The beaches of Normandy

Friday, June 17th, 2016.

Listening to a song that starts with a quote from Rocky (6?). I like this quote. It lifted my spirits after an exhausting Wednesday when i sailed to Fécamp, where i am at right now.

Actually i departed westwards for Fécamp on Monday already. But i did not get far. To be precise, i did not get further than a cable out of the harbour. That’s when i identified the incoming boat as the SY Freedom which departed roughly an hour before me. Hermann shouted over to me that they had tried tacking towards Fécamp but basically just went north and south on the same track with almost no progress towards the west. With the wind being unpleasant and the sea state moderate i decided that i don’t need try it either. Not me, being single-handed, when they, being a party of two, returned. So instead i set out for the ship chandlery where i bought a new ladder which should be compatible with the wind pilot.
I also biked up to the chappel ruling over the cliffs east of the harbor entrance. So i found out that it is a chappel dedicated to the seafarers. With a lot of commemorative plaque’s for those who never came back. A grim reminder of the sea’s indifferent lethalness.

Chapel Notre Dame de Bon-Secours (Our Lady of Good Help) over the harbour’s entrance
Chapel Notre Dame de Bon-Secours (Our Lady of Good Help) over the harbour’s entrance
Inside the seafarer’s chapel
Inside the seafarer’s chapel
Another (closed?) church in Dieppe
Another (closed?) church in Dieppe
View over Dieppe from the chapel
View over Dieppe from the chapel
And a view towards the sea...
And a view towards the sea…

With wind still steadily blowing from the west Tuesday was boat-work-day. I mounted the ladder to the boat, which was a real pain in the ass job. You have to crawl into a tiny compartment which the hatch to it being too small for both sholders at the same time. And then you try tightening bolts with extended and raised arms. This way i verified the scientific finding that swearing reliefs pain. And really felt like more swearing after realizing that the wind pilot and the ladder are not compatible after all 🙁

Swearing to tighten bolts in the hull of mala moja
Swearing to tighten bolts in the hull of mala moja

This all took me (again) longer than expected and so i did not get to buy a fishing rod before the Euro’s game Austria – Hungary. Which Austria lost. Well, at least we do have a long going experience with loosing…

Wednesday there was a chance that the wind might be veering towards north and so the SY Freedom and i decided to give it a shot towards the west. My first downer came when i wanted to bike to the harbor office to pay my dues: it seemed that my bike was not pleased with my slow progress of travel and subsequently satisfied it’s wanderlust by wandering off… not fun for me.

Out of the harbor the wind was a (very) solid 5Bft with a tendency to 6. With the tidal stream setting to the west and the wind coming from there it made for a very unpleasant sea (wind against tide). The wind forced me to tack. There is two options to do so. Either a tack every once in a while (half hour or hour) and zigzaging in front of the coast, or going out “the whole way” making one tack and coming back the whole way. Me being lazy, the way not getting longer (adding all the zigzags equals the two long pieces) but loosing speed (yeah, not substantial if not racing) at every tack and with hope that the wind might be a bit more favourable in direction out in the open water i chose to singe-tack.

Dieppe - Fécamp, my M-shaped track (marked with red arrow - i tacked too early so i went north-west again) vs. possible zigzag along the coast
Dieppe – Fécamp, my M-shaped track (marked with red arrow – i tacked too early so i went north-west again) vs. possible zigzag along the coast

Let’s make things short. Either it was the new water i put in the tank the day before (did not ask if potable) or it was the steap sea or both. But i started feeling all but good. At two points i was just a notch from throwing up. It really shattered my morals. The sea got soo much calmer as the tidal stream changed direction, but i still stayed in a sick-state. And despite the sun coming out and the sea calm i was still shaken enough that a coastguard helicopter approaching me at some 50 meters touched me deep enough to bring me close to tears.

Coastguard inspection on the way Dieppe - Fécamp
Coastguard inspection on the way Dieppe – Fécamp

An hour later or so my decision to do the one-tack-route turned out wrong. The wind died off completely. So i had to turn on the engine and motor to Fécamp – with the tidal stream now against me. Would i have stuck to a coastal zig-zag i would have had probably some 4 miles less to go than this way. Does not sound much, but with a strong tide that does make for an additional hour or more (5-6 knots under motor minus 2-3kn stream makes 2-3kn over ground and thus 1-2 hours for 4miles).

But there’s a up to every down. I motored with a steering course almost 40° appart from my course over ground towards the coastal limestone cliffs lit up by a setting sun in extremely calm waters continuing reading my book and experienced my first single-handed under-way sunset at sea.

Normandy’s cliffs in the evening sun
Normandy’s cliffs in the evening sun

Still, entering the harbor i was exhausted and happy to go to sleep soon. Set out for a route that under engine would be 30nmi i arrived in Fécamp after what turned out to be my longest leg so far (56.5nmi). I tied up the boat, cleared the sailing setup to make room for the living setup, turned on the fridge, water pump and cabin lights and was greated with a fissing noise. I located it under the starboard bench, which, when opened, greeted me with a stream of water shooting at the ceiling of the boat. The hot-water pipe coming from the boiler was burst.

I’m sure you can guess that the tools are stored under the left bench...
I’m sure you can guess that the tools are stored under the left bench…

I turned off the water pump, removed pressure from the system (opening the water tap) and checked the bilge, where there was not really a lot of water. The bit there was might have come also from other places. I pumped off what the pump could still suck and tried to repair the pipe with self-vulcanizing tape. Did not work. So i just brushed teeth and went to bed.

Sailor, a bit exhaused on Thursday morning
Sailor, a bit exhaused on Thursday morning

Yesteday was a new day. After my office-working-day (participating in a video-conference for the VALiD research project) i explored Fécamp and went to the ship chandlery. As they did not have the pipe i need i bought a bit of a (thicker) hose and temporarily fixed the rupture with a metal tightening strap. I also bought a fishing rod, which i hope will get me my lunch or dinner today, and then went to watch the Germans play 0-0 against Poland.

One of many Fécamp’s narrow streets (ruelle) with stone buildings
One of many Fécamp’s narrow streets (ruelle) with stone buildings
Fécamp’s beach and cliff
Fécamp’s beach and cliff
Somtimes i do feel time starting ticking a tick slower
Somtimes i do feel like time is starting to tick a tick slower

Today is Friday, gray and i’ll stay in Fécamp. On Tuesday i return home for two weeks and i wonder where i will have to leave mala moja then. I like the Normandy 🙂

Post script. I like to think of myself as being an optimistic realist. A saying goes that there is only three types of sailors: dead and retired ones, pessimists and beginners. And i’m not really sure about it but i do have the impression that i catch myself with an awful lot of pessimist thoughts… hope this is not permanent.
And now, off to fishing!!

Post-post script. Actually i like to sing the above song from the Shout Out Louds with replacing “Normandie” by “Brittany” as i’ve had it in my ear all the time when i arrived there with the Tres Hombres last year. But i guess i like the Normandy too.
And now, really off to fishing!
I’m hungy.

Postpostpost: here’s a tide-ebb comparison picture for Fécamp harbor that i just made.

(Cover image: fishing boat off the cliffs east of Fécamp)

The delights of France

Sunday, June 12th, 2016. – part II

In Boulogne-Sur-Mer i arrived fairly early, so i had time to explore the city and have a glass of (french) wine in the old part of town (the historic city center is within ancient fortified city walls). Together with the sunny day it really lifted my spirits. Or, as the Freedom-couple put it: the water here is bluer than in the north sea, the weather sunnier and the wind is blowing… nothing to add 😉
Besides i had a sip of skipper’s rum with Hermann from S/Y Freedom (S/Y is a common abbreviation for sailing yacht) for crossing the Dover Strait and reaching “the Channel“, the world’s busiest seaway. And no, it is not men only, Sabrina simply didn’t want one.

Coast north-east before Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Coast north-east before Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Street view in Boulonge-Sur-Mer
Street view in Boulonge-Sur-Mer

Unfortunatelly the wind-part did not hold true for the next day when we went for another long leg towards Dieppe. The whole stretch (10.5 hours) i had to go by engine. I had the sails up to generate a bit of additional speed, but that was more to comfort myself. The little wind there was came from dead astern and was of little use. Since the sea was completely flat it was at least a very calm ride. And besides some small works on the boat i could finished my book (One hundred years of solitude by Gabriel García Márquez) and start a new one (Tamata by Bernard Moitessier).

Fisher in calm waters on my way south
Fisher in calm waters on my way south
Strong current in front of the port entrance (i am heading towards the green tower on the right, despite pointing very left ;)
Strong current in front of the port entrance (i am heading towards the green tower on the right, despite pointing very left 😉

In Dieppe i arrived very late. Too late for the harbor office still being open. And too late for the kick off of the European Championship (soccer). So i had a quick shower on board (the 2nd on board) and then took off for the first bar i could find to watch the 2nd half. Turns out, i was just in time. The second half was interesting to watch and with a victory the French were pleased and started partying. I joined a band of guys who were in town for a soccer tournament themselves and had a cool evening.

Car convoy celebrating France’s victory in the opening game
Car convoy celebrating France’s victory in the opening game
More (post) victory celebration
More (post) victory celebration

Yesterday i wanted to do some shopping (maps, gasoline, ladders and stainless screws for the boat, some fishing gear and groceries) for which i hit the city roads by bike. I saw the city, but failed to find any of the necessary places… so i accepted faith and sat down for a glass of wine at a picturesque square of the beautiful town.

Market next to Dieppe’s cathedral
Market next to Dieppe’s cathedral
After market square - with sunlight
After market square – with sunlight
At a café in Dieppe
At a café in Dieppe

And so, here i am. Sitting in France, typing these lines and enjoying french life. Despite it being the north coast, it feels so meditteranean to me. The coastline changed from flat to cliffs with green meadows and sheep or cows on them. Today it’s a working day and i have to figure out my route for tomorrow. It’s west with the options of Le Havre or Cherbourg. Cherbourg is over 50nmi and has the downside of taking me 10-15nmi south, which i have to make up north again when going to Cherbourg. Cherbourg on the other hand is a 110nmi – which means over a day at sea. With the TSS limiting free space in the north, the coast close and fishing traffic this is reasonable for Sabrina and Hermann who can have a watch-change, but not for me. Or it is north to Newhaven, England. 65nmi are doable within daylight and without sleep (12-14hours). Especially as the current does not matter when crossing the channel – it takes you the same way west as it does east. So you can just go straight. Then again, if i cross the channel, i miss the opportunity to visit the site of the D-Day landing…

So it is ale in England, sailing in the Solent (the “Mecca” of sailing), hoisting the english flag (adding another country to my list) and crossing the channel versus the french coast, D-Day landing site and not having to cross the channel.
It’s hard for me to make such decissions.

Low tide in Dieppe ...
Low tide in Dieppe …
... and 6 hours later at high tide.
… and 6 hours later at high tide.

P.s.: It is really fascinating to see the huge impact of the tide here. In Dieppe there is a differnce of 8m (at spring tide) in the water levels. So it’s up every six hours and down every six hours. Just imagine what masses of water are moving here…

(Cover picture: Boulonge-Sur-Mer’s cathedral in the sunset)

The Channel – takes it’s toll

Sunday, June 12th, 2016. – part I

Dieppe, France. Here i am!
I just now realized that i did not write a post for a week now. So this is the first post from outside of the Netherlands – a small sail for mankind, but a giant leap for mala moja and me.
But let’s move along chronologically… i’ll split the post in two for easier congestability.

Traffic before Zeebrugge
Traffic before Zeebrugge

I crossed the first border when heading for Zeebrugge, Belgium. Entering port was a challenge. Not being allowed to enter due to traffice (a cruise ship leaving) the current carried me a good piece west off the entrance -which i realized quite late. So after the green light showing up, i had to go against the current (which was approx. 3kn at that place). When i finally reached the harbor entrance (not more than 100m in front of it) the light againg switched to red. Was like in a bad slapstick movie. I entered anyhow.

Once more - leisure and insutry, just a dune away...
Once more – leisure and insutry, just a dune away…

In Zeebrugge i stayed two nights to have an excursion to Brugge – which is a marvel of a city! I did not read up on it more than that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but just followed the advice to go and visit it. And i was flashed! The whole inner city feels like a giant museum. It’s beautiful. So i spent several hours biking the city before i returend (by train) to the harbor of Zeebrugge.
In the evening i talked about the plans for the next day(s) with a german sailing couple – Sabrina and Hermmann. Turns out that they are just starting a three-year sailing journey with thery boat Freedom and heading the same direction as i am (until Gibraltar).

One of the many channels of Brugge
One of the many channels of Brugge
Due to it’s channels the city is also called "Venice of the North"
Due to it’s channels the city is also called “Venice of the North”
A houses entrance in Brugge
A houses entrance in Brugge

Motivated by the Freedom-crew i (also) departed for Dunkerque, France, the next day. We were sailing in weak wind westwards befor turning southwards later on, to get past the many shoals and sandbanks off the belgian coast. The wind got less and less and so i had to motor a significant part of the leg. When approaching Dunkirque i was suprised to see three military vessels slowly moving in front of and inside the port. Asking for permission to enter i learned why: a movie shot for “Dunkerque” inside the harbor had me waiting in front of the entrance again.

Dunkerque harbor entrance - with movie set
Dunkerque harbor entrance – with movie set
Heading into harbor alongside the movie boats
Heading into harbor alongside the movie boats
More harbour traffic, thanks to Hollywood
More harbour traffic, thanks to Hollywood
Extras waiting for the shot at the harbor wall
Extras waiting for the shot at the harbor wall
Dunkerque - without Hollywood ;)
Dunkerque – without Hollywood 😉

Again i spent two nights in Dunkerque, debating with the Freedom-crew how to proceed. The two major options were crossing to England or staying in France. We both chose to stick to the southern, french coast. With Clais being apparently closed for transiting boats (info came from another sailor) this made Boulogne the next logical stop (no harbors before that).

With over 40 miles (direct route) this meant to leave early. Especially as the Strait of Dover and the ferry crossing Calais-Dover might be time consuming. In addition the tidal current at Cap Gris-Nez is also a stronger one (2.2 kn at spring tide– which was now). As i feared to be stuck fighting the tide i motor-sailed the first part. With only some 4 to 6 knots of wind from astern (blowing into your back) it was also necessary, as there would have been little progress. The wind died off more and more, but the current took me with it. The ferry line i crossed without much hassle. After contacting one of the ferries on “collision course” via VHF they explained their course will change in a minute (and it did) and that thus i am not in their way.
At the Cap Gris-Nez the sun came out and the wind started to pick up. So despite the current starting to turn, i could turn off the engine and enjoy a beautiful sail with the scenic chalk cliffs of France and England (Cliffs of Dover) in sight.

Also part of the channel traffic - boats "being in the roads" (i.e. waiting to continue)
Also part of the channel traffic – boats “being in the roads” (i.e. waiting to continue)
Dover-Calais ferries crossing in front Calais (every 20 minutes)
Dover-Calais ferries crossing in front Calais (every 20 minutes)
The cliffs of Calais on port (side)...
The cliffs of Calais on port (side)…
and those of Dover on starboard side of mala moja
… those of Dover on starboard side of mala moja…
And mala moja’s sailor at Cap Gris-Nez
… and mala moja’s sailor at Cap Gris-Nez.

Traffic here in the strait is heavy, but limited to the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) which i did not cross. But you have constant talking on the radio. Among all the routine traffic i also picked out uncomforting radio traffic… (Short explanation: radio reception range strongly depends on the hight of the sending and receiving antenna – line of sight – since coast-guard antennas are very high you can often hear the coast-guard part of conversations but not the part of the second station involved). Apparently some distress or urgency call was being made, as i could figure from the coast-guards part of the conversation.
Later it became even worse. In a second conversation there was a fisherman over board for whom a SAR (search and rescue) opeartion was initiated. As i found out later, this operation was unsuccessful.

(Cover picutr: cranes of Zeebrugge – with a war memorial)

Sailing, finally

Sunday, June 5th, 2016.

Squatting the night, beans for breakfast and a good morning.
Finally!

My idea was to go from Scheveningen/Den Hague directly to Oostende, which already lies in Belgium. Needless to say, that this plan did not work out. It would have been fairly ambitious and required (very) early departure as it would take probably some 15 hours or so. Thus i prepared several stops for along the way.

The intended departure was delayed by prolongued stormy weather for another day, which i spent doing nothing – except for shopping groceries and reading. Something i have to learn: accepting the weather. And also being OK with doing “nothing” every once in a while.

So when i actually left port 2 days ago i had to wait for the fog getting less dense. And even then, when i departed towards south (including Rotterdam’s entrance) the visibility was initally just a bit over 1nmi. Luckily it got better (approx. 4nmi) until i came to the Maas entrance, which is the way into Rotterdam.

Waves and fog en route to Rotterdam
Waves and fog en route to Rotterdam

Since the wind had been blowing with force 6 and 7 the last days, the swell was quite high (2-3m). And since the wind was really weak, i could not set the sails. They were being tossed around by the movement of the air caused by the leverage of mast and waves. So it was an unstable ride and i started feeling a bit queasy… not fun.
And i also discovered that i lost a fender under way – more plastic in the sea 🙁

Crossing Rotterdam entrance
Crossing Rotterdam entrance

So the call was to head for the first possible stop, which was Stellendam. I entered the marina and of course just then the wind did pick up while trying to park the boat in a berth with really little place to maneuver. Fortunatelly a couple helped me, cause i missed the cleat when throwing the rope and the boat was already drifting…

For yesterday i planned to do the trip to Belgium. Far, but possible. I got up at 7:30 and was ready for it. But the weather was not. Fog. Really thick fog. So thick that i would not have been able to move through the channel marked with buoys, as i would not have seen the next one. More watining – which reduced my time window. And when i got going, there was not enough time left for Belgium. Not even Vlissen, where i would have liked to go (as wind was low and current against me).

Cought by fog, this time in Stellendam
Cought by fog, this time in Stellendam

But after i could turn off the engine (took a while until the wind was strong enough) i had a really great sail. With the wind vane (which is a mechanical “auto pilot” – uses no electricity 😉 – that keeps the boat in a preset angle towards the wind) tested for the first time. And she worked like a charm!

Raise that flag - finally sun!
Raise that flag – finally sun!

I set the wind vane to a course of roughly 60° (naturally apparent) wind, and on my laptop (i use OpenCPN, a great open source programm for nautical navigation) an alarm if i get off by more than 10° from my course (yesterday the heading was 240°). The sun was partially coming through the haze, the sea calm, the wind light and steady and i reading a book. Awesome!

This is what sailing would be like in an ideal world (with a bit more wind)...
This is what sailing would be like in an ideal world (with a bit more wind)…

I came to the Roopot-lock where i wanted to just go through and go in the marina right behind it. But in the lock i met two great belgian sailors (Gregoir and Olivier) who told me they were going to stay at the pantoon right behind the lock and i should do the same. It is 1nmi closer and for free, compared to an overly expensive marina that has not much to offer. Sounded good to me! I stayed there with them – which is not really allowed to be done at that pantoon, but well… no risk no fun. And they invited me for supper. We had chicken, some wine and a good time and i got some good advice for the channel.

Well, here i am. On a sunny and breezy Sunday morning, had baked beans for breakfast (wanted to re-supply with bread in the marina) and am getting ready for the next leg. Will it be Belgium today?!

(Cover image: a west cardinal buoy and a sailing boat at sea)

Departing challenge

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016.

Sitting in Den Hague, where i arrived yesterday evening, at a coffe & tea bar to get some work done. And to write this blog (it’s getting tiresome to always just sit on the boat ;).

Deserted Scheveningen promenade
Deserted Scheveningen promenade

Had a nice bike-tour along the beach promenade yesterday nite. Though it did remind me very much of Mamaia beach after the end of the season. All bars and places (still) open, with colorful lights and (loud) music, but hardly any people around. Quite depressing. Does not really comfort my solitude. But, as to cheer me up, at the end of the promenade an (empty) bar was playing “Follow the Sun”.

More deserted Scheveningen
More deserted Scheveningen

I generally observe myself being somewhat on an emotional rollercoaster ride. For me almost everything is new. I have not been a real handyman before coming on the boat. And in addition all the work on the boat is brand new. Drilling a hole in the hull scares the shit out of me. Well, the last four (for the AIS-antenna cable) were already much easier and better than the very first one. But in general all is new. And everything i do is something i have to “force” myselft into doing.

I am still scared of leaving a port (cover picture shows the swell of the last day hitting the breakwater when was leaving IJmuiden). But it’s not fear of the things that are out there; it’s a very fuzzy anxiousness that kind of lames me. Every departure is a struggle. Starting every new task is a struggle. And there is no-one around who i can talk to and use this talk as an outlet for this unspecific anxiousness.

Somewhere there is Scheveningen, Den Hague
Somewhere there is Scheveningen, Den Hague

Then again is the great joy of coming into a new, beautiful place. And to me they all look beautiful. Might it be because their industrial charm reminds me of Russia (IJmuiden did do that very much), or because a sun-lit inner-city harbor just reflects the spirit of the people living here (IJburg, Hoorn, Enkhuizen or Scheveningen), or because it is a beautiful small fishing village (Marken, Oudeschild), or because there is some emotional connection (Den Helder as home of Fair Transport, Tres Hombres and Nordlys), or because of their intrinsic charme (Sixhaven), or because they just are (Den Oever, Broekerhaven). But also then, after the first rush of endorphines and happiness settles, i’d like to share the moment. And it is a bit sadening to not be able to do so. And no, modern communication technology is great, but it cannot do that 😉 ).

Scheveningen’s lighthouse - i guess there it is
Scheveningen’s lighthouse – i guess there it is

Well… let’s get some work done. And have a stroll in the city. And prepare for the next leg. And the passing of Rotterdam’s entrance 😉

Scheveningen’s lighthouse shining over the promenade
Scheveningen’s lighthouse shining over the promenade
My home waiting in Scheveningen’s foggy harbor
My home floating in Scheveningen’s foggy harbor

(Cover image: waves breaking at Scheveningen’s breakwater when leaving port)