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Sailing the North Brittany Coast

Seafaring and a love of the sea runs deep in the coastal communities of Brittany. In winter the Atlantic pounds the lonely lighthouses but in summer who could fail to feel the magnetism of dazzling blue seas, rugged coastal scenery and tide swept beaches. In August the French seem to live a life of al fresco eating, long summer days collecting seafood from the beach and evenings on waterfronts watching the boats go by…..

Boasting more than 2700 kilometres of coastline, Brittany definitely deserves its reputation as a sailor's delight.  The great diversity of landscapes and locations ensures this cruising ground offers visitors so much to see and do.

 

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Why we love this sailing ground

Summer Highlights – Brittany for Sea Lovers

Seafaring and a love of the sea runs deep in the coastal communities of Brittany. In winter the Atlantic pounds the lonely lighthouses but in summer who could fail to feel the magnetism of dazzling blue seas, rugged coastal scenery and tide swept beaches. In August the French seem to live a life of al fresco eating, long summer days collecting seafood from the beach and evenings on waterfronts watching the boats go by…..

The French adore wooden boats with bowsprits so we aim to keep them happy. All the Classic Sailing vessels have working boat origins from pilot cutters to sailing trawlers, privateers, revenue luggers or cargo carrying sailing ships. Sail the best of Britain’s maritime heritage fleet to meet the French each summer.

We do have voyages in Normandy but by far the most of our holiday adventure voyages are exploring the incredibly long Brittany Coast from St Malo all along the Channel coast past L’Aber wrach to Ushant and round the corner to the North Biscay Coast and offshore islands.

Breton boats in all colours at Paimpol. Photo by Debbie Purser
Breton boats in all colours at Paimpol. Photo by Debbie Purser

Seafood, Wine & Fruit de Mer

Breton fishing boats seem to go our to sea in all weathers and the fast tides and cool seas are rich in langoustines, spider crab and white fish. Mussels and oysters are harvested along the coasts and Moule Frites is as common a street snack as fish and chips in England.

After a day on the water, nothing can be nicer than some good French wine and a plate of seafood and fresh salad, whether you are in a restuaurant ashore or a treat for supper on board.  If you go foraging like the French, you might event find your own.

clams from the beach at a BBQ for Grayhound crew
clams from the beach at a BBQ for Grayhound crew

 

Crossing 'La Manche'

The English Channel is at its widest if you sail to France from Falmouth or Penzance. Devon ports have an easier angle on a South Westerly and a shorter distance but either way this is a good intermediate sailors holiday, or an adventurous beginner. Whilst you may only experience one cross channel passage by joining or leaving in France - these voyages can be quite tiring as you will be expected to stand watches. The North Brittany coast has strong tides and interesting pilotage. These are sailing expeditions in the sense that there will be some challenging long days sailing and possibly night sailing, so that when we reach a lovely destination we can stay a while and enjoy the land too.

Our Brittany holidays are ideal voyages if you want to gain lots of  sea miles, pilotage practice or 60 mile qualifying passages towards RYA Coastal Skipper or Yachtmaster.

Vessels sailing to Brittany typically include Agnes, Grayhound, Leader, Provident, Pilgrim Eda Frandsen and Irene. Step aboard one of these beautiful traditional vessels to enjoy the delights of the french hospitality, cuisine and sailing waters. Voyages start from the Westcountry or in the Solent involving some great cross channel sailing.

Brixham charter vessel Provident is an old hand at Channel Crossings.
Brixham charter vessel Provident is an old hand at Channel Crossings.

Granite Rose Coast & French Rivers

The Granite Rose Coast gets its name from the pink granite on this stretch of the Brittany coast. The strange shaped rocks look even more pink at sunset and the coastline is strewn with reefs and interesting pilotage. This iconic coastline has featured in many photos by Phillip Plisson and others and stretches from Isle de Brehat in the East to Roscoff in the West. Behind the granite teeth of the coast are beautiful winding rivers like the Treiux up to Lezardrieaux, Tregiuer and Morelaix.

The granite archipelago Isles de Brehat lie a mile off the northern coast of Brittany and are made up of several islets around two small islands. Affectionately known as the 'Island of Flowers' there are several tiny villages with pretty stone cottages and fields surrounded by small stone-walls.  The islands are lovely to explore by foot or bike where you can seek out colonies of breeding gannets and puffins. Isle de Brehat is a bit like a French Isles of Scilly with pink sandy beaches and a distinctive local community. To live on Brehat, locals and holiday visitors have to plan their days to fit the tides and weather. The landscape changes drastically between high and low water and you will be amazed how the ships manage to wiggle into some of the deep pool anchorages when the water disappears!

Ploumanach has a tight little entrance and a shallow sill to cross so not all the Classic Sailing fleet can get in here. Lying offshore is the Sept Isles - A French National Nature reserve with 20 000 breeding gannets. Bigger vessels can anchor here in quiet weather and enjoy the sounds of nature.

Trebuerden is situated in the Cotes-d'Armor in the north-west of France and will be a welcoming destination with its large sheltered marina and fits remarkably well into the landscape of granite crags, pine trees and gorgeous beaches. After a long passage it is always nice to swim in the sea, enjoy a refreshing shower and head into town for a glass or two of wine or beer on 'French soil'.

France for sailing along Granite Rose Coast
Granite Rose Coast. Photo Pixabay

The Atlantic Coast of France

Sailing West of Roscoff the Atlantic Ocean starts to make its presence felt. The tides sweep along the coast at 3-4 knots and the seas seem to get more and more blue as you run out of rivers carrying silt into the sea.

The Island of Ushant (Oussant) has several large lighthouses and the sea can pile up here as you get ready to catch the tidal race down the Chanel du Four. If you have time to stop in Lampaul on Ushant it feels like you are on the Irish Arran Islands and not part of France. Stone walls, sheep and windsweep fields without trees, but rather beautiful.

Once past all the beacons and lighthouses you can find the entrance to the Rade de Brest. This is where the French fleet used to hide from the British Blockade. The Rade de Brest is an inland sea with a few big rivers to explore. Home to Brest International Festival of the sea it is a great place for a big festival fleet of tall ships and smaller open boats to go out and play each day.

Biscay Coast of France

South of Brest you are into the Bay of Biscay. It is still Brittany for a bit further South and a sailing ground that few UK South Coast yachts reach in a weeks holiday cruising.

Sailing Lugger Grayhound is based in Douarnenez so she is our local expert for holiday voyages along the Biscay coast all the way to Bordeaux and Nantes.

French Festivals

We have voyages that purely sail or race to a Brittany French based festival, and other vessels that like to create voyages that combine coastal exploring and a few days at a colourful event.

 

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