Cruising Brittany: highlights of a final sail

After six years of bluewater cruising, Terysa Vanderloo and partner Nick Fabbri enjoyed a slow cruise through Brittany on their final passage home

The sun lingered low in the sky, casting a golden glow over the sandy island of Höedic. The small south Brittany harbour is home to three large mooring balls, around which yachts rafted together in a circle, with bows attached to the ball and sterns facing outward, like the petals of three flowers.

In our cockpit, Nick strummed his guitar and I sipped on a glass of rosé, as we watched the late afternoon rush of sailors entering the harbour and trying to secure a place.

Sometimes a single-handed sailor would tie up with the practiced ease of decades of experience, leaving us embarrassed at our own clumsy efforts earlier in the day.

Other times, yachts would arrive full of enthusiastic yet unskilled crew, and after watching several messy attempts at securing themselves, we’d reflect that perhaps we didn’t do so badly after all.

Seagulls wheeled overhead, swimmers splashed in the water, and dinghies nosed their way between the rafted boats and the floating dinghy dock. The ferry blasted its horn and, in what seemed an impossible manoeuvre, executed a tight turn in the packed harbour, before steaming away, leaving yachts rocking in its wake.

Secluded bay on the island of Houat. Photo: Hemis/Alamy

This was our evening’s entertainment, and after six years of living full time on our Southerly 38, Ruby Rose, the simple pleasure of relaxing in our cockpit after a day of sailing in the sun, watching the harbour activity, was the very epitome of why we chose this cruising lifestyle.

But, this being the summer of 2020, those moments of peace were made more poignant, both because of the price we’d paid to enjoy that little bit of freedom, and because it was tempered by the knowledge that this reprieve was temporary, the future uncertain.

For us it was particularly bittersweet, as this was our final season on board Ruby Rose: we were sailing her back to the UK to be sold so we could prepare to move onto a new 45ft catamaran.

Two months previously, in May 2020, Nick and I had been desperate to get back to Ruby Rose, which was waiting patiently for us in La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast of France.

Yachts rafted to a mooring buoy at Höedic. Photo: Photononstop/Alamy

We, like many liveaboard cruisers, had spent the winter alternating between living on board in the marina, doing all those little jobs that you never seem to get to the bottom of, and travelling home to see our families.

For me, home is Australia, but as the pandemic hit and international borders started to close, we made the last minute decision for Nick and I to converge at his parent’s house in London.

When Nick left Ruby Rose, the French border slammed shut behind him, swiftly followed by the UK going into hard lockdown. Our boat is our only home and we, like many others, were stuck with no way of getting back to her.

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