Saturday, August 22, 2009

Honfleur to Cherbourg

We had a great sail in company with Anaconda almost all the way from Fécamp past fantastic white cliffs with pinnacles and on to the mouth of the river Seine. The challenge was to leave late enough so that the current would be with us and still make it in time for the last opening of the bridge into the old harbor at Honfleur. We did it, but suffered some heartburn when the lock before the bridge closed right in front of us. Anaconda was inside the lock and had everything worked out with the harbormaster by the time we got through. The harbor was full, but she let us raft up at the steps to the old port captain’s building.

Anaconda sailing to Honfleur

Honfleur is a beautiful old town filled with tourists and businesses that cater to tourists. Lex said when he was there 15 or 20 years ago, artists lined the harbor with their easels. Now cafés line the harbor, but there are still a few artists and galleries. We couldn’t help but notice that the artists who were painting the area where we were moored left our modern boats out but included the old wooden boats behind us—from memory, I guess.

Solstice hiding Anaconda at the steps in Honfleur

The weather was beautiful, and we enjoyed exploring the town and its public gardens. We even walked to the beach. The second night Maria made Dutch pancakes for us and insisted that we take some with us for the next day. It was so great to spend time with Lex and Maria again, and we were all sad to wave good-bye in the morning. We hope we’’ll see them again sometime.

Pond in the public gardens

From Honfleur we motored sailed to St Vaast-la-Hougue where we anchored for the night. Thanks to a favorable current most of the way, we made good time so that it wasn’t totally dark when we arrived. We were thankful for Maria’s pancakes, which made an easy and tasty dinner. The anchorage was peaceful that night, but in the morning the wind changed direction, and the swell increased so that we were happy to be on our way when the tidal stream changed.

We were looking forward to a downwind sail with the current, but when we reached the cape at Barfleur where we turned west, the wind became west-southwesterly. Yet another passage spent sailing to wind. What’s more, the wind increased from the 15 knots in the anchorage to 25 or more, and the seas became more than just un peu agité (a little agitated, one of Lex and Maria’s new favorite terms). We had started with a reef in the main but hadn’t rigged the staysail. After struggling with a partially furled jib, John finally rigged the staysail, and we put the jib away. It was a bit more comfortable, but we were still pretty tired by the time we docked in Cherbourg.

After showers and dinner we went to find our friends Laurie and Sue, who we met last year. Laurie had been trying off and on to raise us on the VHF radio (oddly, we’ve never exchanged telephone numbers), and they were very glad to see us. After just a glass (or two) of wine, we arranged to meet in the morning for a shopping expedition to the market at Valognes and a couple of major supermarkets. We took advantage of being in a car and stocked up on heavy things that would normally take more than one trip to get to the boat. Tonight we’re having moules (mussels) and crab on their boat.

Area around Cherbourg with places we visited circled

One of the best things about cruising is the people you meet, and this summer has been especially rich in friends: Tom and Tutten in Denmark, David and Gunilla in Sweden, all of our Dutch friends who came to see us at various stops in the Netherlands, Lex and Maria and Laurie and Sue here in France. It’s been great. And now we’re looking forward to seeing Richard and Andrea when we reach Spain. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see Gerry in Portugal too.

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