What the hell is that?
by Gavin Atkin
Visit Gavin's website: Free Boat Design Resources

The kids and I spent a week at this year's Douarnenez Maritime Festival this summer - I was there to play with my English country dance band, and Ewan and Ella came along for their first grown-up festival. I have to say that they behaved extremely well, and seemed to get quite a buzz out of the experience.

Anyway, Douarnenez isn't just any old maritime festival - it specialises in old, classic craft and home-builts, and I thought you might like to see some of the photos I brought home. The picture above is of the Sedov, a Russian sail training craft that makes part of its income visiting festivals such as this.

They say there are typically 2000 boats at the Douarnenez festival, and I can well believe it. Just clock this forest of masts - and this is just one small corner of it all.

I thought I'd start by showing you a vessel that knocked me out as soon as I saw it. It's what's called a Bisquine, and as you can see it's a most impressive lug rigged boat. Here you see it strutting its stuff in a light breeze, accompanied by a small steam launch.

Next, I thought you might like to see one of the Auray Punts made famous more than a century ago by Claude Worth. The punt was later re-worked by Phil Bolger and included in Boats With an Open Mind. Only the sharp-eyed will see the punt in the first photo, set against a background of traditional Breton fishing boats


however the subsequent shots clearly show the boat's lines, thole pins and something of its general construction. I have to say that the very salty-looking matelot using the little boat could not understand why I so much wanted to take photos - I can only conclude he hadn't read either Worth or Bolger.

There was so much at Douarnenez that I had not seen before and could not identify, and some I could. Sadly my photos of currachs have been lost (the camera wasn't set quite right), but I did get this shot of a (to me) mysterious skin boat.

It's interesting that that lightweight Swampscott-style dories and Bolger Light Dories are very popular in France. I haven't included any photos here, but I thought these two photos of a small sharpie and a small garvey-like craft were interesting. I've read that the sharpie type was imported into France during the late 19th century and became quite popular - perhaps these two craft represent are the result of that development.

In fact, the French have some interesting flat-bottomed boats of their own. Here's a boat from the Loire valley motoring with an outboard. Notice the extraordinary rudder arrangement (developed I suggest for areas with many sandbanks).

Here are three more French flatties I found in Douarnenez's great little museum. Flattie 1 really does have open grown frames; the sail is a spritsail; and the green punt is a traditional pleasure boat.


I also saw a number of flat-bottomed skiffs that could have come straight out of Chappelle - though I'm pretty sure they were native to Brittany.

At the opposite end of the scale, this little daysailer's lines seem to me to be typical of the tubby, solidly built craft that have been traditional along this coast.


I thought some of you might be encouraged by the sight of this happy camper, again in a boat that seems to me typical of France's west coast.

Now, a couple of classic French boats of more modern times. I think the first is a Serpentaire, a very popular trailer-sailer, the second is a 16ft pram widely used for teaching sailing, in much the same way that British sailing schools rely on the Wayfarer. Some may notice that there's a very similar design by Jacques Mertens-Goosens.


Here's a boat I think was in fact designed by Jacques.

Down on the beach I was also struck by this boat, which seems to me is the kind of thing a lone skipper would specify for serious blue-water sailing. Does anybody know anything about this very interesting boat?


Finally, I thought I should include this photo of the band playing on a floating stage. The main point of interest here is the Duckworks teeshirt. I think this shot clearly demonstrates the smart appearance and versatility of the Duckworks tee - it really is perfect for all informal and many formal situations. Click the picture for more information.