Monday, March 12, 2012

Ile de Brehat

It never fails to amaze me just what a superb sea kayaking destination Ile de Brehat is.  Just off the north coast of Brittany, close to the old Icelandic fishing port of Paimpol, Brehat is a real gem and has all the ingredients for a classic paddle.  Most guide books talk about the mild micro-climate, no doubt the result of the Gulf Stream but this Saturday took us all by surprise.  After what seemed like months of rain and wind we stood with baited breath looking down from the road as the archipelago stretched out before us.  Not a breath of wind stirred the surface but today the tidal co-efficient was 100 so there was plenty of water moving in this corner of Cote d'Armor.
Pointe L'Arcouest, the departure point for the vedettes to the island has a large car park but today it was largely empty, most people we knew were heading for the Alps for skiing holidays.  Alain Bouhee, a French paddler, as usual was already there and his kayak packed.  Christian Scalbert arrived shortly afterwards and then it was the usual race to get packed and head off. 
For the first time in months waterproof jackets were left off as the sun beat down on our backs as we ferry glided across the main current.  Brehat is surrounded by a myriad of channels and small islets which create a complex navigational scenario.  Fail to concentrate on the chart and before you know it locating your position requires compass bearings.  It would be true to say that every time we paddle around the island we follow a slightly different path.  The joy of selecting your own route is one of the real pleasures of sea kayaking.
Phare du Paon marks the north east corner of the island, one of two lighthouses on the island, reflecting the level of hazard to shipping.  We decided to cross the main channel, to the west of the island and lunch on a reef close to Ile Morgat, we shared our beach with a wide cross section of birds.
As the tide started to flood we hitched a free ride back towards L'Arcouest via another lighthouse, La Croix.  With just a little bit of effort speeds in excess of 7 knots were easily attainable and so we were soon back at the departure point but as it was only just after low water there was a considerable carry up the beach.
Every paddle around Brehat is different but whatever the conditions it is always enjoyable.     
Around the island there are numerous navigation beacons, which make it an ideal venue for practicing sea kayak navigation.
Looking into La Chambre, a popular anchorage for visiting craft, during the summer months the view from here would have been significantly different with numerous boats.
The Birlot Tidal Mill on the west coast of the island was built between 1633 and 1638 and was originally used to extract flour.  It was built in such a way that it could be used for 6 hours in each tidal sequence.  Over the last 20 years the mill has been restored and is well worth a visit, both by kayak and on foot.
Rachel off Men Joliguet, one of the larger cardinal marks off the south coast of the island.  A working knowledge of buoyage is essential when paddling in this area as there are so many other water users, most of which don't possess the flexibility of sea kayaks.
Looking south from Ile ar Morbic at dawn.  The reefs and channels create a complex but superb kayaking environment.
The northern point of Brehat is marked by the Phare du Paon.  In common with so many lighthouses along this stretch of coast it was blown up in August 1944 and the present one was built in 1952.
La Croix is one of my favourite lights.  It mark the eastern side of the channel which runs up the estuary of the Trieux, towards Lezardrieux.

No comments: