What Katy did next

Bob Hopwood

An account of Bob and Virginia Hopwood’s 1997 Breton Holiday with Trailer Sailer Manta 19 Katy
Ginia loves the sunshine – we both love France and I love boats (Ginia has since been. converted to the cause). This was the recipe for attempting our target of towing Katy to France and sampling the delights of the canal system of Southern Brittany.


We took two outboard engines – a brand new Yamaha 4hp – with alternator. The second, for back up – a Suzuki 3.5 hp (old but recently overhauled).


Boom Tent to fit over spray dodgers which I had made locally – doubles living area for night time stops (acted as protection against rain, then sun!).

Cool box – electrical – can run off boat’s battery and topped up by electricity generated by Yamaha’s alternator – keeps your beer and wine cooled nicely – not to mention your saussison!


(Thank goodness Ginia is a Secretary).

  • RYA International Certificate of Competence. See Quentin Mitchell if you need one. Your RYA Yachtmasters’ Certificates may be more than good enough, however.
  • Ships Registration papers. Another must which you apply for in plenty of time before your departure date, from the Board of Trade, London (Small Ships Register) We were never asked to produce paperwork, but you are given a unique serial number which must be displayed on the side of your boat.
  • Voies Navigables de France Pass – this is only required on certain canals/rivers. There are various types – up to 16 consecutive days FF 110 (approx. £11), 30 days nonconsecutive – FF265 (approx £26.50). This was not required for the Nantes and Brest Canal, but it was needed on the River Loire.
  • River and Canal Guides – essential – see me for Nantes a Brest Canal and River Loire Guides if you would like to borrow these. They are available for each canal/river system at a cost of approx £10 from ships’ chandlers/boat hire companies or bookshops.


Brief Account of our Holiday

We towed “Katy” through England in one day, to Portsmouth and embarked on the overnight ferry to Cherbourg. Two way crossing, with cabin each way costing around £420. It would have been cheaper through the Chunnel, but I would not have had a rest after the drive down and then would have had the longer journey from Calais to Redon.

On route in France I had problems with one of the trailer’s wheels. First of all I had a puncture, so put on the spare wheel. Found a garage and they repaired the puncture (free of charge and I had to force a note onto him for a drink! While driving along a little later I noticed that the replacement wheel was “not right”. When I examined it I noticed the wheel nuts had slackened off. I had stopped only just in time before I would have lost the wheel altogether. I only had about 30 miles to go, so I just kept stopping and tightening them up.

Our destination was the lovely old town of Redon, which is nicely positioned in the hub of a wheel (pardon the pun after the last paragraph), with the Nantes and Brest canal running to the north to Brest and to the south to Nantes, crossed by the River Vilaine running west – about 20 miles to the Atlantic and to the east to Rennes. We arrived at Redon around lunch time of our second day of travel. Called in at the local chandlery and saw the owner – Monsieur MAIGRET (honestly!!) and after a little detective work…… found that his company operated the crane – the moorings were right in the heart of the town. The cost for this service was £40.

Spotting a French tyre business I arranged for them to check over the trailer wheels and have everything put in order for our return. We spent our first night afloat in Redon unpacking the car, organising the boat, then filling the boot of the car with things we could really do without! Ginia’s contribution was to leave behind 3 pairs of sandals and 10 lipsticks – this girl needs guidance!

We set off next day northwards and through our first lock. What a wonderfully peaceful journey and such beautiful countryside. After three days and very inhospitable weather we turned back and decided to head for Nantes and the River Loire. Three days and 18 locks later we arrived at Nantes. We decided to stay there and sightsee while waiting for the showers to stop and the sun to shine. Nantes is a beautiful old city. The Capitainaire is again in the centre of the city, on a tiny island which has been created into a Japanese garden. We eventually left Nantes which is the end of the canal and travelled through a tunnel under the city, then our last lock, which was huge and electrically operated onto the mighty Loire. We left with the rising tide and fairly sped up river for about 20 miles. After an overnight stop, we set off next morning with the tide but unfortunately because of all the rain – this was the sixth week of it the river was very swollen and because we had come so far up the tide just did not make any difference to the flow of the river. We spent 14 hours sitting in a little inlet waiting for the tide to turn!! We did notice that all the other boats we saw moored had 30 40 hp engines! We beat a hasty retreat back to Nantes and the canal system. On a three week holiday we had plenty of time to explore the vast network of Breton canals. It was a pity the first two weeks we had such showery weather, but the third week was a scorcher – the cool box came into its own – out went the food and in went the beers.

Eventually it was time to come home and we found a free slipway – about 200 yds from the crane! We had a comfortable ferry ride home, loaded down with duty free wine/beer and Ginia’s 1/2gallon bottle of Chanel No 5. About 5 miles from the ferry we experienced a little bump/scraping noise/crunch and one of the trailer wheels careered passed the car on Ginia’s side. We pulled onto the hard shoulder, from the inside lane fortunately, and got out to see the damage. How lucky we were. The wheel disappeared over the embankment without causing any damage to the other vehicles on the road, thank goodness. We had National Breakdown (Green Flag) cover, all ably attended to by Virginia before we left. With 40 mins we were collected by a very large trailer and spirited away for coffee at the breakdown centre only 3 miles away! Katy, still on the trailer, was then towed home and we set off too. We stopped en route for refreshments and a short rest – nervous tension, and as we passed the Washington Services, there was Katy – she had beaten us to the Tyne Tunnel. Within 45 mins she was back at rest at the RNYC – home……… after a momentous holiday.