“Don't be intimidated by what you don't know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else”

Nr 57. Le Havre

While sailing along the coast of France, we have good weather: sunshine and wind of around 20 knots coming from north/east. So that means we have the wind at the back of our catamaran and we can use our new big ‘kite’, the parasailor! When sailing here, you have to pay attention to fishermen though. They have high speed with their fishingboats and don’t care much about other vehicles on the water. I sometimes refer to them as the Hells Angels of the waterways 😉. They are mainly busy putting their fishingnets in the sea (or picking them up) which they indicate with orange or white balls and poles with red flags in the water. You don’t want to sail over those areas and drag their fishingnets with you!

Our next stop was Le Havre. We were now in the English Channel, its waters has a bad reputation. Even topsailor Laura Dekker, who sailed all over the world, wouldn’t want to go sailing the English Channel again (watch 11.00min in this video)! But the time we were there, it was quite ok, the weather was good, the current not too bad. Actually, it went quite smoothly, also to our suprise, because we prepared for plan B and C, but no need.

Like Calais, Le Havre has a reputation of being a big industrial city with many ferries, transatlantic cruise ships and containerships. The opposite is true: Le Havre turned out to be an elegant city with many old houses and a nice harbor for pleasure yachts. It’s the biggest city in Normandy (193.000 habitants), but doesn’t feel that big, because of all the different quarters. There’s a beach area with beach houses, a hilly area with houses from the Belle Epoque (1870-1914), the city centre with modern architecture. The citycenter is modern, because of the rebuild after the bombing that took place in WOII which destroyed, like in Rotterdam, the inner city of Le Havre.

The city is known for it’s special light and orange colored sunsets. Painter Claude Monet was very inspired by this and painted some of his famous pictures in Le Havre which became the basis for Impressionism. We were curious to experience these sunsets and we were not disappointed: one evening cycling along the beach, we witnessed the beautiful sunset of golden and orange colors.

In the harbor we discovered a work boat with a Dutch flag: Johnny and Andrejs were working in the harbor of Le Havre for 2 months now on behalf of Boskalis. Their job is surveying: they first scan the bottom of the sea to provide information for dredgers that can make the bottom free of sand. Especially in areas with big tidal differences, nature can build up sand again at the bottom of the sea which causes ships to get stuck. So after the bottom has been dredged, they survey the area again to scan the exact depths and type of bottom (rock, sand, pebbles). That information is crucial to sailors using seamaps to decide whether they are going to sail or anchor in that area. Very important information to the nautical world: you have to be accurate to the centimeter!

We had a nice conversation with Johnny and Andrejs on the jetty and we invited them over for a coffee on the catamaran. It became a very nice evening, with lots of stories, also about their work in Dubai for mapping the seabottom for the Palm islands. And a lot of laughters about our bloopers as sailors! It turned out that before they came to le Havre, they had a project in Port Edgar in Scotland in November, also an area of lots of tidal differences. We just missed them, as we came in Scotland just 3 weeks after them in that harbor in December 2021!

During this period in Le Havre, we stayed in touch with Gerda and Tony in the Netherlands. We met them in June 2021 in Sweden on the islands of Koster. They had been sailing for 22 years and decided to return to the Netherlands and were looking for a home. We stayed in touch during 2021. Because of the tight housing market, they contacted us in the beginning of 2022 to ask if we would rent out our house in the Netherlands to them. And we would like to do that. So since the 1. May 2022, they sold their ship and are living in our house in the Netherlands. They will be there till they have found their own house. It’s a big change for them after 22 years of sailing, to restart their “land lives” again. We admire their flexibility and good spirit during that process! We received pictures of them unpacking all the moving boxes and from sitting on the balcony after a day of organizing their temporary house, toasting in the sunshine!

When we were in Le Havre, we made an appointment with Hemmo Dijkstra, our boat dealer in the Netherlands, to visit the Lagoon factory in Bellevigny which is about 4 hours driving south of le Havre, in the province of the Vendée. Hemmo was there with some new catamaran clients who have their ship build in 2022 and he invited us to visit the factory to see how catamarans are fabricated. This was actually an old appointment we made in 2020, which was postponed because of Covid-19, but could be kept now in 2022!

So we rented a car in Le Havre and went off for a road trip to visit the Lagoon factory! More about that experience in blog nr. 58.