From Audierne to the Isle of Sein, a wonderful sailing getaway
On course for lighthouses and shipwrecks
In the pretty harbour of Audierne, René and Agnès are getting ready to welcome you aboard the Atlantis for a crossing with storytelling that will take you to the edge of the known world. Set a course for the Pointe du Raz and the Isle of Sein !
Between straits and tides
Once on board, we get a warm welcome from our two skippers and from Jean, our storyteller for today, who is none other than the chairman of the Cap Sizun Maritime Museum. René, as a pure-bred Breton, knows the area like the back of his hand, knows every treacherous passage and every rock on which ships have been wrecked in the past. On the starboard beam there’s the Ile aux vaches (Isle of cows). “The Estrid reef”, Jean tells us. “A cargo ship on its home passage from Spain broke up there in 1933, shedding tons of oranges that ended up in the inhabitants’ wheelbarrows.” We’re being rocked by a gathering swell as we sail up Cap Sizun, keeping a weather eye along the wild coast all the way up to the majestic Pointe du Raz. On board, the excitement is becoming palpable. Agnès warns us “We are now entering the raz (tidal race) in the Iroise Sea where the Atlantic meets the Channel”. Suddenly the sea seems to boil, seething. It’s pretty impressive!
See Sein, and die (but not of hunger!)
Intoxicated by our crossing of the tide race, we moor ourselves to a buoy in the harbour on Sein while we enjoy a friendly picnic that includes a special treat: a chance to try seaweed tartare. It’s delicious! Then we go ashore for a tour of the island, loving the peace and quiet of this place. Sein is like a sleeping beauty in a turquoise sea; it has narrow, flower-decked streets that have never known the sound of a car. Today, in the bright sunlight, this little comma-shaped island of 150 souls, rising up from the Iroise Sea, bears no resemblance to the island of storms that we hear so much about. Quite the opposite: it makes you dream of living here like some latter-day Robinson Crusoe! During our walk, Jean tells us its history, including the story of the two menhirs known as the “Causeurs”, the story of those who have been lost at sea or in wars, and of its chapel and lighthouses. “In the distance you can see Ar-Men, the westernmost lighthouse in France. Since the stonemasons could only work on it for one week in the year it took 20 years to build it.”
Take the helm, cabin-boy !
When we return to the harbour it’s time for our little crew to go back to sea. Hoist the mainsail! We sail close to the famous lighthouses known as La Vieille and then the towers of La Plate and Le Chat. In this place 'le chat' guards 'le raz'! Like motionless sentinels that stand fast against the changing moods of the sea, these giants seem to watch over the two fishing boats that we can see, tossed by waves that are three or four metres high. René, who is a veteran sea fisherman, tells us: “They are line fishing for sea bass”. The picture of these men alone in the midst of a furious sea leaves me thoughtful, torn between fascination and fear. As we leave the 'raz', René offers to let me take the helm: exciting but far from easy! In the end, my poor skills as a sailor force me to take on a task I'm better suited for: tasting the chocolate kouign-amann (Breton butter pastry) that Agnès is so proud of! Now that our taste-buds have had their treat, let’s spend a few more minutes enjoying the beauty of the landscape, Jean's knowledge and the kindness of our hosts. Just a few more minutes...
Text : Julie Danet