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I drove down to Douarnenez on the way back from my latest visit to the UK. The ferry was a bit late unloading, being very full and after catching a sunset at Roscoff, I headed south for an even more uncomfortable night in the van than usual because of the large solar panel occupying the back seat. A deserted car park in an unknown village served me well and early next morning I arrived in Quimper to find the streets full of stalls, vans and people for a Braidery, which is a sort of giant sale, not conducive to pictures to the half-timbered centre and cathedral area that I had planned.
So I headed northwest for the coast and Douarnenez.
The more recent, fishing harbour is located away from the old harbour (The Port Rhu) with its quayside cafes and bars and is not so photogenic, but the Port Rhu houses the gem in the heart of the town, the Maritime Museum, which has floating exhibits on permanent pontoons and a short step away, a large building housing exhibits and exhibitions.
The town once was famous and extremely busy for landing and processing and tinning sardines. Maybe up to 800 boats were based in the old harbour and went to sea after the tasty little fish. Over fishing drove the sardine into a decline and the industry faded away and larger boats set sail to catch larger fish in deeper waters.
The 7.5 euro entrance fee is well worth it and the tour of the museum will take half a day or more.
One of the permanent exhibits on the pontoon surprised me for its familiarity; when I was a child, my bedroom looked over Falmouth harbour and its fleet of tugs on their moorings ready to tow ships in and out of the docks. Their striped, back and white funnels were iconic and spoke of Falmouth’s importance as a ship repairing harbour, famous the world over. The steam tug St. Denys is a permanent exhibit at the museum, not only can one go aboard, but also go down below and see the enormous steam engine that powered the little ship and the crews quarters where they could sleep on long offshore tows.
I was fortunate to see Lun 11, a 1917 Norwegian built, converted fishing boat, now rigged as a gaff ketch, unloading a cargo of organic coffee and rum. Lun 11 works hard as does her crew, transporting cargo the old way, by the power of the wind.
Get the details of Zero Carbon Trading, powered by the wind from –
Transocianic Wind Trading’s site at –
Zero carbon trading is a niche market, but in these hectic days when our whole lives seem to be dependant on the contents of millions of containers transported around the world on ever larger ships, it is refreshing to see a beautiful boat and her crew after an Atlantic crossing, discharging valuable cargo by hand with friendly smiles and goodwill. I am much too old to “run away to sea”, but I admit that I was tempted.