On the Sunday morning we were ready at 0835 for the road bridge across the entrance to Port Vauban to be lifted and, with two other boats we then headed to the lock that would return us to sea, The lock proved quite testing three weeks before, this time we were better prepared to cope with the metal straps that we had to secure to and in addition it was nearer HW so there was less depth to fall in the lock. After a brief stop in the marina near the harbour entrance (to find a boulangerie, itself quite an unexpected challenge in that part of Le Havre) we set off under sunny skies and light winds broadly NE.
By around 1700LT we had completed 27nm and arrived at the crowded port of Fecamp. Our plan was to stay two nights but on visiting the Capitainerie we discovered, to our surprise, that the next day the Normandie Solo race was due in and so all visitors spaces were needed for that! The biggest disappointment was that we probably couldn't visit the home of Benedictine though we did admire the 'Palace' buildings from outside the gate that evening. In fact we did make good use of the time to walk around what is very much a good sized working and holiday town which was quite busy with traffic. With no choice but to leave the next day we had also drawn the short straw for an early start. Whilst Fecamp is accessible 24 hours many of the settlements on this coast are not as the entrances dry for some distance (3nm in one case). Our next port of call was accessible from roughly 2 hours 30 minutes before HW until 2 hours 30 minutes after (HW+/-2h30m) so, as I was keen not to be entering the harbour on a falling tide on the first visit (ie after HW), an early start was required.
Consequently just after 0630 BST (0730 LT) we were away for the 17nm passage to St Valery-en-Caux. It was another sunny morning with light winds so we had to motor. But just before 1000 LT we passed between two jetties and into the Avant Port with just a few minutes to wait before we could enter the harbour. At this time near HW the lock gate was continually open; but immediately before the lock is a small road bridge which lifts on the hour and half hour. In no time the bridge was lifting As we went through the bridge the HM came out of his office (and bridge control base) and greeted us as we passed with a cheery Bonjour and suggested where we could tie up. Within 10 minutes he was down on the pontoon with town information, codes for showers etc and saying no hurry to pay just do so when it is convenient before you leave. How refreshing in comparison to south of England marinas where they want your money in advance immediately!
|Alongside in the town of St Valery-en-Caux|
After a good days exploring we were ready to move on the next morning and again headed about 15 nm NE to Dieppe. There are strictly enforced requirements here for all ships to request permission from Dieppe Harbour Control before entering or leaving the port. After a wait for the Newhaven ferry to leave its berth and depart we were given permission to enter and tied up in the main harbour opposite the fishing fleet. We stayed in Dieppe two nights and very much enjoyed a bustling town and beach, the latter being particularly well used as the temperature hit 35 deg C on the second afternoon.
|The harbour in the town of Dieppe|
|Seafarers chapel overlooking Dieppe|
This coast has lots of war time incidents. In Dieppe we learnt about Operation Jubilee in 1942. This involved the Canadians accompanied by some British and French commandos attempting an invasion of Dieppe and neighbouring towns. Unfortunately it was a disaster with nearly 1,000 Canadian and Allied men killed and 2,000 captured within a few hours. Just over 2,000 escaped back to England. After the event it was said to have been very important in that the Allies decided that a full scale invasion could not be based on landing at heavily fortified and defended towns and so D Day planning involved the beaches. It was said that the experience of Dieppe meant that many fewer lives were lost later but it all feels a little like post justification for a pointless attack.
After two days in Dieppe it was time for another short hop, this time to Le Treport. This is another busy fishing town with limited access this time through a lock available HW+0330/-0230. again you pass between two jetties into the Avant Port where lights indicated that the lock was closed. On calling on the VHF the lock keeper said that he would be ready in three minutes. This was indeed the case and we entered the lock, the only boat in it. We had a day here in what is a friendly town that developed in the Victorian era. Of particular note was the free funicular which takes you to the top of some of the highest cliffs in Europe. On the other bank is Mers-les-Bains another coastal town from the Victorian era with some "bizarre" but attractive architecture.
|Mer-les-Bains sea front|
|Looking out from St Valery towards low water- hope that the will tide return!|
|Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme|
|Sunset St Valery|