Biking around the bay…

So…our first day here at the Bay of Somme…what to do, what to do? After we got ourselves and La Nomade settled in the marina, we set out on foot to discover St Valéry sur Somme. St Valéry sur Somme (not be confused with St Valéry en Caux which just might be our next stop…) is a quaint little village. They have a real steam-powered engine train running back and forth from St Valéry sur Somme to Crotoy, another quaint little village on the other side of the bay. For you history buffs, Jeanne d’Arc had passed through St Valéry sur Somme while on her way to her condamnation. As we meandered through the center of the village (aka one charming cobble-paved street), I noticed an artisanal ice cream shop. So, of course, we had to stop by and savor the many beautiful flavors on display. Yves declared that the blackcurrant flavor was the best that he ever tasted. All I know was that I was completely satisfied with my choices but it would be best if I came back to try some new ones… 😉

The next day, we were greeted with some sunshine, not something we see very often these days. We decided to rent some bikes and go to the Cap Hourdel which was about 8 km from the village. The last time I rode a bike was two years ago when Alex, Yves’ sister, and her family came to visit us in Dunkirk. Let’s just say that when they proposed to go on a bike excursion, well, I hadn’t placed my butt on a bike seat like in TEN years. So I was just a tad bit wobbly throughout our entire bike excursion. Fastforward to present day, I wondered whether or not I would be able to handle a bike ride considering my usual state of wobbliness.

However, much to my surprise and delight, I managed to weave my way through the throng of tourists walking in front of me without incurring any major accident! So off we went towards Cap Hourdel. Along the way, as we had learned the day before from the very nice lady who made the delicious ice cream, we saw sheep. Uhm, one can see sheep everywhere, you say? Supposedly these particular sheep have a wonderful and distinctive flavor thanks to the “salted” green marshes that they feed upon in the Bay. Unfortunately for me, to eat this Protected Designated Origin of meat, I have to be here from July to February…oh well. Yves was pretty happy to just take pictures of them.

Look! Sheep!

Look! Sheep!

Along the bike path towards Cap Hourdel, not only did we see sheep but I found myself being constantly attacked by horde of flies (probably ended up eating one or two…) and wondering if Yves wanted to some mountain biking with all the mud that we were in. Thankfully we came across a concrete path where I didn’t curse the mud, the bike…Yves every three seconds, and we arrived at the Cap. Since it was a holiday, there were plenty of tourists at Cap Hourdel either preparing to walk across the bay during the low tide or people-watching people who were looking for seals. It was a great excursion (despite the mud) and we were able to catch a glimpse of a colony of seals lounging around on a sand bank.

Cap Hourdel

Cap Hourdel

Looking for seals?

Looking for seals?

2014.05.29_balade vélo cap Hourdel 4




From Boulogne-sur-Mer to the Bay of Somme

After properly celebrating our first long sail, I wasn’t so sure that I was ready to strap on my foul weather overalls and sail for another 10~12 hours the very next day. So we decided to stay a few days at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Unfortunately, or should I rather say, typically, rain decided to grace us with her presence…nonstop. Ugh. But, in spite of the rainy conditions, we set out to discover the “old town”. We previously visited Boulogne-sur-Mer two years ago with friends but only saw the Nausicaa museum. Overall, the old town was quaint and interesting with an impressive fortified wall. However, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to give you much more details since I was completely preoccupied by how hungry I was during our sightseeing.

After some badly needed rest, we needed to prepare for our next destination…Dieppe which would take about 12 hours or the Bay of Somme where Yves had read that it was considered as a World Heritage place…a beautiful natural reserve? a charming little port? seals? SEALS?!? There are seals here?!? Uhm….this is why we are doing this trip, pretty easy decision, no? This is where Yves shook his head…”No no Joanna, not that easy, we have to be careful about the tides and tide currents. In order for us to leave, we need to leave early…like REALLY early in the morning!” Woohoo!! Our first night sail! (ok…an hour’s worth of night sailing).

Of course, knowing that one has to get up so early, one can NOT possibly fall asleep at 9:00pm. I mean, that is when we eat! We tried our best to get a reasonable amount of rest in order to be in shape for our sail. It was not easy and we probably only got about 4 hours of sleep at best. But at 3:20 am, we managed to get our sleepy heads up and prepare our best for our 6 hrs sail. It was strange to be hustling about the boat when you could feel that the city was still asleep.

We left around 4:00 am and, to my surprise, we encountered quite a bit of swells when we sailed out of the port. Yves encountered difficulties after difficulties in trying to raise the sails in spite of the boat rolling all about. It was very impressive to be on La Nomade with waves moving in all directions and nothing but the lights on our boat to give us a little insight of the big black sea.

Thankfully, Yves prevailed and the sails were set up and we set course for the Bay of Somme. There was not much wind but constant drizzle. It was cold and rainy…I was cold and tired…definitely not a happy camper. And much to my dismay, Yves wasn’t feeling too great either…he almost got seasick!

I can't get sick, I can't get sick, I can't get sick

I can’t get sick, I can’t get sick, I can’t get sick

But with a nice hot water bottle, some hot tea and a little rest, Yves recovered. I continued to navigate the tiller hoping I would not need to use my vomit bucket. After 2 hours of sailing with little to no wind, Yves decided that if we were to be on schedule to enter into the Bay of Somme, we would need a little help. Start the engine! Around 11:30 am, we finally arrived at the entrance of the Bay of Somme. I wondered if this bay was worth the night/morning that we had just endured. We were tired…we were cold…suddenly Yves cried out “Jo! Look!” I turned my head and poof! I saw a swarthy little head… and then another…the famous seals of the Bay of Somme! We looked at each other and thought “Yeah… this wasn’t so bad after all…”

D is for Departure…Dunkirk…Dimanche!

2014 is finally the year where we could finally tell ourselves…this is THE year that we are sailing off! The year started off with a thesis completed, a few small refit projects  completed and loose ends tied up in Switzerland, it was only a matter of good weather that we needed to finally set sail. Unfortunately, the winds and the sun decided NOT to help us out. Typical regional weather around Dunkirk. 🙁

We decided to take La Nomade for a small daysail since it was several months since we last took her out to sea. I was a bit apprehensive because the weather report announced rain and periodical gusty winds, but Yves reassured me that all would be ok…can’t you tell from my face?

Of course I don't look worried

Of course I don’t look worried!

However, for the first time, we encountered our very first storm. Of course, it was not at all like what one would see in the film “A Perfect Storm”, but I can assure you, it was definitely what I felt! In the end, I can proudly tell myself that I survived it…Yves even told me that I survived with flying colors! But I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to get back into sea just yet…

After some hesitation and some last-minute anxiety (thanks to the aforementioned experience), we finally left on Sunday. I could tell that it was about time that we left the port. We said our goodbyes to our local friends, convinced the marina officials that we were really truly ‘cross my heart’ leaving, and thankfully with a little wind and sun, we were off!!

Bye-bye Dunkirk, hello adventure!

Bye-bye Dunkirk, HELLO ADVENTURE!

We finally arrived at Boulogne -sur -Mer after 10 hours of navigation. This trip was the longest that Yves and I have ever sailed together and ALONE. This was the first test for the both of us since we’ve only sailed for a couple of hours at a time. Yves has quite a bit of experience, but me?!? Not so much. Needless to say, when we arrived at the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, you would think we just crossed the Atlantic ocean. Oh, did I mention that one can travel from Dunkirk to Boulogne-sur-Mer in an hour and a half by car?