Glénan Islands

This is a small group of islands about 10 nautical miles south of la Foret Fouesnant and Concarneau. It is home to the famous french sailing school Les Glénans, which started up after the 2nd world war to help young people learn to enjoy life again. It is now the largest sailing school in France (and Europe?)

It is a beautiful archipelago that gets pretty busy with tourists coming across on ferrys from the mainland, yachts and motorboats, all visiting the pristine sandy beaches within the shelter of the surrounding islands.


Ile Gigogne, with old fortification.
Rowing between islands, forgot to fill up the outboard
Ile St Nicholas. This sand spit disappears at high tide on springs
Track sailing in.

We sailed all the way to the anchorage, ok the engine was running just incase we needed it as it was pretty tight and there were millions of dinghys everywhere. And we didn’t drop anchor under sail as it was busy and we want space to mess it up in private when we try doing this for the first time.

It was also low tide and we had about 20cm under the keel at times, when our intermittent depth display was showing or when I ducked below to check the repeater downstairs.

It is all pretty flat once you are in there and I kept a look out from the bow when it got really shallow. It looked only about a meter deep through the super clear water but we didn’t touch.

It makes the sailing much more interesting when there are islands, boats and shallow bits to constrain where you choose your route. The early Les Glénans boats  sailed round here and across the channel with no engine (maybe they had a smaller draft though). It was nice to follow this tradition rather than motoring.



First test of the new BBQ

New Stern Gland

We thought we had sorted it in Morlaix and it was dry for a bit but it was still leaking. Time to sort it properly and change it.

The offending stern gland (black seal) on the left and engine coupling (green/rusty) on the right


If you don’t know what the stern gland (stuffing box) is then you’re probably with most of the population (worryingly probably including some of the boating population). It is a seal that fits around the propeller shaft, allowing it to turn freely but not allowing water in. There are many types, ours is a dripless one that apparently should last for many years with minimal maintenance……

When you remove the old stern gland you are effectively opening a hole in the bottom of the boat, below the waterline.

We could see 3 options:

  1. Pay to haul the boat with a crane, expensive.
  2. Change it with the boat in the water, possible and we were seriously considering this option. We watched someone else do it on a you tube video so we knew what we were doing.
  3. Find a good harbour wall to dry out against and change it between tides. This involves getting the boat to lean against a wall while balanced on its keel.

We went for option 3.

Someone else had tied up the tide before and the bottom looked like a sandy muddy mix, not rocky.

We stacked everything easily portable and heavy along the wall side rail and tide a halyard to the shore to make sure we weren’t going to tip away from the wall. We used our overly large supply of fenders and fender board to keep her off the wall

Low tide, Mel cleaning the propeller
Low tide, Dan still slacking with the camera while Mel does all the hard work


We had to take the coupling off the engine and then take the flange off the end of the shaft to get the old seal off and the new seal on. We had sprayed the bolts the night before to help us out and it came off the engine with some big spanners and a bit of effort.

Once we had worked out how the coupling actually held onto the end of the shaft we had a much better chance at getting it off. The video of a guy taking off a brand new coupling from a brand new shaft didn’t really give us the flavour.

There is only so much force you can feel comfortable applying before you start to doubt that you are doing it the right way and not about to break/bend something that will be very expensive to fix.

Puller to remove the coupling (It came with the boat, we originally weren’t sure exactly what it was for when the old owner pulled it out of his car and gave it to us).

The video of the guy sweating for 4 days over his cramped in an awkward position gave us hope that we just needed to try harder and we were doing it right.

It didn’t come off on the first low tide so we were going to be against the wall for another day.

Some spray, some bigger leavers on the socket and some more effort and with a big bang, off it came.

After that swapping the stern gland was easy and straight forward.

New seal going into place. (the red plastic bit is to protect the lip seals)
New shaft seal in place

With each tide we were more relaxed about resting against the wall. Reducing the ballast a bit and adjusting it forward so we stayed slightly more upright and not needing to touch the line lengths. We always made sure that one of us was there as we touched though.

Other jobs we got done

We managed to get a bunch of other useful jobs done at the same time:

  • Checked there was no damage after our mud exploit.
  • Cleaned a large family of creatures from around the log that had made it their home since the Morlaix mud and stopped our speed sensor working when we stopped for a night.
  • Cleaned same creatures out of our engine cooling water intake.
  • Cleaned some weed off the propeller (we were not sure if the lanolin we put on helped of not).
  • Checked all of the anodes.
  • Gave the waterline a good clean.
  • Took our Genoa (fore sail) up to the local sail maker to fix the small rip in the UV strip. They did a fantastic job, at a good price, ready the next day and checked over the rest of the rest of the sail for us with a few extra stitches here and there.

Unexpected benefits

It is really sociable. We met loads of people who just stopped for a chat.

When you are out on a buoy or at anchor you can be a bit isolated from the other boats and people around you. Which while it’s nice and private makes it much harder to meet new people.

When we finally left our wall spot we headed up the river and moored next to Graham and Fiona in Wild Angel and stopped across for drinks.

We even nearly joined them to sail back across to England on Wild Angel as our dates looked like they were going to match.

Bastille Day

There is always great fireworks displays on the 14th July. We just needed to make sure that we were near a reasonable sized town. We headed for Benodet.


We had anchored up off the main beach. As the evening approached our anchorage got busier and busier. Turns out they were all there to see the show and we were in the perfect spot. We had expected to row to shore and join the crowds on the river bank but we sat on the bow with a blanket and beer and watched the fireworks over the water.


Historic note.

Bastille day is a celebration of the French revolution and is celebrated on the day of storming the Bastille in Paris. In truth this is only just the very beginning of the French republic and an end to the ruling by the monarchy and nobility who inherited there positions through birth. It was another 4 years before King Louis XVI lost his head. And a lot longer before France saw peace again.