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All things French and wine

by SV Taipan 14 Aug 2018 15:58 UTC
Kereon Light © SV Taipan

The great thing about the northern summer is the long daylight hours which enabled us to make the 115nm Chanel crossing entirely in daylight. It was slow going, motor sailing from Falmouth to our chosen anchorage at Ushant Island.

Ushant is the northwestern most part of Metropolitan France. The area around the island is considered one of the most challenging to navigate in the world with its many rocks and more than ten-knot tidal streams. Of course we got the current wrong but fortunately, it wasn't Spring tides and we were forgiven by mighty Neptune. We were only roughed up a little to remind us to be more vigilant. The very impressive Kereon Light was only being lightly beleaguered by the swell. It has certainly seen worse.

Brest was 35nm away and here we conducted Schengen formalities and were made very welcome at the Chateaux Marina. Met at the entrance, shown our berth, lines taken, Marina formalities completed on board. Welcome pack supplied and they even raised the Australian Flag. That's a first!

Cameret Sur Mere was the next anchorage but we were ready to fast track this portion of the coast to catch Red Roo, our Aussie mates. Saint Evette overnight then on to Concarneau for the rendezvous. Concarneau has a wonderful old walled city adjacent to the marina so the following morning we did the big stroll through. Admired all the tourist shops and left.

The French marinas are quite expensive (€47 per night for us) so we were looking for anchoring alternatives and this coast offers lots of opportunities.

We headed to the Ils de Glennan. This group of rocky islands just 7nm offshore has numerous anchorages. There is a huge French Sailing School on the main island and we chose to anchor off the School beach. The school has over 100 boats and provides sail training as an optional part of the French school curriculum.

There was an enormous amount of activity every day. A perfect environment, with isolation from the mainland, flat sheltered waters and plenty of navigational hazards. The most popular craft was the Hobie Cat and fleet after fleet of these passed by every hour. There are seemingly endless white sandy beaches.

The weather was very settled so a bit of underwater hull cleaning was undertaken on both boats interspersed with some pleasant walking and swimming. A good old Aussie barbecue was held on a nearby deserted island with a group of British doctors joining us for the occasion. We spent four days on anchor at Ils de Glennan, only reluctantly moving on when the forecast indicated an unsatisfactory wind shift.

Phil and Maree traveled with us along this coast and Maree have a wonderful blog with lots more details on our adventures together. Check it out at Red Roo

Lomener just 20nm down the coast, provided a safe haven and an opportunity to refresh supplies before heading on to Port Haliguen, preparatory to attempting the World Heritage Site, Gulf De Morbihan a 115sq km harbor studded with 40 islands and with some pretty spectacular tidal races.

We passed the Gavrinis tomb just after navigating the narrow entrance. This megalithic monument is noted for its megalithic art. It wasn't an option to stop as tours are arranged privately and the current was whisking us past at four knots.

Our destination, Vannes, a walled town at the inland head of the Gulf, with its old town, is characterized by narrow cobbled streets and medieval gates. At its heart, St. Peter's Cathedral of Vannes blends Romanesque and Gothic styles, while Place des Lices square is lined with colorful half-timber houses. First inhabited by a seafaring Celtic people, eventually displaced by the Romans the region seems to have been involved in a cross-channel trade for thousands of years.

The marina was a huge disappointment at €47 per night with no power, water or internet. Luckily the City made up for it. We also happened to jag Market day which was useful and fun. Seafood on this coast is readily available and very fresh. Not really cheap but certainly not overpriced.

There is much to explore in the Gulf De Morbihan and it is a beautiful area, but our Schengen clock is ticking and we can't do everything. We decided to do a wine tour to Bordeaux by car so moved on to La Rochelle via a couple of island anchorages.

Anne-marie met us in La Rochelle and we caught up with all things from home and generally enjoyed some wandering in the delightful old city. There was a big music festival on and it was also Bastille day so we were not short of entertainment.

Red Roo crew Phil and Maree, teamed up with us to do a tour to Bordeaux. We hired a car and drove south. We based ourselves at Medoc in a delightful B&B and spent two days driving around the wine growing region and visited Bordeaux city.

The winery tour at Maucaillou was very informative and we came away with a slightly better understanding of the complexities of the French Wine industry.

On the way back to La Rochelle we happened upon a big show jumping event inside the moat of the Blaye fort which provided an interesting lunch diversion and an oportunity to stretch our legs exploring the fort.

Arriving back in La Rochell, a weather window presented itself and we decided to make the jump across the Bay of Biscay.

Lots of photos at French Atlantic coast

More on that next time. Stay tuned!!

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