It was stormy weather in the Atlantic and no good weather for us to leave Dieppe so we stayed there a week. During that week we got a lot of small jobs done on the boat, which was good. For example, more work on autopilot installation, fix our toilet (that started having some small issues on the way to Dieppe) and other small stuff. As we where closing in on Bay of Biscay we also spent a lot of time preparing for the crossing, by cooking a lot of food and put it in our freezer box. So when we where gonna do the crossing we would only need to cook pasta or rice and heat the food. Nice way to get good warm food while sailing.
As soon as a weather window appeared it was time to continue, but again a shorter distance. Or next stop would be Fecamp, a bit further west along the Normandy coast. On the way to Fecamp we got our first seasickness, Petra did not feel very well and threw up once on the way there.
When we arrived in Fecamp we started by taking a walk around town and up to a hill with a nice view and steep slopes.
The following day we rented bikes with the plan to bike along the coast towards Etretat. It was a very nice bike ride, with beautiful places along the way. And pretty tough as it was a lot of slopes. We ate lunch at Etretat and watched the cool cliffs by the beach before we started heading back. In total we biked 40 km so it was a good exercise for us.
After our long day of biking we went to bed early to rest for a longer sail towards Cherbourgh the day after.
After two nights in Dunkirk we where ready to sail into the English Channel through Dover strait. We sailed along the coast and had the tide with us (about 3-4 knots through the strait) so it was pretty easy sail. We sailed to Boulogne-sur-Mer, which we reached short after lunch.
We took a walk around town and up to the old town where we ate some waffles. After that we went to the boat stores around the marina to try and find some stuff we needed, but did not find that much. It is hard to find the right stuff when you’re in a foreign country and not have a car so that you can go to bigger shopping centres.
The tidal difference really started to show when we sailed closer into the channel.
After our walk around town we spent the evening on the boat and prepared for an early morning departure once more. This time we were to sail towards Dieppe. A lot of boats that want to go through northern Europe fast usually sail from Bolougne-sur-mer straight towards Cherbourgh, but for us there was not a weather window to do that so we sailed towards Dieppe instead (how we sail can be seen under Our Route). From Dieppe we would then have a shorter sail to Cherbourgh when the time came.
And on the way to we had an exiting meeting with the coastguards. Shortly after we passed Dover strait we got called up on the VHF by a close-by coastguard ship. First time someone called us on VHF so pretty nervous. They asked us a couple of questions, where we headed and so on. Then they wished us a good trip and we thought that was it.
But later in the day when we approached Dieppe the same ship approached and called us up again and said they where gonna come aboard on a routine check. So we started the engine and took down the sails, prepared all our paperwork. We where told to maintain our course to Dieppe with normal speed. The officials (four in total) jumped onto our boat while underway from a dingy they launched (pretty cool). They stayed onboard about an hour, check paperwork and the boat. Everything was in order and they where really nice. It was also nice that everything happened while being underway, so that our timeplan didn’t get to messed up.
When we approached Dieppe we had the most amazing sunset.
The following day we took a walk around Dieppe, watched the beautiful cliffs and had a Moules Frites and a beer in the sun.
After our short visit in Amsterdam we woke up early to leave the canals and head back out to the sea. Our next planned leg was to sail to France past the big shipping lanes around Rotterdam and Belgium, and from there continue to the English Channel.
We first motored from Amsterdam towards IJmuiden, where we would pass through the last lock.
Through the English Channel and North Sea the big ships travel along the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) which we didn’t need to cross (as we where just going along the coast). Where there are TSS zones there is usually an ITZ as well (Inshore Traffic Zone) between the commercial shipping lane and the coast. Staying in the ITZ is no problem but every now and then the commercial ships will leave their zone and head into land, and then you have to cross their path.
When sailing past Rotterdam, at Maas Entrance, there is a recommended crossing for leisure craft. When you cross the shipping lane you should cross straight over or with a right angle. Rotterdam is the biggest port in Europe and the ships going in and out are HUGE, so don’t want to be in their way.
We approached Maas Entrance in the later afternoon/evening. The sun hadn’t yet set but was soon about to. Just before our crossing four ships passed on their way to Rotterdam and after that the entrance was empty so that we could easily pass. Not short after we where safe on the other side three or four ships passed. So we where really lucky with finding a good window to pass.
The next challenging shipping lane, we thought, was the ones outside Zeebrugge, as there where several in different direction and as we would pass there by night. But it went fine, we passed the shipping lanes fast and well away from any big ships.
In our opinion it was more work avoiding the dredging and fishing vessels as they move in the ITZ and suddenly can change direction. The big ships stay in their zone and maintain their course.
Other than that our night sail from Amsterdam to Dunkirk offered pretty strong winds and at times, pretty high waves. As there was a lot of job steering the boat and navigating, we both got really tired. We tried with shorter rests for the both of us but it was a really tiring and cold night. Next night sail we will probably be able use the autopilot or windvane more so resting will be easier.
When morning came the wind died out and we started the engine and reached Dunkirk in France just before lunch. We ate lunch at a restaurant and after that we want back to the boat and fell asleep. We had a calm evening with wine and serie watching before falling asleep once more.
The following day we visited the market in Dunkirk, went food shopping and fixed some things on the boat. We spent another night in Dunkirk before continuing through Dover straight.