Month: July 2015
Oyez! Oyez!. All you creek crawlers, bilge keelers, flat bottomers and lifting keelers. Welcome to Sauzon, Belle-Ile, for this is your heaven.
This is the place that perfectly exonerates your decision to acquire a boat that “can take the ground”.
Along the astonishingly pretty quayside of Sauzon is a huge, sheltered, drying harbour, complete with moorings to assist your arrival, which of course you do when there is water in the harbour.
Fin keelers (like Filibuster) whose decision to visit Sauzon is always a gamble on how much swell you can tolerate. Swell whilst mooring to a buoy in the anchorage outside the harbour (lumpy) or swell whilst mooring fore-and-aft in the outer, non drying harbour (also lumpy).
Happily, nay smugly , the “take the grounders” chug past all the fin keelers. Smiling inwardly, smiling visibly, smirking, going onward to a nirvana where no fin keeler can stay.
The ground in the drying harbour is mainly hard sand, so if you can get off your boat it’s easy to walk ashore.
The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared
Have you read the book? It’s very funny. Essentially a long shaggy dog story. But there’s a bit missing, entitled “and so to Sauzon” I include it here.
And so to Sauzon.
Henri, the hundred year old man, found himself on the West Coast of France. He’d heard that Sauzon was a nice place and that sailing a yacht was a nice thing to do.
So he decided to borrow a yacht. He’d never been sailing before but reckoned it can’t be that difficult as you can just switch the engine on and go. So he did, and off to Sauzon he went on a pleasant summer’s day.
On arrival he was pleased to see that Sauzon was indeed a beautiful place and happy he’d made the decision to visit. He had only one problem to settle and that was how to stop and stay.
Observing a nice big British yacht already moored in the harbour, Henri asked the skipper “puis je fair a couple avec vous” (which is not a request to get over familiar with someone, but just to come alongside).
Martin, the skipper of the nice big British yacht says “mais bien sur, fair un turn (because he was facing the wrong way round ) en retour ici”.
Hundred year old man goes round and starts to come alongside. Martin notices he has no fenders prepared. Or lines to attach with. Typical French. Martin “advises” him, “ou et votre lignes et defensoirs”. Henri points to a locker as if to say “obviously in here, you stupid Brit, where else?”.
He’s passing. He realises that lines are the key to stopping and staying. He gets a line out of the locker and passes one end to martin. And the other end. And the middle. All of it, not attached to anything.
“What do you expect me to do with this?” dit Martin en Francais. Henri looks at me genially as if to say “you’re the expert – you tell me”. I throw it back, all of it.
So I tell him, in French, kindly “attach your lines and fenders first, then come alongside”. Blank look returned.
Is it my French that’s the problem? (could be: my inner French man quite often says things that my inner English man doesn’t understand). Perhaps Henri got the last missive as “put out your washing line and install your fence before coming to my place”
I recruit the next nearest boat to translate from English to French for Henri. Blank Henri look again. A discussion in French ensues. The centime drops. A little wave of a Henri hand acknowledges in a “righty ho” sort of way.
Henri, being a hundred years old, doesn’t do anything really quickly. He slips, nay slides or possibly slopes into the task now in his mind.
He chugs off for another turn. Connects an end of the ligne to his boat. Forgets about the fenders. Comes alongside. One line attached and he’s stopped.
At this point the Capitanerie boat gets involved and takes control: gives Henri a parking place alongside a similar sized boat . Henri now remembers fenders and starts to attach whilst we hang on to Henri’s boat.
Capitanerie man moves Henri. Zut go the new neighbours. Phew go we.
He doesn’t have a dinghy so sits on deck reading and then goes to bed. He left early that morning and for all we know is still out and about.
And as I write this in Port Haliguen a smart Beneteau 45’ comes alongside the other side of our pontoon. Fully crewed by Henri-relatives and driven by an incompetent Henri-alike who commands with an air of authority-without-experience. No lignes, no defensoirs on a boat probably worth £100k. Much snarling and gashing of engine. Backwards, forwards, over the Irish sea sort of thing, nearly over the boat in front, Michele goes to help. They throw a line, in the water. Eyes look to heaven. Etc….
PPS above mentioned boat has 13 people aboard. Several generations of family, not all happy about being on granddad’s boat together. Noisy, at least whilst awake and then an absolute calm descends on this quiet, flat corner of the marina.
PPPS Rather shyly they aplogisied for the enthusiasm of their gang on holiday. Apology graciously accepted, but it was still nice when they went to bed….
And so back to Sauzon
I’ve digressed and dithered a bit, and I’m sure you want to know a bit about Sauzon.
- It’s on Belle-Ile. A popular holiday island for French rich and/or famous and it shows, especially in Sauzon.
- It’s very pretty
- The quayside is closed to traffic Friday and Saturday evenings, making promenading, people watching and checking out the many restaurants a pleasure
- It has resident quayside bands – we pitched up at a bar and listen to “The Golden Jakes” Jazz Band. Niiice.
It’s a must visit place. We did a couple of years ago by scooter and a few days later by car…
If you feel daring and just want to stay long enough for an meal, springs tides will float your boat in the inner drying harbour for long enough to enjoy a peaceful evening meal or lunch if the tides are neapish.
Ile d’Groix. Let’s put it context for you: About 4 miles long by 1.5 miles wide…
Or try this pair of photos of the same kind of facility (the Capitainerie or Harbourmaster’s Office)
Ile d’Groix. Pop: around 2500 permanent, 1 small marina. Across the water is Lorient: Pop 225000. 5 marinas.
It’s not surprising that Ile d’Groix is a top spot for visiting boats from nearby. And not so nearby.
We pitched up from Port Louis (*****favourite) a long leg of 10 nm with a nice sail.
It’s full. Fuller than full. Not enough capacity, of water, of marina, of electrics.
The Rhythm of the port
…goes like this:
- It’s in 3 bits: the inner locked bit for local boats.
- The marina. Standard stuff. Always full.
- The outer harbour– fore and aft buoys.
Did I mention the ferry bit? That takes up a lot of space.
Did I mention it’s always full? Even late June. It’s full and the workings go thus:
- Turn up anytime: there’s no space in the marina. As I said and all the pilots say, it’s full.
- If you are very lucky you can raft on one of the hammerheads to a max of 3 deep.
- Fishing boats will disturb in the early morn
- But the benefit is you get first dibs on seeing marina berths become empty
Turn up in the afternoon and you might get somewhere to stay in the outer port on the fore and aft buoys. Not so bad as long as you have a dinghy. Nice views. Not so manic.
Except when the ferry does a 180 turn, and uses your boat as a guide.
he gets this close:
The close up photo taken whilst we were on the outer pair of buoys above. eek.
Next morn you watch for boats coming out of the marina so you can get a top spot space in the marina-hammerhead-outerbouy pecking order. And we did.
So that’s the rhythm.
We arrived. Newbies. No space for a 40ft-er inside so troll out to pick up a fore-and-aft.
An electrifying moment:
It’s sunny. Warm, about one o’clock. We get out the “clacker”, a special device that allows us to quickly hook onto ring topped buoys. Before clack-and-attach happens a voice rings out
Ssszzzsss!!. We’re 200 miles south of home. No-one knows us here…but someone calls my name, in my direction, not a French Martin call, but an English Martin call. Someone knows us and wants to say hello.
A look around. It’s Stephen Lenister and the Topsail gang (see here). Joy fills our hearts: friends . Friends culturally, linguistically and all those things that herald a good meeting with like minded, enjoyable people.
We go alongside. Hail friends well met. And the scene is set for another nice meal – 8 all told at the Blue Thon up the hill. Warm. Outside. Seafood . Heaven.
And So to Ile de Groix.
The Capitainerie, the electrics, the rhythm of the port: it all settles you into life-a-Groix.
An enveloping calm. Life is relaxed here at this slightly out of season time. Not frenetic like the larger islands can be in season.
Port Tudy tries, with the obligatory port side bars, restaurants and marine style shops. But the next layer beyond the port is just calmness.
Many years ago: Pierre and Florence, at home on Le Bourg, the largest of the villages on Groix and close to Port Tidy (the port we are in).
Pierre says to Florence. “Florence dear, I’m just off to the shops”. He goes. He doesn’t come back. And all over the island appears to be this evidence of many Pierres doing the same.
Substantial and old, pretty, abandoned building just left.
Fields seem to have been abandoned to nature.
What happened? Could it have been linked to WWII when this part of the world suffered dreadfully?
I’m pleased to report that many Pierres, or their offspring , are returning and there is clear evidence of renovation.
Groix a bike
The tourist office have a lovely map. It includes the walking routes (up and down narrow tracks), the roads (up and down narrow tracks) and cycle tracks (up and down narrow tracks). So around the island we cycled according to the map. it didn’t make much difference from being on a road to a cycling track…
And you can’t get lost due to the many Groix-esque road signs.
And as befits this friendly quiet island you get taken around a place devoid of traffic, devoid of modern signage, devoid of hectic activity that the ride is an absolute pleasure.
And full of interesting old buildings, narrow streets, hollyhocks.
And the smells. Of wild flowers, honeysuckle, broom, blackcurrant, of nature. Everywhere. In fields that are no longer productive.
And even the wildlife are friendly;
And to conclude
Apologies if Groix is a ramble. So much to say for such a tiny place. I just hope I’ve encapsulated some of the ambience of the place.
We’ve been to most of the Islands lying off the West Coast of France, but Ile d’Groix ranks high in the list. Different again from all the others. Not over exuberant…not over developed (yet), friendly, laid back.
And yes, we will return.