We have left the North Sea behind us and enter the English Channel, which I personally prefer. We leave Dunkerque on Wednesday morning at 05:10h. There is no wind and the sun is rising on a cloudless sky. We want to pass as fast as possible the Cap Gris-Nez, which has a fairly bad reputation particularly in bad weather – which I could experience some 21 years ago. The tidal current is pushing us to the West which results in a good speed over ground. A couple of miles later we pass Calais. I have the impression that the ferry traffic is quite reduced as compared to the past.
We pass Cap Gris-Nez quickly with a strong current and only little wind. While the winds are fairly variable during the morning, they become perfect for us during the afternoon with NNW 10kn. We set sails and sail nicely in sunny weather directly to Dieppe. We enter the harbour after 91nm at 19:40h. That finally was a fairly long trip without night shifts.
Dieppe is a typical town on the coast of northern France. From my point of view a good stopover but it has no particular attraction to me. The tidal range is huge and impressive. At low water the long gangway is so steep that it is hard to mount up to town, whereas at high tide it is almost horizontal. The tidal range is really impressive.
The period of favourable winds is over again and on Thursday we encounter again winds against us with 10-15kn. This time we prefer to tack instead of taking the engine, which we used too often in similar situations.
The movements of the boat are more comfortable under sails compared to using the engine. The distance to Le Havre is not really very long, but by tacking it ends up to be 72nm. Only one other rather small sailing boat is tacking as we do, but they give up and go into the harbour of Fécamp. For us this harbour with its shallow entry would not be appropriate and the rather high swell in the long entry made me often enough nervous in the past. Therefore we continue our way to the West. The wind turns slowly in a more favourable direction for us and the last third of the trip we can sail fast and comfortable to le Havre.
Dieppe – Le Havre
Friday morning at 01:30h we moor alongside just behind the famous yacht “Tara” in Le Havre.
Tara is the former scientific research vessel of Sir Peter Blake – at that time it was called “Seamaster”. On that ship, Sir Peter had been assassinated by pirates on December 6, 2001 in the estuary of the Amazon, when he tried to protect his crew. This ship full of history is impressive in every respect.
We start to get tired due to the long distances and overnight sails and have the strong desire to relax. This is the reason why we stay another day in Le Havre and make some site seeing. The main interest is actually to relax after the past two weeks.
We start again only on Sunday July 21st to sail over to Ouistreham. We can fill the water tanks with the new watermaker – for the second time now. It is really very comfortable if you can produce your water yourself and be independent.
I remember Ouistreham very well from my students time. The region has become sort of second home for me after a stay in the1980’s of more than 3 years. I also want to meet some old friends which I did not see for more than 20 years.
The sailing over to Ouistreham was easy, and we have to use the engine again due to the lack of winds. We have to wait for the locks on the waiting pontoon before entering the harbour of Ouistreham.
Ouistreham is a nice place to really relax. The harbour is completely protected and quiet. We have taken the bicycles and explored the coastline between Ouistreham and Luc-sur-Mer, where I lived some 35years ago for a certain period. The long beaches are very crowded, the streets, Cafés and Restaurants as well. It is summer time and full holiday season.
Along the coast by bike
We purchase some fresh seafood from the market and prepare our dinner on board. There is a heat wave in France and only on the seaside it is cooler and acceptable.
The next day, Francois and Josée come to visit me. I had not seen them for more than 20 years. We spend a beautiful day together, visit Dives-sur-Mer and also the cemetery where I had not been for a very long time.
Visit of Dives-sur-Mer with my friends
We have an excellent dinner on board that had been prepared by Robert. It is a perfect evening, we talk about the good old times and have a lot to laugh about.
Getting up on Tuedays morning is not easy. Several bottles of wine have been emptied last evening and both of us have a problem to accept that the alarm clock makes sense at that time of the day. No way – we need to pass the first locks at 06:15h. In the beginning we had to use the engine again but later on we get easterly winds and we can sail wing-to-wing with winds from behind to Saint Vaast-la-Hougue. The locks are open around high water time and we moor after 47nm at 14:45 in Saint Vaast-la-Hougue.
Ouistreham – Saint Vaast
The heat wave in France has reached temperatures of about 40deg and we are happy to have our sun sail rigged. Without that the heat would be unsupportable. The little wind does not help either.
Saint Vaast is a small town where many oisters and other seafood is exported from. We are having a real “Plateau de Fruits de Mer”, purchased directly from the fishers and prepared on board. Together with a cold bottle of white wine – perfect!
The town is not only very charming but also quite expensive. We paid 53,40€ for the night and have the impression that the more we come to the West, the more expensive it is. But this beautiful town is worth a visit and I would always come back.
We initially planned to leave on Thursday evening for Cherbourg, but the evening sky showed a tendency of thunderstorms. We therefore stayed another night to be on the safe side. We started next morning at 05:45h. There was no wind and we had to use the engine again.
Early morning departure
One of the problems in that region are the fisher buoys which you encounter all over on the way to Cherbourg. These are little balls in fact and can hardly be seen. When the current is strong – which is very often the case – they are pushed under water by the currents. The real danger are the lines which hold them, and which are very long. The risk to get such a long line into the propeller is very high.
We are both very concentrated to detect them all, but one of these balls was pushed completely under water by the current. We saw it in the last second, uncouple immediately the engine, drift directly over it and can hear the ball hitting the hull from underneath the boat. Then it disappears. We were really lucky that we did not get it into the propeller…
At 09:30h we arrive in Cherbourg, go directly to the gas station and can then moor alongside a pontoon. It is the last evening for Robert, who unfortunately has to leave on Saturday morning. We were a perfect team, could rely on each other which is particularly important during the night shifts. Our personal relation was perfect as well. On Saturday afternoon I am waiting for the arrival of Mario and Michael who join me for the next two weeks for the long trip across the Biscay to Spain.