Set sail for les Sept-Iles on a traditional sailing ship
Les Sept Iles ‘up close and personal’
''Cast off all lines'', you’ll hear, as you breathe in the wind of adventure aboard the Saint Guirec, a magnificent traditional-style sailing ship. The Captain's friendly welcome is sure to help you get your sea legs - Denis le Braz puts everyone at ease, from the novice sailor to the most hardened seafarer. So why not embark on a voyage of discovery to Les Sept-Iles (the Seven Isles) and explore their many secret treasures.
As soon as we leave the port, we’re at work with the halyard, hoisting the jigger sail: we have to pull on the ropes to raise the stern sail. What we lack in crewing experience, we make up for in good intentions. The rust and caramel coloured sails of this replica of a 1920s crayfishing vessel are a perfect match for the green hull. Delphine, the boat's dynamic skipper, gives us our first notions of sailing. What a great feeling it is to be at the helm, with your eyes fixed proudly on the horizon. The ship looks fantastic with its long straight bow. Denis compares her to a "doe gliding across the water".
Coffee break with breathtaking views
We've completed our first manoeuvres and the boat's bell rings to tell us it’s time for coffee and brioches, amidst the most fabulous scenery and out on the ocean wave . We get acquainted with the other members of our ‘crew-for-a-day’. The Saint-Guirec (Sant C'hireg in Breton) glides over the waves and whisks us towards the islands of Bono, Malban, Rouzic, Ile Plate, Ile aux Moines, Les Costans and Le Cerf. Our seafaring guides point them out to us one by one. On our port side, we can see cormorants perched on the rocky outcrops to dry their wings.
Unusual birds at close range !
Almost half the Isle of Bono is white. Could it be an unusual colour of rock? Or bird guano? In fact it's neither! It's actually the huge number of gannets living on the island that make it look white from a distance, with some 20,000 couples nesting in the cliffs there. We can get really close to them on our cutter: with the engine slowed right down, we are privileged to be able to observe the birds from close up. Our skipper tells us that they have "heated feet" and an "air bag" on their head, and that they dive from heights of 20-30m. She also tells us about the young bird's formidable maiden flight and the incredible faithfulness of mated pairs – they really are quite amazing birds! To the south of the island, we come face to beak with a species of puffin, or ‘bohanig’ in the Breton tongue. Armed with our binoculars, we admire their black and white plumage and red beaks. These wonderful birds were hunted for a long time, until, in 1912, their near extinction led to the setting up of the French League for the Protection of Birds and the creation of the Sept Îles bird sanctuary, now the biggest in France: 120 puffin couples currently enjoy this protected area alongside other unusual species. What will the next surprise be? We look to starboard and see four grey seals lounging on a rock. Two of them slide down into the water. We’re incredibly lucky to catch a glimpse of them.
An encounter with history
We call into the port of Ile aux Moines and moor up alongside another traditional sailing ship, the Ar Jentilez. A number of rather comical incidents, caused by the extremely low tide, make our landing more entertaining! After lunching with a view of the Pink Granite coast, we discover that the island's tower offers superb views. Denis, who is very fond of the area, tells us how five islands became the Seven Isles, how Gallic monks conquered the coast's inhabitants, and why the famous French navigator-explorer, La Pérouse, used to recruit his crew members in the area. There's a real sense of adventure and history in the air. But the tide tells us it is time to leave. Seagulls come and eat out of our hands. Stronger winds make the boat to go faster, increasing our excitement as it heels over more and more. With sea salt on our skin and our heads filled with pictures, we slowly pass through the tide gate. We clap our hands in delight and admiration as we re-enter the wet dock. This has been a truly unforgettable trip out to sea, amidst the most marvellous heritage.
A day trip from Perros Guirec - Bring a picnic and warm clothing