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 miles.
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.
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.