At time of writing, we are in St Valery sur Somme considering our options for onward travel, having been thwarted by an unexpected canal closure. More on that later…
So, where were we? Ah yes, Brighton.
A much needed good nights sleep was had by all (especially Simon, as he had sneaked off Doris to stay at his sister’s house instead), and we were almost ready for the next stage. Our first mate and red watch leader, John, departed at lunchtime reducing the crew to three. It was a sad moment saying goodbye after the week we had all had together, and once again John, thank you so much.
John hard at work.
The afternoon was spent with the usual mixture of planning navigation, filling up water, maintenance etc. The time does just seem to evaporate. We had an earlyish dinner with the intention of leaving the berth at around 8pm, filling up at the fuel dock and heading on out. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go to plan and due to the steep learning curve regarding driving catamarans, we were unable to get off the pontoon. As the daylight vanished, we gave up and had a glass of wine instead. The fuel dock at Brighton marina was only available during daylight hours so other arrangements were made……
On Thursday 13th, we eventually left Brighton marina at one of Cy’s preferred departure times of 03:30 with a 2 hours on, 1 hour off watch system. We encountered a problem almost immediately when Cy spotted that the steaming light on the mast was not working. This meant a bit of a climb for Cy, who was hoping that hitting it with something heavy would work. Unfortunately not, and we were very pleased that we had invested in a set of battery powered emergency nav lights.
We entered the Traffic Separation scheme (boat motorway) at around 0730 on Thursday 13th. As we were crossing, an angle of 90 degrees to the oncoming traffic should be maintained and theoretically, traffic should be coming from one direction only. This was not the case, and we had to stay on the ball with lookout and taking frequent bearings on different vessels. A week ago, I had no idea about any of this! The AIS that Cy had installed on a laptop proved to be very useful, and all in all, the channel crossing was pretty simple. Phew. We left the traffic separation scheme at around 1020 and crossed into French waters not long after. Cue the courtesy flag……….
By 5pm we were happily secured in Dieppe. The marina staff were just about finished for the day so the formalities were very brief and we were free to raise a glass to celebrate a successful crossing.
After a bit of a tidy, a shower and a mooch around Dieppe, we enjoyed a meal in a fantastic restaurant overlooking the port. A nightcap of whiskey back onboard, and then it was goodbye to Simon who was heading back on the Dieppe-Newhaven ferry. Once again, it was an emotional goodbye for us, and Simon, thank you. This left the two of us, a bit sozzled, but knowing that were it not for the help from Simon and John, we would not have made it this far.
On Friday morning, we left Dieppe at 0845 heading for St Valery sur Somme. All of the navigational guides state that it is quite a difficult approach and that timing with the tide is crucial. The bay is very shallow and dries at low water. We had to maintain enough speed to ensure that we were there in sufficient time. The buoyage once we arrived was quite confusing and certainly did not match the most recent plan published on the port website. A tense moment occurred with a harbour boat moving the buoys and Cy had to quickly take the helm, but we got there in the end. The approach past the town and into the marina was a wonderful sight.
Unfortunately, I was too bust attaching fenders and preparing lines to notice at the time!
We were met by a member of the marina staff and led into our berth where he took lines and helped us tie up. We were impressed by how friendly and helpful the welcome was. By mid afternoon, we were all safely tied and tidied.
View from Doris.
Once we were sorted, we headed out to explore. First on our list was having a nosey at the sea lock, the other side of which is the Canal de Somme, our entry point to the canal system. A lock keeper (or eclusier) was on duty, so we chatted about when we would be able to get through. A provisional arrangement was made for Monday, when he suddenly mentioned that the canal was closed to navigation until June because of cleaning. He thought there may be a possibility of making an exception and arranging passage, but no one was available on any of the relevant phone numbers. Suddenly all of our plans were in disarray. The closure had not been published on any websites prior to our departure, but c’est la vie! We then wandered into the main part of town which is stunning, with its medieval buildings. We then found a supermarket and spent the rest of the evening in the company of wine and cheese.
Today has been spent working up alternative arrangements. Another chat with the lock keepers has revealed that there will be no-one available to request passage until Tuesday. Cy has been looking at tides etc for getting to other ports of entry. We were initially looking at heading to Calais, but chatting with our next door neighbour has raised the possibility of heading south towards the Seine instead. Watch this space!