After Roscoff we faced only two more stretches requiring careful timing of tides and currents to ensure a smooth passage through potentially dangerous choke points.
We waited for the right tide (not too extreme, so closer to Neaps than Springs) and current (not too strong so a low coefficient*).
* A tidal coefficient states the difference in height between consecutive high tides and low tides. The highest coefficient is 120, but we aimed for 70 and lower. In other words, we avoided extreme high and low tides.
We made our way first to L’Aber Wrac’h where we picked up a buoy for a quick overnight, and where a friendly group of seaweed gatherers welcomed us with a warm shout of ‘United States!’
The next day we rounded the Northwest corner of France to Camaret-sur-mer, leaving the waters of the English Channel and entering the Atlantic Ocean coast of Brittany.
Again, we picked up a buoy. We could have tried to squeeze onto a pontoon but people tend to raft there. It’s not that we mind rafting but, if you want to leave and your boat is on the inside, you have to wait for the other people to return to move theirs. There’s a trade-off because your shore access depends on a dinghy ride to/from; yet, the luxury of being able to swing with the breeze and the privacy factor offset that for us. And, not having to maneuver to dock is always a relief …
The harbor features two historic buildings which we walked around when going to/from our dinghy.
Chapelle Notre Dame de Rocamadour dedicated to the local sailors
and, Vauban Tower built in late 1600s and refortified during the French Revolution in the late 1700s.
Oddly one of the draws of this town is a row of derelict fishing boats from Caramet’s fishing heyday. These rusting relics pose for many visitors’ lens, which to me is: “why?” But, when in Rome, do as the Romans do…
What really attracted our attention is the peninsula, Point de Pen-Hir, which we saw entering the bay into Camaret
on our way to the harbor.
This headland offers spectacular ocean views, which we took advantage of using electric bikes (but I try not to use the boost often knowing leg exercise is exactly what I need living aboard…).
Interestingly, when I asked one of the managers if we should wear the yellow vests accompanying the bikes, he laughed and said you probably shouldn’t. Knowing many folk tend to use these when working on roads (they also come with your rental car in case you break down and end up on the side of the road), I wondered why we shouldn’t. Then, I remebered the Yellow Vest protests in France. Okay, I got it. We sure didn’t want to inflame any passionate anti-yellow vester.
Here, as in the Netherlands, drivers are extremely respectful of cyclists, which makes for more relaxed bike touring. Just wish this was the case at home.
We mounted our bikes and cycled out to the point where the Monument to the Bretons of Free France beckons. This war memorial was constructed 1949-51 and later dedicated by General Charles de Gaulle 1960. The solitary statue stands magnificently at the end of a wide path.
In spite of the busloads of tourists (we’ve noticed that holidays are slowly starting here) we had time to ourselves here.
And, after being in Brittany since May 30, I noticed a familiar shirt:
We stopped at another WWII site where Germans built a bunker on the ruins of another 17th century Vauban fortress. A row of anchors honoring the 45,000 sailors on merchant naval ships lines the path to the Museum of the Battle of the Atlantic (1939-45).
It wasn’t open but we were able to explore the ruins, part of Germany’s Atlantic Wall defense.
Since the majority of the Free French Naval forces came from Brittany (they were the first to join the French resistance), these two memorials are a fitting tribute to them, as well as to all the sailors who lost their lives during the war.
We had read about some menhirs (Breton’s prehistoric standing stones), which we found appearing in a rather unkempt field next to a school. A description of the stones states that a local historian believed the alignment of these menhirs was connected to the Pleiades constellation. Since the sign was in French that was our best guess of a translation.
I never expected such gorgeous sandy beaches, but it seems you cannot not spot one in Brittany,
making perfect picnic spots.
During our ride, we came upon an informative sign indicating an ochre cliff. The cliff shows the strata of cold and temperate climates during the Quaternary period, while the beach has the distinction of being home to the first inhabitants of the Crozon peninsula.
After a lovely day of cycling we dinghied back to JUANONA. Similar to the other ports we’ve visited, we noticed a sailing school for youngsters.
With so many opportunites to learn how to sail, it’s no wonder the French become such champion sailors. One particular Frenchman contributed to the country’s passion for this watersport, which I’ll note later in another post.
We left early the next morning for a favorable tide & current passage through our last major ‘concern’: Pointe du Raz. Thankfully, with calm seas and light wind it became a non-event and we whizzed through with 3 or 4 knots of favorable current.
We picked up a mooring in the town of Bénodet located at the mouth of L’Odet River. Of all the harbors we had visited, this town felt like a beach resort, probably due to the lack of middle age buildings as well as seeing paddle boaders, wind surfers, and sun-tanners flocking to the town’s beach (of which I neglected to snap a shot). And, of course, a slew of sailboats. Yet, just across the river stood the picturesque Sainte-Marine easily accessed by a peasant walk from our marina across a large bridge.
We strolled through the town,
picnicked on some rocks,
and posed in a lobster’s rusty claws.
We spent four nights on our mooring and used one of our days to revisit Quimper to see the Musée de Beaux-Arts. We had missed this on our earlier tour of the city and now wanted to see its specail exhibit “The last of the Impressionists – the Intimists”. While waiting at the bus stop we had the good fortune to meet another hr cruiser, Lesley (and later her husband Andy). We shared the same destination, which gave us an opportunity to hear their cruising plans.
Both are avid climbers living in the center of Glasgow. And, to hear their description of their fellow inhabitants in the condo building had me laughing and thinking what a marvelous BBC series this would make. Unfortunately, we didn’t have more time to overlap while sailing, but it would have been lovely to do so.
But, back to the museum (which some will want to skip to the next non-cultural event :)… I found the exhibit a bit confusing but still enjoyed the ambiance of an art museum.
The exhibit featured work by some artists I knew and many I didn’t, with the majority being French. Their art grew out of the earlier Impressionists (a label derived from Claude Monet’s 1872 “Impression: Sunrise”) who painted based on their own emotional perception of the subject matter vs. pursuing a realistic depiction.
The art we saw reflected this later group, The New Society. Below is just a handful of their work. I can’t explain why these particular pieces captured my attention more than others, but they did. Whatever the reason, I found myself mesmerized by the artist’s work.
Perhaps the vast horizon drew me…
Henri Martin (1860-1943) ‘Labastide-du-Vert, le matin’
the perceived movement of a graceful arm…
Henry Caro-Delvaille (1876-1928) ‘Femme se coiffant’
a reflection of a familial moment in time…
Henri-Paul Royer (1869-1938) ‘L’Ex-voto’
the enchantment of a flower sash…
Henri Martin (1860-1943) ‘Belle Jeune Fille Marchant à Travers Les Champs’
or the intimate peek of an artist’s wife
Antonio de La Gandara (1863-1917) ‘Madame de La Gandara en profil droit’
i could go on, but I won’t :)
They had split the temporary exhibit between two museums, this one and the Musée Breton (which we had toured on a previous trip here). The latter was closed so we only saw half. We would have liked to have seen the full exhibit, but the Musée of Beaux Artes offered a vareity of works as part of their permanent collection so it’s not as if we weren’t overloaded with just trolling the halls here.
Back in Bénodet we decided to motor up river a bit for a night or two on anchor.
Crossing under the bridge we had walked over when visiting Saint Marine,
we went a short distance, dropped the hook, and spent the next day lazily motir-drifting with the current up towards Quimper, then following it back down to JUANONA when the tide turned.
We decided to check out a little town located on the eastern shore about 3km inland. Not seeing an easy place to land we noticed a guy unloading his dinghy on what looked like a public ramp. And that’s how we met a delightful fellow named Jean. We ended up stopping at his boat on the way to JUANONA asking if he’d like to join us for a libation. He said he would have loved to but had a lot of work to do prepping his boat for a cruise in a few days.
He retired a few years ago and he and his wife spend three months in a camper van during the winter, and three months on the boat in the summer. They had just returned from their camping trip, having driven to the Black Sea and back (we noted that Albania was one of their favorite stops due to the lovely people). The traveling obviously agreed with him for he was quite a jolly guy!
After two quiet nights at anchor we left for Concarneau a few miles miles further east. We anchored in the Baie de la Forêt and dinghied into another lovely beach and another summery resort town.
Here you truly felt summer had arrived, because it was hot. We weren’t alone as this was during the first of most likely multiple stretches of extreme heat throughout Europe, the type of heat when you hungrily seek the shaded side of a street or step into air-conditioned stores for a respite. This weather makes us appreciate our life on water vs land.
We walked to the old town ringed by a 14th-century fortress and later renovated by Vauban, who appears to have had his fingers in most of France’s defense construction. If you see a star-shaped pile of rocks, you’re probably looking at one of his masterpieces.
Nowadays the old town serves as a tourist haven filled with souvenir shops, cafes and a Musée de la Pêche covering the city’s history in sardine fishing. We did visit the museum only to find it dusty, dated, and French-only signage (although we did have an abbreviated hand-out in English). But, what really made the visit unappealing was the dead air, i.e., no fans and certainly no A/C. By the time I had wandered through one of the rooms, the hand-out became a limp fan attached to my frantically waving appendage in the hopes of staving off the trickling feeling of sweat running down my back.
Yet, we managed to make the most of it…
What I found more interesting was reading in our LONELY PLANET guide book that this city serves as a landing spot for almost 200,000 tons of tuna caught in the Indian Ocean off the African coast. Now that’s a lot of Charlie the Tuna.
One night was all we required to get a feel for Concarneau, so the next day we hoisted our anchor and headed out to sea. But not too far…
Next: A fantastic weekend on another Brittany gem….