Two elements of the Motor Boats Monthly Club cruise in company to Normandy have today (Tuesday 21 August) performed something of a pincer movement to link up with an advanced scout at Dives-sur-Mer, making a fleet of 22 craft out of the original 26 due to take part.
How we came to be that number, and in this place at this time, is quite a saga in itself.
The easiest story belongs to the Birchwood Viceroy Pheran. Delayed home on our Dutch cruise in company due to bad weather, owners Chris and Ann Seeney simply took the decision to stay on the continental side of the Channel and had been on station at Dives-Sur-Mer for two days prior to the fleet’s arrival. Prior stops included Dieppe and Le Havre.
Most of the intended starters of the main group at Berthon Lymington Marina got away as expected yesterday (Monday 20 August), with the exception of a pair of Sealine T47s, Portcullis of Sark and Smooth n Blue, both of whom hope to catch us up after being delayed with problems elsewhere. Early disappointment was to come for one boat, the VDL Pilot 44 Sapphire Rose retiring in the Solent due to a suspected oil weep from her Mermaid’s turbocharger that filled the engineroom with smoke but otherwise left the boat running. The turbo had only just been changed and an inspection was deemed more than sensible.
The remainder enjoyed and gritted their teeth (according to taste) during a not entirely flat crossing to Cherbourg, our chosen alternative to the originally-planned much longer run to Dives. Although the wind had dropped to not much more than a westerly F3, there was a little bit of residual rough and tumble from the day before.
The same could be said further east for the Princess 37 U Floozy and Trader 41 2 Hi Interest who made a safe but bouncy crossing from Brighton to Fecamp.
Minutes after arriving in Cherbourg the skies turned blue and the temperature soared. The harbour staff were as friendly as usual and managed to get nearly all of our boats into the K Pontoon area. The salt was quickly hosed off, drinks appeared in cockpits and on aft decks and foredeck cushions were reminded what they were originally made for (ie cosseting sunbathers and not blowing off decks or soaking up rainwater). Everyone was on holiday.
Well, not quite. It was an early 0630 start this morning for the Trader 44 Sea Dweller and Grand Banks Classic Algoa Bay and the pontoons were cleared of all faster craft by 0815. The aim was Dives-Sur-Mer.
The swirly waters off Barfleur were dancing in circles, untroubled by a light easterly but motivated by a big spring tide that added more than two knots of extra gain eastwards for a while. We gave the headland a very wide berth before heading direct for Dives across the Baie de Seine.
Although the books say three hours either side of high water for the locked entrance, we were aiming for the two hours leading up to high that would provide everyone with lots of water over the drying approach.
The entrance is one of those typical ones that looks horrible on the chart and in pilot book and almanac chartlets, but proves to be remarkably easy to negotiate in practice, at least in the settled conditions and good visibility of this day. Once inside the modern Port Guillaume harbour, there are a range of visitors’ moorings on either side with shorepower and water easily to hand. Town is around 15 minutes away on foot, but given clear skies, warm temperatures and a number of boats that have children aboard, the nearby beach was the favourite destination of the afternoon. Tomorrow we plan a very lazy hop for a few miles down the coast to Deauville, with the expectation that some boats might anchor for a swim along the way if the weather holds.