Sunday, 17 August 2014

Dunkerque to Nieuwpoort

Monday 21st July, a possible rest day now a sailing day.

Following a chat with Dave and Kay, the crew of Alice Pellow, I opt to join them on a short passage to Nieuwpoort, like myself they have been pushing hard to get to the event in time and Kay suggested that an early arrival at a port allowing some afternoon leisure was needed. In their case especially so, their mast broke two weeks previously whilst sailing in the Solent and they had worked all the hours imaginable to get a new timber mast built prepared and rigged, resulting in a late departure but not having to cancel the trip.

The passage to Nieuwpoort is only 14Nm but requires some careful attention to navigation due to the extensive sandbanks, the route being via the Rade de Dunkerque, Passe de Zuydcoote and then a buoyed channel into the port. Once again the wind is NE F5 and with wind against tide a bumpy trip is expected.

My departure from the mooring was a bit tricky with Hyrst being rafted one boat out but with a raft of three beamy boats ahead of me and the wind pushing me on to the mooring (no astern option). The crew of the french boat inside of me, 4 blokes, arrived and started preparing their boat (seemed like a race school boat) but not one offered to assist with my departure, even after I asked if one of them would go on the outside boat ahead to fend off if necessary. I did get away with out any drama and with a condescending casting off by one of the crew of my aft line used to spring out. Obviously not cruising types. Alice Pellow was waiting for me in the harbour and we set off in company.

The passage turned out to be a rough one with short steep seas due to the shallow water, tide and what turned out to be a F5 rising to F6 head wind. Motor sailing with two reefs in the main it proved to be slow progress especially through the Passe de Zuydcoote. Alice Pellow pulled away from me and was about a mile ahead by the time we were offshore of Nieuwpoort as I watched them turn into wind and drop their main. The next time I looked at them they were running down wind under foresails, a quick call to them on the VHF in case of problems and the response was engine failure. My response to get to them asap and standby was not a lot of use under the conditions but the best I could offer. Not good, difficult conditions, unknown harbour with narrow entrance and no ready assistance. Dave opted to sail the boat in and to their credit they sailed the boat into and down the long entrance onto a hammerhead pontoon on a marina berth. Cool work by the pair of them.

 I followed in and rafted alongside them, the marina dockmaster having picked up on the situation and taken the lines from Alice Pellow on arrival, then giving us berthing there overnight. So much for Kay's afternoon of sightseeing, Dave was into investigating the engine failure. The rough passage was a clue and checking the fuel filters revealed a severe dose of the dreaded diesel bug. No engineering support was available that afternoon but a local company agreed to fetch the boat the next day and see what could be done.

Hyrst of Eremue had another good rock n' roll session getting the main down and into the harbour but once inside all was (relatively) calm.

Pictures thanks to a local Belgian sailing couple out walking who saw us entering the harbour, took the snaps and happened to be moored on an adjacent marina berth.

Tuesday 22nd July was Alice Pellow fixing day as first priority, with the boat yard proving up to their promise (after a lot of chasing by Dave and Kay)

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The fuel and tank were duly cleaned and filters replaced, with Dave relieved of a substantial amount of money for the work. The charge obviously took into account the "no option" situation.

During the day whilst Alice was at the doctors I joined Dave and Kay for a tour of Nieuwpoort, using the free cycle loan provided by the marina. A pleasant harbour town and one I would enjoy visiting again.

The day was not a lost sailing day either as the morning was poor visibility and strong winds all day so would have been an enforced rest day.

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