The Emerald Coast
The Emerald Coast belongs to early risers. 0730 hours: meeting in Saint Malo, Quai Duguay-Trouin, for passenger boarding on the Ătoile MolĂšne. Antoine, the skipper, gives us a warm welcome and invites us to put our personal luggage in the cabins, each person choosing their own. The minute weâre clear of the port, opposite Dinard, it is action stations. We hoist the sails, starting with the jigger, then the mainsail. Next up goes the staysail, and finally the jib. A Force 7 North-Easterly wind, referred to as a near gale, propels us westwards at a good lick, the outline of Saint Malo gradually fading into the distanceâŠ
To port weâre already level with the town of Dinard, edged with majestic villas of the Belle Epoque. A few minutes later, we round the Pointe du DĂ©collĂ©, a headland jutting out from Saint Lunaire. At the end of the 19th century a rich Haitian banker was to transform the Saint Lunaire site into a famous seaside resort. A grand hotel and a casino looking out onto the beach as well as around twenty or so villas on the Pointe du DĂ©collĂ© itself, make it a sophisticated resort of artistic renown. Separated from the continent by the legendary spit of Saint Lunaire, the Pointe du DĂ©collĂ© opens onto nature in all her glory where, at high tide, the worrying sound of the waves surging into the Grotte des SirĂšnes (Mermaidâs Cave) echoes out. A heavy, granite cross, doubtless erected with some difficulty in 1880, at the summit of the panorama, is surely reminiscent of the end of the earth.
A unique concert
We quickly arrive in front of the island of Agot, also known as Ăle aux Oiseaux (Bird Island). Access to it is strictly forbidden during the nesting season: the colonies of cormorants, puffins and gulls, among others, do their utmost to nest here, above the waters, letting out a great many cries in the process. Curious sailors are unable to stop themselves from approaching this ornithological reserve for a unique Emerald Coast concert.
Very quickly, pushed along by a favourable breeze and current, we land at the island of Les HĂ©biens, which is only accessible on foot at low tide from Saint Jacut. The island is dominated by the Vauban Tower, built at the end of the 17th century to defend the whole region of Saint Jacut, a zone favourable for landing due to its configuration. This island, sometimes nicknamed the Caribbean of the Emerald Coast due to the turquoise hue of its water, is transformed into a real little Saint Tropez in the summer months, prized by those on yachts who come and anchor here for the weekend. Anecdotally, it was some years ago, on the islandâs protected beach, that the personal cards and credit cards of a Doctor Godard were discovered, whose loss at sea with his family remains a mystery. We drop anchor to go and picnic on the beach in this little paradise before setting sail again towards Cap FrĂ©hel. To port the Arguenon estuary takes shape, at the end of which you can find the remains of Le Guildo castle. This ancient medieval fortress, built into the rock, was constructed at the end of the 14th century. It protected the barges and the local merchants from the port of Le Guildo by delimiting the earldom of PenthiĂšvre and the viscounty of Dinan by military means. Demolished by Henry IV in 1598, this fortress is famous for having accommodated Gilles de Bretagne from 1444 to 1446, a Breton who suffered a particularly tragic fate due to his friendship with the English during the Hundred Yearsâ War.
A few tacks further on and the majestic Fort La Latte rises up before us, the theatre for a number of film shoots. Its dungeon is particularly famous as the setting for the final duel between Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis in Richard Fleisherâs film, âThe Vikingsâ, back in 1953. Finally, we arrive at the foot of the lofty cliffs of Cap FrĂ©hel which are both steep and dangerous, causing a number of accidents each year, some of which prove fatal. On the ridge, two lighthouses stand tall, the old and the new, like reassuring sentries watching over the sailors. The most recent, rebuilt after the Second World War, culminates at 103 metres. The code beacon dating back to 1847 and destroyed by the Germans, would have valiantly preceded it. Built under Louis XIV, the Vauban Tower, also known as the Vieux Phare (Old Lighthouse), still remains intact today. Unusable such as she was at the time, she stands as a witness to the history of the vigilant men who have kept watch in the FrĂ©hel lighthouse.
Saint Malo and Surcouf
Itâs time to head back, bound for the Grand Jardin lighthouse. In the distance the Grand BĂȘ makes its appearance. A place synonymous with literary pilgrimage, this latter islet plays host to the tomb of Chateaubriand (who was buried standing upright), built looking out to sea. The Grand BĂȘ is also famous in the region for having accommodated the 1st municipality of Saint Malo in the 14th century, which was then made up of locals who were rebelling against their bishop. We can also make out the Petit BĂȘ, a fort which is currently being restored. Though you can access the Grand BĂȘ and the Petit BĂȘ on foot at low tide, you need to call upon the services of the Passeur des BĂȘs (the BĂȘ ferryman) to reach them at high tide. At last, the outline of the Fort National takes shape, which was the venue for one of the most famous duels in our history. It is said that the local corsair, Robert Surcouf, wanting to avenge Franceâs honour following some outrageous utterances from twelve Prussian officers in a tavern in Saint Malo, fought them in a duel in the Fort Nationalâs courtyard. He defeated the first eleven officers in turn. He then cut off the hand of the 12th with his sabre but spared his life because, he said, he needed a witness.
The cruise comes to an end and the high ramparts of Saint Malo built by Vauban, loom up on the coastline. Behind these walls, some rich ship owners referred to as âthese gentlemen of Saint Maloâ and familiar with trading spices with the Indies, built some tall, granite houses. They were loftier than the high walls so that everyone, on arriving in port, could get a good grasp of their importance. This town âintra-murosâ (within the walls), a vast amount of which was damaged by the bombing during the First World War, was rebuilt in an identical manner. Today it is a haven for hoards of tourists who can stroll about the interlacing cobbled streets just as they did in the 18th century.