Join us as we head across the English Channel to Northern Brittany and onwards down the Chenal du Four to the almost indescribable Brest International Maritime Festival. This behemoth of festivals happens only once every 4 years and once you’ve seen it you’ll understand why. The whole thing is mind boggling.
The festival site itself covers kilometers of Brest’s harbour front – with multiple “villages” showing off maritime artifacts and skills from countries around the world. Stages are also dotted liberally around, showcasing every kind of music from shanties to folk rock. Bands and performers stroll the streets which are lined with a profusion of stalls selling eveything from pirate hats to freshly smoked kippers. Out in the Rade de Brest hundreds of boats from dinghies to schooners spend each day thrashing about in the sunshine whilst between the two in the outer harbour more organised parades of sail happen daily. Even at night the festival is a riot of sound and colour with evening sail parades and fireworks lighting up the quaysides.
To attend as a spectator would be exciting enough, but to attend as l’equipage (Crew) brings a whole new element to this adventure. Amelie Rose will be right there in the heart of the action and so will you. We’ll be taking part in the parades (night and day) and getting out to the Rade de Brest to sail about admiring the fleet and being admired in turn. There’s great camaraderie whilst tied up to the shore too – both in the basin with the other boats, or out and about in the Festival or in the many bars and restaurants that surround the quays.
Added to the excitement of the festival itself is that just getting there is a glorious adventure. From Falmouth to l’Aber-Wrac’h is over 100 miles, a journey out of sight of land to foreign shores beyond the horizon. From here we head down the infamous Chenal du Four (like the Alderney Race but 10 miles long) before finally approaching the raucous party that is the festival proper.
But even as the last firework from this monster festival gutters and falls from the sky our adventure will not be over. On the final day the fleet stirs itself once more and slips out to sea for “Le Grande Parade”. Thousands of ships head south to Dournenez via the Tas de Pois (a Needles-like outcropping of granite that many in the fleet opt to pass right through). Douarnenez is the birthplace of the Breton traditional boat festivals that we love so much. The longest running and in many ways one of the best it plays host to the fleet as we gird ourselves for another 4 days of festival frolics. Though much smaller and homelier than Brest, Douarnenez refuses to be outdone when it comes to the entertainment, and especially the craziness of the closing night.
But end it all will and we’ll be away to shoot the Chenal once more stopping, if we are lucky enough with the weather, at Ushant before crossing back to blighty and journey’s end in Falmouth. This is quite simply the best adventure to grace our schedules. It’s a “once in a lifetime” bucket list requirement for anyone who loves traditional boats and sailing.