Having found a great company in Ramsgate (Positive Marine Electronics) we made the decision to get the GPS fixed prior to departure from these shores! New parts arrived and were duly fitted on Thursday 7th July. We now have a working GPS again with one less instrument having to be used!! This gave us the opportunity for some family visitations – firstly Sean on a very windy Saturday – although apparently Guinness is definitely good for you if you suffer from sea sickness and he coped admirably with the bucking bronco ride that was the western breakwater at high tide!
We decided that it would be nice to go out for Chinese food before Sean caught the train back to the smoke and found a pleasant enough restaurant – which had had very good reviews on Trip Advisor. However, service was very poor and when we tried to complain about the luke-warm food the manager wouldn’t even come across and speak to us. When Steve went to pay the staff completely ignored him so after standing like a lemon for at least five (if not ten) minutes he decided to leave. Another first for our trip – never have we left a restaurant without paying before!
Sunday saw the arrival of Steve’s parents in their now repaired motor-home. Having secured a parking space for them they were able to stay until our planned departure. Neither of Steve’s parents enjoyed the bucking bronco ride so most time together was spent in the motor-home. We did provide “meals on wheels” for the oldies by cooking on board, wrapping everything in foil and a quick dash along the pontoons to serve on terra firma.
We decided that Wednesday had the least number of sixes forecast and the wind direction was, at long last, in our favour. Having checked the best tide to leave which was at stupid o’clock, we chose a compromise time of 0600 hours (which, in the end, felt a bit like rush hour with the Wind-cat movements). We finally left the berth at 06.10 in a perfectly planned and executed manoeuvre – this was even witnessed by two cold, old people standing on the pier head – our farewell committee!
Weather was slightly overcast but dry with a north westerly force 3-4. With our sea legs set it was time to get the rags up and turn Perkins off. This was done after clearing the only grounding hazard, the infamous Goodwin Sands. With mizzen, genny and stay sail set (my sail bag worked a treat), we managed a top speed of 4 and a half knots and an average much closer to 2!! But it was very quiet! With the white cliffs of Dover in sight the first sighting of dolphins added to the excitement of the crossing. Dodging the first set of mobile obstacles – the Dover ferries – which appeared to be at least every thirty minutes we then proceeded into the separation zone that is the M25 of the Dover Straits. The first section is the North-South route and the only close encounter (nowhere near close really) was when one vessel went in front whilst we had a trawler proceeding behind us. Now only travelling at 2 knots, if we were lucky, it was time to fire up Perkins again. otherwise we wouldn’t arrive in France until Thursday – Bastille Day. I was at the helm and Steve went down to check the engine and approaching at speed and low altitude was a rather large helicopter. He seemed to get lower and lower as he got closer and I was worried that he would get caught in the rigging or he was going to land and board us!!! (Not paranoid at all!!) As it was they flew past waving and smiling at me – yes I really could see their faces!!!
We arrived in Boulogne Sur Mer marina to be met, on the wibbly wobbly pontoons by two lovely young French ladies who assisted mooring. What a great greeting! I took the opportunity to improve my nautical French terminology – let’s see how that improves!! I did have the chance for a bloody good giggle shortly after, totally at Steve’s expense! Whilst making secure he walked along the wibbly wobbly pontoon and starting giggling at the sensation, which in turn created more wibbles and wobbles (Steve obviously weighs more than those 6 stone French girls and has less balance!) The only way he could stop the wobble or the risk of falling in was to almost lay down and hug the pontoon like a long lost relative. I’m sorry I laughed but it was absolutely hilarious.
After having a few drinks the marina madness commenced – yachts in droves appeared and were directed to berths by the young ladies – some very successful and some not quite so! We have decided to term this phenomenon – melee (from the French word for scrum, the only French word Steve learnt from playing/coaching rugby against the French!!) So far we think the Belgians top the league of insurance claims, followed closely by the Dutch. However we haven’t seen enough English/British to comment on our success in this European tournament – perhaps we didn’t even get out of the group rounds!!
Due to the large number of yachts it was necessary for a rather nice (and I suspect extremely expensive) Contest 62CS to raft against us. The Dutch owner and crew were very nice but they may have been envious that we are following the same journey as them albeit on a completely different timescale – they were planning to do in 2 weeks what we plan to do in 2 years!!! They were planning to leave early the following day and I was pretty sure that I heard them leave and another boat arrive and raft. However on waking I looked out the window and did a double take as the boat next door was still a Contest – although on looking closer it was in fact a smaller model and even a different colour! It was nice to know that Steve had also done the double-take on waking up!! Spot the differences in the photos below!!
For as long as we have been planning this adventure Steve made me a promise that on our first morning in France he would go out and get croissants for breakfast and guess what – that is exactly what he did – although he didn’t stop at croissants, he bought me an almond triangle and a pain au chocolat too along with the obligatory baguette for lunch! (I think the ladies in the boulangerie took pity on his pigeon French – the poor boy managed to confuse himself and them!)