21st August – La Roche Bernard – Tréhiguier
Having passed through the lock at Arzal at 4 o’clock on the previous afternoon we then ran out of water to exit the river! You might think why didn’t you leave earlier? Well we did actually and arrived at the lock well in time to go through the 2pm opening, but then the world and his wife turned up! The lock was going to be closed for the next three days and so the locals were desperate to get through! It was an almighty scrum, hard to believe that they pushed forward so ‘aggressively’ hardly allowing the boats coming out of the lock into the river any room at all! We instantly became very British and stood in line, “After you…..” springs to mind and the result was that we had to wait until the 4pm opening!! We were one of the first in this time….enough said!!
As a result of all the above we spent our last night on the river Vilaine attached to a buoy! It was however, beautiful as the water was sucked out of the river, the mud was rising around us at an alarming rate! We had made our calculations though and we were never close to touching the bottom!
22nd-24th August – Passage to Île-d’Houat
We had a very pleasant sail to Île-d’Houat and even though there wasn’t much wind, with Musetta’s ultra clean bottom having spent so much time in “sweet” water, ie not salt water, she skipped along nicely! The significance of being in “sweet” water is that any salt water growth on the bottom of the boat simply drops off! We made reasonable time arriving at this little piece of paradise in about 4 hours, a distance of 22nm. We have heard how lovely the island is and a ‘must’ to visit and so here we are!
Houat – Breton for ‘duck’ is one of two small islands, the other is Hoëdic (duckling) which is obviously smaller, which lie at the entrance to the Quiberon bay and is administered by the Morbihan department. The island consists mainly of granite cliffs but on the eastern side where we anchored, there is a long sweeping beach with sand dunes, glorious!
Some of the stunning views we encountered during our walk round the island!
Houat is mainly a holiday island, perfect for a ‘get away from it all’ location and if relying on public transport, it is easily accessible from the large island of Belle-Île, which lies close by. The port of St-Gildas has many colourful fishing boats, fishing being the main economic activity on Houat. Tourism is obviously the other source of income for the island.
After we settled the boat we put the dinghy in the water and set off to explore! The island is not big, only 5km long and 1.5km at the widest point. However, there is a designated coastal path and so we walked round the whole island! I hasten to add that taking the coastal path we walked 17km! The scenery is quite stunning looking down into the coves where boats can anchor for an afternoon and their owners can enjoy swimming in the crystal clear waters. As we rounded the top of the island to make our way back to St-Gildas and then Musetta, the terrain became moorland-ish and with lots of sand dunes where asparagus grows wild! It is a protected species and is only found here and on the coast in the Algarve in Portugal!
The varying terrain on Houat and a private fort!
There is only one settlement on such a small island, St-Gildas and that’s where we found ourselves first of all. It is all very ‘chocolate box’ pretty with white walls and blue painted woodwork and LOTS of flowers! in the village, all facilities are on hand, the only thing that visitors are advised is to bring cash with them, there is neither a bank nor an ATM!!
The village of St-Gildas
Just outside the village is an Eclosarium which interestingly explores the world of phytoplankton, a marine organism which is responsible for 80% of the world’s oxygen, an amazing fact!
Houat’s other claim to fame is that it is the setting for Iain Pears’ 2005 novel ‘The Portrait’ Iain Pears is an acclaimed art historian, novelist and reporter. His novel is dark and full of suspense! I’ve already downloaded it and I can’t wait to read it!! I will see if I can recognise the island!!
We are so pleased to have visited this beautiful spot and now it is time to move on to our next destination as we make our way south. Pornic it is…..