14 August 2015 | La Rochelle, France 46’08.60N 1’10.09W – Treac’h er Gourhed, Ile Houat, France 47’22.99N 2’56.85W via Anse des Vieilles, Ile d’Yeu, France & Trebezy, St Nazaire, France
The eastern Caribbean is characterised by its endless chain of islands, the anchorages that are fringed by beaches of golden sand and the breathtaking views when you venture ashore. The offshore islands of the Brittany coast have been just like the Caribbean; but with a few notable exceptions.
The first of the exceptions happened as we left La Rochelle bound for the first of the islands. Instead of basking in bright sunshine and hiding from the sun we cowered under blankies and tried to spot where the sea finished and the sky started. The horizon was nowhere to be seen.
Anchoring in Ile d’Yeu we felt like we were back in one of the French Caribbean islands. The sun shone, the sand shone more, and as it usual in every French province, French boats anchored way too close to us. If there was space for a Rizla paper between us and anything, then a French boat thought there was space for them.
Ashore the Caribbean feel continued, again with a notable exception. As we hiked the delightful trails we came across charming sleepy ports and histories older than anything on the other side of the pond. Overlooking the old port was not just an old fort, but a fort that had existed for 1000 years before the French even knew about the Caribbean. Apparently it was 1400 years old!
With the sun high in the sky and beating down on us we felt like we were walking with our friends from Saralane in the Caribbean. There was no shade and we elected to walk back via ‘town’. In our minds eye we could envisage quiet cafes serving ice cold beer and food to die for, we hoped when we sat down we’d have views of beret wearing locals cycling past with strings of onions around their necks. Unfortunately it was just like the Caribbean on a Sunday. Nothing was open, no food was served and we had to push on towards Ruffian under an unrelenting sun.
Leaving Ile d’Yeu behind us we had some very dull administration to do. Just like in all the French Caribbean islands, internet in France was hard to come by. We had a plan to head to a town and as we neared the locks with tugs and container ships everywhere we were told in no uncertain term that the gates were broken, we were not welcome and we should turn tail. Turn tail we did to the most delightful of unknown anchorages, where services were a stones throw away and a golden sand beach welcomed us.
Needing to return to our Frenchy Caribbean we headed off to Ile Houat. This really was the Caribbean in France. Around every corner a beach kissed the cliffs and was lapped upon by turquoise waters. Looking to the horizon however we knew this wasn’t the Caribbean. Fog hid the mainland, and jackets hid our tans, but the islands were still stunning in every sense.
Sitting on Ruffian the Caribbean feel continued. In the Caribbean the trade winds howl relentlessly and we were in for some howling winds. Again there was a difference. The wind was going to bring with it rain by the bucket load and temperatures that could only be battled by the deployment of our legendary blankies.
As the wind blows through the rigging and boats dance around us we are left thinking if the Caribbean feel will continue. We just need to seek out some sunshine and a cheeky beach bar. The sunshine is on its way we now just need to find the bar.
Brrrrrrr. We’re defo back in northern Europe now.
It’s nice to be back at anchor.
With great views and rocks everywhere.
Does anyone need rescuing?
Round the island race; french style.
Cool castle. It’s only 1400 years old!
It’s almost like the Caribbean (with frost!).
Brits at sea.
Just how are you supposed to catch fish with these?
Ahhh. Lovely sailing.
The French take the no anchoring zone very seriously.
It really is like the Caribbean (with jackets & fog).
The church of the model ships.
Lovely sandy fringed anchorages on Ile Houat, if we could see them.
The fog clears and they are indeed lovely.
And they are everywhere.
That’s one happy hiker.
That’ll be a Nepoleonic fort then.
We search out WiFi in the strangest of places.
We’re battening down the hatches for what’s on its way to us.