Boulogne and Dieppe

We spent a wonderful, but extremely hot, week in Boulogne which mainly consisted of fresh baguettes everyday and testing cheap ‘plonk’ to facilitate future bulk purchasing! This included an 8€ bottle of vodka that didn’t taste like meth (Novotna- remember that name!) The afternoons were spent watching the 2 o’clock to 5 o’clock frenzy of yachts attempting what almost seemed the impossible, by fitting into as small a space as we are sure they were not designed for. As previously mentioned the Belgians maintained their league position and one particular boat, who appeared to go out for day sails, managed, on every boat movement to get up close and personal with anything in his path!

Having arrived the day before Bastille Day we were unsure of what to expect and just what they’d do to celebrate.  The local fireworks were scheduled for 11pm and were best viewed from the beach, however it appeared that the best parking was on the opposite side of the marina. There was a constant flow of pedestrians towards the beach from early afternoon and by 11pm I doubt you could spot any sand! We had decided that we would have a great vantage point from the marina and certainly more space! Sitting on the boat in anticipation we were seduced at about 10.30 by another firework display which was emulating from further down the coast, possibly Le Touquet. There were some amazing heart shapes and others that I have no chance of justifying their visual impact in words (should have had my camera!). At 11, the hill above Boulogne came to life in Boulogne’s homage to cutting off the noble men’s heads. This continued for about 30 minutes and then the previously seen steady flow of people became a torrent in the opposite direction. 

Boulogne Sur Mer itself has a beautiful old town that is well worth the route-march up the hill in 30 degree heat (picking a cooler day would probably help). The chateau and old town walls were beautiful but the basilica dome was amazing – a perfect demonstration of symmetrical architecture when viewed internally – best viewed sitting or lying down.   

Having paid up until Thursday, our day of choice for moving to Dieppe the alarm was set (as it appears that Steve’s internal work body clock has ceased to exist along with the perception of what day of the week it is).  The passage planning the previous day showed us that we leave Boulogne harbour, turn to port and follow a heading of 210 degrees magnetic, sight Dieppe approximately 51 nautical miles later and turn in! (Not too much of a navigational challenge).  Knowing that there wouldn’t be enough wind to truly sail and arrive the same day, motorsailing it would be.  Time came  to put out the headsail with me on the helm and Steve in charge.  Steve handed me the line to control the amount of headsail on the reefing gear whilst he was on the winch to pull it out. His instruction was to keep a small amount of tension whilst he was pulling it out as there were two wraps around the winch to minimise the load on my little hands. During this manoeuvre a kink in my line caused me to let go (just a little bit!) and then in the blink of an eye the full headsail was out (and flapping) as Steve asked me to apply some more tension!  Rather sheepishly I replied I was unable to as the line was “gone now” from the cockpit!  No real damage done (just to my pride) and Steve sorted it in a couple of minutes.  

With the headsail set we then proceeded to our destination. After a few hours we experienced confused and lumpy seas (Steve had omitted to tell me that the chart had indicated ‘dangerous breakers’ in this area). With this washing machine cycle and a trip down below to the hot and bouncy cabin, I reemerged only to be reacquainted with my best friend, Fred the flexible bucket. It was then time for me to sleep and the only notable activity I missed was Steve playing British Bulldog with a French trawler – the only two vessels in the area seemingly wanting the same space. 

Having previously called Dieppe for a suitable berth we entered the harbour to be greeted by two grateful French Marina staff who assisted us with our lines onto an easy ‘alongside’ berth. 

The harbour at Dieppe is picturesque with a plethora of restaurants appearing to only sell moules- not high on my list of desirable fayre.  The pattern we appear now to be following is one day of work (sailing) and a week of rest/recovery(!!). Even better than a three-day week.

There hasn’t been anywhere near as much afternoon entertainment (less Belgians!! 😉), however we were sitting out late one evening and a very small fishing boat manned by three thirty-something French men (quite cocky but very friendly) who may have had one or two out in the sun (we’ll give them that excuse) approached their berth adjacent to us. In their excitement to communicate with us they weren’t really paying attention to where they were steering. One of them was sitting on a pedestal chair at the front holding a boat hook to grab the pontoon, one standing about and one steering.  The communication went something like this:

Frenchman (helmsman)  “where are you from, are you from Brighton?”

Steve “no, we are from Hull, the Humber, Newcastle” trying to think of somewhere they may have heard of

Frenchman “Newcastle? Where is that?

Steve  “north of England, where are you steering to?”

Frenchman “over there”

At this point he had to reverse back from his first attempt and I thought he was going to run into us but he manoeuvred beautifully, however his second attempt was no better and he reversed again, all the time continuing a weird franglais conversation with Steve. This time though he came back a bit faster, turned to avoid us but unfortunately he didn’t manage it and with a cry of “merde” and a slight bump it became obvious that he’d hit us! I felt sorry for his mate on the pedestal seat as he almost fell off the boat, I think the boat hook in his hand prevented him from becoming one soggy froggy!  We had no damage whatsoever, whereas he, unfortunately, had a broken grab rail.  It was obviously not the first crash he had survived as within minutes the toolbox was open and the screwdrivers out!  The next twenty minutes consisted of  us and the helmsman’s mates ribbing the now less than cocky helmsman and all of us in fits of giggles. Steve asked if he was going fishing again the next day and if so he could bring us back a cod, to which he offered a ‘dorade’ from his catch.  Steve wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity of fresh fish from a Frenchman so walked round to their pontoon and was offered his choice of their catch. He spied a mackerel, the first we’d seen in France so asked if he could have that. They tried to get him to take more than one but he was quite happy with the one!  After gutting the fish it was time for bed. The next morning bright and early they returned. So Steve grabbed a fender and shouted across “when are you leaving, I’m ready!”  Which  was received in the manner it was meant.  I assume they have really been enjoying their trip as they have yet to return (or maybe they’ve moved berths to avoid us!)


Author: shearmyste

Steve and Theresa (Tee), living the dream aboard Shearmyste, our 55ft aluminium ketch.

One thought on “Boulogne and Dieppe”

  1. I was sorry to hear you had to get reaquainted with Fred , I thought you had got your sea legs never mind its early days, It sounds like it was quite a spectacular evening on Bastile Day , I would have liked to hear Steve asking the fishermen for fish, enjoy the rest of your stay in Diepe look foreward to the next posting . Xx

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