The Normandy Channel Race

So the original plan as previously said was to take the bus on the Friday to Caen to visit the race village.  However, Steve had other ideas and with the weather being somewhat cooler on the Thursday convinced me that we should have a go at cycling there instead (16 mile round trip). I had wondered whether the race village would be up and running on the Thursday (which was why I had suggested going on the Friday Steve!) but as the sun wasn’t too hot and only a light breeze off we went. The route to Caen by bike follows the canal and in some places the river. We only had one stop on the way there (to admire Cap Cee unloading her consignment which appeared to be coal). Upon reaching Caen, guess what – Tee 1 Steve 0, the race village wasn’t fully set up and only really open for school children. However the tourist office on site were very helpful and gave us everything we would have wanted anyway. As the fleet were already tied up it gave us the opportunity (without hundreds of other people) to have a good, close up look at the boats and the opportunity to chat with some of the competitors. Following a nice spot of lunch overlooking the marina washed down with a cold one we made our way back to Ouistreham. Several yachts were heading in the other direction and one gentleman started waving enthusiastically and pointing back the way he had come. We did recognise the boat as a neighbour who we had yet to properly meet but had wished “bonjour” when we were getting the bikes ready whilst he was preparing his boat.

Friday turned into foraging day as we didn’t have to get on the bus – yet more moules and clams – however we now have a new rule where we go back the way we came!  This was because we very nearly lost our shoes after Steve decided a different route back from the water’s edge!  The mud does wonders for the skin, especially during the walk back to the marina prior to washing it all off!  We must have foraged well as Steve ended up having two main meals and even a moule lunch!!

Saturday was spent preparing the dinghy for the following day in an attempt to watch the start of the race. Race start was 1700 CEST (1500 UTC, 1600 BST) so our plan was to take the dinghy out at the 0915 sas (lock out) and tie it to the waiting pontoon in the outer harbour.  Having been to a number of yacht races in the Solent we thought that the 0915 lock may be a bit busy so if Steve woke earlier he would take an earlier lock out. Sunday arrived and true to form the idiot was awake early and so whilst I slumbered he took the boat out.   One of my usual stupid questions when getting in the dinghy is “have you turned the fuel on?” He has obviously got so used to me asking that he needs me to ask every time (yes, that means he forgot!). Apparently he got about ten yards from the boat with a small fishing boat heading towards him before the engine stopped and he realised his stupidity!  Obviously I didn’t see, but he informed me that he was the smallest vessel of the five or six to go out in that lock. Having secured the dinghy he returned, via the boulangerie, bedecked in his life jacket – why carry it when you can wear it!  We then sat around waiting as we wanted to see the Open 40 fleet in the lock when they arrived at around three o’clock. We parked ourselves in a position where we could see the lock but also not be trapped on the wrong side when the gates were opened to let them out.  It was a sight to behold and just goes to prove that even top yachtsmen can mess it up in a lock!

Locking in
We took ourselves to the waiting pontoon and decided to let them all leave before us as the sea state was ‘peu agitee’ and not the ‘belle’ I would have liked!  With that and the combination of wash caused by the many spectator vessels (rather than the participants) I was a little apprehensive (especially as Fred had been left on Shearmyste!) Off we set, sitting comfortably in the bottom of the dinghy as Steve had removed the seat and only occasionally getting sprayed!  Happily following along behind the fleet through the channel we spotted the Gendarme Maritime boat who appeared to be heading in our directions! Guess what – it was!  Steve has always said that he fancies being boarded however this was not the boat to do it in. As they pulled up alongside we slowed down in an attempt at some verbal communication. The conversation went something like:

Gendarme 1 “something incoherent” in French (obviously)

Me: “pardon

Gendarme 1 “parlez vous francais?

Me: “un peu

Gendarme 1: “very small boat, where are you going?

Us: “to follow the race

Gendarme 2: is a tender? Where is your boat?

Us: “at Ouistreham

Gendarme 1:”the channel but no more” whilst

Gendarme 2 & 3: “no more than 300m from your boat”

Us: “oh, pardon”

Gendarme 1: “be careful” and off they went (still smiling, we think!) 

The Fleet plus Gendarmes

We took heed of their advice and after snapping a couple of photos of the fleet we turned back to the port. Due to the timing of the lock in I decided I would get off at the waiting pontoon and walk back to the marina leaving Steve to go through the lock alone again. It was a little bit embarrassing walking along with a very obviously wet derrière! (Due to water ingress and nothing else!!). I then managed to get a photo of Steve entering the lock and, my goodness, it does look like a very small boat!

Size Isn’t Everything
After Steve’s arrival back at the boat it was wine o’clock and yet another evening lost!!


Author: shearmyste

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

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