Nantes to Saint-Nazaire on the River Loire, 60 km of Art, History and Nature

I have paddle the Loire Estuary below the bridge at Saint-Nazaire on many occasions, but have never ventured further up river. It’s time we took a look.

We arrived at Nantes just before dawn, the lights reflecting on the water looking great

We had time for a cup of tea as the sun rose, it was a spectacular display of colours

With the boats lightly loaded for a day trip we were ready to go. We were quite fortunate to have arrived at the slip at the same time as a couple of members from a Society called ‘Loire Pour Tous’  … the Loire for everyone.

They very kindly gave us permission to leave our van outside their clubhouse saving us the stress of looking for parking.  These guys are involved in the restoration, and new building of the traditional timber barges used on the Loire over the last Century

As the Sun rose in the Sky, we saw an Otter swimming upstream, I am always grateful to see these natural displays.

Behind the Lock at the entrance to the Riviere Erde, we could see the Cathedral

We passed the enormous Naval museum Maillé Brézé    a post WWII French Destroyer, there is an interesting account on the associations website  at  http://goo.gl/YWDZi

We passed under the Pont de Cheviré which carries the périphérique circular  autoroute around Nantes, the graceful curves are much more impressive when viewed from below.

By mid morning the temperature was reaching 18°C  and once again I find myself paddling in a T Shirt, Sea temperatures are published as 16°C around the Saint-Nazaire estuary,  but the river was probably a degree or two colder.

The dockside cranes are massive and numerous, they hint at the past when Nantes was a busy Port receiving goods from all over the World for onward transmission via the Rivers canal and the road network.

Then we came across this house ……  it is in fact a piece of work from the Artist Jean-Luc Courcoult    “La Maison dans la Loire” although it is a ‘decorated concrete fabrication’        5 years on it still looks remarkable ‘real’  The Artist is popularly known as the original founder of the ‘Royal de Luxe’ Theatre company who build giant puppets and perform all over the World

A little further on, at the Lock to the Canal by Le Pellerin, we came across another piece of Art from the artist Erwin Wurm titled  “Misconceivable”

The river was now becoming wider, and we also saw the sky getting darker, we knew there wind would be increasing and bringing a heavy front of rain, we still had another 16 km to do.

We reached Montoir de Bretagne about 5 km from our destination when the front arrived, the sky turned a dramatic grey, the herring gulls took off noisily and the Bridge at Saint-Nazaire disappeared from view.  Exactly on schedule at 4pm the winds increased to force 5 and we chose to land a km earlier, on the small beach just next to the Port, after clocking up 60.5 kms michelle’s longest day trip todate.

This was an excellent trip, there is so much to see, but at 60 kms, it is a committing journey to undertake on one tidal cycle using the slack water at each side of the cycle, we were on the water for 7 1/2 hours .  We also made the trip on a very low neap tide, a high Spring tide would have knocked the kms off quicker.

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Installing a keel strip….. and stainless steel cables

This post is not an instructional post …  but is here to give me a record which I can refer back to when I find I need to do the job again.

So, by way of introduction I have previously glassed on a keel strip but this was over a year ago.   I was very content with the results and I believe the materials cost about 50% less than having the work done on a paying basis.

I previously, and this time used the instructions I found online at http://www.seakayakermag.com/2004/Oct04/KeelStrip03.htm

I used 200 grams of resin to lay the tape on, and finished the keel strip with 300 grams of pigmented ‘Flowcoat’   I used a 2% mix of Catalyst working outside on a bright clear day at 18° C.

I took the skeg out, and the cable I replaced some 3 months ago was in perfect condition. My boat had a Valley cable skeg with a stainless steel flat tape cable. It required continual maintenance,  the manufacturers even had a video demo on their website. The problem was rusting.

I discovered a supplier in the UK several years ago who’s cable has been good in my P&H boat for over 5 years. Here’s their Website   http://www.tecni-cable.co.uk/

I ordered:
3mm 1×19 A4-AISI 316 Stainless Steel Cable MBL 720 kgs
Catalogue Code 602.000.030   http://goo.gl/zzDO0


As well
as the 3mm cable for the skeg, I also ordered this 4mm PVC covered Stainless Cable with the fittings to enable me to rig up a good Security cable for locking the boats up. I made up a 6 meter length which gives plenty of scope for securing multiple boats. It is a great deterrent with its highly visible red coating.

 

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Google Maps GL 3D and plan for ‘Work Avoidance’

I’ve been aware of google mapsGL for quite a while, but have not explored much with the new 3D Earth button ….. then I stumbled across a Lighthouse on the Brittany coast
It’s a lighthouse I’ve previously visited and photographed on the Île de Sein ….  I decided to compare, and it was impressive a good 3D reproduction  ….  So I looked for more, Brittany is not short of lighthouses!

Here is Créac’h on Île Ouessant (Ushant) not only is the lighthouse 3D but also the Coastguard Semaphore building.

Having come across these lighthouses on land I wondered whether there were any rendered in 3D out at sea, I checked out the famouse Le Jument lighthouse off the Ouessant coast, and sure enough found it…So here is le Jument, possibly the most famous lighthouse in the world after photographer Jean Guichard captured a series of amazing images of the lighthouse being engulfed by a huge wave, but what made this shot that once in a lifetime shot was the lighthouse keeper who was standing at the door

(For those wondering about “what happened next”   goto http://www.alphapix.com/jument.shtml

As I moved around the google maps 3D lighthouse,  I smiled….  a clever touch the lighthouse keeper had been rendered in too !

It was about now I realised that I had just discovered a whole new way to waste time on the internet !    I found many 3D images with a kind of Sea relationship …  but I wanted to find the unusual ….   So here was my next quirky discovery

The war memorial at Saint-Nazaire ….. wearing a french Beret instead of a tin hat  🙂

then I started looking at the UK ….   I found another man standing on the base of the Longships lighthouse.

I wish you all many happy hours hunting the strange, the funny and the humerous.

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Ria D’Etel … finding the source

With plans for a crossing to the Glennan Archipelago defeated by the weather an opportunity arose to discover the source of the River D’Etel.

We quickly discovered that the Etel is quite short, and is fed by both the Riviere de Landévant and the Goah Gouillerm, the aerial photo suggested there was likely to be more water in the Gouillerm and having the town of Nostang nearby also gave us better options to access the water.

We discovered a wide shallow stream leading out of the town centre which ran alongside an enormous car park, it suited us fine, we did think we may have to walk a little along the shallow bed.

Preparations were quick and easy and we started our trip in bright sunshine

The previous evening we walked down to the tidal section of the river, we found enormous mud flats with a small channel of water snaking its way along.

We were leaving at high water and expected to return a few hours earlier than the next high water, we had a neap tide and the following was going to be smaller. In case we ran out of water for the return we found an alternative exit point on the main river alongside a bridge in the town.

At high water the mud flats were flooded, it looked completely different.  Making our way south, we saw many Cormorants and Egrets, there was a kingfisher too by the stream.

A little further on we came across the ostréiculteurs , the people that cultivate the oysters. The estuary is famous for its oysters, and is an important industry in the region which last year was under threat by the grounding at Erdevan of the Cargo ship TK Bremen.
The ship was eventually dismantled in just 10 days pollution was minimal and quickly cleaned.

Long flat motor barges are used to collect the oyster sacks from the beds in the estuary.

After entering the Etel, we were once again on familiar territory, we could see the scenic town of Saint Cado and made our way into the interior of the causeway.The church behind the fountain was built by St Cado a Welsh Monk who fled to this small island in the 6th c.

We enjoyed lunch at Saint Cado after which time the Estuary was emptying rapidly, with time to explore one more creek on the far side.  It really is quite wild and a haven for birds, many Gulls, Egrets and even Spoonbills were seen

Even on a neap tide the ebb was running at about 7 knots, we flew down the stream towards the bridge Pont Lerois, on a big spring tide the speed increases to 9 knots but the additional volume of water moving creates a much more difficult environment. Whirlpools form quite randomly and will pull the rear deck of a sea kayak under, boils erupt spinning the kayak off course.

We finished our trip just past the Pont Lerois where the currents slow down as the Estuary opens up.  We had a little more play in the currents under the bridge before returning back up the estuary to Nostang.

 

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Roundabouts and lighthouses

Driving through France you will quickly realise that the towns enjoy decorating their roundabouts. It is quite incredible, there are some quite elaborate constructions often taking inspiration from  local legend,  history, or even something just pleasing to the eye.

Just across the Bretagne border in the department of  Loire Atlantique is the small town of La Turballe. A rather awkward junction was rebuilt with a rather plain roundabout. Then after two years it suddenly sported a new structure, a Lighthouse.

According to the local newspaper, the lighthouse was commissioned to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of twinning with Bussang in the Lorraine. It is a replica of the lighthouse ‘Le Four’ marking the Le Four plateau some four miles of the coast from Le Croisic.

However ……..  there is something not quite right,  take a look a the shot below of the actual lighthouse,

The black spiral stripe goes round in the wrong direction ! all the other details are correct, the jetty at the base and even the bank of pebbles.

Now this particular lighthouse gets visited regularly by kayakers on the very high co efficients.  At low tide the plateau is exposed for a couple of hours and is a bountiful supply of delicious and enormous mussels. As well as mussels, good sized brown crab can be hooked out of holes and crevices, hence all the subjects in the photo bent over with their net bags !

I came across an interesting blog covering French Lighthouses where the blogger included a little piece about Le Four   http://www.pharadise.com/blog/?p=500

 

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Corsica, a sea kayaking destination… some observations

Corsica is known in France as the ‘Isle of beauty’  and this is no exageration, the Island is exceptionally beautiful.

As can be seen in previous blog entries, we were very disappointed with our Corsican experience. The major issue for us was the lack of public services (Toilets, and  rubbish disposal) available for the large number of tourists. This inevitable led to rubbish discarded anywhere, and car parks and other public areas used as toilets. Where rubbish bins were provided they were full to overflowing and did not appear to be emptied regularly.

It was only the very small beaches with no land access, and too small to be attractive to leisure cruise markets that we found were clean, in all other cases the beaches were dirty, including all those with protected status.

I understand the attitude of the Nature Reserve officers having seen the unacceptable levels of pollution. I am just very sad that the measures enforced by the Nature Reserves actually fail to reduce the problem, let alone stop the problem.

We did bivi out on the beaches, including some protected. We also ‘wild camped’  in the Van, which was not generally a good experience because of the pollution at most available parking areas.  We also used campsites.

 

Prior to leaving I telephoned four campsites with a view of ‘booking’  All four I called explained that booking was not necessary …..

In fact these sites do not have ‘marked out’ emplacements, you turn up at reception and they will tell you “wander round the site and find a place to ‘squeeze in’, then come back and book in”        Instead we began telephoning sites to establish whether they had marked emplacements and vacancies, mostly they were full.

We attracted no attention from the Gendarmerie Maritime, or for that matter the Gendarmes on the road. We were approached by Natures reserve officers, and ‘advised’

Whilst we were on the Island in the height of the season, I do not believe it will be that different in the Low season.  Human waste needs around two years to decompose naturally.   A lot of the waste we came across was not from tourists, builders rubble and furniture including fridges (obviously not degassed) were fly tipped, this reveals a huge lack of facilities available to residents

Something we noticed was the absence of wildlife, very few seabirds and only very small fish in the water

We did chat with some locals, they all expressed concern for what they were seeing.

Without doubt there is considerable money made from the tourist industry, it would be nice to see some of this invested in protecting this beautiful island

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Cap Corse

We head towards Bastia for our return ferry. With a couple of days to spare we stop at Saint Florent at the base of Cap Corse. Another trendy harbour town with a large Marina, but also suffering from huge numbers of tourists. A walk up to the citadel revealed the same old problems, litter and impromptu toilets, there is a strong smell of urine in many of the small alleys of the old town.

We used a campsite just out of town and at 7am the following morning were able  to park right next to the slipway in the Marina.

The water was flat with light winds, but the forecast was Bf 4 gusting 5 by Noon, later increasing Bf7 gusting 8

We were aiming to round Punta Mortella, and fully expected the sea state to increase significantly, already we could see white horses developing in the central area of the bayLooking over at Cap Corse, the mountain tops were covered in dark clouds which despite the high winds just hung there.

Yet on our Port side, the weather shore, the tiny isolated beaches were completely calm and tranquil

Getting ready to up anchor and move closer inshore was this rather good looking three masted schooner, up closer we saw the hull was in fact metal.

There are many of these Genoese defence towers around the Island, and give some clue as to the Islands turbulent history. It strikes me that Corsica has been constantly invaded since Roman times, often just because of  the strategic positioning, after occupation, little was done to make the lives of the inhabitants betterShortly after passing the tower, the wind had increased considerably and a large swell had developed, it was now time to turn back.

On our way back we came across a young couple in a ‘inflatable’ kayak with loads of kit stacked in dry bags heading out towards the storm …  we had to stop and chat !

Fortunately these two were well aware of the conditions and were stopping quite soon on a suitable beach, I left them much happier.

 

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Sardinia cancelled ! … off to the Mountains for some ‘peace and quiet’

After our trip to Ile Lavezzi, we decided to move further East along the coast and make an Island hopping trip across to Sardinia. We set off for our departure beach only to find the road leading down to the beach was lined both sides with parked cars for just under a mile. We really ran out of enthusiasm for this trip and a unanimous decision had us heading off to the mountains in search of ‘peace and quiet’

We had really tried hard to ignore all the crowds, crap and noise but it just got the better of us. In fact we would aim to get on the water around 7am, then we could relish the empty beaches and silence for the next hour or so …….

It was entirely different up in the mountains, stunningly beautiful, silent and few people. We walked for a couple of days, our second day was challenging with an accent of 800 meters over 10k, then a  800meter descent over the next 10k, but we were truly rewarded with some stunning scenary

For 15k across the mountain we only came across one other walker…. things were looking up !    However it wasn’t going to quite as perfect, just a few kilometers from our finish at Calacuccia where the road meets  the “Mare a Mare” track we were walking we came across another pile of rubbish.

It’s hard to believe this level of rubbish, there’s builders rubble, old fridges, as well as old broken furniture.

I have to say I am no longer surprised, there is definitely a serious problem with waste on Corsica. The volume of Tourists is enormous, particularly during July and August. Clearly prices are elevated and business’s are doing well. However rubbish is building up on the island, it appears that no one is looking at the future, just for the profit today.

Incredibly, this was another dump of rubbish just outside the village of Calacuccia, just a couple of kilometers from the dump on the Mare a Mare track

The resort of Porticcio lies just south of Ajaccio, and is popular with tourists for is lovely sandy beach, here’s two views …

There are public toilets about 400 meter away, however it is clearly too far for many. Amongst the litter here is toilet paper and human waste, this building is a closed down business but lies at the end of a 100 meter block of beach front restaurants cafes and souvenir shops
And just the other side …

 

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Île Lavezzi

Setting of from the same beach NW of Bonefaccio, we made our way along the coast towards Lavezzi island. An early start meant we beat all the tourist boats that try to fill the huge caves.

This enourmous cave is entered via a relatively small archway, inside  where the roof has fallen in a hole remarkable similar in shape to the isle of corsica can be seen

 

We continued along to a small beach which actually lay uner a sizeable overhang, after a short break during the hot afternoon sun we continued along the coast to commence are crossing to Lavezzi

The crossing was uneventful but the speeboats, RIBs and Jet Skis were an irritating distraction… and in a few cases their speed and apparant lact of observation was worrying

Having arrived on the island we found a small beach that was empty, but also with some large rocks to give us a good bit of cover from view from the ever vigilant Reserve Guardians.

A quick tour of this small island revealed somewhere in the region of 70 small craft moored at the two natural harbours.

Since our arrival on Corsica we have been disappointed with the waste and litter that is just left all around the coast. Just about every parking space we stopped at whether at the beaches or along the major routes has a ‘corner’ used as a toilet.

There is litter dropped from cars along most roads, it really is a huge problem.

Sadly Lavezzi is now one huge toilet, as well as the large number of small craft mooring at Lavezzi, Taxi RIBs drop groups of sunbathers off onto the beaches increasing the number of visitors.

This island has protected status and part of the Nature Reserve and it is being destroyed

I was approached on one beach by the Nature reserve officers, I pointed out to them that just behind the beach was a pile of shit and paper, they were not interested and just kept repeating ‘No bivouac’  These guys ‘thrash’ around in RIBs all day  burning diesel while the sunbathers and jetskiers shit all over the nature reserve.

We bivi’d on Lavezzi….   we left ‘no trace’

 

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Bonefaccio … Cliffs Arches and Caves

With the van parked just behind the beach we took a drive into Boneffacio to have dinner at one of the many restaurants lining the harbour.

The food was great at the restaurant “Les Amis” and I’m sure it will be equally as good in all the others

There really are some massive motor cruisers moored alongside, one cruiser had its crew of some 20 odd lining the harbour to welcome aboard its guests

The following morning after overnighting in the van we made our way into the harbour by kayak, this time for coffee and croissants

We found a nice gap to get olurselves tied up alongside

 

 

In fact a request to the owners of a Malteese flagged cruiser saw us tying in under their boarding ladder

 

 

There are numerous shops along the harbour front offering designer clothes to hairy wild boar legs, more usual fare can be found at the spar supermarket

 

 

 

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