Two Sailing Days

I have had a real treat over the past two days, as my big translating order has made such good progress – yes still the massive great machine for making aircraft parts.

saint-valery-en-cauxI took the boat to the port of Saint Valéry en Caux and launched from the slipway you can see on the right of the photo (port side from the sea). The yachts and fishing boats are moored in the inner part of the port where there is a dam which keeps the water in the basin when the tide is out. Using a port for launching a dinghy is of interest at high tide. The high walls create eddies with the wind, so you have to be very reactive, using puffs of wind in the sails and good strong strokes with the paddle. Once the boat has cleared the narrow entrance – the problem with this port for any boat without an engine, it is literally – plain sailing.

Yesterday, the wind was the end of the long week of a north-east wind that blew quite strongly over the weekend. It was down to 7 to 10 knots and would afford a peaceful outing. It is also pleasant to have just an hour of the rising tide before it begins to ebb – no tidal currents, so I could go far out to sea with the yachts. I took the north-east wind in a broad reach and sailed north-west against the remains of the rising tide and enjoyed the ride. After about half an hour, I could see as much of the Côte d’Albâtre coastline as could be seen, from Fécamp to Dieppe, which is quite a lot. The visibility was perfect and the weather was pleasant.

When I felt I was far enough out to sea, a couple of leagues probably, I tacked and turned south-east in a close reach and sailed towards Veules les Roses, where my sailing club is. After about an hour and a half at sea, I turned back towards Saint Valéry en Caux and ran before the wind, with my mainsail and jib in “scissors” formation. This is a configuration which is quite tricky, with the wind almost directly astern. The danger is unexpected gybing, with the effect of waves on the helm, and the usual broach and capsize. I prefer to run with the wind a little to one side, and the boat becomes a lot more stable, then you just gybe a few times to keep a steady course.

Today, the wind had changed to an unstable and “grumpy” south-westerly, bringing light rain in patches, but the sea was flat due to its being to lee. I always carry an anchor when the wind is coming from the land, just in case. In these conditions, and with fewer fishing boats and yachts at sea, I stayed reasonably inshore and did a return journey to Veules les Roses. This is a trip I have often made the other way round. I was in a broad reach to get there and a close reach back, but I could simply watch the boat and enjoy the scenery. The scene of the coastline was misted in fine rain here and there, and the weather was not too bad elsewhere. That kind of weather also has its charm. It inspired plenty of impressionist artists in the 1900’s!

Returning to port the wind /drift configuration was unfavourable, so I had to compensate by close-hauling and aiming at the beach before the port. As I approached, I saw I was “overshooting”, so I tacked a couple of times to compensate for my drift. I saw the possibility of entering the port on a port tack, but in retrospect I would have been better off “overshooting” and returning on a starboard tack. As I passed the harbour entrance, the wind was taken out of my sails and I took my paddle. A yacht motoring back into port offered me a tow, so I threw its skipper my tow rope and thanked him. Once in harbour, he let go of my rope a little early, so I had to tack to get back to the slipway. It was amusing to see a man on the harbour wall explaining to a woman standing next to him that a sailing boat has to tack to go upwind! I only had to tack about three times to get in far enough.

All in all, these were a nice couple of days on my familiar bit of the English Channel (wrong side!). For the rest of this week, the wind will be whipping up, and the weather might not be very clement over the next couple of days.

armada2013gotebergNext Sunday, Sophie and I will be going to the Seine at Caudebec to see the Tall Ships Armada parade. These great ships are shown in the photos above moored at Rouen, where we went to visit them last Saturday. As we visited the Götheborg, a Swedish replica of an eighteenth-century warship, an elderly man was demonstrating the art of traditional sail-making. Sails were made of flax, a very strong material from before our days of Dacron and other synthetics. Hand sewing is hard work! He turned out to be English, and looked every inch a man of the sea – I could see it in his eyes. We seemed to understand each other.

The most impressive vessel is the Russian Kruzenshtern:

КрузенштернAs can be seen, she is a four masted barque and is no less than 375 feet in length, more than a hundred times my dinghy, and she has a crew of 257 men. See more about this amazing ship.

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