Trip on Shropshire Lady II starting 2014-05-15 in BSAJune14

Trip on Shropshire Lady ll to Honfleur and Fécamp 15th May to 19th May – report by Richard Trim

Skipper, Jeff Birkin; Crew, Don Hirst. Brian Adams, Neil Webber, Chris Baxendale, John Pragnell and Richard Trim

We all met at the Leigh Delamere Services on the M4 and within a few minutes of the specified time and continued in mini convoy to HambleMap. After a delayed handover and a fish and chip supper we set sail in a light SE wind which meant we had to motor all the way across at a steady 5 knots. This proved to be a very cold crossing as the skies remained clear following the sunshine we had enjoyed during the day.

The crossing took approximately 20 hours with the crew standing 3 hour watches apart from Jeff who remained on call. At one point the duty watch were gathered in the cockpit and were discussing the various other craft in view. As we watched a large vessel a long way off the port bow we became aware that there were other lights quite close to it which seemed to be quite bright and getting brighter. It was suggested that it was a fishing vessel with lights on a working area or possibly a cable layer but as the light grew brighter the voice of wisdom and experience stated “That’s the moon”..

We eventually reached HonfleurMap via its lock from the Seine Estuary in the morning and had to moor alongside to wait for the bridge to lift to allow us into the visitor’s basin at 16.30 Once moored alongside in the visitor’s basin it became clear that this was a BSA dream come true. A sign attached to the Quay wall advised that we could order drinks and meals to be brought to the boat. The restaurant tables stopped a pavement width from the quayside. We decided after a brief look round several bars to use a restaurant and take advantage of the 24 euro fixed price menu which included oysters and mussels and offered 4-5 choices for each of 3 courses. We then returned to the boat for a not so early night. Jeff and I trekked all of 35m to visit a bar with a live singer using the English language.

The Saturday day dawned with bright warm sunshine and very little wind although the visitor’s basin was very sheltered to the point that Jeff led us through the complications of flying the spinnaker which remained up and full with us still tied on the pontoon. Don and I managed to find the local bakery for the obligatory French bread. During the day Chris, Brian and I had a wander round the town which for its size seemed to have more than enough churches and several other buildings dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. There was a large open market centred on the visitor’s basin. While we were doing this the others under Jeff’s instruction were doing manoeuvres with the boat involving coming alongside and turning the boat around in the shortest possible distance. After this we all met in a café away from the water for a few beers. When we returned from our evening meal we seemed to have started a trend as there were 5-6 old gaffers with full sails and flood lights. All within 25m of the Shropshire Lady. That evening we had visited Le Crystal restaurant which fronted on to 2 roads thus having 2 ground floors and again we enjoyed the set menu with the usual choices and a magnificent cheese board.

Sunday am we departed Honfleur at the 0830 bridge lift and set sail for Fécamp, sail not really the right term as there was little or no wind for much of the journey so again we were motoring; even using the spinnaker gave us little more than 3 knots. In the Seine estuary when we turned into the wind to raise sail we had at one point only 1m under the keel. After a short while the wind died to next to nothing and the engine came into play once more. We arrived at FécampMap with the wind and current making securing to a visitors berth quite difficult but achieved without mishap. Fécamp proved a little disappointing because early Sunday evening there was little happening so we dined on board and then found that in order to top up the diesel at the automatic pumps we had to kiss the mud, it was on a rising tide and with the fuel on board and the crew all standing on the bow we left France.

The journey back was as the journey across with not enough wind to make progress under sail but a calm crossing until we had the Isle of Wight in sight then the wind picked up to force 4 from the NE and we were able to use the spinnaker to make a wonderful end to the weekend with some proper sailing achieving 6-7 knots. We moored alongside in HambleMap at about 2 PM, cleaned the boat and were away by 4pm.

Port Hamble  50.8518,-1.3099
Honfleur  49.4212,0.235
Fécamp  49.7624,0.3672
Port Hamble  50.8614,-1.3137