Brittany is well known for being the French region with the strongest sailing culture. It’s special topography, rich in natural harbours and small islands, generated a long tradition of sailing and fishing. Furthermore, its dangerous waters (frequent stormy weather, strong tidal currents, shallow rocky passages…) have been the playground for many worldwide acclaimed skippers.
That’s why, in summer 2012, a bunch of anarcho-sailors coming from the Med crossed the french waterways with two D.I.Y. wooden boats (Ludo and Black Ginette) in order to reach Brittany’s coast. After a whole season of adventures, and after meeting many more like-minded people among the locals, in January 2013 they squatted one of the most amazing places I ever seen: Moulin Mer.
Situated in a very quiet and isolated spot on the Bay of Brest, Moulin Mer is a former tidal mill (built in 1750), which has been used as a hotel until 20 years ago. The property includes, besides the main building, 3 separate houses and a workshop. Since the beginning, the squatters have been able to lift their boats out of water, and used the yard as a dry dock for their repairs: in this way, they also quickly gained the sympathy and respect of the neighbors (who obviously like sailors!).
Moulin Mer is now celebrating one year of squatting. Over this period many people cooperated in the re-adaptation and restoration of the buildings: the hotel has been reconverted into a social center, with a bar and a dance-floor at ground level, a big “restaurant” on the first floor (for New Year’s Eve we had a “gala dinner” with more than 90 people!!!), a Dojo/sport room on the second floor and -of course- plenty of guest rooms in the upper levels.
Since there was no running water supply, the squatters provided one by installing a rainwater recycling system, while drinking water is brought with canisters from a water spigot 200m away from the main house, where the occupants live.
A dry toilet has also been set up, and a portion of the land has been converted into gardens.
The most interesting thing is the workshop: there is always someone refitting an old boat, or building it from zero out of wood and scrap! Little by little, their flotilla is growing: besides Ludo and Black Ginette, now there is Morgan (23ft polyester sloop), Petit Yoko (19ft alluminium centerboarder), two dinghies and a rowboat; Furthermore, a 20ft wooden boat is being refitted and the hull of a new DIY dinghy is almost finished… Moulin Mer is certainly the best place where to organize a DIY boat meeting next summer, at least for the floating comrades in northern €urope!! We are already dreaming about organizing, among many other activities, a sailing treasure hunt in the Bay of Brest: pirates from all over the world, work towards the ultimate race!
Anyway, like for every T.A.Z., nobody knows how long it will last: the squatters already had a trial, and are awaiting the decision of the court which will say for how long they can continue to use the space before the eviction. Meanwhile, a 5-day stint of collective work has been called (January 27-31) in order to fix at once the big amount of broken windows that still have to be closed in the hotel’s upper floors.
Bad news: Moulin Mer have just been evicted… So there will be no more meeting over there. The last activity they did before leaving the place have been a 2 days local DIY sailing festival, on April 12&13 2014.
I was not there, but they told me it have been very nice, with lot of neighbors involved. The happening ended with a fireworks show from the water, which symbolized the experience of this squat: amazing, brilliant and fast burning, as most Temporary Autonomous Zone happens to be.