In Honfleur Elke from one of my sailing clubs in Hamburg came on board in the afternoon to sail with me for two weeks.
As an interior architect it took her only five minutes to work out a simple solution for a cockpit table out of things already on board:
Honfleur is a very beautiful and pittoresque town. The atmosphere around the old port with its restaurants all around it right on the quay side and the historic houses from different periods of the last several hundreds of years is almost unreal. Because we liked it so much, we stayed also the Saturday.
On Sunday early afternoon we left with our Dutch neighbours and set course to Port en Bessin. It was a very nice sail although we arrived late at night at 1 am. But everyhting was as the hand books and the charts had promised. The harbour doors were open, the lock master on duty and I also well understood his french. We rafted up next to another yacht at a small pontoon that has only place for 4 to 6 yachts and the whole harbour was lit with orange street lamps. It was so quiet you could hear a key fall on the street. After an arrival drink we went asleep.
The next morning,Monday, woke us up with nice sun shine and the boulangerie within in eyesight. We had the premium place for our breakfeast, The even better thing was that this port was extremely nicely priced, just 0,75 Eurocents per meter and night. And because we had arrived after midnight, the friendly lady at the Office de Tourisme did not charge that night. For the 3 Euros per head for the showers we got the best showers so far. All newly refurbished, big cabin, clean, hot water and no queue.
For dinner we got a dorade directly from the boat of one of the fishermen. It was delicious.
On Tuesday 29.7., we left for Grandcamp Maisy. We had plenty of time because we had to leave before the locks closed but because we had a fair wind and not a long distance, we were early in Grandcamp Maisy where we had to wait 4 hours until they opened the lock. It was sunny weather so we just drifted forth and back before the harbour. Here I tried my first serious attempt to catch a fish because I had the time to fiddle around with the gear and we did not make a lot of speed. I did not catch a fish but a plastic bag! It is really a scandal how much plastic is floating around. It stays in the water for 400 years, it is rubbled to invisible pieces and via the food chain we even eat it with fish.
And this is not a problem restricted to coastal waters. There are huge patches of plastic floating in the middle of the ocean where the currents have taken them. In the harbour we were lucky to get the very last berth. All in all Grandcamp Maisy is not a nice place. The mud is evaporating a lot of methane so especially at low water it smells considerably in the port and the town is not very nice.
So as soon as possible we left the next day to go to St. Vaast La Hougue. Again we had extremely fair winds, we could sail directly there passing the little island of St. Marcouf with a napoleonic fortress on it. St. Vaast is a very nice place, with the small Ile de Tatihou next to the harbour entrance. At low water the next day we walked across the Oyster banks and strolled along the old hospital which is now a hotel.
During the day we lay on the beach but I also went to the local chandlery to get some spare parts. Because the local boat yard was right next to our pontoon and specialised in wooden boats I had decided that they would be competent to drill a whole in my beautiful tiller (Pinne) for the tiller extension (Pinnenausleger). And so it was. For 12 Euros I got the whole drilled perfectly and the holder for the tiller extension mounted.
This day we were bound to Cherbourg and around the famous Point de Honfleur with its strong currents. After careful calculations of distances, tides and speed, we set sail. At the start the wind was very low, but it picked up two hours later and got just the right force to provide the calculated speed. The peculiar thing and for Elke as helmswoman not so easy to steer upwind,was that the wind was around 10 –15 knots, we were doing 5-6 knots through the water but the tidal stream gave us another 3-4 knots, so we ended up with sometimes over 10 knots over the ground. At Point de Barfleur this meant when the boat had slowed down you could steer much more upwind until we had reached our normal speed when you had to bear away (abfallen) because now the appearent wind did not fit at all the ruling wind speed. The apparent wind was the of a wind of ca. one Beaufort more due to the current. So Elke sometimes got confused where to steer but she always found her way and steered well around all obstacles on the way. The newly mounted tiller extension proved to be very handy in this situation. Once round the last corner it was easy to find to the eastern entrance of the Cherbourg port. We were welcome by a charming young lady in a motor boat who directed us to a free berth.
This day started with quite some rain. While Elke explored the sights of the city I had decided to let done some important work on the mast. There was one cleat (Klampe) for the spinaker halyard (Spinakerfall) which was so much in the wrong place that it was difficult to use and I needed an additional cleat for the spare genoa halyard. So I went to one of the several boatyards and found a mechanic. He came round the afternoon, meanwhile we were back to sunshine and he changed the cleat.
In the afternoon Elke and I walked through the lively streets of Cherbourg and bought Crevettes (Garneelen) for dinner.
After the dinner we went to the cinema to watch the movie “L´homme qu´on aimant trop” (The man who was loved too much). A story about a woman who falls in love with her bodyguard and is than dragged into a bribary act against her mother. We did not understand every detail because it was in French, but it was any way a suspense movie and it is based on a real case.
From Cherbourg our next destination was our first Channel Island, Alderney. It again took careful calculation of tides, distances and times. This time the challenge was to cross the Alderney Race between the Cap de la Hague (known for its nuclear power station and nuclear waste recycling plant) and Alderney. If you do not get your tides right you are sucked into the race and you end up in Guernsey because you get up to 8 knots of tidal stream against which it is impossible to make any ground good.
So we stayed far out and had a stream pushing us the right way. Approaching Braye Harbour on Alderney was easy but we had to steer a big angle to the side of the entrance so that the tide would not sweep us past it. It was like on the Elbe approaching the Cuxhaven Yacht harbour with the tide running at highest speed.
The young harbour master welcomed us and directed us to a free mooring. It was quite big and had to enormous ropes tied together. But they looked very reliable.
Without knowing we had picked exactly the right days to be here because Monday 4.8.2014 was a public holiday with a parade and village festivity under the motto “Treasure Island”. So we saw a lot of floats (geschmückte Wagen) with a lot of pirates on them.
On Tuesday morning we made use of the water taxi in order to get some fresh bread but we had to note that this is not France so the bread we got at the local grocery did not turn out to be fresh or crunchy. In the afternoon we set sail and sailed without using the engine from our mooring off to Guernsey. Unfortunately the wind died during the evening so we motored the last two hours to St. Peter Port on Guernsey. Originally I was a bit afraid of approaching this harbour at dark but I have to admit that Tom Cunliffe in his Channel Pilot is right that the approach through the Little Russel is well lit from the north and it is very easy and without difficult obstacles to get to the port. The only downside was that it started pouring with rain just after we were moored at the visitors pontoon.
This day while Elke was exploring the island by bus I walked around the city and luckily found the “Rock Box”, that is a little loudspeaker by which I now can play via BlueTooth or cable my music stored on my phone and computer. Up to now I only had the normal radio and two CDs because the built in car radio did not have a connection for USB or auxiliary devices. And the good thing about the rock box is that it can be put anywhere so the boat now also has an outside loudspeaker in cockpit, the foredeck, on the loo, in the fore cabin, just anywhere you want!
In the afternoon I met Kasia and Malvina, two polish girls Ewa from Brighton connected me to. Over a cup of coffee on board I showed them the boat.
This was a lovely day and we started the last leg of Elke´s stay on board, to Carteret on the mainland France. Due to the 30 mile distance and the fact that one can get into Carteret harbour only around high water we had a tight schedule. The wind was very light at the beginning so to my greatest regret we needed the engine as support to maintain an average speed of 5 knots over ground. At first the tide was a little against us, then a little bit with us and for the last few miles even strong against us. So although the wind had increased in the afternoon, we still needed the engine because only an hour too late would have meant to wait for 12 hours outside on the water and there was no anchoring ground because it is all a rocky underground. But we got there in time and spent the evening in the famous Bar du Port with friends of Elke and live music!