Route du Sable

The event has happened. It was a long drive to the tip of Brittany, and the weather turned unstable only two days before. I camped at the extremely welcoming campsite of Rodaven in Châteaulin from Friday night until this morning, for a very reasonable price. I have already explained the plan. On Saturday morning, I arrived at Rosnoën and found a nice place to park my van and trailer.

The heavens opened, and down poured a diluvian rain from a thunderstorm cell above us. I waited about half an hour in my van for the rain to stop. I was ready for rain with my waterproofs. That was the last time it rained for the whole sail of the day. The heavens opened again after our boats were moored at Port Launay and we had our evening around a meal and traditional Brittany folk music.

Here is the official association website soon to be updated with photos – Route du Sable. There is a Facebook page with links to pages full of photos, videos and press articles. The event, with more than seventy boats and two hundred participants, was enormously successful. Truly it shows another side to sailing than racing or having too much money for our own good.

All commentaries are above the photos. Here is the tail end of the thunderstorm and heavy rain.

Those are two reproductions of old Scottish fishing boats, based on the ancient Viking longship. They sail badly upwind, and are designed to be rowed in those conditions.

I launched early to try the water and the current. A few others did too.

Returning to the slipway, I found a welcoming party by the association. A drink was most welcome!

This is a lug rigged yole to be rowed by six or sailed.

By now, most of the boats are rigged and launched. We tacked against the current as we waited for the starting signal – Brittany bagpipes.

Finally, we were off with the current and downwind.

Here are three magnificent gaffers.

We continued in a peaceful run before the wind.

Then it became interesting! As we went round the bend in the river, we found ourselves facing the wind. The choice is simple, tack or break out the oars.

Finally on the final bend before the first lock, we had the wind behind us again. My boat is the little one with the bright red sails.

We approached the first lock. We had to lower our sails and approach the lock by sculling. I am in the foreground in my little yellow boat. My topping lifts stop the boom from falling into the boat.

Here we are jammed in the lock like sardines in a tin! As the water poured in to raise us to the level of the canal, the accordion played traditional shanties.

Sculling is a fine art, and there are competitions. You can’t row a boat into a narrow lock, the reason for sculling with a single oar.

We sailed up the canal towards the second lock. The wind was all over the place! A little puff behind, another right in your face. You just have to react instantly and make the most of it – or row.

Here I was a little close to the reeds for comfort!

These were two real characters. They were camping at the same place where I was. My boat wasn’t the smallest after all! With the three-cornered hats, I called them (to myself) Captain and Mrs Bligh. I’ll have to get their address next year, unless I get to contact them via Facebook (if they use a computer).

Here’s the small lock we went through yesterday (Sunday) after Port Launay to get to Châteaulin. The weather was beautiful.

The other view of the small lock.

Here I am following a Bantry Yole, rowed by eight.

Here I shot an optical  broadside at the Bantry Yole.

As we approached Port Launay, we found this magnificent ship moored. These ships brought upwards of two hundred tons of sand from the sea to sell to local farmers to improve the quality of their soil for growing crops.

Here’s “Captain Bligh” in his dory showing off his sculling skills.

Just a nice view of Port Launay.

I dragged my boat up the slipway, and did the inevitable. I was not the only British sailor in the group of almost seventy boats. Rule Britannia! We’ll teach the French what flogging is really about!

Here is another shot of the Fee de l’Aulne.

This is a part of Châteaulin. We were instructed, after the second lock, to take down our masts and continue by rowing. The old bridge is low. I didn’t take down my mast (though my sail and gaff were down) and made it through the central arch with barely a foot to spare. These good people had no alternative.

We moored by the camp-site for our final celebration, treated to a drink and a snack by the local Mairie. My tiny dinghy is dwarfed by those Bantry Yoles.

It was a very pleasant place to be on this summer’s day.

Here’s “Captain Bligh” and his charming wife. If they find this article, I hope they will contact me so that I can give their real names.

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7 Responses to Route du Sable

  1. Jim of Olym says:

    So glad you had a good time, Father! It must be difficult to have to go back to the grind after that excursion.

  2. Juan de la Fuente says:

    Thank you Anthony!
    Great account of a fantastic weekend. Hope next year I can make it that far north to join in!
    I,ll keep you posted on my next Tabur adventure.


  3. Christophe says:

    Hello Anthony, I am the man who pulled your boat into the second lock (on sunday).
    The names of Captain and his wife are Philippe and Claudine.
    I hope you enjoyed your trip and will see you again next year.
    Christophe (boat : G’Puffin)

    • Hello Christophe,

      It is wonderful to hear from you. My boat is not easy to scull (godiller) because it is so light. I tried rowing the boat in a cross wind without the centre board, and it drifts sideways like under sail. So I leave the centreboard down all the time. I leave the rudder to hinge free when I am rowing. I usually sail on the sea, so there is very little rowing to do.

      It was an amazing experience and a different way of sailing, especially being part of such a gathering. I’ll contact Philippe and Claudine, since I have been given their e-mail address. Indeed we will see each other next year. I always relate to things the second time round. I found these people so pleasant. I went to find them at the campsite on Sunday evening, but they has already left.

      This is the kind of thing that makes friends of people!

  4. graux says:

    Bonjour Anthony,

    Merci Anthony pour votre travail de journaliste ainsi que pour vos jolies photos, le captaine Bligh et son épouse aiment beaucoup votre humour “britannique”

    Bien Amicalement.

    Claudine & Philippe “les tricornes de Saint-Malo”

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