Friday, June 03, 2005

And so to Dunkerque!

We left on a fair tide after having to Jump start the Starboard engine. Later I discovered that the Refigerator had gone open circuit and had drained the starboard bank of batteries and the port bank had insufficient power left in them to start the starboard engines as well so Ho hum! the generator was started and while it was charging the batteries, I jumped the engine. As I said previously our course to Dunkerque took us first to Dover and across the shipping lanes to just off Calais and then after a turn north, up to Dunkerque. We Arrived in Dover three hours after leaving Brighton for a journey of 63 nautical miles so the fair tide helped us immensly. We settled in to a pontoon berth on the tidal basin and went off into town to shop for some bits (updated flares to name but one item! Oops!). our friends joind us after a couple of days as he had to finish his teaching commitments, and off we went. The route we took, went straight across the shipping lanes at 90 degrees from the south Goodwin light ( the Goodwin sands being the famous graveyard of many boats) towards Calais and then turned north through the inshore bouyed channel past Gravelines and on to Dunkerque. There were no incidents and I had only to clip past the stern of a couple of freighters and tankers, so as to clear the following vessels without incident we arrived in Dunkerque and called into the marina Grand Large and awaited the opening of the transit lock in to the inner basin and Port de commerce. We only waited about twenty minutes and the Trystram lock started to open and so we entered and went on to the lifting bridge (Pont de universite) which lifted as soon as we approached and it was deftly around to the starboard and our Marina berth in the Marina de Maritime.

The staff in the Marina were magnificent as was the marina itself, they directed us to our berth and helped us tie up. The facilities including a commercial style laundry for patrons use and great and very clean showers and wcs, were second to none, and by far the best that I have come across in a foreigh country. I do however have some reservation about the water on the floor of the shower room as it seemed to go nowhere and laid under your feet, making it dangerous to try to "Palais glide" should one wish to!! Te He.

The town of Dunkerque was getting ready for its referendum vote and thus the D day celebrations were brought forward (0r back) to the Saturday and the town was at full tilt getting ready for the vote. (Well done France! and thanks for your support! If we are ever allowed to vote we will join you in a Non!!!I am sure).

Having settled in to our berth I popped back to the Grand Large marina ( a couple of miles away) on my fold-up bike and met with the rest of my boat club which were coming from London via Ramsgate, they all made it without much incident.

I failed, previously, to mention that I came across their convoy (doing about 4 knots) just outside Gravelines and went across to show my colours as it were before continuing on to Dunkerque.

We went out in the evening for dinner and had a throughly enjoyable time, returning to the boat at about 23.30 for Horlicks and bed. our friends stayed up chatting and devoured a further couple of bottles of red wine before bed hence they surfaced a little late having also throughly enjoyed themselves.

in the morning I rose early and shot off to the croisant shop (boulangerie) and carried a selection to my friends of the boat club, as they have a couple of miles walk to get there and stayed for a cup of tea. When I got back to our boat we all walked around the little ships and spoke with many of the owners. Unfortunately the weather was a little too lumpy for the small ships to, as is usual, go out into the "poppy drop"area where the Herculese aircraft (usually the Lancaster with a spitfire and Hurricane on each wing tip) does the drop of a million poppies) was to do the drop. Most people made their way to the drop area for the service and watched the drop when the service had finished .

For myself I had a quiet moment at one of the smaller "monuments to the fallen" on the sea defences just behind the sea front. We all commemorate in our different ways, Mine is for all the fallen in the futility of war, both sides that is.

On the Monday we arose early 05-50 and joined the small ships for the trip through the pont de universite and into the trystram lock, held back until all the little ships were in the lock and attempted to enter and was told that there was another 20 to come still, so we pulled back out and waited for the twenty. Where upon the lock closed and we were directed to the main commercial lock where the warship accompanied by her tug , The steam tug, and the RMVa vessel Appleby, were waiting. the twenty missing small ships had by now materialised with their accompanying Lifeboat from Ramsgate, so once again we held back to be the last to enter but made sure that we got in this time. The prop wash from the Warships tug caused us to be pushed a little over as we berthed along side a small ship but with little problem other than that ! We had a successful passage through the lock.

As the last in we were the first out with a few exceptions and so we again waited for all the small ships to exit Dunkerque before we followed the lifeboat (who was having races with its equavalent service manned by the pompiers de sauvatage? for someting to do!) we followed them out into the inshore channel and headed off on our own course just outside the channel and past the Little ships. we turned at out transit point off Calais and at the very same time the GPS signal ceased so it was back onto paper charts once again (so don`t let anybody tell you that it is safe not to use GPS in conjunction with charts because it isn`t) fortunately I had the course duplicated on the charts so it was simple to measure the mileage covered and the course made good and about an hour later we arrived at the south Goodwin lightship and turned for Dover.

We dropped our friends off and Bunkered with fuel (cheaper than in Brighton, isnt everything?)
we were going to stay for the night in Dover but as the weather was predicted as closing in, we decided to continue on. By the time we had got to Dungeness the weather had closed down and I recorded 38 knots of wind (and rising) over our deck and the sea state was very lumpy.

We made Brighton within a couple of more hours and tied up in our home berth glad that we were out of the now force 8 gale.

We had a great time and even my wife who is not a great sailor enjoyed herself. Thankyou Dunkerque and its populace for your hospitality


Yvonna said...

So cool you came back!THe boats on the pictures are absolutely superb!I'm sure sailing in such a big group of boats must be a great experience!
Did you get to know many people? Are you going to repeat that trip someday?

rob said...

Hi Yvonne!
The boats are really well looked after, (most of them) and went over in their own fleet on the Thursday from Ramsgate (we went on the Friday from Dover).
There is a lot of love put into the boats to keep theit heritage alive. even the dirty old steam tug is loved by those who work on her.
I made my first visit to the same festival in 2000 and guess I will do it again in 2010 ish. My next trip will be to Hornfleur in deepest france ( at the Seine estuary, adjacent to Le Harvre) some time in July /August.

Take care and work hard to get the best possible pass in your end of year exams!:o)) Rob

Maria said...

How long does the entire trip take to cross the channel? Love hearing the names of all the different points and the stories behind them. You were kind to take some crossaints to your friends. Wish you lived down the paddies from me.
A lovely story, Rob. I also say a quiet one for those who lost their lives on both sides. Did you ever watch 'A Band of Brothers'. A Spielberg made-for-tv absolutely thought-provoking look at a bunch of Americans fighting in the second world war. Highly recommend it for the human side to war.

B. said...

Hi Rob,
great story and great pictures...wish I was there, all those old boats got me salivating, although I can't imagine motoring anywhere for more than 30 do people cope without sails I wonder!
Anyway, haven't written about the boat yet as I am still reckoning with the whole idea of owning such a beauty, and quite honestly I'm/we're too absorbed in plans and general daydreaming to really want to bother writing it down, but I will soon, and will let you know when I've put something Knox Johnson, talking about living history!
Did you manage to talk to him? What one can say to such a huge celebrity without saying something banal/trivial/silly?
Did you touch him at least?
I would have!
Ciao, and thanks for the pictures and stories, it is a pleasure to come here whenever I manage to take a break for my chart research...which reminds me, I once had to oversee the yard work on a Bavaria which some lawyers from Turin wrecked on a rock on the Western side of Corse....they were doing 7 knots on engine near the coast, looking at the GPS...when we went looking at the paper chart the rock was marked as big as a airport landing strip....I reaaly would like to learn to use a sextant...but it's quite an investment and I am soooo mathematically challenged!
We'll see....
We'll try to steer Annie Lennox your way if possible, it will be next best thing to meeting you in person...
All the best,

rob said...

Hi Francesco1 Thanks for the visit you are always most welcome. the boats were great and meeting Robin Knox Johnson was too. I have met him on several occasion so Im perhaps not so much in awe but he is a great achiever. A friend of mine was on the Thames when he came back from the double circumnavigation or something and he had a rope around his prop as they approached him on the (close to London) stretch of the Thames they had to ask him to slip on some trunks as he was doing the swimming job without any. My friends were in the Met police force River section at the time.
With reference to the using of a sextant. you dont have to buy a sextant initially just a set of tables and a book on how to do. I would wait until you get cruising and most cruisers will be only too pleased to show you their own way of doing it "simply". I am also mathematically challenged and when I did my course many years ago the calculator was just about on the market but I refused to use one and found that all my calculations were incorrect but when the examiner did them again with a calculator they were right so I started to use one and passed the course. I haven`t used a sextant for many years now but do have two a plastc one which if I could get it to you easily I would and you could have it, and a good one which I had re-calibrated about 5 years ago. I would only do sun sights now and forget about what star is what its so much easier provided that the sky is clear. I loved the story about the Bavaria its typical. I was listening to tne guy that cracked into my mates boat the other day and he is the same level as I (certificate wise) and he was saying thing like I wouldnt do that ,you must have lost a rope off your boat that caused me to loose my propellor and he then went on to question why my frien had his engines going while he filled up whith diesel and how it was unseamanlike. doesnt it all make you ask yourself what they were doing?
Im sorry for such a long time passing before I replied it wasnt intentional its just that I very rarely read my past posts for comments after about threed days. I will be very interested to hear about your boat and what your feelings are about her and what changes etc you want to make.
Take care and thanks for calling