WABI’’’ real time : at anchor, Anse de Forgard, East of the Crozon peninsular.
Just over five years ago I came to this area for the first time in my Frances 26, WABI’’, after I ‘retired’ from the NHS the first time around. Actually : slight correction in that I had been in the area once before under sail and that was during my first ever long distance offshore race down to La Trinite sur Mer. We definitely sailed through the Raz de Seine although I can’t remember it…maybe I was off-watch !.
When I came here to cruise in my own boat I sailed into the entrance to the Aulne and poked upriver a short distance above the curved suspension bridge at Terenez but didn’t go any further as I I didn’t have a chart and the river did seem to be very shallow where I was already. Back down near the entrance that time I got talking to the owner of a small British sloop, in fact I’d already seen the boat several times that year in the same anchorages as I was in but hadn’t spoken to him until I saw the boat again in France. I asked him about the river and he said that it was possible to get a long way inland to a town called Chateaulin and to lay alongside a quay there. I don’t remember any more details but always kept it in the back of my mind that i would like to go there. Many years later we were driving in that part of Brittany, on holiday I think, and we drove past what I thought was the head of the Aulne with boats sitting on the mud at a tidal quay….I was wrong although I didn’t know it at the time.
This time around It was my intention to explore as many of the rivers coming off the Rade de Brest as possible and it just worked out that the Aulne was the first river that I put into after a night at Port Tinduff. At the entrance the river does an amazing double turn back on itself just below the little village of Llandevennec and an Abbey high on the hill. The deep water side of the river seems to be a graveyard for decommissioned French warships. I haven’t talked much about the Rade de Brest so far as it really needs an entire blog post and I am gradually covering it in small sections : anyway a lot of the Rade is in use by the French navy with a naval port attached to the town, their sea-school at one end of the south side and then these old ships tucked away up the Aulne.
Derelict ships, L’Aulne.
Guly-Glas tidal lock and the first bridge…railway viaduct.
While I have a general chart that covers the area : Imray C36 and a local French chart of the Rade itself I still don’t have a large scale chart of the river. My one guidebook on board says that it’s a good 12 miles from the entrance all the way up to Chateaulin and I had to use a lot of guesswork as to where the channel went. I was fine the first times up and down but I bumped a few times when we did it the second time around. The river does some very impressive meanders , looping almost back on itself a couple of times. Parts of the river reminded me of my home rivers : the Tamar and the Dart. By a few miles in it feels as like being deep in the country with farms and woodlands. At one point it does meet the main road at a tight bend and I’m sure we have seen this part of the river from the road. That first time we seemed to be going on and on, the river getting narrower and more twisty until we rounded a bend and came up to the tidal barrier and lock….I’d not been expecting either and as I motored slowly towards the barrier the lock-master was already waving me in
I had no idea about draft in the lock and no idea about where I would be going afterwards although I could see much bigger boats moored alongside the river upstream so I guessed it must be ok for the little Liberty. I did manage to converse with the lock-keepers who seemed to like my little boat and they gave me some basic information about Port Launay just upstream and Chateaulin a bit further upriver. I was initially tempted to tie up alongside the quay at Port Launay as it had been a long day on the water but I also thought I would like to take a look at Chateaulin that evening so I pushed on and I am glad I did. The river does a couple of easy bends and then goes straight into the town centre itself….I was so surprised when I turned the last bend !, any further and the boat would have needed wheels !. It is possible to get further upriver but it would mean taking the masts down and going through the first river lock and I think I would need a French lock-key and handle for that. As it is I put WABI’’’ alongside another boat at the small town pontoon and just went for a walk….what a brilliant place.
The photographs show it far better than I can tell it, it’s a very attractive little town and it has everything that I needed at this stage of the voyage and it might be crucial to my longer term cruising plans. I really can’t remember the name of that British sailor I met that time although I remember him saying that either Chateaulin or Port Launay, just back down the river a couple of kilometres was a very good place to leave a boat. It’s likely that this place will become important to me for a couple of very practical reasons : one is that it’s a transport hub with both a railway station and buses coming through, secondly it’s got all the services I need and lastly that I might well leave WABI’’’ here this winter.
I can skip over the services side : the supermarket was a good one, about the right size compared with the enormous hangar-like structure in Brest. I found it funny that they have a laundry station in the car park and yes I used it and no I didn’t sit there naked watching my clothes going around. I found what would become my favourite cafe and later where I would sit with a coffee while I uploaded blog posts, then a really excellent boulangerie and then I managed to track down a spare SD card for the Pentax DSLR.
More importantly being here allowed us both to start working out where my partner (Jax) could get to without too much difficulty when she came out to join me for the first time this trip. As it worked out, Brest was easier for arriving so in-between my time at Chateaulin and meeting her in Brest I would have 10 days to complete my first independent mini-cruise. We were both getting a bit nervous about the ferry as the ‘Pont Aven’ was out of service having had a fire on board and that would eventually affect her plans for getting home.
As to staying/wintering here or more likely alongside the quay just down at Port Launay I started to work on that by asking one of the local boat owners : ‘Aggi’ of ‘Norfolk County’ who I will introduce properly in the next blog. One of the key factors would be coming through the tidal lock at Guly-Glas which separates the tidal river from the upstream, fresh water river : I could see from their timetable that they open every day for a while around high water but only between May and September. On my way out the next time around I managed to ask the very nice lady running the lock about opening times during the winter……all that I would have to do is phone 2 days ahead and ask for an appointment to lock through so I might well do that.
This time I stayed alongside the town pontoon for a day while I got everything done and then moved back downriver and tied up alongside another boat on the quay at Port Launay. That time becomes the feature of a separate blog because it was there that I started making the effort to at least try and talk to several different local boat owners about their boats and, projects and voyages. The bridge too ‘Farr ? , I thought at one point that one of the boats alongside the quay might have bee an older Bruce Farr design, the original title for the blog was to be “A bridge too many” as Chateaulin and Port Launay seem to have one for everything and a spare one but hey !