Brest to Port Lornay on the river Aulne

Dream On
Freddie Alderson
Wed 1 Sep 2010 16:22

The Adventures of Dream On – Port Launay and back


To Port Launay


The river L’Aulne, down which we had to travel to get to Port Launay, runs off the South Eastern corner of the Rade de Brest and the Marina Moulin Blanc is in the North East. In between there are various headlands, islands and rocks to avoid en route, necessitating our doing the left hand arc of a circle to avoid them. So we had to cross the Rade de Brest, going South West to start with, South and then South East, taking about 3.5 hrs. The weather in Brest had varied between overcast and raining – ‘English weather’, they called it in the bar – but the day we set off for Port Launay there was actual blue in the skies, a few clouds and little wind. The pictures say it all.



Here you can just see l’Ile Ronde in the Middle of                Here you can just see the river mouth.

the picture, which we had to steer well clear of



As we approach it, it reminds us very much of Dartmouth, the river winding its way along a valley with steep wooded hills on both sides, and little houses peeping out from between the trees. And those nestled right on the edge of the river again echo some in Dartmouth, where you cannot believe there is actually a road to them, the valley sides are so steep and the woods so thick. Thinking about it, there are some in Dartmouth which are only reachable from the beach and are cut off when the tide is high. So perhaps we’re not wrong there.


  One big difference is that this river is relatively empty; for many stretches we were the only yacht.  We sailed down in welcome peace and tranquillity – that is until we got to ‘The Bridges’ and they sure woke us up.


But before we got to the bridges, we were really surprised to go round a bend and find that one small corner of this beautiful river had been used as a navy graveyard. It perhaps sounds worse than it was. Though broken down and abandoned, the ships had a strange dignity and it was really interesting to see these old cruisers, destroyers or frigates.








And we were especially astounded to see that one of the guided missile cruisers was still armed!! No-one seemed to be guarding them, and though there were notices telling you not to moor up to them or their buoys, it seemed to be a matter of trust that people would keep away. The pictures also may not show exactly how big they were so I guess they could have been quite difficult to board. But it could have been an interesting exploration, and one did want to take a closer look. Tempting though it looked, we certainly did not have the courage or the temerity to want to try.



Going under the bridges was quite a terrifying experience. Although you knew you would and should be able to get under them, until the very last minute, you were absolutely sure you wouldn’t and you couldn’t. And it was very hard to banish visions of broken masts and vastly complicated entanglements as you approached. We were so gob-smacked and terrified going through the first time, we didn’t get really good pics. On the return though we did, but here is a taster.




As we meandered up the river, it got smaller and smaller with a few little tributaries sneaking off into the reeds. The last thing we expected to find was a motorway bridge, as shown below




But we actually quite glad to find it because it gave us our bearings. We were getting anxious about the time by now, knowing that a lock was yet to come and not knowing at what time the lock-keeper might go home for his tea or how much further it was exactly. As you can see from the photos below, the river bends around hugely all the time, making estimating distance quite difficult and the chart plotter was no help at all as it had clearly given up on us and showed us merrily sailing across the land.






Shortly after the motorway bridge, we caught sight of the lock, on the left in the photo, and approached it somewhat trepidaciously. We have heard many bad lock stories, and experienced some ourselves in Scotland, where each boat was responsible for their own ropes, and the water rushes in and out a great speed throwing all the boats around, and leaving one totally dependant on the other boats knowing what they are doing.




However, Mr. Marc, the lock-keeper, was a fine lock-keeper. He threw us his ropes, he closed the gates gently, he let the water in slowly, and he and several other lady-friends chatted to us the while. A very nice lock and lock-keeper.






We even had time to admire the beautiful viaduct coming up and spanning the river – until we remembered that we had to get under it




It looks nice and big from a distance                                                    but much smaller close to



     EEEEEk                                                           And whew! We were through Not much clearance tho’.





















And then we arrived at lovely Port Launay. View behind us (left) and in front of us (above)


View across the river from our mooring (Starboard)        and up the bank (port)



The electricity and water services are hidden in the bushes that line the river, the mooring bollards are hidden on the grass verge, rubbish disposal is hidden in a little enclave just to the right of the picture of the square, the harbour office is in the town hall, (pictured right), the boulangerie with lovely fresh bread and cakes just to the left, the bar-tabac (postcards and stamps) just to the right, and the café just up from that. Everything to hand, everything free except electricity – just wondrous.





No-one checked on who was moored or who had paid for electricity – they just trusted you to come and pay and you told them for how many days. One day when we had everything on in the boat, we blew the fuse. Tho the town hall was officially shut, a lady who was still there rang someone up who came and mended it, and was full of apologies. And on top of this, the people, as you’ll hear from later adventures, were just great- unbelievably nice. Really a little piece of heaven, We went in search of some wine to have with dinner that first night, but everything was shut that day. It was 8 pm, so that was understandable, but the sun surprised us by being boiling hot. On our return, Fred had a lovely curried horned beef cash waiting.

A perfect end to a perfect day, (albeit with some hairy moments), in a perfect place.


Saz’s pictures from the journey to Port Launay




 Heavily wooded banks                        peeping maisons                                  scary bridges



Captain at the wheel                                                                 able seamanette at the wheel


                                             Able seaman larking about in a poseramus fashion



The weir next to the lock                                               Us trying to work out where on earth we are.