It’s all in the brochure

It doesn’t get much more French than that.

3rd July 2020

Quimper, France – Port Guen, Belle Isle via Benodet, France & Concarneau, France

When reading the brochures that publicise the benefits of sailing they’re all about relaxing in serene remote anchorages, berthing in the heart of charming historic towns and exploring cultures that are new and exciting. The Ruffian sailing brochure would be more about keeping a boat in tip top shape, having the time to wait for the tide and taking hikes that don’t appear in the guidebook.

While ashore in Benodet poor Brock had been disabled, not in his role as a sea going speed machine, but in his role as a land based, 2 wheeled trolly. We’d suffered a puncture on one of his sturdy wheels and without being able to take Brock ashore our exploring options were suddenly limited. We had to do something about this and enact point 1 of the Ruffian sailing brochure.

Forming a plan to get Brock shipshape again we headed up river to Quimper where we knew there was a chandlery and a dock that we could leave him on. The only problem with the dock was that it’s high and dry when the tide goes out, but with our expert planning this wouldn’t be a problem.

Motoring through the tidal lagoon we knew the water was low (but rising) and on the shoreline was the pontoon with water just kissing it. Our timing was perfect and we gently slowed our approach and then suddenly stopped. Maybe our timing wasn’t quite prefect. We were so close, but yet so far. The few feet of water between us and the dock could have been a mile. There was nothing for it but to once again take a note from the Ruffian brochure and wait for the tide (while clearly being a spectacle for all those jogging along the path).

With the tide inching it’s up, Brock inched his way in and finally Fiona was able to take a leap of faith to dry land. All we had to do now was find our way to the chandlery, explain our predicament in our pigeon French and return triumphant. Triumphant we were and within moments Brocks versatility was restored.

Making for Concarneau we hoped that we’d be able to change the brochure. After the usual downwind sailing we berthed Ruffian in the centre of this ancient city. We were so central that shadows were cast on us by towering battlements and the sounds of café culture bounced off the old quay walls making Ruffian feel alive (and sleepy in the morning). We were very much in the marketing sailing brochure.

Concarneau gave us everything a bustling city could, from the lively markets full of fresh (alive) fish, to the patisseries whose cakes could be mistaken for works of art and welcoming bars serving moules frittes. With our 14-day voluntary, unregulated, unpoliced, unenforced self-isolation complete we could take advantage of all the towns benefits and there was also the possibility of one of Iain’s legendary ‘town hikes’.

Setting off with the distant destination of a chandlery for yet more spares, we took in such delights as busy A roads, stinky fish processing plants, where seagulls lined up forming raiding parties and docks crammed with fishing boats so large they made the French warships look like bath toys. With aching feet we’d completed everything in the Ruffian brochure.

Still needing to tick off the ‘idyllic anchorages’ point in the marketing brochure we headed for Belle Isle. This off lying island is fringed by cliffs which are interspersed by perfect sandy beaches, is home to an impregnatable citadel (which the plucky British proved wasn’t impenetrable, nah nah ne nah nah) and paths that criss-cross the island like the scribbles of a child.

As we made our way to Belle Isle extreme race boats of all types blasted around us. Boats that are legendary all over world seemed run of the mill here. Everywhere we looked we saw wing masts, side foils, canards, branded carbon sails, but most importantly in front of us we saw beaches glistening in the sun and the citadel towering above us. In Belle Isle we’d be anchoring in pristine waters in front of idyllic bays.

After taking hikes that don’t appear in the guidebooks, having time to wait for the tide and keeping Ruffian in tip top shape, we’re also pleased to have ticked off exploring new cultures, berthing in the centre of ancient towns and anchoring off idyllic beaches. All the points in the brochures have been completed.

And they’re off.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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