Zeebrugge to Trébeurden

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.

The HROA fleet gathering at Zeebrugge. Spellbinder is dressed overall as it was the HM’s Official Birthday

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.

Leaving Zeebrugge at dawn

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.

Moules frites in Dunkirk

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.

The ornate Hotel de Ville at Dunkirk

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.

A peaceful Baie de Seine
We were at spring tides, and while we had sensibly use the start of the ebb to shoot ourselves out of the Dover Straits, at the other end of the journey we had to fight the flood, clawing our way round the Pointe de Barfleur before finally coming into Cherbourg.

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.

This should do the trick
The courtesy flag roll

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.

Plateau de fruits de mer

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.

Optimist dinghy training à la française
Cherbourg from the heights above (photo courtesy of Crispin, who ran up there)

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.

Crossing a boiling Alderney race. This is the last photo of my cruising chute, which ripped one final time at the end of its natural life…

We had an early night, as our neighbours were leaving at 5am and we needed to be up to see them off.

Dinner on board at St Peter Port
…and an early 5am wake up call

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.

Entering Trébeurden at High Water…
The same sill at low water – what a difference 6 hours makes
Trébeurden at dusk

2 thoughts on “Zeebrugge to Trébeurden

  1. anthonywilkinson66gmailcom


    Hi there! I ended up getting a spate of calls from various quarters so apologies for not calling back! Let’s chat this coming week…looks like all is going very well…



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