Ile de Bréhat just 3.5 km long and 1.5 km wide at its widest point and undoubtably one of the most beautiful places we have visited so far.
We had planned to anchor off the island in deep water and then scope out the drying anchorage at low tide (picking a safe, flat, rockless spot) before moving in on the next high water to dry out later, however plans change. Upon arrival at the outside anchorage it was obviously going to be a very uncomfortable night should we stay there as it was surrounded by big rocks, the water was really quite deep and very exposed to at that time a fairly decent (uncomfortable) swell. It was half tide, so there was enough water for us to sneak in and take a look in ‘La Corderie’ the drying anchorage while it still had water. In there we found two other British boats already at anchor in absolute tranquility. After a quick word with one of them who told us they had been there before and the bottom is fine at low tide, we dropped the hook and settled in.
This was the first time we had dried out and so got busy preparing to take the ground, which would happen about 11pm that night. First and foremost winding the keel up so we would sit flat on the bottom and not fall over, secondly closing the sea cocks for the water intake to the engine, then turning off the fridge (it is water cooled so sucks in sea water to circulate around and cool the fridge), and also filling a couple of buckets with sea water just in case (as the toilet would be out of action too). Then we waited, and watched as the water level slowly dropped.
We sat perfectly flat, square and secure in soft sloppy grey mud about 100 mm of it over hard sand. Whilst not the most clean and tidy ground it was the perfect spot and all was well. The plan tomorrow was to scrub the bottom.
And scrub we did, in the thick grey mud which held us like quick sand trying to keep our gumboots each time we took a step. Using a plastic scraper the green beard on the hull and along the water line was removed as were the trillion tiny barnacles that had collected along the hull (along with skin from my knuckles).
Phil spent low tide under the stern cleaning the all important prop and replacing the anodes. We went at it with gusto, and despite the breaks getting more frequent as we fatigued and our body muscles refused to hold the awkward positions for as long as they did at the start, we were well finished before the tide came back in. Also due credit to Phil who in a moment of pure genius thought to fill the dingy with sea water before we dried out which came in extremely useful as a bath for us to clean the mud off ourselves when we finished, which kept the boat clean and only dirtied the dingy and the back swim deck.
The following day with calf muscles and hamstrings screaming from being crouched in the mud the day before we rowed the dinghy to shore before the water went out (from about 9:30am to 6pm) exploring the island and walking out our stiffness.
In winter 450 people live on the island, in summer 3,000 beds for tourists are sold out, lucky for us summer hadn’t yet arrived (although the weather was lovely) and it seemed we had the island to ourselves, we only met a few dozen other people and most of those were in the centre at the village, hardly any made it to the outer perimeters. We walked 19.6 km during the day exploring every little nook and cranny on the island, and also enjoyed a couple of long breaks relaxing in the sun with stunning scenery (we may even be guilty of a little dozing in the sun).
We were in love with the gorgeous stone houses, and the wonderful gardens and greenery everywhere. Thanks to the gulf stream creating a micro climate is perfect for many plants to flourish including palm trees, eucalyptus – and what’s more big flowering eucalyptus providing us with the wonderful smell of home, agapanthus, hydrangeas, geraniums and many more.
Paon lighthouse on the north of the island from the front looks pretty standard yet the pink rocks at the back form a wonderful shaped structure very unique (and unfortunately my pictures didn’t do it justice). We visited the tidal mill which was and can still be used for grinding wheat, and we also climbed the steps up to the Church St Michel which is quite different from the Saint Mont Michel visited near Granville.
At the southern end of the island where the daily ferry’s bring in the tourists we encountered more people yet the island still had that special peaceful feel about it, and it seemed that we were one of only a few who knew of this secret amazing place.
With small laneways as roads it makes a big impression on you that there are no cars on the island. There are a number of small tractors (more like big ride on lawn mowers) that do the farm work, and move supplies around the island, bringing groceries and deliveries to and from the ferry’s and a tractor train for the tourists. But for people to get around its simply a matter of walking or using a bicycle.
It is a little sad to think of the island inundated with 3,000 visitors but it would a limited season and I assume it brings in the economy to support the residents year round.
Should I go missing this would be the place to look for me, running a B&B out of one of the gorgeous stone cottages on the island. Just needing an investor to make this happen … donations gratefully accepted 🙂