Route du Sable

I am beginning my preparations for going away for the Petertide weekend at the end of this month. I began some months ago with my registration in a major sail & oar gathering at the western tip of Brittany called the Route du Sable in memory of the industry of transporting sand inland to counterbalance the alkalinity of the soil. I will be camping for three nights in a small tent in Châteaulin on the Aulne river. We will be anything from thirty to fifty boats, accompanied some of the way by three magnificent classical fishing boats.

Here is the map of the Finistère. Rosnoën, where we will launch our boats, is in the circle marker. We will be sailing on the river to Châteaulin, marked to the north of Quimper. Early indications give signs of fair weather, but the wind might be on the light side or gusty up to some twenty knots. That should be possible with a reefed sail. We’ll see as the forecast gets more accurate next week. I pray for a north-east wind which will allow reaching and running without too much tacking. On the other hand, the wind might drop and we’ll be rowing!

The dates of this gathering are the 28th and 29th June. Saints Peter and Paul take precedence over the Sunday, and they will be solemnly celebrated on my travelling tuck box chapel on the tailgate of my van. Again, I pray for good weather, since I will only have my van and small tent for shelter. After this early Mass, I will be getting breakfast and back to the boat for the second day of the cruise.

The event is well organised, because when we get to Saturday night and our boats are moored at Port Launay, a bus will take us to Rosnoën to get our vehicles and boat trailers and drive them to where our boats will be at Port Launay. I will have pitched my tent at Châteaulin from Friday afternoon.

See the official site of the event, which is full of photos of previous years. We will be in lots of little boats, propelled by their sails or by rowing – no engines. Most of the boats will be built in wood with traditional lugsail rigs. There will be some Bantry yoles, splendid replicas of eighteenth century longboats with two main masts and a spanker and which are rowed upwind by eight strong men. Fortunately, we are not racing! My boat is not a traditional build, but it is an oddity – just two of us in the world between Normandy and Barcelona in Spain – a gunter rig on an ugly plastic hull. Unfortunately Juan will not be with us in Brittany. The organisers only insist that the boats are driven by sail and rowing.

On Saturday 28th June from 10 am, we will be launching our boats and trying out the waters. After a picnic lunch, we will be setting off on the rising tide at 2 pm. We will be going through locks – sails down and in an out by rowing or sculling. We will be needing our fenders and warps as the current in the locks will be strong. On our arrival at Port-Launay, we will moor our boats or pull them out of the water and then be treated to a drink offered by the local town authorities. We will then have a meal together which we pre-paid with our registration. There will be much singing of traditional sea shanties and popular Breton music.

On Sunday morning, 29th June, after my early Mass at the campsite, we will be sailing (or rowing) from 10 am in the Châteaulin direction. In Châteaulin, there is a low bridge, for which we all have to take our masts and rigs down and continue by rowing. I need to do a drill next week to see if I can stow everything in the boat and be able to row. We will row to the lock of Coatigrac’h. We will then return to Châteaulin and have a picnic at the slipway of Rodaven (where I will be camping). We will then re-rig our boats and sail back to Port-Launay where our trailers will be waiting.

This event promises to be friendly and a moment of meeting people who all love boats and sailing. We will be accompanied by several traditional sailing boats carrying spectators, photographers and journalists. They are the Loch Monna, the Dalh Mad, Korriganez, Fée de l’Aulne and others. There may also be a newly-restored old river barge. They will be photographing us in our little boats, and I will have my camera for snapping the big boats (photos on the event website).

These events bring joy to life and are a new experience for a man with his boat. My mind is open about the people I will meet, and that is something to look forward to.

More news as it happens.

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3 Responses to Route du Sable

  1. Juan de la Fuente says:

    Next time maybe!
    We are both “oddities”, but two same-oditties make a class!. We each represent now 50% of the …Mi-Bur 320 Class…!!.
    What a treat your trip could be. I do really hope for you to have fair weather and nice steady NE breeze!
    As the river turns East and then North East and then South and North East again, and seeing how narrow for tacks the river is, there will be lots of fun!
    Don,t forget your fromage and vin rouge!
    Tout beauté!

    I am planning to take my Tabur and van for an expedition on a wild spot of inland Aragon.
    (Pantano de Canelles). I would take some 3 days to cross back and forth some 15 km of open waters and cliff surrounded canyons in the wilderness.

    Looking forwards to read about your adventures in Route du Sable,


  2. Dalene Gill says:

    Hope you will enjoy a memorable and fun weekend devoid of stressful situations!

    • Thank you. The association’s Facebook page talks of a record affluence of registered boats and skippers. In previous years, there have been more than thirty. Next Saturday night, I will enjoy the Breton hospitality, the cider will be flowing and the air will be filled with sea shanties and smoke from grilled herring.

      This promises to be a precious human experience, quite apart from sailing our boats and our communion with nature.

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