“Anyone got any fuel?” (Cherbourg to l’Aber’wrach via Guernsey)

Pitstop in Guernsey to test crew’s sealegs and refuel before the long stretch motoring upwind to the NW tip of France.
We were just one of a good dozen vessels who vainly tied up on St Peter Port’s fuel pontoon to find out it was closed. Option to wait until 0700 the following morning and lose half a day or more or press on to Aber Wrac’h (and pay more).

Through the night across North Brittany we arrived in Aber Wrac’h to find that their 24-hour fuel pontoon was both broken and out of fuel. With our main fuel tank empty we still had just about enough fuel to get to Camaret, so we waited for the tide in the freezing sun (yes, we’re still in the English Channel) with TMS and then picked our way around the inshore, rocky route down to Le Four and rode the tide down to Camaret, picking up nothing on our diverse selection of lures.

Helming practice for less moussaillons.

   

Then like students seeing how far the reserve tank will last we pondered the risk of getting through the Raz de Sein on little more than fumes, but the risk of running out of fuel on one of the most exposed coastlines of Europe drove us to the fuel pontoon at Camaret, which Skipper had already rang to check “yes it’s working, yes it has lots of fuel, yes it’s open 24 hours and yes it takes foreign bank cards”!

Into the red …

Because we’d left Aber Wrac’h an hour early, we’d arrived in Camaret with 2.5 hours of the tide still to go, so a quick refuel with strengthening wind raised the possibility of sailing back out and taking the same tide down through to pass the Raz de Sein at slack water. 22 miles inn 2.5 hours, or wait for the next tide (= getting up in the middle of the night) and take still longer to round the corner. Doable but a definitely a stretch and not a calculation to get wrong.
Skipper pushed for a positive decision and was vindicated as the strengthening wind helped us make a steady 8.5-9 knot average SOG (speed over ground – the tidal stream adds to the boat’s speed) down past Trevennec mark, arriving in the Raz itself at slack water at 2310, such that if anything the Raz was calmer than the Chenal du Four (pretty calm), and as our watch rota kicked in he could switch off the engine as we broad reached down the Baie d’Audierne towards Penmarch in a NW breeze through the night.

Port La Foret – Skipper was keen to check out Le Suroit in Loctudy but closed Mon & Tue so some other time, perhaps – was pricey (€41 for nespresso & ipad charging – all showering on board and the internet ropey as, so might almost be anchor but for shore power) but restful for a weary crew, with a well-deserved visit to the pizzeria in the port (looks like a dive but the pizzas are very good indeed) plus churros in the evening market left crew replete and ready for sleep.

Provisioning followed before we got the show back on the road – les Glenans were calling!

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Back on board (in familiar surroundings)

Stymied by a large, extended low that kept Skipper’s delivery crew in Cherbourg on the leg down from Amsterdam, we were reunited with Khujada 2 as a family on 3rd August.

 

After Skipper’s birthday celebration ticked all his boxes (aboard, reunited with his family, champagne, blinis and balloons (optional)!), we considered a passage plan to round Ouessant and Sein in the weather window opening over the weekend.

James’ quenelles:

Despite westerlies = motoring non-stop from StPP to Le Four and our good intentions NOT to submit the children to long passages at sea, we were optimistic about the idea of escaping the Channel and reaching South Brittany in one of the few (and far between) windows proffered that coincided with our holidays.

Allowing an extra day for any sea to dissipate proved a good idea, as the forecast lull was replaced by 20 knots in the harbour as the barometer climbed, so Test Match Special entertained Skipper as England dominated at Old Trafford, until at the close the wind finally waned, the clouds cleared and the barometer held steady.

Once round Cap de la Hague, it was upwind all the way to Finistère, but with light winds it was a price we were determined to pay.

 

 

 

  

 

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“Amsterdam to La Rochelle” becomes “Amsterdam to Cherbourg”

After several false dawns of poor weather forecasts putting paid to Skipper’s plans to deliver Khujada 2 down to La Rochelle ready for family holidays in August, feasible weather and crew availability were finally secured mid-July.

Skipper & crew motored down the Noordzeekanaal and stopped for a few hours in IJmuiden to let weather blow through before heading out at first light to motorsail down the Dutch coast towards Dunkerque. With few other vessels for company, it was an uneventful leg with our only excitement narrowly avoiding direct involvement in a mayday – Dutch vessel holed in the bow but Dunkerque lifeboat arrived on the scene in plenty of time – and then straight on past Calais the following morning to get to Cherbourg and pick up Skippette, whereupon one missed tide followed by treacherous wind conditions (BF5+ on the nose all the way to Aber Wrac’h and beyond) confined us to harbour, we ran out of time, so had to leave Khujada 2 in Cherbourg until the start of our holidays.

Noordzeekanaal

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Amsterdam

Edam topped off our fill on charming, old IJsselmeer trading towns and we had just enough time for our final leg to Amsterdam if we pushed – the wind was kind and our best sail of the week followed as we reached raucously up round Marken, down into the IJ and it was funneled up river, reaching satisfyingly all the way to the Brucke.

Weather …
High speed sailing, river wind bending round as we curved round the bends in the IJ, racing to reach the lock on time.
In the end we were 5 minutes early and there were so many boats waiting that we ended up holding the boat stern to wind for a good 15 minutes before the bridge was raised and we raced through into the centre of Amsterdam, mooring just outside Sixhaven next to another Ovni 395 who were, somewhat miraculously, remasting by themselves.
They had an oversized wishbone system that allowed them to raise and lower their mast themselves – a customisation for regular users of inland waterways.
The following morning we were visited by the Coopers, our neighbours back in London, for breakfast, and they endured a stressful arrival into Sixhaven as Skipper first entered a 4.20 box berth that we got stuck in abeam (with fenders we were simply just too fat), before squeezing round the tightest of corners into one of the few remaining berths.
Phew – aperitif!

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Back in time. Holland’s Golden Age.

Medemblik’s laidback charm was the perfect backdrop for us to explore windmills, dijks and other tourism tickboxes.

From Medemblik we reached down to Enkhuizen under a hot sun.

Enkhuizen was extraordinary. From our mooring just off the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen with its story of life before the Afsluitdijk, we motored past its massive marina into town to be surrounded by Holland’s Golden Age architecture built with the massive profits from the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) spice monopoly, which from 1600-1800 was the Apple or Google or Facebook or Microsoft of its age, the richest company the world had ever seen … in the 17th century.

Rather than stay the night we chose to press on to our next stop Edam – such short distances and everyone wanted to allow enough time for exploring Amsterdam.

The harbour was very busy as the wind strengthened late in the day, so we rafted up with all the other new arrivals.
Rafting meant shifting around the following morning to allow for departure times but we were soon all in the tender and ready to leave for town, a few kilometres along the canal.

If Enkhuizen was a complete surprise in its grandeur, extent, style and history, Edam by comparison was smaller, more laidback, and definitely cliched picture postcard.

Using the canals is definitely the way to explore Edam.
We treated ourselves to lunch in the restaurant, bought some cheese, and did the tourist thing, the sun still staying out all the while – made up for the horrendous North Sea weather that had greeted our arrival in Holland the year before.

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Zuiderzee museum

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Anchored in a quiet spot off the marina

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Enkhuizen – barges, yachts, canals and bridges everywhere

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That’s enough walking around old architecture!

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Sun-drenched Khujada 2

 

Edam

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Posted in 2017 Cruising the IJsselmeer, IJsselmeer, Medemblik | Leave a comment

Heading south again.

After 9 months in Makkum for the small matter of a lick of paint Khujada 2 is underway once again and back on the IJsselmeer.
Transit from Schiphol and celebrating our reunion was followed by 1) provisioning plus satisfyingly brief tourism in Makkum’s 17thC centre, and 2) unsatisfyingly lengthy checking of the boat.

All this preceded our first family trip in more than a year with an overnight stay off Makkum beach (yes, beautiful and sandy) on the hottest day of the year.

LEARNING: be wary of setting out onto the Ijsselmeer* on a hot day in May** since your vessel is the only landing spot for miles around for swarming insects.

* or any unspoilt inland sea or large lake                   ** I imagine other months are available

The 30 degree temperatures had triggered clouds of mosquitoes, and within minutes the main, dinghy, cockpit – the whole boat! – were covered in tens (hundreds?) of thousands of these tiny nuisances. By the time we’d anchored the whole family had barred themselves inside. Encouragingly it kept the children quiet on the trip into the beach as they sought not to swallow the unwanted extra dose of protein, but fortunately they were still young so minimal biting reported.

The following morning most were still there but at least they were pacified by the overnight cooling and no longer swarming.
The wind picked up to a brisk BF4 so we motored upwind to Medemblik to avoid making everyone seasick on our first day of sailing.

Medemblik charmed from the off with goslings galore, 12thC Radboud castle (refuge from Gruette Pier and his band of pirates in 16thC) with stocks, moat and lilypads. Pekelharinghaven looked well located and proved a super choice, Skipper only gently bumping one of the wooden pilings on his sharp left-hander as the crew took on their first Dutch-style marina arrival (loops over  ‘box berth’ pilings and pontoon cleats).

When in Holland, go visit a windmill.
We picked Molen de Herder on the edge of town, a national monument even though only reconstructed in 20thC because it used authentic pieces recovered from other old windmills.
On the way back we walked along the seawall where the children could compare the polder height to the water level in the IJsselmeer, illustrating the recovery of all the arable land to the west from the sea.

Our second morning in Medemblik the early bird was woken by the earliest bird – a lonely white nosed black grebe / duck pining for a mate at 0400 – a little early for the dawn chorus and quite a racket.
Skipper’s morning constitutional was interrupted – on disembarking on our pontoon and opposite were a dozen denizens all transfixed by all three families of local geese making their regal way up the allee to take a tour of their domain, six adults and more than twenty goslings.
The swallow that kept trying to distract him with its admittedly punchy morning chorus placed second.
Crunching on the lawn next to Radboud Castle, Skipper was accompanied by two herons beadily stalking the castle moat and ignoring the Vissen Verboten warning sign (!).
The shine taken off by the queue for the men’s showers – the main payback for nautical women who suffer the long queues everywhere else ….

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(you should see the other side!)

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Makkum’s skateboard-friendly streets?

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Back from the shops – the lock

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Back on board

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Plattboden

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Lifting bridge (yes, and they’ve one that turns as well).

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Duck huis …

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… next to Waagehuis.

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Time to go

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Under way

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Escape to the beach

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Medemblik

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Medemblik maiden

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Meeting the locals

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More locals

 

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MORE locals!

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Walk the dijk

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Posted in 2017 Cruising the IJsselmeer, IJsselmeer, Makkum | Leave a comment

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.

 

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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.

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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