Ile aux Moines / The Morbihan

First of all a bit about the Golfe de Morbihan: Oft written about in the sailing mags it can be just a tad too far from the UK to fit comfortably into a 2 week holiday.

Effectively a tidal lake about 10 miles by 5 miles. Top right is the ancient and interesting city of Vannes (which can be reached by boat for a very pleasant stay)

Bottom left it is connected to the sea at it’s south west corner at Port Navalo / Port Crousty by a channel just less than half a mile wide.

And it has islands which somehow contrive to amplify the tidal streams to such a point that care is required.

morbihan mpa

Ile aux Moines in the middle. All the water to the right flows via narrow passages top, middle and bottom.

The chart shows just how fast the tidal flows can be:

that shalt not pass...if going in the wrong direction

thou shalt not pass…if going in the wrong direction

So this brings me to a final useful bit about tidal planning:

a) you will go with the flow or go backwards

b) the flow doesn’t change at low tide or high tide: all that water rushing in or out carries on going for a full 2 (yes two) hours after low water / high water.

it’s odd to think that the tide can still be ebbing well after low water, but that is exactly what happens!

Ile aux Moines

And with that useful bit of info let’s cover Ile aux Moines:

  • it’s the largest island in the Morbihan roughly 3 miles by 1.5
  • it now has a small marina with floating pontoons (see 2 short lines of boats in pic below)
  • it has a beach
  • it has some prehistoric stones
  • and is otherwise a charming little island
France, Morbihan, Ile aux Moines, aerial view of boats moored in water

Floating pontoons can be seen on the left. Well serviced by free water taxi. Inadequate depth for a 2m yacht at coefficients above 90, approach close to the ferry berths

“An otherwise a charming little island”. Well it might be out of high season.

Ile aux Moines is less than 1/4 mile from the mainland and the tourist industry in this already popular region has developed what can only be described as an industrial scale ferry service to bring tourists onto the island in vast numbers.

And on arrival tourists run the guantlet of restaurant / bar/ ice cream shop /cycle hire, repeated several times before reaching the safety of the island itself.

Ambling around the narrow lanes is not for the faint hearted either: cyclists, scooterists and a modicum of vans & taxi are all occupying the same narrow lanes as you.

Huge numbers of tourists ebb and flow

Huge numbers of tourists ebb and flow

So if you are considering a visit to this part of the world, then:

  • Arrive at the entrance 2 hours after low water and your passage will be a joy
  • Visit Ile aux Moines out of season if at all possible to best get that “charming little island” effect
  • Visit Vannes any time – it’s a must

At the time of writing, in the last week of August, blessed by fine warm weather the high season has been giving a bit of a fillip and the French are making good use of the last week before school holidays finish on the 30th.

We might go back to Ile aux Moines soon…..

Put some donk on it / Peter Mathias

I’ll come to the title later.

This blog is intended only to highlight the interesting, humourous or otherwise noteworthy happenings of our travels in Filibuster.

Our the last trip of some 4 weeks was, well, average. The weather was,well, average, we didn’t hit anything, nothing hit us (apart from the mysterious yellow mark now on our life raft). All the places visited have been written about… no cars fell in the water etc…

Something Remarkable….

But before I distil that , that recent, average, trip, let me tell you about something remarkable that happened today, down here in Pembrokeshire:

Peter Mathias walked up the hill to the chalet, in between rain storms and with a smile said “hello”  and:

  • It was my birthday yesterday
  • I’ve just got engaged
  • Can I introduce you?

WOW. Peter’s wife Anne passed away in 2013 after a battle with cancer. We had lost touch a bit.

And now a new love enters his life. Cath is a delightful lady, Irish, shares a common love of golf with Peter and enjoys travel.


Peter and Cath.

Peter holds a dear place in our life and early sailing career: we raced with and against each other, did delivery trips together, we bought our chalet from him and more recently he hosted James for a week of work experience at a real architects practice.

We wish Peter and Cath the best for the future.

A neat manoevre

Read this: About getting Filibuster into a tricky mooring.

So, if you find yourself having got yourself in to a similar position :

  • alongside a pontoon
  • 3 boats fore, 3 boat aft, no more than 2 ft either end to play with.
  • no wind to help you out
  • no bow thruster to turn the nose?

And the 3 boats aft being worth more than £1m, skippers hovering, all watching and wondering how you are going to get out without damaging their prized possessions….

We saw this in Piriac, just a few weeks earlier, when a student in a bateau ecole (training boat) got their command stuck and the teacher had to show them how to get out:

  1. create a pivot point on the bow by taking a line from outermost cleat to the pontoon.
  2. remove all other lines
  3. put the boat into reverse.

The boat can’t go forward, can’t go backward, can only pivot around the one line – and it will do so to 90 degrees or more.

Slowly she does it. Slip the line and reverse out. Works on a bateau ecole, worked on Filibuster.

All watchers smile, think “neat”. A Facebook equivalent of a super like if they have one…..


How to get out of a tight spot (I’m a better sailor than an artist!)

The donk

not yet…

Frank Singleton

We bought Filibuster in 2007. Mobile internet was not there. For those of us needing up to date weather info there was one source: Frank Singleton and his collection of nascent weather info delivery services that could be acquired using the painfully slow, but all we had at the time, GPRS on mobile.

Well I’m pleased to report that Frank and his wife Jennifer came alongside us in St Martin for a few days.

Both over 80 they are a remarkable example of “continuing to use it” as they have campaigned their Halberg Rassy for many years and continue to do so.


Frank and (recently showered) Jennifer Singleton aboard their HR34 Anhinga in St Martin, Ile de Re

Demi Donk

Explained later (sorry: I’m struggling to pad this one out)

Photos from a plane

See this:groix from the air

Well we’ve all taken photos from a plane. Note how clear this one is? It comes from the driver’s seat. Cap’n Laurie Stimpson flying an Easyjet Airbus south-ish to Lisbon. The island is Ile de Groix, L’Orient and Port Louis to the left. Mid picture is the Quiberon Peninsula. In the far distance would be Piriac Sur Mer, where I write from.


And finally: donk

our new found friends: John and Julia Strudwick on board their Nauticat Wyldwind. Now Nauticats are built for comfort,pleasure and not hi-performance. they come with appropriately sized engines (ie the donk) that, when sailing isn’t the right option , the donk does it.

And so into our vocabulary comes:

  • put some donk on it: give it some welly
  • demi donk day: motor until the wind pipes up
  • donk it: better put the engine on to avoid whatever needs donking

The next instalment

Starts August 16th. Let’s hope something more interesting happens. Let me know if you would like to join us.

Hola 2016

Qué ? What’s going on?

Last time we spoke Filibuster was in France, and now Martin, está hablando español….

And, quel horreurs, on a boat without sails! Not even any visible means of supporting such sails.


Has Martin taken leave of his senses and gone to the dark side?


To suffer warm, private sandy beaches, full sunshine, clear waters in the Med?

In April, where back home was a)chuffin cold b)wet

Well, actually folks, you can rest assured. The boat belongs to our good friends Ian & Judy and they have introduced us to the temptations of Menorca. And what a tempting place it is:

  • 300 days per year sunshine
  • excellent food and drink at very reasonable rates
  • beaches, coves, walks to die for
  • crystal clear, warm,  sea (well it was a tad cool on the day highlighted, but Ian & I swam ashore)
  • Largely unspoilt and civilised with strong connections to the UK
  • Unbelievably friendly locals who cannot say a word without a smile

If you have never been to Menorca I can thoroughly recommend it.


Ian’s nav system comprises of:

a) a Garmin GPS chart plotter with a faulty screen

b) an Apple Iphone that has the tendency to fall on the floor (clonk) at inappropriate moments

To avoid getting lost at inappropriate (clonk) moments I decided to purchase an upgrade to the system.

No batteries or screen required, doesn’t clonk when it falls on the floor. Superbly accurate with AIF (that’s a new piece of tech called Automatic Identification by Finger).

A prototype of the system was tested back in France here.

It is of course the highly reliable, patented, TTNS:

TTNS (Tea Towel Navigation System)

TTNS (Tea Towel Navigation System). This is an upgraded version with AIF indicating current position, compass, wind directions and instructions on what to eat (Old Menorcan cheese) and drink (Gin) in an emergency. Can also be used to cover modesty of naked sailors and sailoresses.Reversible screen. Can be used to communicate over long distances. Beat that, Apple…(clonk)


Welcome to Sailing (or should I say Boating) 2016

St Martin, Ile de Re

Well I’ve already written plenty about St Martin and this year it looks like the turning point of the journey again so I’ll write a bit more.

Already we are in Port Joinville, heading North. Dodging bad weather (again) so the 4 fine days Zoe was with us become a memory.

But First: And the crowd applauded

So we arrive in St Martin. A slightly longer journey via half way to St Dennis, Ile D’Oleron, re routed due to slightly tender nature of daughter’s stomach when subjected to windier than expected windy sailing.

The harbour is a bit full, but not full. The harbour master asks how long we want to stay: 1 semaine. Hmmm he goes. He wants us nicely parked and not having to move every day to let other boats out. He wants us alongside the pontoon and we want to be there as well.

He looks at the options: V1 has 3 boats rafted. V2 has 1 boat. V3 has 3 boats rafted. No other solutions. He parks us temporarily on raft V1, 4th out.

But V2 boat is leaving later and he tells them to shove off to another part of the marina, thereby creating the desired pontoon space.

Great, you might think. Except that the now ex V2 boat wasn’t that big and the space left doesn’t look Filibuster sized.

Harbour Master asks our size: 12.5m. He paces out the gap: 14 paces.  “Ici – c’est bon pour vous”. Glug thinks me on the basis that his measurement device isn’t very accurate and even if it was, that leaves me with placing Filibuster sideways into a canyon, 3 boats rafted either side.

Leaving 3/4 of a pace fore and aft. Did I mention it’s windy? Have I ever mentioned we don’t have a bow thruster? And I probably don’t need to remind anyone that sailing yachts can be particularly truculent beasts when made to go sideways slowly.

We get one chance at this. It’s High Noon at the OK Chapparal. The crews on the boats lining the canyon are armed and ready. We make ready. The wind blows. Tumbleweed rolls down the fairway. The wind whistles. etc.

All eyes on us because this could go so badly wrong. We commit.

Now before I come to the outcome let me tell you about a fantastic French word called “doucement”.  I learnt it in L’Aberwrach. It’s a lovely word and pertains to the art of doing things “lightly”. In L’Aberwrach it was used by a French lady against a gung ho incompetent trying to park his boat in a tight spot. He failed. Using everything his engine had he went backward and forward, crunching French lady’s boat and eventually running aground. He was not Mr Doucement.

We are committed. Filibuster is in the canyon. No way back now. With less than 2ft space either end to play with a lot of doucement is used. Forward a bit, backward a bit, let the wind take her in a bit. Repeat.

Then a line goes ashore and is made fast. We are in. Touchdown. A perfect landing: 10/10.

I really can’t remember much about it, except that at the end the crowd applauded. “Un belle manoeuvre” a new neighbour says.

Palps stop palpitating, Palms stop sweating. I take a bow. Brit Honour upheld.

The rest of the canyon filled so quickly I didn’t even get time to get a photo.

And the rest of the stay?

Was delightful.

We cycled up to the unfortunately named Ars. If someone were to ask where we were going I could have replied “the ars end of the island” and be perfectly correct.

We had a party with our new neighbours, one of whom owns his own vineyard and contributed wine from his special selection


Special Selection. See bottom right, reads limited release, bottle number is 5. mmm.

And on the final day we made Zoe eat Oysters in the afternoon, drink some fine wine and finish with Lobster Thermidor for dinner.

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Zoe’s facebook compilation. A perfect day.

The lobster came from the market 200m away. He was hiding in the tank trying not to make eye contact….

Gullible Guillame and the No Parking Sign


Writing from Port Joinville on Ile D’Yeu, its the 30th August. To mark bank holiday Sunday the weather has put on a typical show: a F5 thundery rainstorm just rattled through.

If there were one of those holiday type signposts here it would say 70 miles South East to La Rochelle, 280 North to Salisbury and 350 North West to Lawrenny.

Avid and not so avid readers will have already seen the sad episode regarding Forgetful Francois and the fate of Pierre the Peugeot.

Port Joinville, Ile D’Yeu is the next stop South from L’Herbaudiere,  One of our favourite places with its very sheltered (=quiet) marina, the fun attitude of the holidaymakers, the great bars for people watching around the the harbourside and so on.

What we didn’t know at the time of Francois is that he has a cousin on Ile D’Yeu. We’ll call him Gullible Guillame for the sake of alliterative allusion.

The harbourside in Port Joinville is a busy place, frequent ferries do what ferries do: namely disgorge then load up with holiday makers. The majority on foot for Ile D’Yeu is a place where cycling is very popular and bikes of all types can be hired around the port.

Around the ferry terminal it can get very busy, with people collecting and delivering holidaymakers. Parking is in short supply.

Guillame arrives in Jerry the Jeep

To drop off holidaymakers. No parking spaces immediately by the ferry terminal, but he sees his mate Antoine who waves him over.

Antoine tells Guilliame – don’t worry – I’ll park my car over there on the no parking zone and you can have my place here. I’m not staying long and there aren’t any no parking signs on your spot so you will be OK

Cars move. Antoine parks on the no parking zone. but then they decide to go off for a beer…or two…..



The No Parking Zone. Signs clearly visible. Under the surface. Can you guess what’s happened to Jerry the Jeep?


Yep, you guessed it.


For Sale.

And some time later. Guillame had not come back, or was too embarrassed to show himself in front of the large crowd of holidaymakers taking photos.


And Jerry the Jeep had disappeared by the following morning.



Holed up in Pornic

We’re in Pornic. (more about Pornic)

It’s late. Sunday the 23rd August 2015

1950 UTC (the time zone the boat’s nav works on). 2050 BST. 2150 FST.

It’s dark.

A storm is brewing.

We’ve known it was coming for a few days.

The forecast had it peaking at F9 or F8.

Right now the wind is mid teens in knots. Roughly on the bow. That’s OK. The bow points to a huge wall about 70m away. To our left is the entrance to the marina, a substantial pontoon is between us the outside.


A nice view in nicer times almost a year ago is here:

View from rear of boat

View from rear of boat

Same spot

But tonight it’s not so nice.

Filibuster, contra to normal pontoon positioning now has 7 lines ashore. We’re expecting trouble.

This sort of trouble:



Orange is bad. Any wind speed beginning with 3 is not good. Things beginning with 4 are really bad.The forecast last night had something I’d never seen on this coast : beginning with a 5…..a different symbol appears because they’ve run out of toothbrushes.

Wind speed at 50kn+ is a Force 10. Officially not a Gale, nor a Strong Gale, but true sail ripping Storm.

So we’re holed up in Pornic. As I write the wind shrieks and howls around, the mooring lines creak and groan. it’s not nice out there. It’s not that nice in here either.

And it’s raining. Big time. Actually the sort of time where we feel smug that our full cockpit cover designed for Ireland and now working 100% in France, makes a lot of sense.

The storm.

It peaked a bit later than expected – stretching through a unpleasant Sunday night into a downright nasty Monday morning.50kn+

A recording of windspeed shows the accuracy of the forecast.Over this 10 minute period the wind speed was mainly in the 30kn range, often above 40kn and on 5 occasions 50kn or more.

The wind had come around to the beam – side on.  the boat was heeled over against the pontoon and fenders with a nominal diameter of 30cm were squashed to 5cm thick.


The previously pleasant view became not so pleasant;


No one came in.

No one went out.

The storm blew all day.



A good day at the office?

If you have one, I’m sure it’s a nice dry place. But wouldn’t you be rather out and about in the fresh air on a Monday? Yes of course you would, who wouldn’t.

Now consider these pics of the waves breaking at the other end of the marina. There’s a test coming:


Did you spot the guys not having a good Monday? Click on the first pic: they are by the silver van and about to get what’s coming.

The weather didn’t improve much on Tuesday so we got on with all those exciting jobs that you do when stuck in port, like cleaning the cooker, cleaning the heads, writing blogs and so on 🙁

And finally – it looks like tomorrow there is a “window of opportunity” to push on to Ile D’Yeu. It’s not going to be that nice, but if we don’t take it then the next one isn’t until Friday, 2 more days hence.

PS (29 Aug)

We tried the window of opportunity. The wind blew It shut: a nice sail rapidly became a rough sail with 20+kn on the beam and rising. Boat speed 7-8kn with 2 reefs.

Exciting, but….

Prudence was heard saying “one accident and this could be dangerous” so we headed straight into L’Herbaudiere for 2 days (it rained most of the time) and we then motored all the way to Ile D’Yeu in zero wind ….you can’t win sometimes….

‘eau tels for Liz

yes, it’s me again. Groan I hear, not again……

Back in Arzal ready for another session on Filibuster, heading down south to La Rochelle and environs.

Hotels for Liz

On our travels we occasionally come across superb hotels that, were it not for our own floating accommodation, we might well stay at.

I’ve started a collection on the new Hotels for Liz page. Feel free to contribute further ideas that have a maritime connection.

Liz, to whom the page is dedicated, is not a boaty type and has asked me to comment on the en suite facilities to be found on Filibuster, in the hope of confirming a hotel bedroom will always be superior.


shower, looking forward

Here we go:

For a 40ft boat Filibuster is quite generous in the space allocated to most functions. Only sleeping 6 with single heads means there is more space for everything (compared to say a 40ft boat with 8 berths and 2 heads).


The heads consist of a generous shower area, hot & cold of course with thermostatic mixer. Measuring 4ft x 2ft 3″ door access at one end and shower curtain at the other. Nothing wrong there: I’ve certainly used smaller shower cubicles ashore.

In colder times, warm air can pumped in using the central heating system.



The heads themselves: IMG_36594ft x 3ft 4″ consisting of basin with mixer tap and the loo. Same curtain as in the shower area and another door rearward to the master cabin.

For landlubbers a word of explanation about the curious world of marine loos is in order.

They are a bit different to hotel loos.

The “deposit” part remains the same. Except when heeled over at 30 degrees under sail in a lumpy sea..

For males in particular it can be a game of true target practice: you are moving (in all 3 dimensions) …. likewise your target is moving, not always at the same rate, the challenge is to hit the centre. No wonder, contra to RNLI advice, so many men prefer to pee over the side. Downwind of course.



Unlike landside loos, boats do not have cisterns of fresh water to flush – but they do have a lot of water outside.

Loo: note control know and pump

Loo: note control knob and pump

Business finished, this is the procedure:

  • open seawater seacock
  • turn the loo control knob to “extract”
  • pump the hand pump vigorously until extraction complete
  • turn the loo control knob to “fill”
  • repeat pumping, until loo fills with water
  • repeat the extract process
  • turn off the seawater seacock

On Filibuster all that pumping ends up in the “holding tank”. I need describe it no more. Opening its outlet valve at sea results in a distinctive & satisfying “whoosh” that confirms the process is complete.

Easy peasy. Wouldn’t put anyone off, would it?

And finally….

Perhaps you are thinking of buying a boat? Perhaps you wonder why we ended up with Filibuster, a Bavaria Ocean 40?

This pic of the master cabin might help. It certainly helped to convince Michele.



Master Cabin. Full size double bed with easy access both sides. Complemented by 2 wardrobes, shelving cupboard, 2 side seats and 4 storage lockers. Access via 2 doors. Ventilated via 3 large portholes and 1 hatch. Comfy.

And so to Sauzon


Sauzon 005

Amazonas Sauzonas. Capitanerie Girl showing how meet and greet and park is done. The following evening doing the same job in a dress!.


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.

Sauzon 006

Filibuster, bobbing about in splendid isolation. We remained so despite the fact that the other moorings had no less than 3 boats each by the end of the day (something to do with size: the capitanerie people like to keep similar sized boats together, and with Filibuster bang on the maximum allowed length, no one else of our size came in to join) . That night the wind turned to the North making the outer harbour uncomfortable and it emptied quickly the following morning

Sauzon 013View looking into the harbour at low tide, showing smug bilge keelers happily parked.


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.

Some observations:

  • 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.


belle isle 111

Waterside Sauzon
Taken a couple of years ago.



Ile d’Groix

Ile d’Groix

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)

Port Louis 004

Impressive new Capitainerie at Port Louis

Ile d'Groix 012

This one does a similar job on Ile d’Groix








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.

Ile d'Groix 013

Cap’n – the di-lithium crystals can’t take much more of it

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:

Ile d'Groix 022

wait for it, wait for it….


Ile d'Groix 033

Ok Scotty, let ’em have it….

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.


Qui madam, j’ai les vetements marine de cette annee. Quel colour voulez vous votre stripes?

Imagine this:

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.

Ile d'Groix 061 Ile d'Groix 060







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.

Ile d'Groix 037

typical roadside, trackside, pathside signage found all over

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.


Ile Groix 004

Ferry coming in. Tops’l going out


So Houat


A play on words, as we will see later.

It’s 730am. 21st June. A Sunday. We’ve been chilling out at LRB for 3 nights and it’s time to go.

Ping! Martin awakes with a bright idea. Get away quick and we might make the 0800 lock and out to the sea…..

….some time later we approach the lock for 0900 opening. Happy in our little time lapse universe that no one gets up so early on a Sunday in France because it’s closed. And fully expecting the lock keeper to be happy to see us, having nothing else to do so early.

Now, you can get some things a bit wrong. And some things a lot wrong. And we got this call so unbelievably wrong you wouldn’t believe it.

Sometime in the 3 days since we left Arzal a bunch of boats about 140 strong crept into Arzal. Had a party and now wanted to go home. All of them. To catch the tide, which was falling.

Now Arzal lock is a big lock, it takes 20 or so boats, less if some of them are real big. Hmmm 140 boats divide by 20 = 7 locks. That’s all of Sunday just for the rally.

We tried to get in to the 0900 and failed. Waiting for the 10 o’clock lock it’s apparent that a few more boats have woken up. It’s mayhem. Boats go left, go right, go forward, go backward. Occasionally they crunch. See photo.

LRB-Houat 005

Left a bit, right a bit, crunch. Boat 2nd from right desperately trying to avoid being run over by large boat reversing into him. He failed: crunch. Boat to his left desperately trying to fend off. He failed as well: crunch. Small boat to the 2nd from left is the rossers. They don’t know about the feeding the ducks episode.

Filibuster stakes her claim – we’re not going to be missing another. Near the front of the queue and defending our position we get into a very, very crowded lock.

I’ve written about the fun of the Arzal lock before, so no need to repeat that.

And BTW the rally wasn’t a booze up – it’s held in aid of disabled people to give them some experience of boating. It calleds the Pen Bron Rally. More here (in French).


We chug off down river and out to sea. We’re heading for Houat (pron more like Hwat and not like goat). The wind pipes up and the sun comes out and we’re sailing proper. Heading to Hoedic because that’s where the wind takes us on our route.

And in fact so close in to Hoedic our point of tack was virtually in the harbour, our could have been had it not been for discretion beating valour.

LRB-Hoat chart

Hoedic (duckling) is a one horse island that we have a soft spot for. It’s bigger brother, Houat, was our destination.

LRB-Houat 007

Hoedic. One horse island: the horse left.


We sailed on. We entered the harbour, we mused about the tri-bollock floating mooring system. We moored. Went ashore, had a drink and left the next morning for Port Louis where I write from.

LRB - Houat 011

St Gildas Harbour, Houat. Off season. High season will be an absolute bun fight.

It appears that everyone who raves about Houat are not talking about the harbour, but the huge sheltered beach to the SW of the island that we shall return to one day.

Jasper Carrott

What? How do we get from Houat to Carrott. Jaspers’ Joke delivered whilst in Salisbury on the 14th June runs thus:

Three girls in their twenties decided to go out and decided to go to the Hotel Ocean because the waiters were good looking and had nice bums.

Twenty years later they meet up and decide decided to go to the Hotel Ocean because the wine was good.

A further twenty years, now in their 60’s, later they meet up and decide decided to go to the Hotel Ocean because the food was good.

Twenty more years pass and now in their 80’s they meet again and pondered where to go. They decided to go to the Hotel Ocean because they hadn’t been there before.

And what has that got to do with sailing I hear you ask?

Well, in our delight to be out sailing proper with good speed and a nice angle of heel, we had forgotten about the laws of gravity and it’s effects on improperly stowed boats contents:

LRB-Houat 008

after effects of a well heeled party

Nothing broken. Lesson learnt. The sail up to Port Louis the following days  was even more exciting: 8.3kn at the entrance to Lorient Harbour. Fun.

And if you get the chance see Jasper on his current tour, jump at it. 3 hours of top notch entertainment from people who know how to entertain.