Sunday, 24 August 2014


During our sailing years we often sailed west to l'Aberwrach at the far end of Finisterre, the most westerly part of Brittany. The sailing was challenging with a rocky coastline and strong currents as you approached 'the end of the land'.
But once inside the entrance of the river estuary and past all the rocks guarding the channel we found ourselves in a lovely tranquil place.  We would pick up a buoy and settle down for a few days to enjoy the peace.
We often met friends here who had made the passage from England or our neighbours from Perros, like Claude and Denise on their boat Blackbeard.  On this occasion we spent some happy times together, walking, sharing meals and Bob helped Claude to fix a leak.  Imagine us going from boat to boat and back again on our dinghies after a few glasses of wine and laughing a lot!
Our favourite mooring was at the end of the line of buoys, farthest from the town where we could watch the birds and the tide falling and rising over the oyster beds. These withies, basically sticks in the seabed, mark the edge of the navigable water and woe betide anyone who ignores them as they'll get stuck in the mud!  Not to mention upsetting the oyster growers who turned up every day to turn their crops!
The simple landscape of cottages and pine trees kept my sketching hands busy every time we came here and I've got a series of sketches now drawn over 10 years showing the growth of trees as well as my own development as an artist.
L'Aberwrach is a centre for sail training and every year many young people have come to learn the basics, some groups as young as 6 or 7 years old.  At lunchtime they would moor their boats in a sheltered part of the harbour and one day we had the wonderful experience of watching these Hobie-cats sailing around their buoys as the wind picked up and moved them around in a ghostly fashion in the sea mist.
We often used l'Aberwrach as a starting point to go further west down the 'Chenal de Four,' a notoriously dangerous piece of water between mainland France and Ouessant island.  We always went down with the tide and the next stopping off place was Camaret in the Rade de Brest which had a lively holiday centre.
The moorings here were on pontoons which got very busy in the summer but had a lovely view of the town with  it's pretty waterfront buildings. Another place to meet up with friends on their way north or south on their summer cruises.
The marina is dominated by this fort built by Vauban a few centuries ago as part of the French fortifications.  From Camaret one can sail further south down another channel, notorious for it's currents but we never went any further than Douarnanez, just south of the Crozon peninsula and Morgat which is another pretty seaside town. 
We seemed to prefer to spend our time on the buoy at L'Aberwrach, just soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the sun.  Maybe we will go there again one day in the camper car to see what we missed.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


Just around the coast from Perros is another beautiful place called Trebuerden, very popular with sailors and holidaymakers for it's fantastic white beaches and rocky islands.  We first came here in our second year of sailing without a proper chart, only the guide in the almanac and a tourist leaflet given to us by some friends.  I'm surprised we made it as the entrance is quite tricky with all the submerged rocks to be avoided!
We used to pick up a bouy outside the marina to wait for enough water for the gate to open so we could go in to stay for a few days.  We only stayed outside in the calmest of weather as it could get quite rolly when the tide rose and passed between the rocks all around us.
The island in this sketch is a favourite for the locals to picnic on a Sunday but I've heard that the gulls will attack if they feel threatened when they are nesting.  As you can see we also had our fair share of stormy weather there too!
Trebeurden is at the beginning of the Cote de granit rose and from there to Perros this is what the coast looks like with lovely bays, lots of rock pools to catch crabs and shellfish and the softest white sand that gets darker as you go east gradually turning pinky orange.
Around this time I bought a very good book called 'Watercolour techniques with pen and ink' by Claudia Nice, which inspired me to try this new technique of sketching.  I spent many happy hours on the boat drawing what I could see, mainly rocks, pine trees and boats of course!
We came to Trebeurden almost every year that we sailed before moving to France, often meeting up with sailing friends for a few days before moving on, either west to l'Aberwrach or east to Perros.
When we decided to move to France this was the first place we came to start searching for a house.
We sailed the boat non-stop for 24 hours and arrived at 10 in the morning after a fantastic passage with fair winds all the way.  We had brought our bikes and arranged to meet an estate agent to get started on our search.  We spent a week or so here looking but soon realised that it's a holiday place full of houses that are empty for most of the year so decided to look in Perros where we finally setttled on our house on the edge of town.  The building in this sketch that looks over the coast at Trebeurden is divided into apartments, has always fascinated me and caused no end of difficulty trying to get the ellipses on thost circular towers right!

Friday, 15 August 2014


Since the end of June Bob and I have been busy working in the garden building our new sheds.  We were very lucky with the weather in July and completed shed one in 3 weeks.  I haven't done as much sketching as usual but here we are jumping up and down on a board to try and settle the gravel we had laid as the foundation.
The wooden structure went up very quickly within a week and the roof tiles took another, very hot  week to complete.  Bob was in serious danger of getting stuck as the bitumen melted as he worked in the hottest summer we've had here for years. 
 In our neighbourhood there is a rule that one does not do DIY or noisy gardening between midday and 2pm so that people can eat their meals in peace so we had to down tools every day and do something quiet for an hour before we took our lunch.  In this way we were able to get all the wood treatment and then the exterior paint on in between our spells of hammering and drilling!
Here's Bob admiring his freshly undercoated floor and you can see the foundation for shed no 2 on the left.  We're now waiting for a few consecutive dry days to get it put up, but the forecasts keep threatening showers which sometimes come and sometimes don't so we've been getting on with more finishing jobs instead.  All the wood has been treated and covered up with groundsheets, the steps are cut from the spare floor joists and I've painted 2 coats of floor paint and 2 coats of preservative on the inside walls in the last 3 days.
We're really looking forward to the holiday in the camper car we've promised ourselves when it's all done.

Friday, 8 August 2014


Once we had moved to France we started to find more places we could sail to in a day from Perros and where we could spend a few days relaxing and exploring new territory.  The river Jaudy is a few kilometres to the east and the entrance is protected by a lot of rocks making it quite challenging navigation but once in the river the sailing is lovely with attractive views on both sides.  This sketch is of Roche Jaune where we have anchored several times close to the oyster beds and where we now buy our oysters for Sunday lunch.
About an hour's sail from the entrance you come to the small town of Treguier with it's attractive cathedral looming over the ancient buildings.  It's essential to arrive at slack water between the tides as the currents here are very strong and it's difficult to moor the boat to the pontoons without doing damage.  The edge on the visitor's pontoon is painted red and nearly everybody who comes here has a red patch on the bow of their boat, having been caught by the current, us included.  I called it the Treguier kiss!
We used to take a berth on the downstream side of the visitor's pontoons as we enjoyed the view and had the evening sun to warm us as we took our aperitif.  This is a sketch of the gates of the city and some of the beautiful old timbered buildings.
To go up to the town we walked between the old gate towers and I always loved looking at the old houses along the street and taking photos to draw from later.  The town centre has a large square with interesting shops and cafes as well as the cathedral to visit and admire the stained glass windows and beautiful cloisters.
While at Treguier we used to pump up our dinghy and go exploring up the river and once we went ashore on the opposite side to try and follow a mysterious path we could see disappearing into the woods.  We came upon a fantastic garden full of enormous plants with a tropical feel to it and this little grotto and pool all decorated with seashells.  We bumped into the gardener who told us we were trespassing so we left in rather a hurry.
From the back of the boat we had a view of Plougiel church up on it's hill overlooking the bend in the river and I tried many times to capture it in all sorts of weather, calm like this and also with storm clouds passing and threatening rain.
The cathedral and town buildings were always a source of inspiration and I've probably got a dozen or more sketches all drawn from a slightly different angle depending on where we were moored.
The river Jaudy has a tributary called the Guindy and one of our favourite walks was to the old aqueduct that crossed it a couple of kilometres upstream. This is a painting I did for Bob's birthday a few years ago, still hanging in the lounge.
Treguier is only a half hour's drive from home but it always felt like another world when we visited it by boat because it took so much longer to get there by sea, somehow I think I prefer to keep it as a sweet sailing memory than go too often by car.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

MY 150th BLOG

I've just realised that I've reached a milestone in my blogs, number 150 in only 2 years.  I really enjoy sharing my drawings with you and hope you like what you see here.
I'll continue with our sailing travels with a visit to Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. It's about 6 hours from Cherbourg, which was our first landfall after 12 hours sailing from England. We always stopped here next on our way to France and came here to shop every year once we moved to France permanently. Marks and Spencer, Boots, Waitrose and other English shops were always on our list and we went home laden with goodies that we couldn't get in France.  
Guernsey harbour is protected by Castle Cornet which dates from the 13th century.
The marina itself is tidal with lock gates that open when the tide has risen enough for boats to pass over the sill.  One night when we were there, there was a spring tide and all the boats in the harbour rose almost to the top of the walls and we were able to see over the top to the floodlit castle.
We visited the castle one day and were rewarded with lovely views of the town which climbs the steep hills as well as the charming view at the top of the post looking out to sea.
It's a fascinating castle, full of unexpected corners and very interesting nautical and historical displays.  I drew this view with marker pens, just for fun and it turned out quite well.
From our mooring on a pontoon in the marina we were able to look at the town and watch the world go by.  I never got tired of drawing the buildings along the water front, although the sound of the pedestrian traffic signal was rather intrusive at times!
This sketch in Graphitint coloured pencils is full of memories of listening to the cricket on the radio as England won the Ashes.
The island of Guernsey is beautiful with wonderful beaches and rocky cliffs and the bus service is very good for visiting different parts to explore and spend a day walking the coastal paths.
Whenever we sailed to the Channel islands we always saw gannets flying over the sea, they were so graceful, just skimming the waves as well as diving to feed on the shoals of fish.  We were also lucky enough to see dolphins occasionally out in the open sea.
Thank you for reading my blog and if you want to keep informed on a regular basis, why not join as a follower or get emails every time I post. I'd love to know what you think too so why not leave a comment!

Friday, 1 August 2014


When you leave the Solent and sail west, the first place you will come to where you can drop the anchor and spend a bit of time is Studland Bay.  It is next to the entrance to Poole harbour, the largest natural harbour in Great Britain.  At the southern end of Studland Bay stand the Old Harry Rocks, a group of chalk stacks which probably joined up with the Isle of Wight and the Needles a few million years ago.  We spent an idyllic weekend here in summer 1999 when I painted this sketch early in the morning before the day trippers arrived with their noisy jet skis and fast motor boats.
Continuing west we would pass Weymouth, Portland Bill and cross Lyme Bay to Brixham, an interesting old fishing town opposite Torquay, the riviera of Devon.  After a few days there we usually continued west to Salcombe, our favourite holiday destination for many years, first camping with the children and then on the boat.
The moorings at Salcombe are all on buoys, some near the town and many further up stream in the river with the fields sloping down on both sides. I have lost count of how many times we came here but one of the most memorable was when I slipped and cut my head as we approached the entrance.  Bob called up the harbourmaster and he sent one of his tenders out to meet us and help us to moor up.  Our saviour, Bruce, leapt aboard our boat and helped Bob to take down the sails and tie up the boat to the harbour wall before taking us to the local doctor where I was stitched up.  It was Sunday lunchtime and everybody was out enjoying the sun and the sight of me in my (luckily) red sailing waterproofs as I limped ashore with a towel holding my head together!  We were then escorted to a lovely quiet mooring where I spent a few days recovering from my ordeal and being pampered.
Another of our favourite spots was Fowey, further west along the coast beyond Plymouth.  This is also a river with moorings on buoys but busier than Salcombe as cruise ships came in occasionally as well as the kaolin ships that transported the local stone to be processed.  I can remember being woken one morning by the sound of large engines and when I looked out through the porthole the view was filled with a huge liner turning around in the river right next to us! The town is built up a hill and I never tired of trying to capture those trees on the skyline as well as the houses in terraces and the lovely old church tower. 
Further west still we come to Falmouth, a popular setting off point for Atlantic crossings where there are several marinas as well as a few buoys in the river.  We always went for a buoy as marinas were twice the price and we really preferred the peace of the river, especially in the evenings when everybody had gone home.  It did mean we had to pump up our dinghy and row ashore but that was always part of the fun. This boat is one of the fleet of Falmouth Quay punts which used to race up and down every weekend and some evenings.  They have no motor and enormous sails which are very skillfully handled to manoeuvre the boats in close quarters and we were always on tenterhooks when they seemed to be getting too close to our boat!
I'm finishing with another little sketch of the Old Harry rocks, done in the evening of the same day as the one at the top of this post, after a lovely summer's day relaxing on  board.