Morbihan Revisited

It had been 12 months since our last visit, which was probably too long.  Morbihan (which means “Little Sea” in Breton) has to be one of the great paddling areas of Europe.  Don’t expect dramatic scenery and a wilderness experience though.  This is a popular tourist and sailing venue but the combination of world class historical sites, tidal streams reaching 8 knots, a diverse bird population and usually pleasant weather conditions produce a fascinating kayaking area.
The small fishing boat was closing pretty quickly upon us, even though the GPS was registering nearly 8 knots and we were barely paddling.  The narrowing of the channel to the south of Iles Berder and Gavrinis forced the stream to accelerate as it rushed towards the open sea, still nearly 2 miles away.  We were taking advantage of this liquid conveyor belt but clearly the fisherman had other ideas about both our sanity and paddling ability.  The raised, shaking fist and the shouts that we were stupid and likely to die did little to improve the confidence of the more hesitant members of the group.
We were on the final rush towards the open sea at the end of two days of superb paddling.  Although the tidal streams do run fast in the Gulf, with appropriate planning it is possible to harness that power to your own advantage and so enjoy a relatively effort free ride around the inner recesses of the Gulf.  Although many people are put off by stories regarding the power of the tidal runs do not be unduly apprehensive.  Try to arrange your first visit to coincide with neaps, use a detailed chart and be sure of your position at all times.  
Saturday was a leisurely exploration of the islands close to Larmor-Baden.  One ferry glide after another allowed us to access golden sandy beaches, narrow inlets and historical sites.  To me the most fascinating location is the semi-submerged stone circle of Er Lannic, due to sea level rise the circle is largely submerged at high water, where else is it possible to paddle through megalithic monuments?  As the afternoon progressed we jumped onto the ebbing tide and hitched a free ride back to Locmariaquer.
Locmariaquer at dawn.  We had just popped out for croissants, but the sun rise promised a geat day on the water.  This small town, close to the western entrance to the Gulf, is an ideal base for a few days sea kayaking.
Er Lannic, a semi submerged stone circle.  Landing is not possible because this is now a bird reserve but it is an inspirational place to kayak past.  These stones are estimated to be 5,000 years old and have been affected by rising sea levels.  Just to the north tidal streams run in excess of 9 knots!
 Gavrinis dominates much of this area of Morbihan but the island is famous because of its important passage grave from the Neolithic era. When it was constructed, c. 3500 BC, the island was still connected to the mainland. Inside the tomb there are some stunning decorated slabs which means that it is one of the most important sites in Europe.  Unfortunately access is only possible using the tour boats from Lamor-Baden.
Lamor-Baden viewed from the south.
 A typical Morbihan scene.  Most of the land visible in the photograph is on islands.  It is a complex area where accurate navigation is important.
One of the numerous navigation marks in the area, it is important to know your buoyage.  Port Navalo is to the east but we were turning west to land on the small beach we had left a few hours earlier.

This posting was first published in May 2008.