Ramsgate to Gravelines Sunday 22nd May
Sunday is a pretty soggy day. Leave Ramsgate 5am in fine drizzle and motor sail south (what wind there is is bang on the nose) towards South Goodwin passing a sign of the times in the form of a large Border Patrol vessel anchored off the beach between Ramsgate and Deal. Her sister ship was in Ramsgate so they are pretty active in this area.
Passing South Foreland we are called up by Dover Coastguard, showing off that they can see us on AIS, call sign and all (Bonify: Mike Papa Papa Tango Six), and asking our intentions. Well we are heading for France on a course appropriate for crossing the shipping lanes so it seems pretty obvious to us. Howard resists the temptation to reply “Purely honourable”, plays it dead straight and is rewarded by being wished “Good watch” as they sign off.
We sail across the shipping lanes, apart from a short burst of motor to get us safely clear of one south bound ship, and by 9am we have logged 21nautical miles and are heading up the French coast, passing Calais at 10.30am.
There's a traditional boat party this weekend at Gravelines and our gaff rig (and OGA membership) wins us an invitation. (If anyone reading this doesn't know what the OGA is then read no further until you have checked out www.oga.org.uk - in case you can't tell Sue is responsible for publicity among other things).
We missed the crew dinner on Saturday night but are timing our arrival today to coincide with their Parade of Sail in the approach canal followed by a barbeque on the quayside. It's only a few miles past Calais and as we approach the tide is giving us more and more help so that we risk arriving too soon. We don't fancy pitching up in the tiny harbour just as all the other participants are moving off so we try to dawdle. Shortening sail but still making 5kts we eventually turn in to the entrance canal at 12.15 (BST) and have timed it perfectly to meet the parade coming towards us.
43 miles in 7 hours
|Parade (no sail) at Escale a Gravelines|
Lovely to meet French and Belgian gaffer friends again and the barbeque on the quay is excellent with real French baguettes, sausages including merguez, and smoked fish followed by Camembert barbequed (in foil) and then fantastic home-baked tart. There's plenty of wine in boxes and beer, both French and Belgian, though how they would have opened some of the latter without Bonify's corkscrew we don't know.
One sad note though: anyone who's visited Gravelines and enjoyed the hospitality of the excellent Clubhouse restaurant will perhaps be as shocked as we were to learn that Rudy, the colourful “Patron” died suddenly recently. His wife and staff continue the business but he'll be missed.
2 challenges for tomorrow: one is to get our shopping at Lidl despite the fact that we are moored on the wrong side of the harbour and the bridge is out of service – small though the harbour is it's still a ¾ mile walk around. Our shopping list includes some fairly heavy items!
Second challenge involves refuelling in a country where striking workers are blocading the refineries and there's no fuel available anywhere. Oh la la!
|Lidl - so near and yet so far|