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Home » The Human Element » Village of the “Keels in the Air”

Village of the “Keels in the Air”

Photo by Denis Caron/Flickr

PortandTerminal.com, January 14, 2020

EQUIHEN PLAGE, FRANCE – Equihen Plage, on the coast of northern France by the English Channel is a small fishing port and farming village with a population of 3,000.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, Equihen Plage was a fishing village with a dry harbor—the kind where fishing boats were launched into the sea by sliding them on logs.

Fishermen are practical people. Old boats that became unseaworthy would be dragged up to high ground and turned upside down. The hull, which now became the roof, was covered in tar to ensure that it was watertight. A door cut out on the sides provided entry, while windows let in air and light. Locally, the homes were called “quilles en l’air”, or “keels in the air” in English.

An old postcard in black and white showing the exterior of a quilles en l'air with a mother a young girl standing in the doorway
An old postcard in black and white showing the interior of a quilles en l'air with a woman seated at the table scaling fresh fish.
Interior view of an old “quilles en l’air”
An old postcard in black and white showing the exterior of a quilles en l'air with a mother and three children doing chores in the front.

Sadly, during the Second World War nearly all the unusual boat homes were destroyed. In the 1990s, almost sixty years after their disappearance, the village decided to revive the ancient custom of “quilles en l’air” and started building them again from old fishing boats.

Popular with tourists, many of these “keels in the air” can be rented as beachside accommodation.

Photo of 3 quilles en l'air.  All three have tarpaper roofs and white hull walls. Garden furniture is visible in front of one of them.
Interior visual of a quilles en l'ari

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