After 3 nights in Belle Ile we sailed south this morning, leaving bright and early at 6am. This is not by choice, but we’re dictated by the weather and if we left our departure until Monday, which was our original plan, we would have missed a window of fair weather with which to sail the 50 miles south to Ile d’Yeu. If we waited until Tuesday, we would have put ourselves under too much pressure to get to La Rochelle by Thursday for Matt and Kaitlyn’s flight on Friday. See how much planning goes into even the simplest of decisions?!
We left Concarneau last Wednesday in the calmest possible weather. We put the sails up, turned the engine off and practically came to a screeching halt; there was absolutely no wind at all. There were, however, plenty of sailing yachts out enjoying the sunshine so evidently this didn’t put anyone off.
It was only a few hours sail to Ile de Griox, our overnight stop, and I spent that time sitting in the sunshine on the coachroof attempting to paint my nails: a clumsy procedure at the best of times, you can imagine the result on a moving boat. When I went to show off my turquoise toenails to Nick, he exclaimed, “Christ, what did you do, lob the nail polish at your feet from standing height?!” I have to admit, he had a point.
We arrived in Ile de Griox and slowly motored around the small rocky island looking for an anchorage. We were aiming for what looked to be a very pleasant bay with a sandy beach and some white washed french houses, but when we arrived it was heaving with our nemesis: lobster pots. Not good. So we carried on and found the boat party around the next corner; we could see the dozens of white masts gently swaying in the light breeze and as we rounded the corner the reason for the popularity of the anchorage became clear on account of the gorgeous beach nearby. As we approached, Nick, monocular pressed against his eye, annouced with a certain glee that it appeared to be a nudist beach judging from all the bare skin on display. Obviously this completed the picturesque view, and we all settled down for an afternoon and evening of yet more reading, beer drinking and sleeping. Occassionally somebody would mention that perhaps we ought to go for a swim, or row the dingy ashore and take in the delights of the island, but our laziness had reached truly epic proportions and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to summon the required energy.
The next day was an early start so we could get to Belle Ile for lunch. Nick and I had fond memories of this island from last year’s cruise, and we were keen to return. We stayed in a colourful village called Sauzon, which is spread along the banks of a small drying river. The further upstream you go, the more it dries out, so most boats are moored in the entrance where there is always water. However, we were keen to dry the boat out, mostly as an interesting exercise since we hadn’t done it before, and Nick wanted to get to the hull to give our rudders a good scrub. So we continued upstream, put out two anchors so we wouldn’t swing around when the tide turns, and settled in for three relaxing days.
We celebrated Nick’s birthday while we were in Sauzon with a meal out, and although it was excellent it was also hugely expensive, so most of our meals were eaten on board. We also managed to get a bit of exercise, to everyone’s surprise. The coastal walks are truly spectacular and there’s plenty of cycling paths, both of which we enjoyed exploring. We also spent a memorable afternoon in the clear, frigid water off the back of the boat teaching Kaitlyn how to swim, although I do believe she may have played down her abilities slightly. For years she’s claimed that she cannot swim, but she jumped into the water with confidence, didn’t sink, and managed to move in the direction she wanted with a reasonable amount of coordination. That’s swimming, as far as I’m concerned.
We’ve only been in France for 5 days and it’s not just the cheap wine and plentiful pastries that are keeping us happy. It’s also the French approach to sailing. One of the differences we’ve observed between the attitude towards sailing in France compared to that of the UK is that it’s not only extremely popular, it’s also a sport for everybody. The snobbery that we encounter regularly in the British sailing communities simply doesn’t exist here in France. Everybody who lives near the coast sails, and it truly is an activity for the whole family. It’s a common sight to see a dozen or so children being towed out to open water in their tiny sailing dingies, like a row of ducklings. The older children have their lessons on a sailing yacht; we spent hours in Concarneau watching them practice mooring up, taking turns at heming or managing the lines. They’d tie up, swtich places, cast off and come back around to do it all over again. The cruising community is also a pleasing mix of different people: you see as many families with young children sailing around as you do retirees, as well as everything in between. There’s such a wonderful, inclusive attitude towards sailing here, unlike in the UK where it’s considered to be something of an elitist sport, and it’s one of the many reasons we’re loving our time sailing in France.