Boulevard of broken boats.

And the ‘Anse de abandonment’.

WABI’’’ real time : anchored just off the beach in the bay of Morgat.  This morning I motored the short distance from the Anse de Ste Hernot into the bay at Morgan and right now I’m anchored in very shallow water just off the sailing school slip and a little beach just near a small mole. The tide is gently on the flood as we are just one day from neaps.  I might beach the boat later on and take a walk ashore as I could do with some ice for the coolbox, some fresh bread , milk and so on.  

I realised this morning that the quick update at the beginning of each new post : WABI’’’ real time, is a useful way of adding where I am and what I am doing without having to add a long post.   This morning there’s a lot of excitable activity outside as the sailing school instructors are towing out a line of small catamarans and their young crews….it looks and sounds a bit like ‘herding cats’ but they seem to be having fun.  The free wifi is just about allowing me to log on to WordPress but it’s really struggling with the photographs : It took nearly all of the first free hour to upload one post and it’s pictures so it’s a bit of a slow business !

The quay at Port Launay

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In the last post that I was drafting while at anchor in the little rocky bay just down the coast I was enthusing about Chateaulin and Port Launay.  I had a really nice break there often walking to and from the town, since then iv’e left the Rade de Brest completely, gone south around the Cap De La Chèvre and am now in behind the Crozon peninsular.  In this post though I am making a return to Port Launay and several of the small and shallow bays of the Rade to talk a bit about the many sad looking abandoned boats that I found.  In fact this post is an amalgam of 2 posts which I titled ‘Boulevard of broken boats’ and ‘Anse de Abandonnement’ : just my small pun on the names of the little bays and river entrances around here.

Not quite dead yet.

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During my recent 10 day independent cruise from Port Launay, down the Aulne and into the Rade de Brest I visited most of the useful bays and rivers of the south side of the Rade until I had to leave and head around to Brest and the marina there.  I will have mentioned a few of those places in ‘Squiffy’ which is almost the name of one small village/commune in between Port Tinduff and the Riviera de Hospital Camfrout…both of those I visited a couple of times to moor or anchor overnight.

At Port Launay I found the best way to handle being alongside the granite quay was to tie up on the outside of another boat.  The boat I selected as my personal pontoon looked to be in very poor condition but had about the right height for me, plenty of strong cleats and winches to tie onto and solid, if very green looking, lines onto the quay itself.  The first time I walked across the inside boat I almost fell over on the green slippery decks and even a cursory look at the boat seemed to indicate that she had been there a long while

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. It’s not unusual to see boats with peeling paint and varnish and getting a bit ‘green’ although it is unusual to find boats with entire eco-systems of moss and grass growing in the scuppers.  This one not only had the moss and grass but tiny insects living in that and spiders living off the insects. One evening out of sheer curiosity I cautiously opened the boat’s main hatch and stuck my camera down there….if anything it reminded me of the pictures of Donald Crowhurst’s abandoned trimaran ‘Teignmouth Electron’ when she was found drifting during the first golden globe race.  Down below it looked like all the boat’s gear was just thrown about, there was a pile of what looked like mouldy food/grease on the cooker and unwashed galley stuff just lying about.  It really looked as though the owners just tied up alongside, had a meal and then abandoned the boat…..either that or they are complete ‘pikeys’. 

The ex sailing boat is very dead…one side of her hull is split wide open.

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The sad thing is that wasn’t the only abandoned looking boat lying alongside the quay : I counted several that looked as though they’d been there, untouched, for years. For sure there were also quite a few ‘project’ boats with good evidence that work is at least intermittently in progress but it does look as though many boats there have just been left to die. Now, I said earlier in the post that this one is really 2 posts combined, and about the same subject : in fact it also has an opposite, companion post which should be ready just after I schedule this one.

In just about every river and creek that I put into during the 10 day cruise, and before that in L.Aber-Wrach, Aber Benoit and Aber Ildut I saw beached and abandoned boats everywhere.  I reckon on having seen upwards of 30 boats somewhere on the spectrum that goes from unwanted and unloved to just plain dead.  A lot of those boats are the small and unpretentious, utilitarian and mass produced craft that the French boatbuilders specialised in making.  In a way we could say that they were built and bought cheap, used and enjoyed for a while and then their working life is over unless somebody is keen enough to take them on and refit them.  From what I have seen and heard these boats could have been owned by sailors, like me, on a tight budget.  The problem as I understand it, over here, is that money is tight and everything is becoming more expensive : that I hear was part of the ‘Gilet-Jaune’ protests.  When money is tight and families are running 2 jobs just to eat, pay the rent and the fuel bills then even a small boat becomes a very low priority and maybe the interest In them just fades out anyway.  

An old ‘mouesquetaire‘ I think…..dying.

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The thing is about France and French boats that I think I have seen so far is that the mass of them are either small, functional and utilitarian : most of them being small working fishing boats.  After that there are larger , once fashionable, cruiser-racers usually poor copies of ex IOR racing designs and then of course there are the high-end, bang up to date, ‘fashion’ boats with their wide transoms, chines and flares, square windows et al.   They won’t be fashionable for very long…..this year’s model being out of date already.  What there are very few of are the kind of long lived ‘classic’ boats that we see lots of in the UK…the Folkboats, Deben’s, Stella’s, Hilyards etc and the many classes of classic wooden open dayboat that are out racing most weekends.  So far I haven’t seen anything like a classic wooden Dragon, X boat or whatever is the equivalent of a Brightlingsea one-design just to name a few.   I totally ‘get’ the small and functional fishing boats because it’s the kind of coast where you would want to fish or lay a few pots and maybe that’s ‘in the blood here’.  If anything France is more like New Zealand in it’s boat ownership rather than England.

Where I am going with this….I wondered about the long term future of many old GRP boats like my own but more particularly the hundreds if not thousands of old plastic cruising boats littering marinas here. None that I can see have anything unique worth preserving once they start to get a bit past their sell-by date.  Many were built in the era when they were churned out of a factory as fast and cheap as possible. Sure you got a lot of volume for not very much but most of them weren’t built particularly well and a lot of them will be getting to the point where expensive gear needs replacing.  Of course I wondered if WABI’’’ would survive another 10 or 20 years, it would be nice to think of her under another enthusiastic owner in years to come swearing under his breath about that idiot who made all the changes but that isn’t always the way it works out.  Maybe WABI’’’ will be just a sad hulk pulled up in a little creek somewhere and left to slowly fall apart.  

Project maybe, and a lovely double-ender….but needs to be under cover really.

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In a very major way I think old wooden boats are much better in this regard as they can and do just eventually rot back into nothing save maybe a few old ribs sticking out of the mud but GRP….I don’t know but I have a horrible feeling that the hulls will just slowly grind down to lots and lots of micro-plastic granules.  Not getting all ‘eco’ here but the industry and the buyers are just creating a major future problem I think.

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