Heidi, Kev and thier Sealine C330 head over to France and into the waterways
Words Heidi Hasler
We leave Guernsey a little later than expected as fog rolled in very quickly, just before we fueled up in St Peter Port. We did all our checks to make sure we were still okay to travel (as we will not put ourselves or the boat in danger). We decide that the fog will lift and head out.
As we exit the harbour, the fog horn is blaring! There is a cruise ship in the bay and lots of yachts, on a rally, are out in the fairway as well. With radar on, it is a breeze for us to keep an eye on everything around us. We head off and, as before when we came in, the tide is very strong and the sea confused.
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Although the sea looks flat, there is a meter swell every 15 seconds, which means we hit a few waves from time to time. The sun is starting to come out, though, and all is good. As we go between Alderney and France we hit the race, which make us slow up for a short time until we turn around the headland towards Cherbourg.
Within three and a half hours we are in Port Saint Vaast, which is a small, very pretty town. The harbour entrance has a lock gate so you need to make sure that you have the gate opening and closing times. These can be found on the website.
Beware though, the site is only in French and, when you arrive, the Capitinaire speaks little English but is very welcoming all the same. We are checked in and have a berth for the night very quickly. The cost for one night is a little pricey at €32 (£28).
The marina has a really nice modern reception and facilities block with showers and a laundrette that are very clean and tidy.
The gates are due to be open just after midnight until 6:00am so we are expecting an early wake up call from the fishing boats moored opposite us! We will be leaving for La Havre when the gates re-open at 1:00pm and hope to arrive by 4:00pm.
Saint Vaast has an array of seafood restaurants and there are also plenty of shops and food stores in the back streets for me to get supplies in the morning… I think this will be somewhere that we come back to next year! Blog continues below…
Join Heidi Hasler as she takes her Sealine C330 from Brixham to the Mediterranean via the French canals
Heidi and partner Kevin head off on the first leg of their journey through the French canals to the Med
Having left Saint Vaast at the first moment the gates where opened, we headed for Le Havre. Another day of trying to get across at good speed but, with wind and sea against us, we had to slow right down again.
Arriving into Le Havre, the visitor spaces are on pontoons O and P just as you enter the marina. The berths are a good size and have electricity and water. If you are a Freedom card holder an over night stay is free of charge, it’s €24 if not. The shower facilities are okay but quite a walk from the visitor pontoons so we chose to shower on board.
It is a 10-15 minute walk into town for restaurants and bars but on Monday nights most are shut so choice is limited. It’s a typical large, industrial town with lots to see and do but there is little character to the place so we went out for dinner and headed back.
After a quiet night and a good sleep we are ready to fuel up before heading into the French waterways! Fuel is expensive in France at €1.54 per litre.
The fuel berth is easy to moor up against and self service with card payment but if you have a foreign card you are limited to €200. However, you can re-run the transaction a few times to fill up.
As you head out of Le Havre, you need to head out for the channel markers (about a mile out) as, at low tide, the sand bar is very high and will catch you out. We watched a local trying to get over and it was not big or clever. You may have to go a mile out to head back in land again, however, this is the best route.
We were against the tide heading into the Seine and it’s a strong current. If doing this in a yacht, you will need the tide with you.
We are heading to Rouen. It’s nice to have lots to look at for a change rather than empty sea and ships in the distance. We are doing 15 knots, which is the correct speed according to various books that we have on board for reference. Our CEVNI training is coming in to use straight away and we are confident in what we are doing.
Heading into Rouen, you keep left heading into the marina. We were informed that we needed to contact Grand Port of Rouen that we were here but this, as it turns out, is more for commercial vessels. We felt a bit daft explaining we were 10.5 metres with the French controller asking what we wanted!
Once into the marina, we found a space and walked to the office. We are given our berth number but are aware that some of them are very tight so take a peek before we commit. Thank goodness we did, it saved us gettign into a right mess!
The Capitinaire has a lovely new building with nice warm showers. There is a main road close by so there is a little noise but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
There are a lot of liveaboard boats in the marina and a huge number of unloved boats which is a real shame. There aren’t many spare visitor slots so do be sure to book ahead. The cost for the night, including water and electricity, is €17,40 – very reasonable.
There is a hypermarket, about 15 minutes’ walk away, which is handy for topping up stores. There is also a shopping centre for clothes, Docks 76, just around the corner. It has lots of trendy bars as well. If you carry on, along the river from the marina, you will come across an amazing area for bars and restaurants. Rouen really is an up and coming city.
There is a fuel berth and this is the same as Le Havre – self service with a card. When we arrived, this was not working, which gave us as fright as we didn’t have enough to get us to Port Ilon. Luckily, they fixed it and the manager came to tell us that all would be okay in the morning, which it was! Phew!
Onwards we go…
Next: Continuing along the Seine.