The final few nights in Dieppe saw a number of previously seen faces. Some following us down from Boulogne and some calling back into Dieppe on their way home. We must be taking it steady!
One notable experience occurred one evening whilst sitting on the back of the boat having a weird conversation with Holland’s Lionel Ritchie lookalike. We had originally explained that we had not been to The Netherlands and he was telling us about all these beautiful places in The Netherlands and The Baltic. Our initial comment must have been lost in translation as he started every sentence with “place-name, have you been there?” This conversation was interrupted by a request from an arriving Belgian to help with berthing. So Steve put down his wine and went to assist as did Lionel before returning to his yacht. As Steve secured the yacht, a very nice Wauquiez, the skipper shouted”Hey Sunderland, you needed to put your wine down, get off your arse and do some work!” It turned out that this yacht had been berthed next to us in Boulogne and we had had several conversations with them. They were returning from Deauville and, knowing we were taking it slowly, commented on just how slowly we were taking it!
Definitely the strangest mast we have seen so far belonged to Alunga, a steel yacht built by her Swiss owner over 14 years. It resembled an electricity pylon – apparently a German design that he bought in sections and welded together. There used to be a website for it, but he could no longer find it and wondered if that was because the design was flawed!
On our final evening there was almost an international incident with the French acting as the peacekeepers. An English dive boat was running his engine to charge the air cylinders for the following day’s dive which the previously-mentioned Lionel took umbrage to. The skipper was quiet and reserved and his other half was a tiny, feisty Essex girl without her white stilletos (although if she’d been wearing them she might have reached Steve’s navel!) Lionel initially complained loudly which encouraged a gobby Dutch girl to join in and even had the nerve to tell the dive boat to stop and wait until he had gone for dinner before continuing. Steve in his best diplomatic manner (ahem) shouted to the dive boat that he shouldn’t worry about the others and do what he needed to do! The dive boat skipper went off to the marina office and returned with a staff member who managed to come up with a compromise.
The following day we planned to move on to Fecamp which usually results in a little less alcohol and an earlier night. However, that evening we got chatting to a Danish family who were heading off to the Caribbean for a second time. They were in their early forties with four kids ranging from about 6 to probably 15. When they commented on our age for stopping work, our response was, “if you stopped taking a year out every few years to go to The Caribbean, maybe you could quit at 50 too.” They were not overly used to marinas as they tend to anchor most of the time and were finding it quite difficult with so few anchorages along this coast and they were extremely frustrated with their inability to communicate successfully with the French. They spoke better English than we did though! What this does show is that we meet a lot of people who speak English as a second language rather than anything else, unlike us who can manage to speak a few sentences in several languages extremely badly. Steve has now been asked at least three or four times whether he speaks English, especially if he first greets them in French! Mange-tout Rodney, mange-tout!
The plan was to leave Dieppe at 12:00 for the 32 nautical mile trip, which meant that we should arrive at Fecamp just before the 19:00 gate opening to allow us into Bassin Berigny, where we had been told we would need to go against the quay because of our length and weight. As usual the trip had no wind assistance, however our passage plan worked perfectly. The only notable excitement was the three knots of tide coming across the harbour entrance, where Shearmyste did her crab impression to get in. There were two other yachts waiting on the pontoon who were also planning to enter at 7pm. We rafted against a nice Frenchman who was quick enough to move our fenders up so we didn’t spoil his nice paintwork! Steve’s watch showed 7:02pm and we were told by the Frenchman that we would be shown to our berth by marina staff in a rib. The rib duly arrived and the happy chappy on board asked if Steve wanted to speak English or French. As usual Steve chose English (later we thought this may have been a mistake). We informed him that we had been told we needed to go on the quay, but he had other ideas and said that we could go on a pontoon finger, no problem.
Our usual berthing manoeuvre is to use our centre cleat to be the first attached and then to spring back to get the rear attached as this is the easiest, no effort way to control the boat. During the approach to the finger it was evident that this particular method would not be possible as there was no cleat to attach to that would be suitable at the centre point and anyway the finger wouldn’t stop the back end from slewing. This change of plan meant that I had to catch the only available cleat (yes there was only one) which was only about two metres from the pontoon walkway. I got it first time!! This was also the first time that there wasn’t any shoreside assistance so Steve (who still doesn’t know how he did it) alighted onto one of those huggy pontoons – although this one had the added benefit of a fair covering of slime! With Steve hanging onto the side of the boat needing to attach the centre cleat to the end of the pontoon, he found a slight issue in that, due to the change of plan, I had removed the usual line from the centre (oops!) no worries though, we got attached but Shearmyste’s bum certainly looks big in Fecamp! So picture this: with our anchor halfway across the walkway, our centre cleat aligns perfectly with the end of the finger! The finger is also a long way down and I am now quite pleased that Steve has been making me climb hills as I have been able to get off and on with no issues! Did get a little bit miffed that after we had struggled a few people appeared to help the French and Dutch yachts onto their fingers (even though they were much shorter and more manoeuvrable than us!). But thinking back on it, we could finally say that we had managed to get ourselves onto a short finger all by ourselves! Another great day!