Tro Brioc e Penn ar Bed
Last June, after many a long hour of work on land, Brioc was at sea once again, newly outfitted with a reinforced leather hull, in the bay of Tresseny in Kerlouan. It is there, sheltered from the great sea that the curragh got her rigging back. With historical accuracy in mind we have replaced synthetics with natural fiber. Ropes are now made of hemp and hold the masts in place, hoist the yardarms supporting square sails made of linen reddened by tanning with chestnut bark.
It was mainly members of the association who rigged Brioc once again, in spite of contrary winds, to bring her east to Meneham and the picturesque beach of Nodeven Ruduloc. Impatient to go back at sea, the Curragh dragged one of her anchors and stuck the other in the reefs at the center of the cove. We then decided to do things her way before the wind grew stronger and made route to the well-sheltered bay of Brignogan. It is a safe haven uncovered at low tide, and it is there that the last preparations were made for the summer 2020 expedition which took the boat and her crew to different symbolic places in Finistère.
On the 11th of June, 11 Soudarded dress in linen and wool were loading up Brioc to begin the first leg of the trip to Ushant. They took only what was necessary for the few days at sea. A stone trough for cooking, 60 liters of water in earthen jars, a trunk filled with foods available in the 10th century ... And mattresses of animal skin and woolen blankets for the cold Breton nights.
And here they go, the wind was ideal to sail west along the coast, but not to leave the bay. Each went to their post at the oars and made fast until they were told to hoist the sails. A calm day followed only disrupted by some being seasick. Using the current and favorable wind the crew reached Portsall and the castle of the Du Chastel at low tide, that evening.
The following day, the wind was still favorable and it pushed the crew into the Fromveur current and to the Isle of Ushant. The rope holding the tiller breaking and thus bring it on the side of the boat gave some excitement to the day. This damage was fixed quickly, and only a memory, when, the sun setting, the entry to the bay of Lampaul could be spotted. The wind, favorable so far, becomes a real ordeal preventing this small sailboat with square sails from coming into the bay. Tack after tack, Brioc goes upwind until reaching a small, well sheltered inlet, the underwater reefs giving Brioc a hard time. This noisy arrival in Ushant was followed by happy days where strolling and working on the rigging intermingled. Indeed the natural fiber rigging requires more maintenance, stretching under stress, retracting at rest, we must make sure that the tension remains right, and that, regularly.
Setting off from Ushant, there was a group of locals having come to admire the unusual looking boat, who enjoyed a demonstration in combat on the quay and the 20-year anniversary wine from a a Nantais winery. As soon as Brioc was afloat, she sailed off to Bertheaume desperately lacking in wind, but not in waves. And yet she reached her destination at nightfall and a good share of the crew left for the next shift, mainly sailors from the Hermione.
The next day, the last to come off are dropped off at Brest and the new crew gets used to the boat on the way to Camaret. After a good night's rest, a dip in the sea behind the ship cemetery for some, and a stroll to the headland of Grand Gouin for others, Brioc and her mainly female crew make way to the host of « temps fête» in Douarnenez.
Sailing out of the bay of Camaret was a difficult endeavor with unfavorable wind, the crew had to row hard to reach the cape of Toulinguet and head south in such a windless day as to lose hope. And yet! As the sun was setting, a sound and constant wind rose and pushed Brioc, a sail on each side, from the Tas de poids to the cap de la Chèvre. Having barely made way, the rope for the tiller broke again, breaking the rudder blade, rendering it unusable. With only the scull to steer, a rope was put back in place, the rudder blade was cut with an axe to be used again. The temporary fix held well during the crossing of the bay of Douarnenez under the stars until reach the île Tristan. A good night's rest was needed before getting festive with the others numerous Breton ships.
The week-end allowed everyone to enjoy themselves with a weather ideal for experimenting new techniques and sailing. It was very enjoyable to be able to celebrate old sailing ships and people who love the sea in this unofficial event. For Brioc it was also an occasion to train a new captain, and thus ensure continuation.
After that week-end Brioc and her new crew headed to Pont-Croix. The main objective was to cross the bay in order to find a good shelter that would be favorable to passing the straights of Sein, a dangerous place where current are so strong that it is only possible to pass where they are the weakest at tide slacks. But the winds, too weak and blowing in the wrong direction didn't allow it, and the decision was made to stop in the baie des Trépassés. As Brioc sailed better and better, the delay was caught up with and at the opening of the straights, in spite of the strong swell and the delay, decision is made to cross. The perfect calculations, synchronisation and adjustments allowed, in the end, a crossing much easier than on the afterwards, tacking closest to the wind to get to the Cape.
After a day's rest in the cove of the Cabestan, it was decided to aim for Audiern on the next day. After bringing down the mast upon entering the Harbour, we went up the Goyen river closest to the tide, pushing the Curragh without any effort from the crew up to the medieval village of Pont Croix.
After a few days living under a roof, the last shift takes over to return to Northern Finistère. We reached Feunteun Aod windlessly after an afternoon of rowing. This cove used to offer shelter and water supplies to ships for centuries before they crossed the straights of Sein. Unlike in those times it is a good occasion for Brioc to be taking on locals from the Archaeosite of Pont-Croix 1358 without forcing them to change their habits!
On the next day, early in the morning, there is not wind and a rare instance, the crew passes the straights by oar. Moments actually sailing were far too few and far too short on that long, hot summer's day and yet, the headland of Saint-Mathieu is reached and we moored in front of the old medieval abbey to have a swim and wait for the next tide. It is thus at nightfall that the exhausted crew takes a well-deserved rest in Le Conquet In the bay of the Blancs Sablons.
On the next day at dawn we were surrounded by a thick, icy and ruthless mist quick to lose sailors. We left rowing carefully, as the wind rose quickly to chase the mist away, allowed us to sail. After passing the lighthouse of the Four, Brioc sailed at a nice pace allowing herself to reach her old spot, the harbour of Korejou. The next day, we reached Tressény before high tide and a lovely breeze pushed Brioc on her favorite sandbank. It was the perfect moment for the crew to have fun, swim pulled by the Curragh, happy to be back home. Soon after that, at the back of the bay we dropped anchors and emptied stripped the boat until next time.