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.