On the way from Dieppe to Honfleur we again deployed the gennaker because of the light northerly winds. We rigged already a familiar adjustable tack line and the trimming of the sail worked great. We had found an excellent gennaker practice at once.
During the approach to Le Havre the wind started to pick up. We got lucky because only just a minute after we had retrieved the gennaker the wind grow to 25 knots. Retrieving the gennaker in such a heavy winds would have been quite a challenging. After turning to the river of Seine we had wind almost on the nose and we motorsailed until to the lock of Honfleur.
In front of Le Havre the water is rather confused because the sea is very shallow. The water is sandy and there is a need for continuous dredging there. In addition the stream from the river Seine and the tidal current meet there. Overall there were an unpleasant choppy sea. In the heavy weather there might be quite a turmoil.
From the Seine we entered to the lock leading to the harbour of Honfleur. The lock is in service 24 hours and it opens every full hour for arrivals and every half hour for departures. Our lockage however lasted for an hour and a half – interesting. First there was apparently the shift change because just a few minutes before our arrival we got a confirmation about lockage on VHF. When the clock was exactly 8pm, we and some other boats were waiting and nothing happened.
After the lock gates opened we waited again inside the lock. Finally we raised half way upwards and then suddenly went back down. We picked up one of the two arriving boats and went up again. There was a plenty of room in the lock and nobody understood why one British boat was left pointlessly for the next lockage.
Honfleur’s inner harbour is behind the bridge. In the evening the last bridge opening is already at 7:30pm. Thus we moored Suwena alongside the canal next to the park. The pontoon were already full of rafted boats and thus we made her fast to the ladder on the canal’s wall.
In the morning a cheery harbour girl arrived by dinghy to bring papers for the harbour. She also promised to find out if there are any berths for us in the inner harbour. Only a moment later she returned to tell that we can enter during the next bridge opening.
Honfleur was a real surprise to us. It is really wonderful that such a beautiful place was preserved from the damages of the second world war. Particularly the church of Sainte-Catherine, that is the biggest wooden church in France, is absolutely unique. It still smells wonderfully to the warm wood. The church with beautiful wooden arches is a masterpiece made by sailship carpenters in the 15th century. Sainte-Catherine is the most emotional church we have ever been.
Honfleur is located in the department of Calvados where the huge crops from apple gardens are changed into liquid form already for hundreds of years. The apples and their derivatives can be found in many dedicated shops in the centre of Honfleur. There is possible to taste and buy traditional cider, sweet pommeau or strong calvados from Normandy. Of course there are many choices in each of them.
In Honfleur Olivier from central France, Tours visited us aboard Suwena. He recommended that we have to taste the cider of Normandy. We went together to one of the shops full of the local produce. Regards to Olivier, the dry apple tasting thirst quencher Cidre Bouché was so good that next day we returned to bunker some more into the bilge of Suwena. This is funny because usually neither of us like the ciders. However this cider manufactured in the Cabourg of Normandy is totally different. It is made from real apples without any artificial flavours. There weren’t even added sugar or yeast, because the apples own sugar and yeast are enough to get the fermentation started. In addition the cider is not pasteurized.
In the mornings Andrus joined the baguette run. In France it is not possible to hide the location of the nearest bakery. When leaving the marina for sure somebody is returning with the baguette in his hands back to the boat. When continuing in the direction pointed by a baguette certainly some more baguettes will be noticed in people’s hands. Finally if the queue of bread does not lead to the door of the bakery the smell of fresh bread and croissants will reveal the location. It cannot be mistaken.
Now that we are in the country of gourmet food also the inner basin of Honfleur is surrounded by a long queue of restaurants. In France it is an excellent custom to offer both lunch and dinner menus. In Honfleur many restaurants offered menus even for 13 – 15 euros. The menu included a starter, a main dish and a dessert. Each item had three to five choices. Being in the middle of such an armada of restaurants we kept our backbags and cooler bags tightly packed away waiting for bunkering of the next leg sailing. We enjoyed the French kitchen during all those hot days in Honfleur.
Now that this have turned into such a food story I still have to mention the cheese of Camembert that is also one of the delicacies of Normandy. The cheeses from Gouda have almost eaten so it was time to get some of this local delicious soft cheese. I quickly put the cheese to the refrigerator. Not like my brother told about his visit in Normandy a year ago. He forgot the cheese to the car and there was an interesting smell in the car in the morning.
I’m writing this blog story in the middle of the English Channel. When we are thinking together about our days in Honfleur Andrus suggests that “Should we turn back towards Honfleur because the crème brûlée flambéed with the liquor of Grand Marnier was so heavenly”. We shall see with what kind of treats the England will challenge the Channel’s southern shores.