Anchored in Brittany

There’s nothing like the peace of anchoring for the night in a quiet bay far from the busyness of a marina or a harbour and watching the sun go down. July in Brittany in a heatwave was the ideal time to explore some new places and leave the restaurant food and the hot showers till another day.

But first, dolphins. A large pod found us while we were still motoring south from Falmouth waiting for enough breeze to put the sails up.

The photo at the top of the page shows our first stop after crossing the Channel from Falmouth. We’d intended to anchor in a bay on the north side of the outer approach to Brest, the Avant Goulet (‘outer throat’). But when we shot out of the bottom of the Chenal du Four, we hit a fresh breeze from the east and changed plan to beat for shelter under the cliffs by Camaret sur Mer. The Anse de Bertheaume on the chart below was our original destination.

Lois left a fishing line down overnight but caught mostly starfish. A small fish died on her hook and the starfish spent the night scrambling over its caracass.

Then to Brest to have our passports stamped. Not on a Sunday, of course, but we went ashore anyway and demolished several crabs at the Crab and Hammer. It does what it says on the sign.

It’s not much more than 30 miles from Brest to Douarnenez but we were early for the Temps Fete festival so spent a night on the north side of Douarnenez Bay in the beautiful Anse Saint Nicolas.

In Douarnenez (pop. 14,000) for the first time in four years, I found unexpected tensions. A town council for many years run by leftists has been won by right-wingers. Fly posters complain that Douarnenezians are becoming an endangered species because of holiday rentals and the ‘Sardine Walk’ trail of story-boards appears to have been crudely edited. The last story board used to tell how Douarnenez was the ‘Red Town’, one of the first places to elect a Communist council in 1921 and celebrating a history of labour activism in the sardine factories. Now there’s just a patch of fresh asphalt where the story board used to stand. Luckily, someone has posted all the storyboards to Pinterest so here’s No. 17 in three languages.

Heading north again, we finally made it to the Anse de Berthaume. It’s pretty, but protected only from the north and full of mooring buoys.

We chose Roscoff on the north coast as the most convenient port to have our passports stamped out, but the town turned out to be a delight: fabulous stone-carved mediaeval merchants’ houses, an ‘Exotic Garden’ of semi-tropical plants, top-quality crepes and a free bus that linked marina, town and supermarket. The modern marina was efficient and we had only a five-minute walk to the ferry terminal to have our passports stamped.

Manoeuvering a 16-tonne traditional boat with offset propeller out of the marina took a multi-point turn and a mile out into the Channel, we realised that all the forwards and backwards action had broken the engine throttle cable off the engine control. It was fortunate this hadn’t happened when we were nudging between expensive boats. We could still operate the engine with Peter’s foot doing the job of the cable, though, so we pressed on across the channel.

Arriving in Plymouth, we anchored in Cawsand Bay and shipwright Graham, who lives in Cawsand, rowed aboard to join in studying the problem. He suggested a long piece of string to pull the throttle lever until we could replace the cable, and with that high-tech solution we berthed smoothly at home in Plymouth Yacht Haven.