North Brittany

File 670Brittany is rugged and beautiful!  

It is only 100miles from Falmouth and has a charming mix of ports, scenic rivers and islands to explore all with a independent ‘Breton’ feel.

This stretch of the coast also boasts massive tides (up to 11m at springs!), strong currents and also has plenty of rocks to add to the mix!

Sailing in this area is a fantastic way to build pilotage experience and understand the importance of using the tides & current to the yachtsman’s advantage.

It is advised that only experienced yachtsman take on this coastline.  We schedule regular ‘skippered’ mileage/ experience cruises, to introduce first-time sailors to the rigours of the North Brittany coast.

Below are some of the Breton Ports that we visit on a regular basis...

File 674St Malo

Once the approaches are piloted safely the large lock awaits visiting yachtsman wishing to enter the Vauban Town Basin.  Bas-Sablons Marina is outside the lock which is also tidal, but is a lot further from the main town.  Inside the town basin you’ll find the visitors pontoon only a 200yrd walk from the city gate.  You may also notice the harbour master enforces an impeccable system of tying the local boats with ‘round turn bowlines’, as all the cleats are shared along the pontoon fingers.  OCD sufferers will admire the ‘beauty’ in the order of things here!

The city is walled and was built with the same grey granite stone as Mont St-Michel, ST-MALO was originally in the Middle Ages a fortified island at the mouth of the Rance, controlling not only the estuary but the open sea beyond.In later centuries it became notorious as the home of a fierce breed of pirate-mariners, The 'Corsaires' of St-Malo not only forced English ships passing up the Channel to pay tribute, but also brought wealth from further afield.

Jacques Cartier, who colonized Canada, lived in and sailed from St-Malo, as did the first colonists to settle the Falklands – hence the islands' Argentinian name, Las Malvinas, from the French Malouins.St-Malo is the most visited place in Brittany. From outside the walls, the dignified ensemble of the old city might seem stern and forbidding, but passing through into the streets within the walls brings you into a busy, lively town full of character, packed with hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. 

File 678Paimpol

Is one of our favourite Breton harbours.  It is small, quaint and welcoming.  The approach to the lock can be negotiated from half-tide in most boats.  It is advisable though to negotiate the outer approaches with the tide in your favour as the current runs up to 5 knts through the outer channels. A 1:20000 chart is essential to safe pilotage in this area.

The visitor facilities are good, great showers, free internet, small supermarket 5 mins walk and a larger store 1 km away which will deliver free of charge!  There are 2 well stocked Chandleries, marine engineers and cranes available should the need arise.

Restaurants and hotels jostle for space around the port, with the main shopping area of charming cobbled streets just behind the waterfront. Artisan bakers, gift shops, wine merchants and antique shops give visitors plenty to spend their money on. The seafood is fresh and delightful, whether bought from a restaurant or fishmongers.  Many afternoons have been spent here pulling apart fresh crab with oysters, baguette and cold Sancerre to match! If you are in the area and the tides are right, Paimpol is a must!

File 682Treguier

Treguier sits on a small hill towards the head of a particularly attractive river, and is one of the most historic towns on the north Brittany coast. Entrance into the River de Tréguier is well marked, although it needs some care over the pilotage. Probably not to be attempted in the dark, unless with GPS and prior knowledge. The 5km voyage up to the town rewards with spectacular views around every bend. 

Before long you get your first Glimpse of Treguier, sitting above the river crowned with the magnificent gothic spire of the Cathedral. The cathedral is remarkable in having three towers over the transept.  It contains the sumptuous modern mausoleum of Ivo of Kermartin (St Yves; d. 1303), a canon of the cathedral and patron saint of lawyers.

The town itself is very attractive, although it is a steep walk up from the marina at spring lows! There is a large supermarket a little further on, but again something of a walk. Across the bridge is a very interesting chandlers cum store.

Berthing can be challenging! The tide flows extremely fast through the marina, particularly on the outer berths. There is an out-lying pontoon to await slack water, which is strongly advised. 

File 686Morlaix

Requires good timing to reach, so as to accomplish the 6 mile passage up the river within an hour of HW.

The approaches are exceptionally attractive and it is easy to see why the town is twinned with Truro.  The open estuary with deep water channel funnels you towards a beautiful unspoilt windy tidal river, with just the call of wild foul to be heard above the chug of the engine. At the head of the river, behind the lock, the town itself a pleasing blend of solid grey stone in a narrow valley with a monumental railway viaduct above.

The lock opens at 1 1/2 hours before HW, at HW and 1 hour after HW, you can download the times from the port website. *Its worth noting the buoyed river is NOT lit and the lock does not operate after dark. Inside, the marina is to port with pretty views up the valley, somewhat offset by the noise of the road along the quay.

The shops and town centre are ten minutes walk from the marina towards the viaduct.  The old quarter of the town has winding streets of cobbled stones and overhanging houses constructed of stone and timber.  Many have religious and secular sculptures on their façades. Well worth a stop if time and tides suit.

File 690L'Aberwrach 

This sheltered port and is one of the few that are accessible at all states of the tide. It is a good place to wait for the tide going either way along the coast if the cross-channel passage has been mistimed. There are 80 places for visitors in the new marina. The visitors' berths are on the inside of the outer pontoon; immediately starboard of the entrance.  

Well up river, before the road bridge at Paluden, there are 20 moorings for visitors in a very sheltered, and peaceful pool.

The village offers little even in the season, but the nearest town Landeda is only a 20min walk or 1 euro return on the hourly bus in July/Aug. 

File 694Camaret su Mer

Is perfectly placed at the bottom of the Chenal du Four just outside the Rade de Brest.  ‘Camaret’ is another all-tidal haven and one of our preferred first ports of call after crossing channel and riding fair tide down the CDF.

The town is charming with good facilities, stunning cliff walks and spectacular fortifications. The prominent geographical situation has left the town with defences from many periods throughout history.  On top of the headland there is a museum in an old WW2 bunker that is worth a look.

We leave our tour here but this stunning coast continues down to Nantes and gets more beautiful (and warmer) as you go!  It is too far for most 7 Day Charters but we do visit the delights of Southern Brittany on longer 14 day Cruises.
Check our ‘mileage cruises’ page for more details if you would like explore the charms of:
Benodet,  Concarneau,  Ile de Groix,  Lorient,  Belle Ile, Houat or Vannes!


Shiny New Trysail Van 2014
Jay and the crew - August 2014
Bass Point
Louise at anchor in the Helford
Louise berthed in Falmouth Yachthaven
Swan and Cygnets at the Yachthaven Falmouth
RYA Start Yachting Weekend with Ben Instructing
RYA Day Skipper/Comp Crew with Jay Instructing
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