Day 59 – 63 Honfleur to Fecamp

Arrived back late from Ibiza, all was sound on the boat, everything was as I left.

On my first morning back I had a very distressed and relieved member of staff from the marina to deal with. They were literally wiping fake beads of sweat from their eyebrows. “Monsieur monsieur Butler, we didn’t have your mobile number and we didn’t know where you had gone” (or words to that effect). I’d paid up to the Sunday and it was now Thursday. Normally this sort of behaviour would be fine, normally. I’m pretty sure the lock wouldn’t let me out if I hadn’t paid my bills πŸ˜‰ I squared up and gave them my mobile number.

I spent a few more days in Honfleur, doing my daily morning walk to the local boulangerie to get my choccy croissant πŸ™‚ and a fresh baguette for a euro that would probably cost Β£4.50 in Waitrose. Life was pretty darn good! I met a lovely couple who played the Ukulele and had a impromptu singalong on board their boat. It’s great when you meet people who are just plain darn friendly!

The weekend market is brilliant, but be warned when you ask for a thin slice of pate, this is what you’ll get!

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I bought myself a old mans flappy hat over the weekend. I remembered a conversation with the harbourmaster in Burnham-on-Crouch. I commented on his smart Panama hat, in response he relayed to me that his wife works in a old peoples home, where there’s a lot of old sailors, and they all have cancer on the head, nose and ears. His one piece of advice was to wear a hat that covers the ears. So one day I passed a hat shop and found the ideal flappy hat. In the medium of mime and pigeon French ie. repeating the word ‘bateau’ numerous times, and pointing to my chest, blowing puffs of air to my forehead and simulating gale force winds with some swaying and squinting, we agreed he would sew a chin strap on and it would be ready the next day.

Cue the flappy hat!

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Eventually it was time to go. I was sad to say goodbye to Honfleur. Excalibur had stayed there for 18 days if I recall correctly. I could have stayed longer, the longer you stay the cheaper it gets. I think I was paying something like 12 Euro’s a night by the end of my stay!

I noticed a problem with one of my shrouds a few weeks ago, which I have been ignoring to some degree, and getting opinions from passing sailors when possible. Where the shroud goes into the deck, a crack has formed where the U bolt goes through the deck to the backing plates. The cracks have got slightly larger since I first noticed them, and the deck is lifting up with the pulling force of the rigging. I had the rigging replaced last year, so maybe it was over tightened. The idea of trying to get this fixed in a foreign country doesn’t appeal, so I won’t put Excalibur under any pressure and just gently coast her back to the UK soon. I’ve got the bolt cutters close to hand should the rigging fail and the mast snap just incase.

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My plan today was to motor sail to Fecamp, and then cross to Brighton from there. I want to cross at the shortest point possible, and from looking at the charts Dover would take longer to get to than Brighton. The forecast for the day was a Westerly 4-5 knots, so nothing I haven’t faced before.

I readied the boat and made a flask of tea and made some sandwiches. Some friends left yesterday for Le Harve, and are going on to Fecamp so I’ll hopefully be catching up with them if all goes well.

It’s been a while since I’ve sailed on my own, but it was reassuring that I was going to be retracing my route back to Fecamp. Before every departure I get visions of towering seas, hurricane force winds, psychotic tankers, engine failure and waterfalls etc, the whole lot. Fortunately none of those fears have come to fruition, but I know its just a matter of time before a challenge presents itself…

Coming off the pontoon was easy as I had plenty of room and the wind was pretty weak. I normally come off pontoons with stern and a spring from midship leading back to get my front out if necessary, but today I just took all the lines off, gave her a shove and stepped aboard.

The lock opened, and predictably there was a crowd of onlookers ready to watch my every move.

I tied up in the lock without any problems and felt pretty happy with myself. I basically attached my stern line first, then walked up and put a line on from my midship which saves time and means if I do need to go back to the cockpit I’m much closer. The front sticks out of course, but the lock was pretty empty, and if need be I could worry about a bow line once I stopped moving.

I let a large motorboat out before me, and as I came out of the lock it was quite shallow so decided to retrieve my fenders and warps once out into the River Seine. Mistake.

As I crossed the River Seine to the other side I realised it wasn’t going to be a fun journey. The wind seemed to have picked up the minute I got out of the lock, and the waves were horribly gnarly, and corkscrewed Excalibur all over the place. One minute Excalibur was aiming for the sky, the next minute we would bury into an oncoming wave. Not wanting to be caught out, I followed my drill, locked the lockers, put the washboards in and closed the hatch. I know, sounds a bit dramatic. I got as many of the fenders in as possible, but by the time I noticed I had forgot the warp on my bow, I was in no mood to go get it given the angle of our rise and descent. Admittedly it was a stupid thing not to do, I would have had bigger problems if I had fouled my prop.

In times like these I’ve started to develop a one way dialogue with the sea. Under my breath I’ve caught myself saying “Yeh Yeh Yeh, I’ve seen you before”,”I’m not bothered, Excalibur has seen worse!”. First signs of madness I’m sure!

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The autopilot was useless in these conditions so I hand steered. My tea and biscuits, sandwiches and other goodies were all down below, and there they stayed πŸ™ I kept on going for a while, expecting some event that would be the omen to give up and turn back. The omen came when I saw the wind speed hit 37 knots, and thought sod that for a packet of biscuits. By this time I was a fair way out, and now turning against the tide I had a long slog back. I finally got into the lock with a big bastard fishing boat following in behind me, nothings more imposing than a big bastard fishing boat bearing down on you πŸ˜€

Back to my old spot, I had a conversation with a guy on his old wooden pleasure boat over a beer. I felt better after my counselling session. I admitted I was a nervous sailor, to which him and his wife both agreed that its probably not a bad thing, fear heightens the senses and keeps you more alert was their reply. I kinda liked that.

I had a read over some literature and the Honfleur welcome pack, there’s specific advice on when to leave to avoid a foul tide. I might have had an easier ride if I left a tad later, but then that wouldn’t have changed the wind speed which probably didn’t help the situation.

To finish the day off I went back to the tea shop where I had bought a kettle the previous day. The kettle is no ordinary kettle, and has a removable tea leaf strainer and a detachable whistle. The whistle didn’t work so I thought it was only fair I had a refund or a new whistle. I googled the word for whistle in French (siffle) and wrote a pre-prepared sentence in French to explain the situation should I get a shop assistant who didn’t speak English. I got the sales assistant that didn’t speak English. Over the course of 10-15 minutes I used my mime techniques, angry face, surprised face, shoulder shrugging and jabby pointing skills to convey that I was not leaving until I had a refund. From her use of mime, and French grouchy grouchy face, I got from her that she was not accepting the kettle back because the bottom of the kettle was black. I furiously typed into Google translate a sentence to explain that I had to use the kettle in order to discover it didn’t bloody siffle (whistle). I repeated ‘nooooon noooon’ lots, wrote another sentence into Google translate saying I wasn’t leaving until this was resolved. She even cheekily declared that the kettle was 50 euro’s and the receipt was 75 euros, to which I replied ‘pardon!!??’ in my best fake French accent! I bought the bloody kettle and had overpriced tea and cake!!(it wasn’t really overpriced, but given the situation everything now felt overpriced.) Eventually she gave me another whistle attachment to try out. I could tell on her face she just wanted me out of her delightful tea shop. Before I left I told her I’d be back tomorrow if it didn’t work.

I got home, both worked. Well one more so than the other. I didn’t return the bloody siffle!

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Trip Stats
Miles: 10
Total Miles: 431

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