Plunge into the atmosphere of France with us! Experienced travelers will talk about their experiences and the beauty of the views there. Brittany is beautiful and full of surprises!
Brittany is one of the most picturesque and enchanting places in France. This is where everyone should visit!
We will tell the story from the perspective of Terrisa Vanderlow and her partner Nick - travelers and lovers of good stories. She, along with her partner, was going to storm Brittany for the last time. You will find out how it was and what feelings the team felt below.
The sun was setting low in the sky, illuminating the sandy island of Hödik with a golden glow.
In our cabin, Nick played his guitar, and I sipped a glass of pink. He watched the midday influx of sailors entering the harbor and trying to take their place.
Seagulls circled overhead, swimmers splashed in the water, and boats squeezed between the rafting boats and the floating dock. The ferry honked and, with a seemingly impossible maneuver, made a sharp turn in the packed harbor before flying away, leaving the yachts swaying behind them.
This was our evening entertainment. After six years of fulfilling life on our Southerly 38 (called Ruby Rose), it's a simple pleasure to unwind. After a hard day under the sun, watching the activities of the harbor. This was the reason why we chose the cruise lifestyle.
But that was the summer of 2020. And those moments of peace have become more difficult and expensive. Both because of the price we paid to enjoy this little freedom, and because of the conditions of the pandemic.
It was a little sad for us as this was our last season aboard the Ruby Rose. We had to ship her back to the UK for sale so that we could prepare for the transition to the new 45ft catamaran.
Two months earlier, in May 2020, Nick and I were desperately trying to return to Ruby Rose, which was patiently waiting for us in La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast of France.
We, like many other cruisers, spent the winter alternating life aboard a yacht in the marina. There they performed all those small things that seemed to have no end and edge. And then we drove home to see our families.
Australia is my home. However, when the pandemic broke out and international borders began to close, we made the decision to settle in Nick's parents' house in London.
When Nick left Ruby Rose, the French border closed. This was followed by the tough isolation of Great Britain. Our boat is the only home, and we, like many others, are stuck, unable to return to it.
Pandemic in a nutshell
After ten long weeks, Britain and France began to loosen tight restrictions. We booked train tickets and arrived at St Pancras station.
They armed themselves with piles of documents confirming that we lived on board and were just trying to get home. We hoped that the border control would understand our unusual situation.
Fortunately, after short but nervous discussions, we were admitted to France. On the same day, feeling a little dizzy with relief and joy, we returned to the Ruby Rose. After a couple of weeks, local restrictions eased even more, and we set sail again.
To our surprise, it seemed that we would still enjoy our last sailing season in France.
Nick and I sailed from Kent to La Rochelle and back for two summers in a row before switching to regular routes.
Since then, we've sailed the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic into the Caribbean, cruised the Bahamas and the US East Coast, and even boated through French canals.
However, the Atlantic coast of France, especially north and south Brittany, remains our favorite cruise destination.
Cruise in Brittany to be!
Picturesque islands, sandy beaches, winding rivers, inland waterways, challenging yet enjoyable navigation, historic harbors and, of course, pristine French countryside, from unmatched food and wine to local passion for sailing, make this a cruise destination, no doubt. one of the best in the world.
And if it rains from time to time, or if you misjudge your tidal calculations, or if you fall into the trap of the Atlantic low pressure system, well, that only adds to the fun!
At least I tried to convince Nick as he lay in the cockpit, overcoming motion sickness on one gray and gloomy day, when we were battling wind and rain in the Bay of Biscay.
Knowing that we are going to say goodbye to Ruby Rose soon, we couldn't think of a better place to enjoy our last cruise on her.
We left La Rochelle on one calm, sunny morning in early June on the clear sea with a barely noticeable breeze.
We spent several months locked up. And then we found ourselves among a dozen boats leaving the pier and heading for one of the two nearby islands.
The le de Ré is a little further north and we visited it on previous cruises. It is a delightful sandy island that is easy to cycle around.
Here is Saint-Martin-de-Ré, a charming medieval port with an enclosed marina, accessible only during floods.
Brittany was supposed to be soon - and we were ready (or thought we were). In any case, the journey was promising.
We really liked the le de Ré - it's impossible not to love it - but we decided this time to go to le d'Oleron, another island just south of La Rochelle, since we had never been there before.
Brittany - meet us!
It was only an 11-mile journey and we tenaciously held the sails for as long as we could.
But when we fell below one knot of boat speed, we gave up and turned on the engine. Despite this, we both smiled broadly. We were unable to believe in our luck that we were able to get back on board and start cruising the waters of the world's oceans again.
We spent the next week biking on the le d'Oleron, visiting the market and occasionally enjoying coffee. It was also nice to sit in the sun in a small village square.
We seemed to be the only foreigners, and this, unsurprisingly, continued in the summer. We loved to fully immerse ourselves in the local atmosphere.
After spending the first few weeks on board, we took a close look at the weather forecast. And we also quickly realized that getting to the north would not be as easy as we thought.
We have done this transition before, but it was many years ago, and we forgot about some of the difficult local weather conditions in the Bay of Biscay.
Basically, to leave the Bay of Biscay, we had to sail in a general northwest direction to get to Raz de Seine, one of two tidal races in the far northwest corner of France (the other, the gateway to the English Channel, is Chenal du Four).
However, the winds entering the Isle of Biscay are often southerly, following the direction of the coastline.
Southerly winds seemed rare, and in the south of Brittany we were often dependent on strong daytime westerly winds, which of course meant that any westerly direction had to be reached by early morning light air.
In short, we had to choose the weather windows carefully and be flexible in our timing. On any day when the wind blew south or west, we drifted off course, whether we wanted to or not.
Heading north, we stopped at Les Sables-d'Olonne, a seaside town with a large fishing harbor and home to several shipbuilders, not to mention an eminently well-protected harbor (known as the home of the Vendée Globe).
After staying in port for over a week due to the low water level in the Atlantic Ocean, we set off for the Ile d'U.
It was that moment in which Nick got seasick, which seems to have become a custom.
The last time we sailed here, we were in the same port at Les Sables-d'Olonne and, leaving it, encountered an uncomfortable sea, which knocked Nick out of action that day.
From here, Southern Brittany, undoubtedly the pearl of Atlantic France, beckoned: the flat and sandy islands of Edique and Ouate, the lush and mountainous island of Belle-Ile, as well as the enchanting river Vilaine and the vast inland waterway of Morbihan.
There are hundreds of small islands and the picturesque medieval town of Vannes.
This corner of France alone could easily entertain any cruiser for the whole summer. Indeed, we seriously wondered if we had made the mistake of selling Ruby Rose and buying a catamaran for a tropical cruise.
It didn't really matter what the weather was, there were anchorages and harbors to provide protection from any wind and wave direction.
If there were any inconsistencies in the forecast, we simply entered Morbihan and wandered to Vann or sailed further east, through the lock, to the peaceful Vilen (although I must admit that the hull moored along the pontoon of visitors. In short, from here and there, yes, they went all over Brittany.
The otherwise delightful village of La Roche Bernard was enough to drive me insane - although at € 80 for a full week's mooring it was worth it).
To the west!
Finally, it was time to force yourself to move west. Our forecast was favorable, and we moved quickly along the coast of southern Brittany, stopping at Port Louis at Lorient and Concarneau.
We've previously been to the Ile de Glenans, an archipelago of uninhabited islands south of Concarneau, but with light easterly winds and a tidal race to catch them, we didn't have time to visit them again this year. All this makes Brittany feel.
Instead, we headed west, anchored for the night in Audierne - where we were awakened by the much-anticipated knock on the hull of an enterprising local who was taking morning walks in his boat selling baguettes, croissants and raisin buns - before heading out.
Stops at the rate "Brittany"
Despite the intimidating reputation of Raz-de-Seine, we always timed the crossing very carefully and passed through the tidal gate in calm weather.
As in the previous experiment, the passage through the gate went without incident, which is what we like. From here we explored the rocky bay of Baie de Durnanese, where the coastline was even wilder and more beautiful the further south: steep cliffs overtook wide sandy beaches, and a world of hidden coves and bays beckoned.
A stop at Camare-sur-Mer is a must, and with the extended marina, there is room for many more boats than when we first arrived. When it comes to bed allocation, managers are hands-off and it is up to the skippers and their crew to find the right place.
Even though this marina seemed to be full, if I also learned anything on a cruise in France it is that there is always room for another. In the end, we rafted against another monohull and stayed there for a few happy days.
Camare-sur-Mer is an almost obligatory stop for sailors heading both north and south between the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, as it is not only well-protected and geographically conveniently located to separate the two tidal races, but also causes a huge pleasure. ...
The morning walks are spectacular, the beaches are breathtaking, and the food is everything you'd expect from a seaside fishing village in Brittany. We could spend the whole summer there watching the coming and going, wandering around the bars and restaurants of the village in the evenings, and taking brisk walks along the coast during the day.
However, the summer is almost over and, more alarmingly, the number of Covid cases in France is on the rise. We hurried north.
Our run of the Chenal du Four tidal race was as easy and enjoyable as the Raz de Sein: we had one of those rare, perfect sailing days with warm sun, 15 knots on the beam and flat sea.
Pink Granite Coast
We then sailed east again, timing the passage, taking into account the ebb and flow that brought us to the Ile de Brea.
After circling the north side of the island and arriving at the pink rocky anchorages at the southeast corner, which changed in size every hour as the oncoming waves rose and fell with the tide, hiding and in turn revealing the pink color.
Heading to the shore, we walked along narrow streets to a village in the center of the island, took a baguette and some supplies. And when we went back, we got lost several times. But in the end, they found their way to the pebble beach, which had Ruby Rose at anchor.
On the morning of our departure to Jersey, the sun was a blurred red ball. The sea and sky are milky pink, without a clear horizon.
Slightly sad with regret, we anchored and left the anchorage, knowing that while the next chapter of our cruising life will take us far away from here, Brittany is a sailing destination that we will always eventually return to.
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