Summer Cruise 2006

 Leg 3 – Concarneau to the Morbihan

As I write, we are moored off the lovely little village of Bono, at the top end of the Auray River. This is the top left hand of the Morbihan, and we’ve been here for well over a week now. The Morbihan is a fabulous cruising area, made up of 2 main rivers, an inland sea and 60 or so islands (though most are little more than small uninhabited rocks).

Since last writing, things have not been without event, but its all part of the cruising thing!

Leaving Concarneau was interesting; we motored off the pontoon, executed a 3-point turn in the basin and promptly got a lump of wood including fishing net, weed and a 12” bolt caught in the prop!

Luckily the harbour masters boys were on hand, and were able to extricate the rotting timber, but they gesticulated that the prop was still fouled up.

A small piece of luck was that the light breeze was in a favourable direction, and we drifted onto the harbour wall. We tied up. I tried prodding the offending net with our boathook, but it was to no avail, and it was obvious someone was going to have to get wet, and also obvious it was going to be me! Luckily, we are prepared for such occasions, and I deftly put on my ‘dry-suit’, and put on a snorkel and mask. 

It took about 15 minutes, but after a lot of splashing and slashing, I cleared the propeller of the offending line and net and came back aboard. At this stage I already knew that my ‘Dry-suit’, did not do what it says on the tin! Having stripped off all my wet clothing, I discovered all the seals had perished. – Ce’st la vie. What was more annoying was that only an hour before I’d had a lovely clean shower and put of fresh clothes!

We left Concarneau late, but still had a cracking evening sail up to Port Manech, a tiny village at the entrance to the Aven and Belon rivers. We should have anchored, but no, there was a lovely little visitors mooring with our name on it! At about 1.00am, I awoke, something felt wrong. I quickly realised we were bouncing on the bottom. Quickly checking the tide table, we still had 2 hours to go to low water, and the thought of leaning over at a precarious angle was not enticing.

Further out from the harbour was another visitor mooring, so I assumed it would be in deeper water. We have a very long line, which was about to be used for the very first time. With the rope between my teeth (well not quite) I rowed out to the vacant mooring and tied the line on. Using the anchor windlass, we attempted to haul ourselves off the offending seabed, but to no avail, we gave the engine a good blast and tried to lean her over, but it was no good, we were firmly stuck.

 Well, we lit the oil lamp, brewed some hot chocolate and waited. We leaned over (only a bit though), and then a couple of hours later, floated free and we hauled ourselves over to the deeper mooring. Another sleepless night. I also learnt never to assume that visitors mooring have sufficient depth of water for all states of the tide (though they normally do!) 

On a brighter note, we enjoyed a fine paddle in our canoes up the river Aven to the town of Pont Aven. This is a pretty little place, though somewhat spoilt by tourism with ‘twee’ shops selling mostly tatt. However, the paddle was very nice (about 8 miles return) and we felt we’d had some good exercise.

After a few relaxed days at Port Manech we headed SE. We quite fancied visiting Port Tudy on the Isle-de-Groix, but the wind was form the NE, and would have been quite uncomfortable. Instead we headed down to Belle Isle, but on arrival found it shut! Actually, as we tried to motor into the harbour of Palais, the harbourmaster came out in her rib, and politely but firmly said we couldn’t come in until 7.00pm until she had sorted out the 60 boats already in there!

We considered waiting outside for 2 hours, but there was a swell running in, and it didn’t look too comfortable, so we went for plan B, and sailed another 7 miles to the Isle de Houat (pronounced ‘What’). 1 and half hours later we dropped the anchor in crystal clear water on a sandy bottom. The long golden beach was only 50 metres away, and the rocks glowed pink in the sinking sun. We had arrived.

Houat is a beautiful little island. About 1 mile wide by 2 miles long. It has a small harbour to the north east, and a little village with all the basics. We aimed to stay one night but stayed 3 days. The weather had been superb and we explored the island and its many beaches in blistering sunshine.

As we departed, we ran into ‘Ocean Goose’, who had just left the Morbihan. We anchored up alongside them and spent a pleasant couple of hours yarning, drinking coffee and eating ‘boat-made’ flapjack in our honour.

We left ‘Ocean Goose’ in their anchorage and sailed the 10 miles to Port Crouesty (Pronounced ‘Crusty’ as in ‘Crusty the clown’!). This large marina stands at the entrance to the Morbihan. Its big and modern but has excellent facilities so we were able to fill our water tanks, shop at the local ‘supermarche’, wash clothes and linen and even take a long hot shower.

By 8.00pm the following day, we were ready, the strong tidal stream at the entrance had turned in our favour and we sailed into the Morbihan.

Though the Morbihan is an excellent cruising area, it is not the easiest areas to explore in a large boat. There are many shallows and strong tides, so we decided our best course of action was to find a small handful of anchorages and then explore by dinghy, canoe bike and foot.

Our first anchorage lay to the south of Isle de moines, the largest of the islands and one inhabited and with a small village at its northern end. From here we moved onto the other main island (D’Arz), with the pretty village of Bourg. We liked D’Arz so much we stayed 4 days, exploring the island by foot and visiting neighbouring islands in the ‘tubbies’.

We spent an amusing hour one day on one of the uninhabited islands collecting razor clams, which ‘Rick Stein’ will tell you are good to eat (and they are!).

To collect these shellfish you need to wander around the sandy beach at low water looking for holes! – Not any old holes but slightly flattened ones. You then pour a small quantity of salt down the hole and wait. The razors don’t like this kind of treatment, so pop their heads out of their burrows. This is slowly followed by their shell that rises smoothly from the sand in a slightly erotic fashion. Now you must be quick, grabbing the shells firmly and pulling its foot firmly from the sand before it gets the chance to haul its way back into the sand!

There’s certainly an art to finding the right holes, and after an hour the beach was covered in dozens of white salty splodges. However, we returned triumphant with 8 razors, which you fry in a little oil until their golden brown. We served them with samphire, which was also abundant on the island, this is cooked in a little butter. A true ‘free’ feast.

We wanted to visit the city of Vanne, and had the option to take the yacht up their to the marina in the centre of the old town, however, on recommendation from ‘Tim’  off ‘Rockbottom’ – a ferrocement Endurance 35, we instead took the ferry from Isle D’Arz to Conleau, a small harbour 30 minutes walk from the city centre. The ferry only took 10 minutes, and was a lot less hassle than taking the yacht up.

Vanne is a very attractive city, with a lot of history and architecture; many timber-framed buildings make it very reminiscent of cities like ‘York’ and ‘Chester’.

 Finally we dragged ourselves from our anchorage at d’Arz, and headed westwards, back to the entrance to the Morbihan and then north up the Auray River, going about 8 miles as far as the village of Port Bono. This village lies on a small cut from the main river and has an old history of oyster cultivation. It has a fabulous old suspension bridge across its banks, though this is now only for pedestrians as close by is a brand new motorway bridge bypassing the village.

From here we spent a happy day walking along the river path into the heart of the countryside with nothing but a baguette, lump of brie and a bottle of the bretagne cidre. We walked through one very small sleepy village and found a plaque on a wall containing the name of French and English resistance fighters who had been shot one summers day during then end of the war. It was very hard to believe that this tiny place could have been such a bloodbath not so long ago.

We also took a foray further up the river to the town of Auray, a few miles on from the anchorage, which is not easily navigable by deep draught yachts. Unfortunately, Sue’s ‘tubbies’ had blown a puncture in the heat, so whilst I paddled mine, she got double the exercise by rowing the dingy, which was no mean feat.

After 3 days, we reluctantly turned south, and headed back to ‘Port Croesty’ for re-provisioning. We had a pretty good deal as we were able to arrive in the morning, do the food shopping, replace the gas cylinder, fill up with water, have showers and then leave in the afternoon all for no charge. In the UK you’d be charged £10 for a 2 hours ‘short stay’.

We are now back anchored in the Isle d’houat, and preparing to head south into what will be for me, new territory.







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