Join us as we head across the English Channel to Northern Brittany and down the Chenal du Four to the incredible Brest International Maritime Festival 2020 and onward to the Temps Fete Festival in Douarnenez. This giant of festival combos happens only once every 4 years and once you’ve seen it you’ll understand why. The whole thing is mind boggling and is a must for any traditional or classic boat fan.
Sounds fantastic but can’t spare the time or the money for the whole Combo? Why not join our Brest Festival “Dash” or our Brest & Dz “Festival Shorts” for shorter, cheaper ways to sample the festival fun?
The Brest Maritime festival site itself covers kilometers of the 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.
The fleet out sailing at Brest International Maritime Festival 2016
To attend as a spectator would be exciting enough, but to attend as boat crew brings a whole new element to this festival 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 amongst the crews whilst tied up to the shore too – both in the basin with the other boats – and out and about in the Festival, or in the many bars and restaurants that surround the quays.
Watch the Official Brest International Maritime Festival Trailer Video here…
Added to the excitement of the fete 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 famous Chenal du Four (like the Alderney Race but 10 miles long) before finally approaching the raucous party that is the festival proper.
Amelie Rose and the 2012 fleet passing through the Tas de Pois on the way from the Brest Interantional Maritime Festival to Temps Fete Douarnenez
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 of Brest, 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). The Grande Parade is probably the highlight of the whole adventure. Sailing in company from the Brest International Maritime Festival to Temps Fete Douarnenez with hundreds of traditional and classic craft is like travelling back in time, with added bonus of heading to the Douarnenez festival itself.
Read 10 Things I LOVE about the Brest & Douarnenez Festival “Double-Bill” by Nic Beck.
Douarnenez is the birthplace of the Breton traditional boat festivals that we love so much. The home of Chasse-Maree (the French “Classic Boat” Magazine), Douarnenez is a lovely Breton harbour town and the Temp Fete Festival completely takes it over. Temps Fete is the longest running and in many ways one of the best of the Breton traditional boat Festivals, and one where the boats are very much at the heart of proceedings. It’s not just sitting there being admired however – our hosts love their classic boats but they love to see them sailed even more so.
Amelie Rose moored up at Temps Fete Douarnenez back in 2012
Sailing the boats is therefore a major feature of Temps Fete Douarnenez. There are races, there are sculling competitions, there are boat-handling events (think agility trials for boats under sail) and rarely a moment goes by when there isn’t something happening to watch or to take part in. Though much smaller and homelier than the Brest Maritime Festival, Douarnenez Festival refuses to be outdone when it comes to the entertainment, and especially the craziness of the closing night.
In the past we have seen giant puppet seagulls doing something inexplicable with inflatable blob men in RIBs, there have been naval engagements with cannon, and there’s even been a man playing a squeeze box whilst suspended from a crane – it’s total madness but always a delight. And then of course there are fireworks. Sometimes these are a little close for comfort (at the last edition we had to stand by with buckets to douse falling shrapnel) but always they are fabulous to watch, though there is often a touch of sadness for this signals that our festival odyssey is drawing to an end.
Watch the Official Temps Fete Douarnenez Trailer Video here…
Waking the next morning is always a sobering time as ashore the Festival clear up gets underway and aboard we prepare to be underway ourselves bound for the Chenal once more. If we are lucky enough with the weather stopping 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 classic sailing.
Amelie Rose sailing at the Brest International Maritime Festival in 2016