Island Hopping to La Rochelle and a gathering of friends Old and New

160621 2 Brest Longest day of summer no sun160621 7 Music Festival to celebrate summer salsa

Before continuing south we were fortunate to be in Brest for Summer Soltise. Summer Soltise is the day in which the earths axis is tipped at its most towards the sun giving the longest day in Summer - even if summer still hasn’t realistically shown its colours or warmth. For the last four years that we have been in Northern Europe we have missed Summer Soltise celebrations as we have often been at sea on passage. In Scandinavia the celebrations were marked with a huge bonfire and we remember many times sailing past islands preparing huge piles of timber in preparation for the celebration. Well this year we finally managed to be in harbour. The day did not start out well with the harbour completely shrouded in Fog but as the evening drew near the clouds parted and we were able to walk the streets of Brest and enjoy the french way of celebrating - with music.

160623 7 Bendodet Harbour
160624 2 Ile De Glenan Boats

Our first stop out of Brest was on anchor in the harbour overlooking the beach of Benodet. From here it was a short sail to the Glenan Iles. A small group of islands just 12 nm south of Benodet and in summer home to a lot of water sports and yachts particularly given it is described in some guides as the closest thing to the Caribbean you can get in South Brittany. We anchored just north of Ile De St Nicolas sitting back from the yachts on mooring. The islands lived up to their reputation as we zipped about in the tender and took in the white sand beaches and clear water. 

Katherine Belle Isle

Next anchorage was off Belle Ile just south of Lorient. It is the largest island in Brittany and popular with tourists given its 60 beaches and temperate climate. We could not fit into either the northern harbour of Sauzon or Le Palais the capital of Belle-Ile so opted to anchor just outside of Le Palais beyond the many mooring bouys. The highlight of this island was having our photo taken by local photographer Michel Bourdin as we approached. We have flown our A1 sail - better known as our Big Bird Sail - many times this season and it was so nice to have it captured on film for us to appreciate. 

Le Palais turned out to be a far prettier and enjoyable harbour then we had expected with its citadel from the 18th century and streets lined with buildings with character . It was on anchor here we learn’t about the term “Brise de terre”. The land breeze that creates havoc with the sea state. With out doubt it was the rolliest anchorage we have had so far this season causing one to ensure they were in a secure position whilst sleeping to ensure that one did not get ejected unexpectedly from the comfort of the bed. Despite this inconvenience we opted to stay two nights on anchor here and enjoy exploring the township of a very pretty island. 

160702 3 Aussie BBQ Onboard Katherine La Rochelle160616 6 Figaro Fleet finished La Rochelle

So ended our time in Brittany. In need of a secure nights sleep we chose the option of a harbour heading for Les Sables d’Olonne and then into La Rochelle. Our base for the last 12 days. 

Our first Saturday in harbour would prove to be most social as we held a BBQ onboard Katherine and brought together friends old and new, Australian and British. Darb and Nell friends from Australia had arrived to join us, Ron and Barbara also from Australia were in harbour onboard a boat from Lymington, Ian Miller from Guernsey happened to be in harbour on his XC38 and having met Aussie Shaun Yates the previous night we invited him and his mum and Dad from Sydney to join us. Was a great way to start our stay in La Rochelle. 

160605 2 Katherine alongside La Rochelle in Basin

There was a threat that we would need to leave harbour by the 4th due to the harbour being used for the finish of the  Solitaire du Figaro. "Now in it’s 47th year, the Solitaire du Figaro is one of the world’s toughest sailing competitions. Fiercely competitive, the race is recognised as the world championships of solo offshore racing, with the course taking just over a month to complete. Requiring a unique skill set and a raw ambition present in so few, the Solitaire du Figaro pushes competitors to the edges of their physical and mental limits.” (Artemis off-shore academy link below) We now realise that whilst sailing down from St Malo we have in fact crossed the path of these yachts and it has explained why at the time it made no sense to us as to where they could be heading. On their arrival with flags flying it certainly added an air of excitement and festivities to the harbour. Thanks to the kindness of the Captainere it was agreed we could stay in the Basin, one of the few places in the area with enough water depth for us, if we moved off the pontoon to along the wall. A perfect position it has turned out to be. 

160603 5 La Rochelle Evening Le Vieux Port Football Fever

We have taken the opportunity to do a land tour of the Loire but that is for another report. The Eurocup has been in full swing and we have been fortunate to watch two matches at the local pubs and enjoy the excitement of the French revelling in success. We hope tonight they continue their winning path taking out the Finals. Time will tell. 

Tomorrow we leave, continuing south along the coast of the Bay of Biscay. hard to believe there is not much of France left to travel along the Atlantic coastline. 

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© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain