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Itinerary of one week in South Brittany


   By Agnès Duez

Content editor for different actors in the sector of tourism.“Passionate about inhabitable sailing boats, and more particularly about cruises. As a family or with friends, I love sharing these moments that are both unforgettable and exotic."

Total distance travelled: 124 miles

 

south brittany itinerary map
Map of our itinerary in the South of Brittany (clickable map)


I will describe the cruise itinerary that we took with my friends during Gulf Week, during Ascension week-end, from the 22nd to the 28th of May 2017. This event is a major maritime affair in the region, with the aim of highlighting the nautical assets of the Gulf of Morbihan. Six of us embarked aboard a First 31.7, with a crew comprised of two young men and four young ladies. A rare arrangement, but one which worked very well. With their respective sailing experience, the two men on-board devised a lovely itinerary for us, enabling us to sail surrounded by old riggings, then to discover the islands off the coast of Morbihan each one more beautiful than the next.

 

quiberon
Lighthouse of Port-Navalo at the entrance of the Gulf of Morbihan (photo by Agnès)


Day 1: From Quiberon à Belle-île with a detour by the Gulf of Morbihan (20 miles ~ 4 hours)

Boat and crew preparation

Leaving for Nantes the same morning, we arrived in Quiberon. From the beginning, distribution of the tasks started. A team was in charge of the boat rental; to do the inventory with the rental company, get acquainted with the yacht, and settle the final administrative details. During that time, another team took care of the supplies for this short week at sea. And yes, contrarily to a stay on land, it’s necessary to plan everything well, as it wasn’t sure that we would come across other places to do the shopping in the coming days.

With a check-list in hand, we did the food shopping, including products which keep well, and fresh products to be consumed rapidly. The sailing boats are for the most part equipped with a fridge, somewhat effective depending on the model and the age of the boat. And as we were never free of a battery breakdown, it’s preferable to be vigilant regarding the choice of products to avoid having to throw away inedible food. We made the most of this trip to the supermarket to buy sun cream for the more scatter-brained of us, an indispensable element of any cruise!

 

haliguen port
The charming port of Haliguen (Adobe Stock photo)

 

A stroll amongst the old riggings

That was it, the boat was ready, and all the provisions were loaded, so we got on board. Before leaving Port Haliguen, a short briefing regarding the sailing schedule, the weather conditions of the day and the safety rules. Among us, two people have never departed for a sail of a few days, so it was important to brief them well.

To start this odyssey, we entered the Gulf of Morbihan. A very sporty start! There were a large number of boats, everything had to be done to avoid collisions, especially with the traditional rigging. The entry of the Gulf is known for being tricky, the currents cross with the tide changes. The sail was a little technical, but it was worth it. We considered ourselves lucky to be there, in such good company. We took out our cameras and greeted the other sailors. The weather was great, it was beautiful for the season, the temperatures were ideal, the cruise promised to be incredible. After the discovery of the Gulf, we were on course for visiting Belle-île-en-mer.

 

morbihan golf
Old riggings sailing in the Gulf of Morbihan (photo by Agnès)


Day 2: From the small port of Sauzon to the island of Groix (18 miles ~ 4 hours)

A gentle awakening in Sauzon

Our Boatmasters chose to take us to the small port de Sauzon, and they were absolutely right. This place is charming, bordered by small Breton houses on a beautiful cliff. Several choices were offered to us to spend the night: Port Bellec, the outer harbour and the dry harbour. The weather conditions were favourable, so we opted for an anchorage at Port Bellec. In the event of a North-East or East wind, it’s preferable to enter the dry harbour by checking the times of the tides and by verifying that your boat is well-equipped for grounding. It is necessary in fact for it to be able to rest on the bottom with no damage when the waters recede, and for this, there must be a twin keel, either with a lifting keel or with a daggerboard. Early in the morning, we woke up to the sound of the seagulls, the fishermen had already gone to sea, and the sky was overcast.

 

sauzon port
The magnificent port of Sauzon and its coloured houses (Adobe Stock photo)

 

sauzon
Boats grounded in the port of Sauzon at low tide (Adobe Stock photo)

 

A relaxing break on the beach of the Grands Sables

After a good hearty breakfast to gather our strength, we left Sauzon in the direction of Groix. We went along the coast of Belle-île and passed in front of the Pointe des Poulains, a remarkable place. We saw beautiful colours on land, the water was lovely, we could make out the strength of the waves on the rugged rocks.

 

pointe des poulains
The splendid Pointe des Poulains under a grey Breton sky (photo by Agnès)

Cape to Groix. A lovely cruise of around 18 nautical miles to reach the beach of the Grands sables. In summer, this beach is very popular because it’s well-sheltered from the wind. In spring, it's relatively quiet. We made the most of the view on this large sandy beach to take a dip, although the water was still very cold.

 

Arrival at the Sables Rouges anchorage

We dropped our anchor on the nearby beach, called Sables Rouges (Red Sand). This anchorage is well-known on the island of Groix, so we weren’t alone in having this idea. We enjoyed the beautiful lights of the evening before dinner in the warmth of the interior of the yacht. On the menu was pasta and ratatouille, with Breton cake for dessert, all accompanied by a bowl of cider of course. The night was peaceful, we woke up rocked by the ocean, ready to weigh anchor to reach one of the most beautiful places in Brittany.


Day 3: From the beach of the Sables Rouges to the islands of the Glenan (25 miles ~ 5 hours)

Along the wild coast of Groix

Early in the morning, we got ready to depart for the archipelago. The sky was overcast, we had our coffee inside, where it was warm. When leaving, we chose to follow the coast relatively closely to see its treasures. We passed the Pointe des chats, we could make out the port de Locmaria, we admired the small coves, the Baie des Curés, the Trou de l’Enfer… The wealth and the variety of the landscape made it worthwhile!

It was time to take to the wind and to adapt our course. There was some wind, between 15 and 20 knots of wind; the Boatmasters were delighted to be able to sail in these conditions. We noticed that they had more difficulty leaving the helm to their crew members, they wanted to make the most of it.

 

First 31.7
Superb sailing conditions in South Brittany, on-board our First 31.7 (photo by Agnès)

A journey accompanied by dolphins

After a few hours' sailing, the wind calmed down. We made the most of it to have our lunch break. As the sun was playing hard to get, we opted for a hot meal. At the start of the afternoon, after a few successive moments of siesta, the sun returned. And to our great delight, dolphins came to keep us company! Our boat progressed at 6 or 7 knots, the dolphins had to speed up their pace to remain at our level. Those familiar with the region know that the dolphins like showing themselves and swimming alongside the sailing boats. Even for the Bretons among us, it was still a pleasure to see them leap above the water.

 

boat crew
Our crew enjoying the sun on the deck of the boat (photo by Agnès)

Discovery of the islands of the Glenan

We reached our destination at the end of the afternoon, happy with this well-completed sail. We saw lovely countryside, we reached 8.5/9 knots of speed, we glimpsed these beautiful dolphins: what more could you ask for? We arrived in the archipelago under a cloudy sky. According to the locals, this is very unusual, a micro-climate reigns on the Islands of the Glenan. This time, we were happy with a landscape of changing colours, where we enjoyed all the same a beautiful sunset. It is difficult to describe this small corner of paradise well, often considered as the loveliest archipelago of islands in Brittany. If you have the chance to go there for a day, don’ hesitate to set foot on land. Why not enjoy a good Breton dinner in a restaurant with view. (Consider checking the opening times).

As an anchorage, depending on the direction of the wind, two options were possible: to the North of the island of Banalec, next to the beach Saint-Nicolas or to the South, in “La Chambre”. The weather forecast was for a calm night, so we opted for the North anchorage.

 

glenan islands
Sailing boats opposite a superb sunset in the heart of the countryside of the islands of Glenan (photo by Agnès)


Day 4: Departure from the beautiful archipelago of the Glenan to reach Groix (21 miles ~ 4 hours)

The beauty of the archipelago

A highly protected place, there is very little construction on land. Only the lighthouse of Penfret, a structure of the Glenan sailing school for welcoming young trainees who are discovering light sailing, and a few houses. If you wish to sail in the archipelago, take time to thoroughly study the tides and the map, there are lots of rocks which are not always visible. If time allows, enjoy Saint Nicolas beach, the water is cold, but turquoise, and the sand is fine.

In high season, you will be accompanied by numerous boaters arriving from Concarneau or Bénodet (Finistère). Some people also make a round trip in a shuttle. Out of season, you’ll have the island all to yourself. Although the weather forecast wasn’t perfect, only the sailors on-board the cruising yachts stopped there. In the school holiday period, it is highly likely that you will encounter sailing boats from the school of the Glenans, recognisable with their red canvas bags on their booms.

 

glenan islands
The idyllic turquoise water of the islands of the Glenan (Adobe Stock photo)

 

A night cruise

On-board our monohull Bénéteau First, we enjoyed a beautiful morning in the archipelago. We still had a long sail to return to Groix but we wanted to sail by night. It was a worthwhile experience. Obviously, it’s preferable to be experienced, the risks of collision are much higher when visibility is poor. Watch out for the risk of man overboard ! If there’s a time when it’s necessary to wear your life jacket on-board, it's during nocturnal sails. Of course it’s necessary to turn on the front and rear headlights to be visible. It’s even more important to be well aware of the weather conditions for the coming hours.

Excited at the idea of sailing by night, we weighed anchor in the afternoon. The conditions were perfect: air, a magnificent sunset and a calm sea. Our co-skippers briefed us again on safety issues.

 

binoculars
A member of the crew looking out for the coasts! (photo by Agnès)

We were lucky enough to have a fan on-board who explained to us the different signalling codes of the beacons and lighthouses. We tried in turns to guess what they were using the map. The sea was calm, the sailing boat progressed at a regular pace. The sky was clear, with no stars hidden from view. A moment which will remain engraved in our memoires. We arrived on the other coast of the island, at the anchorage in front of the Port of St Nicolas which is lovely, located in a small cove, and ideal if the wind is directed North or North-East.


Day 5: Departure from Groix to Belle-île (23 miles ~ 4 hours)

 

After an eventful night and this first nocturnal experience for some of the crew, we decided to rest by having breakfast on the deck of our boat. A very pleasant moment when the sun warmed our skin! We took the route to Belle-île at the end of morning and arrived in the port of Le Palais in the middle of the afternoon. At Ascension weekend, mooring spaces are rare. We had been warned by the harbour master's office. The only option was to be coupled to a boat already moored. We got to know our neighbours, a retired Norman couple, on an adventure on the Breton coast.

le palais
Old riggings in the port of Le Palais (Adobe Stock photo)


Day 6: Return to land, heading for Quiberon (17 miles ~ 4 hours)

A last breakfast on-board

We enjoyed a last breakfast on-board the sailing boat that we rented. You shouldn't wait around to return to the sea, direction Port Haliguen, Quiberon. The trip was rather short compared to that of the previous day. The wind was blowing well, it only took us a few hours to reach the continent. This last crossing was rather sporty, as the sea was more agitated than in the last few days. But nothing insurmountable, we managed to reach dry land without anyone becoming ill. All delighted with this odyssey, we moored our boat and started to put everything away.

 

Return to reality

6 days at sea and we’ve really experienced a lot. It’s now time to tidy the boat, the on-board equipment, our belongings, as well as to do some cleaning in the cockpit and on the deck, before doing an inventory with the rental company. Nothing broken, nothing lost, everything was going well.

On the return route to Nantes, we unfortunatley experienced quite some traffic. Because of course, we weren’t the only ones to enjoy the Breton seashore when the sun was at its strongest. We made the most of this trip to have some sleep or look at the photos taken by each person. What is certain is that we will return to sail in the region: Brittany wins you over!

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