Another early start!!!!!!! Actually, we failed miserably. SOMEONE (mentioning no names) had been playing angry birds on the iphone and its poor battery was as flat as a Frenchmans beret and neither of us noticed. As a result, we were rudely awoken by sea gulls at around 0600 (about 2 hours later than we planned). Remember the opening scene to ‘4 Weddings and a Funeral? Yep, you get the message. Actually we were out of bed at 0600 and actually under way by 0602; yes, that is the truth!! As it was, there was no wind at all, so we motored all the way, maintaining the 6 knots minimum now needed to make the entry time. We arrived 10 minutes early!
The Somme estuary is not for the faint-hearted! We passed the entry marks at 0950 (2 hours 22 minutes before High Water), with 6.2 metres of tidal height and about 3 metres under the keel. While the tidal height climbed steadily the depth of water diminished at an alarming rate. The good news is that there are 50 buoys and piles, some single, some in pairs, marking the meandering channel from the outer marks right up to the entry to St Valery. As we reached just passed Buoys 31/32, and aiming up toward 33/34, the half-way point (of no return) we bounced on the sand. ‘Oh dear,’ one was heard to say as he looked around to check we hadn’t drifted wide of the channel; no, right in the middle, aiming up for the next pair. Interesting! Even though one eye was surgically attached to the echo sounder the hummocks come at you very quickly. The tidal stream in the narrow channels run at enormous speeds. Large amounts of the Somme Estuary are saltmarsh and don’t even have the good manners to get wet – even at the top of a spring tide.
We thought we would hug the markers on the way into St Valery. Some locals waved to us and directed us to where they knew the water to be, despite the markers, and all was well until yours truly lost concentration and cut the corner into St Valery ………… we ground to a halt. Good stuff this sand – it gets rid of barnacles under your keel with great efficiency. A bit of stern power, coupled with judicious bursts of bow thruster and some pleasant smiles from the people on the board walk, a few inches from our side, and off we came. An interesting experience, for a 1.5 metre draught boat. We made a nice sternboard into the allocated berth, had lunch, then went and paid for our stay and drank a lot of beer. We met Marion in the marina office, who is very keen to practice her English. All we need to do now is find someone for her who speaks it!! In the bar (right next to the office – the whole building is on a lovely balcony) we met Francoise ‘Fonfon to her friends’ who speaks no English at all; great, this communications malarkey, we are really enjoying the challenge. Barbara had been emailing them from time to time with our progress and a more accurate ETA. As a result, they seemed to be really looking forward to our arrival.