Keels in the Air at Équihen Plage — the Village of Overturned Boat-Houses

Équihen Plage is a village on the Opal Coast, along the English Channel, in Pas-de-Calais, France. Until the early 20th century, it was a fishing village. Lacking a harbor, the fishing boats would be run aground on each tide and hauled up higher on the beach on rollers. This repeated beachings would, over time, wear the boats out. New boats would be built and the old ones abandoned. The poorest of the village hauled the abandoned boats up above the beach, and used then as small cottages. On a rudimentary foundation they would turn a boat upside down and use the bottom of the boat as a roof. Toward the end of the 19th century there was a small community of these overturned boat houses which the locals called, “quilles en l’air,” or “keels in the air.”

During World War II, the village was destroyed. Today, Équihen-Plage is a seaside resort.  In the 1990s, residents of Équihen-Plage decided to reclaim the heritage of their fishing village and started building new “keels in the air” to serve as tourist residences. Unlike the originals, which were hovels born of poverty, the new overturned boat houses feature modern amenities, as well as breathtaking views of the coast.

Modern “Keels in the Air”

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