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).



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


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.


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.

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
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
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.



Pointe de Barfleur






Sailors’ chapel




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.


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!


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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


I removed it and found most of the thread gone.



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.


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.


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

Sundowner in the cockpit … but not quite the number of layers we’re used to


Yes, we’re back.

Yes, it’s cold.

Yes, we’re happy to be back. Even if we’re less than ecstatic about the drop in temperature (of both the air and the water!).

Why oh WHY can’t the UK be (just a little bit – say 10 degrees or so?) warmer?!

The sun is out but for the first time in a very long time we’re watching it go down in more than just swimwear or shorts and a T-shirt. Brrrr!

Posted in Latest position, Life on board | 3 Comments

Not quite up to scratch

Extract from ship’s log – 22nd May 2015
“1344hrs 18°20’53N 64°47’47W. Dissatisfied with the much vaunted Druif Bay / Honeymoon Beach (what is paradise to one is the pit of despair to another), we’ve arrived back in Caneel Bay after weighing anchor at 1115 with 20 knots on the nose for 2½ hrs.
Let it not be said we’re not open-minded – we had a look at Nazareth Bay but it, too, did not meet our exacting standards.”

So we reject the coarse patrons (cigarettes, alcohol and  – ew! – tattoos everywhere), grassy shallows (who’d want to swim in that?!) and slightly opaque waters (makes for poor GoPro footage, don’t you know …) of Druif Bay (St. Thomas), heading back to Caneel (St. John’s) and its world class beach, ultra-rolly waters and, let’s not forget, wizard wifi.
I rather suspect we’ll look back on Druif Bay wistfully this summer once we’re back on the South Coast of the UK, even with its endless tour-boats disgorging their daytrippers to overcrowd the beach, but for the time being we’re making the most of our last days in the wonderful Virgin Islands, beach snobs that we’ve become.

St. John’s wildlifeIMG_7128 IMG_7138 IMG_7170 Down in one gulpIMG_7174IMG_7176

Our neighbour in Hawksnest BayIMG_7208 IMG_7212 IMG_7213

Our guests (they liked our hull) in Hawksnest BayIMG_7238

Pizza on boardIMG_7243 IMG_7266

Overcrowded day-boats arriving to disgorge passengers onto Honeymoon Beach, St. ThomasIMG_7322 IMG_7338IMG_7587

Yep, it rains here too on occasionIMG_7349 IMG_7351 IMG_7381IMG_7414 IMG_7431

Removing the bowsprit frees up another diving platformIMG_7363IMG_7495 IMG_7498 IMG_7523 IMG_7533 IMG_7537 IMG_7547

In background, Honeymoon Beach – yes, the one we rejected and yes, we are spoiltIMG_7552

“Daddy, fill the tank please!”IMG_7576

So we can go fast fast FAST!IMG_7598IMG_7614 IMG_7616 IMG_7635 IMG_7636 IMG_7639 IMG_7654 IMG_7665 IMG_7671 IMG_7682 IMG_7694 IMG_7699 IMG_7944 IMG_8032Too heavy? IMG_8033

Messing about …IMG_8322 IMG_8323 IMG_8333

Posted in 2014-2015 a family adventure, Caribbean, Destinations, US Virgin Islands | 4 Comments

“Who wants to go to the beach?”

“Who wants to go to the beach?” “Not me” – “No thanks”.

Really? Yes, really. It’s sunny, water 28°, beach 32° and rising, pleasant mild breeze.
I guess you can have too much of a good thing – especially with internet access and good books on your Kindle.

Onboard apathy is further adversely affected by news of the tragic events resulting in the death of a six-year-old girl, as the crew of Rêves d’Ô, a family we met in Martinique, had to abandon their catamaran near the Azores on their return to Europe. It’s disturbing for us as fellow cruising parents.

Ship’s log extract 5th May:
“1204 local time. Course 155, true 165. S BF5. 1022. Slight. Good. 18’24’85N 64’36’35W. Steaming south from Road Harbour to Dead Man’s Bay – FINALLY after 9 days – internet, swimming pool, supermarket and deja vu make for an insidious and expensive combination.”

We need to go find some children for ours to play with.

At least skipper’s bread is proving popular, and Dead Man’s Bay retains its charm in spite of conditions much rollier than our last visit.


Peter Island resort at night


Fresh bread on board


Posted in 2014-2015 a family adventure, British Virgin Islands, Caribbean, Life on board | 3 Comments