Rade de Brest – Gunkholing in Calm Waters

Rade de Brest – Gunkholing in Calm Waters

By now we were supposed to be in Galicia, Spain. But apparently the Bay of Biscay has decided not to even let us there. The spring winds have been very changeable, and in the notorious bay it means it doesn’t seem to stay in one direction for very long. It will be a 300-360 nautical mile crossing. We are hoping to point our bow towards A Coruña, but are open to other options according to what the weather decides for us. That means we will be out at sea for three, maybe three and a half days, and the weather window should be at least a couple of days longer than that, so we won’t be caught out in something terribly unexpected. So far such a window has not presented itself.

It’s also possible that we are being held back by the beauty of Brittany. Be as it may, we’re not really in a hurry. It might be a couple of degrees warmer on the Spanish side, and a change of scenery is often welcome, but our only plan for the summer is really just to keep on travelling south at a pace that feels good.

We decided to move to a quiet anchorage to wait for the right moment. We found one just around the corner from Camaret-sur-Mer, in Rade de Brest, a large inland sea outside the city of Brest. It’s a popular sailing area, and because of its good protection it has also been used as a naval base since ancient times. On our way there we met a large submarine, escorted by several warships and ribs, and even a helicopter. The shorelines are heavily fortified since the olden days, and there are many islands and other areas reserved for the navy.

We anchored off a little sandy beach by the village of Roscanvel, nicely protected from the westerlies, and finally got a chance to test our Rocna anchor. On the third night the wind suddenly veered to the west, and we were in a hurry to lift our dinghy up on the deck late at night. Despite some waves the anchor didn’t budge, but the next morning we decided to move to a better place. We found one just five miles further west, at the bottom of a bay called Anse de l’Auberlac’h. There’s a large buoy field for mostly local boats, but we anchored just outside in 5 metres. You still have to take the tides into account, but instead of the 12 metres that we got used to in Binic, here it’s a much more moderate 4 metres. The anchor chain naturally has to be calculated according to the highest water. Despite a very protected place, we paid out 45 metres of chain. That’s a nice lenght for our Aina to swing around, and we sleep so much better than tied to a dock!


Besides the anchor, all of the new systems we installed last year are now finally being tested in real life situation. The solar panels have been providing for most of our power needs, apart from a few weeks around Christmas, but while staying in a marina it was more convenient to use mains electricity for charging laptops, phones and other devices. Now we charge everything from 12 volt outlets and use an inverter for the laptops. It’s been reassuring to see the batteries full by 10 am on a sunny day, and by noon even with a little bit of cloud.

Biking is not a very convenient hobby while anchored, but it’s nice to take a ride on the dinghy every now and then. We tried fishing for an hour with no luck. On another day we went to Brest – with a lot of salty spray in our hair and foulies – and were not very impressed. Brest was totally destroyed during the WW II, and it’s hard to imagine how it used to look like. The harbour areas were particularly rough and industrial looking, but we found a good fish market there, and even climbed the hill up to the city center.

Somewhere far, far away in the Bay of Biscay some fresh winds are blowing. We are monitoring them from many different sources, nicely floating here in our gunkhole. There’s time to cook good food, and do some boat maintenance, such as bottom scrubbing. Swimming in the 14°C water is not very tempting without a wetsuit! So, we are having a little spring holiday of sorts, while we wait for the next passage, the crossing of Biscay.

If you’re planning to sail in France or Spain, we highly recommend a phone app called Navily, with a huge number of anchorages and marinas. You can even make a reservation in many marinas through Navily, and add your own favourite places. We haven’t had a look at how it works in other countries besides these two, but there seem to be spots all over Europe – but not many in Finland.

Anse de l’Auberlac’h

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