France is a magnet for yachters from all over Europe.
As an open country, it is a natural consequence that France is one of the freest nations for pleasure yachters. France offers extensive marina developments in most coastal areas coupled with its reputation for great food. Perhaps, these are why Northern France continues to be such a magnet for yachters from all over Europe. France´s harbours and marinas are often full to the bursting point during the high season.
Northern France requires careful planning due to tides.
Starting at the Belgian border from Dunkirk to Cherbourg, Northern France’s coast becomes increasingly low-lying as you pass the famous Normandy beaches. The principal harbours of Calais, Boulogne, Dieppe, Le Havre, and Cherbourg are accessible at any state of the tide. However, due to large tidal ranges, most of the smaller harbours in Northern France require careful planning to lock in and out around high water.
Moving west, between Cherbourg and Brest, you will find some of France’s most challenging cruising. The tidal ranges can increase by up to 13 meters. Tidal flows and currents can pose grave dangers for the unprepared. For the knowledgeable mariner, the tidal ports of Granville, St Malo, Paimpol and Roscoff provide a unique taste of Brittany that is not available to most land travellers.
The giant tidal races through Chenal de Four
The Atlantic coast from Brest to Royan is more forgiving than the coast further north. Except for the infamous tidal races through the Chenal de Four and round the Pointe du Raz. The jewels of this fantastic cruising area are the beautiful Atlantic islands of Ile de Groix, Belle Ile, Ile d’yeu and Ile d’Oléron. Other than a few busy weeks from mid-July to the end of August, life here is set at a gentle pace, without crowds and with nature in abundance everywhere.
The coast between Royan and the Spanish border is mostly flat and featureless. It has one exception, which is the shallow bay of Arcachon. Most yachters avoid this area and make straight for St Jean de Luz and Hendaye’s French Basque ports.
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