Going to Guernsey

Guernsey island is part of the Channel islands or also known as les îles Anglo-Normandes. It took us about 8 hours to sail to Guernsey island from the port of Chanteryne at Cherbourg. However, this trip is a bit particular because as we edge closer towards Brittany, the coastal landscape changes from sand to rocks. This can be slightly nerve-wracking for sailors since rocks are not our friends. What else can be nerve-wracking? Freaking strong currents that could push you to those rocks! And that about sums up what our sail to Guernsey would be like. YAY!!! What?! We have strong winds too?! Oh, this is going to be an easy-peasy trip.

In the end, we had good winds, the water was quite choppy in the first half of the journey and much calmer for the latter part. We were both concentrated and alert to make sure that we stayed clear of rocks and that we were going with the current and not against. We arrived safely at the Beaucette marina. I was pretty proud that I stayed calm and even though I was a little, a very tiny bit scared in the beginning, I started to enjoy the ride. I imagine that riding choppy waves might be a little like riding a bull in a rodeo?


Stopover in Cherbourg

Even though the journey to Cherbourg was not as long as our previous ones, this particular sail was another difficult one. With the winds picking up and the sea becoming more agitated, the boat wobbled from side to side the entire night. Needless to say, we did not get a good night’s rest. I was anxious to head to Cherbourg in order for us to stay on schedule and be able to head out to the Channel islands the next day. Despite our fatigue, we prepared the boat and headed out into the sea. This was definitely not an easy navigation. The water was more agitated than what the weather forecast had predicted and without proper rest, it was difficult to stay on top of things. It was one of those days where nothing seems to go right and I truly wondered what was the whole point of sailing…just like when we went to the Bay of Somme. And then…Yves cried out

Look! Over there! Dolphins!

A friend when needed!

A friend when needed!

It was amazing! We had heard from a couple in Ouistreham that they had seen dolphins but I never thought we would be able to too! It was wonderful and, at that precise moment, I said to myself “Ok…I can handle the bad AND the good.” After that, the sea was still choppy, we were still tired…but we felt like it was all worth whatever we were feeling. The icing on the cake (la cerise sur le gateau)? More than just spotting dolphins? The next morning after a wonderful night’s rest, we were greeted by a friend from Dunkirk who also arrived the night before. It was so nice to see a familiar and friendly face! We felt pumped and ready to attack our journey towards Guernsey…and we needed as much energy as possible if we were to cross Raz Blanchard!


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!?!



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

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?