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  • Welcome to our blog!

    This is our first full season on the good ship Ruby. We bought her in August 2021 with the intention of sailing around the UK in her over the course of several seasons. She is a 40 foot Marex 375, Norwegian design and built in Lithuania. She has twin stern drive 320 HP Volvo Penta D4 A-G engines and will travel at 36 knots if asked. She is most economical somewhat slower than that!

  • Leaving Heybridge Basin – June 01

    Tempus was a lovely boat. She was a motor sailer but increasingly we found little use for the sails so she had to go. We replaced her with Ruby. 12 metres of ship with creature comforts and 2 engines. We brought her back from Poole, where we bought her, last August. Our idea is to circumnavigate Great Britain over the course of 2 or 3 years, perhaps longer. But this year we hope to get to the South West of England, the Scillies too if we can. We need to return to Mersea in early August for Mersea Week and some grandparenting duties before Linda goes for a hip replacement at the end of the month.

    Preparation has been tiring. We are supporting a lovely Ukrainian family who have been living with us since late April. Nadia, Lena and Katya. Grandmother, mother and daughter. They have integrated superbly and their English is coming on, but English life is quite different from what they are used to and there is daily concern about family still at home. They will be living in our house while we are away and we will support them remotely with help from Harriet and Jack. Then there are all the preparations for leaving home as well as social functions returning in a post pandemic world. Ruby has been in Heybridge Basin since mid May, 15 miles from Mersea. So we locked out at 1430hrs and headed for Bradwell, opposite Mersea on the River Blackwater. We abandoned the idea of going to Ramsgate tonight on account of fatigue so tomorrow it’s Calais!

    Locking out of Heybridge Basin
  • Calais – June 02

    We eased out of Bradwell Marina at the uncivilised hour of 0600 so as to catch the most favorable tide and beat the expected strengthening wind later. The oystercatchers were calling on the muddy banks on a still but sunny morning and despite our fatigue, it felt good to be alive. We waved a final farewell to Mersea across the water and made good progress to Calais at an economical speed in 7 hours. The rising wind whipped up the waves as we approached Calais making for an uncomfortable final few miles and we entered the harbour between an endless stream of ferries. The inner harbour and marina is accessed through the main harbour by negotiating a road bridge that opens hourly between 3 hours before and 3 hours after high tide. Outside these hours a sluice gate closes to prevent the marina from drying out. We arrived at high tide just as the bridge opened, closely followed by the gendarmerie RIB. It was soon apparent that we were persons of interest. Post Brexit, we can no longer enter and leave France on a whim. The formalities include completing a C1331 UK Government form, probably designed on an antique computer using an Excel spreadsheet one night after the pubs had closed. From the French perspective, we are obliged to show all our ‘ships papers’ to confirm that we own Ruby and that we paid VAT. Finally our passports needed stamping to ensure we don’t outstay our welcome. Between the gendarmes and the harbour master they seemed satisfied that we were fulfilling our obligations.

    Calais is not a town with obvious appeal, but with a deterioration in the weather forecast, we will have to make the most of it!

    A confident skipper!
    Calais marina
    69 nautical miles to Calais
  • Calais – June 03

    There was a spell until 1558 when Calais was a part of England. It was occupied by the Nazis in the 2nd World War when it was razed to the ground and finally divorced by UK as a result of Brexit. The architecture is austere post war, but we looked for some evidence of it’s traditional prosperity as a transport hub and thriving centre for wool production. The Hotel de Ville and theatre are lovely buildings as was the park. Sadly the cafe was a disappointment. But the long lie in and late breakfast were a long overdue and a welcome indulgence! Our tour on our Bromptons, Linda’s a new electric one, was a great success and it is clear that my 41st anniversary present to Linda is greatly appreciated!

    Hotel de Ville
    Theatre
  • Boulogne – June 05

    22 miles to Boulogne

    It is impossible to have a rigid itinerary when cruising on a small vessel. It all depends on the weather. So many choices of forecast too! On the one hand, there was a storm alert on my phone. that woke me at 0300 warning of torrential rain and thunderstorms with risk to life. A quick check on the Met Office website advises of light winds from the east backing to the west later, BBC says north then west, but both say dry. Then there is Windfinder and XC Weather with still further variations but no storms. Then what about the sea state? Windfinder can scare me with their predictions. The Wallet, between the Blackwater and Orwell estuaries can be unpleasant with short steep seas. Often the waves are reported at rather less than a metre, but it is the short wave frequency that makes for lots of uncomfortable bouncing. So yesterday was very windy so surely some residual nastiness? The forecast was for 1.1 metre waves at a 6 second frequency and we can confidently say that today’s trip was so much better than with 0.7 metres and 3 seconds we experienced in the Wallet recently!

    The trouble with forecasts is that they can give you an excuse to stay in port almost permanently but it was time to move on and enjoy moules et frites in old Boulogne. Contrast our caution with the crew of the tired looking little 10 metre Belgian yacht that we moored up alongside today. Mum, Dad and 2 children of about 4 and 5. They sailed down from Dunkirk yesterday in all that wind making it ‘difficult to steer into the ‘arbour’. And this is the start of their 2 year (maybe 6) circumnavigation of the globe. Now that’s intrepid, although numerous other adjectives could be more apt!

    Boulogne marina
    Moules et frites
  • Boulogne – June 06

    So will he go or not? No not Boris! I mean will I be going to St Valery sur Somme with Linda on Ruby tomorrow? Looks like Dieppe instead. It’s the wind, weather tide thing again. And talking of Ruby. Today is our Ruby plus one anniversary 😍. I provide the cakes. She poured the cheap wine and made supper. That’s why we’re still together after 41 years ♥️

  • Dieppe – June 07

    Boulogne to Dieppe 54 miles (total 155 miles)

    The prospect of Dieppe did not excite me. It’s beginning to look like we’re touring cross Channel ferry ports. To be fair, this was not today’s originally intended destination. St Valery sur Somme sounded far more exciting. 3 miles of twisting channels that completely dry out at low tide and reports of an enchanting village at the other end, but the weather conditions could have made for a potentially disasterous mission. We left as the sun was scheduled to break through the drizzle at 0545 and on half throttle we covered the 54 miles in under 3 hours, just as the wind was picking up and the seas becoming bouncy. And then the sun came out to reveal a large centrally situated marina surrounded on the quayside by attractive old French buildings, and a working fish dock adjacent. A late lunch of sensational local cheeses (Neufchatel and Brillat-Savarin) washed down with beer and wine resulted in a slumber lasting most of the rest of the day. But we were up very early!

    Dieppe marina
    Grand bateaux des peches
    A decadent lifestyle aboard Ruby

  • Dieppe – June 08

    We miss our garden when we’re away. May is the best month for flowers in our garden so to explore the lovely grounds at Chateau de Miromesnil was an opportunity to get to grips with our withdrawal symptoms. It was not the recommendation of my garden designer sister, Nikola, which is currently closed, but the notion of immersing ourselves into a horticultural environment was a good one. I hadn’t expected the steep gradient that took us out of the town. A challenge on the Brompton which elevated my heart rate far en excess of Linda’s, whose electric motor on her Brompton left me far behind and Linda with a smug smile on her face. The chateau felt like proper France, the potager, despite it’s name felt like it was connecting us back to the best of English gardens. But our picnic lunch was a French delight with a baguette and those lovely cheeses together with vin blanc and a bottle of beer (Italian) was heaven on earth.

  • Saint Valery en Caux – June 10

    Almost 82 years ago to the day, the 51st Highland Division were cornered in this little town with any prospect of a Dunkirk style evacuation scuppered by fog. Many soldiers were killed or taken prisoner. Today, as Tom Cunliffe says in his pilot guide, this is the sort of place that once visited, you want to return to again and again. It’s unpretentious, untouched by mass tourism and it’s little market, par example, honest, quiet and very French. Ideal for stocking up on charcuterie and wine, then retiring back to Ruby for the day.

    By the way, 16 miles this morning, started at 7 and a gentle pace taking a couple of hours. Only wavelets so perfect conditions for croissants and cafe en route. No map to publish. Technical difficulties.

    Leaving Dieppe
    Dieppe breakwaters
    White cliffs of the Alabaster Coast
    The sea lock and bridge at St Valery en Caux
    The sea lock and bridge at low tide!
    The marina
    Henry IV house
    Delusional ideas
    A proper skipper at work
  • Fecamp – June 11

    St. Valery en Caux – Fecamp – 17 miles

    Boaters would deny it, but the reason so many sit in their cockpits at any time of the day is to watch other boaters, especially other boaters making silly mistakes. Witnessing such events gives them an anecdote with which to entertain their friends and by ridiculing the said boater’s behaviour, serves to enhance their own reputation as a safe and reliable pair of hands. Today it was my turn to provide anecdote fodder. It had all been going so well. A calm sunny morning, a civilized 0900 start and a gentle chug along the coast, between the piers marking the entrance to the harbour and a starboard turn into the ‘avant port’. We were allocated a whole pontoon to choose our own berth from. We viewed from afar the possibilities. So much choice! We changed our minds several times but eventually our mind was made up. I had a strategy. The wind had increased to a gentle breeze and because it was blowing onshore, the harbour had become a bit wavy. My mistake was to reverse into a wide slot with the wind blowing me off the chosen pontoon. We narrowly missed the bow of our neighbours yacht who jumped off to come to our assistance. Second mistake was not to give clear instructions to our helpers, like ‘tie that line onto that cleat there (s’il vous plait)’. But out of a lot of chaos we were soon moored up, calm was restored and no harm was done.

    Once the nerves had settled and lunch consumed, I prepared the bikes and we went in search of the local attractions. The Benedictine Monastery for one, Carrefour City for supplies, another. Then a restful evening waiting and watching for other boater’s mistakes over wine and dinner.

    Leaving St Valery en Caux with a Dutch Najad
    Ah memories! Passing a Nauticat 331.
    Another hazard to avoid on the way into Fecamp
    Relaxing lunch reading a very good book
    Benedictine Monastery and distillery
  • Fecamp – June 13

    Fecamp is lovely. We have a great position in the marina with a view to Cap Fagnet just the other side of the harbour. The Cap has a commanding position overlooking the chalk cliffs of the Alabaster Coast. My ambition to run to the top was quickly downgraded to a walk once I saw the incline but the views were well worth the pain. It’s been a quiet two days of reading and relaxing. Then a trip to the Benedictine distillery for ‘le tour’ followed by tasting and brilliant budget Michelin star meal at ‘Le Vicomte’. Not joking. Great value, four courses and good wines. All that made up for a noisy marina with the French RNLI equivalent training volunteers in 4 different boats well into the early hours and the little old sailing boat loosing it’s bow line and bashing us during the night. Minor gelcoat damage, easily repaired but an insurance job. I felt sorry for the poor old boy responsible. He was the best part of 60 🤣🤣 and full of remorse.

    Overlooking the harbour from Cap Fagnet
    Sauveteurs en mer training
    Stained glass at the distillery
    The distillery
    Quality control
    Fecamp quayside