The race against time

Scallop fishermen


Welcome aboard Surya, a scallop fisherman from Saint-Malo who fishes scallops in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc from October to March.

portrait Grégoire Choleauportrait Grégoire Choleau
©portrait Grégoire Choleau

With the easy contact, I particularly appreciate to meet new people and to discover the know-how of the territory.

45 minutes for a highly prized nut ...

Monday 8 a.m. on the Bas-Sablons harbor in Saint-Malo,

Surya, a 12-meter multipurpose fishing boat, leaves the harbor and heads northwest, towards the Bay of Saint-Brieuc and its scallop bed frequented by 250 boats registered for this winter campaign. Two days a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, Till, the skipper, and Briac, his deckhand, meet on the fishing grounds. At the exit of the harbor, Briac methodically secured the two side dredges to the cables which are themselves connected to the central winch. This morning few boats have taken to the sea a little rough and in our wake some Malouins are cutting the road, 2 hours 30 to reach the area open to fishing.

10:00 am, we leave the imposing silhouette of Cape Frehel to port by a great sun.

The boats of the Bay of Saint-Brieuc are already on the area and the Malouins disperse, each one observing the route followed by the others. When Briac smokes a last cigarette, Till scans the position of the boats with binoculars, the tension rises gently on board Surya. The crew dons their oilskins and checks the dredges one last time. 10:40 a.m., they are positioned on the sides, the bottom touching the foam, ready to go into action. Like the other boats, Surya makes circles in the water in anticipation of the top start. 10:54 am, the Maritime Affairs plane is announced on the VHF, last glance towards the coast to note: rubbing prohibited this morning!

The Top Start

11:00 a.m., the starting gun:

all the engine’s power is called upon. The 300 horses come into action in a flash. Till with one eye on the PC map and the other on the horizon gives his instructions to Briac who operates the winch. The 2 dredges were launched at the same time, one at 110 meters, the other at 90 meters so they would not cross each other. After 10 minutes of dredging at full power with occasional jolts that reared up Surya and stiffened the tightly stretched cables to the max, the dredges were brought back on board with a metallic clang. Till left the cabin and rushed to the dredges to tip them on board and open their mouths. They dumped shells, pebbles and a few larger boulders onto the deck before immediately returning to their collection work. Two more dredging strokes will follow in the same frenzy using the time of the 45 minutes allowed until the end.

11:50 a.m., the tension falls and the hour of the theoretical balance sheet triggers a small pout at Till: it’s good enough!

The almost 600 kg of shells will just cover the costs. But this is not the time to do the accounts. Shells and pebbles cover the deck, it is now time to sort. After having checked their size, the shells are put in tubs then in bags. Kneeling on the deck, the two sailors will be busy during the whole return trip while I will be in charge of the autopilot up to the marked channel of the Saint-Malo harbor entrance. Last step on the slipway of Dinan with the delivery of the precious bags and quick exchanges with the other boats.

3:00 pm, port of Bas-Sablons, Surya has found the pontoon.

Still marked by the intensity of the moment I just lived, I disembark and walk awkwardly. I relive the day by looking at the photos taken on board. My legs them, are going to tango until the evening.

Go on an adventure

to discover our preserved treasures!