Now that we have left Brittany (Bretagne) behind us and it´s time to show you how we spent the last time there. After Benodét we sailed south towards Lorient, just before sunrise. There were plenty of fishing boats to keep us company. When I took over the steering of the boat the wind died and it seemed like we would never reach Lorient in a reasonable time. Sailing can really change the emotions fast – from a great appreciation to being out there, to complete boredom, despair or the thrill of sailing fast, with dolphins surfing the waves next to you. Well, at least for me Jens is more stable and tend not be as bothered when things does not go our way 😉
There is nothing that can cheer up a long sail as much as food. It is the little things that we appreciate the most. This time I apparently coordinated the colour of the food with the colour of our floatations suits – serving a sweet potato curry for lunch. As we approached Lorient, there also starting to appear sailing boats in a distance. It turned out to be a sign of the culture we would find in Lorient, a town rather focused on sailing/boating.
After lunch our speed picked up and we entered the large harbour in Lorient just before sunset. Since we had been “trapped” in the boat for days because of the heavy rain in Benodét, this was the time to get out and taste some of that French wine. It tasted great! There were some confusion paying for it though, since we apparently mixed in some British coins with the euro. Feels pretty convenient to not have to learn all the coins for a new currency in a while now!
We really liked the marina in Lorient. They were super helpful and friendly regardless of the challenges communicating in english/french. And then two bonuses right up our alley – bikes to lend for free and one-hour sauna included in the price! We made sure to use both offers, of course. We shared the sauna with another guy staying in the harbour, David. Turns out he lives full-time on his 6-meter-long boat in the harbour. He told us that there were about 30 people living on their boats here. Some like the freedom living on boats, but there were also a lot of people who did not really have a choice since the rents are pretty high in Lorient and it´s not easy to get a (full-time) job. For Jens the best thing was to finally find a place to buy more fuel for our alcohol stove. Last time we found fuel was in Northern Ireland and last couple of weeks our storage has been running alarmingly low. Needless to say we now have plenty 🙂
After a couple of days in Lorient, we found a new window to continue south. We had a pretty nice (and certainly fast) sail over to our next goal – Le Palais on Belle Ile. The island that we heard about from several sailors we got to know in Belfast looked like it had a suitable name, and Le Palais probably got its name from the Vauban fort that overlooks the village. The only problem was that we couldn’t get into the marina without the help of the Capitanerie to open the bridge we needed to get under. Since they didn´t answer either on the VHF or phone we did our least favourite thing – tying up to a high pier and climbing up the ladder. Since the weather was already pretty rough, Jens stayed on the boat while I ran around the harbour to the village to find the Capitain or someone else that could help us. Now this is the type of situation where it would be very good to know French. I used the few words I knew, drew the harbour and our route with the boat on a piece of paper and managed to find the Capitanerie office only to find it closed. I did find a sheet with opening times for the bridge (nothing more scheduled that weekend) but since we couldn’t get a hold of them the Captain on Mouni was forced to make a tough decision – leaving Belle Ile in the already strong winds in order to find shelter from the oncoming storm. Or, stay tied up to the pier and try our best to cope with bad swell and no way of getting off and on the boat.
The decision was to leave Belle Ile and make a crossing to the mainland and Trinité-sur-Mer. Lots of chocolate was needed to find the motivation to get out to sea again! This was probably our fastest sail to date. Our average speed was 8 knots and the wind speed was between 10-15 m/s. It was a lot of splashing from the waves and the boat heeled quite a lot those four hours, even though we had one reef in the main and only a tiny triangle of the Genua out. Finally we were very happy to arrive and celebrated with some crepe and cider on a local restaurant. Trinité has a large harbour and a strong sailing culture. We saw huge trimarans and several postings congratulating local sailors that had won solo-around-the-world races. The church even got the bell tower elevated to be used as a reference point for sailors.
In the next couple of days we experienced our strongest winds so far and in hindsight we were very happy to have left Belle Ile and be safely tied up in a sheltered marina. The heavy winds were making it hard to work on the boat so on a day that promised sun we decided to take a hike inland to the stones in Carnac. After rain pouring down long enough for us to get soaked the sun did actually shine through the clouds as we walked to the historic area. The stones seen here were raised by the populations in the Neolithic era 6500 years ago. There are 101 menhirs (“long stone”) distributed in 7 long rows.
There are forest walks to Carnac from Trinité, where Jens was amazed by the huge pine trees and decided to share his love. Besides the menhirs there are also a lot of dolmens (“stony table” in Breton, megalithic graves) which is just as amazing as you wonder how they managed to get those stones on top of each other.
One of the reasons we came to this area of Brittany was that we also heard many people praising the Gulf of Morbihan. This is one of the favourite places for the French sailors, an “inland sea” full of islands. Now it turned out that in our chart program there weren’t enough detail to safely navigate in these shallow waters, and the wind and tides never seemed to be in our favour either. So instead we decided to take the local bus to Vannes, a picturesque city situated as far in as you can get in the Morbihan Gulf. I really enjoyed the colourful half-timbered houses, the cathedral and town wall. There were Roman settlements here already on the 1st century B.C. and the town wall and the buildings inside the old town dates between the 13th and 18th century. Well if you ever decide to go to Vannes (which I highly recommend), make sure to spend your time in the old town and along the harbour. We decided to take a detour in the newer parts of town to a park and it was mostly high concrete buildings and large roads – not worth the effort! We then spent four hours getting home, trying to figure out where the bus left from and how we could identify it. I guess that´s how you know that you are really travelling in a foreign country, nothing makes sense!? 😉
Thank you Brittany for this time! We will remember the friendly people (that we have problem understanding), the rich history, dramatic nature and grey rainy weather. How come the UK have such a bad reputation!? Belfast is a sunny place!
See you later!