We only really had two days outside travelling and doing practical things at the camp site. The wind must have reached about force 7, perhaps gusting force 8, when we arrived on Thursday afternoon.
The next day, the wind had dropped to about force 4 in the morning and so I ventured out to sea in my little dinghy. I shortened the mainsail and tried to shorten the jib by wrapping around the forestay. On my Friday outing, it was very short and I went out twice, the second time having removed my jib entirely. The wind whipped up, very unstable and in gusts from the south-west and I had to close-haul back to the beach.
The following day, Saturday, the wind seemed to have calmed. Even with a slightly calmer wind, I took the boat out with reefed mainsail and no jib. I went along the coast in a broad reach, and it felt like being in a speedboat. The wind was, as ever, quite unstable and very gusty. I had planned to go to St Vaast la Hougue, but it would have been imprudent. The wind started to whip up again, and I was concerned. I turned back and realised that my drift was taking me too far out to sea. By the time I reached Barfleur, I headed up and began to tack towards the shore, and this reduced the chop of the north-east swell colliding with the tidal current and the small wind waves. I was frozen stiff by the time I beached the boat, and took her back to the caravan, and then had a long hot shower and a vigorous rub-down with a towel.
On the Saturday afternoon as life returned to my stiff limbs, Sophie and I went to visit Valognes, a town that made its fortune in the middle ages through its excellent tradition of making salted butter. There were some lovely big eighteenth-century houses and a fine church, nearly destroyed in 1944 but with the medieval choir restored and the rest redone in modern (1950’s) style. We then went to visit the Cap de la Hague and the Nez de Jobourg with their magnificent views of the sea and the Channel Islands from the highest cliffs in France. Facing the strong south-west wind, the same wind I challenged in my boat (but on the lee side of the Cotentin), the sea showed its mysterious mood with the slight haze over the horizon and the heavy swell. It was magnificent!
This was certainly the way to spend our Ascension weekend, in the midst of nature and wild beauty. Other things fade into insignificance. God is found a different way, in the howling of the wind and the ageless rocks…