Phare de Kereon

A reasonably early start was greeted by some low cloud and mist. The plan was to visit the Phare de Kereon, a classic lighthouse. There was a good window of opportunity because the tides were very small neaps, no 7 knot currents today. The lighthouse looks across the Passage du Fromveur, which separates the Molene archipelago from Ouessant.

Navigation
As we launched from Molene the visibility dropped. Nicky, Agnes and Alice checking the navigation.

We headed north through the small harbour and anchorage. Avoiding one of the potential hazards of kayaking in this area, the ferries. Several operate daily between the islands and the mainland. Our first destination was the Ile de Balanec, the plan was stop here for lunch so we didn’t explore the coast too intimately.

From there we ferry glided across to Ile de Bannec, although it did keep disappearing in the deteriorating visibility. To the west we could see another group of sea kayakers. It was clear that their objective was the same as ours. The Phare de Kereon. The next island was Ile de Bannec. No landing is permitted on this island, apart from accredited ornithologists. So it was another island we paddled past.

Ahead we could just make out the outline of the Phare de Kereon. Although it was close by there was no sign of Ouessant. Automated in 2004, the last lighthouse in France to loose its lighthouse keepers. The lighthouse was built between 1907 and 1916, an amazing feat in such demanding waters. As we approached the lighthouse the other kayakers were present. Amazingly on an overcast Sunday in August there were 25 paddlers around the base of the lighthouse.

Phare de Kereon
The Phare de Kereon rising from the waters of the Passage du Fromveur. Still no sign of Ouessant.

As the tide started to flow we realized it was time to retreat to the calmer waters inside the reef. As we turned away the visibility improved and we became aware of just how close we were to Ouessant. We returned to Ile de Balanec and because we were outside the bird nesting season, 1st April to 15th July, we were able to land.

Ile de Balanec - Phare de Kereon
Ile de Balanec
The only building on Ile de Balanec, which was still habitable. On top of the rock behind the hut we discovered the leg of a bird with a ring. It turned out to be an Irish Racing Peigeon released in St Malo a couple of months earlier. It appeared to have been a main meal for a peregrine.

Walking around the island it was hard not to think of the harsh life of the inhabitants lived in this remote outpost. The last families left in 1947. From 1954 to 1959 the island was once again inhabited. It was used as a centre for young people with challenging behaviour. It was closed in 1959 following allegations of mis-treatment of the young people.

In the afternoon sunshine we returned to Molene. Ensuring that we circumnavigated the island. Landing back at the campsite we went in search of a celebratory beer. It was then that we encountered another group of paddlers. This area of Brittany really is a mecca for sea kayakers. A truly memorable location, especially on neap tides.

Molene
Nicky crossing to Molene from the north. Increasingly pleasant conditions.
John
John crossing one of the smaller tidal streams. We were on neaps but there was still plenty of movement.

Molene

I have been sea kayaking in Brittany on a regular basis for over 40 years, exploring the rivers, canals and coasts of this wonderful region of France. An area, which has always eluded my explorations are the islands to the west of the peninsula. It was with some excitement, therefore, when Agnes, a long standing French member of the Jersey Canoe Club arranged a paddling trip to Molene over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

As the weekend approached it was clear that the weather was going to co-operate, which was perfect when combined with the small neap tide. This meant that the normally swift tidal streams would be greatly reduced in strength, resulting in a much more relaxing experience.

Sadly personal issues resulted in me being unable to join the early arrivals in France for the opportunity to paddle Sept Iles and Ile de Brehat. So the first time I pushed my kayak into the water was as we left Porsmoguer, towards the western extremity of the Breton Peninsula.

Molene
Packing the kayaks prior to the departure, for Molene, from the beach at Porsmoguer

Our route initially took us south towards Beniguet, a low lying island with some beautiful beaches before turning north west. Lunch was on the west facing beach on Ile de Litiri, a beautiful spot for a picnic so it was inevitable that we would be sharing the beach with other boats. The island is privately owned so it isn’t possible to wander around above the high water mark.

Ile de Litiri
Looking across the beach on Ile de Litiri, a perfect place to stop for lunch.

In common with so many other islands in this archipelago access is limited at times. This is an important breeding area for birds, so be aware of where landing is restricted. Heading west we passed our first group of sea kayakers, there were about 15 in this group. It was the first of a number of groups that we encountered over the next three days.

Molene Archipelago
Ferry gliding between the islands whilst en route to Molene. As we were on neaps the moving water wasn’t too fast.

We did land on Ile de Trielen, part of the Reserve Naturelle Iroise, to explore the abandoned settlement. There is a beach on the northern side of the island, which gives easy access to the footpaths. There were numerous small birds flitting around in the vegetation, Wheatear’s seemed particularly common.

Ile de Trielen
One of the old buildings on Ile de Trielen. The blocked out door seemed rather strange
Ile de Trielen
The small pond on Ile de Trielen. There were a couple of small stone shelters, probably used by hunters in search of ducks and other water birds.

From here it was an easy paddle to Molene, an island with approximately 200 inhabitants. Landing is on a narrow slipway to the south of the harbour. The campsite is to the left of the slip and it was clear that a number of kayakers were already on the Island. Surprisingly two of the first people we met were Veronique Olivier and Guy Lecointre. They had written the book “Sea Kayaking Guide 60 Brittany Paddles.” Essential reading for anybody paddling in Brittany. I had last met them at the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium, just over 2 years ago. At times the world of sea kayaking seems really quite small.

Molene
Walking through the narrow lanes, which wind their way through the delightful village.

Once the tents were up it was time to head off is search of a bar and a restaurant. To toast the success of the days paddle and to plan for the following days. Agnes was a perfect guide and highly recommended if you are visiting Brittany. Why not check out her courses and guided tours.

Historic Canoes and Kayaks

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit an exhibition on historic canoes and kayaks in the southern Brittany town of Douarenenez.  This delightful Breton town was the centre of the French sardine industry in the 19th Century, and at one time it was the home port to over 1,000 sardine boats.  Although fishing still takes place on boats based in the port, the town itself is possibly now better known because of its maritime museum, “Le Port-Musee”.
The exhibition was called “Canoes and Kayaks la decouverte d’un nouveau monde”.  There were over 150 exhibits, ranging from an early 19th Century painting to a modern sea kayak. It was essentially a history of paddling in France from the late 19th Century pioneers up to the present day including recreational and competitive developments.
The museum would have been well worth a visit even if there were no canoes and kayaks. as  there is a  wide range of traditional craft from a wide variety of European countries plus the added interest of a number of larger craft which are moored on the river.  These include “Northdown” which is a traditional Thames barge and the “Saint Denys”, a tug built on the Clyde, which spent most of her working life based in Falmouth.
What was there of interest though, specifically for the paddler, in the Canoe and Kayak exhibition?  One of the most modern items was one of the Catchiky’s which was paddled around Brittany in 1980 by Loik Bourdon and Franco Ferrero amongst others.  Franco, from Pesda Press, was clearly making an appearance as an honorary Frenchman!  This kayak certainly showed its age and the use it had been put to over  25 years.  It is a model of kayak which is still in production and there was a new example of the type, from the manufacturer Plasmor.
There were a number of short films shown at various times and for me the most interesting was probably Christian Gabard’s film of the 1959 white water racing world championships.  An interesting item shown in the film was an inflatable spray deck.  Does anyone know whether they caught on?  In the days before we became obsessed with risk assessments, it was interesting to see that some of the competitors didn’t wear helmets and others chose not to use buoyancy aids.
There were also a number of paintings and photographs which depict the historical origins of both canoeing and kayaking.  Possibly the largest oil painting was by C. Giraud.  Painted in 1857, it shows the Prince Napoleon taking part in a seal hunt off the west coast of Greenland.  The use of kayaks for hunting is a theme which occured in a number of other exhibits.  There was also a selection of framed posters from the last one hundred years.  One in particular raised a slight smile although I am certain that the Hutchinson mentioned on the poster is not the same one who for many years was practically a household name in sea kayaking.
It is always inspiring to see the standard of journeys which were undertaken in the past.  For example, Gustaf Nordin, a Swedish canoeist who paddled from Stockholm to Paris in 1905 and Captain Lancrenon who published a book, “Trois Milles lieues a la pagaie,de la Seine a la Volga” in 1898, were both commemorated either through photographs or items of equipment.  Lancrenan’s beautiful kayak, the Vagabonde III, was built in 1891 and broke down into two sections for easier transportation.  It was exhibited alongside the Bic sit-on-top.  115 years of progress!
The more recent trends were not ignored.  There was the inevitable Sit-on-top, plus white water play boats, racing kayaks, a slalom canoe from the Atlanta Olympics and winged paddles.  I must admit though that I have never really looked upon a sit-on-top kayak as a museum piece.
There were a number of older exhibits, including a 19th Century Greenland kayak which is normally housed in a museum in Nantes, as well as a most beautiful birch bark canoe.  The Greenland kayak was collected when the ship “La Recherche”, visited the area in 1835-6.  It appears to have come from the Frederikshaab region, prior to being presented to the Nantes museum.  In fact there were a number of historic canoes and kayak, which were like works of art as opposed to practical watercraft.
It was a fascinating exhibition and I wonder when such a collection of historic canoeing and kayaking artifacts will be on show again?

Historic canoes and kayaks
Loik Bourdon’s kayak in which he circumnavigated Brittany

Historic canoes and kayaks
The inevitable sit on top, although designs have become far more advanced since the time of the exhibition and far more popular.

Historic canoes and kayaks
A couple of superb canoes. Absolute things of beauty.

Historic canoes and kayaks
“Emeraude” a mid 19th century kayak.

Historic canoes and kayaks
Photograph of the Swedish paddler, Gustaf Nordin, who traveled from Stockholm to Paris by kayak in the early 20th Century.

Historic canoes and kayaks
Surely this doesn’t refer to the famous sea kayaker, Derek Hutchinson!

Historic canoes and kayaks
One of several kayaks from the 20th Century which were in the exhibition.

Historic canoes and kayaks
Inuit kayak from the 1830’s. Usually shown in the Nantes Museum.

Historic canoes and kayaks
A selection of paddles – new and old.

Historic canoes and kayaks
Drawing of 19th Century paddling.

Historic canoes and kayaks
One of many posters depicting the development of the sport.

Historic canoes and kayaks
C. Giraud 1857 oil painting of the Prince Napoleon hunting seals.

Historic canoe and kayaks
Drawing depicting the hunting of seals.

Historic Canoe and Kayaks
Captain Lancrenan’s kayak built in 1891 which broke down into two sections.

French Sea Kayak Symposium

The French Sea Kayak Symposium is being held, in April 2018, on the north Brittany coast. close to Paimpol and Ile de Brehat, which is a superb kayaking area.  It follows the format, which many Symposium’s use, 3 days of workshops and an extended paddling programme for a further 4 days.
There are a number of experienced coaches from 6 European countries, who will be helping to deliver the sessions.  If you have only attended Symposiums in the UK, many may be unfamiliar names, but all are experienced and passionate about various aspects of sea kayaking.
Why not consider the French Sea Kayak Symposium in your paddling plans for 2018, you are guaranteed a friendly Breton welcome and some of the finest sea kayaking available anywhere.  There is further information on the kayaking opportunities around Ile de Brehat here.

There are a number of options available, which are inclusive of camping:
• Pack 1 – Symposium and paddling week: 250 €
• Pack 2 – Symposium: 130 €
• Pack 3 – Paddling Week: 120 €
• Pack 4 – Symposium + EPP Level 3: 330 €

EPP is the Euro Paddle Pass Level 3 ( which is equivalent to the British Canoeing 3 Star Award).

Bookings for the Symposium can be made here.

Symposium
The lighthouse is on the northern tip of Ile de Brehat. Anybody visiting this area should aim to circumnavigate the island.

French Symposium
Another classic French lighthouse. La Croix is to the south west of Ile de Brehat.

French Symposium
On the western side of Ile de Brehat is a restored tidal mill, which it is possible to paddle up to, towards high water.

French Symposium
To the south of Paimpol is L’Ost Pic.

Cote de Granit Rose

This post was one of the first that I wrote when setting up the original blog in 2010.  At that time we were managing to go sea kayaking in Brittany on a regular basis. In fact most months during the year we would travel to northern France and generally go paddling.  In recent years our kayaking interests have been in different geographical areas,  2108 sees a welcome return to this area though with a Sea Kayak Symposium being held near Paimpol in April next year.  As soon as booking details are known I will post them here.

This section of the Brittany coast has to be one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in France, if not in northern Europe. It is well known from the tourist brochures and guide books and each year attracts significant numbers of visiting yachtsmen.
My favourite departure point is from Coz Pors at Tregastel, the paddling in either direction is memorable but last Saturday we decided to head east towards Ile Tome, an island of approximately 35 hectares whose spine runs north south. Situated off Perros Guirec, it has been uninhabited since the Second World War and the last few years have seen an active programme aimed to rid the island of rats to allow sea birds to breed, and so far it appears to have been successful.

Granit Rose
One of the distinctive features of this stretch of coastline are some spectacular coastal residences.

Granit Rose
First of all though it was important to pay a visit to the small harbour at Ploumanach, it is reckoned by many to be the finest anchorage on the north coast of Brittany. As the tide was high we were able to paddle over the sill, which keeps the water in at low tide, and approach the tidal mills, a feature of this area.

Granit Rose
Another feature of this area are lighthouses, of which a number were visible during the course of the paddle. One of my favourites is the Phare de Men Ruz, just to the east of Ploumanach. For those who are really interested in lighthouses it is possible to buy a re-usable shopping bag from Geant supermarkets complete with a photograph of the distinctive light.

Granit Rose
There are some significant tidal streams in the area and access to Ile Tome was only possible by ferry gliding across the ebbing tide. The waves were not too big and some strategically placed navigation marks allowed us to use transits to maintain our course. We wanted a lunch stop not to be swept west along the coast away from our intended destination.

Granit Rose
Lunch spot on the east coast of Ile Tome.

Granit Rose
Offshore Sept Iles were clearly visible but they were not for us today, our interest lay back along the coast at Tregastel in the shape of an ice cold beer.

Triagoz

The Cote de Granit Rose is that stretch of the Brittany coastline, which is much loved by visiting British yachtsmen, and land based tourists.  Although the inhabitants have French passports they are regard themselves first and foremost as Bretons.  The coastline is deeply indented as a number of ria’s penetrate the countryside of Cote D’Armor and these inlets provide shelter during the periods of unsettled weather which can sweep across the region.  Along the coast a number of small bays and harbours are virtually enclosed by the large granite monoliths, which are widely spread providing a unique and dramatic seascape.  Against this background there is some superb sea kayaking.
It was an early April morning that we met at Ile Grande, the early season meant that car parking was not a problem.  Our destination for the day was the Triagoz lighthouse, about six miles to the northwest.  The tides in this area can run with a speed that can catch people unawares and to approach Triagoz meant crossing the tidal streams so we had chosen a neap tide to minimisz the effect of the flow.
As we paddled out from Ile Grande, along one of the many channels, which run in between the surrounding reefs it, became apparent that there was a swell approaching from the west.  As the swell began to feel the shallower water they steepened rapidly before crashing forwards in a surge wall of white, the unleashing of such power emphasized the need to steer clear of the reefs.
Triagoz lighthouse was built in 1864 and its light, 30 metres above the sea, is visible from 14 miles away.  On this day the early season mist, which hung over the water meant that the light wasn’t visible from 5 miles away and so, we headed out on a compass bearing towards an unseen destination.  After about 1.5 miles the Bar-ar-Gall west cardinal mark slipped by to our left and we entered deeper water.  The mean depth changing from under 20 metres to over 60 metres with a result that the swell settled into a more regular rhythm.  This was a swell, which had travelled from the open ocean, and there was a feeling of real power as we rose and sank a couple of metres at a time.
Eventually the lighthouse started to emerge from the haze and its face glowed gold reflecting the local rock from which it had been constructed.  The defensive ring of reefs was fringed white as the Atlantic swell was halted in its progress east.  We had hoped to land and to briefly explore the area surrounding the light, no more internal visits though, this light became automatic in 1984.  Unfortunately the ever-present swell prevented this happening.  We could have landed but this was not an emergency or a sea kayaking assessment, no need to risk the kayaks so we remained in deep water, savouring the atmosphere and taking photographs before turning east towards a known landing spot.
Les Sept Iles were six miles to the east but we had some tidal assistance for this section of the journey.  Barely visible in the distance we were being drawn towards them both by the tide and by reputation.  Located 3 miles north of the Breton coast they are a superb paddling destination in their own right.  Numerous vedettes travel backwards and forwards between the islands and the mainland but it is only possible to land on one of the islands, Ile aux Moines, the others are all part of the nature reserve.
The bird life in the area is truly spectacular.  On Ile Rouzic there are thousands of pairs of gannets, the most southerly colony on the eastern side of the Atlantic.  For the majority of the boat travelling tourists though the most exciting observation would be of a Puffin, which breed here in small numbers.  I would doubt if hardly any would become excited at the passage of a Manx Shearwater, which also breed in the area.  As we approached the archipelago a few of these birds passed close by and to me they embodied all that is interesting in a bird.  Complete mastery of their environment with a freedom of spirit to roam widely across the ocean.  As they glided past on stiffened wings there was the occasional tilting of the head as if in disbelief as to the type of craft they could see on the water.  The most common bird was the gannet, numerous individuals flying past on their regular commute from Ile Rouzic to the more distant fishing grounds.  Their numbers increasing dramatically during the last few hundred of metres, even if it was thick fog it would have been apparent that we were about to make a landfall.
As we approached the reef it appeared as if there was a line of mist across the rocks at the western end of the reef.  It quickly became apparent that this fog was in fact spray being unleashed from the exploding swells.  Clearly as we bore down on the islands it was going to be necessary to exercise a degree of caution to ensure that we weren’t swept into a maelstrom of exploding waves.  Le Cerf was the first landfall that we made, more of a large rock than a small island, we skirted north avoiding a number of dramatic reef breaks until we entered the calmer waters inside the reef.  We knew that there was a seal colony and were not disappointed when a number of inquisitive individuals swam out to accompany us on our exploration of the reef.
We landed on the northern side of Ile aux Moines for lunch, basking in the early April sun and savouring some of the delights of the Breton cuisine with a number of local paddlers.  Clearly a huge amount of military building had been undertaken in the past but for me the most dramatic man made feature was the lighthouse.  Its construction was started in 1854 and its powerful light is a key feature when approaching this coast.
We circumnavigated the two largest islands, Ile aux Moines and Ile Bono, encountering a number of the nesting birds, which have made these islands such an important ornithological site.  Time was pressing though and it was time to cross the channel towards the mainland.  On spring tides the streams run through the channel at speeds of up to 4 knots and with an adverse wind a significant sea can be generated.  Fortune smiled on us that afternoon and the ferry glide towards the perched granite boulders of the shoreline was carried out in flat calm seas.  We skirted the outside of Ploumanac’h, possibly the most picturesque harbour on the north coast of Brittany, and passed close to Tregastel, so popular with tourists during the summer months.
We threaded our way through the reefs back to Ile Grande, from where we had departed six hours and 20 nautical miles earlier.  Some of the French paddlers concluded their day with a number of celebratory rolls but I was more interested in remaining dry.  As we changed in the car park the full implications of the day’s paddle began to sink in.  We had visited two of the major lighthouses of northern Brittany and seen a diverse range of wildlife in a dramatic natural environment.

Triagoz
Rafted up close to Triagoz during one of the few lulls in the swell. We couldn’t wait here for too long.

Triagoz
Approaching Sept Iles. We had been in the kayaks for nearly 4 hours at this point with just a few minutes break close to Triagoz.

Triagoz
Looking back through the reefs, close to Tregastel, a real jewel, on the Breton coast.

Triagoz
It wouldn’t have been to healthy to have been caught inside the break, at times.

Triagoz
Heading along the channel back into Ile Grande, the following sea was certainly helping our progress.

Lighthouses of Brittany Part 2.

Following on from the post a couple of days ago here are a few photographs of Brittany lighthouses.  There are endless opportunities for viewing them from your sea kayak, and here are a few more.  They are mainly from the north coast of Brittany.  I might be biased but I think the lighthouses on the north coast generally look more dramatic than those to the south.
Sadly they are now all unmanned but when we started to visit these offshore buildings a number were still manned and it was always a pleasure to take out the daily papers and some fresh milk.  These small gestures often resulted in the offer of a hot drink and on a few occasions a guided tour of the lighthouse.  Sadly these days are long gone.
Situated in the Baie de Morlaix, Ile Noire lighthouse was built in 1845, with the keepers house added in 1879.  Paddling in this area is always enjoyable with numerous islands to explore.
La Croix.  Built in 1867 it is situated just to the south west of Ile de Brehat.  In common with some many lighthouses in this area the Germans blew the top of the light as they retreated.  It is always a welcome sight when paddling around Brehat.
Cap Frehel is the largest headland on the north Brittany coast and on clear nights I can see this light from near my house on Jersey.  It is open to visitors a certain times of the year.  The headland is spectacular when viewed from below in a sea kayak or whilst walking along the cliffs.
Sept Iles lighthouse is situated on Ile aux Moines,  part of a delightful archipelago to the north of Tregastel.  This was one of the last lighthouses in France to be manned by keepers.
The Port Navalo light marks to entrance to the Gulf du Morbihan.  This is one of the finest sea kayaking areas anywhere, a mixture of fast tidal streams and world class historic sites.  The lighthouse was built in 1892.

Lighthouses of Brittany

There is something special about Breton lighthouses , particularly when viewed from a sea kayak.  This is a selection of some that I have seen over the years.  Not all of the photographs are of the best quality as some were scanned from slides.  That said Breton lighthouses are amongst the most unique maritime buildings encountered anywhere and it is always a treat to visit them by sea kayak.
Le Heaux de Brehat.  To the west of Ile de Brehat on the north coast of Brittany it was built in 1840, although the top was blown off by the Germans in August 1944.  Located on an offshore reef, the sea kayak is an ideal way to access this light.  It is close to the end of the Sillon de Talbert
Ile Louet is situated in the Baie e Morlaix, near Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany.
25 nautical miles west of Corbiere is the Roches Douvres.  The light was finished being rebuilt in 1954 after it had been destroyed by the Germans 10 years before.  We raised the Jersey flag but the following morning it was a serious crossing of 25 miles in dense fog.  I have to admit that we felt pretty isolated the night we spent on the reef.
L’Ost Pic is located just to the south of Paimpol.  Built in the 1890’s I have to admit that the last time I landed there I ended up swimming.
Phare du Paon is situated on the north coast of Ile de Brehat, this is ome of the finest sea kayaking you could find anywhere.  It was originally built in 1860 but like so many lighthouses along this coast it was blown up by the Germans in1944.  It was rebuilt in 1949.
Another lighthouse blown up by the Germans, this light, Le Grand Jardin, marks the approaches to St Malo.  It was rebuilt in 1949.

Boring Sea Kayaking in France

The tides around Mont St Michel are described as rising at the speed of a galloping horse.  I am never sure whether this is true but clearly at times there is going to be a significant amount of water moving and this has the potential to create a tidal bore when it enters a river estuary.
Obviously a Spring tide is required to ensure that the bore works and we selected a Thursday morning when there was a tide with a co-efficient of 109.  We hoped that by choosing a Thursday morning just after dawn there wouldn’t be that many other people turning up to surf the wave.
The first problem was try and find the departure point.  We arrived on the evening ferry to St Malo and in the dark had to navigate our way through the narrow lanes of eastern Brittany, looking for somewhere near the Pointe de Rochtorin, where we could park up and sleep in the cars.  Eventually at about 23.30 after a number of false tracks we eventually decided that we were in the right place and settled down for a night of luxury on the front seat of my car.

Tidal bore
We were up before first light, getting ready to scrape the ice off the kayaks and with slight feeling of apprehension.

Tidal bore
Most of the group ready for departure.  It was a pretty cold morning although the sky gave the  promise of better weather ahead.

We were up before first light, preparing equipment and still not too sure that we were in the right place when suddenly a couple of stand up paddleboarders arrived and ran off down the path.  Confirmation that we were in the right place.  We followed quickly and selected a place for launching with the minimum amount of mud to wade through.  In the soft light and calm of early morning we then headed downstream unaware of what we were going to find.

Tidal bore
Agnes heading out in the early morning light. Mont St Michel is visible above the sand flats.

Tidal bore
Rising above the sands the monastery at Mont St Michel was clearly visible. There has been some form of religious settlement here since the 8th century AD

Tidal bore
These 2 stand up paddleboarders provided confirmation that we were in the correct area.

The first indication of something approaching was the flocks of birds taking flight, then there was the unmistakable roar of water when suddenly a wave appeared around the corner.    Not particularly large, between 30 and 60 cms high it stretched right across the river and was flooding the exposed sand banks.  As regards time it was now about 40 minutes before high water at St Malo.
We were soon on the face of the tidal bore and surfing upstream, the 6 of us in sea kayaks and the 2 people on SUP’s, were joined by a long board surfer and a paddler in a general purpose kayak.  That was it, 10 of us on the wave, a complete contrast to some of the carnage we had witnessed, on some of the films we had watched beforehand.
We surfed up stream for 5 nautical miles and were on the wave for 40 minutes, a couple of us rolled and one person swam but was surprisingly easy to rescue, it hadn’t occurred to us that the whole of sea was moving upstream behind the wave.  This meant that if you dropped of the wave for a rest, it was pretty straight forward to regain the face when you felt like it.
The French clearly knew where the tidal bore was going to finish as they had their cars parked ready.  The wave just disappeared so we pulled up on the bank had a quick coffee and within 20 minutes the flow had reversed and we were heading back to the cars and a well earned breakfast.
This was one of the most unique and enjoyable experiences I have had sea kayaking in recent years.  Surfing the tidal bore or the “mascaret” as the French call it is a unique and highly recommended activity.

Tidal Bore
With such an early morning start we had plenty of time to visit Mont St Michel

Tidal bore
Climbing to the top of Mont St Michel we had superb views across the exposed mud and sand banks. The sea wasn’t visible at all. No wonder that when such a huge amount of water has to return in 6 hours, it creates such interesting conditions.

A Brittany weekend: Canoeing in Dinan

A Brittany weekend: Canoeing in Dinan
The forecast for the weekend was pretty dreadful, we were questioning whether the ferry would be able to sail for St Malo, and even more importantly would we be able to get home on the Sunday.  As it was the ferry did sail on the Friday and the sea state was calm enough that most people were able to enjoy a beer or wine on the crossing.
The aim for the weekend was to enjoy a couple of days of canoeing on the inland waterways of Northern Brittany, with a few people having the opportunity to take their 2 Star, mainly as a pre-requisite for their Level 1 coach course in May.  Amazingly two of the people had their 5 Star (Sea) but not their 2 Star.  In Jersey there is no inland water, suitable for paddling, so it is very difficult to get the appropriate experience, you either have to travel off island or we have to start encouraging people to paddle canoes on the sea, something which sits uneasily with me, due to the size of the tides, exposure to swell and changeable weather.
We had arranged to rent canoes from the Canoe Club in Dinan, there were 16 of us and luckily they had 8 canoes in their spacious facilities.  We headed downstream, fully aware that the forecast on French TV was for winds possibly reaching 100 kmh during the afternoon.  Clearly we needed to exercise a degree of caution.
Shelter was found inside a small inlet where it was possible to work on a few skills and also by coincidence to receive a phone call from the ferry company informing us that the sailing on Sunday had been brought forward to hopefully avoid the rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, particularly the increasing wind strength.  We would get home but it meant that there would be no paddling on Sunday.
Lunch was taken further downstream before we had to fight our way back to Dinan.  It was a pleasant contrast to the sea kayaking that we normally experience in Jersey and most of the group felt that we shouldn’t leave it too long before returning to France to hone our single blade paddling skills.
 Louis and Lisa getting ready to head downstream from Dinan.  At this point the wind wasn’t too bad.
 We found shelter in a small inlet where we were able to practice a few skills such as rescues, as well as receive a phone call from Condor (the ferry company) that our ferry was leaving earlier on the Sunday due to the strong winds which were forecast.  The main consequence, apart from getting home, was that there would be no paddling on the Sunday.
 Tracey having a go at gunwhale bobbing.  Clearly the days that she spent canoeing down the Yukon has had a significant impact on her skill level.  She looked really competent.
 Once off the water there were a couple of choices, head to the local bar to watch a Six Nations rugby game on the television or head to Decathlon in search of kit.
 Sunday dawned sunny and still, a walk around the walls of St Malo was the option in the time that we had with the forecast of a rapidly increasing wind.
 Once on the ferry we headed out past Cezembre, a small island off the coast of St Malo, which is an interesting place to visit by kayak.
 Le Grand Jardin light marks the entrance channel into St Malo, for us as we headed out to sea it marked the start of a decline in the weather, with an increasing wind and a deteriorating sea state, but at least due to our early departure we made it home.