Friday, May 28, 2010

Off course...

We got side tracked and ended up.... in Paris.

Like so many beautiful things, our Paris adventure was found on the sidewalk. One sunny afternoon, hustling the boardwalk, we met the lovely Mademoiselle Gonsalves. On a weekend visit to her Honfleur holiday flat but bound back for Paris she offered us a holiday from the Wong and a ride to the big smoke.

Like fish happily out of water we spent a lovely couple of days in this beautiful city. Although it is one of Europe's biggest (and most tourist packed) it has a pleasant, friendly vibe about it and, of course, culture, art, food and wine to keep one inspired and satisfied for much longer than we could afford hanging around.

Kitchen bohéme and the beautiful Moulin Rouge

Hard working crew...?

Stand by for departure for the Channel Islands within the next week. And where are your comments folks?


Nuthin Wong

Friday, May 21, 2010

Holiday in Honfleur

Honfleur, Lower Normandy, France.
Latitude: N 49.4195
Longitude: E 0

While life is well aboard the Wong there are certain places we pass through that makes life on land seem very attractive indeed! Honfleur is certainly one of them. This picturesque town just outside the busy port city of Le Havre is a buzzing tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over Europe and the world. The town has a population of 8178 but attracts thousands more in the summer.

The sail down from Dieppe was uneventful (for which we are thankful since we were a crew of two and are happy to save unexpected dramas for when we have more assistance aboard!). We were keeping close to the coast the whole way and were able to see some nice French countryside. Normandy is an amazing part of France with green hills, white cliffs and the most amazing architecture. 12 hours out of Dieppe we hung a left at La Havre to enter the river mouth of the mighty Seine river. We were battling a strong tide going out and thought at first that we would be too late to enter the lock to Honfleur some 15 km into the river.

We don't know whether it was lucky timing or standard procedure but after calling in on the radio (the VHF has been a somewhat monologuesqe exercise since entering France; "Honfleur sluss, this is Victor Delta 3875, do you copy?", "French french french.... french", "Okay, when is the next sluss opening please? Over", "French french. French, french.... french", "Okay, merci monsieur, over and out") the lock opened up and we entered the first lock of the trip! It is fascinating to see the very smooth procedure of the 'sluss' and after fifteen minutes we were in! After a 14.5 hour day it was nice to motor into town again. We had heard from other sailors in Dieppe that there were still free places to moore in Honfleur and we had our fingers crossed that they were right. As it was getting close to 9 pm we took our chances and tied up behind a fishing boat with this view from the galley:

It is exciting to be a stone throw away from the main tourist street around the harbor with all its restaurants, galleries and boutiques. It is also excellent for meeting people and we had barely tied up the spring lines when we were boarded by a lovely British gentleman who happened to have family in Vancouver Island and had seen the Wong back in Canada twenty years ago!

The following day's rondez vous was of a different nature with the Harbor Master knocking on the hatch to inform us that we had to move. Being kind and understanding people they sent us some fifty meters down the wall next to a walkway leading to the beach where we were allowed free mooring for two weeks (and the young Harbor Master's assistant bought a copy of 'No Fixed Address')!

Being on the boardwalk is hardly bad for sales and recruiting and we can barely go out on deck to brush our teeth before curious strollers starts inquiring about our mission to get the Wong back to Canada. One night we had the pleasure of meeting Michael and Hillary, father and daughter on bicycle holiday from Adelaide, Australia, who came aboard for tea and a chat. The pleasure of being able to hold a conversation without a dictionary was huge! The following day the odyssey of perfectly understandable lingual exchange continued over wine and a traditional Aussie bbq on the aft-deck. We hope to see these new friends again later in the summer!

We are very happy to have chosen such a wonderful place for a mini break to catch our breaths, pick up some crew, unload some books, wash the salt and diesel off and mingle with the sophisticated people of Honfleur. A couple of interesting historic footnotes about Honfleur is that it was the port of departure for French explorer Jean Denis as he set out for Newfoundland, Canada, in 1506 as well as the 1608 expedition that ended up founding the city of Quebec, Canada. It is also bound to go down in history as the very favorite French port of the Nuthin Wong on her way to Montreal!

Happy days,
Nuthin Wong

Dolphins of Dieppe

Slussing into Honfleur

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nuthin Wong in France!

Dieppe, Haute-Normandie, France.
N. 49.9275
Longitude: E. 1.0879

We're in France! There's no limit to the excitement of having crossed the Channel safely and be in the land of wine, baguettes, small dogs and fine art.

We took of from Dover with a crew of five and had great conditions for sailing. Dover is a cute little town with the friendliest marina officials we've encountered so far. It's interesting to see how the perceived value of gadgets changes when space and finances are limited. The things you thought you couldn't go without are quickly forgotten about and some things you never used on land becomes crucial survival tools. Then there are the things in the middle. The inventions you really can do without but which, at random appearance, makes you tremendously excited. For me (Hanna) a laundry machine is one such devise. I have more than once been caught by yachtis smelling towels and sheets fresh out of the machine
, smiling at the absence of diesel fumes. To find that the facilitles at Dover Marina includes not only a laundry machine but warm showers and hairdryers was like Christmas in May.

Despite the luxury we were all very keen to tick U.K off the list. England is a great place where we've made many friends, but we have lingered long enough in the country where summer appear to have forgotten to arrive this year.

The actual crossing went smoothly apart from the top panel on the mainsail ripping due to the weight of the three panels underneath. The panel was one of the new ones we made in the loft at Greenwich and a risk from the get-go, given it was a bit too thin for it's purpose on our heavy rig. After reefing up to three panels we soldiered on and arrived in Boulogne Sur Mer (we have a reward out for anyone who can teach us the pronunciation as our at least five different attempts have failed ridiculously) in late afternoon.

Ian went ashore to sign us in and came back with company in the shape of four French custom officials. I'm not sure these men in blue are particularly hilarious to encounter anywhere in the world, but the French ones seem to have an especially humorless aura about them. After an hour's interrogation, presentation of papers and passports and some smooth talking from Clive we were given permission to step ashore.

Boulogne is a rather industrial town but still France and the croissants and wine were on the table within the hour. Contrary to the myth, French people are incredibly friendly and helpful (the fact that we're all totally and absolutely helpless with the French language is beside the point). After a long day at sea we were all pretty flat but enjoyed a nice meal in town (cheese, bread and some more cheese) before turning in to be fresh for the next day.

Up in the morning and off to Dieppe in the province of Haute Normandie. Instead of customs Dieppe greeted us with dolphins upon arrival. It doesn't seem to matter how often you encounter these beautiful animals, they are just as amazing every time.

From Dieppe the real world called on Ian, Sean and Paddy who all had to make their way back to the U.K. Despite agreeing that Dieppe is one of the most beautiful cities any of us have ever been to we are tied up in the yachtie Marina, out of our price range and too far from the street to sell books and practice our French. We will need to set sail west a.s.a.p. Shame really, we could all stay here much longer...

Au revoir amis!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Ups, downs and in-betweens.

Queenborough, Kent, U.K.
Latitude: 51.4157
Longitude: 0.7480

There are two types of days aboard a boat; tough, wet and pleasant or tough, wet and painful. Enjoying a glass of red on the aft deck overlooking Tower Bridge on a spring evening makes London seam like the most beautiful place in the world and us the most fortunate sailors in town. Then the front cabin catches on fire as we're welding in a rainstorm and it's quite a different story. But it certainly keeps us on our toes...

Our Tower Bridge visit was great fun and a change of scenery from Greenwich. We must have looked rather spectacular coming in to the city with our crew of 15, of four nationalities, aged 5 to 80! We were lucky with the weather and the arrival was celebrated with coffee and cake on the pontoon. Hermitage Moorings is an amazing little community of live-aboards - mostly young families! Clive held a presentation in the common room one night, and when the funds ran a it low we set up camp on the side walk and found a new home for a few books.

We went back to Greenwich for final re-fittings and a grand farewell party. Sailors generally know how to party and the Greenwich crew is no exception. It was a memorable and in all ways wet evening! Thanks guys!

It was with mixed emotions we finally left Greenwich Yacht Club on the evening of May 1. Six of us aboard for the first leg - Clive, Hanna, Sean, Jim, Nicola and Fernando - we had a nice cruise down to Queenborough, on Sheepey Island. It turned out to be quite an adventure as the pontoon was full and we were forced to tie up on a mooring, swimming distance from the shore. Hanna timed catching a bug with fever and some over-the-rail action supremely as the tides and winds were way too strong for the dinghy to get anyone on or off the boat. As the food supplies ran low and we had to get creative with lentils and rice for a second day we all felt pretty ship wrecked and sorry for ourselves. But in spite of the obstacles the spirit was very high. With friends, red wine and lentils you can take on just about anything.

After hanging out in Queenborough for a couple of days we are setting sail for Dover tomorrow and Wednesday morning we depart for France and Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Until next time,

Love and courage

Nuthin Wong