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France

Cruising France - North and West Brittany

Cruising along the Brittany coast between Tréguier and the Raz de Sein will exercise your navigation and pilotage skills. There are plenty of anchorages and towns to visit, so day sailing is feasible, with strong tidal streams. Catching the tide may mean a very early start. Going west, you'll be arriving at low water; passages east give you more destinations!


This is lightly populated holiday country out of season, but very busy in July and August. There are delightful beaches, and several isolated offshore islands to explore. Inside passages offer pilotage challenges. Big Atlantic swells are an occasional (sometimes dramatic) hazard, as are patches of over-falls.  Two major tidal gates guard the entrance to Biscay. The first is the Chenal du Four, inside Île de Ouessant; the second is the Raz de Sein, notoriously rough with even moderate winds against the tides.

East Channel Cruising; Dover Straits to Selsey Bill & Pte Barfleur

Some of the most dense commercial traffic in the world passes through this region. Heavy ferry traffic from Dover to French ports weaves through the main traffic routes (video, 30 secs). All is managed through TSS, Smaller boats must keep clear of TSS, or only cross in the approved manner. Tidal ranges limit access to many harbours, so most all weather harbours are also busy commercial ports. They all have good provision for leisure traffic, but many have strict traffic control for entry and exit (Dover video) .

Sailing Channel Islands & Nearby France

For those who love pilotage and navigation challenges, the Channel Islands and nearby France is heaven (10/10), especially if your vessel can take the ground, since this allows many drying anchorages to be used. Within a day sail of most places there's a good choice of destinations in all directions; lively or quiet, French or English, marina or anchorage. Enough to keep you occupied for a good two weeks or more. But unless you're a fast vessel (over 10kts?) you must "go with the flow", and that often means rising in the early hours to catch the tides.

English Channel Cruising

This page deals with matters common to the whole English Channel (French."La Manche") Detail  pages (right hand menu) describe locations in the East Channel, around the Isle of Wight, SW England, the Channel Islands and nearby France, and West Brittany as far as the Raz de Sein.

Challenging. This tide swept area is crowded with commercial and leisure traffic, and subject to occasional poor visibility. It's the most challenging cruising area we describe (9/10 for thrills and spills, 4/10 for peace and quiet). Ports and anchorages along the south coast of England and along the French coasts are spaced so that day sailing from one end to the other is feasible - but only if using the tidal streams! Crossing the channel from Isle of Wight westward for smaller, slower boats may call for some night sailing.

Going West. Travelling west you're with the ebb, arriving near low water. No problem on the English side, with plenty of deep water ports. On the French side, many marinas and harbours have no access until half tide. Plan your destinations with this in mind!

Sailing around Corsica

French Corsica, including Elba and the Bonifacio straits, offers excellent cruising. The west coast includes some of the most dramatic scenery of the Mediterranean.  Add hundreds of coves with brilliant white beaches, many islets, little intrusive development, plenty of anchorages, good marinas, attractive old town centres, and you'll need much more than four weeks for a thorough exploration. Or allow two weeks to circumnavigate visiting just the highlights.

Sailing Mediterranean France

The whole of Mediterranean France is plentifully supplied with marinas, and offers excellent repair facilities for all sorts of boats of all sizes.  It's crowded cruising, especially in high season, and finding a berth may not be easy, particularly for vessels over 15m. Once past the Pyrenees the area divides naturally into three parts; the relatively low lying (and sometimes very windy) coasts of the Golfe de Lion, the more craggy and attractive coastlines just east of Marseilles to Toulon, then the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) where the super-rich display in summer. Marina prices vary from very high to very modest . This coastline offers historical towns, an outdoor café culture, good wines and a superb cuisine. Connections with northern Europe are good, by air or by rail. It is also a popular gateway to the Mediterranean via the French Waterways

Cruising Biscay France

We define "Biscay France" as the coast from of the Raz du Sein to the Gironde estuary. It's a superb cruising ground (8/10), a busy holiday coast with easy day sailing, sandy beaches, sheltered estuaries, inland seas, groups of small islands, and some beautifully preserved old towns. It is the yachting centre for France, rather the equivalent of Poole/The Solent in south England. It is dense with reasonably priced marinas, harbours, and anchorages. It's easy to spend four weeks cruising here, with plenty left for further visits. Many British boats base here, with crews commuting to UK with the help of this public transport planner site.

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