Respite in Amsterdam … then down the home straight

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Arrival in Amsterdam Sixhaven and the sun pops out on occasion but our second day is just 16 degrees. In early August. As soon as a cloud blocks the sun you need another layer with the cold air mass and northwesterly air flow. And some of these clouds are dark grey so we don raingear to explore the city. (La Skippette doesn’t particularly like me taking photos of her in her yellow smock so enjoy my new game “Spot La Skippette!” below).

Amsterdam’s compact centre lends itself well to exploring on foot. Jordaan, canals, Dam, Nieuwmarkt and aimless ambling ensued. No museums and no canal cruise, although we thought twice about zooming across the IJ in our tender to explore the city centre canals – the temptation of a Caribbean tender and outboard! Restaurants having satisfied, tramming replaced tramping as we returned to the marina to focus on admin for the end of our trip – the not inconsiderable challenge of recovering the children from Marseille and the car from Port Solent, getting back to work on time for Monday, and visiting various very important friends and family on the way back from the south of France.

 

Our last day of sailing started miserably with grey skies and rain – we had an exaggeratedly leisurely breakfast waiting for the rain to abate and eventually left Sixhaven at 0900, arriving at Oranjesluizen with a hefty 20 knot wind and a long wait forced a decision to tie up to the waiting pontoon. A big stern spring pivot later to get the bow off the pontoon and we were through the lock and then it was another wait for the bridge, the Schelingwouderbrug – in this instance we elected to remain nose into the 20 knot wind until the lights finally went red-green (prepare to leave) and then green (go-go-go).
From here it’s straight out into the Ijsselmeer, Holland’s major inland sea and up via Enkhuizen for our final lock before the home straight to Makkum. Rain and wind. Most of the time heavy rain and strong winds. Dead downwind for three quarters of the trip so it was genoa / staysail motor-sailing all the way.

(It’s not a spelling mistake – IJ is a Dutch digraph – consider it a letter in itself – used to represent a long ‘i’, or a ‘y’ sound).

The Dutch don’t let a strong wind or heavy shower impede their sailing plans – and the number of flat-bottomed barges (platbodems / zeiltjalks – literally flat bottoms / sail barges respectively) out was impressive indeed. Almost more of them, with their leeboards, wooden masts and gaff rigs, than the plaisanciers.
We arrived in Makkum, the gateway to the Zuiderzee, our end destination in Friesland, just after 6pm local time and Skipper celebrated with a beer notable for its remembrance of WWI valour.

The following morning we checked in with KMY, the boatyard who’ll be giving Khujada some TLC in the next couple of months, and spent most of the rest of the day emptying all the lockers, removing enough weight to leave us an inch or two higher in the water (no, really!). We ran out of energy and room in the storage boxes by late afternoon so left to explore Makkum in the evening.

A dozen of these impressive barges lay alongside the pier we walked down on the way into town – they locals are very proud of keeping these going, a real labour of love. The evening market was small town, in keeping with its onetime fishing village past, the highlight being a sheep-shearing demonstration. But it’s the town itself that’s the real attraction, retaining its 17th century layout along with a number of buildings, whether the church or the merchant houses near the locks, appearing little changed from its heyday.

An early return to the boat presaged a 0430 taxi to Schiphol and the end of our trip.

 

Yes it’s our first day in a new country, Holland – not to mention surviving last night’s thunderstorm – so celebrating is in order.
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Cruise ships can make it all the way down the IJ into Amsterdam’s town centre itself – no bridges downstream (or rather “down canal”?), just tunnels or ferries for foot, road and cycle traffic, so even the cruise passengers haven’t far to walk.IMG_0975IMG_0982
Spot La Skippette!
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Sixhaven – unsurprisingly busy in its amazingly central location – would be like having a marina on the Embankment or Les Tuileries – and yes, I know Manhattan has North Cove Marina and we will sail into New York one day – offers only tight manoeuvring, and the harbour master’s primary role is to squeeze as many vessels as possible into the harbour, as friends of ours on Vagaris found out – yet it’s still an oasis of calm within a canal’s width of the town centre.
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No, it’s not a gopro fisheye effect, the buildings are just making the most of the ground space. Leaning terraces of Amsterdam.IMG_1020IMG_1021IMG_1022
Downtown. VERY public urinal. Bike parks. Canal fronts. Nieuwmarkt. Ripley’s. Dam Square.IMG_1011IMG_1014IMG_1016IMG_1017IMG_1019IMG_1026IMG_1033IMG_1041IMG_1045IMG_1048
Which is the greater attraction, the Rijks Paleis, the Nieuwe Kerk? The horse, of course.IMG_1056
Anne Frank’s house remains Amsterdam’s big attraction.

Goodbye Amsterdam
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The busy Oranjesluizen and Schelingwouderbrug, then on into Ijsselmeer.IMG_1125IMG_1128IMG_1134IMG_1137 IMG_1139IMG_1141IMG_1142
Getting wet downwind.
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I meant it when I said there was almost more flat boats than modern cruisers.IMG_1155 IMG_1165IMG_1208IMG_1215IMG_1235
Through the Enkhuizen naviduct to get past the Houtribdijk dam, from the Markermeer into the Ijsselmeer.IMG_1173IMG_1181IMG_1186IMG_1190
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Arriving in Makkum. Still raining.IMG_1244
A beer of remembranceIMG_1249
Worldly goods packed away in boxes for storage.

 They start them young in Friesland. He assured me: “Don’t worry, I’m insured.”IMG_1329IMG_1332IMG_1338IMG_1342
Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, Amsterdam, IJsselmeer, Makkum | Leave a comment

“Sorry about the weather!”

Spot Khujada 2? Berthed in Sixhaven, Amsterdam (taken from ferry over the canal to the city centre)IMG_1010

“Welcome to Amsterdam … sorry about the weather.” The greeting of our neighbour on arrival in Sixhaven at ~1100 on Tuesday 9th August. Worthy of note if only because for British boats it’s typically more of an accusation than an apology, ie. “What kind of weather have you brought with you?!”

(The photos in our posts tend to show a brighter side to the weather since heavy rain discourages use of digital devices – this post is heavily weighted towards text, but I hope you won’t find it boring just because it’s not got lots of pictures in it and I go on a bit about weather forecasting …).

The apology was graciously accepted if only because the weather we’d not enjoyed from Nieuwpoort to Amsterdam was not forecast. Not by anyone – well, assuredly by someone but not by any of our usual suspects: passageweather.com, meteoconsult, metoffice.gov.uk, metbrief.com/EGRR or the local weather forecast. The local weather forecasts promised either BF 4-5 gusting 6, or 4 gusting 5 for the next 24 hours – what we experienced was predominantly BF 2-4 with occasional squalls up to BF 6-7 (max was 29 knots) with frequent lighting and thunder. So frequent that I counted over a hundred individual lightning strikes in the night, which means we probably experienced in the region of 300? or more? in our near vicinity.

If there’s one thing sailors fear it’s not really strong winds. Big seas are more worrisome, but to be surrounded by massive clouds full to the brim with massive electrostatic charges desperate for their opportunity to climb down our mast and rigging to destroy all our electronics and circuits – or worse – is a different scale altogether. I’ve been more scared on a boat because of inexperience but I’m not sure I’ve been more worried.

At the risk of labouring the weather forecast inaccuracy point, you should understand that we not only consult weather forecasts (in this case, UK, Belgian and French) but we also review the data they are based on, both gribs and surface pressure forecasts (from which the gribs are built, and which constitute a representation of the numerical models used by meteorological services). We do this every time we sail, even if just across the Solent from Haslar to Priory Bay (less than an hour’s sail).

Nothing in the weather forecasts suggested the 3-4 hour storm we experienced.

 

When we left Nieuwpoort it was supposed to be BF 4-5 so we put a reef in the mainsail only to get a consistent 10 knots on the beam, no more. It was soon removed.

The only weather change likely from the synoptics was a trough due to spill in from the northwest from the meeting of two depressions – we prepared for something like a worst case (ie. working out likely wind speeds from the surface pressure forecasts), not just the 17-18 knots predicted by MeteoConsult (theirs was the maximum forecast), but ready for up to 25-30 knots, including some margin for local effects. Unlike our trip up from Dieppe to Boulogne where we had a fairly constant 22-24 knots (BF6) with the occasional gust into BF7 – we don’t mind stronger winds if they’re consistent, here we were dead downwind in 6-10 knots – simply not enough to push us forwards with the occasional foray into 12-13 knots – good enough with a parasailor but given the distance we were undertaking we were unwilling to compromise on speed so the engine stayed on after the first few efforts poling out the genoa and finding 5 knots tough to achieve.

Night came. Dark, overcast with no moon. We’d got one hour into our watch system when the off-watch was woken to get to the helm to see a massive orange blob on the radar indicating a big squall (a very large cloud very full of rain), its leading edge just half to three quarters of a mile off our port quarter, now too close to steer out of the way of – sailing boat escaping large squall equals toddler crossing busy motorway equals human trying to outrun tiger – you get my drift.

We had two reefs in the sail already, an attempt to reduce the flapping as the centred boom swung from side to side in the light winds with the movement of the boat motoring over the  waves from astern. Skippette decided to take a third reef before the wind in front of the cloud hit us, passing me the helm and moving to the winches. We were half way through the manoeuvre when the rain and wind hit – suddenly and hard. We swapped positions as I shook off my sleep and completed the third reef as Skippette, now back at the helm, bore the brunt of driving hail so dense as to make you feel almost as if you’re drowning, and as we bore away the rain’s density forced her back inside to dry off, drenched in spite of her oilskins.

Two hours later there were four massive squalls almost surrounding us, hemming us in against the coast. When I say massive, two of them were upwards of two miles across.
Lightning everywhere, astern, to port, to starboard abeam, anywhere you like. Thunder deafening. Ours easily the highest mast around (highest = most likely to be struck) since we were the only yacht for miles. We considered running to Scheveningen for shelter – about half an hour to the east but thought better of it – harbour entrance likely to be quite dangerous and no guarantee that clouds wouldn’t simply overtake us as we approached the shore – so steered a course to avoid their respective paths and got away with it. (Note to landlubbers – yachts equipped with good radar can track squalls – they have so much energy in them they reflect a good radar signal as strong as any container ship).

The storm passed over land and its spectacular natural fireworks display continued as it hammered Rotterdam, Scheveningen (yes, we would have been overtaken), The Hague and Amsterdam as we completed the last stretch before arriving at the Dutch coastline.

Artist’s impression (our chartplotter doesn’t do screenshots)artist impression

Tired, wet, but relieved and even elated we rolled into IJmuiden on onshore seas and into our first Dutch lock, and then on into the peace of the Nordseekanal. Not that the rain let up, nor the gusts, all the way into Amsterdam. Not a fun sail.

 

Rain lets up for a moment on the NordseekanalIMG_0944
Arriving in AmsterdamIMG_0955
Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, Amsterdam | 1 Comment

Oyster piles, blitzkrieging birds and bacterial ooze

IMG_6879(Oysters, not mussels!)

Just as an aside, we’re fed up with (sea)gulls. Not the noise they make – although in both Dieppe and Boulogne (and countless other ports we’ve not visited in this last week) their screeching is invasive to the point of aggression – but their clearly deliberate targeting of visiting vessels with their waste disposal.

One night in Port Solent with several dozen of an offshoot of a murmuration of starlings (yes, they’re not gulls in this instance) was enough to require me to wash the whole boat before leaving for Yarmouth. Our last night in Dieppe left splash damage all over the cockpit – not dried out but just slimy enough to make a mess of our warps, just slimy enough for Skipper to stain his Polo Bermuda shorts in his haste to cast off, just slimy enough to make one whole side of the cockpit a no-go area.

Rant over, but for anyone who thinks they deliberately aim for people’s heads, let me assure you that defecating from a sailing yacht’s mast is any self-respecting (and certainly not yacht-respecting) gull’s preferred position of pooping.

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We left Boulogne in a fleet of dozens of yachts, perhaps fifty in total, all heading east in more clement but still breezy conditions, broad reaching round le Cap Gris-Nez in calm seas in sight of both coasts – French & British – and then dead downwind past Calais and up the last stretch of northern French coast. Whilst some, including Lady Marron, our new Allures friends, hived off into Dunkerque, we carried on first goose-winging then with poled out genoa with the others up through the very busy Dunkerque channel into Belgium.

Downwind dress codeIMG_2741
Cap Gris-Nez not quite living up to its fearsome reputation – no doubt a VERY different proposition 24 hours earlierIMG_0751
Calais – Dover ferry crossing our flotillaIMG_0765IMG_0762IMG_0771
Dunkerque channel is very busy with tugs, tankers and fishing vessels all expecting everyone smaller to get well out of the way.IMG_0806IMG_0791
Charming Dunkerque coastlineIMG_0795
Poled out (leaving those only using main or genoa in our wake!)IMG_0811
(Note another tanker bearing down on us from astern, yachts staying well out of the way)IMG_0814

After a brilliant sail marred only by crew fatigue we arrived in Nieuwpoort – a good marina albeit a good walk to town – ‘good’ defined by contrast with a typical Northern French marina, ie. wifi works, showers are warm, facilities clean and pontoons well maintained.

Niewpoort itself is rather civilised with its dunes of fine sand, bourgeois beach resort promenade, very active marinas and holiday feel. A change from the more functional ports we’ve stopped in since Deauville.

Nieuwpoort channel at high tide from our berth in Nieuwpoort’s KYCM marinaIMG_0841IMG_0828IMG_0825IMG_0823IMG_0820IMG_6846

Our marina, KYCN, at low tide knocks Haslar – and the rest of the Solent for that matter – for six in terms of cleanliness. Nothing in the water – no diesel slicks, no waste water, no litter.
So much so that at low tide the whole marina bubbles with organic activity – sure a scientist could describe it more eloquently – from the primaeval ooze thriving beneath. As the tide ebbs, the gulls circle, as the retreating … exposes not mussels but oysters all round the pontoon piles, and a … covering of seaweed hiding … all sorts of seagull goodies, little crabs and the like. We’ve never seen anything to this degree, with oyster colonies under all the piers and the whole harbour erupting with bubbles as if Kick’em Jenny were about to kick off (between Carriacou (Tyrell Bay) – and Grenada).

Overnight then on to Breskens was the obvious plan, so we rushed to cover off chandlery and pharmacy provisioning before leaving, but a pre-departure synoptics check showing weather coming in as well as some crew fatigue swung us towards staying in Nieuwpoort for a couple of days despite the time pressure to make distance up to Holland.

(The sea areas around this part of the world are very busy with both small and large vessels all using fairly narrow channels to avoid the many prevalent shoal banks, bars, spits and all the rest, so it’s no wonder that the legs undertaken to get here have taken their toll.)

So a lazy afternoon in the sunshine beckoned, the peace broken only by a French Gib’Sea skippered (loosely speaking) by a hapless gentleman who had no idea how to manoeuvre his 42’ boat and crewed by a lady friend enjoying (not even loosely speaking!) her first outing as crew on board a yacht.

The marina has LOADS of room so for most, even sideways crabbing centreboarders with no bowthruster like Khujada 2, berthing is a breeze – certainly compared to all the Northern French ports we’ve visited – albeit not for the Gib’Sea who managed to wind up most of the locals – and us to be fair – to some degree as he bashed his way into various berths – three in total after first heading into a local’s berth, then the one next to us and finally the one he was directed to after he finally contacted the harbour master. Once we’d helped him berth safely (as safely as we could make it, at least), a local skipper took him firmly by his shoulders and told him to go and seek lessons.

We celebrated our rest day – and our arrival in Belgium, a first for Khujada 2. As we do. (Well it needs to be drunk).

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The following morning the French boat had left, mercifully without hitting anyone on the way out, with gribs showing 20 knots or more all day so I’m not sure how fast that lady is going to jump ship …. The unstable conditions continue. We will stay until the strong winds have blown through, so a visit to beach and a walk down the promenade will walk off our apero.

Nieuwpoort’s beach resort was much bigger than we expected. Failing to reserve at least a day ahead meant no chance in any of the decent restaurants so no pizza au feu de bois for la Skippette, but the sunset was worth the walk.

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Eventually with time running out the weather was forecast to break and we planned an all-nighter direct to Amsterdam via Ijmuiden to catch up on lost time. Not pretty, but effective (eventually), as you’ll find out ….

 

Dutch don’t do dykes by halves – Belgian groynes are equally sturdily builtIMG_0918IMG_0933IMG_0935IMG_0936IMG_0939
Cardinal mark in fancy dress?IMG_0817
Nieuwpoort channel at low tideIMG_0872

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Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, Nieuwpoort | Leave a comment

Short stay in Boulogne-sur-Mer

Free of tide restrictions we caught the tide all the way from Dieppe to Boulogne – with Calais closed to cruisers and the breeze still fresh to strong, rounding Le Cap Gris-Nez was not on the cards – and we reached downwind in stronger than forecast (so often the case) BF5-7 with two reefs and a staysail to arrive in Boulogne’s rade in heavy (and somewhat scary) onshore seas in the early afternoon.

Since no one had left Boulogne to round the Cap Gris Nez that morning the marina was already full and the overwhelmed staff left us to sort ourselves out so we rafted up against a welcoming French Bavaria 44 (stirring fond memories of Delphia and our friends Jon & Renate and family from the ARC).

 

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It wouldn’t be unfair to say you have to go looking for Boulogne’s charm, but it’s also true that its modern unsightliness lies only skin deep. The marina – considered very expensive by some but we found it fair for its location and shelter – needs a major facelift to help make it anything more than a port of refuge or passage on the way round Le Cap Gris-Nez.

The port at low tide is an attraction with its rows of massive petrified heartwood timbers laid out in neat rows for drying out large vessels against the wall, and crab fishing vessels sorting their catch, all set off by the forbidding rocks just behind the last pontoon announcing the barrage to the bassin behind.

The old town is stunning– the 19th century basilica rises majestically above pedestrianized streets lined with enticing brasseries and restaurants, and the ramparts are full of families enjoying a walk around its grassy summits.
The nearest boulangerie to the port offers a delicious baguette and éclair au café – contrasting with the slightly disappointing pain au levain and eclairs of Dieppe – simple needs met very satisfyingly.

It seems a shame that the feel is of a town worn, slightly delapidated and overshadowed by apartment blocks built in the 1950s, its industrial end of 20th century passenger ferry economy and declining population still overshadowing its historical attractions, not unlike a number of coastal towns on the English coast whose glory days are also long past.

Rafted up as one of five boats – no one had left the marina the night before, and EVERYONE heading north-east had left Dieppe that morning – it was a chatty and enjoyable stay – Lady Marron (Allures 39.9), Dionysa (neighbour from Dieppe who helped us escape our rather narrow fairway), Ecstasy (charming French Bavaria 44 out of Nieuwpoort), and friendly if somewhat overwhelmed marina staff.

Spot Khujada 2IMG_6832
Fishing vessel sorting its crab catch across from our raftIMG_6844
Solid constructionIMG_6843
Low tideIMG_6841
We could just about dry out here … but mind the rocksIMG_6838IMG_6836
Boulogne belfryIMG_2735
Basilique de notre dameIMG_2732
Fete foraineIMG_2731IMG_2728IMG_2727
La vieille villeIMG_2726
Light-hearted, engaging park of and for the sensesIMG_2722IMG_2721IMG_2720IMG_2719IMG_2718
We were a little too busy to take photos on our entrance into the rade, so Albane found a postcard that’s not far off!IMG_2717IMG_6829
Vue des rempartsIMG_2716IMG_6828IMG_2714IMG_2713IMG_6824IMG_6823
Life jacket and harness day todayIMG_2696

 

Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, Boulogne-sur-Mer | 1 Comment

Damp in Dieppe

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Old school. Wet, windy but well protected harbour. Over-priced yet dated facilities – no hairdryer, nearest chandlery half an hour walk upstream (inland). Weird-looking denizens abound.
Enticing restaurants surround the harbour front like sirens waiting to prey on those who find themselves trapped here.

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IMG_2681So wet you need to wear oilskins to go to the showers.
So wet you decide it’s essential to put your boat in warmer waters, and you’re very glad you didn’t bring your children on this trip.

Our sail up from Deauville had started auspiciously with an accompanying jolie brise as we cut across the channels at the mouth of the Seine dodging first dredgers and then container ships until things quietened down past Le Havre. Whilst St Valery en Caux would assuredly have been lovely the threat of heavy weather behind us encouraged us to push on to Dieppe rather than have to wait for the tide to rise as the wind got up around us off the otherwise exposed coast – we arrived off St Valery with three hours to go and dark clouds astern so Dieppe it was.

We are well-sheltered from the strong winds and lashing rain out at sea.
So we are staying two nights, possibly three, as a depression pushes its way up the Channel – Wednesday would be very wet with heavy rain almost all day but for the fact that we’ll be heading up into Gris Nez (aka … for English speakers), which risks more than usually strong winds as any weather is funnelled through the narrow gap between Dover and Calais. No need to seek out misery.

Parasailor repacked, oven fixed (it jumped off its bracket on a wave as we left the shoal waters of Deauville), engine checked and laundry done (so much less when just two adults).
Thursday departure looking most likely.

Wednesday
We made it as far as the promenade today. Red Beach was the scene of a pre-D-Day landings assault, where predominantly Canadian forces tested the feasibility of capturing a port in 1942. Today visibility was down to about two hundred metres and the rain was falling so consistently as to discourage further thoughts of exploration, so it was back to the boat for heads maintenance.

Thursday: off to Boulogne before rounding Gris Nez and entering the North Sea.

 

Leaving DeauvilleIMG_0619IMG_0620
Le Havre dredger (very important vessel)IMG_0623
Nipping in front of MSC container shipIMG_0627IMG_0628IMG_0632IMG_0634
Quieter waters past Le HavreIMG_0640IMG_0646
White cliffs approaching EtaplesIMG_0648IMG_0650
EtaplesIMG_0654IMG_0656IMG_0660IMG_0663IMG_0668
Paluel nuclear power stationIMG_0679
Unhappy oven – with makeshift support – jolted off its gimbal by a wave leaving DeauvilleIMG_2673
Rounding the wrecks off DieppeIMG_6695
A visitorIMG_2676
Dieppe breakfastIMG_6798
ExploringIMG_6800
WWII – Canadian memorialIMG_6802IMG_6806
Making the best of itIMG_2693
Protected at low tideIMG_2694IMG_6810IMG_6812
Waiting on the weatherIMG_2672

 

Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, Destinations, Dieppe | 1 Comment

Flying with dolphins

Corny title maybe but our crossing of the Baie de Seine from St Vaast to Deauville was a spectacular day.

The sun was out, and so, optimistically given we weren’t planned on sparing any proverbial horses and we were likely to be doing twice the speed of any mackerel out there, was our fishing line.

We had 60 miles to cover with the current against us most of the way so a long day ahead (as a medium displacement 40-footer we plan on 6 knots average through the water).
Oh yes, if you’re thinking “But aren’t you the one who always delivers homilies on sailing WITH the tide?”, unfortunately the downside of staying in charming destinations such as St Vaast and Deauville is that access is restricted by the state of the tide so you have to leave either side of high tide – not conducive to an easterly course.

Gentle force three conditions plus no swell equals parasailor conditions. Once breakfasted we soon had our downwind sail up just as the current turned against us, squeezing out a pleasing 4½ knots SOG (6 knots through the water) in 10-12 knots of wind. That we were still able to sail (and not need the engine) was pleasing enough, and then just as we passed la bouee de cussy baie (W) we were joined by an escort of dolphins who hung around for ages – they had to slow their pace somewhat to stay with us.

As the wind picked up and moved WNW we started to fly in 14 knots abeam touching 8 knots consistently – albeit only 5 SOG – in cool airs under a hot sun: almost perfect sailing conditions (three knots of current against).

Our good run came to an end eventually and the dolphins left on their way too as a wind shift and lull forced us to drop the parasailor, yet we soon found ourselves in the rare (if not unheard of?) position of having to slow down to avoid arriving too early in Deauville and having to wait for the tide to come in, so we furled almost all of the genoa leaving only a scrap out for balance in order to add an hour to our trip time.
In the end we suffered an edgy 10 minutes waiting in the avant port waiting for the lock keeper to open the ecluse – I’d calculated it should be open at 1945 but he’d decided it was 2000 and not a minute before!

Great to be back in Deauville, Skippette’s former home port for a number of years so feels like a mini-homecoming.
Only a short overnight stay though as we press on towards St Valery en Caux.

IMG_0505IMG_2633IMG_0511IMG_2635IMG_2637IMG_2638IMG_2642IMG_2648IMG_2649IMG_0512IMG_0520IMG_0537IMG_0546IMG_0560IMG_0577IMG_0580IMG_0582 Para Dolphin Baie de SeineIMG_0583IMG_0584IMG_0592IMG_0593IMG_0595IMG_0598IMG_0601IMG_0604IMG_0609IMG_2652IMG_2656IMG_2657IMG_2658IMG_0610IMG_0612IMG_0613IMG_0615IMG_0616IMG_0618

IMG_0581 Para Dolphin Baie de Seine

 

Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, Deauville | 1 Comment

St Vaast La Hougue

IMG_6689IMG_2619First up, it’s pronounced “Sain Va La Oog” – not “Vast”!
After two days in Cherbourg provisioning, bilge cleaning, winch overhauling and le plouc’ing – after I got lost finding Le Pantagruel, our favourite restaurant in Cherbourg, it’s off to St Vaast La Hougue. Although known to be a charming – THE charming – resort of Cap de la Hague, we’ve never made it, partly because of our (south)westerly leanings, partly because it extends an already long day of channel crossing yet further.

A short afternoon of light winds and sill-making motor-sailing later, we arrived just in time for lock opening and were delighted by the picturesque marina and port surrounded by the traditional small town layout of a northern French beach resort, with its beach, restaurants, oyster farms, mediaeval forts, fishing vessels, sailor’s chapel and landscaped car park!

One night only before pushing onto Deauville, so we opted for seafood – it’s St Vaast after all with its reputation for oysters! Plateau de fruit de mer for one person (so often minimum two), oysters, moules frites and a bottle of their best Muscadet for less than €60! We’ll definitely be back, but for now it’s onwards and eastwards.

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Pointe de Barfleur

 

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Sailors’ chapel

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Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, Destinations, St Vaast La Hougue, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Winch cleaning and Carrefour by tender in Cherbourg

A fast sail with the current from Braye round the Raz de Blanchard into a damp Cherbourg was our last stretch with Secret Agent before they returned across the Channel leaving us to continue on our way by ourselves.

IMG_0473 Leaving Alderney.
IMG_6641Riding the Raz.
IMG_0484Welcome to Cherbourg.
IMG_6647Wet yet full of cheer in safe harbour.

I have always fancied dinghying into the inner basin all the way to Carrefour (rather than the usual yachtsman’s habit of negotiating most of Cherbourg town centre with a full to bursting shopping trolley and abandoning it in the marina!). Lock opening times were inconvenient and ladder access in the inner basin impractical but we got most of the way there to stock up on soupe de poisson (avec sa rouille bien sur), confits, Curly and just a smidgeon of vin rouge.

IMG_6671Heading back out of town.

Dismantled primary cockpit winch (main halliard) later that afternoon.
I don’t have a paraffin bath – whatever that is – so made do with a pint of white spirit in a bucket.
Found it to be in pretty good condition – not certain it’s not the one I overhauled last time I pulled one apart.
Managed to do starboard genoa winch as well before foie gras, monbazillac took precedence over white spirit and winch grease.

IMG_6683IMG_6681IMG_6684Two down, four to go.

Then it would be off to St Vaast La Hougue with the tide to explore pastures new.

IMG_6688Leaving Cherbourg’s rade.
Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, Cherbourg, Life on board | Leave a comment

Alderney (Aurigny)

On relaunch rather than return to our berth we sailed directly out of Portsmouth Harbour and took the tide down the Solent for a decent head start the following morning.

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Left our mooring just outside Yarmouth breakwater at 0530 with a westerly breeze in anticipation of a healthy push from the currents into the wind, before battling against wind and tide to reach Braye harbour later that afternoon – what folly to commit to meeting friends in pre-defined locations regardless of the weather forecast!

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My foreboding proved ill-founded as the wind turned northwest and we flew down past Portland reaching the first shipping lane in no time at all.

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As we entered the lanes the wind died and the tide turned so the engine came on and most of the second half of the crossing was motor-sailing to ensure we arrived in Braye in good time –good enough to arrive in time to pick up the very last visitor mooring in the harbour.

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We celebrated Secret Agent’s first Channel crossing that night enthusiastically.
The following morning wasn’t favourable for any further forays to the southwest so we elected to explore Alderney and make the most of it, having passed it by on so many previous occasions.

We explored Victoria & High Streets, then old fortifications of various generations including WWII machine gun bunkers – extensions to Victorian fortifications. Water wheels, paths less travelled that underlined how few people set foot on this quiet island, before finishing off with a couple of sundowners overlooking Braye beach and devising a beaching plan for our next visit.

Then decision time arrived – we need to effect an insurance claim for damage sustained to Khujada 2 on the return from the Caribbean, already delayed from earlier this year, but we were also keen to fly down round the corner of Brittany down to the Bay of Biscay to join up with cousins sailing out of La Rochelle and in-laws and friends holidaying on the islands (Yeu, Re etc.).
Head ruled heart this time around, prompted in some part by the forecast –resolutely westerly and another day of motoring, this time all the way down Brittany’s coast, held no great attraction.
We’ve never sailed east of the Solent / Cherbourg axis before, and St Vaast, Deauville, Boulogne, Oostende, Blankenege, Flushing (Vliessingen) and the like all offer pastures new to explore, so albeit without any pilot books (perhaps we can find something as we head up the French coast) we’re heading east. We will beg advice from any Dutch boats we meet as we go.

Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, Alderney | 2 Comments

Ready to cast off?

(the long version)

Two weeks to go …

After a long layoff it’s time to cast off once again. House warmed, new school settled into and life back on land more or less readjusted to but the summer is here and it’s time to give a little TLC to Khujada 2 before blowing the cobwebs away.

Antifouling and anode replacement were due w/c 10th July a couple of weeks before our three week adults only holiday (children in summer camps and / or with grandparents in the south of France).

On the morning of our lift whilst preparing to depart, the rudder refused to drop, and furthermore pumping the hydraulics, rather than descend the rudder, instead merely descended the reservoir fluid level. Boats need to be used and leaving one unused in its marina berth is asking for trouble, so I wasn’t too surprised that something went awry prior to the first outing in a year.

With the rudder up an already tricky boat in terms of manoeuvrability (a centreboard doesn’t offer anywhere near the longitudinal stability of a keel; anyone who’s helmed an Ovni in tight spaces will understand my trepidation), there was no question of trying to cross the channel with Secret Agent, a Bavaria 34 friend of ours, without repairing it properly – losing steerage in the middle of the Channel shipping lanes is not an enticing prospect.

To understand what’s wrong means taking the boat right out of the water, not just propping it up on a Sealift for four hours to slap on two coats of paint. A problem, since Endeavour Quay, our usual liftout just round the corner in Gosport, had a substantial backlog of customers after a fortnight-long service hiatus acting as ground base for a racing fleet of Forty4s. The Gosport crane was out of the question after I’d just tuned the rig (not willing to remove the backstays again). Port Solent was the next (final? only?) option – they offered me Tuesday 0800 – not ideal since about an hour up harbour into very shallow waters less than two hours after low spring tide (pour les Francais, grand coefficient).

Port Solent

One week to go …

The yard manager rang me on Monday to explain that the lock (Port Solent is right at the top of Portsmouth Harbour so a lock is essential to keep the ebbing tide at bay) would be closed for six hours from morning until early afternoon for hydraulics maintenance (ironically the same type of work as I was visiting for), and that the team would be attending fire incident training in the afternoon, so we rearranged for Wednesday 0800, leaving me just three days to fix the hydraulics, paint, protect and otherwise prepare the boat before we were due to cross the Channel to Cherbourg.

Three days to go …

IMG_6761Clement weather mitigating the heavy steerage (helming an Ovni with the rudder up is not dissimilar to drive a modern car without power steering), I arrived in the lock punctually for 0750 on Wednesday, the lockmaster helped me moor alongside the floating dock and then closed the gates.

The water rushed into the lock from the marina, with everything running like lockwork until a small bang announced a hose blowing off the hydraulic ram, leaving one gate stuck closed. The irony of a hydraulics failure – moreover the day after its maintenance overhaul that had delayed my visit – was not lost on me.

IMG_6766An hour later they’d not managed to open the gates manually so we decided to squeeze through with marina staff fending off on either side. We just about snuck through with little room to spare, reversed into the liftout bay and Khujada 2’s bottom saw fresh air for the first time in over two years … it was about time.

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Once safely on stand it was time to investigate.

Removal of inspection plates meant cleaning up first – just like pressure washing the hull to clean off the weed and barnacles, a lot of fouling had made its way into the rudder’s ram cavity so a lot of scraping later and I had a cleaner space to work within, the ground littered with crustacean cadavers and even the odd crevette.

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IMG_6780IMG_6784Enrolled a poor chap trying to finish up for the day into climbing into the cockpit and pumping whilst I looked for a leak.

Miraculously – I’m always rather surprised when I manage to identify root cause all by myself – there’s a glycol leak clearly coming out of the top of the ram.

I removed the ram and found an elbow connector was clearly loose.

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I removed it and found most of the thread gone.

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Hypothesis: loose fitting of the hose’s elbow connector into the ram had resulted in wear of the thread and an eventual leak.

If true, then I may just need a new elbow fitting. Feeling hesitantly pleased with myself after sounding out the locals on hydraulics outlets, I have a plan.

Two days to go …

By lunchtime I’d found a shop that could order an equivalent part for me although it would not arrive before Friday lunchtime.

Not stainless steel, but it might make the difference between a sailing holiday and … well, no sailing – not at all sure how long to have the right parts sent from France.

In the afternoon I wet-sanded down the hull to remove leftover barnacles, and get on with applying primer to any areas I can find where the antifoul has worn through.

Bought antifouling materials (note to self – buy in advance next year to save time, although to be fair, I had expected Sealift to be doing all the work and providing all the consumables – we’d agreed all I would bring would be the paint and the anodes – but that’s what happens when you have to change plans sometimes).

Removed old anodes, applied new. Realised missing propeller anode – our agent had none in stock when we’d last ordered. Too late for courier from supplier, so only option was to drive to Poole on Friday if we were to have any chance of getting the boat back in the water for Friday afternoon – looking increasingly slim. Placed my order.

Taped waterline.

Mixed the 5 litre pot of Trilux 33 – it only took half an hour and several thousand revolutions’ stirring – an exhausting process even after leaving it upside down in the back of the car.

Finally ready to roll, I donned respirator, suit and eye protection and set to it.

I’m always happy to get advice from older, more experienced heads – in this instance a retired Scandinavian ship’s captain explained that I should apply the roller transversally across the hull, not longitudinally, assuring me it would last twice as long. Whilst I find this assertion less than convincing the direction of application of paint is all the same to me, so from now on it’s not abaft but abeam.

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Drove back up to London to pick up Albane who’d got back from the south of France and to pack for our holiday.

One day to go …

Friday morning came, car packed, picked up hydraulic connector on way down from London, dropped Albane in yard to get on with second coat of antifoul and headed off towards Poole to join the early exodus of Dorset-bound traffic, secured necessary parts and drove back up to Port Solent.

Albane had completed the antifouling – good effort – in my absence, we fitted the propeller anode, polished and regreased the propeller, and then fitted the new part to the ram, covering it liberally with some of the spare propeller grease for protection. Checked operation – it worked – no leak.

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We were – finally! – ready. Unfortunately two hours too late for the final relaunch of the week – yard doesn’t do Saturdays or Sundays – which meant 10am Monday was our new departure date and we’d have to catch up with our friends in the Channel Islands.

(Yes, we could have finished two hours earlier – probably two days earlier – equally it could have taken a lot longer to fix the rudder issue, so I was very happy to be ready to leave just two days later than planned).

Materials required:

  • Spanners
  • Screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Hex keys
  • White spirit
  • Duralac
  • Gloves
  • Boiler suit
  • Mask
  • Respirator
  • Ear defenders
  • Angle grinder
  • Extension cable
  • Grease, grease gun, nipple.
  • Anodes.
  • Loctite (waterproof).
  • PTFE tape.

 

Posted in 2016 Solent to IJsselmeer, l'equipement, Life on board | Leave a comment