After a couple of nights on the pontoon we decided to head up the River Odet which is navigable for quite a distance (not all the way to Quimper). Passing Château Kérouzin which was described in Frank Cowper’s Sailing Tours written in 1894 as a ‘comfortable looking white house” – it looks like it may be a hotel now and the second Château Kerauren which was apparently ‘a new and rather stuck up looking château’! there are numerous moorings on the river and all the anchorages seemed to be populated by these. It makes dropping the hook much more challenging. The river tour was good and countryside stunning: the only oddity was when we saw the river police gathered on the shore and the Captain said they were probably looking for dead bodies and a view from the binos revealed this was exactly what they were looking at…
We refocused and decided where to set the anchor for the night- a perfect place which was made even better by the fact that a Hylas 49’ motored by and then chose to anchor very close by. Any of you who know about our boat ill know there are very few in Europe (we saw the three 47’ -49’ that were on the market 5 years ago) so seeing another Hylas is very exciting. We blew up the dinghy, attached the outboard and went for a tour of neighbouring boats including s/v Believe owned by Rick and Julie who have sailed a similar route to us in the Baltic and Norway : they very kindly invited us aboard once we’d circled them a few times and waved!!!
It almost doesn’t need to be said but we have friends n common, including Dink & Ginger of Alchemy.
We decided to head out to the Iles de Glenan (this mystifies me because if they are Iles they should be des Glenan or is that because Glenan is singular they are de?). It was a champagne sailing day- beautiful WSW breeze. Iles de Glenan is an archipelago which is described as the Caribbean of the Atlantic French coast. We were pretty excited; the wind wasn’t ideal for an overnight stay so we decided anchoring for lunch as the best option. It was clear blue water and a sandy bottom- lunch follow by a row ashore and explore before upping anchor and a few hours sail into Concarneau which has a walled old city approached by drawbridge!!!
We had a fabulous evening with live music in the old city and live music in one of the local bars. A great stopping point- the marina is a tight fit and we were happy to have arrived in decent time. There are SOOOOOOOOOO many boats here- we know that France is a big sailing nation but honestly we have never seen so many boats on moorings, up rivers, in marinas. They deserve to be called a nation of sailors.
Ile de Groix, Port Tudy
We hit the early tide from Concarneau at midday- after a walk around town and trip the boulangerie, boucherie and Halles with the best moules sold by a real Breton poissonerie wearing his red hat!! Yes, we know it was for the tourists but he was a great guy, humoured us and gave us the perfect recipe for home cooked moules. €4.50/kg is pretty good for an evening meal!! 500g per person is plenty. Butter, shallots, 2 glasses of white wine, parsley add a drop of crème fraich at the last minute just as serving. Yum scrum!! I just jumped ahead to the evening meal without describing the day!
Entering Port Tudy is tight and busy, there was a big boat race just outside the harbor entrance so we wanted to keep clear despite our years of racing in the Solent and dealing with cruisers sailing right through the race course, we felt we should try and keep clear as they rounded the leeward mark heading back to Lorient.
Race course dealt with, next challenge the ferry leaving the harbor- bearing in mind the entrance is not big enough for us and the ferry. Hang out for a while as it moves away. The options for mooring n the harbor are fore and aft mooring buoys or alongside (having spent multiple euros in marinas we were very keen to go for the mooring buoys option). All lines and fenders on both sides we were ready to go as we manouevred into a mid section spot alongside a 49’ Oyster. The young fellow from the captainerie directed us and took our forward mooring lines as we bulldozed into position. I say bulldozed because we are a big heavy boat and many of the others around are newer a less substantial vessels. At least next to the big blue oyster we knew we’d be in good company. The owners of Blew Beyond were not on board but watching from ashore, as we found out later. Not much they could have done about it anyway!!! Some of these spaces and moorings are good challenges for the shorthanded sailor. Our fearless Captain manages his crew and vessel exceptionally well so we all feel in control right up to the minute we have taken our life jacket off and cracked open a well deserved beer and as you may have guessed- moules for supper.
Port Tudy is a sweet little harbor- Ile de Groix beckoned the next day . Fold up bikes were loaded onto the dinghy- I wish I had a picture of this exercise. My brand spanking new bike folded in the bow and the Captain’s now slightly rusty vehicle across the stern we rowed to the pontoon clambered up the ladder on th wharf with bikes and set off on a day adventure to white sandy beaches. It as loads fo fun. The bikes are fantastic- Georgie can attest to the fun we had getting ashore and exploring in land a little way. We don’t go huge distances, they are 20” wheel fold up bikes so the journey is a little limited. We did find the Grande Sable Rouge and picniced in our bare feet and paddled in the sea. A glorious day. The ride as through back roads with delightful cottages and splendid gardens. I think we are lucky to be here at this time of year as all the gardens are in full bloom (I’m reminded of our wonderful Cowes garden at this time of year).
Back to the harbor and the tide is completely out- to the point that the bikes are not being carried down the precarious ladder. I have never been a mountaineer and stepping off the edge of the very firm ground ashore to climb down a 4 meter ladder doesn’t really instill confidence. The words of advice are
“step over and don’t look down”
We came back for the bikes closer high tide some 4 hours later….
In the interim we had met with Melanie and James on Blew Beyond who are sailing across the Atlantic in November with the ARC. It was great to meet with them and share sailing stories, we hope our paths will cross as we are heading in the same direction in the next few weeks before they head to the Canaries. The evening was very special as we were treated to a concert of accordion playing, fiddle, violin, guitar tin whistle and harmonica. It was a real treat, started b a French group- the accordion player was a 16 year old girl. Another Irish boat joined in and it almost became a play off between them. The Irish boat was a family of four each playing an instrument and they were very very good, but the French group had a mix of musicians from a couple of boats and in the end everyone played together. It was a real treat.
We had decided we’d head out early next morning with the early high tide. Cloud and drizzle accompanied us and we untied and reversed out alongside a vey anxious Frenchman. It was possible too early for him or too close for comfort.
The weather did as promised and blew up to 20kn from the NW making a bumpy ride and foul weather- big rain. We were headed for Belle Isle, Sauzon in the north is meant to be a picture postcard place but not good for the wind direction so we continued down to Le Palais. We planned to anchor outside the harbor. This was thrown out when we found the area we expected to drop anchor was populated by mooring buoys- something we have found in many places. The ICC cruising guides can’t keep up with the changes and added buoys, it is frankly a real problem because you anticipate being able to drop anchor and its not possible.
We had the worst night ever on a mooring buoy laid for the vedettes outside the harbour- definitely not our best decision. Ashore in Le Palais there is a Citadel and an attractive town. The rain had stopped and sun was shining but it was still windy. Wind and tide contributed to the ghastly night!
At 6am we were ready to leave. Wind had picked up and was gusting 23-25kn. Our target was the Bay of Quiberon to wait to get into the Gulf of Morbihan.
The options were Cruesty (a three basin marina with little soul) or La Trinité- (a well known yachting centre). We opted for the latter and squeezed in alongside on a finger pier with the help of a super kind English couple, Richard and Cath s/v Wild Rover. A few hours snooze set us straight for the day and we felt fully recovered from the ghastly night we had just had.
La Trinité sur Mer is a great yachting centre. There were two huge trimarans based there: Mirabaud and Sodebo as well as more boats than you can ever imagine in one place. Again it is astounding to see so many boats. Throughout the day it continued to blow, actually howl! We were pretty happy to be ashore doing laundry and errands. The forecast was for much lighter winds and clear skies so we made plans to leave with Wild Rover at 6am so as to benefit from the tide, getting in and out of many of the marinas is tide dependent, and also to get the tide right to go into the Gulf du Morbihan. The tidal streams can run up to 9.5kn in the pinch points in the Gulf.
The journey into the Gulf was fab. Luckily there was little wind and we motored through some of the strongest tides and whirl pools at speed but safe and sound. As we’d left so early we had to drop anchor for a few hours round the back of one of the many tiny islands to wait for the swing bridge at Vannes to open at 11.30am. It was a perfect place to rest although frustratingly our windlass broke for the fourth time in the time we’ve had Onegin. We followed hot on the heels of Wild Rover and got to the bridge just as boats were streaming out: perfect timing. It is the first Winnie the Pooh moment we’ve had on this trip. The red and green marks are very close together an windy, and we had zero water under the keel according to the depth sounder (lucky for Willi’s calibration margin of error)!
We tried to repair the windlass to no avail but have worked out a system that means we can use it until we get a replacement. Call into Vetus in the UK who need to speak with New Zealand…. Not a quick fix. So sight seeing instead.
Vannes is the most delightful walled medieval city. Enchanting and magical. We’re very happy to have made it here. Tour de France preparations all over the city. Saw s/v Believe again as Rick & Julie were about to head off on their next stage of thei journey south. Took our bikes out for a ride. Had Richard and Cath over for a thank you drink- fun to learn more about them. Saturday market all through the town, tons of food stalls and locals out shopping. Learned how to BBQ oysters too! Yum. Put them on the BBQ, turn them a couple of times until they pop open. Lemon juice, butter and pepper. This visit was a real high spot for us