Sunday 26th July Ref: 2015/22
After a delightful couple of days in the centre of Port En Bassin, from which Kathleen had taken the bus rider to Bayeux to see the market and tapestries and I had caught up on some writing, we had both enjoyed the simple attraction of this honest seaside town and its fishing harbour, but it was now time to move on again. Scarily, the only time where the wind, waves and swell offshore would have decayed to make for a calm passage was very early on the morning of the Sunday and there was then forecast full gales later in the day. Studying the local meteorology for the correct timing was a necessity. Luckily, the local cafe/restuarant Rondponte IciWifi was within range of my WiFi bat and so this was made possible
The passage itself was fairly short at 26nm which was covered with the tide in less than three hours. By leaving an the unearthly hour of 04:45LT, we would arrived in Ouistrehem before the 8:30am lock opening and in time for the first 10:10 convoy transit up to Caen; the bridges only opening here for private boats at set times. The difficulty is that daylight hours are ebbing this late in July and so our planned 04:45 start would be some two hours before sunrise but the 'astronomical' twilight (where the horizon becomes visible, if not the crab pots) is at 04:48 here and so we could be all right! By my calculations, the harbour gate would be open by then, and the evening before this was confirmed as 04:15, so the passage could begin.
It was a rather scary start to the passage as it was pitch dark in the outer harbour and I had to use my searchlight to see the harbour piers and to find our way out. Then we had a particular concern to avoid any crab pot markers and so were relieved when 'nautical twilight' (horizon viewable) was replaced by normal twilight and then when the sun rose and we could see fully and increase speed towards our destination with safety. It was my crew's first experience of navigating in the dark and she did find it rather stressful but I was confident with the radar and the calmness of conditions.
The arrival in the Ouistrehem buoyed channel was very straightforward and we followed a fishing boat into the small boat lock and tied up to vertical slip wires astern of him on the starboard side with two students helping us moor. Once through, we cruised along to the Pegasus Bridge and occupied my favourite mooring downstream on the true right bank and went ashore to have a delightful coffee, omelette and croissant breakfast at the cafe with Mme Arlette Gondree-Pritchet, surviving daughter of the family first liberated during the D-Day landings when she was then six years old. Once the next bridge transit 'convoy' arrived, we joined them for the rest of the canal trip up to Caen and arrived in the pouring rain to moor in exactly the same difficult berth that I had last occupied ten years ago!
Weather from the marine.meteoconsult.fr web site was giving 6-8kn (gusting 11) breeze from the S with a 0.3/2m swell from the SSE outside Port En Bessin and the same breeze with a .6m SSE swell outside Ouistrehem falling to 0.3m by the time we get there. The glass was predicted to be falling from 1017 to 1013mb over that time which i would watch closely in passage as both sites give wind strength rising rapidly later from 14kn thro 18knt with gusts of 25-30kn by the afternoon, which would be a full gale. The Inshore Normandy forecast the night before was F2/3 smooth/slight seas with 2-5nm visibility and 0.3/4 swell until noon
The weather we actually experienced was 16-18degC, 78-68%RH as predicted but the barometer fell earlier than forecast from 1013 to 1009mb during the passage and the wind was SEly but peaked at 18kn before we gained the shelter of the coast and it fell again. I was ready to accelerate out of trouble but the sea was smooth to slight with a slight swell at one point and the visibility was good throughout thankfully.