A Smooth Sailing to Ushant

Ushant has something of a reputation.  Ushant, also known as Ouessant, is a French island at the far southwest corner of the English Channel and the southernmost point of the Celtic Sea.  It is a name, which will be familiar with sailors: Météo-France use the name Ouessant for the sea zone, which we know through the Met Office in the Shipping Forecast as Plymouth.  It has a reputation for rough waters, unpredictable seas, rough crossings.

The crossing from Brest in Brittany to Ouessant takes 2 hours and 40 minutes, stopping at Le Conquet––of Asterix fame, where it is called Gesocribatum––and the island of Molène en route.  The distance is 30 miles as the crow flies, and my carrier is the Penn ar Bed Compagnie Maritime.  The boat is quite big but, not that big.  Big enough for normal seas, but then I am reminded of that reputation for which Ushant is known.

The journey starts smoothly.  There is a long leave-taking of Brest, the docks and cranes of the big port gradually disappearing, and the boat hugs the coastline to Le Conquet, passing between the narrow channel at Pointe des Espagnols on the Crozon peninsula.  It is not here that I am nervous, but I know that more scary, open sea lies ahead.

In the cabin of the boat, I am amused––am I amused, or am I worried?––to notice that the container marked ‘Sacs Mal de Mer’ is empty.  No, I am amused.  I have taken my own precautions; I already have a double-layered plastic bag at the ready.  I have had a previous experience of the voluminosity of vomit to know that a single plastic bag is not sufficient in extremis.

But, I am being unduly anxious.  The crossing from Le Conquet to Molène could not have been smoother.  I find myself not accompanied by sea-sickness but, instead, by dolphins.  A small pod keep the boat company for most of its journey until landing.

And then onward to Ouessant.  The outline of the island ahead is a reassuring presence.  I can feel it get nearer; see it getting nearer.  The sea remains blissfully calm.  I cannot believe my good fortune.  Nevertheless, my own fortune does not make me complacent of the potential hazards.  In my imagination, I can picture the wild seas, which more frequently batter this remote island and, should I have forgotten, in the first restaurant where I stop on the island, I sit beneath a large chart titled: ‘Catastrophes Maritimes abords d’Ouessant de 1860 à 1980’.

Plus, I am mindful that I still have a return journey to make.

© E. C. Glendenny

E. C. Glendenny tries to spy the mainland.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s