James Stevens answers your Questions of Seamanship. This issue - would you risk cutting the corner to get into harbour quicker?


Phil and Anne are beating against a westerly Force 
4-5 wind off the north Brittany coast in their Beneteau Oceanis 36 
(11m long with a draught of 1.5m).

They set 
off from Roscoff bound for L’Aber Wrac’h, 
a passage of 32 miles assisted by a spring tidal stream.

It is now low water; the favourable tide is slackening and will turn against them very soon as they approach L’Aber Wrac’h in early afternoon.

It’s been hard work, and they are looking forward 
to mooring up and enjoying the harbour 
and maybe sitting outside a French café
 for coffee, although they have not visited 
this area before.

While Phil steers, Anne is looking at 
a possible shortcut into the main channel 
that would save two miles of sailing to windward against an increasingly foul
 tidal stream.

The Chenal de la Malouine 
is marked by a transit lining up a fixed 
East Cardinal tower with a white
pyramid behind. You have to identify
 the pyramid from about one and a half 

The transit appears to just cross 
the 2m contour. The tidal height is 1.4m.

Visibility is quite good and Anne thinks
 she can see the pyramid.

The rocks look menacing but the
thought of getting into harbour early 
is pretty appealing.

Would you risk it?


At high water, this would be a sensible option, with several metres under the keel.

James Stevens

James Stevens, author of the Yachtmaster Handbook, spent 10 of his 23 years at the RYA as Training Manager and Yachtmaster Chief Examiner

Near low water, it’s definitely a calm-weather passage in daylight, with a flat sea and good visibility.

Although they are arriving 
in daylight with good visibility, there is going to be a moderate sea running in Force 4-5.

This will put the keel perilously close to the rocks inside the 2m contour and the yacht could ground.

Even at high water, it is essential to be absolutely certain that what you think is the pyramid really is the pyramid and double check the bearing of the transit with a hand-bearing compass and binoculars, preferably with a photograph from the pilot book
 so you know what to look for.

With local knowledge, it is probably possible and 
safe at low water but for a first-time visit,
 the risk is too great.

I would recommend 
that they plug on, motor sailing if necessary, and enter the long way round.