FW: 28 May at Lorient


May 28th, 2017


France, North Atlantic 2017 – 2019

Written by

Richard Farrington

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By Richard. Posted on May 28th, 2017 in France, North Atlantic 2017 – 2019.


47:43.2N 003:22W

Well, we dragged ourselves away from the beautiful Iles de Glenan on Friday morning and headed east towards Lorient.  The primary purpose of this visit was to view the infamous submarine pens built by the Nazis in their effort to win the Battle of the Atlantic.  Ironically the wind was firmly out of the east and pretty light – not ideal conditions for a fairly well laden Escapade, but as the day wore on the wind shifted into the SE and increased to a steady 15 knots.  The sailing master’s morale increased in parallel and the navigator got us safely past the impressive citadel at Port Louis on the eastern side of the harbour entrance.

Keroman III at Lorient

We were headed for the most northerly of six marinas in Lorient and took a detour past the imposing submarine base on our way up the harbour.  Manouevring between some carefully placed wrecks and the pens themselves, we went to ‘emergency stations’ when I attempted a ‘three point turn’ in a narrowing gap and found that the gearbox did not like forward gear any more.  With things sounding and looking expensive, Julie was on the verge of dropping the anchor when the problem disappeared as promptly as it had arisen.  We made our way out of the ‘dead end’ and did some trial manoeuvres before continuing towards Lorient Marina.

Looking out from inside KIII at the wreck which nearly claimed us…

Several of the pens are in use today – sea survival training, dry stack slipway, Plastimo warehouse…

To be honest, Lorient Marina may have a convenient central location, but that’s about it.  It all looked rather tatty, but more importantly, the water depth looked very marginal and there was a lack of alongside berths.  So we turned around (without incident this time) and headed back towards the submarine pens and the marina at Kerneval on the west side of the harbour.  This has a huge and very effective wave breaker (brise clapot in the local vernacular) where we were allocated a decent berth on the inside.

At €26 a night for a boat like ours, this is ridiculously cheap – particularly as it includes free electricity and bicycles.  You just have to put up with the absence of toilet seats and the prolific invisible defecating poodles.  Much visual entertainment here: France has produced some remarkable yachtsmen like Eric Tabarly and Bernard Moitessier, sailing is in the national psyche and sponsorship is channelled positively and generously right across the sport, but the average French yachtie seems to spend more time trying to look like his hero than learning how to handle a boat like him…

Enroute to KIII and the Cite de la Voile, both visible beind the wreck…

On Saturday we cycled round to the Cite de la Voile – the Eric Tabarly museum.  It’s located in the submarine base (which was taken over by the French Navy after the war). It’s purpose built and very impressive; there’s an emphasis on the audio-visual, but the language barriers are well thought out and all aspects of the sport are really well covered.  We spent the afternoon there quite happily.  Why isn’t there something like it in UK?  After all, we have a terrific maritime heritage and have just as much to shout about (if not more) in terms of British sailing heroes of the 20th and 21st centuries, technical innovation in the sport and inspiring achievements at all levels. I hope that Sir Ben Ainslie can turn his team’s hard graft into results in the next day or so in Bermuda – the BAR building in Portsmouth would be a wonderful venue for a British museum of sailing…

Speaking of hard graft, our daughter Anna is about to compete in her first Triathlon.  Here’s her rather modest request:

In just over a week I will be donning my lycra one-piece to partake in the Blenheim Palace triathlon in order to raise money for Bloodwise, a charity who fund world class researcher and support to anyone affected by leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other blood cancer related disorders. Please spare a few pennies to sponsor me and support this great cause!


I stuck a fiver in.  Recommended!

Today we visited the German submarine base at Keroman, Lorient.  It’s extraordinary.  The scale of the enterprise; the vision and ambition of the men who planned and delivered it; the technical excellence of it; the eyewatering attention to detail of it.  Hard to imagine the Brits building something so efficient, expansive, forward-thinking and so quickly in somebody else’s country.  Why on earth did the RAF wait until it was built before bombing it?   Such an obvious strategic target.  Fascinating to imagine the very uncomfortable position that the French people found themselves in – little practical choice but to cooperate given the political decision of the Paris government to surrender.  I wonder who could build anything like it today?  And at what cost – 15000 labourers… even if they were usually slaves, I wonder how much of the design and build would be automated –  and what would get past the MOD budget scrutineers today?  At the same time, it is definitely sinister, perhaps even evil.  Touring the inside was like being on the set of Das Boot (we probably were).  Funny to think that the French Navy based their conventional submarines here until 20 years ago.  Glad I saw it – don’t want to go back, thanks.

Inside KIII

The HQ of the French America’s Cup challenge is in the same complex.  Rather drab?

This evening we met our first New Friends since leaving England.  Fredrik and Helena Norberg are a Swedish couple taking their ferro-cement boat WILMA (nee Flintstone?) down to the Mediterranean.  They left Sweden a year ago and have thrown away their watches.  I still feel guilty if I’m in bed at 0800 – so some further adjustment to the liveaboard life is clearly required!  Still, we’ve only been away two weeks and the last bit of British bacon was only consumed this morning.

Come to think of it, why don’t the French sell bacon anyway?

We may stay here another day, or we might push on to La Trinité sur Mer and the Golfe de Morbihan…

Yet another sunset.  This is at Kerneval Marina.