These islands are reputed be France’s answer to the Caribbean or the Pacific island of Tahiti and boy that is so true! – (to be cont:)
The archipelago is made up of nine main islands and many islets, in the middle of which is a lagoon renowned for the clarity of its water and the whiteness of its sands. It is possible walk to Bananec Island from Saint-Nicolas at low tide when a ribbon of sand appears. The island is inhabited by the internationally renowned ‘not-for-profit’ sailing school which was founded after the war in 1947 by Helene and Philipe Viannay, former members of the French Resistance! It is one of the first and one of the largest sailing schools in Europe. Trainee sailors are housed in a 1960s building (not for the faint-hearted!!), construction on the islands is no longer allowed and accommodation is scarce.
A lighthouse and a semaphore can be found on Penfret Island, however we didn’t go there this time as we feel sure that we will be back sometime soon but here is a photo from our anchorage on the north side of Île Saint-Nicolas…
The lighthouse and Semaphore on Île Penfret
We sailed the 10 miles to this archipelago of small islands under genoa and dropped our anchor off Île de Saint-Nicolas and this is the view we had! It was such a bonus to be anchored in 7 metres of water and to be able to see the bottom?! We drank in the scenery until the late evening and smiled at the squeals from those who had dared to dive into the very tempting water from their yachts and received a shock at the temperature!
The following morning, well late morning, we hopped into the dinghy and went ashore and wandered round Saint-Nicolas in beautiful sunshine and I was so tempted to take a dip, that is until I put a toe in!? Ouch, the sea hasn’t warmed up enough for me yet! We then explored the other islands and eventually completed by dinghy, a circumnavigation of Saint-Nicolas, the clear, clear water has some disadvantages as the rocks beneath look a lot closer than they actually are and I thought we might be grounded on more than one occasion!!
White sand, turquoise sea and azure blue sky!!
Île Cigogne is instantly recognisable by its fort, which was built in 1756 to keep English pirates out of the lagoon! Cigogne is the main base for the sailing school but their activity is seen throughout the islands . Here are some shots of the old fort which is now used for water sports activities.
The old fort on Cigogne
We returned to Musetta to enjoy another evening at anchor in such a beautiful place and the sunset was gorgeous!
Sunday morning was as tranquil as the previous days and so we set off back to Port La Forêt under motor, less than 1kt of wind?!! We had only just cleared the rocks surrounding the archipelago when we were treated to a visit by a small pod of dolphins who played round the boat and leapt out of the water to show us how clever they are as if we didn’t already know! I love dolphins, they make my heart sing!
Magical dawn and heart warming dolphins
Our journey continues….