The Virtue is at last ready to sail again, mast up and tensioned, mainsail bent onto the boom, looking good !!,, now just a bit of good wind and weather!
With the arrival of our National May two week holiday the weather did an unexpected dip into single figures and there was frequent wintery snow showers with strong winds in the first week with not much better outlook for the second week, so having prepared the boat to sail we looked for an address south to escape the cold temperatures and booked a small house set into the cliffs on Belle-Ile in Southern Brittainy France.
Honfleur in the rain!
For those who aren’t familiar with Brittainy it is the most fantastic sailing region of France lying deep in the bay of Biscay it has its own micro climate and the most wonderful coastline and archipelago of islands all with a different character, the largest and probably the most beautiful is Belle isle, which was formerly a heavily garrisoned military barracks with several small fishing communities, these days it is superb holiday island frequented mainly exclusively by the French, the nature and the coastal paths are quite breath-taking with its rocky cliffs and sandy beaches some of the best in Europe.
panoramic view of La Palais
I was last here in 1995 when I sailed the entire coast on my way the Mediterranean, I only spent a night in the historic harbour of Le Palais but it was one of the more memorable magical places I had discovered by pure chance.
The history is quite fascinating, the island has the most incredible fortifications and everywhere you walk you come across discarded early forts and bunkers from the second world war, the island was repeatedly attacked by the Dutch and the English eventually falling to the English who took a month to break through the walls and take over the island, it remained British for three years of ruination then was returned to the French in a swap with Nova Scotia, the French immigrant population from Nova scotia were the compulsory removed from Canada and deposited on Belle isle.
Leaving Quiberon on the ferry.
The 1000 km drive from Holland to Quiberon to catch the ferry is best spread over two days as especially the first half getting through Antwerpen and lile is often very busy and can delay the trip, we overnighted in the beautiful Honfleur, another gorgeous stopping place and just next to the main road.
In Quiberon you dump your car and take the ferry which take 45minutes to cross to le Palais, the opalescent turquoise sea is a sight for saw eyes after our rather dirty dark waters in the Netherlands.
We had rented a really quite remarkable house on the cliffs overlooking the harbour and just above a small beach, it would be difficult to find a more attractive spot, the house had been in the same Dutch family since the 20’s and the guest book went all the way back to 1931!! .
Bikes are to be rented locally and the Island is easily accessible, although there is may steep gradients that need to be walked up and down.
There’s a number of steep gradient, best walked up!
Coast path is an awe inspiring experience, and can be walked right round the island , best to take a bus to the end and then walk back home.
Picture in a book of the harbour packed to busting with fishing boats!!
The harbour is generally quiet unless the French are on holiday then the contrast couldn’t be greater as a huge number of yacht descend from all direction on the tiny harbour basin of La Palais, there is a sluis gate which opens at high water to relinquish its yachts and to re-stuff full before closing, the boats that don’t fit end up on buoys next to the harbour entrance, where they are narrowly missed every hour by the ferry which enters at great speed tooting its horn and spins round with remarkable skill to berth.
On our last evening I enjoyed the mass arrival of the French and observed 20+ yachts waiting to be allowed to enter the harbour as the capitenarie shoe horned them in individually , an unlucky few were left outside the harbour wall tied to visitors mooring buoys , was a little lumpy due to the wind being onshore.
The second harbour of Saucon is something not to be missed and it has a secluded tranquillity that La Palais doesn’t offer, it does entirely dry out at low water, it was nice to see so many yachts using beaching legs as well as drop keelers, bilge keels and catamarans, blissfully sitting in the mud !
The beach and cliffs at Donant are a remarkable sight, the power of the Atlantic swell throwing the occasional 4mtr roller onto the beach makes it a surfers paradise, Monet was here for 75 days trying to capture it on 36 canvas’s, In my view you’ve got to see it in reality it quite breath taking !!
Inevitably driving back to the Netherlands we watched are car thermometer spiral upwards to reveal the Netherlands was basking in a mini heatwave and was the hottest place in Europe!!!
Now that’s a serious lighthouse !
Southern Brittany is a wonderful destination for a cruise, but for me to get my 5 ton of old boat down there would require a rather large weather window and probably about 12 days sailing, which with my work commitments and family will have to stay on the thing to do list when I have more time!!
Or shall I add a trailer sailor to my fleet?