Cherbourg to Oostende & Duncan Lougee

22nd June

We did sail to Cherbourg today.

22nd June The Beaulieu River to Cherbourg

My concentration levels were good which was reassuring.  There is still work to do in getting my confidence back.  I don’t get any less frightened with age.  Frightened probably the wrong word.  It’s still a healthy anxiety but probably more palpable.

We did leave the Beaulieu River early.  Two hours either side of LW springs is supposed to be safe.  There was plenty of water at 0545.  LW was just after 0800.

22nd June we motored down to the Needles with the last of the west going tidal stream

22nd June leaving the Needles astern

We motored down to the Needles with the last of the west going tidal stream through the Solent.  It was overcast and there was just a breath of air on the nose.  There were going to be some westerly winds from about 1100.  They did not arrive properly until 1315!  Up until then we had motor sailed under a full main and genoa.

22nd July heading out in to the Channel we had motor sailed under a full main and genoa

The moment the engine was off ‘Talisker 1’ came alive and as the afternoon progressed the wind increased.  Some very poor visibility was forecast and we had an hour and a half of less than 100 metres … if that!  Thank goodness for Radar and AIS.  In those conditions Radar is the absolute go to.  AIS allowed me to call one ship directly.  I feel such a cheat.  What would R T McMullen have said had he been alive today?

22nd June we had an hour and a half of less than 100 metres … if that!

The tidal stream swept us east until about 1400 and then we were slowly swept west with the final run in to Cherbourg sailed at a breakneck speed from well to the east as the tidal stream accelerated to the west.  We covered an extra 12 NM over the ground.  Just under 70 NM through the water door to door.

22nd June Cherbourg

26th June

Me n ‘Talisker 1’ are in Le Havre with serious misgivings and a confidence crisis.

25th June Cherbourg to Le Havre

25th June underway from Cherbourg

I’m not at all comfortable with the boat.  My close quarter manoeuvring in tight places WAS … pretty tip top.  At least I think it was.  It’s as though I’m a beginner again.  I’m not thinking straight.  My thought processes are not functioning.  This morning I woke up wondering if this is the end of my sailing.  How much health and the recent accident has to do with it I don’t know.  Or is it age?  There are much much older people than me still sailing.

I spoke to James Robinson who told me to pull myself together.  James reminded me that I hardly sailed last year and that my confidence would return.

I feel such a fraud with all the gadgets.  I still use paper charts and DR.  I enjoy taking bearings.

Another boat crossed the Channel the same day as us but very much more slowly.  I met the crew, a solo sailor, in the Capitanerie who, seeing Talisker 1 on my T shirt, remarked on my passing him and then hearing me later mid Channel call a ship.  It was his first Channel Crossing.  He told me that he was sailing to Guernsey and wanted advice.  I offered to do a passage plan with him.  A clever clogs close by said he had an app for doing all that!  I said a pencil and paper, charts, pilot books and tidal stream atlases would always be my first choice …

I came away with a gentle plan to sail towards Falmouth.  Now I’m in France.  To be at anchor in a Thames Estuary Creek and close to home would be lovely.  Familiar waters …

We had a lovely sail from the Grande Rade eastern entrance in to the Baie de Seine before the southerly wind slowly died and we had to motor sail waiting for the westerly winds to start in the early afternoon.  Strong gusts were forecast and by the time we were approaching the Le Havre Pier Heads it was blowing a full F6 from the north west.  The tidal stream that had been with us was petering out so our timings were good.

25th June approaching the Le Havre Pier Heads

A pigeon decided to rest for an hour in the afternoon.  He first landed in the cockpit.  Both legs were ringed.  A handsome bird.  Last time this happened was when I was inbound to Falmouth from the Azores.  That homing pigeon stayed for nearly thirty six hours.

25th June he first landed in the cockpit

Bird experts will tell me I’m wrong but on both occasions I gave the birds water with a little muesli mixed in.  On each occasion they tucked in …

25th June on each occasion they tucked in …

The Cherbourg Le Havre pigeon eventually took refuge on top of the solar panel.  I placed the container of water and muesli on the solar panel.

The mornings southerly winds off the land brought a multitude of doomed insects.  Bees and butterflies.  The butterflies were fighting for their lives to stay aloft their wings working like pistons.  Their occasional glide just above the waves was extraordinary.  Eventually hitting the water their air frames collapsed … defeated.

Tom Cunliffe’s Channel Pilot continues to be marvellous.

To my great joy three of the classic yachts I saw in the Solent are here.  My finger pontoon faces the immaculate ‘The Lady Anne’ and her very friendly crew.  Her sister ‘Tuiga’ is also here.

‘Talisker 1’, ‘The Lady Anne’ and ‘Tuiga’ Le Havre

27th June

We all left this morning!  ‘The Lady Anne’ sailing to Guernsey and then on to Falmouth.  Although flying a red ensign her home port is Valencia.

27th June Le Havre to Dieppe

27th June underway from Le Havre

We arrived in Dieppe passing through the pier heads at 1915.

The coast is spectacular.  The cliffs are eroding fairly quickly by the look of the regular new chalk face and the landslide beneath.  The last few days have made me think of the German occupation.

27th June

27th June the coast is spectacular

27th June Saint-Valery-en-Caux perhaps next time …

My brother David told me that Willie Douglas Home, brother of our former PM Alec, spent a year in the glass house for refusing to fire on Le Havre.  Willie reasoned that far too many civilians would be killed, and indeed they were.  The devastating allied bombing flattened the town.  Not to say that the primary cause was not the Nazis.  Liberation came at great cost.  So easy to say in hindsight … was there another way?  We have a right to ask but not to criticise.  There were war dead on all sides.

I would like to stay a couple of nights here, but I think I must push on east.

27th June Dieppe

28th June

28th June Dieppe to Boulogne Sur Mer

My lines were taken by a single hander from Sweden.  Boulogne Sur Mer has a small marina and it was pretty jam packed this evening so we are rafted to ‘Veya’.  Bosse Brattstrom built the ship himself and it took him ten years.  ‘Veya’ is pretty heavy duty steel at 40’ and 14T and Bosse and his ship are on their way home to Sweden from a voyage to the Caribbean.  We just had a beer together.  0% for me!

The sail from Dieppe was half good and half bad.  Marvellous sailing for five hours with a gentle wind on the beam before the breeze gradually died and backed.  It was starting to blow again from the south west as we arrived.  So another four and a half hours of burning diesel.  I don’t think I’ve ever motored so much to make progress.

28th June Boulogne approaches

Boulogne brings back childhood memories of ferries from Dover and then the car being loaded on to a train.  After an overnight train journey we would wake up the following morning in the south of France and have just a short drive to our home in Le Lavandou.  One unforgettable memory was steering a cross channel ferry.  My brother David steered too.  The helmsman stood behind us.  I remember overcorrecting trying to keep her on her compass course.  The Captain just chatted to my father.  If only the passengers had known!  As the son of a British film star there was the odd perk.  We were always invited up to the bridge.

I need some sleep.

Boulogne Marina

29th June

Pieter marked my card to go find Le Chatillon for lunch.  Typical of the foody Belgians to know what’s what, re good places to eat.

Le Chatillon is not on some posh avenue but deep into an industrial estate close to the marina.  Specialising in seafood it was packed with locals.  You must book unless your lucky and solo like me.

Tel 03 21 31 43 95

I’ve found the marina staff in France … delightful.  The facilities are very good and well organised.  Arriving late in the evening one must take potluck, as I’ve found most places very full.  In the morning there are berths aplenty.

It’s pissing with rain … very welcome after the heat we have had.

I hope to sail towards Dunkerque tomorrow.

30th June

We passed though the Boulogne Pier Heads outward bound at 0515 and came in to Dunkerque at 1115.  We were alongside at 1145.  The wind was steadily going to increase from the west and at 1330 it was blowing very hard.

30th June Boulogne to Dunkerque

30th June Outward bound from Boulogne

30th June the Russian Frigate ‘Shtandart off Calais

We sailed from Cap Gris-Nez under a single reefed main on a preventer only.

My thoughts were elsewhere since late afternoon yesterday thinking about a genuinely good bloke.

Duncan Lougee was taking part in the Jester Baltimore Challenge.  Duncan and his very sound Folk Boat were due to arrive in Baltimore on the 22nd June and a full scale search took place.  Eventually the yacht was found 70 miles north west of Trevose Head, Cornwall by the Waterford based Coast Guard Helicoper R117.  A crew member checked the vessel and Duncan was not on board.

SV ‘Minke’ and Duncan

I did not know Duncan well.    We invariably spoke to each other when we saw each other at Suffolk Yacht Harbour.  Perhaps it was a kindred spirit amongst single-handed sailors.  We shared our cruising plans.  I admired him as a yacht broker and recommended clients to him.

Duncan was an experienced sailor having sailed across the Atlantic and sailed to the Azores and back on several occasions.

Solo sailors know they are finished if they go over the side.  And don’t think your safe with a crew.  In the smallest sea running a person’s head can easily be lost.  For what it’s worth my PLB is permanently attached, I wear a life jacket for coastal sailing and a harness offshore.  I try to clip on … all the time.  It is so easy to become complacent about clipping on.  And just that one moment in benign conditions when you might venture on deck, your not clipped on and your PLB is on the chart table and over you go …

There is always so much talk of MOB drills and not nearly enough on ‘staying on board’ drills.

Is there still hope?  I really hope so.

‘Talisker 1’ alongside in Dunkerque

1st July

My spiritual home … Oostende!  I think this is the 25th time I have sailed to this port.  I am looking forward to catching up with some chums.

1st July Dunkerque to Oostende

We sailed through the pier heads at 1245 local time after a rainy sail, yet again, predominantly under single reefed main only.  The visibility was also poor early on and the rain, after all the sun and heat, was almost a surprise in current times.  West and south westerly F 5-6.  With the wind at out back and the tidal stream with us, the 27 miles did not take long.

1st July the view from Pieter and Mieke’s flat. ‘Talisker 1’ sailing through the Oostende Pier Heads

Early on we were in the company of a Danish SV ‘Keiko’ who were sailing to Blankenberge.  A young couple, Mathias and Liivi with their three young children.  They were sailing under main only, but trying to stabilise the motion by motoring.  The young ones were a tad sea sick.  The Danes have always been lovely.

No more news on Duncan.  But there won’t be now.

1st July

‘Keiko’ and ‘Talisker 1’ exchanged some photos and video today.  As usual the camera lies when it comes to the sea.  It looks quite flat …

1st July Danish SV ‘Keiko’ leaving Dunkerque

1st July ‘Talisker 1’ under a single reefed main. As usual the camera lies when it comes to the sea.  It looks quite flat …

Lunch with Pieter and Mieke in the Royal North Sea YC restaurant which has to be as good as you get … anywhere.

Pieter & Mieke with ‘Talisker 1’ in the RNSYC basin

My stops on the French coast have been remarkable for the excellent facilities and the very vdry friendly marina staff.  Prices are cheaper than our side but they are still expensive and it has now become pricey generally everywhere being alongside.

Simon Munters, Harbour Master RNSYC Oostende is on holiday.  Simon’s deputy Xavier, is first class.

I look forward to the rattle of my chain and the deployment of my anchor when we return to home waters.  How lucky we are in the Thames Estuary that there is very nearly always somewhere safe to drop the ‘Pennington’.

A Note on Formalities.  The French Police attend the Marina Office in Cherbourg at 0900 and 1800 every day during the summer months.  There were a number of people who checked in with me.  I filled in a form for the boat and they stamped my passport.  They were extremely helpful.  I was told that if I sailed to Belgium, to check out of Belgium before leaving Schengen to return to the UK.

On arrival in Belgium I telephoned the Federal Police (always very very helpful).  I need do nothing until I leave.  On departure day, or the night before, if leaving very early, fill in the Belgium Craft Declaration Form (on line) and then pop down to the Federal Police next to the Oostende Station to get the passport stamped.

Before leaving the UK I filled in HM Revenue & Customs Form C1331 and then telephoned the National Yacht Line just before leaving the Beaulieu River.  I posted the C1331 the moment I arrived in France.  You can do the C1331 on line.

‘Talisker 1’ in Oostende


  • Gerard says:

    Great to see that you are sailing again!

  • Kyson says:

    Great write up as ever James, crack on!

  • Edward Stapylton says:

    Hello, I’ve been watching your videos and reading your blogs avidly over the last few years and very enjoyable and informative they are too. It was therefore a lovely surprise to see Talisker 1 at anchor in the Chaldock anchorage in Chichester Harbour on 16 June. Fair ends for the rest of the season.

    • Edward. What a kind message. Thank you. Having sailed to Chichester via Ramsgate and Eastbourne it was a joy to anchor in Chichester Harbour and the delightful small SC at Cobnor allowed me to come ashore and use their facilities. You will probably have seen in my blogs that I prefer to be at anchor! Very best wishes James

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