So maybe we didn’t get the best start. The passage from Newlyn to L´Aber Wrac´h in northwest France took us 22 hours. Most parts of the crossing the mist was dense so we were very happy that we had made sure to install the AIS before taking off. The English Channel is well known as a very busy shipping lane so there are lots of of boats to keep track of in the separation zones and the AIS is a great help.
Also this time there was a lot of dolphins swimming by the boat from time to time but as always they are hard to capture. When steering and sleeping in shifts they of course make sure to appear when you are on your own and the other person are sleeping down below making even harder (but small proof below). We decided to aim for L´Aber Wrac´h as our first port of call in France since this harbour is accessible in all tides. It is hard to tell how fast you can sail for such a long passage and thus hard to tell when you will arrive so aiming for a port that is accessible 24 hours makes one less thing to worry about.
We did not stay long so after some sleep and a quick walk it was time to continue around the corner to the west coast, passing through Chanel du Four towards in Port du Notic in Camaret sur Mer. This time the weather forecast didn´t foretell the weather at all. We expected a nice 14 knot breeze but instead the wind was so weak the sails were flapping and our short daysail prolonged way into the dark before arriving in Camaret. Camaret was our first encounter with a town in Brittany and its narrow streets with old houses and colourful art galleries gave a good first impression.
The next day we catched up on some sleep and Jens went to the Boulangerie and got some baguette and croissants for breakfast. Six months after leaving Sweden we finally made it to France, so it was about time to enjoy some of their cuisine. We were relaxing and figuring out how to explore the surroundings when we heard a distinctive knock on the boat. It was the French customs and aboard came four men to check all the boat papers, our passports, and the boat. Everything was in good order and half an hour later they left us a paper signed by all four that we were cleared (or at least that is what we think/hope the paper says). Now, we were ready to explore.
Just outside the harbour lies the Notre dame de Rocamadour, honoured by sailors for centuries, and the guilded tower Tour Vauban, both built in the late 1600s. We took a walk and wondered, when are we going to experience that nice warm weather France is known for? Ever since we arrived is was grey, rainy and rather cold.
But the very next day, it was a stormy but sunny weather predicted and we decided to take advantage of that to explore the coastline by taking a long walk. The first stop was Pointe du Gouin, the views were truly breathtaking.
We continued past the beaches that we saw when we sailed by earlier, dramatic cliffs making it nearly impossible to go for a swim.
Now it´s time for lunch – some crepe with brie, ham and salad. On the beach by Place de Pen-hat I felt a sense of fulfilment and harmony – finally we have arrived to a place where you can have a barefoot picnic in February.
Finally, we walk out to Pointe de Pen Hir to watch the waves crash into the cliffs, a place that reminds us a lot of Esha Ness in the Shetland islands. It was still rather warm but the winds were fierce (that´s why we weren’t out there sailing) so we needed to put on some clothes and got some shield by a liberty monument to have our croissant fika break. We hiked back to town through the countryside, passing some villages and farms in the outskirts of Camaret. As soon as we took up the map there were several French men offering to help us find the way.
Then our journey through Brittany continued with a long slow sail to Bénodet, in south Brittany. It did include a magnificent sunset and some dolphins, but I was longing for shorter (or faster ;-)) passages.
Benodét is another seaside summer town with a long promenade along the coast, several beaches in the middle of town. We stayed several days because of the stormy weather that also brought with it a lot of rain. There was sun also, but there were at least two showers per hour so quite impossible to dry the boat.
While we stayed in Bénodet we finally managed to get help by the harbour master to call VNF, the department responsible for the french waterways. We had talked about taking the shortcut by the Canal du Midi through France to get to the Mediterranean and the warm weather a little faster. Especially since we met France in such a rainy cold weather it seemed like the perfect way to go. In all the sources we had found it said that the depth was between 1,5-1,6m, but the officials now told us that the minimum depth was as low as 1,2m on a section of the canal – making it impossible for us to pass since our draft is 1.5m. A big drawback that got us a little depressed for a while. We used the best therapy we know – laying in the hammock looking up at the trees and taking a nap. Now we have pretty much bounced back from the news. I mean, there are several advantages of taking the Atlantic route. I will get to practice my old spanish skills on the beautiful coast of Northern Spain, and we will both visit Portugal for the first time. It will just take at least a month more to get to the Med 😉
Wish you all a magnificent weekend! We will continue sailing south tomorrow. Stay tuned.