Antipole cruises

PSC Rally at Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue

Having been away cruising for the last three seasons, we have not been able to join any of the Portsmouth Sailing Club rallies.  So this season, during which we are in home waters, our first cruise was to Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue in Normandy for the early May Bank Holiday rally.

On Wednesday 29th April we had a good sail down Poole Harbour with the ebb and out into Studland Bay, where we anchored over night ready for a 6:00am start for the crossing to Normandy.  Thursday was an almost cloudless day with a westerly F3-4, which was just perfect and we had a delightful passage until just short of Pointe de Barfleur, when the wind failed completely leaving us on a glassy sea being carried east up the channel by the strengthening tide.  The harbour at Saint Vaast has a tidal gate and if we missed its open time we would have had to wait at anchor outside.  But we were expecting strong easterly winds, which would have made that untenable, and so, reluctantly, it was engine on for the last almost 2.5 hours until we were safely tucked up in the harbour.

Aboard at St VaastThe weather now turned very unsettled, with strong gusty winds.  On Thursday morning our friend David and his trustee crew Phil and Stuart arrived in Morpheus after an overnight passage from Portsmouth, demanding especially for a boat just 8.6m in length.  Two other boats got as far as Cherbourg and decided to come no further and three decided not to cross the Channel under the conditions, so we were much diminished from the seven boats expected.  On Saturday the Cherbourg contingent joined us by taxi and we had a jolly time with drinks and nibbles before repairing to La Débarcadère for a meal together.

We had been intending to explore further south to Carentan, but we abandoned this in view of the continuing strong winds with few windows of opportunity for making passage in comfort.  Instead, on Sunday we had a lovely walk around La Hougue.  This one-time tidal island is now joined to the mainland by a causeway and is dominated by a spectacular fort built in the 15th century.

On Monday we took advantage of a brief lull in the winds to make passage back around the Pointe de Barfleur and westwards to Cherbourg.  We had the tide helping and once round the point set the jenniker and so made very good time. Cherbourg boasts a vast outer harbour – the largest artificial one in Europe – which can be entered in all weather and at any state of the tide, so it makes an excellent  arrival or departure point for cross channel passages.

We spend three nights in Cherbourg, sitting out severe gales.  The wind was even hazardous as we wheeled a supermarket trolley along the quayside as we stocked up on French goodies from Carrefour.

On Thursday the strong winds eased for a day and we made passage back to Poole.  Again, we were blessed with westerlies F3-4 and a clear blue sky and we had a lovely crossing in just twelve hours.  We anchored in Studland Bay for supper while awaiting the flood tide into Poole Harbour.  As the wind was fading by then we picked up a vacant buoy over night and completed the passage up to Wareham this morning.

You can see the track chart for this cruise here.  It is the red section and the return from Cherbourg to Poole well demonstrates the classic S-shaped course due to tide effects during a cross-channel passage.  We were steering a steady course which was chosen to bring us into Poole Bay, but the tide swept us first west, then east and finally west again into Poole.

We are back home until the end of May.

love to all, Ynskje & Tony

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