Brittany!

We looked towards the Admiral, where high the Peter flew,
And all our hearts were dancing like the sea.

These are just a couple of lines taken from Henry John Newbolt’s poem The Old Superb set to music by C.V. Stanford. My dinghy Sarum will be the flagship and alone in her fleet. The Peter is the flag which gives the signal for the fleet to put to sea – and woe betide Napoleon’s navy!


My little embarkment hardly needs any such formality, but the anticipation is there all the same as I prepare the boat, check off my list and make sure everything is in good order. Each year, I go off on my own with my boat, and get a good little adventure. Next Saturday I will be going to the Rance for a few days, as back in 2013 – Sketches of the Sea. After this, depending on the weather, I intend to haul Sarum out of the water and tow her to the Rade de Brest. I will launch her in the Aulne at Trégarvan and sail out to the Rade de Brest on the ebb tide. There are places I didn’t have time to explore last time, and this time I will have my old British Seagull engine to help when the wind dies or when I have too little lee room to sail.

For Saturday (23rd June) morning I will need to sail with the flood tide back into the Aulne and moor at Rosnoën in readiness for the Route du Sable. I go to this gathering every two years in alternance with the Semaine du Golfe which is only held every two years (next time in 2019).

This will be my retreat, and I will spend much of the week in solitude, without my computer but with my smartphone which gives me my GPS position, a means of communication for any reason (I also have VHF), the weather and the tides via internet. I can also get my e-mail. To recharge batteries, I have a small foldable bank of solar cells and two external batteries. I also have some Kindle books. If it is to be a spiritual retreat and not just a pleasant sail, I need to work out a little programme of things to read and pray about. I sleep aboard like in a tent at a campsite, except that the tent goes over the boom and is hooked to four points along each side of the hull. Two boards either side of the cockpit move together to form a bed, and I have my self-inflating mattress in my bow compartment together with a sleeping bag and inflatable pillow. I can be afloat and at anchor, tied up to a floating dock, pulled up on the beach or dried out as the tide goes out. The sensation is strange – the boat stops rocking and the smell isn’t always very pleasant as the hull lies in the mud.

I have added a small frying pan to my galley so that I can eat other things than tinned food. I will appreciate some meat from a local butcher and fried eggs at other times to eat with bread or pasta. Minimalism is a great teacher of life and the effort of getting priorities right. The weekend gathering will be more convivial with Brittany sea shanties sung as we go through two locks on the way to Châteaulin. A meal is organised for those of us who have sent payment in advance and that will be on Saturday evening. The last time, we had torrential rain! We were sheltered under a marquee, but our feet were in the water. We sailors are used to water, and it is said in Brittany that the weather is fair every day, several times a day! It is like Ireland, and a culture of which I am very fond.

I will take photos and maybe a video or two.

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7 Responses to Brittany!

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    It sounds delightful – all good wishes!

    And thank you for the introduction to “The Old Superb”! Newbolt seems so famous, but I don’t know what, if anything, by him I’ve read – not that (nor the history of the ship), nor had I encountered Stanford’s Songs of the Sea, and now I have enjoyed making acquaintance of poem and setting, and should listen to and read some more of the Stanford Newbolt settings and Newbolt poems – the more so as I have finally been making the acquaintance of series of novels about fighting Napoleon’s navy, (so far, one each!) by C.S. Forester, Dudley Pope, Patrick O’Brian, Richard Woodman, and, for the ‘land war’, Bernard Cornwell. (I’m afraid I’ve been lazy about the nautical vocabulary, and the geography – only Woodman provided maps, in the editions I’ve read, though I’ve now got a sort of ‘enhanced’ edition of another O’Brian with diagrams of names of sails, and cannon drill, and other useful things!)

    • This will give an introduction to the sails and rigging of a three-master and how the rigging evolved. Full-rigged ship The Old Superb poem mentions studding sails (pronounced “stunsls”) for adding to the sail plan for light winds. “Each one of these additional sails is named after the adjacent sail and side of the vessel, for example main topgallant starboard stu’nsail“. My life aboard Sarum is simplified by having only a mainsail (gunter rig) and a jib. My mainsail has one reefing line. Nautical terminology is a world of its own!

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thank you! I’m impressed at how the different novelists manage to give an inexpert reader a sense of what is going on – and a strong sense of what a skill it was to sail in different weathers and manoeuvre in battle (whew!) – and yet it is like trying to read a book in a different language without recourse to a dictionary (just how much am I missing?).

        In days long gone, I built plastic model sailing ships (elaborate, but not, I suppose that difficult), but never attempted the rigging!

  2. nordiccatholic says:

    Sounds high risk to me – but then I cannot swim!
    How about a cross Channel voyage to Poole? Or Sandbanks Yacht Club to be exact, and then the 50 Bus to Westbourne?

    • My boat is a 12-foot dinghy, and I never venture more than about 6 nautical miles from land. I am also extremely careful about the weather and tides. With these precautions and a safety kit in the boat, it is no more dangerous than driving on the road. Cross-Channel? Out of the question?

  3. jimofolym says:

    God and St. Nicholas bless you and your boat,Father!

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Appropriately enough, the Wikipediast directs us to Christian Frost’s Time, Space, and Order: The Making of Medieval Salisbury (Bern (etc.): Peter Lang, 2009), where we read, of Old Sarum, “The six altars within the cathedral included […] St Nicholas” at the end of one of the aisles (p. 31).

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