The last couple of weeks has seen Spellbinder go from one rally to another, progressing down the Continental coast from Belgium to Brittany.
The first rally was that of the Hallberg Rassy Owners’ Association (HROA), of which I have the honour of being Vice-Commodore. The HROA fleet had left a few days before, and I motored round from Vlissingen to Zeebrugge to meet them as they arrived. We were almost 20 yachts, of various sizes, and while I was sorry not to join them for the their onward rally up the Dutch canals (whence I had come) I had an enjoyable 48 hours with them, hosting a pontoon party along with the Dutch and Belgian equivalent organisation (HR Connectie) and then partaking in the welcome dinner at the Royal Belgian Sailing Club.
An early morning start was then called for to catch the tide down to Dunkirk, where I was to meet my next crew Crispin. It was a bit bumpy, but I was leaving the port at around 5am when the sun rose.
It was a bit of a motor, but a few hours later I entered Dunkirk – another first for me. Having changed my courtesy flag from Belgium to France I tied up at the Yacht Club Mer du Nord, and started to re-acquaint myself with French food.
Crispin arrived later that evening, having taken the Eurostar to Lille and a local train, and we set off to have dinner and to explore Dunkirk. It clearly suffered during the war but some key buildings survived or were re-built. It is not the prettiest of places though, and had the sense to me of a bit of a French outpost.
A rather splendid depiction of this year’s Tour de France route
We ate well, and retired early as we had a 30 hour passage ahead of ourselves, crossing the Baie de Seine to Cherbourg. Up at 0400, we had a good sail initially past Calais and Boulogne but the wind died, as predicted, and we had a long and very sunny motor across some very calm seas.
It was time for a couple of boat jobs, and I re-ordered my courtesy flags and found some useful steps (Sue has long complained that it can be a bit of a step up to climb aboard) before Crispin and I headed out into town in order to find somewhere to eat.
Alas my two favourite restaurants, Le Pommier and Au Tir Bouchon had closed in the four years since I had been to Cherbourg but we found the long standing Café de Paris to be wholly up to the job.
The following morning we awaited the tide to go round to Guernsey, enjoying the sights of the dinghy classes and fishing boats coming in and out.
To get to Guernsey means crossing the Alderney Race, which sends you sideways at 8-10 knots, meaning you have to crab across in order to stay on course. Even with modern chart plotters it is quite a challenge. We did however achieve it reasonably easily, coming into Guernsey in the early evening, having managed a bit of a sail under cruising chute, until alas it ripped and gave up the ghost for a final time. A new one is on order.
We had an early night, as our neighbours were leaving at 5am and we needed to be up to see them off.
We filled up with diesel before sailing out in company with fellow Squadron yacht Speedwell of Cremyl, heading to Trébeurden to join the Royal Yacht Squadron Brittany cruise. Tides are all important along this stretch of the coast, and with a tidal difference of 9 metres we had to time our arrival and entrance quite carefully. Once achieved, we wandered around this lovely port and awaited the arrival of the remaining fleet. Thank you, Crispin, for accompanying me on this long delivery passage.