Friday, June 30, 2006
We have free wi-fi access in Victoria Marina, so I can theoretically update the blog live. However, the speed is very hit and miss and Blogger keeps giving me strange downgraded versions of the interface, which makes it rather difficult to use.
Today Ben and I had an excellent school session, studying science, geography and PE. Among other topics, we looked at small ecosystems, the aerodynamics of a spinning disc, the geology of granite, river erosion and the formation of oxbow lakes, and had a lengthy discussion on whether a sea anemone was an animal or a plant. Oh all right, we went to the beach. But we did discuss all those topics and more, by paddling in rockpools, damming the beach streams and playing with a frisbee. Apparently marine biology is no longer a key part of the National Curriculum, which strikes me as a real shame. When I was about Ben’s age we did a field trip to Dale in West Wales and spent several days getting wet and cold on some of the most beautiful beaches in Britain. It was fascinating, though. Ben is struggling a bit with the discipline of school and sessions like this make it much more fun.
Guernsey is a strange place. It’s very self-contained and yet so extremely small. This morning Sam went to the bank and met his ex-wife, this afternoon we were all in the Guernsey Press bookshop and met Sam’s best friend on the island, Robin. I would go bonkers quite quickly here. The outer harbour is the most jam-packed I’ve ever been in (and tonight, Friday, the marina is rapidly heading the same way) – all right coming in yesterday at mid-tide with absolutely no wind, but I’d hate to have to do delicate manoeuvres with six inches to spare and 20 knots of wind behind me.
For a few days Sam has been suffering from a strange pain at the base of his big toe. We have a handy Dorling Kindersley “Diagnose your problem” book on board, which came up with the same conclusion as my half-joking suggestion, that it was gout. So today Sam went off to see a doctor who said yes, it was gout and was probably triggered by dehydration. Drink more water and if it hurts take ibuprofen, that’s £48 please. There’s no NHS here and Guernsey isn’t part of the EU, so the E111 cards don’t work either. Still, at least we have the reassurance of a view from an English-type doctor even though the diagnosis might have been much cheaper in France.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Camilla thinking “How on earth am I going to pack all this?
Leaving Suffolk Yacht Harbour at 6am
The view from the top of the Calais lighthouse – note strong wind blowing Guy’s hair vertically
A fine dinner at Chez Jules in Boulogne
Ben doing his schoolwork as we pass an anchored steamer in the middle of the Baie de la Seine
The trouble with moving on every day is that I spend half my spare time in each port doing the navigation for the next day, which is very wearing, especially if I’m feeling tired or delicate. Even with modern electronics you need back-up and lots of preparation, especially given that you never quite know what could go wrong.
St Vaast was lovely and absolutely full of British boats, as indeed is Cherbourg. We’re really quite close to the UK here and it’s very strange to hear Solent coastguard or Portland coastguard on the VHF from 60 or 70 miles away.
Tuesday 27 June
Baie de la Seine
I’m typing this as we start our passage across the Baie de la Seine from Honfleur to St Vaast la Hougue. Actually we set off from Honfleur at 0830 and it’s now 1200, but because we are heading into tide we’re making slow progress. I spent most of last night worrying about the tides in the Seine and whether we would just stand still for four hours, but this morning I finally found a helpful little diagram of tidal flows which showed that although the tide does push against you at up to 4 knots, it’s only at that speed for half an hour or less. Which proved to be the case. Now we are out in the Baie proper there is absolutely no wind, a slightly uncomfortable swell, and a sort of misty murk with sunshine which means you can’t see how far you can see.
It was really great to get internet access yesterday, check our emails and upload the blog. With all four of us fighting over two PCs and struggling with French keyboards I didn’t manage to respond properly to all those of you who emailed to wish us bon voyage – if you did thank you very much, and we really appreciate it. Especial thanks to our neighbour Shawn who expressed concern at our disappearance from the aether – it was just unlucky that Calais appeared to have no internet access anywhere, and we spent four days there.
The internet café in Honfleur was wonderful – a tiny little thatched building with enormous house-leeks growing in the roof! It really was a café, not a bar, very relaxed and informal and a good chance to catch up on the Switzerland-Ukraine game too (no score by the time we left I’m afraid).
I’m obviously not much of a world traveller because I had no idea how different French keyboards are. The Q is where the A should be, the W is on the bottom row and the M in the middle row, and you have to hit shift to do a full stop (why??). Even more bizarre the @ is 4+Alt Gr – not easy to do in a hurry.
Last night we had our first get-together with other Brits on a neighbouring boat – I suspect this could be the first of many. Theirs was a 47ft Janneau and they told us some entertaining horror stories both about the boat and their experiences. I think I’d rather have a Westerly.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Monday 26 June
We’re in Normandy’s most beautiful (and possibly most expensive) port, Honfleur, in the Vieux Bassin which is right in the middle of town. The yachts here are tourist attractions so it’s a good thing that we messed up our mooring at the lock, which is at the edge of town, and not on the visitors’ pontoon.
There are flowers on every balcony, picturesque timber-framed and slate-hung houses, hundreds of expensive cafes and a general feeling of well-being.
Yesterday Dieppe was so misty and dismal that we decided to head off to Fécamp anyway. Then having made really rapid progress thanks to good tides down the Cote d’Opale we decided to press on to Le Havre (much to the disgust of Guy who was asleep when we made the decision). The visibility was pretty poor, around a mile or so – most of the time we couldn’t see the huge cliffs one and a half miles away. We had to cross the supertanker route into Le Havre-Antifer using radar and crossed fingers (no ships at all) and got into Le Havre itself around 10pm when it still should have been light but you could see almost nothing – fortunately there were still no ships around. We left the marina around 7.40am so there was no chance to pay, oops. Then a heart-in-mouth lurch into the mouth of the Seine with strong tides and still no visibility, before tying up here around 10.40am. In a straight line we’re about 7 miles from Le Havre but you have to go the long way round to avoid the explosives and sandbanks…
Sunday 25 June
We finally left Calais around Friday lunchtime for the relatively short hop to Boulogne. Making the most of the tides, it was a motorsail to Cap Gris-Nez and then we actually managed to sail the last eight or so miles into Boulogne. As predicted, Boulogne marina was smelly and stuffy, but fortunately not too full – last year we were near the inside of a raft of about eight boats (i.e. eight boats side by side, with only the inner one tied on to the pontoon) and had to leave at 5am!
We had dinner at Chez Jules in the main square in lower Boulogne, where we have been several times before (and been served by the same waiter – why is it that in France being a waiter is a career, whereas in the UK it’s just a job for youngsters and illegal immigrants?)
On Saturday we had a long motor down to Dieppe – the tides work so that you never get much advantage going south. The wind was behind us, which should have been good, but light and fickle. We have a spinnaker on board which we have never used – Sam is the only one who has sailed with a spinnaker and he wasn’t exactly keen to start setting it up – also, Guy was asleep on top of the sail and its various ropes. So it was a long, slow motor, arriving in Dieppe at exactly 9pm. The boys kicked up a big fuss at not spending any time in Dieppe, which is a really nice town, so we were planning to spend an extra night here, but in fact it’s been pouring with rain since about 7.30am, having rained overnight as well, and Dieppe really isn’t looking too lovely, so I think we’ll press on to Fécamp this afternoon. Fécamp doesn’t have all-tide access as the entrance is shallow, so it’s a bit of a risk – if it looks too rough we have to press on to Le Havre.
Dieppe marina is supposed to have internet access but we haven’t succeeded in connecting so far – we’ll keep trying.
Thursday 22 June
Even more Calais
Yes, it’s still windy, but the French Meteo says it has 100% confidence that the depression will move on by tomorrow. Still southwesterlies, but hopefully lighter ones. The worst bit from here will be getting round the corner to Boulogne, where the full power of the wind and the waves funnels between North Foreland and Cap Gris Nez.
We’re trying to be fairly economical in our eating – in fact the only French food we had bought up to yesterday was bread, milk, and cups of coffee and Fanta – but yesterday evening we decided to splash out on a meal out for all of us. We went to a pleasant brasserie at the top of the main street in Calais, and it turned out to be a great place to be, because we were right in the middle of a music festival, with music and live bands all the way along the street. Suddenly, from being distinctly empty and sleepy, Calais was full of life, with the streets packed with strolling people. The North Sea and Channel ports are very good at these mini-festivals.
Tonight will be our fourth here and we think that’s the longest we’ve spent continuously in one place (apart from our home port) since we’ve been sailing cruising yachts. Tempers on board are getting a little bit frayed but the discipline of getting Ben’s schoolwork done does help to settle us into a pattern. I think we’d all be nicer if the wind eased – at 2pm on Thursday it’s still gusting up to 23 knots, and we’re quite sheltered here.
Wednesday 21 June
We’re definitely here for at least one more night. There have been F7 winds overnight (32-38mph) and although we have moved to a more secure berth it was still quite bumpy last night. The wind is easing but the sea will be horrible for some time yet. It’s difficult to know what will happen for the rest of the week – the French forecast says west or south-westerly force 5, the Met Office seems to think we might get a northerly on Friday, which would be perfect.
I’m not sure if it’s worth a slog down to Boulogne into the wind tomorrow (21 miles), or whether we should wait for lighter winds, if they ever arrive, and do a long passage to Dieppe (73 miles). Boulogne is a nice town but its marina can be a bit unpleasant – they sluice the river into the marina at some states of the tide which fills the water with brown scum, and because it’s a tidal marina, at low water it feels like you are at the bottom of a smelly well.
We all seem to be catching up with sleep – today and yesterday no-one got up until 10am (French time). This is normal for the boys, but not for Sam and me, and it does play havoc with Ben’s school programme. As I write this it’s quarter past one and he has finally got up to date with his journal, and we have completed a maths lesson. I think we just to continue to think in BST for a while, it seems a bit less lazy. We have sent Sam and Guy into town with a short shopping list of essentials – bread, milk, and disinfectant for the bilges. Sam has strict instructions not to buy too much of anything for lunch, but I bet he comes back with half a kilo of ham.
In some ways it’s quite nice when there’s a strong wind in the wrong direction, because you know you can’t go anywhere and your mind is made up for you. It’s a bit disappointing so early in the trip – but after all sailing boats have been waiting at Calais for a fair wind to head down-Channel over hundreds of years.
20 June 2006
Burghers in Calais
We’ve made it to a foreign country – although Calais is still rather English (when you walk out of the marina there are three UK-registered cars out of the seven facing you).
We left Suffolk Yacht Harbour, as planned, at 6am on Sunday, with everything we could think of on board. A passer-by was taken aback at the amount of stuff we were taking down in the last trip on Saturday afternoon – little did he know that was just the last few bits and pieces!
The gods, or whoever organises these things, smiled on us for the first leg, with smooth seas, very light winds and blue sky for much of the route to Ramsgate. From a sailing point of view it was a rather boring motor-sail but at least it gave us a chance to concentrate on navigation in the Thames estuary, which is always rather complex, and to enjoy being out of sight of land for the first time this season. I always used to find crossing the estuary a terrifying prospect, but thanks to the reassurances of my friend Chris Fisk, who loves it, and to the electronic assistance of a chart plotter (and radar if the fog comes down), I can cope with it quite well.
We’ve been to Ramsgate several times before – it has a very pleasant marina and is a great jumping-off point for lots of destinations. Last year we sailed south from Ramsgate and got stuck for two days in Dover – really not to be recommended. The forecast for Monday was south-westerly 4-5 which is a good sailing wind if you happen to be going in the right direction. We decided the right direction would be Calais and headed off about 10am. It would have been an excellent and exhilarating crossing if not for three things – (1) that I was extremely nervous – this always happens at the beginning of the season and we haven’t had much time to settle in; (2) that with the wind going one way and the tide going the other way the Channel was extremely lumpy; (3) owing to a slight error of judgement by the Chief Engineer we suffered a leakage from the lavatorial system, which caused some problems for those of us with more delicate stomachs, and necessitated cleaning out the bilges and washing some carpets when we arrived in Calais.
Kalessin sailed beautifully with the wind on the beam and two reefs in the mainsail; over a 36-mile distance we averaged almost 7 knots. Most of the way we were sailing, although we had the engine on to cross the main deep water channels – luckily quite quiet, considering this is the busiest stretch of water in the world. At one point I fell right across the boat and my back was slammed against the grab rail in front of the cooker – I thought for a moment I was going to be paralysed for life, but fortunately my toes continued to work fine. In the last four or five miles where the wind was gusting over 20 knots we took in almost all of the foresail so that we didn’t heel quite so far.
The forecast for today is for south-westerly winds strengthening to a force 6, with force 7 overnight and possibly tomorrow, so we may be here for a couple of days. The marina at Calais is quiet and pleasant at this time of year, with very smart loos which have the longest entry code in the word – Square C6259 Triangle. It gives us a chance to scrub out the bilges, consolidate ourselves for a bit, sleep – we didn’t wake up this morning until 10am French time – and sort out the fridge, which is freezing everything including a bottle of milk, which froze solid and cracked.
Friday, June 16, 2006
The port (left) side already holds quite a bit of ballast, as we discovered last summer when we dug to the bottom of the under-bunk locker. It also contains dozens of can of food - in fact all the food I loaded today was on the port side. Guy's bag, Sam's bag and Ben's bag are all on the port side (mine is in the middle). The fridge, containing quite a lot of beer (and water and Fanta of course) is also on the port side.
As long as Sam stays on the port side at all times, we shouldn't have a problem...
It is amazing what you can stow if you have a bit of time to think about it. I arrived at the boat this morning with 10 Tesco bags of food, four large bags of clothes, and three boxes of various bits and pieces, and by the end of the day there were still a few empty lockers, and space under the aft cabin bunk. I'm sure we'll manage to fill them tomorrow.
The weather for Sunday looks more promising - hot, and mainly sea breezes which might push the wind around to the east a bit.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
I've been clearing out Guy's room and dismantling his bed so it will be ready for him at Alex and David's house when he returns in September. I've also been trying to remove all of the food wrappers, old lunch boxes, hair, fag-ends and other organic matter from his bedroom floor to try to avoid Vermin. It's a big challenge.
This afternoon I'm going food shopping. There's already quite a bit of tinned and long-life food on the boat, but unfortunately I haven't audited it in detail as it's under a bunk which has been inaccessible for weeks. It's quite likely we will end up with 25 Fray Bentos tinned pies and no tinned tomatoes. The rest of the shop will be fairly short-term fresh foods just for the first few days. The problem may be that if we arrive at a port late and leave early there won't be time to go shopping, and also that we don't have the fridge switched on when we are sailing or anchored because of the drain on the batteries, so keeping food at exactly 5 degrees Centigrade is a bit challenging. (Some big boats have generators so that they can run their freezers, washing machines etc... they might as well stay at home!)
Just checked the Met Office three-day outlook for the inshore waters. It says: "Slack winds becoming moderate to fresh southwesterly in most areas by Sunday, occasionally strong in the north, veering westerly or northwesterly on Monday, but staying mainly light and variable in the southeast." We really don't want a fresh southwesterly... oh b*m. We are discussing the possibility of going somewhere just so we can feel we have set off, but unless we go to Walton Backwaters (about 10 miles), the next stop down is Bradwell on the Blackwater, which will add a lot more miles than a direct run to Ramsgate. Looks like Walton then...
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
We have checked over the spare sails this morning and discovered that the old jib is badly torn, so we will take only the old main for emergencies (or to make a canopy if we're stranded on a desert island). We have two fairly new sails already rigged, plus a storm jib and a spinnaker. After all, we're never going to be more than a day from a sailmaker.
Yesterday we finally managed to open a new account for Guy so he can use a cashcard to draw money while we are away. Smile got very shirty about our twin postcodes, but fortunately Alliance & Leicester were more understanding. We also managed to agree on a new pair of trainers for Guy, which is a major work of international diplomacy, and they only (!) cost £40.
Most of the books, games and charts are now on board and stowed reasonably safely. On Friday I plan to spend the whole day alone on board stowing clothes, food and personal possessions and swearing a lot.
We're starting to get the first forecasts through for Sunday - very unreliable at this stage. It looks like there will be a high over south-west England surrounded by fronts and rather weedy lows. The consensus is a southerly (worst possible wind for a trip to Ramsgate which is almost due south) but very light - 5-7 knots. We'll see what they think later in the week.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
After much thought, I also booked an alternative flight home for Guy from Nantes in S. Brittany instead of from Gijon in N. Spain. This gives us the option of an extra two or three weeks in France and less pressure to do the Biscay crossing. We may have to find alternative crew to cross Biscay as Guy would not then be with us (volunteers please get in touch!). Our amended route plan is below.
Not quite 50 cents this time, Ryanair's basic price was a whopping 5.99 euros, but the really good thing is that the flight gets into Stansted 45 minutes after the Gijon flight on the same day, so our plans for the UK end don't have to change at all.
The lists are proliferating, but I think we can get through everything in time...aaarrgghh!!! I feel like I'm permanently vibrating slightly with tension and things to think about.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Thank you so much to all of you who came and brought delicious food, yourselves and your beautiful children. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Extra-special thanks to:
- My parents for arriving first, socialising bravely with everyone and taking away our valuables, and to my mother for volunteering to fetch and carry Guy all over East Anglia
- My sister Lucilla, her husband Mark and my brother Paul for a fabulous iPod nano pre-loaded with 805 songs, engraved "Camilla at 50 - bon voyage", and with a sea-coloured iSkin...
- ... and to Paul for cleaning my camera!
- Sam and Stuart for the bubbly and for being so very understanding when their little daughter Grace cut her foot on glass somewhere in our garden
- Barny and Mary for the fascinating wooden construction which we hope to enjoy somewhere far from here
- Piers and Dominique for the necklace and for fish care
- Alex and David for all your help, support, and care of teenagers and plants
- Steve and Toni for the bubbly, and Toni for looking after Grace's foot
- The McManuses for the invaluable reference work
- Sam, Ben and Guy for all their hard work in making the party a success
- ...and to all of you again for being wonderful (sob)
Saturday, June 10, 2006
When I got home, at first Guy was the only one who noticed. Sam claimed he couldn't see the back of my head... anyway, fortunately he likes it.
If I had been doing the cutting I might have made it even shorter, but perhaps this is enough for now!
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Coming home was less good. The motoring bookseller came to look at our books, but has rejected them. Miserable old fart. We are trying to open a smile bank account for Guy but it appears they can't accept our council tax statement as it has the wrong postcode (because our house is on a corner it has two postcodes). And Guy has put his hair into dreadlocks, something he has wanted to do for ages. This is not necessarily bad in itself, just a bit of a shock, but as a mother I worry about Infestations.
It's another beautiful day today, with a lovely message on the blog from Ben and Em on Tiare (see Tales of Tiare). The forecast is for easterlies force 3-4, perfect for heading down the Channel. Let's leave all this stuff and go today...
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Sam is down at the boat until 8pm every night sorting things out - he and our electronic wizard Phil have fixed some of the instrument and switch problems today. I'm devoting time to Ben's schooling in the morning but I don't really feel I'm achieving anything else.
It's 12 days until our estimated departure date. Scarily close, but still a lot of time to wander around and worry.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Today I started at the 'Old Forge Grammar School' in Hoxne. The teacher was very strict and mean. Fortunately I won't be staying there long as I am soon to be moved to the 'Kalessin of Orwell onboard school' for the journey. After half an hour of ' a Midsummer Night's Dream' we moved on to do French grammar, the body systems, and some geography. I have a timetable to work from throughout every week and we are keeping track of what I have done so that we don't just repeat things for the whole journey. Hopefully by the time I return I might know even more than anyone else!
A lot of people at school were very jealous of me but if they happen to be reading this, they should know that I have loads of work to do!
Sunday, June 04, 2006
We seem to have a number of minor electrical or electronic niggles - instruments not talking to each other properly and the autopilot doesn't have power, which is a nuisance. On the other hand the new log (speedometer) was fine and even tells us the water temperature, which is a bonus. The engine and mechanics worked perfectly, the loo flushed beautifully, and the sails and rigging required only a few minor tweaks where things had been rigged the wrong way around. Oh yes, and the kettle doesn't whistle any more.
One minor problem - the big mooring buoy which you can see in the picture had a little pick-up buoy which came off when we picked it up - fortunately Guy managed to grab it with the boathook and Ben got it out of the water.
A water temperature of only 17.5 degrees didn't quite put Ben off testing out his new wetsuit and flippers, and Guy even more bravely went in in just his trunks - he's pictured below making his "Mummy and Daddy please don't make me go sailing any more" face. Actually both boys were brilliant; Ben pumped up the inflatable dinghy pretty much single handed, and Guy rigged the outboard, drove the dinghy to the pub (the Ramsholt Arms) and back, pausing only so that I could take pictures, and helped extensively with sail stowing and organising us to play Cluedo.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Sam's business partner Matthew called this morning to congratulate us on the safe delivery of a bouncing TekTank... the M&CM office has lived through the saga of the order with us.
- We bought two wetsuits yesterday at Lidl (yes, the German supermarket), one for each boy at £19.99 each, and they both fit.
- Ben and I and his patient friend Elliott toured the charity shops of Diss this afternoon and bought numerous kilograms of reading matter to fill our bookshelves.
- I've planted some of our much-loved container plants out in the garden, where they should survive the summer OK.
- The loo is finally complete and Sam had a celebratory p** today.
- The windlass is installed too.
- The weather is better!
Thursday, June 01, 2006
The holding tank finally arrived from TekTanks this morning after weeks and weeks of waiting. Sam and Ben managed to manipulate it into the bottom of the cockpit locker and with a bit of savage chiselling (only of wood, thank goodness) it dropped snugly into place (see below).
With a bit of luck the pipework will all fit too, and by tomorrow we should have a flushable loo on board. Fingers crossed... We won't actually need it until we reach the Mediterranean but it does make the water more pleasant in the vicinity of the boat.
It isn't just luck that it fits - Sam spent days making a plywood model of the tank to fit the hole, taking its measurements and talking to TekTanks, and literally months working out plumbing and valve arrangements.