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The boats of Southern Brittany
by Gavin Atkin gmatkin@clara.net

I took a few days off this summer to play some English dance music for a millennium festival at La Roche Bernard, which is in the bottom right-hand corner of Brittany.

If you can think of Brittany as an arm sticking out into the Atlantic, then La Roche is bang in the middle of the armpit. But it's a very attractive armpit - one of the cutest I know. The historic old town was built on the side of a beautiful natural harbour, and a crowd of yotties turned out to join in the fun. I'm pleased to say that some of the most interesting craft were given pride of place by the quay.

They used to build boats heavy and tough round here, presumably because they were destined to spend most of their days in the notorious Bay of Biscay.

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Here are two views of a very attractive local boat. Don't you just want to take it home and look after it?

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And here is a rather larger and still more heavily constructed model. Fabulous; old timber, clean decks, and no doghouse, and it looks as if it could push aside a small island.

But have another look at the elegant little boat tied up nest to it. I know it looks very much at home tied up in a Breton port, but it's actually a Swampscott dory, a classic design of the Eastern Seabord of the USA! I had a brief chat with the owner, but didn't learn too much as quickly found my French vocabulary does not run to the parts of boats. Here's another view.

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And here's another heavy old local boat.

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Notice the little pram hanging behind. Here's a closer view of the same pram with a boy having fun in it.

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I later had the idea of drawing up an epoxy ply pram using Hulls, but looking back at these pictures, it's clear that my design is both rounder in cross-section and longer than this boy's boat - in fact rather more like this pram below. Incidentally, I think the fitting on the gunwale is for thole pins; I noticed also that the centreboard slot has been filled with a piece of flexible tubing for towing - a handy cord makes it easy to remove.

So it seems that in designing my little dinghy, I didn't really replicate the pram that inspired ! Oh well, I've been meaning to make up some drawings of a 6ft 6in pram anyway, so I'd better just resign myself to drawing another one - I think there's room in the world for both designs!

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Here's a proa, and a beautifully finished canoe:

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Here's a nice strip-build skiff:

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Here's an interesting boat designed and built by a local, who told me he had based it on a faering (my French must have suddenly become better):

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Seen close up, this tiny cruiser looked as if it was a year-round home to somebody:

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I don't know what this skiff is - it could even be a pod design, also from the Eastern USA:

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What I do know is that I saw its skipper struggle bravely but not well in a Force 3 or 4 wind, until he finally gave up and rowed home looking saddened but very picturesque. So what was wrong? Fluky winds? A design that won't sail well upwind in anything over a Force 2? Or is this chap still learning?

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 Finally, I rather liked these little beach cats used for training by the local sailing school. We haven't got anything like this where I live - do any of our multihull enthusiast friends fancy drawing up a safe, simple little cat like this? I bet it could be done with three sheets of ply.

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