Cherbourg and St Vaast-la-Hougue – offshore sea trials

The French have had two bank holidays this week – Tuesday and Thursday – so naturally most people took the week off, myself included!

It gave me the opportunity to join up with Neil and take Spellbinder offshore, to check her systems and to put her through her paces. It proved to be an excellent 3 days.

We left Gosport around 10am on Tuesday, heading into a calm Solent with little in the way of wind, shaping up for Cherbourg. We soon found wind off the Isle of Wight though, and it stayed pretty westerly at Force 5 or 6 for the rest of the passage, although a veer to NW had been predicted – which would have been nice!

It was quite boisterous mid-Channel but the Hydrovane steered us ably throughout. The secret is to reef down and get the yacht properly balanced, so that the self-steering has to do as little work as possible.

The Hydrovane doing its job

We had a good, if challenging passage which Spellbinder loved. We had a couple of hours night sailing, the latter part motoring into Cherbourg with Neil keeping watch with a searchlight to ensure we didn’t fall foul of a lobster pot again! (I have since brought a rope cutter to be installed at the next liftout). We got into Cherbourg around midnight, tired but happy.

The next morning we paid our dues at the Capitanerie, met some fellow Brits (and ASA members), and then strolled around Cherbourg, past my favourite restaurant Le Pommier which was sadly shut, although we did meet the patron Guy.

Go to ‘Le Pommier’ if you can…

…and feast on these delights.

We had time for a beer and the usual Moules Frites though, as part of what would be a gastronomic day.

Tropical Cherbourg…no ‘parapluies’ required this week

After lunch we returned to Spellbinder and had a pleasant downwind sail around Barfleur to Saint Vaast-la-Hougue, one of my favourite Channel ports. Hustling alongside the trawlers, the marina is tidal and you have to time things carefully, but once in you are in a most delightful little town.

Spellbinder moored in Saint Vaast, a delightful harbour

We arrived at apéro time, and that taken strolled around the port past the amazing shop run by M Gosselin to the absolute treasure trove of a restaurant called the Fuschias, which you approach by being led up up a garden path. The pictures tell the botanical and gastronomical story:

I introduced Neil to the delights of Pommeau and we both ate rather well, with excellent service to match. Please go there if you can!The return trip to Gosport was among one of the best cross Channel passages I have undertaken – a fast cross wind trip, better reefed and balanced than the trip over and taking us just 12 hours. Again the Hydrovane proved its worth and I am getting much better at using it. It’s a pleasure to see it do its work. We barely touched the engine, sailing all the way from just outside St Vaast to the entrance of Portsmouth harbour. All very satisfying. On arrival we cleaned up Spellbinder, did some minor jobs and then ate out again, UK style. We hadn’t eaten much on the way over as it was quite bouncy. In sum, I’m delighted to report that Spellbinder proved her credentials, and her jobs list is now getting down to manageable levels. My time on Spellbinder continues and today I took my best man Anthony down to Cowes for lunch at the RYS. Very civilised and pleasant, despite the slightly dodgy cap sported by my good friend:As I write this I am on board preparing for 2 days of Long Range Radio certificate training and an exam…back to school for me.

3 thoughts on “Cherbourg and St Vaast-la-Hougue – offshore sea trials

  1. Neil R

    a great few days and my first channel crossing completed in style- my wife already fed up with hearing about the excellent foie gras!


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