St-Vaast-la-Houge


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Our next stop from Ouistreham was St-Vaast-la-Houge. We had heard plenty about St-Vaast-la-Houge from various people that we had met during our sails. Both of us had separate but definite desires to go to this place. For Yves, it would be our first opportunity to be able to moor La Nomade (1er mouillage) and not have to dock at a marina. For me, well, on two different occasions, I was told that not only could one eat one of the best fish and chips (especially if we decide to anchor our boat and save on marina fees) but that oysters at St-Vaast-la-Houge were just out.of.this.world delicious! How could I NOT want to go here?!

After a pretty easy sail to St-Vaast-la-Houge, we arrived late afternoon into the area just in front of the entryway of the port. For our first try anchoring our boat, there were no complications and all went smoothly. After going back and forth to check with our GPS whether or not the boat moved with the anchor down (it did NOT move!), Yves breathed a happy sigh of relief and quickly set about to get our inflatable kayak to see what was around.

St-Vaast-la-Houge is part of the UNESCO heritage and is a very picturesque little port. You can see the neighboring small island of Tatihou which I have to say is quite cool to have in the background while we take our apéro as we watch the sun set. I apologize…we were too busy drinking rosé to take pictures but I will work on the picture taking especially since I received an AWESOME camera from my dear friends not too long ago! (Encore merci merci merci! 당신이 엄마 아빠 감사합니다!)

The next day, we took our kayak and went to visit the small town of St-Vaast. Although I am not the biggest fan of the kayak, I must admit that it was good to know (and feel!) that my muscles being used. We were able to “park” our kayak at the marina without having to pay fees (phew!). St-Vaast-la-Houge is another quaint little port with lots of charming rock cottages strewed all along the port. I could easily imagine renovating an old abandoned cottage and building a beautiful garden. For now, I am quite happy living on our “movable” home, La Nomade. One of the impressive things about St-Vaast-la-Houge is their oysters. The port is surrounded by oyster “parks” where oysters are very meticulously cultivated.

Oyster parks at low tide

Oyster parks at low tide

It was a long and lovely walk around the port but after four hours of walking, we decided to rest our feet at an old chapel just in front of the port. Lo and behold, we looked out into the sea where…our La Nomade was moored! Can you spot our boat?!

I spy...La Nomade!But the very best end to this day…definitely…without a doubt…had to be our dinner. There was no question, we were going to eat oysters AND fish and chips! I mean, if people go out of their way to point you to delicious food, are you not obliged to follow through?! We were both very very happy to be able to taste the famous “delicacy” of St-Vaast-la-Houge. However, before I make any judgment, I will have to taste many more oysters in Brittanny!

Miam miam! Yummy yummy!

Miam miam!
Yummy yummy!

After dinner, we kayaked back to the boat in record time and went promptly to sleep very full and VERY SATISFIED!

Voyage La Nomade Manche-27

What to do in Ouistreham

After a long and, at the very end, pretty scary sail into the port of Ouistreham, sunny warm weather convinced us to take a little break in Ouistreham before our next destination.

On Sunday, we had a lazy morning and not in a real rush to do any activity. However, I had a nice chat with one of the port agents who suggested that we rent bicycles and bike up to Caen, a fairly large city further in from the port of Ouistreham. After a little apprehension of maneuvering a bicycle once more, I quickly got my rhythm with my bike and we headed towards Caen. It was a wonderful ride and we passed by the château de Bénouville where the French president had world leaders for lunch on D-day. We then passed the famous Pegasus Bridge that had been liberated by the Allied forces. As a little souvenir of the historic event and more importantly, in the event of future difficult passages on the sea, I decided to buy this little flask that just might help calm my nerves.

Emergency use only!

Emergency use only!

We arrived at Caen where the skies started looking dark and ready to pop with rain at any moment so we decided not to explore Caen but headed back to the port before we would get caught in any rainstorm. Just as we were arriving to the port, we saw a HUGE and very royal looking boat with a sailor in uniform guarding the plank entry. I didn’t dare take a picture, but it was impressive! After a little fact-checking, we discovered that the boat belonged to the King of Norway who came to take part of the D-day commemoration.

Overall, I am pretty happy that I was able to continue biking in spite of my tendency to fall and discover a little bit of Ouistreham’s surroundings.

A Friday of firsts…

I have seen in many blogs cool and helpful themes for their posts…like Top Ten Tuesdays…What I like Wednesdays…I don’t know if this will be a weekly tradition of mine, but today was definitely a Friday of Firsts.

To start off, we left the Bay of Somme early in the morning in order to go with the tide. Not a first…but it was our first sunrise while sailing La Nomade!wpid-20140606_060619.jpg

I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and peaceful way to start our day!

Another first, you ask? Well, it was my first time where I didn’t navigate the tiller the entire time. Unless there are tricky manouevers in which case Yves usually takes over, I usually command the tiller . Today, I handed that honor to our dear friend Pierre. Pierre? Who’s Pierre?! Another sailor aboard!? Nope…he is our trusty automatic pilot! Why is he called Pierre? We have a very complicated and capricious GPS who calls himself Pierre…but our Pierre aboard La Nomade will actually take you where you want to go instead of giving confusing and very frustraing directions. So, by handing over the command to Pierre, I was able to lie down inside our cabin for the very first time. Many sailing sources discourage people to stay inside a boat if they are prone to seasickness. I am one of the unfortunate sensitive, but this time, I was able to lie down in our cabin in order to warm myself up and get some rest without throwing up! A definite first! 😉

As we made our way west, we weren’t really sure where our next stop would be. At first, we thought St Valéry en Caux…and then Fecamp. The wind was blowing, the sun was shining..Yves was a happy sailor. Oh another first?? He managed to arrange all of the sails with the genoa and the tangon all by himself (as I mentioned above, I was inside the cabin). Not to mention that the tangon broke off and he had to repair that too first…nothing but a day of firsts!

But the real biggie? The real reason why I write this post?? We decided to go to Ouistreham which would mean our first real night sail as well as our 24 hr sail. I am quite sure it won’t be our last…but for me, this was quite monumental! I didn’t think we would actually sail for this long today. Yves was optimistic with the winds that were blowing and the weather report seemed to be quite benign for the night. Well, about 45 minutes before our arrival to Ouistreham, I can say that the weather report was all wrong! Even though we had already gone through a thunderstorm before, I never actually headed towards one. *Please note that we were not trying to prove ourselves to the weather gods. The port we were heading to just happened to have the most impressive lightnening show right above. Yay?!@#@*

Nevertheless, we safely arrived at the port of Ouistreham where we had our second to the last ‘first’. We handled a ecluse together. Alone. In the night. A ecluse is where you go through a canal, tie your boat to the edge so it won’t float all about, wait for the ecluse to fill up with water, and you head out, in our case, the marina. Pretty proud of ourselves since we never did that before together and alone.

And for the final first of this Friday…we arrived at the port of Ouistreham and much to our surprise, the entire marina is filled with boats that came from Britain to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-day. Who would have thought!?!

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Good-bye Friday, Good morning Saturday!…I’m off to bed.

In search of seals

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Bay of Somme is famously reputed to have a whole flock of really adorable seals just swimming and lounging in their bay. As part of their tourism spiel, there are many ways to see these seals…by boat, by foot and by kayak. As soon as Yves found out that it’s possible to kayak in this bay without too much danger/trouble, he gleefully started to get our kayak out from the deep depths of our cockpit locker. Yes, we have an inflatable kayak. Most people with a sailboat have a dinghy and a small outboard engine in order to get from point A to point B when the boat is anchored down. Us? Well, I guess this is part of our fitness program?! Anyhoo, we have a really great sturdy kayak and I’m hoping to get really great arm muscles.

However, one can not just kayak around the bay whenever and wherever. This bay is pretty much dictated by the tides and tide currents. After many calculations, Yves explained that the best plan for us to kayak and hopefully observe the seals, we would have to leave early morning. With sleepy and groggy heads, we scrambled to get our gear and kayak into place and started paddling out of the marina…I think I lasted about 20 minutes before I started explaining (Yves would refute and say that I was complaining) to him that I felt the lactic acid burning in my bi/triceps. Were we there yet? How much longer? Where are the seals?!? Wait a second…

What’s that up ahead Yves?! Is that a seal??

YEAH!!

Hey…over there, is that another one there?!?

Uh, no Joanna…that’s a buoy.

(Just a sidenote, in respect of these poor seals who are subjected to being constantly gawked at by us tourists, we spoke in our loudest whisper voice possible as so not to disturb their morning siesta). We continued further out into the bay and I could see the lighthouse of Cap Hourdel where we biked to. Suddenly we saw one seal, then another, then another…then another…we hit jackpot! We started making our way to a sand bank all the while excitedly whispering how cute they were (hmm…that was more me than Yves). We brought the kayak ashore and Yves proceeded to take National Geographic quality pictures. Well, at least he looked like he did.

Yes yes..the seals are there.

Yes yes..the seals are there.

2014.06.02_sortie kayak phoques 320140602_123505

All in all, another great excursion and what was even more rewarding than seeing all the seals that we did was the fact that we could just jump in our own kayak and start paddling out. This was exactly the type of adventure I had imagined so it was definitely something to actually be able to do it. VERY. AWESOME.

Life is good!

Life is good!

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…”