Time flies by

Sunday, July 31st, 2016. – Roscoff, part I

Time flies by. The last days have been even fuller of things than before. I’ve had a few (video)conferences for work and have been visited by my family after that who were leaving a day after Ulli and Walter, two old friends of mine, came for five days. Needless to say that life on 6 square meters is turned upside down when two additional people squeeze in 😉
But the weather was great and so the times was too. A really pleasant change from my “routine”.

It would be a bit long-winded to recount all that happened in the last two weeks. But here are a few hightlight of the visits…

Fishing boats in the harbor of Grandcamp-Maisy
Fishing boats in the harbor of Grandcamp-Maisy
Morning fog creeping up towards Grandcamp-Maisy
Morning fog creeping up towards Grandcamp-Maisy

For my video-conferences i needed reasonably fast interenet-access, which is not as easy to obtain as one might think. Despite having a SIM-card with tons of download volume, the coverage was unsufficient. So i found myself checking out all bars around the port of Grandcamp-Maisy in search for a good WiFi – without succes. Subsequently i had to do a quick harbor relocation (to Carentan) to get there within the same high-tide and prior to the conf. For my early-morning sail i was rewarded with a bunch of seals escorting me in the estuary of the Carentan river.

Fishing boats in the weeds in Carentan
Fishing boats in the weeds in Carentan

The next stop from there was St.Vaast – a picturesque fishing village. A plain beauty. It was great to see how they farm oysters there. The really farm them. On fields accessible at low tide which are then entered with with tractors and harvested. Needless to say that i had to try some -and good they were!

St.Vaast’s harbor entrance at low tide (the harbor is closed with a lock)
St.Vaast’s harbor entrance at low tide (the harbor is closed with a lock)
Oyster fields in St.Vaast being harvested with a tractor
Oyster fields in St.Vaast being harvested with a tractor
More Oyster fields off St.Vaast
More Oyster fields off St.Vaast

From St.Vaast i sailed to Cherbourg in order to meet my family. It was a pleasant surprise that just before the departure i found out that SY Emil was anchoring just outside the harbor of St.Vaast in which i was staying. On the VHF we agreed to meet and sail to Cherbourg together. For me that trip was a great experience. Since i wanted to avoid the Barfleur cap (it is recommended to do so as the currents tend to get really nasty there) i made a big circle around it – and was at the northern most point of it revarded with a glimpse into what ocean sailing might be like. Close to the middle of the channel the tidal stream is weaker and thus its effect on the waves too. So i was there with a gentle wind of 15 knots calmly sailing on the “breath” of the Atlantic – a mild swell of long-spaced 1 to 2 meter waves lifting the boat up and down. It was beautyful. I had this feeling of just keeping going straight and not tacking for Cherbourg…

From Cherbourgh my brothers Marko and Joško sailed with me – the infamous Race of Alderney. With a perfect timing and calm winds it was more of a Sunday-sail, despite having “chosen” the day of spring tide. It was just amazing to see us race through there and having a 60° difference between our course steered and the course over ground to reach Diélette. We even cought a mackerel. But threw it in the sea again after discovering that this just had happened off the “nucular peninsula” between the nucular (see link before) fuel reprocessing plant “Le Hague” and the nucular (see link 😉 ) power plant Flamanville.

Church in Cherbourg with a boat fallen dry
Church in Cherbourg with a boat fallen dry
Joško in the sunset of Diélette
Joško in the sunset of Diélette

The next day our parents joined us on board so the whole family was sailing together. The conditions for this were picture perfect. A sunny day with up to 10kn of perpendicular wind. The leg was also a shorter one so we spent (after dad cought twice two mackerels) a good portion of it anchoring and picnicing off Carteret.

Marko walking into the fog - for breakfast before departure
Marko walking into the fog – for breakfast before departure
My parents sailing aboard mala moja - an honor :)
My parents sailing aboard mala moja – an honor 🙂

The last day with the family was again just us brothers on a super-relaxed sail. We played cards, slept, joked, had dolphins escort mala moja (my first dolhin sighting) and a good time on the way.

A game of "3er-Schnapsen" along the way. With a very special set of cards.
A game of “3er-Schnapsen” along the way. With a very special set of cards.
Dolphin likes mala moja. And vice versa.
Dolphin likes mala moja. And vice versa.

With Walter and Ulli i took it to Jersey, cause i wanted to see at least one of the Channel Islands. We wanted to depart the following day but decided not to, as it would have been a pitty to not have seen anything. So we had a nice day that we spent biking on Jersey.

Having lunch in a pub. Yes, fish and chips are greasy.
Having lunch in a pub. Yes, fish and chips are greasy.
Biking though what could be Schottland too. Just much milder... Jersey is beautiful.
Biking though what could be Schottland too. Just much milder… Jersey is beautiful.
Us and the sea
Us and the sea

We departed the day after. But we left a bit late and conditions were less than perfec with wind directly from our destination, a “moderate” sea and dizzle. Fearing we might not make it in daylight – with a rocky coast at our goal – i decided to turn around. This gave us another afternoon and a party evening in Jersey. The two had to take the ferry the day after to get to Paris and their plane in time and i decided to wait another day (after the party ;).

Rocks submerged during high tide, visible off Jersey at low tide
Rocks mostly submerged during high tide, visible off Jersey at low tide

(Cover image: Spider silk on mala moja’s back stay – the wire holding the mast from the back of the boat)

Follow the sun

Sunday, July 17th, 2016. – Under way

Mala moja is slowly sailing towards Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue from the Mulberry harbour off Arromanches, where we anchored the night. Yesterday was simply perfect. It started with a sunny day in Ouistreham, where i spent only one night after leaving Le Havre, which kept me for much longer than intended… But i would not want to miss the time there 🙂

The first memorable event was the game of football i “watched”. My two british neighbours (a scottish and an irish sailor) invited me to listen to the game on their boat with a very british “even though we’re leaving the Union, we can still be friends?!”. To enjouy the game with them sounded fun. Although i offered to bring my computer so we can watch it – which they gladly accepted.

With the kick-off i had to realize, that the french streaming-provider was showing the game to paying users only… bad luck. Our fallback to listen to the game as intended was unfortunately impossible either. I had imagined them to crank up the radio, but they had an ipad where they wanted to listen to BBC – which was blocked outside of the UK. After 10min of searching the web i found a US site which was streaming the BBC’s commentary for free… so we eventually got to listen how France beat Germany (much to my dismay).

But over having supper, a bit of wine and then a bit of rum, the game mutated more and more to being background noise, while we chatted. Turned out one of them had been a sailor in the Royal Navy and left it as they stopped dispensing the daily ration of rum in the beginning of the 70ies -or so he told. He then went on to live in a hippie commune, smoking the finest weed which he got from a police officer, before he relocated to California for surfing and listening to the Beach Boys. His companion was much quieter and “put up with him only because he is such a good cook”.

After a while the hippie got out his guitar and i my harmonicas and we jammed for a few hours until the second one went to sleep. We then transferred onto mala moja where we had more rum until early in the morning. Naturally the next day was not a day where i was willing to go solo-sailing…

But due to staying in harbour i got to know my other neighbours. Eva (German) and Martin (Swiss), both younger than me, who are preparing their boat Emil for a one-year trip to the carribean and back. It was great to finally meet people my age who are sailing, but they are really cool besides being “my age”…

They invited me for dinner to which a few of their french friends came, who are “homeless, but not boatless”, as they put it thmeselves, living on boats in the marina of Le Havre.

The plumber i mentioned in the last post sold me 16mm diameter pipe and i needed 15mm, so i had to keep on looking for a pipe that fit. Besides that I spent my days in Le Havre exploring, doing a bit of excercise (running), going to the beach, working (video-conferencing and mailing). On the Bastille-day Martin and i went for a short sail in really beautiful conditions (sun and a moderate to fresh breeze). And of course in the evening we went to the city’s official celebration at the beach promenade. But, having had an (extensively) prolongued supper the night before, we were sooo tired that we went home before the fireworks. So i watched those and fell asleep just afterwards.

Thanks to being in bed early i was in good condition to continue my trip – after a week spent in Le Havre. After getting groceries, the spokes of my new bike adjusted and a great lunch in the city i left port towards Ouistreham. On the way i crossed from the eastern into the western hemisphere, sailing over the zero meridian of Greenwich. I reached berth just before midnight – due to my late departure and the lock-operation schedule which pinned me down for over an hour. Despite a very poor first impression that i got from the city, it turned out to be really beautyful the next day.

Yesterday i quickly got out of the tidal lock and moored mala moja just outside of it in the waiting area to go for fresh bread and groceries… and saw the beautiful inner city.
Great!
The weather, a perfectly warm summer day, added to the impression. The whole situation inspired me to buy an artichoke and a small bottle of Champagne.

I set sails westward. With no set destination. The wind, with just around 10-12knots came from roughly 60° starboard at first and then veered slightly onto 90°. The sun was shining, it was warm and mala moja flew with 7,5 to 8 knots accross the water. It was beautifully perfect. After a few hours of sailing the wind started decreasing. I was trawling a mackerel bait all the time. So i don’t know if it was the decrease of speed down to just above 5kn or pure chance, but suddenly there it was: the first fish i cought sailing! A mackerel of moderate size. Good enough for supper for one. The artichoke started to make perfect sense. Now i was faced with the problem what to do with a freshly cought fish?! Does it need special treatment? How to store it until supper? After a short video conference with my family – i called to ask about cleaning the fish, they wanted to see the catch – i cleaned the fish and put it into the fridge.

Next i needed a place to stay. And although i was a bit anxious, i decided not to go into port, but to anchor in the Mulberry harbour. The last piece of the way i had to use the engine as the wind died off completely. Entering the remains of the harbour i asked an anchoring, local sailing boat where there was a spot with sufficient water during low tide and dropped mala moja’s anchor for the first time. With the boat being as light as it is, it took quite a time until she was half-decently alinged with the wind. So i put her into reverse… and the anchor dug in and held rock solid.

Despite no significant waves and because of practically no wind, the boat did not turn into the wind but was adrift and mostly got the waves from the side, rocking up to 30°. So making supper was a rolly thing, but it turned out perfect. The artichoke was almost better than the fish 🙂

But it was all topped by watching the sunset – for which i opened the bottle of Campagne. A perfect day coming to an end.

Sunrise and morning loo coincided so i got to see that too. And it was totally worth it again. After a long sleep in, gently rocked by the waves, i got up for a swim in the channel. I used it to test my new diving glasses and check mala moja’s belly for fouling. There is a bit on it, but not much. Though i try to clean it after reading up on how this is best done without damaging the anti-fouling.

After that, and breakfast, i lifted the anchor and set sails again towards the west. The goal might be Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. Or another anchorage at the Iles Saint Marcouf. We will see…

Note 1: Unfortunatelly my internet-connection is currently too bad for more pictures. Plus: i lost several of my (favourite) pictures due to technical issues (that hurts). I’ll try to upload more images as soon as possible…

(Cover image: Sunrise viewed from the Mulberry harbour off Arromanches.)

Halftime – and a crack in the pipe

Thursday, July 7th, 2016. – Le Havre

The first half of my trip is over. And i am still far away from the Mediterranean, where i was hoping to be by then end of June. But since i left mala moja for a two-week return to Austria things seem to have changed.

The two weeks at home i spent with appointments. Work and private. I was basically busy from when i landed in Vienna. The two, or actually three points that seem to be noteworthy are reading Tamata, the autobiography of Bernard Moitessier.
I started the book already a while ago (on my trip to Dieppe) but only finished it in the plane back to Paris. And i don’t know what it is that made this book so special to me. Maybe it’s that this outstanding person was always trying to keep going and not willing to give up? Maybe it planted the seed of an idea in me, which is saying that the sea can be scary, but if you’re prepared and respectful, you should not worry more than necessary. Nevertheless, it made an impression on me.

The second point was another book. One that i received at home for my birthday. It’s called “The Idle Traveller” (by Dan Kieran; “Slow Travel” is the german title – yes it is an english german title 😉 ). Starting reading it in the train from Paris to Fécamp was as if i stumbled across something that i was missing without knowing it. It opened my eyes – and still is, as i’m only half through yet. And it was like someone patted my shoulder saying “that was a good decission to spontaneously spend a night in Paris!”.

Asian tourists posing at the Sacré-Cœur during a quick stop - before rushing to the next attraction.
Asian tourists posing at the Sacré-Cœur during a quick stop – before rushing to the next attraction.

I don’t want to write a review of “The Idle Traveller / Slow Travel”. But the book does an outstanding job in pointing out that travel is much more than transporting your body from A to B and rushing through a list of “things to do and see”. This is naturally too short for a summary (the book is really highly worth reading!), but that’s the point that i have to refer to.

It was while reading it in the train that i seemed to start realizing that i may have set out for an “extended period of sailing”. But i apparently ended up on a journey around Europe. And as every slow journey, it puts things into perspective. It’s a difference if you enter a plane in Amsterdam and exit in Le Havre or if you take a train and notice the subtle changes during your voyage, possibly having to switch trains a few times. Or if you do the voyage in one of the slowest ways possible – under sails from harbour to harbour.
In my head i initially laid out this trip to be summer sailing in the med. Maybe add the coast of Portugal. And now i am slowly circling a continent that’s undergoing a major crisis. Or at least feels that way.

These thoughts started running in my head while on the way back to mala moja. And there i realized the third thing that changed. When i left for Austria it was late in June. Now it is early July. In the meantime vacation season has started, and there is a noticable number of young people with me on the bus. Young people with back-packs. They were there in Paris already too, i just did not notice them among all the other tourists.
So when i arrived at Fécamp again i felt differently on the inside than i did when i left it.

This of course did not influence the troubles and/or challenges. First i needed to resupply the boat. Trying to fill the water tank i realized that my hose was too short. So i went to buy an extension and am now proud owner of a total of 25m of hose. Let the garden party start 😉

Approach of Le Havre with the tower of St.Joseph’s church visible (and chimneys)
Approach of Le Havre with the tower of St.Joseph’s church visible (and chimneys)

I left Fécamp and set out for Le Havre the day after resupplying. A beautyful summer day, albeit with very little wind. On the other hand, i preferred it smooth on my first trip after almost 3 weeks of not sailing. So i motor-sailed for the largest stretch of the trip. Fortunatelly the wind picked up in the bay of Le Havre and so i even got an hour of quite sailing before entering the harbor.

Le Havre is a very busy port, so there was quite some (big) traffic in the area. From far i could see the tower of St.Jospeh’s church which intentionally looks like a lighthouse. After tying up the boat the (temporaily) fixed water pipe broke again. The initial crack grew in sice. And got company from a second one. No temporary solution no more and with no replacement on board it meant no water.
Hence i wandered to explore the city a bit. The St.Joseph’s church was closed (it was past 23:00 when i came there) and the rest of the city was closed pretty much too. So i went to read a bit and sleep.

Concrete buildings in Le Havre at a road into the city center
Concrete buildings in Le Havre at a road into the city center
Le Havre city center
Le Havre city center
Boats in line in the heart of Le Havre - in front of concrete slab buildings
Boats in line in the heart of Le Havre – in front of concrete slab buildings

Today my mission was to find a piece of pipe. And my birthdays present – my grandmother, aunt, her boyfriend and my parents presented me with the money for a new folding bike. The bike i got pretty easily (THANK YOU!). But only the fourth plumbler i visited seems to be promising for the hose. The ladies there kept the old pipe part (and my two spare connectors) and told me to come again tomorrow around 10:00. Then they probably have the piece i need.
Let’s hope so!

A place in the heart of Le Havre, surrounded by concrete slab buildings.
A place in the heart of Le Havre, surrounded by concrete slab buildings.

Finally i set to cruising the city of Le Havre. A plattenbau-marvel (concrete slab)! I whish the russians would have had sent a delegation to this city. Despite it being just concrete slabs, it is beautyful. Good enough for the UNESCO to inscribe its central city as world heritag sites (next to Brasilia the only one from the 20th century!). The city’s highlight, in my opinion, is the St.Joseph’s church. Concrete awesome!

Le Havre’s St. Joseph’s curch. Beautiful.
Le Havre’s St. Joseph’s curch. Beautiful.

Supper now and then i should find a place to watch the game Tschörmenie vs. France!

(Cover image: inside St.Joseph’s church)