We have arrived back in France – St Quay Portrieux to be precise. We left Beaucette on a beautifully clear, fairly warm morning. Just as we were about to leave yacht Yunita was returning. They had left about an hour earlier to head to Alderney but decided that the conditions were not good for travelling north but assured us it would be perfect for travelling south – good news for me!!
At 10am on Thursday we slipped our lines and smoothly departed through the narrow gap without having to use the bow-thrusters – see, he does still know how to steer the boat!! The water was quite lumpy along the channel but once we turned south along Little Russel it improved. We knew we would be fighting the tide here but I don’t think we were quite expecting to only be making 0.6 knots at times! It seemed to take forever to pass St Sampson, St Peter Port and St Martin’s Point – it was probably about two hours. After this point we started to experience quite a swell – at least 3m on the side. This was about the time that I remembered that I am not a very good sailor and sat quietly with my eyes closed, sucking Polos. There wasn’t enough wind to use those white flappy things (fortunately as I wouldn’t have been much use), however 185 hp diesel engine performed magnificently – she probably enjoyed the run after sitting idle all of last year!
Due to the direction we had to take and having to leave at high tide we knew the trip would be longer than would normally be the case as we had to fight the tide until about 4 in the afternoon. We averaged about 3 knots/hour for the first couple of hours and we reckon we could have walked to St Peter Port quicker but did improve and in the final couple of hours we were making 8 knots!
I did have to get reacquainted with my flexible friend Fred but just the once and then I was able to assist Steve as and when required. Although there was one time when he had asked me to steer to 195 degrees whilst he checked the engine and made a coffee but on his return I had to admit that I had forgotten the number and was alternating between about 185 and 200 – it wasn’t a real issue given our position, but showed my brain-fuzz! Another down-side of our trip was no sightings of anything exciting – seals, dolphins, whales, just a few guillemots bobbing about!
Once we entered Baie de Saint-Brieuc we lost the Atlantic swell and the boat’s motion returned to something far more palatable. Steve managed to get the lines and fenders set way before the marina entrance which meant less stress for me!! Thanks Stevie!
We had phoned ahead so the marina knew to expect us and they usually send a dory out to guide visiting boats to their berths. As we were planning to stay for two weeks the office staff offered us a quieter berth than the usual visitors’ pontoon, close to the Capitainerie (marina office). Steve made the call on the VHF and we were met by a friendly chap in a red rib who led us to our berth – le ponton d’honneur – translated by us to be the Pontoon of Honour! And judging by the view from their webcam it certainly is!! Click on this link for live picture.
Once settled in we poured a glass and decided we couldn’t be bothered to cook anything – even though Guernsey had very kindly given Steve a leaving gift of one final lobster that morning.
After a good night’s sleep we decided to investigate the area – mainly to find a supermarket as Steve had purposely run down his wine stock – given the difference in price. We had a pleasant walk with just a small incline and found both Carrefour and Lidl. We stocked up on wine and bought some bread and cheese (French!!) and wandered back. Because of the incline it might well prove more beneficial to walk to the supermarket again rather than take the bikes, just as long as Steve’s little trolley copes with the cobbles.
Our first proper cooked meal in France this time was traditional fragrant Thai curry! Guernsey mushrooms for me and Guernsey lobster for Steve. Absolutely delicious!!
Steve had promised that this morning he would go to the bakery and purchase our breakfast – croissant for him and almond croissant for me! When he returned we discovered that the almond croissants here (maybe because of the different name they had) did not have the type of filling I was expecting but something more like good old crème Anglais. Being the wonderful husband that he is he swapped his plain croissant and suffered the custardy one – he didn’t find it unpleasant which only goes to prove that there wasn’t a lot of almond involved as he doesn’t like marzipan at all. It definitely confirms that for the best almond croissants you have to go the Sainsburys Local in Lancaster – opposite The Penny Street Bridge Hotel, Steve’s bribe for going into work for a couple of hours on a weekend morning!
After breakfast we decided to take a walk along the coastal footpath to the other part of the town – the casino area. This wasn’t too strenuous but a bit uppy downy, some shady areas and some exquisite views. We stopped again at a small supermarket for some beer for lunch and then another bakery for a ‘pain’ (slightly larger than a baguette which toasts very well on the second day). Another wonderful lunch of Roquefort cheese for me and Coulommiers for Steve with a small bottle of French beer each – see I can get into this French food sometimes!! Tea tonight is going to be barbecue chicken and noodles for Steve and I have attempted to marinade some vegetables in the same barbecue seasoning. The recipe we use is a Simon Rimmer one for BBQ spare ribs, which we have used on numerous occasions for chicken for the both of us (breast for me, thighs for Steve) which I used to thoroughly enjoy, but as I no longer eat chicken it is one of the dishes I have missed when cooking it for Steve – so here’s hoping it works!!
I can’t actually believe that we are now in October! Where has the time gone? We seem to have been quite busy however we don’t know what we’ve done!!
Steve has continued with his pot-fishing and has decided to try and turn it a bit “sciency” to see if he will be able to predict what he may or may not be able to cook for dinner.
We have finally had our first (and only) visitor – our first-born, Sean!! The day before his arrival, Steve commented that it would be ideal if he was able to catch a couple of lobsters to feed the protein-hungry child, but then thought that two in the same pot wasn’t a good idea as they would fight. However, that morning Steve lifted his pot to discover two lobsters, one being the largest he’d caught to date – weighing 1kg. Steve then started to worry whether it would actually fit in our biggest saucepan.
Sean came for a long weekend (and I think he found it a little bit of a culture shock as the pace of the life can’t be further from his usual London lifestyle). However, the restaurant that is Shearmyste, may have made up for the other short-comings, including a lobster roll breakfast, made with homemade bread roll and freshly caught lobster. We did try to entertain him but our choices of entertainment were quite limited – generally either shark fishing with daddy (with son as bait) or snorkelling/swimming with mummy. Surprisingly he chose to go swimming with me – this then caused me to return to being the worried parent with small child at the beach. I did very little swimming as I was panicking that I couldn’t see where he was – it was like he was four years old again and not twenty-nine! It was absolutely brilliant to see him and we hope he will join us again!
One of the major jobs we had on our Job List but kept putting off was the coach-roof leak repairs. We had planned to replace some small sections to see if that would cure the leaks using the wood supplied at Christmas by Mac. Unfortunately this repair, although looking good, actually created other internal leaks. This meant that we could no longer put off the inevitable so, before starting to rip it off, Steve checked with the local timber merchant that they would be able to supply a hardwood. As the price wasn’t too eye-watering the job could commence. Steve was adamant that it would be a relatively easy job and take a maximum of five days. We have a large tarpaulin that would cover most of the roof and provide protection from any rain. What a mistake to make!! Without paying too much attention to the weather forecast he decided to start ripping off the old teak-faced plywood after removing the grab rails. Unfortunately the rain decided to come with a vengeance and the tarpaulin acted like an old frame tent and as we all know frame tents when touched from the inside leak like sieves. Removing the handrails had created an extra 24 holes and with the two large window openings no longer fully secure the rain came in. To make matters worse as the rain came in Steve was busy in the galley filleting a wrasse! I was running around grabbing buckets and towels and trying to catch as much rain in my hands as I could! Happy Days!!! Four or five buckets later we had been able to catch the majority of the water ingress. Once the rain abated Steve was more focussed on getting the job done. Once all the wood was up, it was time to fill all the holes (at least another 50 grub screws!) The wood would take two weeks to be delivered so we had that time to do all the prep work and this also pushed us to remove the teak under the sprayhood as this was in poor condition as well (but didn’t leak!)
The Start of Five Days’ Work
Another Bucket Please
When the wood arrived we fixed the centre sections of the panelling then we had to wait for a two day weather window as we knew we would be unable to complete the hatch areas in a single day. Our first planned start of this next section was going to be the Sunday/Monday following the Beaucette Marina BBQ on the Saturday. However, due to the free-flowing free beer and good company, Steve woke with a headache along with a large number of other marina berth holders! (As did I, however I took headache pills and neglected to tell Steve!!!) This caused a two day delay as more rain was forecast. We managed over the next ten days (in between the rain showers) to fit the remaining wood sections and seal and return the boat to a watertight state (ish). Unfortunately we were still experiencing leaks around the hatches, so more sealant was applied. We are now pleased to report that we are leak-free!!!!
The other debate whilst we were fitting the wood was how to finish it. Neither of us are keen on silvered hardwood so our options were oil or varnish. As we have not had a great amount of success with oiling, varnish was always going to be the preferred choice (for Steve especially, as varnishing always seems to be my job). We set up the tarpaulin to protect the newly varnished surfaces form our resident seagulls who like to deposit from the top of the mast, but this seemed to turn the space into a greenhouse and also happened to coincide with what felt like the three hottest days of the year! We managed to apply it over the three days and are extremely happy with the result.
Overall Steve’s five day job took from 26th June until 28th August – the longest five days I’ve ever heard of. Did he really earn a living as a project manager?
With Steve catching all this stuff (fish) that I don’t really like eating, his focus has widened to try to provide other foraged meals. The first foray was mushrooms. With a newly purchased book in hand off he went to return with the following items:
With a view that these would cooked and placed on my pizza that evening, Steve prepared the mushrooms and cooked them in a bit of garlic & butter. First I tried the fairy champignons, they slid down, slimy and tasteless – urgh. Then the field mushroom – which was pretty bland and finally the puffball – the worst of the lot – the texture of undercooked lamb fat – bleurgh. So I had tomato and pepper pizza instead!! This hasn’t stopped our foraging but has stopped me trying any more mushrooms so far – he is still working on me. So, on the island, non-fish based foraging has resulted in finding blackberries (which has renewed my love of homemade jam – without bits, sorry mum!), apples (spicy apple chutney), chestnuts (still to be eaten), wild garlic (our very first foray, back in April!), nasturtium flower heads and leaves (very peppery), wild onion and wild fennel. We are still searching for nut trees on the island but have been informed that there is a walnut tree within an hour’s cycle! We now have our eyes on the haws. Haw jelly is the next planned test.
Having received a call from our youngest, sometime in July, suggesting daddy might like to go to the rugby double-header as his birthday present (perhaps I should swap birthdays with him as it is more a present for me!!) we decided to make a “holiday” of it as this may be the only way to see our families as they don’t appear to want to travel to see us – or perhaps it’s just the sleeping on the boat putting them off! With the Southampton Boat Show also on in September we decided to arrive just in time for the rugby and leave just after the boat show. The most convenient route for us was to travel overnight on the Clipper, arriving in the early hours in Portsmouth and then take a train into London, stay with Sean and Laura for the weekend and then travel north to see my sister in Skegness and my brother in Burton on Trent and then return south to spend time with our parents before returning via Poole to Beaucette.
This gave us a deadline to work to, to finish the coach-roof and to reduce the contents of our fridge. Steve was reluctant to quit fishing, as he needs his twice daily fix of pulling his pot. We carefully planned our last ten days of meals, not accounting for any new arrivals. The lobster were obviously unaware of our intentions as in those last ten days Steve probably had lobster every day and also supplied three other boats with at least seven adult portions of lobster – even providing an evening of instruction on the best way (his) to dress one. This, in turn, added to our predicament as, after instructing, we were too late and too inebriated to bother to eat our smoked eel or Mediterranean veg quiches! We did end up leaving some cooked gammon behind in the fridge but Steve had decided to allow this to go off to use as his first bait on our return!
With our bags packed, off we trundled with our faithful trolley loaded, bus to the ferry and proceeded through Customs! This was the most lax customs we had ever seen, I’m sure they carry out more checks on the Isle of Wight ferries!! We hadn’t booked a cabin as there hadn’t been the option to do so online but had booked reclining seats in the quiet lounge (unbeknownst to us at the front of the boat). We had seats 3 and 4 – giving us a dual aspect view right at the pointy end! Leaving St Peter Port we were escorted by a large pod of dolphins (always makes any trip better!) The route was via Jersey to Portsmouth with a two hour stop in Jersey. Just before entering St Helier another pod of dolphins greeted us. The crossing itself was calm (fortunately) but the seats weren’t that comfortable so Steve took to sleeping on the floor. We were not as prepared as others, who appeared with mattresses and sleeping bags! We had booked a 10 o’clock train so we would have plenty of time to get to the train station and also find breakfast. As soon as Steve spotted the Sainsbury’s he promised me almond croissants (remembering back to Lancaster – best almond croissants ever!) Unfortunately we were half an hour before opening so had to wait outside on a bench, feeling like we looked like bag people. Steve returned with a pecan plait for me (a suitable alternative as they had no almond croissants!) and a plain croissant for himself. It was a really lovely train trip to London Victoria, passing Arundel Castle in all its glory although the train did get a little busy at Gatwick! Still, it was certainly better than going into Waterloo as they had issues with overrunning engineering works!! We finally arrived at Sean’s in the afternoon (23 hours after leaving the boat – compared to Sean’s four hour trip the other way by plane!!) and Alex arrived early evening. Chinese takeaway for tea! The following day’s plan was to leave Sean’s midmorning, grab some lunch with a view to getting to Twickenham in plenty of time for the first match kick off. Having navigated our way across the smoke we found a lovely little chip shop with a park opposite. Sitting down to eat our lunch we were joined by some very inquisitive and tame squirrels – who also enjoyed the chips! Probably not the best diet for them, but they looked pretty healthy!
The rugby was pretty good although Harlequins did lose. The first match was Saracens v Northampton and as we were sitting amongst a large number of Northampton fans, it was very entertaining as they well and truly got their arses kicked!! Fortunately (as I am not a big fan of Sarries), I didn’t make too much of it, which was just as well when we lost!!
As Melanie (my sister) failed to respond to phone call and voicemail we changed our plans and Alex drove us to Mac and Mum’s instead. We spent about a week there, foraging whilst walking Jake (the dog). Steve found hazelnuts, beech nuts, more mushrooms including chicken of the woods and an inedible bracket fungus. He roasted the hazelnuts – very tasty. The best smelling man in the world (brother-in-law Kevin) joined us for a few days and it was decided that we would take him back to Burton on Trent and meet up with David, Zoe and the kids for a pub lunch. Squeezing the five of us (and Jake) into Mac’s Mazda 3 was entertaining – we almost thought we’d have to put “granny” on the roof Griswald-style (National Lampoon’s Vacation), although David suggested we might look more like the Clampetts!?! Mac had put Steve onto his insurance so Steve got to drive a car for the first time in over a year – and a manual one at that! Mac finally managed to get rid of us by very kindly driving us to Steve’s parents, I think he did it to make sure we got there and didn’t reappear on his doorstep!
We planned a week with Steve’s parents as well. With the weather being good, we went for a relatively long walk one day and Steve found an apple tree a stone’s throw from his parent’s house. So he started climbing and picking. Steve’s mum thought we had been up to no good when we returned as I brushed the remnants of the tree off his back! Steve took his dad and a large bag back and they managed to pick 9lb of apples from a tree that his dad had no idea was there! Plenty of apple wine on the cards now.
Whilst we’d been at my mum’s, she’d mentioned that she and Mac were keen to get a map of the footpaths around the village and she wanted to ‘posh up’ her cake eating with some of those little cake forks – the ones with the little knife-like bit on one of the prongs, so this was in the back of our minds. As usual we found ourselves in the charity shops in Hythe and Steve spotted a map section in the Oxfam book shop. Amazingly, in there was the Ordnance Survey map covering Owslebury – result! Steve had spotted, whilst returning from his sisters, a large catering shop in Southampton so a plan was hatched. When the opportunity arose to go into Southampton, we got dropped off nearby and investigated the shop. The only suitable forks available came in a pack of twelve so we purchased those and packaged them up with the map and posted them. The next day I got a phone call thanking us, although mum did say we should have bought her bigger cake tins if we expect her to provide cake for twelve!
I’m not sure whether it was because he took over or was encouraged to take over but Steve cooked every other day at mum and Mac’s and every day at his mum’s (except one – the traditional pea fritter and chips or fish and chips night!!) I did do some things – I gave my mum a bread making lesson and we had homemade bread, rolls and pizza! We also had at least four crumbles there – different fruit each time (and requested by us!!) Steve made fish pie, devilled kidneys and toad in the hole for his parents. We also had fruit crumble with Steve’s mum and dad – we certainly overdid the puddings on this trip!
One of the most unusual things to happen, food wise, was that on the day we arrived at my mum’s she had made cheese scones. Now I haven’t had cheese scones in I don’t know how long and Steve wasn’t even sure if he liked them – funnily enough he did! That in itself wasn’t unusual, however the day we arrived at Steve’s mum’s she had also made cheese scones! What a coincidence!!
The boat show was very quiet. We went on the Monday but speaking to some of the exhibitors it hadn’t been any busier over the weekend. We had a good wander around and got the information we were after about possible berths for 2018, potentially on the southwest coast of England and a few bits we were after. A good tip: if you are going to the boat show and fancy a glass of wine at lunchtime visit the insurance brokers!!
Our return ferry was the faster Condor Liberation out of Poole. This should have taken 3 hours but was slightly delayed as, apparently, they made a mistake loading the cars and then because of tidal constraints we had to take a slightly different route, going through Big Russel instead of Little Russel. Again we were extremely lucky with our seats, getting a huge amount of legroom, right next to the duty free shop. Yet another smooth crossing – thank goodness! Arrived back at Shearmyste having had a very good break and fortunately Steve helped me put everything away before getting to his most important job – baiting and lowering his lobster pot!!
Well, here we are sitting in Beaucette, Guernsey, looking at the black clouds and missing the French language and especially French tv – it is amazing how much! Yes, even Steve, he is devastated that he can no longer watch his “Les Carnets de Julie”! A wonderful programme about, yes you’ve guessed it, food!
So a quick recap of what we have been up to.
In total we spent two weeks and two days in Cherbourg. The marina was great, although the walk to the showers/toilets was quite long – we were on Pontoon H and almost the farthest from the Capitainerie – but the exercise did me good! The biggest issue was, as it is an all-tide access port, the pontoons rise and fall with the tide resulting in inclines especially with Spring tides (the highest highs and the lowest lows). This meant careful planning (if at all possible) of shower and shopping trips!
The first week was a focus on using the clear waters of the harbour and removing any signs that we had been so friendly with the ugly French buoy, so Steve set about removing the evidence of the up-close and personal kissing of the buoy. The first stage was cleaning the topsides, this was done both from the pontoon and then from the dinghy. My role was Safety Officer which, on occasions, I took seriously but with so much going on around us I did get a little distracted, this was evident to Steve when, several times, he had to ask me for something more than once. With the topsides back to pre- kissing condition it was time to clean under the boat. Steve rigged up a 10ft cleaning brush which proved successful at cleaning off the winter growth (well impressed with the Jotun anti-foul , it has been on since the re-launch in 2014). He then undertook his underwater survey (which was done during one of my now traditional afternoon siestas). His 20 Euro video camera worked a treat, it showed that the anodes were in good condition and the only area that could do with a bit of cleaning was the prop and prop shaft. This meant that he had a chance to try out his newly purchased face mask and snorkel (for some reason he thought the flippers were a step too far!) He donned the wet suit and he was going to get under and give it a clean. He hadn’t taken into consideration that what looks like the Med isn’t always the Med and that the water was obviously still in its winter plumage. As he stood on the ladder at the back of the boat with most of his body in the water, “getting used to the temperature”, and even with my encouragement to “man up and just get your head under” it was, in his words: “bloody freezing” he stated that perhaps that’s a job for when we get to warmer waters! The rest of the underneath was good to go; the prop work would only cost us a bit of drag which he was prepared to live with on a big ship.
French Kisses – but no tongue
Look no evidence!
We went out on the bikes a few times – mainly to the supermarkets (Carrefour and Lidl) but also along the seafront and across to La Cite De La Mer (which, although was probably only 200 metres from us as the crow flies, was a pleasant enough 10-15 minutes’ cycle). There are three major attractions there:
an aquarium – the deepest in Europe at 11m (but in our opinion not a patch on The Deep in Hull)
a Titanic exhibition and
Le Redoutable – France’s first nuclear submarine. The main reason we wanted to go there and also the subject of one of my better “blonde” comments. Whilst sitting on the back of the boat on our first rising tide there I commented that it must be floating as I could now see more of it. Steve pointed out the reason I could see more was because we were rising not it. I think my head was still at St Vaast where even though we were going up and down I couldn’t see any difference but then again I couldn’t focus past the bedroom (that’s my excuse anyway).
Topsides of Le Redoutable
Spinny, go forward thing
Our berth at Cherbourg was next to the Allures/Garcia yacht berths. It seemed that this was where they were put for the new owners to take possession. These are “shiny, new” aluminium go-anywhere yachts. When we arrived there were at least four new owners taking possession, a mix of nationalities – Swiss, French, Dutch. Shearmyste sat proudly alongside these ¾ million Euro yachts! But I think you can buy a hull for less than 100,000 Euros (dependent on the current price of aluminium).
In line with our usual naming of individuals we had John Le Measurer (a French man and not the English actor with a similar name!!) So named as the back of his padded gilet said “Measurement” which we later found out was because he was part of the scrutineering team for dinghy racing at international and Olympic level and not a QA man as we had assumed and was, in fact, a banker by trade! He liked his tape measure and also had a very lax approach to health and safety – highlighted by grinding his brand new Fortress anchor with no safety gear whatsoever. He then later used both his favourite items (tape measure and grinder) to cut his anchor chain with his hands just millimetres from the spinning disc. He and his wife were very friendly and must have taken pity on us. She enjoyed baking and on two occasions they appeared with cake and then tart. The cake was definitely the best cake we have eaten in France – we thought it was pear and chocolate cake but it might have been apple. The tart was not as successful for me as it was an apple tart but with a custard-type base. Steve asked her if it was ‘Crème Anglaise’ and her response was “no, it is milk, sugar and eggs”.
During evening drinks on our old tub, which John couldn’t believe was aluminium so had to go outside and tap it to be sure, he explained his sailing style and the fact being that he now has a “push button”boat. He can just push the buttons and sit inside as he gets seasick. He accompanied his comment with a gesture – he would lick his forefinger and then imitate pushing a button. He also explained that it was “an old man’s boat” – he is 62 and not getting any younger or stronger. He also said that he didn’t like using the engine very much and admitted that his wife was a better sailor than him. During this conversation we said that we don’t mind using the engine and that almost made us a “push button” boat too where he conceded “15 all” as Steve had mimicked his gesture.
Enjoy Life’s maiden voyage, John at helm
Enjoy Life returning. Wife at helm, John not visible
We got in touch with Serge to let him know we had arrived and he invited us out for a meal. He knew that I was a vegetarian and thought that there must be a vegetarian restaurant somewhere in Cherbourg or at least a restaurant with a good vegetarian selection. However as it turned out he couldn’t find one so he and Francoise invited us on board Kazan 4 for a completely vegetarian home-cooked meal (Steve was a little worried as he is not the biggest vegetable fan!) We had a wonderful evening conducted entirely in Franglais! At one point Francoise was speaking away to Serge and he replied “you can speak to me in French, I’m French, you’re French!!”
Close to the end of our pontoon there is a public toilet block on the quayside which Serge had warned that it wasn’t the cleanest of facilities and when Steve had been there before, Serge had commented that “ladies of the night” frequented it. Every day, whenever we passed the facility, on route to the town or the ‘sanitaire’ there were two suspicious, not very young or pretty, “ladies”. We only ever saw them in daylight so they couldn’t possibly have been ”ladies of the night” although they may have made more money if they were! Being a country girl it was a first for me when, one afternoon as we were returning to the boat, a “Mr Magoo” lookalike on a three wheeled moped kept circling the area. Just after I spotted one of these “ladies” he parked up and appeared to go shopping! I may be paying him a disservice but this was the first time I had ever seen a man shopping in the public toilets! It made me smile and I had to keep looking back to confirm my suspicions!!
Our next “Everest” on this trip was to be the notorious Alderney Race – where Walti lost his mast last season. We planned to leave on as calm a day as possible knowing full well that the white flappy things were not going to be used as we didn’t want to spoil the start of the season!! We had decided to go to Beaucette marina, as it had been recommended by someone on a Cruising Association forum where Steve had asked about refuelling – diesel in the Channel Islands is a lot cheaper than it is in France. I had tried to contact them by email, but on reading their website they seem to prefer phone contact – great, we were still without one. We then contacted them via the “Contact Us” page on their website and waited patiently for a response. Steve started thinking that we would have to go to St Peter Port instead and wanted me to contact them, but I held firm – Beaucette appealed a lot more than St Peter Port!
The trip to Beaucette marina was 40nm so should be completed well within my 8 hour wellness window!! So we spent a few days watching the weather closely and looking at best tide days for a daylight trip with a dignified wake up time and waiting for an email response from Beaucette as I still had no phone. We decided on Saturday 22nd April and everything seemed to fall into place – North-easterly winds (Beaufort 2-3), 6am high tide at Cherbourg which meant an 8am leave and a tide window at Beaucette of between 2 and 6pm – and we had even heard back from them!! “John” got up especially to see us off – what a nice man!!
The pilot books and almanacs recommend that leaving Cherbourg two hours after high tide is about the right time to get the most comfortable advantage from the Alderney Race which started 14 nm from Cherbourg at Cap De La Hague. We arrived there at 10 am as planned and this is where I got the boat speed record (although admittedly under power). We were receiving five knots of assistance and my top speed was eleven knots, which beats Steve’s nine knots under sail around Norfolk! The race was like a slightly bubbling mill pond and was nothing like I’d expected from what I had read and been told previously. We had encountered quicker tides on the West Coast of Scotland when we travelled round Britain. The weather was slightly overcast although we had been able to see Alderney from 12 nm out. This is where I saw my first ever Shag (enough of the giggles, we aren’t in Cherbourg anymore!) They are slightly smaller than Cormorants but with a wonderful quiff on the top of their heads. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to get a picture (sounds familiar).
With the fair tide we decided we should slow ourselves down as our ETA at Beaucette was looking to be at least two hours before entry was possible. We arrived outside the marina just after 12 (BST) and, luckily our phone had been reconnected the day before, so we were able to contact Ricky the harbourmaster to ascertain the earliest time to enter due to our draught and the height of the water above the sill. Ricky confirmed our calculations and said that 2.30 would be a good time to enter. So this then gave us the opportunity to look at the entrance from afar and bloody hell was it scary! All we could see were rocks and a brick wall! As we had to wait a couple of hours we thought we would have a little sightseeing tour along the coast and to check out the “block of flats” I had previously spotted anchored just outside St Peter Port. It was, in fact, the sister ship to Ventura (we’d seen in Cherbourg), the Azura.
Ventura in Cherbourg
Azura anchored off St Peter Port
So, at 2.30 we met Ricky on the fairway with the plan to follow him in – however he took off at great speed and we were only doing 4 knots! I stood at the mast so I could easily see the entrance and be in a position to do anything if needed. Steve’s suggestion that I get my boobs out was not well received!! (Too cold for that nonsense and I wasn’t even standing right at the pointy end!) Now, imagine this, our 4.5m wide boat going through an 8m gap (however with the tide higher the gap was slightly wider, thankfully) with the most jagged rock face, no smooth sides to bump against and a brick wall dead ahead.
Beaucette Entrance from above
Look at the wall!
Guess what? No dramas here, my super skipper followed Ricky and made the turns (even though he was probably going a little fast!) and we calmly moored against a nice long pontoon! Ricky helped with our centre line and left us to it as he had other customers to attend to. Beaucette Marina is Beautiful (with a capital B!) if you like rocks and couldn’t be more different from Cherbourg. Here for at least a week, possibly two!!
Following on from our false start the day before with the pea soup, we arose on Tuesday 4th April to a favourable outlook, fairly good visibility, no real fog and just a little bit of drizzly rain. Bearing in mind this was our first movement since 15th August we were a little apprehensive! We left the mooring with absolutely no issues whatsoever almost as if we had been practicing all winter rather than just sitting about drinking wine and vodka! On leaving the marina we were confronted with a trawler coming down to get the same SAS as us. We got out of his way quick and decided it would be better for us to follow him rather than lead especially as we were getting no feedback from the port via VHF even though we could hear them talking to the fishing boat – do we have radio issues again?
We had pre-planned to pick up two vertical wires to secure our lines to in the larger lock as they were still trying to fix the smaller one. I asked Steve which one he wanted me to get, followed by: “should I get this one”, “should I get this one” – but he seemed to ignore me and by the time he was ready for me to get one they weren’t any close by. There were helpful markings on the quayside, showing where the lines were meant to be, however there were an awful lot missing!! We had a little drift around a bit in the lock and I was wondering if I should perhaps put some fenders on the other side as the boat is a little stubborn when we want her to go backwards. As it was Steve managed to get her alongside the quay on the right side and he jumped off with the rear line in hand. I threw the front line up onto the quayside and returned to the cockpit, where I was to be in control (me?!!) Steve told me when to apply reverse or a touch of bow thruster so I wasn’t really “in control” but it was close enough for me!
We left the lock and our winter home with no major issues – NEW SEASON, here we come!!
We had decided that we wanted to ease gently back into this cruising lark and wanted to make sure that our first trip would be a nice, flat, calm one so we motored from Ouistreham to St Vaast La Hougue. We took turns helming and I was, by far, better at sticking to the compass heading! So when we encountered a fog bank, I steered and Steve kept lookout (my eyesight really is poor!)
We picked up a hitch-hiker on route – a little bird (some kind of warbler from the looks of him). He only stayed for about five minutes but obviously got enough of a rest to continue his journey. Our only other wild-life sighting was a solitary dolphin in the distance.
As Steve had previously spent a windy night (with Serge) at anchor at St Vaast, he knew the holding was good so we had decided that we would have a go at anchoring ourselves, but coming up to the anchorage Steve noticed that there was a mooring buoy marked on the chart in the same vicinity. Steve pointed it out but I thought it was a little boat in the distance. However, once we were closer I could see that my “people” were in fact cormorants! The buoy itself was definitely ugly, however Steve insisted that it would be less stressful overnight than trusting the anchor as the wind was forecast to get up to 20 knots plus. Having arrived exactly at high tide we could have entered the port, but with the weather being ok and me feeling fine we chose to give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It was like a scene from Custer’s last stand as we circled the buoy three or four times attempting to catch hold – Steve’s grabbing hook thing (the ideal tool for the job) was too heavy for me to manage at full stretch with the sea state not helping my aim/footing. Steve then decided it would be better if he did it (thankfully!) and a few minutes later we were rubbing alongside and attached. After attaching a few more lines to the buoy off went the engine and a successful first foray was over! I hadn’t felt the slightest bit seasick all day and had even managed to go below and make Steve a coffee – I think that is the first time ever (whilst moving!)
Unfortunately for me, this started what is possibly one of the worst 36 hour periods of my life. I was a bit cold and had a slight headache so decided that it might be an idea to have a lie-down whilst Steve enjoyed the view with a well-deserved glass of wine. When I got up again (still cold & headachey), our pre-prepared menu choices did not appeal at all so we decided on a bowl of noodles. This helped to warm me slightly but all I wanted to do was go back to bed – so I did. Steve waited for low-tide before coming to bed and then was up again at 2am to check the lines as he noticed the boat position had changed and this was when the wind was predicted to be at its strongest. He did come back to bed but, in his words, didn’t sleep and so he subsequently got up at 4am and stayed up. Steve used my phone to check the weather, now that I had changed my EE contract to a 4GEE Max, allowing us data access.
Apparently he spent a very pleasant day on the Wednesday, enjoying the nice weather and the comings and goings of St Vaast with a couple of glasses of wine in the afternoon. I showed my face at least three times during the day but never for more than 10 minutes at a time. I did manage to eat a couple of bread sticks and a couple of plain Pringles. Steve did the planning for our next stage on his own (we normally do this together but he couldn’t be sure I would even get out of bed before we left). He decided to check the weather again and discovered “No Service” on the phone. He came and asked me what he was doing wrong but I could only do the same as him and it was still “No Service”. A little niggle hit the back of my head when I thought of the date. (More on this later!)
When Steve came to bed (stinking of wine – urgh!!) he advised me that he had had a lot of “alone time” and had been doing a lot of thinking. His thoughts had been along the lines of: perhaps we are not cut out for this life, he can’t imagine not living on a boat but perhaps it is another type of boat we need (without sticks or keels and only ever goes on flat water). He had even thought about selling the boat, buying a smallholding and raising pigs. I thought this was a bit drastic but couldn’t really argue as although they say nobody has ever died of seasickness I would have quite happily been the first!) We agreed to discuss it at a later date as we hadn’t really given this season much of a chance.
The next morning Steve’s plan, if he felt that the weather matched his last available forecast, we would catch the fair tide around Pointe de Barfleur which meant leaving the mooring buoy at 08.45. Steve’s day of doing nothing had obviously given him the opportunity to plan in minute detail how we would extricate ourselves from the ugly French buoy. My only job was to stand at the helm and if required apply some backwardy or forwardy drive. As it was all fenders were cleared away, lines were slipped and we drifted majestically away just as Steve had hoped. We left the buoy at 08.43 (not bad planning Stevie!!) The trip around Barfleur is renowned, like most headlands, for fast running tides that can be uncomfortable and treacherous but with a favourable forecast the seas were fairly benign not to say that it wasn’t a little bit lumpy in places. I became reacquainted with Fred (but only the once) during a particularly confused, lumpy bit of water. I then had a bit of sleep (surprise, surprise)well I had been up for at least two and a half hours. I regained some level of brain function as we were approaching the outer harbour of Cherbourg (Grande Rade). Steve called up Jobourg Traffic on the radio where a very pleasant man told us we didn’t need to contact him and could just contact the marina – well that at least proved the radio works! He then placed the fenders and lines whilst I steered having been given instructions from the marina staff that we were going to the deep water pontoon just inside the marina entrance. Coming up to the pontoon we noticed a few people sitting on the back of a Garcia and we wondered if they would give assistance. They immediately came to help and it turned out one of the individuals was Walti, the Swiss owner of Alunga who we had previously met in Dieppe. Shearmyste parked herself beautifully and we were secured. Minutes later I was feeling much better!!! Unbelievable. Initially we thought we would stay here for a week, however considering it will be Easter next weekend we have decided to stay for two weeks before considering the next appropriate weather window to move on to Guernsey.
Now back to the phone situation:
We had discussed getting rid of my EE account as it was quite expensive for what we were using, even though it was my comfort blanket. So, as my contract was due to end on 5th April, on the 3rd March I rang EE and asked to cancel my account at the end of the contract. They suggested some other plans that might be suitable but we decided no, we would cancel. On reflection this decision was not a good one as there are times we do actually need to use a phone. So on 8th March I rang EE back and said I would take up one of their new plans. The girl I spoke to made a point of saying she was cancelling the cancellation and setting up the new plan. I got confirmation of the new plan by text and also on the myEE app – so thought nothing more of it – except we now had data so could check the weather etc even if we were not in a marina on Wi-Fi.
So, back to St Vaast on 5th April, with the phone showing No Service – I thought, oh dear, they’ve closed my account. No worries, nothing we can do until we get to some Wi-Fi. So once settled in Cherbourg I decided to see what I could do to sort it out. The only way I seemed to be able to contact them was by using Twitter. The guy who responded said I needed to phone Customer Services or go to the EE help pages and launch “Live Chat”. I tried this “Live Chat” business as, obviously, I couldn’t phone them. After unsuccessful attempts at the live chat I reported back and was told that as that wasn’t working the only thing they could offer was for me to ring as soon as I was able. They seemed unable to understand that we only have one phone and didn’t know anyone well enough to ask to borrow a phone to make an international call. This continued for two days, me asking if there was any way that someone from customer service could contact me or if I could contact them by email but no – I could try “Live Chat” again or call, and the live chat still wouldn’t work. It finally dawned on me that as EE had closed my account maybe I no longer had access to the ”Live Chat” page – why on earth couldn’t they have just told me that at the beginning and saved Steve two days of me sitting in front of my iPhone, iPad and computer getting more and more frustrated?
You can contact EE on Twitter and EE Community but all they can do is tell you to contact Customer Services
You can contact Customer Services by live chat (if you have a live contract)
You can contact Customer Services by phone (if they haven’t cut you off in error)
Hooray for EE.
So in a nutshell we no longer have a phone and will be relying on Wi-Fi in the marinas we visit! (Another reason for no more nights at anchor or mooring buoys!!!!)
Steve has managed to earn his brownie points – the one job low on his priority list due to it being “quite a big job” has finally been ticked off! I have new galley flooring!!! It is brilliant I can sweep and wipe it down in about 5 seconds flat – heaven!! After hunting high and low for a carpet/vinyl flooring store (admittedly only in our immediate area, there are probably loads in Caen!) we finally managed to find some suitable lino at Bricorama in Colleville Montgomery. It was a grey morning when we set off and the rains came down on our trip back – I really do love cycling in the rain – mad I know but so much better than getting overheated!
Our normal practice in this type of work involves the product to be fitted having to acclimatise (generally for at least 6 weeks) in the garage (which we no longer have!) although I suppose he could have used his man cave (stern locker – 8ft x 4ft x 4ft – almost a full-size shed!) but that’s not watertight! However, the very next day he set about removing the ridges and then the old lino – amazingly he was able to get it out in one piece so he had a template to use! The longest part of that day’s activity fell to me, which was to remove as much glue as possible from the floor – the afternoon went well as I was probably as high as kite on the solvents used – no alcohol required!! He did have to undertake a small modification to the insert to stop the rocking which involved using a rubber strip that had been in his bucket of “come in handy one day” stuff. By the end of day 1: lino up, glue removed, insert screwed down, new lino cut from template and all in time for wine o’clock (3pm CET). The following morning the monumental task of replacing began and by 12 o’clock Steve had finished! No need for edging strips as he had managed to slide it beneath the units (ok with a bit of extra force and a lever at times). So all in all, this significant task cost approximately 17 Euros and about 8 hours of real work (at least 4 of which were mine!) and several shouts of “I hate lino”. Admittedly the job was made so much easier by the fact that the old flooring came up in one piece as if he’d have had to cut in situ we may not have survived the Stanley knife.
Steve’s favourite expression is “everything tastes better with bacon”. Since finishing his last, purchased in England, 12 rashers of smoked streaky bacon he has been trying a number of alternatives to get his weekly fix. This has proved difficult but not insurmountable, so if you are venturing to France and run out of this staple don’t panic there are passable alternatives. Look near the wide variety of sliced ham products and usually tucked somewhere obscure you might be lucky enough to spot the Bacon Fume – it isn’t as strongly smoked (contains an awful lot less water!) and usually only has 7 rashers per pack. The other struggle has been for an uncooked smoked bacon joint (recognise a theme here?) One has been discovered at E Leclerc – however, in Steve’s words: “it aint big”. Having said that it does last him at least 4 or 5 meals so in my view is plenty big enough!
As we have mentioned before, one of the benefits to being at Ouistreham is the proximity of the ferry to Portsmouth, now this can be considered as a positive or a negative depending on whether you want to be away from the English speaking world. Steve had spoken about going to the Southampton Boat Show back in September but I had been reluctant – mainly because we had talked ourselves out of going since visiting the year before (although I think there might have been another undercurrent to my thinking). So, having to plan for the dreaded C word (Christmas), we decided that perhaps a practice run would be advisable. It also meant we could do a bit of shopping of some basics that we cannot do without but cannot get here or only expensively from the World Food aisle – salad cream, brown sauce, feminine items to name a few. This was when it became patently obvious that I was going to find it very difficult to leave my beautiful baby all alone on the end of Ponton E as she doesn’t even speak the language. We decided that our trip should be less than a week as that was as long as I could imagine being away from her (as my other babies no longer need me and are all growed up, allegedly!)
The morning ferry arrives in Portsmouth at 1.15pm, a civilised time for a family pick-up, however it meant leaving the boat at 7am at the latest. A still, slightly frosty & misty morning as we said our goodbyes to Shearmyste and made our way to the terminal. The sea was unbelievably calm, thankfully and we had an uneventful crossing.
We spent a few days of very enjoyable family contact (including the essential chip butty with plastic sliced white!) and Steve could get his fix of breakfast telly (and fully understand it all!!) We chose to return on the afternoon ferry (again a civilised time for family drop-off – thanks to both sets of parents for this!) We managed to find ourselves a comfy sofa in one of the bar areas and Steve made a trip to the shop and purchased himself a box of wine and me a bottle of vodka. I didn’t drink very much alcohol as it was a little bit rougher on this trip! It rained during the return crossing (not that we knew too much about it) but fortunately it had stopped by the time we got to Ouistreham at about 9.30pm. I’m not sure if it was the amount Steve drank on the ferry or just the fact that we were back on dry land but he certainly seemed to struggle to walk in a straight line on the way back – he blamed it on the small wheels on his trolley and the weight of all our provisions in the bag secured to it!! We arrived back at the marina and Shearmyste was still where we had left her, none the worse for our absence and even greeted us with 9 degrees of warmth inside! Amazingly the rain then decided to fall down again – but we didn’t mind we were safely home!
Some live-aboard facts for those who may want to consider the big get off the world and may not consider it as a viable option, or for those who want a view of what to expect when leaving the rat race and getting off the English island.
Marina fees work out at least 20% cheaper to stay a week than just one day, so if on a budget and no time pressure stay for week or even month blocks (we will spend approx. £6k this year against a year round berth at Hull of £5k), but electricity is included which will save us £20 a week over the winter period.
Consider joining the Cruising Association and/or RYA as it will pay for itself (in our case) in the first week in France – discounts on berthing etc.
When speaking to a Danish couple (back in Dieppe) who were crossing to the Caribbean they were surprised with the lack of anchoring opportunities that they had come across – so not many free nights from their experience. There will be more opportunities the further south we head (but we do like staying in marinas!!)
Yachts over 50ft do seem to get better berths and generally don’t have to fight in the so-called French finger berthing arrangement.
17mtr boats can fit on a 9mtr finger, make sure you have a centre cleat.
If using gas other than Camping Gaz, go with the minimum you need for a few weeks, the cylinders are a pain to dispose of if you have a conscience.
Folding bikes are a godsend, I have just ordered a folding trailer to aid shopping.
Food prices are similar but most prices are displayed per Kg so try to have a mental picture of what that means to you, meat is at least 30-40% higher (but the meat does contain less water). English Cheddar is very hard to find and in the region of £15 per Kg so stock up if it is your staple.
The French market prices are higher than the supermarkets and the fresh veg and fruit doesn’t last as long.
It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong when trying to speak the local dialect all that matters is that you try.
When moving from port to port you will motor far more that you have imagined if you want to hit the tide gates.
We have budgeted £20k a year as we don’t have any income, we both smoke and drink but in year one we will be under budget.
Get a credit card that doesn’t charge for transactions, we have spent less than 300 euros in cash in 6 months.
Carry some spare 240v plugs or fit some continental 240v socket outlets.
Tool shops are few and far between, so stock up on those English size tools.
Re-stocking on filters and other boaty items are far cheaper from English suppliers even with the extra cost of delivery.
So end of boring entry, bottom line is look at your current life style and get the book “Sell Up and Sail” Steve got over 3000 points in their ‘Ulysses Quotient’.
Coming next food blog including the pitta bread challenge and veggie scotch eggs!
Finally our first foray on the French public transportation system! Steve thought it was high time that we expanded our horizons so after a bit of research we decided that we would catch the bus to Deauville/Trouville – two towns on opposite sides of the River Touques joined by a bridge. Several yachties had told us what a wonderful place it was and as we have already passed it and not called in we thought it would be a good bus trip to make. Steve wanted us to catch the 9 am bus into Caen however we are not that good at getting up (he is convinced that my body clock is still on English time!) so it was the 10 o’clock that we caught. Whilst waiting for the bus to arrive we noticed that another couple waiting were also English so we had a bit of a conversation with them. They were from Sandwich in Kent and asked what our plans were. When we said we were heading to the Med, they asked if we were going round or through the canals to which Steve replied: we can’t go through the canals our yacht is too big (does that make him a pompous arse?!!) However, they seemed fairly impressed with that (so maybe not!!) When we were leaving the boat I had asked Steve if I needed to bring my phone and he said there wasn’t really any point and it wasn’t until we were at the bus stop that we realised we had no way of knowing what the time was – he has adopted my practice of no longer wearing a watch!! We did have my camera but the time has never been right on that so that was no use!! I had been practicing and practicing (in my head) how I was going to ask for the tickets and in the end cocked it up and said something completely different! However the bus driver understood and we paid our three Euros for the trip into Caen. We each had a ticket which had to be inserted into a reader/printer thing that acted like the till from the old sit-com “Open All Hours” so it grabbed your fingers as well as the card and if you’d done it correctly it printed on it and if not it just spat it out for you to try again! (I wonder how we know that!!)
Upon arrival at Caen bus station we bought our ticket (billet) for Deauville. I stood back and allowed Steve to try to buy the tickets but had to step in when he asked for return tickets to Honfleur! This time we had one ticket between us, and from having read something on the bus company website I believed we would have to insert the card twice each time we used it – Steve initially didn’t believe me as he thought it would register as a two person card – but again I was right! That seems to be happening a few times lately!!!
The trip to Deauville was quite scenic and Steve finally was able to have his ‘hill-fix’ and I was very relieved to be on a bus and not a bike! We went through several small towns, one being Dives-sur-Mer which Steve had read about having a wonderful market hall and reputedly the best market in Normandy. On arrival at Deauville we headed straight for (surprise, surprise) the marina (ok it was extremely close to the bus station!!) This was when we discovered that the two towns are definitely only connected by the Pont des Belges and the only way from the marina to Trouville is via a water taxi which didn’t appear to be running. We found our way to the marina basin that all the Dutch had been raving about and we could see why – the perfect location for a family beach holiday with the beach just over the wall from the marina. The local racehorses are exercised on the beach as well – but unfortunately not whilst we were there. So, as we are not beach lovers I don’t think we really missed out by not calling in there.
Deauville is known as the Cannes of Northern France but it appears, especially on a late September day, not to have quite the same amount of the glitz and glamour provided by the Mediterranean – more like Eastbourne on a windy day! As we left later than anticipated it was lunchtime so this allowed us the opportunity to savour the French equivalent of a sandwich (half a baguette either ham or cheese). As there was a ‘congres’ in progress next to the only open beachfront kiosk, they had practically run out of bread, so Steve’s quick thinking changed our order to one cheese “sandwich” which we would share. We sat on the beach to eat our demi demi-baguette containing the thinnest slices of Emmental we have ever seen – Steve’s cigarette papers are thicker!! We also had a beer each (as it was cheaper than Coke!) The only photo we actually ended up taking was a line of Renaults outside one of the grand hotels.
Due to lack of a timepiece and an ice cream interlude we missed one bus by about 5 minutes (if that) and then had to wait over an hour for the next one! Guess what we did then – sat looking at the yachts in the marina!! We managed to make it all the way back to Ouistreham by about 7.15 – a good day out!
Having been reminded about Dives-sur-Mer, Steve thought it would be a good idea for us to cycle there on market day (Saturday). Luckily (?) my replacement tyres had arrived and Steve had fitted them on Friday. The route to Dives as the crow flies is probably about 12 km – however the River Orne is in the way!! This means a 4km up one side and a 4km down t’other just to effectively be about 300 yards from where we started!! The weather forecast was favourable-ish but the wind was quite strong and from the south in the morning. There is an established cycle route to follow which takes you through the nature reserve at Sallenelles and we did a slight detour through the dunes at Merville Franceville. We arrived in Dives and our first stop was yet another marina – our neighbour, Guy, is thinking of keeping his boat there so we thought we would have a look. We then made our way into the town centre and found the market hall and some other rather beautiful buildings.
Dives-sur-Mer Market Hall
Cheese Seller and that wonderful ceiling again
Pretty building and fountain
Another pretty building
Yet another pretty building
William The Conqueror Woz ‘Ere
It would be amiss not to mention French markets – everyone seems to rave about them. However our experience thus far is that they appear to be more expensive than the supermarkets and even though the produce looks good today, in our experience it is not the place to do a weekly shop as the shelf life appears to be less. The market hall lived up to expectations; however the produce appeared no better or worse than any other market. There was a very expensive cheese seller, cheddar and parmesan at 30€ a kilo!!; a butcher selling horsemeat and the biggest brioche we’ve ever seen!! Outside you could buy mattresses, a huge, extending dining table, Rasta hats and just about anything else!! On the cycle back the wind appeared to have shifted and increased in intensity – it was now coming from the southwest – which, funnily enough, was the direction we were travelling! But at least it was flat!! When we got back we decided we would work out how far we had actually travelled. I thought it had to have been about 20-25 km (I knew it was further than when we had gone to Caen), however Steve did make the comment yeah 20 km one way! So Steve was right this time, our total distance travelled was about 42 km (26 miles!).
Steve has made me the happiest woman in the world! How can that be, you may ask? Well, he bought a tin of marrowfat peas (Pisum sativum var. medullare) from the World Foods aisle at the supermarket(!) and came up with this:
1 tin of marrowfat peas (small tin here 1€30)
Pinch of salt
Combine egg, flour, vinegar and water and mix to a thick batter, leave to rest. (Batter recipe based on a Brian Turner one)
Drain peas thoroughly, then using your right hand (so apparently if you are left-handed you can’t make them – that’s my excuse anyway!!) manipulate the peas until they squelch through your fingers. Then add the required seasoning (salt). Best salt to use is the crappy table salt (none of the fancy sea salt for this recipe). Form pea mixture into neatly shaped, meat ball or cork ball float (for the yachties amongst us) size balls and lightly flour them.
Peel potatoes, then cut into batons approximately 3/8” square (length dependent on potato). Hide under a paper towel so the recipient can’t see what you’re doing.
Using a wok, as this is the only safe boat method for us, add approximately an inch to an inch and a half of oil – must be vegetable, however the purists could use lard or beef dripping – but not on my boat! Heat oil carefully to a temperature that would fry a bread cube to a crisp in minutes. Place hidden potato into said oil and fry for approximately 5 minutes turning frequently to ensure even fry. Remove and place in a position where the recipient can’t see them. Place preformed pea balls into the batter, coat thoroughly then place into the hot oil, turning occasionally to ensure thorough browning on the batter. If you have a deep enough pan, they could be considered done when they float – however on board that is not possible! Once the peas are nearly cooked, carefully return the batoned potatoes to the oil until everything is nicely golden brown. Serve with loads of salt and vinegar (again crappy salt works much better than fancy salt, and the vinegar must be malt vinegar!) No other garnish required. And there we have the southerner’s pea fritter and chips!!!
Oh and as for the half a pineapple? There is a chap who may also be living aboard in Ouistreham, we have seen him out and about a few times. One evening Steve had a brief conversation with him in the gents, explaining that we were staying here for the winter and later that evening he turned to me and said “demi anas” – I thought he’d said “demi ananas” (half a pineapple) and asked him what on earth he was on about. He had been thinking how he could explain how long we were staying here in words he already knows – he knows that demi means half and thought he knew that ans was year – so he thought that by combining them it would mean half a year – which it nearly does – but his pronunciation let him down again – the poor boy, I was giggling about it for ages!!!!
Choking chilli sauce, the ongoing flour saga, lightweight patisserie and Theresa’s engineering fist-pump moments!!!
The stage was set ready to leave Sunday, weather fair and in daylight! I was determined to get to Ouistreham this time as I had phoned them and advised of our arrival for the second time and did not really want to have to ring again and say we weren’t coming again! The young man on the phone had remembered me from my first call as all I had to say was dix-sept meters and he knew who I was!
Our final farewell to Michel, on Saturday afternoon, proved our suspicions correct – the whisky Steve had shared all those days ago was moon-shine as Michel admitted that he and his mate have a still and as he is president of a shooting club it is probably in the woods somewhere!
Sunday morning’s plan was to leave the berth in order to get through the 9am bridge opening. Like all good plans, we executed it perfectly! The forecast was for very light winds so we knew we would be motoring in very flat seas. We passed Etretat, which was very underwhelming from our angle, compared with the postcards we had seen.
Everyone says dolphins make the world a happier place and I agree – we spotted two pods on this trip, although not close enough to photograph this time. Unfortunately my whale sighting was not confirmed by Steve who insisted it was purely the wash from a container ship entering Le Havre!! Spoilsport!!
We had planned to arrive in Ouistreham at 17:30, which would coincide with the first lock opening. However, the lock opening times had been shortened due to low water levels in the river Orne, which now meant that the first lock was 19:30. For the first time this year our average speed was higher than anticipated and we arrived outside Ouistreham fairway at about 16:30. After contacting Port Control for permission to enter we were informed that the Brittany ferry was due to leave her berth in ten minutes. Rather than play chicken with the Caen to Portsmouth ferry in the fairway, we decided to wait and bobbed about a bit! Once the ferry had left we were given the go ahead by Port Control to enter. The waiting pontoon dries at low water and we were unsure of the depth but good old Port Control said that there was loads of water and nothing to worry about – 4.5m at least and it was a rising tide.
Whilst making our way in, a French yacht who was sailing, experienced difficulties with his main sail and obviously lost concentration on where he was, so after three quick blasts of the very loud horn the jolly chap moved out of our way with a sheepish smile knowing he’d made a bit of a faux-pas! Normally we would give way to a vessel under sail but the channel dries either side so effectively we were limited by our draught.
On entering the harbour the visitors pontoon had at least ten deep of various sized vessels in no particular order, i.e. large yacht, small fishing boat alongside. Whilst making our first attempt to raft, a young lad from the marina (I think it was the one I had spoken to on the phone) shouted to us to go on channel 9 (we were still on 12 for Port Control). Once on channel the lad said that they had a special berth for us once we were through the lock!! This first attempt was met with turned backs and not the usual helpful response we’ve been used to. There seemed a reluctance from every possible rafting position to allow us to join the end of the string – was this because they’d all been listening on channel 9 and we were the special ones?! At this point the wind also decided to pick up. After several manoeuvres in the limited space, we decided that our best course of action, whilst waiting for the lock, was to circle in the Brittany ferries turning circle – for approximately 2 hours!! Steve’s boat handling was put to good use! During this time the steady stream of various sized boats continued to enter the harbour. We knew that this weekend was a French bank holiday weekend so I suppose we should have thought it might be busy especially as the weather was exceptionally good, so those not on the beach were on their boats! This meant manoeuvring space diminished and Steve had to time his turns to avoid boats milling in and around us. He only used his horn once when a pleasure cruiser was going to be in the space he needed.
At 7pm Steve radioed Port Control to ask what the lock procedure was, knowing the reluctance at the waiting pontoon showed a lack of consideration for others. The response went pretty much like this: “Are you the ketch circling by the ferry terminal?” “Yes I am the ketch.” ” OK, it is good policy to allow larger vessels in the lock first, but not everyone knows this. I suggest that in 10-20 minutes you make your way to the lock gates, there is a tug and motorboat to exit, then you can make your way in.” It appeared to have been said in such a way that we had been given permission to knock everyone out of our way, so, off came Steve’s Mr Nice Guy gloves and ‘take no cr*p Monaghan’ appeared! I know he found it incredibly difficult barging his way through as it is most definitely not his normal behaviour.
Once the lock gate opened it was like a swarm of locusts going through a funnel! We made our way calmly but forcibly through the melee with vessels (particularly small yachts and even smaller fishing boats) trying to squeeze through closing gaps (either between us and other yachts or even between us and the wall!) We made it to the lock wall unscathed to be greeted by the young French lad who had been awaiting our arrival with some excitement. “We don’t get many yachts of your size here, do you permit me to come aboard and take a look?” After emerging, his comments to Steve were “you have a very large bedroom and your kitchen is bigger than mine in my flat – very nice boat“. He then explained to me where our special berth was and that he would be waiting to take our lines. I think the only other non-French boats in the lock were two Dutchman. Steve had conversations with both. The first one said he had seen our interaction in the fairway and commented that the French don’t know how to sail, as he should have taken in his Genoa to sort his issue with the main. The other one said he had heard our radio conversation and, as we were now experiencing, there is definitely no procedure, except, perhaps, to get to your berth as quickly as possible and open the wine. The exit from the lock was very uneventful in comparison but there was quite a queue to enter the marina. Our special berth is absolutely perfect and Shearmyste is now being fully supported again!!!
Usually yachts enter through the smaller lock but, I assume due to the number of boats waiting, they decided to use the larger commercial boat lock. We think there must have been somewhere between 80 and 100 boats in the lock! Our limited experience with locks has meant that we thought they were busy if there were 5 or 6 boats in! Steve took this photo a couple of days later of one of the usual occupants of this lock – it might give an idea of the size!