Sailing Southern Brittany – 2

Writing this in Concarneau on Wednesday 19th August, as a nasty low pressure system beats up Biscay, Brittany and England. Nigel Aldridge and I have been on the boat for over a week now and have not murdered or abandoned each other yet, so we are working our way back to Otaria’s base at Foleux, in the Vilaine river. Looking forward to exploring the Bay of Quiberon and Morbihan, with a more adventurous intent. The trip up the river to Auray beckons, as Otaria’s air draft is 12m and the bridge 14m above HAT, so worth a go and sit on the mooring bouys in the town centre.

We have had some excellent days sailing, working our way west, in remarkably settled weather, except for one evening when we were hit by a freak storm (securely tied to a pontoon in Port-la-Floret) that had us rolling around for a few hours. The storm was not easy to predict and boats anchored off Iles de Glenan limped in with hull and rudder damge after bouncing on the rocks in the middle of the night – not a good experience!

Nigel is more adventurous with food than I am, sampling the mini version of Fruits-de-Mer, as per the photo below. This little restaurant overlooks Lorient entrance and we are delighted to report no gastric after-effects were experienced!

A French feast

As we venture along the coast our sailing skills improve and Nigel has got use to parking/unparking a boat that has a mind of its own in reverse, due to the long skeg and drop keel arrangement. This leads to some challenging ‘escape’ manouvres not unlike those required to tame Relax in a side wind. Otaria has been giving us some genuine 6 knts plus in a F4/5 with everything up, but we are yet to be brave enough to put the kite up, despite 20+ miles of sea room and little traffic to contend with.

Moving on to later in the week we decided to stay put in the delightful Port St Louis in Lorient, due to persistent high wind and rough seas forecast for Biscay, dropping back to a sensible state by Saturday 22nd. I had been here before in 2019 to pick up Quartette but had no idea what a delightful little place it is – a few days spent here riding out a storm is certainly no hardship. A walk round the Citadel and Locmalo harbour is highly recommended, as is a ferry run to Lorient town centre via the frequent B7 ferry, or B1 ferry and the No. 11 bus – all for 1.50euros. There is a small shop in the old St Louis town, some good restaurants, boulangeries, etc., so a good hidey hole on this stretch of coast. We thought of riding out the storm in Port Tudy on Ile de Groix, but four days there would not have done our livers much good at all – except for the opportunity of hiring a bike and making a ships policy of staying out of the many tempting cafes.

In settled weather, Locmalo would be a great place to stop at the numerous visitor bouys or anchor. Its in an inlet right next to the Lorient harbour entrance and served by a small ferry, battling the strong current.

In the very strong winds a few hardy yachts bounced their way out to sea, convincing us that our decision to stay put was a wise one. We were treated to a sky surfing display by a consumate expert who had a knack of flying over a starboard mark in the nick of time, drawing gasps from the beach audience (and us!).

Now in Port Haliguen, waiting out another F8 we once again discover a hidden gem with a delightful selection of restaurants overlooking the old harbour, which is all being upgraded with new pontoons and facilities. We took the little train to Auray for the day, to suss out the harbour moorings there and have lunch overlooking the  picturesque harbour.

The current runs quickly under the visitors moorings so maybe staying there a night is going to be a bit of a challenge and rowing back from shore in rubadaub, fraught with peril?

We are headed back, via the Morbihan to the Vilaine River and Foleux, where my tale will end as the boat will be lifted out for the winter and everything spoilable will be taken off to a nice dry and warm place in the UK. Unlike the club boats that are active, or hope to be active, all winter, Otaria sits in the yard at Foleux and only really suffers from condensation, loneliness and an unfinished to do list!

There are not many British boats around and some that are, clearly decided to head for home as brexit looms in January and reciprocal arrangements with France remain as clear as mud. The pandemic has not stopped the French taking their customary July/August holiday, now with compulsory mask wearing almost everywhere. A few times we have been kept awake by the odd late night party, but on the whole, everyone here is polite and considerate. I have no regrets about escaping the UK lockdown in May and have been well treated here in France. Looking forward to my winter in crevat, dressing gown and slippers (Nigel’s dillusion, not mine) the delights of a 14 day qurantine, a good bath and after 4 months aboard – a big bed!

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