17 August 2014

Camaret-sur-Mer


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Monday, July 21, 2014

We all woke up at about 8 am, enjoyed creamy scrambled eggs with butter, and agreed that we would all go to shore to tour the island, then regroup at 1:00 pm for lunch on board Agnes before setting sail for our final destination: Brest.

Camaret is famous for langoustines: crustaceans smaller than lobsters, bigger than shrimp. It's a beautiful old town with windy little streets and old stone-walled houses. We spent a couple of hours  browsing art galleries, souvenir shops and cafes.

A pretty little boat that reminded John of the Blue Moon.
With legs!
Getting ready for the lunch crowd
Roaming the back streets of Camaret

Easy to get lost in the maze of narrow streets

Back on Agnes, we had fantastic lunch of tomato-parsley-cucumber salad, camembert cheese, and several French pâté with crunchy bread from the local boulangerie.   

Then it was time to set sail. Breast was a short sail from Camaret, so the captain decided we would sail around Roscanvel Bay until all sailors had enough of what they come for ... sailing!!

After sailing for several hours in very good windy conditions, the captain decided we'd had enough and we turned towards our destination.

We arrived at Breast during the early evening hours, tying up in the main marina after witnessing one final act of amazing seamanship: watching Captain Luke turn the 46' Agnes (plus 10' bowsprit!) around in close to her own length -- all the while not scratching any of the gleaming multi-million dollar yachts on either side. Agnes's crew just held their collective breath, then applauded the performance.

Brest is a military/naval base, one of the biggest. The was completely destroyed during the World War II by the allies (i.e., Brits and Americans) trying to bomb the German U-boat base. The city was almost completely rebuilt after the war, and today is a showpiece of classic 50's and 60's architecture.

Why few old buildings remain

Brest today -- 60's feeling

And some of it was breathtaking

Does that sign in the window say 20% off?

Seafood!
Some lovely boats in the harbor

And some big ones

The marina was full because of the oncoming Classic Sailing Boats Festival and we tied up along side a ocean crossing super modern fiber glass boat. It was almost as long as Agnes, but the contrast between the two vessels couldn't be more obvious.

Showers in the marina, followed by dinner accompanied by several bottles of wine and beer on board were a great way to finish the day.

The marina at night
Last stories told around the oil lamp

And that was our last night aboard Agnes.


Next Episode:

12 August 2014

Ile de Molene


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Sunday, July 20, 2014


We woke up as early as we could, grabbed a bite of breakfast, and by 8:30 Luke was ferrying us to Ile de Molene. We were determined to tour as much of the the island as possible, before departing at noon for our new destination. In fact, we meant to circumnavigate the whole island, if we could.

This island is very different from Ouessant: the streets are really, really narrow; the small, concrete houses are arranged in no discernible order;  and there is only one car on the whole island, as far as we can tell. Population during summer, counting all the tourists: probably about 250. Winter crowd: I would guess 8.

The village of Molene

The waterfront with fishing boats

Narrow... streets?

Who knew the French were such keen gardeners?

Charming

Quaint little gardens, neat stone walls, flowers everywhere... with several landscaping ideas already brewing in my mind, I can't wait to get home and start working on my garden. The landscape beyond the tiny town, on the other hand, is much the same on the other islands: lots of grass and barren rocks, no trees, no stray animals, and a neatly mown grass trail along the seafront, all the way around the island. And the sea. Always the sea. Lovely.

The calm Atlantic
Hiker? Sailor? What can I say?
We circumnavigated the island in 2 hours. Back in the village, we found that all the cafes were closed, but the owners of one were nice enough to rustle up some croissants and coffee for us. By noon we were back on Agnes, ready for the next adventure.

As we set sails, there was little wind, no waves. We sailed very slowly for hours in complete silence. The water sounded like a trickle under the boat; the Celtic Sea was flat as a pool, with a beautiful caribbean color to it. What really impressed me was the absence of marine life... no fish jumping here and there, no birds (maybe one or 2), nothing. Really, it was like a pool, but cold.

Hoisting the anchor with Agnes' man-powered windlass

The big fisherman's anchor was hoisted aboard with this easily-rigged crane

Sweating the mainsail up.

Johanna taking us out

Me, hard at work

On the positive side: it was my chance to steer the boat. Keep it at 90 degrees on the compass and just look ahead, I told myself. Nothing out here to run into. I was glad to have the experience at the helm.

Meanwhile, Luke and Mark took advantage of the rare no-wind situation to launch the dinghy and buzz around Agnes, taking pictures of her with all her sails flying.

When the wind picked up, we recovered the dingy and then all the sailors aboard Agnes were smiling again! Oh, Yeah! High winds, full sails, heeling boat,  sheets and halyards creaking with the tension: that's what this trip is all about.

We are on our way back to the mainland of France: next destination Camaret-sur-Mer. Sounds fantastique!

Approaching Camaret... the Captain on the bowsprit

We arrived at Cameret before sunset and decided that we just time to go ashore for a walk before dark. Mark, John and I left for the hamlet. We walked on the beach shore where we collected tiny colorful shells, beautiful. The sunset was warm, and the light just perfect for pictures.

The old quay-side church
Some fixer-uppers, for readers longing for adventure

This one needs a bit of TLC

The (nearly) empty beach at Camerete

Rock sculptures on the sea wall

Happy sailors (with a nice breeze blowing!)

Back on Agnes, once again Johanna served up a fantastic dinner of pork chops covered with mushroom and mustard sauce, good wine, and amazing conversation. The crew is really friendly and we are getting along just fine.

Next Episode: Camaret-sur-Mer

10 August 2014

Ile de Ouessant


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Saturday, July 19, 2014

This morning, the fog lifted, leaving the island in front of us covered with low lying clouds. The sun came up and after a brief breakfast of muesli and toast with Marmite (gaining us many points with the Brits on-board, who had never met Americans who liked this tasty spread), we took off for the island. Rendezvous at 3 pm, or should I say 15:00 hours, for the next leg of our sail sail.

We briefly visited the island's small village, bought sandwiches and wine for a picnic, sent some postcards to parents and kids, and set off for a long walk.

The town from the landing

Dominated by it's unique church tower
The Island's landscape is classic barren sea-scape: the  ground covered with ferns that are constantly rustled by a breeze, the houses all with the same architecture, all of them made of concrete with two chimneys, one on each side of the house. The gardens, most of them tended, are in full bloom, especially hydrangeas.

A walker's paradise

Agnes in the harbor

Characteristic architecture

Our destination was one of the several lighthouses on the island. We walked about 5 miles and after reaching the lighthouse, we took pictures, and toured the shop of a local craftsman, then started looking for a good picnic spot.

The lighthouse in sight

At our destination

John was very tempted by these handmade weather vanes

Colorful outdoor display case

The further lighthouses

John decided we should take the grassy trail that followed the coastline and it's cliffs. Wonderful views of the water and shore. We soon found the perfect spot.

You must click on these images to view them in a larger size

Our picnic spot
The grass on the trail was mowed and the trail looked more like a park path that is constantly being kept up. Grass bordering the trail was very soft and plump. John called it "springy turf": you feel like you are walking on springs. Very cool.

John's 'shortcut' home

The scenery was worth the walk!

That way lies England

While walking back, we saw the town was closed and all the residents were home in their backyards having lunch al fresco. Such nice traditions.

Peeking into backyards

The flowers here are trained to grow in perfect bouquets, of course.

Time for one quick drink!

At 15 hours, the Blue Peter was flying, and Luke was ready to pick us up for our next destination, Isle de Molene, a 2 hour sail.

John & Mark look happy during a brief drizzle


Who needs foul weather gear? It's a water sport!

Back on Agnes we sailed past the famous light house that is in every stormy picture in the world. Voila!!

Sailing fast towards Molene

My favorite seat -- on the windlass

The view aft.
Yes, that is a knife on the mast. In case of prates?

The ride to Molene was quick and quiet. We arrived at the island of Molene just before sunset, at about 8:30pm. Knowing that we had at least another hour and a half of sunshine, we organized a little trip to the shore.

A quick tour of the fishing village of Molene

Flowers everywhere

Adorable old cottages
Back on board, it's still light at almost 10 pm at night.
Dinner was spaghetti Bolognese paired with assorted wines and spirits.

The happy crew of the Agnes

What a great day to finish a wonderful journey. Abiento!



Next Episode: Ile de Molene

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