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.
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.
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.
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.