Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

High Speed RIB To Brittany On Cruising Business

24th September 2022
Home-from-home. Hoteliers John & Gwen Brennan took their Redbay Stormforce 1450 Dromquinna to Brittany, expecting to book into a hotel now and again, yet they spent every night on board in complete comfort. Thanks to John’s skills in manoeuvring, here at Saint-Marine in Benodet they have managed to get berthed beside the smaller craft with a minimal walk to the marina bridge
Home-from-home. Hoteliers John & Gwen Brennan took their Redbay Stormforce 1450 Dromquinna to Brittany, expecting to book into a hotel now and again, yet they spent every night on board in complete comfort. Thanks to John’s skills in manoeuvring, here at Saint-Marine in Benodet they have managed to get berthed beside the smaller craft with a minimal walk to the marina bridge Credit: John Brennan

The Kenmare River where Kerry verges into Cork is one of Ireland’s cruising gems – it’s pure gold and then some. But we weren’t exactly cruising when the Nixon Tribe descended on the area precisely a year ago for a significant anniversary. The anniversary had been delayed because of the lockdown restrictions, and so the Tribe were in the mode of a genie let out of a bottle. Rather a lot of bottles, as it happens. But our host John Brennan, hotelier of that parish, was so tolerant of this invasion of the barbarians that he took us all out for the afternoon in his pride-and-joy, his then-new Redbay Stormforce 1450 super-rib Dromquinna, with a real red-carpet champagne and super-nibbles treatment in a secluded anchorage in Kilmakilloge for the anniversarians and their associated brood.

We don’t get together that often in significant numbers for various good reasons, including the fact that when the next generation are on their own with each other in more compact groups, it can be fairly civilized, but when the parents are introduced into the total equation, that old demon of sibling rivalry is always bubbling under the surface.

John Brennan in his happy place – aboard the boat and headed somewhere interesting. Photo: W M NixonJohn Brennan in his happy place – aboard the boat and headed somewhere interesting. Photo: W M Nixon

Thus if we were together this weekend, I reckon that the annual review of combined family fleet activities since that special gathering in Kenmare would include two dismastings. This in turn brings the revelation that the Seventeen Footers in Howth are rather better organized as a class in coming up with an immediate mast replacement than are the Devon Yawls at Bosham on Chichester Harbour. The Howth 17s can have you up and sailing again within a day, whereas the new mast for the Devon Yawl takes six weeks. And that is precisely the kind of thing that makes for a good row in a sailing family

Yet despite those various spars coming down around people’s ears, sailing trophies have been won for both family fortresses through 2022. Perhaps the most notable is the annual Bognor Bogbrush, in which the grandson Magnus skippered the winning under-9 team racing Opties for Chichester Harbour at Bognor Regis. The young sailor is named after the first and last Viking Saint. You can visit St Magnus’ cathedral at Kirkwall if cruising the Orkneys, but his mission to deter Vikings from violence was only successful after his aggressive people martyred him, which gives his name a special sanctity.

Thus in the family home of thatched Quay Cottage in Bosham, the Bognor Bogbrush is referred to as “the special trophy”, for they share the quay with the still active though very ancient church which was founded by King Canute’s wife, and with this double sanctity the successful young team captain’s mother cannot allow it to be publicly known that her lovely son is the current holder of the Bognor Bogbrush.

Kitted out for serious sailing – Magnus Nixon, the winning team captain in the U9s in the annual Bognor Bogbrush championship. Photo: Brian NixonKitted out for serious sailing – Magnus Nixon, the winning team captain in the U9s in the annual Bognor Bogbrush championship. Photo: Brian Nixon 

Be that as it may, having seen how calmly and thoughtfully John Brennan dealt with our mob of Viking successors, we’ve taken a special interest in his doings with the Stormforce 1450, for he and his son Adam – a naval architect in the making – made a significant input into the design. And as well, since we were with him his book about how he turned the problem of severe dyslexia into an opportunity and encouragement – it’s called My Name Is Jhon and is one of the best reads I’ve had during the past year – has been published to deserved acclaim.

It turns out that he and his wife Gwen have been very successful in combining business with pleasure. John is a hotelier to his finger-tips, totally engrossed 24/7 in his job when he’s on duty. So how does a guy like this take a holiday? Does he saunter off to some distant specialist Seven Star-plus-plus hotel and allow others to cater for a while for his every need?

The ports in South Brittany visited by Dromquinna in June.The ports in South Brittany visited by Dromquinna in June.

Not so, it seems. During June, thanks to his skills in delegation and his ability to rely on the many talents of his famous brother Francis to keep an eye on their three hotels, John and Gwen headed off for Brittany in the Dromquinna in the hope of a few days relaxation, but also with plans to meet up with others who are putting together the Adventure Nautique Atlantique Sauvage.

Some time ago before Brexit, the Cool Route cruising concept from Cork Harbour eventually to Norway was being developed, but this enlargement acknowledges the ancient sea routes between Ireland, Brittany and Iberia (think Song of Amergin, where the main man departs from A Coruna in northwest Spain), yet also deals with post-Brexit reality by utilising British-flagged Gibraltar – which has a special relation with the EU – as a start point.

National and regional flags aloft to celebrate the Adventure Nautique Atlantic Sauvage meeting at Port Haliguen in Quiberon. Photo: John BrennanNational and regional flags aloft to celebrate the Adventure Nautique Atlantic Sauvage meeting at Port Haliguen in Quiberon. Photo: John Brennan

At Port Haliguen - when you’re proposing a cruise route along Europe’s Atlantic seaboard, it’s a good idea to have the rescue services on side from the start…….Photo: John BrennanAt Port Haliguen - when you’re proposing a cruise route along Europe’s Atlantic seaboard, it’s a good idea to have the rescue services on side from the start…….Photo: John Brennan

Thus thanks to the presence of John & Gwen with Dromquinna at a meeting in Port Haliguen, the Irish tricolour was flying with the array from other nations exploring the possibilities of this nautical Wild Atlantic Way. And by that time they’d discovered that this style of cruising was suiting them very well indeed. For the fact is that Gwen had mixed feelings about boat life beforehand, yet it emerges that this dyed-in-the-wool hospitality couple spent every single night in board while in Brittany.

This is home for now - settling in for the night at Camaret after a seven hour passage from the Isles of Scilly, with the yellow Q flag flying for the customs. Photo: John BrennanThis is home for now - settling in for the night at Camaret after a seven hour passage from the Isles of Scilly, with the yellow Q flag flying for the customs. Photo: John Brennan

Of course they went ashore for knowledgeable enjoyment of local cuisine. And like all boaties, they spent time around harbours large (sometimes very large) and small, talking boat talk. But their expectation that every so often they’d book into a good hotel for two or three nights simply didn’t happen.

Usually with just the two of them, there was space to spare, they knew how everything worked and being John, everything did work. They were having a ball. Seeing ports as entertaining places to visit, and knowing that they had all the comforts of their familiar home-from-home within walking distance, proved to be totally relaxing – they were so well organised on board that they didn’t even have a shower off the boat.

Perfect cruising evening in Brittany – yet though John & Gwen Brennan might have an interesting meal ashore, they returned to the familiar comfort of the boat every night. Photo: John BrennanPerfect cruising evening in Brittany – yet though John & Gwen Brennan might have an interesting meal ashore, they returned to the familiar comfort of the boat every night. Photo: John Brennan 

For there’s no doubting that John is in his happy place when he’s aboard Dromquinna. But being the man he is, lolling about is not an option, and a year ago we had the experience of being at better than 35 knots with him in the Kenmare River, which shows the kind of performance he can call on for short periods, while a solid cruising speed means that no passages are required at night – on the outward voyage, they did Cork to the Isles of Scilly in five hours.

Dromquinna’s speed potential – even with a party on board – is shown top left in knots on the Kenmare River September 2021. A cruising speed of 23 knots is much more economical, but it’s good to have this performance in reserve. Photo: W M NixonDromquinna’s speed potential – even with a party on board – is shown top left in knots on the Kenmare River September 2021. A cruising speed of 23 knots is much more economical, but it’s good to have this performance in reserve. Photo: W M Nixon

In fact, while Brittany was marvellous in its variety and unique pace of life while being confident in its own identity, it was the freedom of being able to visit the Isles of Scilly in their own boat which was one of the cruise highlights. So much so, that they lingered longer than expected while heading south, and took a chunk out of the homeward passage for a further stay among those enchanted islands.

Dawn departure from France – to ensure there were no night passages, early starts for the longer legs were always useful. Photo: John BrennanDawn departure from France – to ensure there were no night passages, early starts for the longer legs were always useful. Photo: John Brennan

The need to anchor and use the outboard tender in Scillonia rather than having access to a marina berth was seen as an added attraction rather than an irksome chore, for most RIB owners are new to the experience of a cruising boat comfortably lying for a few peaceful days to her own anchor.

Well worth the effort…..heading ashore for dinner at Tresco in the Isle of Scilly, while Dromquinna lies sweetly to anchor in New Grimsby Sound. Photo: Gwen BrennanWell worth the effort…..heading ashore for dinner at Tresco in the Isle of Scilly, while Dromquinna lies sweetly to anchor in New Grimsby Sound. Photo: Gwen Brennan

That said, in big marinas you can sometimes find yourself berthed conveniently near to boats of special interest. It takes some doing in the general drone image of Port Haliguen to find Dromquinna, but when you do, it’s to discover that she’s berthed just across the pontoon from the veteran Dick Newick trimaran that may be the former Downtown Flyer, built by Brian Law and Dickie Gomes of Strangford Lough at Lisburn in 1982, and a mighty racer in her day forty years ago.

Contrasting styles. In Port Haliguen, Dromquinna is berthed next to a vintage Newick trimaran which may well be the 1982 Downtown Flyer. Photo: John BrennanContrasting styles. In Port Haliguen, Dromquinna is berthed next to a vintage Newick trimaran which may well be the 1982 Downtown Flyer. Photo: John Brennan

And there is of course an extraordinary story about what happened when Downtown Flyer first made her home in France after “Lawsie and Gomesie” had done everything they wished with her on the international racing circuit, and thought they’d sold her. But we may need advice from m’learned friends before recounting it………

Published in W M Nixon, Cruising, RIBs
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

Email The Author

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating