Lorient to Brest

Chateaulin, july 10th

Lorient isn't a pretty city, but is served its purpose to me as I had the chance to get my website uploaded and check my emails. But by 9am I was ready to leave. I had glassy seas and the lightest of winds for the first hour or two but evantually a slight breeze set in which allowed me to sail to Port Manech, about 16 miles away. The sun was strong but there was hardly a cloud in the sky, with pressure continuing to rise. I anchored off the small harbour which actually had visitors moorings, but I couldn't pick them up on my own.

The village is basic with a pub/shop (a la shannon style) and a couple of restaurants, but wandering around the houses were really impressive. They weren't huge but had great style and all so different. Lots of red granite in use here and a great attention to that thing people do with coloured stuff ........ oh yeah, GARDENING !! Enough of all that palaver, the important thing is that I have to doll myself up to go out on the town. The reason is that Spain are playing France in the knockout stages of the world cup tonight and I don't have any reception on the tv on the boat. Maybe I could even pick up a farmers daughter with a few acres !!!!!!! (OK, I know the French aren't that desparate)

Shortly after writing the last bit, I was hailed by a French boat with the unlikely name of Saoirse. Turns out it is owned by an Irishman, Brian McAuley, who lives in happy retirement 10kms away. To cut a long story short, he invited me to his place to see the game (which didn't have the outcome I was looking for). He and his wife Eileen escaped from the rat race in the UK a few years ago and came to retire in Brittany. I am not sure if I could be as brave as them but they seem very happy and have no regrets. Their house is really lovely and is a credit to them.

The following morning I awoke to hear Brian telling me to get up. He was off to Port Le Foret where he keeps his boat. I was off to the Iles Glennan, which the sailing association is named after. It is a small archipelago about 10 miles offshore with shallow channels and lots of room to anchor. The guides suggest a visit during settled weather only and that was what was forecast for the next few days. After heading off I had light breezes and calm seas again and I did a comfortable 4 knots over to Ile Penfret, the easternmost of the islands. It has a small anchorage on the east side giving shelter from the forecast NW winds. It also is easy to get out of in a hurry if the weather changes like it did on Houat.

Penfret itself doesn't have much except for a few houses to accomodate the trainees, and the largest colony of seagulls I have ever seen. When going for a stroll around the lighthouse you really got the feeling that you were on their turf and they didn't like visitors. The water is crystal clear with a white sandy bottom which allows you to see your anchor. Now it is a long time since I have been anchored in a spot like it. But as the day went on the anchorage gradually got a little crowded which worried me a little as I didn't want my anchor to get tangled up with anyone elses. In the evening there was little to do once you had wandered around the island twice and I have to confess that it was the first time I felt lonely on my trip. Little ole me on this paradise island in the sun and nobody to share it with! It could also be the fact that there was no football on tonight so all I had to occupy me was my latest novel.

During the night the wind came round to the north north east, and though not strong, it caused a roll in the anchorage which made sleeping difficult. By 8 am I had decided that the idea of going to another island was not on, especially as the wind forecast for the day was similar. So I headed off to Port Le Foret for a couple of nights to rest and do some jobs on the boat. I was very conscious that Derrick was coming out in 2 weeks and he would give out to me if the boat was not looking her best!!! A lovely calm sail took me half way there before the wind died and I motored into the marina on a falling tide. There were chandlers, mechanics, etc in Port Le Foret so lots of stuff to wander around and gawk at. The marina is part of a new small development of a holiday village and so doesn't have much character but the nearby town of Le Foret Fouesnant is another of these flowery places with lovely stone buildings. A great place to wander to in between doing jobs on the boat. (They also make some great cider there by the way!!)

Later that afternoon, Brian and Eileen called back in to say goodbye as I was off in the morning westbound. They had just come back from having lunch anchored off the Glenans. It made me feel that maybe I should have headed out too but there were jobs to do. But it was nice to repay their kindness by offloading some of my old novels and an ex Irish Flag which Brian needed. But on the morning I was off early heading for Audierne, about 40 miles away. The forecast was for light winds going my direction. Once I got out the winds were too light to use so I motored around the rocks off the Pointe de Penmarch when the winds rose slightly allowing me to goosewing the last 14 miles on ghoster and yankee, a sail combination I had not used before but which worked quite well. I anchored just in time to get the tv tuned in to see England knocked out of the World Cup and France play a glorious game against Brasil. It was the best end to a long day. I really felt on seventh heaven anchored in the Saint Evette anchorage just off Audierne.

The following morning I headed off the explore the town which had a lot of character. You could spend a lovely couple of days here watching the world go by. But I was ever on and upwards. I headed back into tidal waters again with the passing through the Raz De Sein, where the Ile de Sein compresses the tidal flow through a gap less than 2 miles wide. You have to go through at slack tide, especially if it is windy. As it was, I had only 5 knots of wind, an hour before the tide turned and I still found the seas a little confused and had over 2 knots of tidal flow.

Once throught the Raz it was like being back in Bantry Bay all over again. I was going up a long wide bay to Douarnenez, 17 miles from the Raz. The scenery was just like Ireland, with green fields flowing down to a sea lined by granite cliffs and rocky islets. The only oddity was that big lightbulb in the sky, combined with the temperature of 27 degrees. Very non Irish that!!

Shortly before arriving I heard that Bea was joing to be joining me that night. I had expected her for day or two but I now had crew for 4 days. What a change !! Just after dropping the anchor outside the fishing port of Douarnenez, the weather changed dramatically as a thunderstorm came in. It didn't bring much wind but it rained heavily for two hours and lightning rippled all around the boat. This was the first time I had seen rain in 3 weeks, and it was a pleasant change to have the temperatures drop a bit. That night the weather continued unstable and at dawn I was woken by the movement of the boat as the wind had shifted to the north and strengthened. It made for an uncomfortable first nights sleep for Bea but the wind eased after a few ours and she slept late to catch up on her zzs'.

We had a lazy morning strolling around town before heading off in her car after lunch to Quimper and Locronan. Douarnenez is a working fishing town and so has lots of life and plenty to offer for a few days amusement. The old port has a maritime museum consisting of some interesting old working boats from a time before the steam engine. Quimper was more touristy, with some beautiful old buildings which had been carefully restored and maintained over the years. Locronan is a small medieval town which is picture perfect, with dark granite houses all in the same style which is different from the higgledy piggledy mixture of Douarnenez and Quimper. I must say that it was good to get off the boat for a while and do some wandering by car. The scenery is very reminiscent of Ireland though Bea thinks the greens are not as vibrant as you have at home.

A gentle breeze saw us away from Douarnenez across the bay to Morgat, a spot I was last in with Siobhan and Richie on a wine trip a few years ago. We had a good sail on flat seas arriving at lunchtime. It gave us lots of time to go for a stroll to nearby Crozon which is a pleasant market town, though I think the stroll took it out of Bea. Sometimes I forget that I have been doing a lot of walking recently and think nothing of a 6 km walk. Morgat itself is a seaside resort town, with the season just getting going. It has a sleepy atmosphere, even on market day and so I was glad to get going as we were now off to Camaret, a good market town and one popular with visiting crews. Many stock up on the essentials here before crossing back over the Channel. I had to finish buying wine and knew that there was a good supermarket near the harbour. Sadly, it was the last stop on Bea's short trip aboard. I hope she enjoyed herself. Certainly the weather gods were kind to her as they gave us glassy seas again for the trip past three impressive headlands to Camaret. We arrived with plenty of time to have a wander before a dinner in one of the restaurants lining the harbourfront. It was the first time I had eaten out since leaving la Rochelle, and it was really good not to have to cook.

Bea had an early start to get a bus to get back to her car in Douarnenez and after that I headed for a long walk around the cliffs behind the town. The weather was not very appetising at this stage, so I decided to head up the river for a few days to Chateaulin, 20 miles past Brest. I knew that I had lots of boat cleaning to do before Derrick got here and a mooring in the middle of an inland market town sounded as good as anywhere to get the mop out. I headed off at 5pm to get the tide into the natural harbour of Brest. There is 50 square miles of sailing protected by a large peninsula which is why the French navy have their Atlantic base here. It also means that parts of the harbour are off limits to yachts. But I wasn't too interested in that at this stage as I wanted to go through the harbour to the start of the Aulne river for the night. There was a fair breeze blowing at this stage but when I passed Landevennic I was fully protected in the river. I anchored under a steep forested hill behind the village. The silence was complete and in the still night I slept the sleep of the gods. The following morning I headed off up the hill to go to the town. A brief look at the village and 5th century ruined abbey saw me heading back in time to catch the tide 12 miles upstream to the lock at Guilly Glas. The landscape went from steep hills to a Shannon scene with reeds on both banks. Apart from the immaculate farmhouses, I could have been cruising the Leitrim waters again with my Dad. Even the light spots of rain were reminiscent of another kind of cruising.

The lock appeared around the corner and soon I was in another world. Passing under the viaduct I was in a canal with grassy banks and the village of Port Launay went by. Soon I tied up in Chataulin, twinned with Clonakilty by the way. There is a pontoon which takes 3 boats and I was lucky that I got the third space. By now the rain had decided to pay a serious visit, inspite of that I went for a reconoiter and found a pleasant town in a spectacular location nestling either side of the river. Even better, there was a hypermarket 200m away, so I was able to finish my wine purchasing. A sunny day followed which gave me a chance to clean up the boat and do my laundry.

I ended up staying 3 days in Chataulin as the weather was a but changable still. I got lots of walking in and ended up chatting to other boaties who were in the same situation. I leave Chateaulin chilled out, just like I felt after being up the Vilaine River, but now I was starting to feel ready for the next step in the trip, the crossing to the Scillies. It will be strange to have somebody on board again but I think I have done enough solo sailing for now. I don't want to turn into an even bigger recluse !!!!