La Recouvrance in the harbour Sheltered harbour

Almost at the western tip of Brittany, Brest is an exceptional setting, a huge sheltered harbour, which resulted in a valued strategic asset for the French navy.

Brest town hall The Germans also valued and used it during WWII, and the city was subsequently thoroughly bombed at the end of the war, to be rebuilt in a 1950s concrete fashion, which lots of people hate, but I tend to like concrete.

Recouvrance bridge The Recouvrance bridge links both banks of the Penfeld river.

Clouds over the harbourHarbour water Even close to the military zones dominated by concrete, the waters of the harbour can be clear and transparent. Sun and clouds create spectacular contrasts.

The harbour seen from the Élorn riverIroise bridge East of the harbour, the river Élorn is crossed by two bridges, giving a broad view of the northern part of the harbour.

Trip along the Aulne river The harbour has also a big southern expanse, where you can then go up the Aulne river.

Harbour in the mist and old gaffersSunset While coming back to Moulin Blanc marina, we admired a sunset over the harbour. On another day, we left the harbour in the mist and met old gaffers.

WakeLe GouletPogoriaStart of the harbour crossing On a misty morning I crossed the harbour, leaving from the trade harbour, meeting the barquentine Pogoria, going in front of the Goulet, and getting a view of Brest’s sea side.

Regatta in Tinduff harbourFrançois-Monique in Tinduff harbourFrançois-Monique in Brest harbour Aboard Marie-Fernand, we sailed along the dredging sloop François-Monique as it came back to Brest harbour to moor in Tinduff harbour.

On the next Sunday, a friendly regatta gathered dredging sloops and other old gaffers.

Trade harbour Trade harbour

Close to the city center, the trade harbour shelters fishing and passenger ships.

Marie-FernandFryderyk ChopinVoilierIt also welcomes visiting sailboats next to cranes, like the two-masted Fryderyk Chopin or the pilot cutter Marie-Fernand.

Abeille FlandreAbeille Flandre The trade harbour also hosts huge tug boats, like Abeille Flandre, moored but ready to go any time the weather gets rough. Even their anchor is impressive.

Abeille Bourbon The Abeille Flandre has been replaced by Abeille Bourbon, an even bigger tug boat.

Chien vertOn the quay, the chantier du Guip shipyard maintains and builds wooden boats, like the Chien Vert.

Cranes A cargo terminal and a shipyard are further away from the Goulet, hosting foreign boats.

Château marina

The downtown Château marina was opened during the Brest 2012 festival, its seawall is a favourite walking spot of many Brest citizens.

Shtandart Among its visitors, it welcomed the Russian frigate Shtandart.

Old gaffers

La Recouvrance

La Recouvrance’s riggingLa Recouvrance’s riggingLa Recouvrance’s rigging Close to the tug boats, there are old sailboats like La Recouvrance, on which you can sail. Its rigging is a very controlled tangle of sails, ropes and pulleys.

Water along La RecouvranceView from La RecouvrancePulleys of La Recouvrance Sailing for a day on this ship allows to discover Brest harbour in a very pleasant way.

La Recouvrance also goes on cruises, we sailed back from Aber Wrac’h to Brest.

Pointe Saint-Mathieu’Île Vierge lighthouse and Notre-Dame de RumengolLa Recouvrance figurehead The day before, night fell on the figurehead of the ship. We left the harbour and met Notre-Dame de Rumengol; then we passed pointe de Saint-Mathieu before entering Brest harbour.

Bergère de DomrémyBergère de Domrémy

Bergère de Domrémy is a scallops dredging sloop built in 1936, classified as heritage monument. She is moored in the trade harbour and we learn how to sail her.

Bergère de Domrémy & La RecouvranceBergère de Domrémy in CamaretBergère de Domrémy & Albert–Louppe bridgeI’ve sailed her under the Albert–Louppe bridge, to Camaret and in the harbour with La Recouvrance.

Bergère de Domrémy’s mastIn 2011, its mast was restored.

Towed by Saint GuénoléBergère de DomrémyCamaretWe went with the Saint Guénolé to Camaret, and came back running.

Sunrise aboard Bergère de DomrémySunriseCap SizunWe also took part in the Kann al Loar festival, sailing up the Élorn river along with other boats one day, and coming back downstream the next day, at sunrise.

La MouetteSaint GuénoléBergère de Domrémy around Trébéron islandWe explore the harbour, sometimes sailing around the Trébéron and Île des Morts islands, meeting other boats, like La Mouette.

Painting pulleysCareening, star sideCareening, port sideIn winter, we take care of the boat, painting pulleys, cleaning and painting the hull.

La Bergère moored in PlougastelIn 2012, Bergère de Domrémy went to Lauberlac’h, south of the Plougastel peninsula.

Bergère de Domrémy coming back at sunsetBergère de Domrémy with the sailing Tour de FranceIn 2013, she sailed along the boats racing the Sailing Tour de France in Brest harbour. She also took part in the maerl festival and came back at sunset.

Bergère de Domrémy get into port at sunsetSaint Guénolé seen from Bergère de Domrémy She also sailed in the Goulet with Saint Guénolé. At the end of autumn, she came back in the trade harbour at sunset.

Portzic lighthouseNotre-Dame de Rumengol

The association which manages Bergère de Domrémy also safeguards a scow called Notre-Dame de Rumengol. On board this ship, I went along Portzic lighthouse.

Notre-Dame de Rumengol careeningNotre-Dame de Rumengol careeningEach year, we careen the boat, resting on one side on the slipway, then on the other the next day.

Notre-Dame de Rumengol sailingNotre-Dame de Rumengol sailing Once the careening is done, she can start her sailing season, like on this day in Brest harbour, getting close to Plougastel.

Terenez bridgeLandévennec boat cemeteryNotre-Dame de Rumengol up the Aulne river A few times a year, she travels up the Aulne river, going through Landévennec and its boat cemetery, under Terenez bridge, to Châteaulin.

Portsall rocksLe Four lighthouseFollowing demand and maritime events, she goes further, for example northwards, passing by Le Four lighthouse and Portsall rocks to get to Corréjou.

Saint Guénolé sailSaint GuénoléSaint Guénolé

Another old gaffer on which you can sail in the harbour is Saint Guénolé, a scallops dredging sloop with red sails built in 1948.


In the harbour you can also admire Seagull, a small classic yacht with superb lines.

Brest 2008

Every 4 years since 1992 (when La Recouvrance was launched), a big gathering of old gaffers and tall ships happens in Brest. Here are some of the ships during the 2008 gathering, in which I took part on my diving club’s boat.

La RecouvranceSmall shipsCorentinShipsKruzenshternMirceaCisne BrancoLe RenardEarl of PembrokeKaskelotAnna RogdeLotosTeclaFreedomAbel TasmanCatherinaÉtoile MolènePen DuickSmall shipsJacob Meindert & Pedro DonckeLa CancalaiseViolaVietnamese boatsEnsemble viewsSaint-Guénolé & IbisRegina MarisLa RecouvranceLa RecouvranceBritair, Foncia & Groupama2LateenPetrine & JantjeTakeruSwaensborgh, Zuiderzee & SigandorMoonbeam IIIMoonbeam IIILindheim SundsMatthewVarious shipsCala MillóBelle Étoile & Charles MarieJangadas & junksConstantia, Iris, Hendrika Bartelds, Wytske Eelkje & ZephyrEnsemble viewsBig boatsBaltic BeautyYawlsO’abandonado & Tina HustedVietnamese boatsFishing boatsVarious boatsVarious boatsVarious boatsVarious boatsLast images

Brest 2012

Here are some of the ships during the 2012 gathering, in which I took part aboard Marie-Fernand and Bergère de Domrémy.

Arrival of the KruzenshternHendrika Bartelds & Lys noirVarious ships—1Racing shipsVarious ships—2Pen Duick & SandeqNotre-Dame de Rumengol & Dahl MadRegina MarisBoats in the Penfeld riverVarious ships—3

ArsenalPortal crane Arsenal

Between the city center and the Goulet, the military has seized all the coastline and created a big arsenal to build and maintain ships and submarines. You can catch glimpses of Brest castle between the legs of the biggest portal crane.

SunsetSunsetSunset In autumn, the sun sets behind the cranes of the arsenal, outlining the silhouettes of ships and cranes.

marina Since 2008, the new marina built on the sunset side of the trade harbour has changed the view.

Crane Lots of areas in Brest and its surroundings are forbidden because they are used by the French navy. Downtown, the Penfeld river is a military zone with a masting crane and several workshops.

Maison Blanche

Maison BlancheOn the northern shore of the harbour, only a short length of coast is accessible between the 4 pompes road and Maison Blanche.

Brest harbourMaison Blanche mooringIt’s a popular walk, between the German submarine base and the Portzic lighthouse, with nice views of the harbour and a boat mooring area.

Le Goulet The Goulet

The Goulet (Narrows) is the entrance to the sheltered harbour of Brest.

Le GouletLe Goulet Its cliffs are rocky slopes, and it is overlooked by 17th century defence forts and second world war German machine gun bunkers.

Le GouletSun rays in Le GouletSun rays through clouds in Le Goulet The Goulet opens out on the Iroise sea, sometimes under sun rays piercing through clouds.

Le GouletLa CormorandièrePortzic lighthouse and Queen Mary 2 The entrance of the sheltered harbour is marked by the Portzic lighthouse, below which the Queen Mary passed. The top of the lighthouse is sometimes shrouded in fog.

La CormorandièreOpposite the lighthouse, the Cormorandière rock is situated at the entrance of the harbour.

Coastal trailSainte-Anne du Portzic in winterSainte-Anne du Portzic in the fog From the Portzic lighthouse, the coastal trail leads to the Sainte-Anne duPortzic cove, in the mist or under winter clouds.

The GouletFreighter Further from the harbour, the Goulet widens. Pilot boats guide freighters with the delicate navigation when they enter the harbour.

Minou lighthouseThe Goulet entranceMinou lighthouseThe entrance of the Goulet on the sea side is marked by the Petit Minou lighthouse. A bridge links the lighthouse to the shore.

Minou lighthouseWaves on Minou beachMinou beach The lighthouse consists of 2 towers situated above the Petit Minou beach, which faces storms and so is a favourite of surfers for its waves.

Linear cloud Coming back from Camaret, the coast is cut out against linear clouds.

Bertheaume cove

Out of the Goulet and out to sea, cliffs alternate with sand beaches.

Dalbosc coveCruise ship There are also rocky coves in the cliffs.
Sometimes cruise ships have a stopover in Brest, leaving through the Goulet.

WavesWavesBeach On the Trégana beach, waves roll and unfurl in foam.

WavesWaves Waves also splash on rocks and the setting sun glistens on them.

FogAmerigo Vespucci A tall sail ship waits in the cove before entering the harbour. A veil of fog clings to the shore. The Bertheaume fort closes the cove.

Pointe Saint-Mathieu

Saint-Mathieu abbeySaint-Mathieu lighthousePointe Saint-Mathieu The pointe Saint-Mathieu is the place where the coast turns to the north, marked by a lighthouse and a ruined abbey.


Corsen capeCorsen capeCorsen cape The Corsen cape, north of Le Conquet, faces the Ouessant (Ushant) and Molène islands. Small sandy coves are sheltered between rocky granite capes.

Sunset Towards north, the shore goes down to sea level. From the cape, you can enjoy sunsets at sea, behind the islands.

Kerloas menhir Inland

Inland and northwest of Brest, the Kerloas menhir is a huge megalithic standing stone.