To the Baltics: Wed 1st May – Sun 5th May

Wednesday 1st May
Set sail at low water to get the benefit of current  the wind  being still NNE F4-5 on the nose. No quartering sea this time just a straight, on the nose, chop up and down.

However, as is the way of wind with the Tyrrells, while crossing the mouth of the River Somme, it then rose to  F5-6 with some gusts of F6-7!   The NE swell was still quite high from all the strong winds blowing for the past 4 days.
Then the tide then turned against us for the following 7 hours and it was nearly midnight when we entered Boulogne Outer Harbour.

The 13 hours of  beating made us a little muddled about entering the harbour, an older N. France & Belgium pilot said simply ‘when inside the harbour, follow the south wall until you are level with the white patch then go along the path of the leading red lights until you find yourself in the inner harbour and can go into the Marina’.
The version in Cruising Association was much more complicated, involving green/white arrow neon signs which were v difficult to make out in the usual jumble of town lights.

The marina had only ten or so boats in it and only a quarter of the finger pontoons attached! Found vacant finger and moored up.
We would have tumbled into bed without eating except I had made up a thick soup in my Mr D’s Thermal CookPot the night before and it only needed warming through. It was delicious.

Thursday 2 May
Election Day for County councils.  Here in Boulogne we rested, having woken late, booked in with Capitainerie, found the shops, Carrefour of course and spent a lot of money on chocolate bars. Returning to boat we watched as the marina went from one pontoon with 4 fingers to to about 10 fingers in place.
After supper onboard we retired to sleep some more.
Friday 3 May
Stayed another day, as we woke up a bit too late, and we discovered that Calais marina has a lock to enter and so we should depart from Boulogne at or before Low Water.
While Dick fettled boat halliards in the sun and did the laundry, Alice went up to the Old Town to look at the Citadel.
This was started inRoman times and through the centuries changed a little to reflect the  modern warfare methods of the day. Two boistrous school parties from Belgium and another from UK ensured memories of the day job and my early  return via a boulongerie for bread and cakes.
Watched as marina filled up with Brits, Dutch and Belgium boats but there were only just enough fingers for them. Manager then ties red and white tape across unserviced fingers while the workmen work very late on the services.
Then in evening, we dropped the red No2 Yankee jib and repaired small pinhole in it, fettled it’s halliard, aided by Vincent,a nice young French Skipper next door, who lives in Boulogne, and has worked in Pompey. Visited YC above marina, back on board and an early night.
Saturday 4 May
D woke up at 04.00, 30min before the alarms due! So we were up and leaving Boulogne harbour entrance at 04.45, and seeing the sun come up abeam of Cap Gris Nez at 06.23-we are in the Nord Zee at last!
With a strong NE tide under us and a weak but following wind, which built steadily through the morning, we did the 40 odd nm to Dunkerque,berth to berth, in a sunny, but cool, 7hrs.
Just as well, as the rising, gusting, wind blowing us off the reception  pontoon made a spring vital. Alice managed to lasso not only the cleat but an inquisitive small long hairy Dachund dog as well!
Owner, as surprised as A, leapt to grab dog under arm and to place lasso back on cleat!
Then into our  berth which was tricky, with no numbers on end of fingers, and quite a narrow lane to reverse down into wind.
A quick reverse into an empty spot, draw deep breath, collect a black rubber mark on port stern qtr, then into the berth.
Oops,it’s no 10 not 13, which is next but one! No’s only visible as you pass or turn into berth.
Madam HM not worried, sends a heavily crewed French ‘Grand Large’ yoof rally yacht into 13 instead as gusts increase steadily in strength and frequency.
As we ate our excellent moules frites and  ice cream lunch in the YC, we were glad we stuck to the plan and stopped when we did.
Later, as Alice slept through the F7 wind over tide that howled all pm,  D helped with one lady brought in on a rib and sent off in an ambulance- it looked like a bang on the forehead  with a boom, but she was able to walk up the  pont to the ambulance, so hopefully, just a mild concussion and observation.
Bit of  a wakeup  call, must dig out the bump caps from fore cabin.

When Alice woke up at 19.00FST, I was still pondering and planning our legs across Belgium, and up  Dutch coast,but, Oh Joy, Thames/Tamesis 18.00 UTC Meteo predicts F6 all nuit, then Brume(haze or mist) and vis less than a nm in am.
We are definitely in the Nord Zee, Carruthers!

Sunday 05 May
Forecast light winds but lots of mist,haze and fog with vis less than 1NM. Make and mend day, more halliards swopped/end for ended/renewed, an 11m length does us well, enough for two refreshes of the sheave point. Spinny no1 halliard very green, soaked/ washed all day, still green! Tightened stern gland up, as up to two drips a second.
D slipped  on hull step and dropped between hull and finger in evening, shades of RedFox rallies. Evening drinks were a surprise, beer 8.5% alcohol & 75cl servings! A stuck to pastis with lots of water.

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