All aboard! The Brittany coast from an old sailing boat

How about taking to the seas in Brittany to admire the beauty of the coast? It’s even better on an old rig (‘gréement’) – these traditional sailing boats have either been carefully maintained over the years or are faithful replicas of dundees, langoustiers and tuna boats of yesteryear. In full sail, you can now simply enjoy these as pleasure boats and be carried on the waves. If this sounds like your dream, read on! We’re casting off the moorings...

Sail the 18th-century way on the Étoile du Roy

At the foot of the ramparts of Saint-Malo, don your boots, catch your tricorne and jump on the bridge of the Étoile du Roy, an incredible privateer frigate, the third-largest traditional French sailing boat. With 20 guns still in place and 790m² of sails, it’s a figurehead straight out of the picture books... just cross the footbridge to go back in time. Want to sail a long course on this famous three-master? Voyages to Paimpol or Roscoff are open to volunteers. Go on, we dare you!
The Etoile du Roy (External link)

Sail on the An Durzunel

Head to the Bay of Cancale for a salty ride aboard the An Durzunel, Breton for ‘turtledove’. Rebuilt according to vintage plans, this old fishing boat is fiery in the breeze and it’s ideal for beginners to learn the ropes. Be a sailor for the day, with the jib or the foresail, pull, hoist, line and hold the bar. You can even go rock-hopping with the Mont-Saint-Michel in sight!
An Durzunel (External link)

Learn about watercolours aboard Eulalie

On the quays of Lézardrieux not far from the island of Bréhat, Eulalie, a beautiful sardine boat off the coast, comfortably welcomes its crew. They’ll pack food and watercolour boxes for a painting class in the middle of the sea. With the lugsail and foresail hoisted, the brushes can start to navigate on the paper. With a lighthouse to the port side, a trawler offshore and the pink rocks of Bréhat in sight, Brittany strikes a pose in style.
Eulalie (External link)

Navigate the old way on La Recouvrance

150 tons, nine sails totalling 430m², 4km of rope and 130 pulleys... the statistics of the Recouvrance have something to impress beginner sailors, especially when the proud schooner, all dressed in wood, arrives in Brest harbour. A replica of an aviso military boat from 1817, La Recouvrance relives its history with old-fashioned maps, compass and Cras navigation plotter. Watch your head when it turns – with its 600 kilos, the beam could knock out more than one unsuspecting sailor!
La Recouvrance (External link)

Birdwatch from the Saint-Guirec

From Perros-Guirec, the Sept-Iles and their treasures are only a few miles away, a paradise for birds and birdwatchers. On board the Saint-Guirec, a playful replica of a lobster boat from 1920 with a beautiful green hull and caramel-coloured sails, you’re in a prime spot to watch gannets, cormorants and puffins dressed in black and white nesting in the cliffs. Keep hold of your binoculars. It’s not unusual for a plump grey seal to come into view!
The Saint-Guirec (External link)

Picnic aboard the Ausquémé

Sample the freshest seafood from the varnished deck of an old rig. In the Bay of Cancale, the Ausquémé, built in 1942 for the dredging of oysters in the Gulf of Morbihan, is a beautiful sailboat with Breton heritage, whose kitchen and restaurant is open to the elements. Enjoying oysters in the spray is an invigorating experience.
The Ausquémé (External link)

Catch tuna from Le Biche

The last tuna boat in the Atlantic, which made numerous sailing trips from its home port on the island of Groix, is still looking great. Built in 1934 and restored in 2012, Le Biche is back in service for pleasure cruises off Brittany. All lines out, you’ll admire it racing in the wind, accompanied by a crew of old sea dogs who are quick to tell of their exploits.
La Biche (External link)

Be mistaken for Surcouf, king of privateers

Want to ride the waves like Surcouf, the famous Saint-Malo privateer? This is the one for you! Embark on the replica of his rebel ship, the aptly named ‘Renard’, a racy cutter decked in yellow and black, which tackles the strong currents along the Emerald Coast. The crew doesn’t disarm, but we can give them a hand, or even extend the adventure to rally a gathering of old rigs or watch the departure of a Transat. Magical!

Attend Brest International Maritime Festival

For the eighth edition of the International Maritime Festival, head for Brest from 10-16 July 2020. As it has every four years since 1992, the world will take over the pontoons and harbour for this festival, gathering the largest and most beautiful sailing boats in the world. 1,050 were present in 2016, with 9,000 sailors from 25 nations. Why not come along?
Brest International Maritime Festival (External link)