Saturday 30 July St Valery sur Somme.
Met another Dutchman (there are loads of them here) who is planning to depart at HW-2 to make his escape back to Holland. Unfortunately, his vessel draws 1.9 metres. We tried not to frighten him too much with the story of our entry and wished him the best of good fortune, handing him one of our cruising cards and asking him to drop us a line to let us know how he got on.
He related a story of being so firmly stuck aground on his way in, that the lifeboat had to come out and tow him off. We do hope his exit is a bit more successful.
Sunday 31 July St Valery sur Somme
Our week here is being spent preparing Wight Mistress for the last bit in salt water and on into the waterways.
Our entry point is through the lock (about 500 yards further up the channel.) Booms down, old genoa furled on the forestay to protect it, main furled tight and lashed. We now know why the French don’t work at lunch times; even at this latitude (only 30 miles south of Island Harbour) it is so hot in the middle of the day that only ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the Mid Day Sun’. Steve got a little bit hot, working on deck, so the afternoon was spent doing stuff below. We have noticed that Wight Mistress stays really quite cool below decks, with all that wood paneling to act as insulation. We decided that after a hard day’s working, we owed it to ourselves to have a beer. We met Mimi, a lovely Portuguese lady, working behind the bar. She is married to an Englishman from Bournemouth and they live in Cayeux sur Mer, about 10km from here. Beer and back onboard for BBQ chicken paprika. We decided to go look about on our bikes.
St Valery is absolutely beautiful. It is where William the Conqueror left from, with his armies etc to come over in 1066 and give Harold one in the eye. All history now! I wonder if he had problems getting his ships out of the Somme Estuary? Up in the medieval part of the town is a pair of towers.
Joan of Arc was incarcerated there for a while on her way to her final departure from this earth.
There is a wonderful steam train that runs from Cayeux sur Mer (on the coast, obviously) up to St Valery and then on round the estuary to Le Crotoy. They have 3 steam locomotives, one red, one green and one black, plus a diesel loco that we didn’t see working, and the carriages are beautiful. The whole system is very well maintained.
The little locomotives tow 9 carriages along a narrow gauge track right around the baie de la Somme from le Crotoy, through St Valery and then out to the coast at Cayeux sur Mer.
Nous n’avons pas un photo du train noir.
We managed to get right to the top of the hill in the medieval part when disaster struck. A puncture. Bu££er. Still, some pleasant photos and a similarly pleasing meander along the promenade, to see the gouge in the sand (it was low water by this time) where we cut the corner on our way in.
The sunset was stunning. The air was full of movement with the hundreds of swallows diving and swooping to catch the midges, while higher up the gulls criss-crossed the sky. Loads of people were out with their cameras for such a spectacle.
Monday 1 August (pinch and a punch etc) St Valery.
Carried on the work of preparing our lovely vessel for the next adventure. Tapes off and pins worked on the standing rigging, halyards secured, flag hoists lowered, sails and running rigging stowed where we can find it when we reach the other end (when/wherever that may be.)
We wandered over and had a chat with the ‘eclusier’ (lock keeper) to find out what is needed to enter the canal system. Simple procedure, we just call him up a couple of hours before high water and pitch up outside the gate at high water. We have had a natter with les chantiers (the boatyard) just inside the canal, about lowering the masts. They took no prisoners with the speed of spoken French but were very, very helpful and friendly. We are now booked to come alongside by the crane in the canal from Friday 5th August. The crane will be available on Monday to lower the masts. The charge to stay the weekend ……………. zero, zilch, nada, nothing, GRATUIT (we are beginning to like that French word)