8 June - an eventful day at Belle Ile
The Avant Port at Le Palais, Belle Ile
We decided to move inside the harbour at Le Palais in order to leave the boat safe and secure whilst we spent the day exploring the island. She sits well at anchor (unless in a strong wind with a mischievous tide as in the Golfe de Morbihan) but I was slightly uneasy about the anchorage here. Having no ex-wives to help with the swell, a sturdy mooring buoy and the harbour wall seemed like the next best thing. As we entered, we had to wait for a ferry, fiddled about with ropes and fenders, made a gentle, textbook approach to the berth, got distracted by the stern rope, the mooring buoy and the line handler chappie in his boat and CRUNCH. I rammed a rather smart looking Rustler 44 with a dark blue hull. The anchor, when it’s not doing it’s stuff on the seabed, sits on the bow like a battering ram from a Roman galley and on this occasion it worked quite well in that role.
I was mortified. I don’t hit things. I like my boathandling more than almost anything. Fortunately the collision happened at about half a knot, but it was enough to leave a nasty six inch scratch in his immaculate gelcoat, all for a moment’s inattention. The Princess Royal has a dark blue Rustler 44 and they are not that common in these parts, so I had visions of a difficult encounter with Vice Admiral Sir Tim or perhaps a short spell in the Tower. The occupants were only just up and about and emerged on deck pretty fast – but we were lucky to find that Graham and Meredith Parker aboard ‘Little Dove’ are from the pragmatic school of sailors, rather than the pernickety! ‘Bumps happen’ was the gist of their generously un-phased reaction and I felt suitably chastened. Still grumpy, though…
Ashore a short while later, we hired bikes and set off north along the coast to the small fishing village of Sauzon, famed for its high quality restaurants. It is beautiful: slightly more Polperro-ish than Cawsand, but immaculately kept, calm, bright and almost Mediterranean in outlook. There is a fine choice of eateries to suit every pocket and palate, but we opted for the Roz Avel, with its lovely shady terrace and outstanding, Michelin standard cooking. Just what lunch should be – even if Julie’s fish dish did come out with a sprinkling of crushed peanuts ‘for colour’. That was whisked away in a flutter of embarrassment, quickly replaced and easily washed down with a fine Rosé. We could have stayed there all afternoon, but instead mounted the trusty treaders and set off for the Atlantic side of the island and their equivalent of the Needles – les Aiguilles de Croton.
Sauzon. The chap bottom right was collecting my lunch!
Belle Ile lives up to its name: more cultivated farmland than on some other islands, but plenty of quiet leafy lanes revealing idyllic farm cottages, masses of wild flowers and majestic cedars breaking the force of the Atlantic gales. Perhaps too high a percentage of holiday homes, but I guess that’s the way the world is moving and better that more people get a taste of life at this pace than the place falls into ruin and neglect? Second homes and Gites do change the nature of a place though, pushing up prices, discouraging the local youth from staying and creating a very different sort of community. You see it in Salcombe or any other coastal community away from the ‘beaten track’ just as much; it will be interesting to see whether the trend is maintained as we get further into our Atlantic Circuit and beyond.
Les Aiguilles de Croton
We returned to the boat in time to clear up for Rounds and welcome our slightly damaged neighbours for a drink. It was an excellent opportunity to break out a half-reasonable bottle of Bordeaux: when we placed all our goods and chattels into store a few weeks ago, we decided to bring the remaining contents of the ‘wine cellar’ with us, rather than stick them in the attic. These were wines that I thought were too posh for everyday drinking and hoped were the sorts of bottles to be laid down for a special occasion. Not that I know the first thing about wines over £5 a bottle, but one friend of mine had pointed out that each of those ‘protected’ bottles comes with a story, so would an ideal icebreaker in a new anchorage, even if it emerges as vinegar… Fortunately, the selected sacrifice turned out to be rather fine and it transpired that Graham knew rather more about wine so we enjoyed emptying it and rounded off a splendid day making new friends.
Ah, the cruising life!