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South Brittany
-- 17th to 30th June 2011 --
From Sainte-Marine in the Odet river to Concarneau, passing by many nice little islands, two weeks between shopping under the rain and sailing under the sun
Other pictures can be found on the page « pictures ».

From Sainte-Marine in the Odet river to Concarneau, 185 miles.
That’s 1245 miles since the start.
Our stops, click on the names for more details:
Sainte-Marine (marina and buoy)Port-Laforet (marina) Glenan archipelago(anchorages)Port Belon (on a buoy)Port Tudy (on a buoy) Le Palais(on a buoy)Lorient downtown (marina) - Concarneau (marina)
17th – 18th June 2011 : Sainte Marine (onshore)
Our adventures at the western point of Brittany ended up sheltered in the Odet river. After looking at the wind charts, we find ourselves very well there indeed – we might even stay a bit longer ! Mode « onshore » : as usual we put our walking shoes on and keep on exploring the pedestrian path GR34, the one going all along the shores of Brittany (we know it quite well by now....)
When we tell you the wind is strong...
19th June 2011: Sainte Marine- Port Laforêt (31 miles)

Odet river, between water and woods.
Sunday morning, thus we set the alarm on 5.30 a.m. We want to explore the river at dawn, when the seagulls are getting up and no fishermen boat is making a riddle on the smooth dark water, alongside which old manors are hidden in the middle of a dense forest.

A few hours later with the tide going out all gates open: all the boats stuck since three days rush out of their shelters. From Loctudy to Concarneau the bay is white with sails.

Saltimbanque as well is restless and wants to get some action. Far too early to go directly to Port Laforet. As the weather is fine, we treat him with a little trip to the Glénan islands, always beautiful. At the end of the afternoon only we head back to Port Laforet, under a soaking rain (well, that’s Brittany, where the weather is nice... several times a day).
20th – 22nd June 2011: technical stop at Port Laforet
The weather forecast say: rain then rainfalls. That’s perfect…to go shopping! It’s the first day of the summer sales and we have a long list of things to buy: a new dinghy, a pulley, 20m of rope and as much of chain, two shackles (you never know)... a light rain jacket and two pairs of palms later, only the main sail blocker is nowhere to be found: “you know that’s a model Amiot, right? It’s been 20 years they don’t make it any more!”
Our new dinghy, we picked the model without air leaks !
23rd June 2011: Port Laforêt – Glénan islands (12 miles)
Three days in shops, that’s a lot. We need some fresh air. All the more as the weather is looking better now. Route to the South then, to the Glenan islands, this archipelago well-known for its transparent blue waters. Small islands, white sand beaches, light blue waters under the sun: could we already be on the other side?...the dream ends at our fingertips when they touch a sea not warmer than 16°! Ok, you have to deserve the Antilles; it’s a few more miles to go for us...

Scrub faster, it'll get you warmer!
As for now we enjoy nice views and can’t get enough of this water so clear we see every shell lying 5 meters under the surface. We pick up a buoy at “la Chambre”. Laure tries swimming around the boat to scrub the first algae growing on the hull – and comes back very quickly with her lips of the same colour as the hull indeed.
24th June 2011: sailing around the islands (2 miles)
A light wind and bright sun are ideal conditions to explore small moorings in the archipelago. Saltimbanque finds a small path between rocks and we moor in the North of the Loch Island, alone at the anchor in front of a wide desert white sand beach. It’s a private island and the owner entrusted a colony of seagulls with guarding it. Covered with land where they are nesting, it is the most jealously kept places of all. After being threatened a few times with aerial attacks, we give up any intention to go further than the shore.
Saltimbanque alone in the bay, the dinghy abandonned on the beach...

Gulls, keepers of the Loch island

The dinghy seems to fly above the seabed...
Then we go back quite early to Saint Nicolas Island and go moor in its North. Good for us: a couple of hours later we see an armada of boats coming our way – so starts a sunny weekend of late June in the islands...

Last word: we can only recommend the rocks of Bananec as a growing field for winkles – yummy seafood, our favorite for the aperitif!

The beach between Bananec and Saint-Nicolas
25th June 2011 : Glénan – Port Belon (16 miles)
Bright sun, little wind, still ideal to do some more exploring. On the other side of the archipelago we moor in front of the great beach of Penfret. Walking around this small island to its lighthouse doesn’t take too long. Swimming in its clear waters either! Good, we ticked all the boxes of the 10 touristic “must-do” in the islands, we may go.

Penfret island

That's hard life...
No wind in the afternoon. Full of enthusiasm we had hoisted the spi, which hangs down, not powerful enough to bear even the weight of its rope... OK, we got it, that’s a task for Nestor the Super Motor.

A few hours later in front of the Belon river we stop, puzzled: where is the entry? The river is shallow and you cannot trust the banks, there is said to be an artificial channel dugged in the middle, at an angle of 60° with the axis of the river – but no buoy to indicate it. We try once, twice, engine on first gear...1,30m at the sounder (for a theoretical draft of 1,50... good that they built in some safety margin)! This is when we get out our ultimate weapon, the last proof of total dependence of humans to electronics: the GPS plugged into our computer, which indicates in real time our position and direction on the chart. Without even a look outside Laure sends commands: “more to the right, a bit further to the left”. Camille is staring at the sounder and gives updates every 20 seconds: “1,90m, 2m, 1,60m…”. Under the remote control of guardian satellites, Saltimbanque makes his way along lines of moored boats, avoiding the shallow waters by a thread… pfff, finally we get to the small harbour hidden in a curve of the river, Port Belon, and we pick up two buoys behind a small group of colorful fishing boats.

Port-Manec’h, at the entrance of the Belon river.
26th June 2011: Port Belon – Groix Island(23 miles)

Port-Tudy, isle of Groix
Our plan for the day: make it to Lorient thanks to a good little breeze, remainder of a stronger gale gone with the night. Once out of the river we hoist the foc... just to exchange it for its bigger brother the genoa 5 minutes later. We have to face the facts: the wind has decreased indeed – substantially – and, of course, it’s against us... After tacking again and again in a boring calm, we decide that plans are made to be changed: instead of the bars of central Lorient, we shall enjoy the charms of the small island of Groix. It’s closer, no point in exhausting Nestor right now.

It’s an almost warm afternoon. Coming closer to the high shores of the island, we get sucked into a strange air stream blowing harder along the cliffs and allowing the small Saltimbanque to stay just at the back of a much bigger English boat! What’s more, it’s HOT wind: for the very first time we sail in t-shirts!
27th June 2011 : Groix Island – Belle Île (24 miles)
Between those islands there is a strange zone where the tidal current change constantly: instead of flowing nicely 6 hours in one direction and 6 hours in the opposite, they rotate, 20° every hour. And strongly depend on the winds, adds our sailing guidebook. But but… if the currents depend on the winds, do winds depend on the currents too? As-a-matter-of-fact, we could detect no significant current there – but wind, plenty! Gusts changing strength and veering 180° in 10 minutes! Over ten miles or so on the same route, we experience all configurations and directions... and finally have to resort to Nestor to get passed the small choppy waves standing between us and the harbour of Palais.
28th June 2011 : around Belle Île... by bike !
We want to see the most of the island – on a bike of course (you can’t forget two years of Dutch life so easily). The lady at the bike rental place warns us: “Biking all around the island? You don’t mean it, it’s way too much! Have a look at the typical touristic little tour instead...”. That’s exactly what you shouldn’t say to Laure, who now will not get off the bike before going all around and seeing the lighthouses at every end of the island! Really, do we look like typical tourists nicely following the flock on the marked path?!

At the Poulains head.

Poulains's lighthouse
The trip around the island is splendid : we see the charming little harbour of Sauzon, then Northern end recently converted into a national park, before having a quick snack on a smaller beach (Donnant) and visiting the famous needles of Port Coton. The southern shore is called the « wild coast » and is splendidly empty, blue seas breaking in white foam on a chaos of rocks. The sun is warm but a nice breeze cools us down as we pedal. Finally the eastern end: Locmaria and the third lighthouse, Kerdonis. And back to the Palais via the northern shore and its beautiful beaches. We get to the shop 5 minutes before the deadline, that’s called optimization!

Biking from one lighthouse to the next

The wild coast of Belle Ile
We indulge into an ice-cream before coming back onboard – our legs are a bit stiff we must admit. While Laure is making a leek-and-salmon pie for diner, Camille has a look at a map: turns out we have biked 68km ! Not bad at all, especially in a country slightly less flat than Holland... well, we have no problem with having two big slices of pie then!
29 juin 2011 : Belle Île – Lorient (33 miles)
It’s another normal day sailing with Saltimbanque: that is to say, against the wind of course! We tack in a nice little breeze of 4 bft, the wind veers in the afternoon to bring us on one last long run to the entry of the bay of Lorient. There are two channels going in, therefore twice as many buoys of all colours. Once we spot the ones we have to follow, we sail full speed in, all sails up until the end – no engine, it’s more elegant!

So we sail along the castel of Port Louis, newer harbours, the German submarine bunker (German quality, pure concrete, guaranteed hundreds years and indeed the only building standing at the end of the war). There is also a small industrial harbour and a few cranes to remind us of our beloved North Sea. Finally we take a place at the visiting berth in a the center of Lorient. The very best services for the lowest fare so far: berth + shower + wifi onboard + bikes for rent for... 14 euros!

Our old firends the cranes.
We enjoy a nice evening with some colleagues-but-nonetheless-friends of Camille’s, evening ending with the wonderful story of Bob – which I shall tell you now...
Bob is our faithful third crew member, our wind steering system, the one steering for free all night long, never cold, never tired. His name is Bob because he’s cool. Without him we wouldn’t go very far. But Bob has a cureless disease: he is old. His maker Navik produced 3000 copies in the years seventies, but closed and the buyer of the group decided that there was no point in making spare part for that model any more. Of course, everyone has a brand new shining automatic pilot onboard nowadays, and a park of 5 batteries to power it… So impossible to find spare parts for Bob, even in the best ship chandlers.
Our wind steering system
The day before in Belle Ile we had our first issue with Bob falling apart: a kind of plastic joint at the end of a tube fell somewhere in the water… it’s a very small and simple plastic piece, but Bob won’t work without it... we had to try and make the same piece carved in a water hose. It worked! But how long will we be able to keep Bob happy and together?

Camille was telling the story around the drink in the cockpit, and her colleague Yannick suddenly remembers: “wait, we had the same system on my parents’ boat when I was a kid… I remember it the upper part broke at some point… but wait, I think my father still has the rest lying somewhere in his cellar, has touched it for 15 years… do you want to some and have a look?”. And here we are with a spare Bob almost complete, just out of the air... thank you Yannick!
30th June 2011: Lorient – Concarneau (44 miles)
It’s another normal day sailing with Saltimbanque: that is to say, against the wind of course! Very little wind at the beginning, before the thermal breeze increases in the afternoon. tacking close to the wind until the bay of Laforet, everything is well onboard under the sun, seven miles left to go, we’re almost there, just have to bear away a little bit...

Then the wind veers. No more thermal breeze (true, it’s not so cold outside anymore…). The wind comes now right from Concarneau… And that’s another 3 hours tacking in stronger than comfortable winds before we get to the pontoon at the end of the evening... pfff where are those trade winds blowing all along with you to the Antilles, we will have deserved them!

So here we are in Concarneau. This is where we will set sails for the Great Adventure, to cross the gulf of Biscay towards Spain. But before this, we have a good week before us: some final shopping and reparations, and some family and friends visiting.
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SuDad - 04/07/2011 17:57:29
Grâce à ces récits détaillés, on se rend compte que tout se mérite, dans la navigation. Nous voilà à tu et à toi avec Nestor et Bob, qui seront bientôt de vieux potes. Le ravissement continue. Nous allons ainsi être accros pendant plus d'un an. La plus excitante des séries. Même les Desperate housewives seront largement dépassées. Votre dernier admirateur, et des plus enthousiastes, Jean-Pierre Berlioz, "mailait" ce matin que la qualité et l'intérêt de votre site l'avait "scotché". Nous prenons la route pour vous rejoindre. "à-tout'"

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