CRUIS­ING LIFE

Motorboat & Yachting - - Boat Test -

One of my favourite boat­ing ar­eas in north Brit­tany is the fan­tas­ti­cally rocky cor­ner off Lézardrieux, where jagged reefs strag­gle out for miles to the tall, slim light­house of Les Héaux. This glo­ri­ous cruis­ing ground can look un­wel­com­ing from off­shore, but as you grad­u­ally en­ter the Grand Chenal all sense of un­ease evap­o­rates. The rocks that seemed so threat­en­ing from sea­ward now feel friendly and pro­tect­ing as you me­an­der into the wooded reaches of the river.

Af­ter a few sea­sons you get used to see­ing rocks up close and can start ex­plor­ing some of the lo­cal pas­sages in­side coastal dan­gers, which of­ten save you dis­tance in calmer wa­ter. The in­ner route be­tween the Lézardrieux and Tréguier rivers is a good ex­am­ple, avoid­ing many nasty patches of over­falls and lead­ing south of Les Héaux light­house to ap­proach Tréguier by the side door.

Leav­ing Lézardrieux you stay in es­tu­ary shel­ter as far as a green bea­con called La Vieille du Tréou. From here the short cut Moisie Pas­sage heads NNW, skirt­ing vast ex­panses of reefs to port. This was tricky be­fore the days of GPS, when you had to keep a hazy tran­sit in line astern for nearly three miles. The chan­nel shaves next to a lonely east-car­di­nal tower where cor­morants of­ten gather for a chat. Soon after­wards you curve WSW in­side Les Héaux, head­ing for a pair of spar bea­cons. This is the most in­ter­est­ing bit of the pas­sage be­cause you see the el­e­gant stone tower very clearly from the land­ward side. Les Héaux light­house was de­signed in two sec­tions and com­pleted in 1840. The bot­tom third is mas­sively strong, to with­stand the pow­er­ful tides that surge around this cor­ner and the chaotic break­ing seas they can stir up. The top part is more lightly built, re­duc­ing struc­tural stresses caused by win­ter gales. The pale gran­ite looks gor­geous in warm sun­shine, a stun­ning ex­am­ple of Bre­ton light­house ar­chi­tec­ture. At the bot­tom a lad­der leads to an ac­cess door, where the keep­ers climbed in un­til Les Héaux was au­to­mated in 1982.

Press­ing on through Passe de la Gaîne, you fol­low more spindly spars to­wards a fi­nal gate­way into the Tréguier River, nar­rower and shal­lower than Lézardrieux but an ex­quis­ite experience as you thread the peaceful wind­ing fair­way through one of Brit­tany’s most beau­ti­ful val­leys. And some­how this ar­rival is all the more charm­ing be­cause you haven’t had to go to sea to get here.

Peter Cum­ber­lidge: “Lo­cal pas­sages in­side reefs can save you time in calmer wa­ter along the rocky north coast of Brit­tany and en­able you to ap­pre­ci­ate the amaz­ing gran­ite seascape”

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