We awoke on the second day to thick fog. Everything which had seemed so clear the day before was shrouded in mystery. As we departed the beach, compass bearings, the GPS and acute hearing were the order of the day. Morbihan at times can be one of the busiest areas of water that you will paddle in. Numerous small ferries linking the various ports and more leisure craft that you can imagine.
As we crossed over the entrance the fog started to disperse as the rising sun worked its magic. Within 20 minutes of starting to paddle we had seen 3 other groups of paddlers, testimony to the popularity of the area for sea kayaking. We used the southern branch of the tidal stream to carry us into the eastern sections of the Gulf. Running through gaps with the GPS registering over 7 knots meant that some members of the group were relieved that were only on neaps. On a large spring tide the flows between the islands can be truly awesome.
The bird life in the area is amazingly diverse and varies from season to season. The summer birds were clearly in the ascendancy, the cries of numerous terns pierced the air and Shelduck were visible around most of the islands. What we were really interested in were the Ibis, which now reside in the Gulf, but we were to be disappointed. We headed towards Ile Govihan, were we had seen them before but today the perches which had been occupied by Ibis previously, were now supporting cormorants. Slightly disappointed on the ornithological front, we turned north in beautiful sunshine and steered towards Ile IIur. The west facing beach was the lunch spot and it allowed us to explore the small settlement on the island, including its beautiful chapel.
The return journey was around the northern edge of the Gulf, passing close to Ile D’Arz and Ile aux Moines. There were a number of superb old sailing ships which were visiting the Gulf as part of a maritime week which was due to start the following day. One of the interesting things about paddling in Morbihan is how the tidal streams suddenly change from negligible to extremely fast in a short space of time. As we passed the southern end of Ile Berder the water flow increased to about 6 knots and we enjoyed a fast ride towards the entrance of the Gulf. Although the water was quite confused it was important to keep away from the eddies along the edge where violent boils could throw the kayaks around at will. The problem with the main channel is the sheer number of other craft, one French fisherman in particular shaking his fist and exclaiming that we were all going to die. Clearly he had less confidence in the kayaks than we did!
As we approached the entrance to the Gulf the tidal streams continued to assist our journey. It was important to plan several moves ahead though, at one point we were moving sideways at over 6 knots. As the narrows of the entrance were cleared, the force of the tide quickly dissipated and we were able to ease our way back to the south facing beach from where we had left 6 hours previously.
The Golfe du Morbihan is a fascinating sea kayaking destination and when combined with paddling in a couple of the other Breton regions it would make an ideal venue for a weeks holiday. The combination of tidal streams, historical traditions and Breton hospitality will ensure a thoroughly enjoyable visit!
Looking from Gavrinis towards the entrance to the Gulf
Due to the nature of the region there is always somewhere sheltered to pull up for lunch. This particular day we selected Ile Ilur.
The area has a rich maritime tradition which is maintained to the present day. Paddling around Morbihan there is usually a variety of sailing craft to observe.
A number of the vessels have not stood the test of time and in some of the more sheltered inlets it is possible to encounter ships which are a shadow of their former glory.
Morbihan is a great place for developing white water skills. Nicky is playing on some small tidal rapids off the south west corner of Ile aux Moines.
The overall memory of paddling in Morbihan is of fast moving tidal streams, in certain areas, set against a rich historical backdrop and diverse wildlife.