us a wide berth between them in about 3 meters of water. 

3 meters at low tide, I mean. But there are 7 meter tides in this area, so we put out 40 meters of chain to make sure we didn't have a "We didn't mean to go to sea" moment, and float away in the middle of the night. 

Then we had one or two celebratory drinks, gave each other numerous high-fives, and generally congratulated each other for an amazing voyage. It was hard to believe, but we'd actually done it. 

We finally crashed at 4 am, and had a great half-night's sleep on a level, non-rolling bunk. 

Ah, heaven.

Anchorage in Roscanvel

I slept until 11, and had to wake Helena up at noon, and then after a slow start, we lifted anchor and headed for the Moulin Blanc Marina. Of course I was nervous about docking in a new marina, I'm always nervous about this, but there was a young man on the dock (a young and VERY attractive man, according to Helena -- yes, she's been out to sea a long time, too!) who helped us into a very easy along-side tie-up on their visitor's pontoon.

And we were really there! In a French marina. Wow!

Promenade Bernard Moitessier

Petronella on the visitor's pontoon

After we checked in with the marina and took a shower (ah, showers!) it was time to get to customs down in the city. We only had about an hour before they closed. There was a bus that should have got us down there just in time, but it was a holiday, and the bus didn't arrive on time. So I had to get up early and get down to customs first thing the next day. I was a bit nervous about this... imagine being two days late checking in with US (or Brazilian, or anywhere else we've been!) customs! I was pretty sure there would be firm questions to answer.

The bus into the city... because why not an open-top bus?

But, hey, no problem. They just wanted to see our passports, no questions, no evil looks. Just a pleasant crunch of the stamp in our passports, a smile, and a 'welcome to France'. And then, since I was the only one in the office, a bit of conversation about our passage, and what we planned to do next... Oh! Montpellier is a beautiful city! A few recommendations for restaurants, etc. 

Did I have to check in with anyone else, I asked? The police? Immigration? In two other buildings on the other side of the city, for example?

Nope. I was done. We were all set.

Ah, civilization!

So, that's that! We have a couple days of jobs to do, of course. Change the oil, do laundry, that sort of thing. Then we need to make a plan for the final leg to La Rochelle. More on that soon...

Happy wife, happy life.


  1. Congratulations! What an adventure…I was worried about you two but shouldn’t have been…not with your expertise. So happy for you both!

    - Carol

  2. Extraordinary Crossing by a Remarkable Team! We read your blog during this journey with awe and respect. Congratulations John & Helena 🙏❣️
    - Pauline & Tony

  3. You two are AMAZING! All the adventures you went through- and still to have humor! I'm so glad that the weather gods smiled over you and Petronella proved such a noble and dependable vessel! Hope to see you soon and play some less challenging games of skill.
    -Linda & Brecka

  4. Congratulations!

    Paul B


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