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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