Brest to Port Lornay on the river Aulne
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
View across the river from our mooring
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
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
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.